Thursday, August 30, 2007

Language is no barrier to communication

An interesting report from Gulf News:

Language is no barrier to communication
By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter

Published: August 29, 2007, 23:46
Abu Dhabi: Language is not a barrier when it comes to communication. Athra Hereb Al Zaabi, a third year Emirati student of Communication and Journalism at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, was a student ambassador at Abu Dhabi airport during her summer vacation... read more here:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bahrain's GDP to jump $2,000

Gulf Daily News:
MANAMA: Bahrain's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will jump $2,000 this year to reach more than $23,000 per head of population, according to the latest figures from top think-tank the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). This year's forecast figure of $23,072 is up more than $2,000 from last year's $20,944 per head and is one of a number of boosts for Bahrain contained in the latest EIU country briefing compiled by the organisation's experts... read more here:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Clip of Hostage Situation at University of Tehran

Fars news agency uploaded a film showing a little bit of hostage situation at University of Tehran see it here: Clip of this situation at University of Tehran

According to Fars news agency the hostage taker, a former Sergeant first class of Iran’s police force, entered the salon, fired one shot and asked students to close the doors.

He let those who were afraid to leave and then distributed some CDs about law enforcement activities and some documents about his employment at police force. He let students to take films with their mobile phones and then started to give a talk about his experience as a police officer to 200 students present. He surrendered himself without resistance afterwards.

The clip does not make much sense, but the students certainly were clapping for him!
Link to University of Tehran:

Friday, August 17, 2007


[introduction: the following text has been written originally by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, and was published on her weblog:, I decided to translate it because of its insightful description of a situation where government agents are imposing a policy to maximize social welfare and facing resistance because they are destroying a group of people’s stock and means to survive. At the end some lose jobs because of this shock, here Chicken Flu. It also is interesting to notice the bargaining situation, where agents refusal to bargain costs the elder’s credibility. I also like the emotional aspect of this piece.]

30 years have passed. With Agha Jaan (my father) I go to the farmers’ market in town. It is the very same place where every peddler has set up a booth and yells the virtues of their stuff. It is the very same place where I went with my mother as a teenager with a beating heart worrying if my city friends’ parents show up shopping for the ducks and hens for the dinner. Seeing them I used to stare at them bravely with a scared heart to make them go away. I did not tell Agha-jaan anything but seeing me like that he always pushed a 50 Toman[1] note down my pocket so I could go wandering around and buy myself candy.

30 years have passed. Now Agha-jaan is the elder of this bazaar. The young peddlers greet him with much ceremony. Everyone knows that no one can talk less of religious beliefs, saints, leaders, or anything with any sign of ingratitude or contempt in front of him. The village women who carry their green containers on their heads from the village to the town and make no more than 2000 to 3000 Tomans a day (roughly 2-3 dollars). Seeing him they always say: “Thanks God, we are grateful.”

This gives me confidence. I am not afraid of my city friends and classmates anymore. I am not even afraid of my editor or the editor in chief of my paper anymore. To think of it I am not even afraid of president or the speaker of Majlis[2]. If they show up I am not embarrassed that my father is a peddler. Agha-jaan knows that he can not send me away with a 50 Toman note anymore.

I want to help Agha-jaan in selling his chickens and ducks. I want to insist to that man from city who is wandering around aimlessly to buy something. I want to persist so much that he takes out some cash and buys something. So Agha-jaan could go home with a lighter box.

Wait a minute that directionless man is not a customer, he is not aimless either. He is a health department agent, looking for a remedy to Chicken Flu. His presence transforms farmers’ market to a market of chaos. On one side the chickens on the other side the chicken sellers are struggling to save their lives from health department agents.

Agha-jaan is still standing firmly and asks his colleagues to be calm. Everyone hopes he could help, everyone thinks these agents would listen to him. He has been to the governor’s office as their representative before. This time is different. He cannot stomach that old woman’s helpless screams of despair refusing to hand over her chickens and rosters. No one can. The agents take away her chickens and rosters anyway and put them in a barrel and gas them all. The gas silences her chickens. I am suffocating.

The old woman is choking even biting the agent’s hand does not calm her down. One bazaar and so many villagers crying over the loss of their chickens and rosters, the only means they have to survive. Foolishly I am looking for my reporter’s identity card, thinking it might scare the agents. I should tell them even in our neighborhood in Turkey they pay for these chickens and rosters before killing them.

Agha-jaan is ashamed of colleagues who until yesterday did not dare to say a disrespectful in front of him about authorities or politicians. Like a broken tree I am ashamed of his humiliation. I stare at health department agents who think we would be happy if they lose this battle. Who would enjoy a defeat that humiliates her dearest?

Agh-jaan goes back home with a box lighter than ever. I have a choke in throat, a heavy one seeing my 65 years old father has losing his job because of preventing Chicken Flu.

I am standing like a broken tree and I do not know into whose eyes I should stare to make them go away.
[1] Toman is 10 Rials the official currency of Iran, each 1 USD is 9500 Rials approximately.
[2] Iran Parliament is called Majlis.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Female Cab Drivers in Iran

see CNN clip:

The report as usual emphasizes the fact that Iran forbids any physical contact between opposite genders in public. However I would like to point out empowering women does not happen without jobs. This will be a thriving market for hundreds of women and will help them to have their own voice, their own income and their cherished independence.

Have you heard of female cab drivers in Saudi where government's official policy is much harsher than Iran in such matters? I have not. I also never heard of female cab drivers in any other Middle Eastern Arab countries, where traditions do not appreciate women working outside their homes.

The question is if this is a step forward. I believe it is. Although one wonders that rationing gas might not allow this service to grow as fast as it should otherwise. Any observer of Iran’s affairs wonders the irony of such policies and projects. After revolution Islamizing school system & colleges persuaded many traditional families to send their daughters to colleges and to let them live in other cities. Iran today has the largest female college student population in the region whose share of total population is more than 50%. These students became the women who demand equal rights and equal opportunities today.

May be a western observer finds female cab driver for female passenger not that interesting. It is interesting and interestingly productive. What would happen if women could have representatives in ministry of transportation or cab drivers’ unions? What would happen if women could have more jobs and show the traditionalists that they are better drivers and better mechanics than men? Think of it, and please tell me if you still think it is a bad idea.

Another link:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tehran: 2 Ministers Replaced

According to Fars and Mehr News Agency two ministers have left the cabinet. According to several sources Dr. Tahmasbi minister of Industries and Mining had resigned his seat in cabinet last week. Mr. Mahaneh minister of oil has been replaced and appointed as presidential advisor in oil and gas sector.

During his inauguration President Ahmadinejad's introduced 3 candidates to Majlis for the strategic post of minister of Oil, Mr. Mahaneh was the 4th nominee who received a vote of confidence.

It is speculated that Mr. Mahaneh is replaced due to President’s dissatisfaction with progress in fight against what many call “Oil Mafia”. Replacing him has been a topic of rumors and speculation in Tehran since the day he began his work as the minister of oil. Recently he has been attacked by the media for lowering the price in the gas deals with India and Pakistan. So far 4 ministers and one vice president, Dr. Rahbar, have been replaced.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

News Articles

USA Today: Iran's kayakers take crash course in America
IPS News: Plan Against Iran May Trigger Arms Race
Interfax: Iran may invest 100 mln euros in Belarus hydro plants
MehrNews: Iran Carpet Company to be Privatized

On the Occasion of Constitutional Revolution

Talking of Constitutional Revolution a friend told me: “it seems establishing Majlis (parliament) was not enough, one wonders how useful it had been.” There is no doubt that a parliament by itself is only an institution, a building full of chambers and chairs. There are the people in it who make a difference. When there are men like Mossadeq and Modarres in the very same institution, it opens the ways.

It is interesting to notice that Majlis approved reforms rarely were re-tracked in Iran. They might have been modified in a way, but the original goal had not been abandoned. For example the civil and criminal codes during 1920’s, or nationalizing oil during 1950’s were not re-tracked. Of course there were loopholes in criminal codes and Shah accepted an international consortium to run Iran’s oil industry but the spirit of these changes never died.

The truth to be told Iran is an ancient country with very young institutions. Its parliament is roughly 100 years old. And all other institutions are much younger. Its regular armed forces continuous traditions do no go beyond 1920. The oldest university in Iran, University of Tehran was established in 1930’s and remained the only university of country for a decade. Banking, Stock Exchange Market and Chamber of Commerce are all among the youngest in the world. City council and their elections are roughly a decade old.

Observing the events and reading Iran’s history one could not help noticing that how Iran’s statesmen become proficient parliamentary politicians. Of Mr. Haddad Adel current speaker of house there is no greater praise said than that of Mr. Abtahi who wrote: “During the sixth Majlis (1999-2003) Mr. Haddad Adel was never hesitant to use parliamentary mechanism to play realpolitik”. Almost all politicians in Iran have experienced both minority and majority roles. Mr. Karrubi even administrated a parliament when the minority had won presidential election.

There is no doubt that there were mistakes, there is no doubt that parliament did not give Iranians what they wanted. But also there is no doubt that Majlis as an institution has done so much. A sustainable growth and a permanent development require more than only one institution, and even then institutions are only efficient if they are run efficiently. After all even the most significant one is administrated by human beings. There is no institution that could possibly substitute the individual. Constitutional Revolution was not a fruitless effort. Although bombarded, besieged, murdered, exiled and forgotten it continues to be a source of hope, strength and courage. Like Iran, Constitutional Revolution was and is a survivor.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

101th Anniversary of Constitutional Revolution in Iran

They say that Mozafarr-o Din Shah was dying. The old monarch had spent most of his life waiting to be a king. Still a tyrant compared to his father he was soft. His father Naser-o Din Shah had ruled Iran for 50 years with an iron feast like ancient times before being assassinated…. much had changed in those years.When Naser-o Din Shah came to power, Iran had already lost her territories north of Aras River[1] to Russian expansionism. These were today Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, but still this was a vast empire even by the 19th century standards. Herat[2] was an Iranian city and princes of Kabul and Qandehar considered the Iranian King their protector. The Khans of Central Asia paid him homage and taxes. Weak and beaten, Iran was still a threat to Ottoman Empire. Iranians had not lost the air of protectors of peace and faith; there was still a chance for the old days of Safavid glory to return.

“What has happened?” A telegraph from merchants and people of Tabriz[3] asked Mozaffar-o Din Shah. By the time he came to power Herat had been lost, so was Central Asia and so were parts of south east of Iran. Iranians merchants and producers had lost domestic markets to Russian and British competitors, who were benefiting from several trade agreements and monopoly rights given (sold is the more accurate word) to them by a corrupt court. The rule of government hardly reached outside Tehran and even there it was chaotic. Everyday a new incident humiliated the nation. Mishandling of popular demands by a brutal chancellor caused a nationwide movement. Iranians demanded ‘Justice’ from their King.

The clergies' and merchants' initial demand for an independent judiciary or a ‘House of Justice’, to protect law and order, became the nationwide demand for a parliament, a constitution and a government approved by parliament. French educated intellectuals and Najaf[4] educated clergies joined each other to demand a parliament or Mashrouteh: constraining Monarch’s absolute power. August 5th 1906 King signed a Firman, a royal decree, to establish a parliament. Iranians called it: Majlis. Since then Majlis has been an inseparable part of Iran’s politics. Revolution reached its initial goals of establishing a parliament and drafting a constitution. The success was temporary it eventually failed. There were many reasons for its failure.First it was the new king: Mohammad Ali Shah. An old school king, he did not like commoners discussing his orders. His Russian brigade did not waste time to bombard Majlis. A civil war broke out. King lost and Tehran fall. King escaped to Russian embassy seeking protection and went to exile. His brothers leaded rebellions in his name in following years to restore absolutism but they lost.

Russians added to the problems of constitutional monarchy by objecting to the government’s appointments and Majlis policies and invading Iran. Their forces occupied Tabriz and Mashhad and Gilan, local resistance groups took arms and guerilla warfare broke out. The chaos dragged on, local chieftains raised their own standards in North, West and South. The First World War came and doomed the fate of constitutional movement.Iran's neutrality was ignored by Allied and Axis a[5]like. Iran became a battlefield, where Russians fought Ottomans and English hunted down German spies. Government had to evacuate Tehran and so did Majlis. By the time war ended Iranians were tired of 15 years non-stop domestic unrest and civil war. Government was bankrupt and so was the economy.
1920 coup brought to power a new face: a young Iranian Cossack named Reza Khan Phalavi. In his way to become the absolute ruler of Iran and Reza Shah Pahlavi, he attacked and abolished what was left of constitutional system: free media and election. Some of its finest leaders were killed or sent to exile, to be killed later. Except for a short revival in post WWII era, previous to CIA backed 1953 coup, Majlis for most of its existence during Pahlavi dynasty was an institute with little initiative. The elections did not help Iranians to organize political parties. They were formalities with predetermined results. That discouraged any realpolitik.

Still Iranians never stop remembering Constitutional Revolution and cherishing its memory. There is no wonder why there is an ongoing discussion about Constitutional Revolution in Iran. The clergies remind everyone that they initiated it and actually the first blood in it was that of a seminary student. Intellectuals consider it their first achievement. Ordinary people looked at it as an occasion that they rose up on their exhausted feet and changed something for better.

After all it was the first move in a country ruled for 30 centuries by unquestionable kings and it started by a question: “What has happened to us? Less than 20 years ago Emirs of Bokhara and Samarghand paid taxes to his majesty government, today one can not travel without harassment from Tabriz to Tehran, and people of Khorasan and Gorgan are selling their children for food to Turkmen. The foreigners are more respected than Iranians in our Bazaars and courts and his majesty government is incapacitated of supporting Iranian industries and protecting Iranians, we ask you: Your Majesty! what has happened to Iran?[6]

[1] Aras marks Iran’s northwestern frontier.
[2] Today the main city of Western Afghanistan, even now Iran and Iranians play a crucial role in the life of city.
[3] Located in Northwestern of Iran, the city is most identified by its role in constitutional revolution.
[4] City of Najaf was the capital of seminary education for Shiite clergies at the beginning of 20th century.
[5] History repeated itself when WWII came as well.
[6] Parts of Tabriz telegraph to Tehran.
[7] Photo is Sattar Khan one of the leaders of revolution who commanded the gallant defenders of Tabriz.
[8] this is an edited copy of an article i wrote last year and published on this blog last year.