Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Yesterday, a group of students from Gaza came to speak at SF State University. When a student said that he has had to dress as a woman in order to cross the checkpoints on his way to school, or on his way back to visit family, some people in the audience laughed. I was bewildered by this response. Were they laughing because the situation was so un-imaginable to them, or was the thought of "dressing as a woman" funny? I wonder what makes certain things funny for some, when it costs others their lives, be it in passing a checkpoint in Palestine, or passing as a woman in Newark, California.

This is a very interesting article by Ross Pourzal. Pourzal, whose article was posted on Iranian.com today, makes an excellent point when he writes,"I yearn for a day when 'dissident' will describe Iranians who not only resist Iran's rulers, but also dare to re-examine elitist definitions of 'civilization' and other received wisdom." His statement really speaks to me. Why in the world, would an anti-war event want to have someone who works in a conservative think tank to come and talk about "Iran's Contribution to Civilization"? Can we, perhaps, stop for a moment and question what it means to keep referring to a glorified past in our anti-war efforts? How hard are we going to try and fit within the racist narratives of "civilization?" Is this some way of saying, "don't bomb us... we are civilized"? The talks about the "evolution of our common human heritage" seem to demand a historical amnesia about who got screwed (excuse my language) in this evolutionary narrative of progress.

Am I grumpy today? Maybe I am.

Last night I took my class to listen to Dahr Jamail's talk at SFSU. I have been reading Jamail's reports on Electronic Iraq and his talk about the U.S. military and its violent behavior wasn't surprising to me. Most of my students were not surprised either, but found the images quite moving. I wish he would give this talk in parts of the U.S. where he needs to be heard. But again, SF may be a safer place for him than a lot of other parts of this country. The footage Jamail showed was made by a filmmaker, whose film was stolen mysteriously. According to Jamail, the filmmaker was harassed and threatened by the person who has stolen the footage. Jamail's remarks on this issue implied that the thief has connections to the surveillance apparatus in the U.S.

One last thing: David had asked me to write about the kind of future I envision for Iran. This is a valid question, as I have been critiquing the programs for the "future of Iran," which are being decided in conservative think tanks and in the U.S. congress. This is also a very utopian question and demands a utopian answer. I have a lot of wishes, not just for Iran, but also for the U.S. I am surprised why we don't have programs to decide the "future of the U.S." I am not sure if we assume that we have reached the "perfect" world here in the U.S., or that these futuristic programs that envision "perfectability" have a political history that is not separate from neo-liberal policies we witness today. I tend to think that the latter is true.

But for the sake of indulging myself and David, here is my wish list for Iran: Like many people, I wish there would be no poverty, no gender discrimination, no jails and no repressive state, no discrimination based on one's national or ethnic belonging, no discrimination based on one's religion, no discrimination based on one's sexuality, and the list goes on and on (amazingly, these are also my wishes for the U.S.!) But, I also know that Iran doesn't exist in a vacuum and for all these to happen, a lot needs to happen in the world. I also know that the U.S. intervention in any form will not make any of these visions come true. In fact, a lot of the existing issues in Iran cannot be separated from the role of the U.S. in the region. So, Uncle Sam ain't my gene in a bottle! Speaking of bottles, letter N. has a wonderful story about her grandma and her bottles during the revolution in Iran.

And finally, a happy ending: I have learned how to make kabaab koobideh and it does not come off the skewer! Hey, I am climbing the ladder of progress! Watch out McDonald's... McSima's is taking over. If grad school doesn't work out, I know I have a future in the land of the free, where there is "equal" opportunity in kabaab business. Except that McDonald's has bought all the "Mc" titles and claims it as its trademark! A few years ago, my favorite Sushi place in the Mission (in SF) could not choose the name McSushi, because McDonald's threatened to take them to the court! Maybe McDonald's will buy me if they learn about how much potential I have... And who knows, maybe in a few years, McHoover would buy me if I change the way I write... Hmm...

I better stop before I become too vulgar!


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Made in Palestine

The Seezdeh bedar kabaab turned out to be quite delicious, thanks to the yogurt, onions, lemon juice, and advieh marinade. Of course, the accompanying basil, tarragon, mint, green onions, and salad shirazi made the whole noon-o-kabaab experience heavinly. Since a good friend of mine works on the weekends, we did our Seezdeh bedar a day earlier than the rest of the Iranians in the Bay Area. But it was nice to enjoy the sunny day and the green grass in the state park in Alameda beach. I attempted to grade some papers, but all the blood had rushed from the brain to the stomach, and hence the pile of un-graded papers on my desk today!

This Thursday (April 7th), Made In Palestine, a collection of works by 23 artists from Palestine and its diaspora will debut in San Francisco. The gallery will be at SomArts through April 21. A series of events will also happen during the Made in Palestine Tour in SF. See the program for this great project here.

Artist: Mary Tuma. Title: Homes for the Disembodied, 2000. Media: 50 continuous yards of silk, 13'x25'. From the site Electronic Intifada.


Friday, April 01, 2005

New bill and seezdeh bedar

I haven't been blogging for a few weeks now. To make the long story short, a combination of work, flu, and exhuastion has made it hard to keep up with the blogging world. There is a saying in Farsi which goes something like this: "You can tell a good year from its spring." Well, my spring has been extremely busy so far and if this is an indicator of the rest of the year, then I am not sure if I can handle a whole year like this!
In any case, rather than nagging about my personal problems, I am going to start my first entry of this Iranian new year with an urgent matter. On April 6th, a bill (H.R. 282) which according to its writer, House Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is introduced "to hold the current regime in Iran accountable for its threatening behavior and to support a transition to democracy in Iran," will go to the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East for mark up.
NIAC has the info. about the bill (both the House and the Senate version) and has drafted two letters in support and in opposition to it, so that people can write to their "representatives" and voice their opinions. I wish they had drafted the opposing bill more strongly. The rhetoric of "Making regime change official US policy on Iran is the equivalent of declaring war," won't go very far, will it? The proponents of the bill could challenge this and say, "no, regime change doesn't necessarily mean war." I guess it is up to those of us who are against any U.S. intervention (military or not) in Iran to draft our own letter and send it to the congress. But I wonder if this "representative" democracy actually works for those whose views do not fit within either of the "options" presented by U.S. law makers or "para-law" entities such as NIAC. But again, I assume it's better to have organizations such as NIAC to engage a certain class of diasporic Iranians with U.S. politicos, than not having any "representation" at all.
By the way, this is like a deja vu! Sam Brownback's "Iran Democracy Act," last year, was very similar to this bill... NIAC's response was also very similar. These shows of democracy are becoming a bit too redundant, if you ask me. But do we have a choice other than going along?

On a more personal note, I am going to "seezdeh bedar" ro rid myself of all inauspicious elements of this year! Only if these things actually worked! Can you imagine? Except for the nuclear family part, and the whole "khaanehye shohar" songs, this event could have a lot of potential for social change!
In any case, I am off to the park to eat watermelon and have kabaab and do away with all evil ;-). This is the first seezdeh bedar in 13 years that as a born-again carnivor I can have kabaab. Happy 13 bedar.


The sidebar image is taken from Mahmoud Pakzad's "Old Tehran", Did Publishers, 1994. Thanks to Jahanshah Javid (www.iranian.com) for sharing it.

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