Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Photo From Talesh

Talesh in northwest of Iran, Southwest corner of Caspian Sea, where sky and mountains meet.
The flowers are called: Shaghayegh, the word also stands for shortlived beauty. Shagayeghs bloom early in spring and all are gone after a few weeks.

A Student Joke

Iranian students have been topic of so many debates here is a little joke about them. Sharif University of Technology is an engineering school, considered to be the best in Iran and University of Tehran is the first academic institute to be established in Iran. Isfahan University is a well reputed school in country whose students are famous for being practical and pragmatic.
here is the story:

A Tehran University, an Isfahan University and a Sharif student were in an airplane that crashed. They're up in heaven, and God's sitting on the great
white throne.

God addresses the Tehran student first: "What do you believe in?"

The Tehran Student replies, "Well, I believe in power to the people. I think people should be able to make their own choices about things and that no one should ever be able to tell someone else what to do. I also believe in feeling people's pain."

God thinks For a second and says "Okay, I can live with that. Come and sit at my left."

God then addresses the Isfahan student: "What do you believe in?"

The Isfahan student replies, "Well, I believe that the combustion engine is evil and that we need to save the world from CFCs and that If any more freon is used,the whole earth will become a greenhouse And we'll all die....Waaahhh."

God thinks for a second and says: "Okay, that sounds good. Come and sit at my right."

God then addresses the Sharif student. "What do you believe in?"

"I believe you're sitting in my chair." says Sharif student.... .

(I believe it is an adaptation of an older joke, but as a Sharifi I can tell you it is well hmm, kinda like this)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Day For Shariati

It is his anniversary, the old guards of revolution are talking about him, his life and his ideas. What makes him so important?

Many like to think of Third World as a battleground in the Cold War, but much more was going on. It was not just a conflict of interest between Marxist camp and the West, for ordinary people it was the conflict of their present and their past, the so called modernity and their traditions. No where else in the developing world was this conflict of ideas felt more strongly and fought more passionately than in Iran. Here Dr. Ali Shariati son of an enlightened man from Khorasan in the north east of Iran becomes important.

Iran in 1960’s was a country ideologically divided, while Shah relied on the tradition of monarchy to justify his unchallenged rule, he also wanted to be seen as a figure of enlightenment and the architect of “Grand Civilization”. However His court and supporters were presented as the symbols of a corrupt capitalism and puppets of Imperialism in Iran by the opposition. His extravagance did not help either. While Iran’s population continued to remain a very traditional one, Iranian monarch and royal family members filled the media with stories of their wild parties and sex lives. A traditionally Iranian Muslim could not have less in common with the House of Pahlavi.

While Pahlavi represented Capitalism in Iran, the intellectuals represented the other side of the coin. They were uniformly left, in most cases adherent students of Marx and Lenin. They talked of poverty, fighting imperialism and establishing justice in the society. However the two sides had one thing in common: they both were secular.

The average Iranian was not. The peasants and the workers, the immigrant population to urban areas, the storekeepers; the merchants of Bazaar were extremely traditional. And they believed their traditions originated by Islam. For them Islam was the refuge and the comfort. And in 1960’s Islam was under siege in Iran, both by an arrogant court and its arrogant opposition.

For thousands of Iranians and students the question was that if a co-existence of Islam and modernity was possible. Dr. Shariati was their answer.

The profile of the man was perfect. Ali Shariati was son of a preacher figure in Mazinan, a suburb of Mashhad, where the eighth Imam of Shiite is resting in his magnificent shrine. He studied in teachers’ college and went to study sociology in Sorbonne. His life was an example of hard work and scholarship. He was imprisoned a few times and was banned from teaching in universities upon his return to Iran.

But he found a school of his own in Houssein-e-Ershad. There he talked of Islam and Islamic figures in a modern language. He talked of just rule of Ali, the 4th Caliph and the first Imam of Shiites, he talked of a just Islamic ruler who would oppose corrupt capitalization. An elegant speaker and writer he was welcome and embraced by thousands. He also attacked the traditional clergies and their role in supporting monarchy and drew a line between them and the real Islamic teachings of Prophet Mohammad. Here he crossed a red tape. A battle was started between what is known as Islamic Left and Conservative Islam in Iran. The combat has continued until today.

For impoverished masses he was an assurance that Islam had the solutions, that pure Islam could create a better society. His mastery of communicating leftist political ideas in traditional Islamic vocabulary made his message so popular that he was sent to exile to London, where died in the dawn of revolution in 1977 under suspicious circumstances. Many attributed his death to SAVAK, Shah’s security force.

Some of his books were banned after revolution by the very same clergies, whom he had attacked in his writings. But he remained a figurehead anyway. If his conservative opponents were in charge, so were his leftist followers. His students wrote and published several of his speeches and his books continued to be republished. For many teenagers reading his writings in dusty family libraries was the first act of introduction into a developing controversy between modernity and traditions.

Today Shariati’s influence is much limited than three decades ago. The experience of the first decade of revolution made many skeptical of his leftist ideas and his political interpretation of Islam. As Iran started the process of reform, the generation of revolution had already outgrown him. Today the time has come to look at his ideas from a politically unbiased point of view. No matter one’s opinion of his ideas, one thing remains undoubted: his was a life of a great teacher, his place in history is secure.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Where are Islamic Countries?

Again it happened in a mosque. A suicide bomber attacked another mosque in Baghdad:11 dead 25 injured. Who or What justifies this? Fighting Americans? These were MUSLIMS & ARABS. Defending Islam? I did not know that one could defend Islam by attacking Muslims' mosques.

As a Muslim I believe Islamic world is under attack by a fanaticism, long has been ignored. It is time to deal with it now in Iraq. Why all Islamic governments are not uniting? They certainly have intelligence that could be helpful now. Instead of considering Iraq an American problem it is time for Islamic countries to accept it as their own problem. The voices and actions of Islamic countries are regrettfully absent. Why Organization of Islamic Conference does not form an anti terrorism committee so its member countries can deal with this issue.

This also is an opportunity for Iran and Iraq to join forces in combating such terrorist activities that threaten both countries stability and security. The peace in the Middle East is decided in Baghdad and Tehran. They can be its pillars.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And he is dead

The headlines are huge; it is on the cover of Newsweek and Times. Zarqawi the leader of Al-Qaede in Iraq is dead. He has been killed in an air raid and now it is all over. Dallas Morning News published a cartoon showing him over the clouds asking for his 72 houries. News covered his family and his brother in Jordan, they do consider him a martyr. While Iraqi and Jordanian governments expressed their satisfaction and many in Washington DC started to speculate, Iranian government also expressed its happiness. Reading Persian web logs reveals the fact that almost everybody is happy; the moderates as well as radicals.

He was no friend to anyone out of his gang of monstrous murderers, who attacked the shrines of holy Imams and machine gunned believers in their mosques. Even recent intelligence shows that he was plotting to drag USA into a war with Iran through covert terrorist activities.

The truth is Zarqawi and his followers are not alike any Muslim figure of Islamic history. They lack the chivalry, the self sacrifice, the humanity. How could any Muslim consider a man whose designs and plots killed several of thousands of other Muslims a martyr? A man how planned against unity of a Muslim community? He, who fought the Shiites in the name of Sunnis, the Kurds in the Name of Arabs and became a symbol of insane fanaticism, is no martyr. For him not the heaven but the hell is awaiting, a hell where he finds all he had insulted, murdered and offended asking for justice to be done.

He is dead; I look at his picture and remember the sad truth. No matter whose war it is, and no matter why it has happened, it seems Muslims are killed mostly by other Muslims. I should say a pray for forgiveness, but I am happy that he is dead. Now the madness might be stopped.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Losing a Football Game

It is not news to anyone who follows the World Cup, Iran lost to Mexico. After keeping a 1 to 1 score for 75 minutes Iran received two goals in less than 5 minutes. A victory was lost, when almost even the most pessimistic of the fans had become certain of its possibility. The writer is not a big football (soccer) fan; however he does follow the World Cup. That is said, he does not claim to have any professional background to have a reliable opinion. However it is interesting to study the reactions of journalists, media and different websites.

Almost everyone has blamed Ivankovic the coach and Ali Daie the 37 years old captain of Iran’s team. Many have asked why Ivankovic has been so much cautious, many have asked why Ali Daie was not replaced. Fars news agency reported that some of the youth have started praying for his departure. Many journalists have attacked Ivankovic, some have started to attack Iran’s Football Federation. Many have written about the networking within this organization and those who influence the final decisions and arrangements. Some have asked for others to speak out and to inform public of the true state of corruption and networking, which Iranians call “Mafia”, in football league in Iran. Some have gone as far as establishing a club for those who hate MirzaPour, the goal keeper.

But if you think the criticism has been limited to football and tactics, you are wrong. Several articles have drawn parallels between the team and its loss and the state of affairs in Iran: from national economy, government administration of public affairs to cultural identity., and several other independent and opposition websites are full of such WebPages. And they are not alone, Sharifnews a conservative news agency and website in Iran, has cited a Mr. Aliabadi from Vienna. He told Sharifnews: “It is a shame that our football players did not follow national anthem as passionately as their Mexican rivals. All they care about is their financial status and their golden legs. Had we preserved the original values of Islamic Revolution, this could not have happened.”

The writer feels certain about only one conclusion: no matter what happens some in Iran always find a way to justify their own point of view using that. Let us all pray nothing drastic happens in the game against Portugal. Otherwise we shall witness another furious flow of ideas, who all fail to address one simple question: what should be done so Iran can have a first class national team?

** Cartoon is from

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Package and a few points

Studying reactions to the package offered by EU and USA to Iran reveals the diversity of individuals’ motives and incentives. Head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization had many reasons to celebrate when he revealed to reporters that the ban on purchasing commercial airplanes and parts would be lifted. His organization and Iran’s national flag career, Iran Air, and several private commercial companies have been suffering from sanctions for too long of a period. Iran’s commercial fleet is aging and passengers are not thrilled about flying with Russian TU-154’s. Iran’s few economists have reasons of their own to keep their fingers crossed. Iran’s joining WTO would open so many doors to private sector that a sustainable growth path might be guaranteed. However aviators and economists constitute but a minority and a very small minority for that in Iran.

Speaking of a majority promising American technology for agriculture is the most exciting one. Offering to lift sanctions on this sector is a promise that cannot be ignored by many. Iran’s soaring unemployed population is in need of jobs and such development could provide entrepreneurs with many opportunities to invest in a labor intensive sector. Unlike aviation, unemployment has become a high priority and a national security concern for many statesmen in Tehran. Here they might have an incentive and personal motive to consider the package more closely. And unlike aviators statesmen have influence.

At the end of the day the main question is if the package is interesting enough for those influential ones to be accepted. Despite popular belief, Iran domestic politics is hardly a one man’s show. A closer look reveals that there are a number of groups affecting the final decision with different levels of influence. These groups include a few unofficial politicians clubs, interest groups, industrialists, some workers unions and economic foundations.

While reformers, technocrats, moderators and traditional conservatives would welcome any reconciliation, the ultra radicals might find it inconvenient to be accused of comprising national interests by their rivals and to lose their excuse to get rid of these rivals. However they could claim the credit and that is a remarkable gain in domestic politics guaranteeing more victories in future elections.

Interest groups are more divided. Those formed by merchants and service sector entrepreneurs would be more excited about such packages than those formed by the directors of import substitution programs and monopolist manufacturers of commodities fully protected by the government bans on imports of substitutable products. The prospects of losing domestic markets and profits to foreign competition have never been exciting to them. They could mount a serious barrier. One sould remember that they could benefit from social muscles of their hundreds middle class stockholders and workers unions. Joining WTO for these industrialists is a death sentence, which they will resist strongly. There is not much for them in the package, unless a promise of investments for upgrading their technology could be added.

The list is not complete without mentioning the contractors of public projects and organizations who actively are seeking multi billion dollars contracts. They certainly would not welcome any competition in the market as well. But they also offer a genuine opportunity for rapprochement. Investments that allow them to purchase equipments and to improve their services would encourage their beneficiaries to become adherent supporters of such developments. This could make any positive development regarding nuclear program sustainable.

It is too soon to guess who is for and who is against the package in Tehran and who needs something more. Presently it seems package could use a few more incentives for interest groups involved in the decision making process in Iran. It is certainly a step ahead of previous offers, which were more symbolic than pragmatic. For the first time, the offer comes with the guarantee that USA would join the table. The man, who could benefit from this opportunity, would be remembered as the one who saved Iran from the great Satan. That would be quite a remarkable reputation; a historically magnificent one. And in Iran, history is still important for many.

* cartoon is Nikahang's on the left it is Mr. Shariatmadari the editorof Keyhan, a daily paper in Tehran well known for its radical stand and on the right there is Dr. Larijani Iran's chief negotiator and the head of National Security Council.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


New government has announced that women whose veils are not according to standards, would be fined. The caption reads: "when you go out do not get a ticket, my pension does not cover fooling around."

Friday, June 02, 2006

The World Cup and Nuclear Negotiations

It would be a far fetching idea but not impossible. President Ahmadineghad had already announced that Iran would accept any talk offer, without pre-conditioning stopping enrichment efforts. That was exactly what Secretary Rice asked for, when she announced United States willingness to participate in negotiations with Iran for the first time. Although some may elaborate that diplomacy would fail for this reason, the writer would rather think otherwise.

European countries have asked Iran to stop her enrichment program several times in the past. Iran’s rejection of such condition is neither new nor unaccepted. However in the past Iran had suspended her activities in this regard willingly. It seems that currently Iran is willing to hear what is in the bag before stopping such program, then move to halt enrichment program for some sensible technical reason. One also must appreciate President Ahmadineghad’s domestic difficulties. Halting enrichment certainly initiates an “I told you so” campaign by reformers and his government would be in danger of losing face. A strong opposition from ultra radical rank and file also is plausible.

The far fetching idea is the coincidence of the World Cup and such negotiations, Iranian government might use this opportunity to stop enrichment without stirring public opinion, who will be preoccupied with the World Cup and Iran’s performance. This way government would avoid criticism from both reformers and ultra radical camp and benefit from the calm of the next few weeks to take large steps toward reconciliation.

It might be too optimistic to be true, but there is indeed an opportunity to reach a solution. I for one pray everyone benefits from it for the cause of peace and prosperity.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Soccer (Football) and National Unity

Iranians may disagree on many points and they do disagree profoundly on some basic issues. As a nation Iranians have millions of ways to do any simple task, and even more ways to justify that. However they do have their agreements. A majority believe in Iran’s right to a regional leadership role, a larger majority believe in Norouz. But even a larger majority believe in Soccer or as they call it Football.

No matter what political conviction one holds in any tournament they all cheer lead Iran national team; “Team Melli”. These white wearing young guys who chase a ball mystify them in way that they forget their differences. In LA, this melting pot of Iranian immigrants, one would not be surprised to see the adherent monarchists watching the game with their more traditional countrymen, who support the current government. In Iran mothers who usually ban TV for the youngsters, would join the enthusiastic TV watchers. One had better be ready with latest updates; they all will be talking about it. Be aware I do not know any who would kill you over political reasons, but I do know some, PhD holding intelligent fellows, who would kill any ill wisher, watching Team Melli playing the World Cup.

And here it comes, the final quest, the only one that really matters, The World Cup. Let’s forget political turmoil, let’s forget nuclear issues, let’s forget rising prices, let’s just sit and enjoy some good soccer. And this year Iran National Team is ready, they had a long practice, they played some good games, scored 2-2 against Croatia and 5-2 against Bosnia. People are happy, many are thinking this might be it; Iran might qualify for the next round. But it is a tough call, Iran is playing with Mexico, Angola and Portugal.

So Iran might be a developing country with a diverse set of issues and problems, and Iranians might be a nation of individuals without much agreements, but do not dare to question their national unity in their quest in the World Cup. That is kinda important, more than life itself.