Friday, December 29, 2006

An Iranian Giant

This is one of the most breath-taking shots I have ever seen in a film, and I am sorry that this picture does not relay well the feeling one gets when seen on a screen.

Of course, you know that Bahram Beyzaie is my favourite (as can be seen from the link on the right), but I was glad to read that although he is (and has been for many years) censored in Iran, this remarkable Iranian artist, combining being a director, a playwright, a poet and so much more, has finally received the acknowledgment that his work deserves.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Neutrality or compromises?

Well I've either been too busy celebrating "shabe yalda" or following the adoption of the resolution on the human rights situation in the IRI, but I just noticed this tonight ... to find out that another blogger had posted about it earlier here and here.

However, I also noticed that a Swiss graphic designer spoke at the opening of the exhibition. Hmmm... Switzerland... just a week after her election, it's new President met with one of Iran's Deputy FM... and also, this year, it decided not to co-sponsor the above-mentioned resolution, although it had done so in the past... the rumour is that it hoped to be able to play a role in the negotiations on the nuclear issue. What did the Calmy-Rey quote in the IRNA release say? "Switzerland attaches special significance to bolstering relations with Tehran"? Maybe it also hopes that if the Security Council resolution passes, Iran will replace the dollar by the Swiss franc rather than the euro!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Look at me, I am the most outrageous!

Holocaust denial is a horrendous thing, there is absolutely no doubt about it. I visited Auschwitz some years ago and will never forget the weight that could still be felt, even just in the air.

But I am afraid I think that too much importance has been given to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its Institute for Political and International Studies and their conference full of void. I just checked today: front pages of the Guardian, Le Monde and the Frankfurter Allgemeine; most popular emailed article of the NY Times and no less than two pieces on BBC Middle East !


No wonder Mr. Mottaki looked so pleased with himself yesterday. What an incredible platform they are getting, and how smart a PR move...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The un-published photos

We all know this photo:

However, few, if none, of us knew the author. It now seems to be Mr. Jahangir Ramzi.

But as much as it might be important for some to know who to give credit to, what I found to be the real highlight of the article was to be able to see 26 other photos that Mr. Ramzi had taken at the same moment, like this one:

or that one:

All of them are here.

Friday, November 24, 2006

ouch!... ouch, ouch, ouch!

The resolution on the human rights situation in Iran was adopted on Tuesday by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, with quite a large margin: 70 in favour to 48 against.

Of course, it was rejected by the government as "based on biased and distorted information", and it's result only due to pressure by the US and Canada on other governments.

Aside from the fact that I do believe that UN resolutions have an effect -- if not they would not go out of their way to get rid of them -- this year, our government had to face more than one defeat: firstly, the resolution Iran put forward on the human rights violations in Canada faced a humiliating rejection, with 107 votes against and only 6 in favour, but even more painfully, Iran tried to pull-out a procedural motion, called "no-action" before the actual vote and did not succeed, whereas the day before, Uzbekistan (probably still considered by some as our former colony) managed to have a similar motion pass and thus avoided a condemnation.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hermes and the children

As you might have noticed from the links on the right, I like Hermes. They are doing a great job at promoting artists with new approaches to classical music, Iranian or Western, or a combination thereof, which often results in great stuff.

But now, they are engaged in an even more commendable enterprise: a charity concert to eliminate Child Labor in Iran.

So if you are in Tehran at the end of the month, please go in my stead... and let me know how it was, if you get a chance.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Truth, with a zest of Tango

It's about time our leaders realize that their deeds might not go unaccounted for. Although one would have thought that most of them being clerics and the rest of them claiming to be devout, they would have some fear of the wrath of God, this has not been very obvious.

However, Argentina has now made a bold move. A few years ago, the Argentinians started looking at their dark past, but they took this search for the right to truth (go to p.446) a formidable step further when they recently issued orders to arrest Iranian officials -- although the country risks economic retaliation, just like a few years back.

And the Iranian government chooses to call this a Zionist conspiracy, I merely hope it is a sustained endeavor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Who's your friend?

Belarus' president Lukashenko has been visiting Iran and Mr. Ahmadinejad tells us that Minsk and Tehran see it eye to eye on a large number of things.

Well surely, on human rights, they do. We know all about Iran, but let's look at Belarus, which has the privilege of having a UN Special Rapporteur just to its own and also some interesting reports from human rights organizations ...

Birds of a feather...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Look who's talking

So Canada has announced that it will once again introduce a resolution on the human situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran at the UN General Assembly. Interestingly Iran has also announced that it will present a resolution on the human rights situation in Canada (unfortunately their statement is not posted, so for those of you who understand Persian and are reading this post today, watch here at 33 minutes into the programme).

It is a little ridiculous, but as was rightly said, the positive part of this action by Iran shows that it still believes that the UN has the right to look into the human rights situation of any given country, therefore that should apply to Iran too...

A few weeks ago, the second session of the UN Human Rights Council took place in Geneva, but this time, since the meeting was not graced by the presence of Mr. Mortazavi, nobody really talked about it... Well, it seems that there were a number of Special Rapporteurs and countries who mentioned Iran.

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions;

Yakin Erturk
, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women;

Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in a response to a question by the Netherlands;

Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing;

and two NGOs jointly, the International Federation for Human Rights Leagues and the Bahai International Community.

No one spoke of human rights violations in Canada.

Monday, October 16, 2006

AOL is the absolute worst

I have been without internet connection for more than 3 weeks, thanks to AOL. Many things I would like to post on, but I cannot squat at my cousin's for hours...


Hopefully next week I will start posting again, so some of the info will be a little old -- apologies!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another transition...

Regardless of what Hoder had to say, I thought that Gozaar (which they themselves have translated "Transition" -- but no connection with yours truly) produced an impressive line-up of contributors and interviewees for it's first edition. Moreover, they covered the human rights issues in Iran that are at the moment at the forefront, without any taboo. I understand that they needed to have a first edition that would attract interest, we now need to see how the subsequent editions will fare, and whether they will not be repetitive.

But I wish them well. Freedom House is what it is, and American human rights NGO, but let's face it, how many other publications do you know that seriously deal with human rights in Iran?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Iranian laughs

It's nearly a week old and will only be online for another 10 days, but listen here to Omid Djalili, Maz Jobrani and Shappi Khorsandi. A few laughs and also some nostalgy -- and a lot of truth...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Set them free

Nearly at the outset of his statement delivered on Monday at the UN General Assembly, our president indicated:

"What afflicts humanity today is certainly not compatible with human dignity; the Almighty has not created human beings so that they could transgress against others and oppress them."

The full text in English can be found here and the webcast here.

I have already made a number of references to various reports on the human rights situation in Iran, whether by the UN or NGOs, however, another of those came out just a few days before Mr. Ahmadinejad's speech. In its introduction it says:

"Government actions and rhetoric created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all religious minorities..."

Or maybe the reference to the Almighty was only for some ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Men in robes

Whether of the West or of the East, their time is up...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

We once thought we had a president

I would be remiss if I did not post on Mr. Khatami's visit, and yet, what is there to say that has not been said? The Washington Post offers a pretty good overview of the various reactions.

And then there is also the unimpressive FT interview...

Friday, August 25, 2006


Since we were in Botswana with Aref just a while ago, let's stay there for a minute and allow me to say how much I enjoyed "Blue shoes and hapiness" -- the last of a series that has been my favourite for a while.

Incidentally, I recently tried to buy a pair of shoes but they were already sold to someone else... So I got another one and dropped them at my friend's previous address. But they are not blue...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A little quiz

These are photos of the "5+1" (China, France, Germany, Russia, U.K. + Switzerland (representing U.S. interests)) during their meeting with Ali Larijani, who delivered Iran's response on the nuclear issue.

Now in your opinion, who's who?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Shajarian's successor?

I found this great video on this blog and could not but post it, to me the best part is when the little boy sings along with Shajarian. Enjoy!

PS: looks like the video is no longer available online. This blogger and this one, have it posted on their sites.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A new blogger in town

At a time when our best Iranian bloggers (here, here and here) have either stopped or taken a looong leave of absence, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has decided to launch his own personal blog. Silly me! Six months ago, I thought I was late in starting mine!

Now a few remarks:

- Mr. Abtahi will either complain or be honoured because I noticed that Mr. Ahmadinejad has taken a few ideas from his blog -- he has even used the same font in the Persian header!

- The flag that represents English for the choice of language is really strange, looks a little like the American flag and yet not quite -- perhaps another way of destroying it?

- Mr. Ahmadinejad has immediately started a poll. When I checked last, there were more "no" than "yes" -- if the final result remains the same, will he face a fate similar to that of previous pollsters?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Better late...

I have been meaning to write this post for some days now, so apologies for the lack of freshness of the links.

Nearly a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Abtahi wrote a post where he asserted the innovative idea that Ben Laden and Israel coordinate their actions. I don't know whether this sign of genius from yet another of our leaders-to-be attracted many comments, as his blog does not take any, but it certainly made me reflect on the fact that his is one of the most popular blogs amongst Iranians.

On the other hand, for anyone interested in reading on the Ben Laden/Israel issue I recommend this Op-Ed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I had been waiting for a couple of days, in fact since Thursday when the article appeared in Persian, for Rooz to translate it into English and then ... it announced that the whole staff was taking a week-long holiday! I am all for holidays, so no complaints here... but that was also the signal to the absence of translation to come.

Mr. Abbas Abdi was asked to give his thoughts on Mr. Ganji and the Reformists, and basically saying that he did not think any of the two had any real programme in order to bring about change in Iran. In a nutshell, he said that if Mr. Ganji's programme could take place in Iran, it would mean that there would be a government with which no one would have a problem to begin with. And then he added that this kind of actions eventually resulted in some form of violence, whether you liked it or not, and the Iranian people did not want that. As for the Reformists, he said that rather than pretending they have a programme, they should first take stock of their previous actions.

In conclusion, when he was asked what should be done he said: nothing. And then went on to say that Mr. Ahmadinejad is doing the right thing, taking the country to a place where nothing could be done for it.

(Apologies for the approximate translation, the Persian is here.)

It sadly reminded my of a book I read about Iraq -- probably the best book on the subject that I have come across -- and the dramatic lack of capable and earnest (I know, it's a strange word for politicians, but allow me to use it) leaders to take over the country once Saddam was ousted.

I know I wrote a hopeful post about Mr. Ganji a while ago, and yet, and much to my regret, the more he travels, gives interviews and makes speeches, the more I find myself agreeing with Mr. Abdi, not to say disappointed.

Abdi gave an interesting interview to the New York Times last April -- it is no longer accessible for free, but if you have a few dollars to spare it's here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

(Un)veiled thoughts

As a woman not wearing the "hijab", I still respect those who, out of their own free will, wish to cover their hair/head/body in whichever manner they wish. It's their right, it's their belief. And this post contains a number of interesting links regarding the debate on this issue.

But I must say that yesterday, my heart sank when I saw this -- the First Exhibition of Islamic Covering.

Also, on the same day a Press Conference was held at the outset of the First International Conference on Women's Rights and Responsibilities in an Islamic System. The photos speak for themselves... I suggest this post be considered as a written contribution to the debate.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Where I want to be

I have recently finished "Let me tell you where I've been". The collection contains three remarkable pieces by Farnoosh Moshiri, Mimi Khalvati and Mojdeh Marashi.

Each in their own way and style have been able to take me back to the scent and the feel for the first, the rhythm and the mood for the second and our contradictions for the third.

But aside from those remarkable moments, the taste left is more of a slight bitterness: why only women, as if yet again we have to be separated from men, even in a book, why an overwhelming sadness, as if our culture can only be shrouded in black, why mainly anger and shame...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Freedom at its best

Someone who participated in a group investigating religious freedom in Egypt once told me how, when they officially met with the Coptic Pope, he told them that the Copts were treated very well, while making a disgusted face, and added that they had equal rights with the Muslims, while shaking his head in a no. The person believed that the Pope had done that because the room was probably bugged, but not filmed...

This reminded me of that story. And is perhaps in response to this -- although I find its contents to be quite mild.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Yet another inalienable right

Saeed Mortazavi is the IRI's inalienable right. Well, having him as part of Iran's delegation to the inaugural session of the Human Rights Council is.

Much ado about nothing? In some ways, yes. Any sovereign country is allowed to choose the members of their delegations to the United Nations and the host country has to issue a visa and grant them diplomatic immunity. However, I understand that today -- the day that Mr. Mottaki spoke in the Assembly Hall -- Mr. Mortazavi chose to go sightseeing in Bern.

Was it because Canada's Minister had issued a formal statement of "disgust"? Or because the EU had threatened that its Ambassadors would leave the room at the beginning of the speech? Or was it due to condemnations voiced by a number of NGOs ?

Perhaps. Or perhaps it was because the weather, or climate, in Bern was better than in Geneva.

Had he listened to our Minister's speech though, he would have been impressed, as I always am, at the commitment of Iran to human rights, and I cannot but quote him: "My country commits itself in working closely with the international community and the members of the Council in making the human rights aspirations of all peoples in the world a reality."

I hope this includes the people of Iran.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Beacon

Manouchehr Mottaki never ceases to impress me with his statements. This time he bade us the good news that human rights will be high on the agenda of his Ministry... and that "detailed reports have been prepared on the human rights issue in the US and many European countries".

Indeed, why bother about human rights in Iran? Just yesterday we saw how women's rights and freedom of expression were respected, today we hear about the right to a fair trial. As for the rest of them, I would just be repeating myself...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ganji and other Iranians

Akbar Ganji delivered the most remarkable speech on the occasion of the 2006 Golden Pen Freedom.

And somehow I wonder how many Iranian journalists, politicians, even human rights activists would totally and publicly associate themselves with all of its content.

And then, aside from those who were in Moscow and a few others, who heard it?... who read it?... Payvand published it in its entirety, Rooz and RFE/RL only quoted parts of it...

Oh! How I wish Mrs. Ebadi had given a similar speech when she received the Noble Prize! She had the whole world as an audience and yet, it was, as mentioned then, quite an "anti-climax".

And Mr. Abtahi only speeks of Mr. Khatami and how if he would "candidate" himself in Palestine, he would "win almost the majority of votes". ???


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sacred Music

Once again Iran and Mali linked through music. This time with India too. On a Moroccan night, in Fes, it was called "The Rythm of speech" -- three remarkable voices, including that of Ali Reza Ghorbani, and percussionists from the three countries as well, in a united ensemble... wish I could have been there... Here's a spectacular photo of all the artists.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Open sesame

Do you know who is the first Frenchwoman to get past the qualifying rounds at Roland Garros since 1997?

Aravane Rezai (just a little Iranian too, perhaps?)

She is playing seeded player no 16 Nicole Vaidisova this afternoon.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


If the idea of having people identified because of their beliefs (and in order to better persecute them) is certainly horrendous, there is still something I do not understand:

- A lot of justified outrage at the news that in Iran Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians will soon have to identify themselves with a specific coloured cloth (subsequently denied);

- Silence when the UN discloses Ayatollah Khamenei's order to the Ministry of Information, the Revolutionary Guard and the Police Force to identify of all the members of the Baha'i faith.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

On the fringe of "the letter"

Much has been said about "the letter". I would like to mention two: Firstly, an interesting point at the end of a New York Times article that quoted Wahid Abdel Maguid of the Egyptian Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, saying that the letter "was addressed more to young people in the Islamic world than to the American president" (this point was subsequently repeated by others). And there was also a much-needed response to the missive, posted on a blog, which brought everything back into the right perspective.

Reading the letter, I could not but notice the amount of "(PBUH)" it contained, associated to the various prophets mentioned. Of course, Muslims are familiar with the letters in brackets that always appear after Prophet Mohammed's name, but I was wondering what Americans, and Westerners in general, would make of it.

This led me to another, perhaps more fundamental reflection: one of Mr. Ahmadinejad's points in the letter was to show his own piety and somehow prove that not only was he a fervent believer in Prophet Mohammed, but he was also knowledgeable about and respectful of the Teachings of Christ -- a claim Mr. Bush seemed to make but not put into practice. However, if one reveres the Divine Messengers, then it could indeed be a form of respect to follow the utterance of their names by the expression of the wish that peace be upon them. But then reduce this to a few letters in bracket? To me, this kills all reverence, piety and spirituality.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Football and populism

The strategy involved various entities in power and the orchestration was smooth: Mr. Ahmadinejad played the card of women's rights by announcing that he was allowing indiscriminate access to football stadiums, then a number of grand Ayatollahs publicly expressed their disapproval (one of them being the President's own mentor) and finally the Leader himself said that it was inappropriate and the President bowed to Ayatollah Khamenei's wish, of course. Back to square one, with a few popular gains.

A few days ago I came across an article about a talk given by Ramin Jahanbegloo at the Amir Kabir University some months ago (unfortunately it is in Persian). During the talk Mr. Jahanbegloo made reference to the present government by calling them "populists" and in response to a question on the present situation in Iran he cited Jean-Paul Sartre saying France was never as free as during the Vichy regime. Later in the presentation, he went on to strongly criticize the Reformists as well, saying that the Populists appeared in our society because people no longer trusted the Reformists...

No wonder the man is now in Evin.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


No, I am not going to talk about the nuclear issue nor the Security Council but just return to my favourite subject: human rights.

Elections to the Human Rights Council are going to take place next Tuesday, 9 June, and as I have previously mentioned Iran is a candidate, although by now I believe it will not make it: there are enough other candidates within the Asian group with either better human rights records (which is not so difficult to achieve, as we all know) or who are more powerful and therefore can secure the votes regardless.

But predictions is not the purpose of this post. Because of this candidature, Iran has had to make commitments to the promotion and protection of human rights standards. The letter speaks for itself, but allow me to indulge in quoting one paragraph:

"The IRI, if elected, will spare no effort to assist the international community to safeguard the HRC from injustice, double-standards and politicization."

In other words, it will do its utmost to prevent Iran from being condemned for its human rights violations, as we can see from this and this, just to mention a couple.

On their websites, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have analyzed the situation of the various candidates. Iran is worth checking... edifying!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

(double) Standards

A while ago, another blogger wrote about double standards, or more precisely about various interpretations depending on what suits the argument. His was in favour of the IRI. The discourse was so "nonsensical" (to use the terms of someone who responded in the comments) that my disappointment with the author led me to stop reading the blog altogether, rather than responding.

But the malaise of not having expressed my frustration remained, I guess (although I gladly found today that, in fact, someone did.)

And then, here I am, thanks to Mr. Zarif who had another go at the UN. Surely, he must feel a little awkward at calling upon the United Nations Security Council to somehow protect Iran when, a day or two before, his President had indicated that "Iran does not give a damn about such [Security Council] resolutions", and his main nuclear negotiator had defined them as "not very important".

Saturday, April 29, 2006


A couple of bloggers have recently referred to the obsession about our inalienable right (OID) that has turned into jokes, the best one so far is here, and a number of them are here.

So I thought I should add a few photos I saw yesterday, on Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit to Zanjan:

Starts with a banner, saying OID:

Then on the hills:

Then it goes a little further, as these children are saying: "An independent representative (added: to the Majlis) is OID

Of course, the best and funniest (and earliest) is here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Douste, my friend

For the past year now, France, and particularly its Minister of Foreign Affairs, have taken a pretty strong stance on Iran. Very different from the wishy-washiness we had previously seen from them and in stark contrast with the position they held on Iraq.

The interview given to Rooz (the original French is here) is interesting because it is coming from a country that is "highly regarded" in Iran. Furthermore, Philippe Douste-Blazy himself stated that he chose the Internet media because they "have a very large audience in your country" and then went on to try to dispel some of the misinformation that is spread in the country about our "inalienable right"

And then Mr. Douste-Blazy clearly indicated that France's economic interests will not prevent it from being at the forefront of the promotion of human rights in Iran. One might be sceptical, hoping that the interview is not only lip service and that this and this will not take precedence over human rights concerns.

Let's say I have a soft spot for good-looking French doctors. However, one must admit that Douste is doing far better than one of his predecessors who, in a Op/Ed on Iran published today, together with other former FMs, indicated having "met with influential Iranian officials during the past few months" but did not even care to mention human rights...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'll be there when you get there

I finally got round to reading Mohsen Sazegara's Policy Focus, published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Mr. Sazegara's main point is that Iran is moving towards democracy, inevitably. Well, given that he does not give any time frame, I guess we can all agree with him: it will happen, eventually.

I found the piece more descriptive than analytical, and had hoped for a little more “meat”:

For example, Mr. Sazegara lists the various existing Iranian political groups; but of course, aside from the Islamists, they are all outside Iran. It would have been interesting to know how much support he thinks each of them have inside the country. (To his credit on this, he does not make any difference between the Islamists, so none of that Reformists-versus-Conservatives business. In fact, he writes that despite the liberalist slogans of some, none of them have cooperated with non-Islamist groups and that they have either kept quiet or even joined in when non-Islamists have been suppressed.)

And then he does not speak of the lethargy that has engulfed the country, or rather, he dedicates one sentence to it, and says that it will come to pass. Again, no time frame, and a little too much optimism.

Finally, although he mentions, as he should -- he is one of the persons behind the referendum after all, that no real change can take place within the framework of the actual Constitution, after reading the piece the feeling left was that all he was really saying was: Soroush and more Soroush. And there, I still have to be convinced…

Monday, April 17, 2006

Big bad wolf

The motto is: rather than leaving it up to your wild imagination, discover Iran by understanding who Iranians are -- and this through 7 women.

One of them is a great artist, the other one a little too much for me. I thought the books of two of them were more about themselves than about Iran, and have yet to think much of a third one's regular Op/Eds. Never heard of the last two (shame on me...)

But it could be interesting, if you are in New York next Wednesday...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good? Friday

I was talking about Easter to someone who had recently come out of Iran, and when I indicated that in fact it was the martyrdom of the Christ, she was very surprised. She commented that all she saw was about happiness -- mainly chocolate-coated, how could it be? Not quite like Ashura.

I must admit that by just uttering the word "martyrdom" -- as I thought this was the most appropriate one in Persian -- I felt awkward. Crucifixtion, sacrifice, yes, martyrdom ... not a Christian concept, it seems.

Which made me finally look into why Friday is "good" when it was in fact the day that Christ was put on the cross.

I tried to explain that I thought that the Church wanted to look more positively and focus on the resurrection of Christ on Easter Monday. But why eggs and bunnies?...

I guess we were neither in Southern Europe nor in the Phillipines, perhaps the hotter the weather, the hotter the fervour...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Morning dew

Last week end Shabnam Tolouie had three performances in Paris: a play called "L'Entretien". I heard goods things about it. But it is very impressive in any case, because the play was in French. How talented must one be to be able to succesfully go on stage merely 18 months after having left Iran...

All the links are in Persian, I am afraid. The only film she is known for outside Iran is this and the only (small) bio I could find is here.

(two days later....)

The entry on Wiki is with a different spelling... sorry...

Friday, April 07, 2006


sorry... candidate. Iran is candidate to a seat in the newly created UN Human Rights Council.


I guess being so well versed and experienced in the human rights violations against its own people, it finds itself in a very good position to be able to judge if others are promoters or violators of human rights.

I am not going to link to all sorts of reports, I have done it in previous posts, here and here.

I only hope that other governments will be offended by this candidature, which ultimately shows how little respect the IRI has for the UN, let alone for human rights, to dare make such a move when six months ago, the same General Assembly that will now have to elect it adopted a resolution confirming it is a gross human rights violator by 75 votes in favour.

(So please don't even mention again Mr. Zarif and his nagging.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NGOs, the Iranian way

Last Sunday, Omid Memarian posted his Op/Ed regarding the $ 75 million issue on his blog. And when talking about Iranian NGOs, he said: "The traditional sector is religious, well-organized and quite cohesive. Financed by the regime itself, it has access to far more extensive resources than the meager sums being offered to the modern civil society by the US, and it encompasses the most passionate supporters of the regime."

Sadly, it is a known fact that outside of the country, Iranian civil society is either represented by the very properly veiled, if not tchadored, ladies of the Network of Women's NGOs in the IRI, one of which, I understand, has a specialty in filming all the others... or by the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, whose head once admitted having been a former interrogator.

I was recently talking to the Brussels representative of a major human rights NGO, and this person was telling me that the EU is finding itself in a "catch 22" position: there are funds allocated to helping Iranian NGOs and yet the "genuine" NGOs refuse this money. So the EU ends-up funding the likes of ODVV for lack of a better choice.

NGOs jeopardizing their already precarious situation by receiving funds from abroad is not an issue limited to Iran. There are plenty of such cases throughout the world. The most recently publicized one was Russia; Egyptian NGOs have been struggling with the issue for many years, etc. There are ways to go about it, but perhaps this Iranian sense of being "unique" takes us back to another blogger's recent post...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Eulogy or legacy?

Yesterday, the UN Commission on Human Rights held it's last session -- ever.

A comment left on a previous post of mine made me feel I needed to say a few words about what the Commission had done for human rights in Iran.

So last night I embarked on a long and tediously chronological eulogy but subsequently decided to refrain from publishing what would have been quite boring.

In reflecting upon the Commission, some might ask whether there had been any difference on the ground after having had the mandate of a Special Representative who reported on human rights violations in Iran for 18 years, and then losing it 4 years ago. Then, a number of other Special Rapporteurs also visited Iran and subsequently reported. Have these made any change?

Whatever response we will come to will only be subjective, because any real assessment will only be possible in retrospect. However, perhaps we may get some insight by listening to the Latin American countries expressing how the attention of the Commission made a difference at a time when they were engulfed in turmoil, countries like Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Peru...

Then we need to ask ourselves a number of questions: if there had not been, year after year, a report by the UN, what would have given accurate information on the situation within the borders of the IRI? The report of the State Department? Some could argue that it is biased... Those of Amnesty or Human Rights Watch? They are more subject oriented and do not give a yearly and comprehensive view of the situation, and the entries for Iran on their annual reports are far too limited.

Furthermore, most of the thematic Rapporteurs that visited the country -- and all gave pretty damming reports -- could not be accused of not understanding "cultural differences" (or was it "cultural particularism", Mr. Khatami?):

1995: Freedom of religion, Abdelfattah Amor, a Tunisian and a Muslim
1996: Freedom of the press, Abid Hussain, an Indian and a Muslim
2003: Arbitrary Detention, Louis Joinet and Leïla Zerrougui, the latter an Algerian and a Muslim
2005: Violence against women, Yakin Ertürk, a Turk and a Muslim
2005: Adequate Housing (and confiscation of properties), Miloon Kothari, an Indian

I also need to highlight a couple of events: those among us who were already around remember the three visits of Reynaldo Galindo Pohl to Iran in 1990-1991, his visit of Evin, his waiting inside UNDP while witnesses were not being allowed to approach the premises...

And had it not been for the visit of Louis Joinet and Leïla Zerrougui, who would have ever officially recorded the existence, thereafter never challenged, of "sector 209" in Evin -- what they called the "prison within the prison" -- and of "prison 59" in the Vali-Asr.

Now some might think "and so what? All this for what result?" I humbly submit that the more publicity is given to the information, the more protection we shed on the victims. The vast majority of those whose names have been in the public are still alive (and many of them are even free) and those who unjustly died often did so before the world heard about their fate.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Preach and practice

On Monday, Mr. Javad Zarif, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations wrote a letter to the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Anan, to protest the US threats against Iran.

In the meantime, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ms. Asma Jahangir, was issuing a statement indicating that she was “highly concerned by information she has received concerning the treatment of members of the Bahá'í community in Iran.”

It seems that a number of branches of our government, including the Ministry of Information, the Pasdarans and the Police have been requested to identify all the Baha’is…

She then goes on to say that she is “apprehensive”. Well, rightly so, I would say. History has unfortunately told us that identification of a group of people, particularly of those belonging to one religion, by a government, does not augur well for their fate.

Surely, Iran’s chief representative who has just criticized the US for its “contempt” of the UN will take it upon himself to ensure that the requests of the Special Rapporteur calling upon his country “to refrain from categorizing individuals according to their religion and to ensure that members of all religious minorities are free to hold and practise their religious beliefs, without discrimination or fear" will be implemented.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Anyone feeling betrayed?

The BBC has these “your perspective” entries. I think they should have one on what people feel about the US and Iran holding talks about Iraq.

How do the supporters of a regime change in Iran feel? And those who rally in front of Mr. Ahmadinejad shouting “death to America”?

Just a thought.

And a question: if it is to be about Iraq, why is it that it was Mr. Larijani who made the first announcement?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Council is born

Yesterday, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution creating a Human Rights Council to replace the much recriminated Commission on Human Rights. The text was adopted with 170 countries in favour, 4 against (US, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau) and 3 abstentions (Iran, Belarus and Venezuela).

Much can be said about the reasons behind a “no” vote on the part of the United States. However, the reason officially put forward was that the text was not strong enough.

Now let’s look at the distinguished delegate from the Islamic Republic of Iran:
She said that “country-specific resolutions should not be approved” and was concerned that “the suspension of the rights of membership in the Council, … , might be used as a pretext by certain States, in their politically motivated attempts to pursue their national interests.”

Looks as if Iran is taking the text personally…

The full debate can be found here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The UN and the victims

Yesterday a group of victims of human rights abuses and relatives of victims gathered at the Place des Nations in Geneva to request a condemnation of Iran by the United Nations machinery and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in that country.

They came from various parts of Europe, travelled painstakingly, stood there in the bitter cold of winter in Switzerland, and spoke … who was there to listen?

Of course, some of us know that this is not the way to have your voice heard at the UN, but my heart goes out to them.

Perhaps, the voices of victims like these are what the various governments negotiating on the establishment of a new Human Rights Council should keep in mind first and foremost, and also what should haunt those who exert their utmost to ensure that such a Council will never condemn them.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Interview with an Ayatollah

So the week-long report by the British Channel 4 in Iran has ended, and thanks to the fact that they had contacted Iranian bloggers from the outset, I watched it regularly, with some regret at first: it was a little light and never seemed to get to the real issues.

This until they went to Qom and did a programme on the power of the hozeh -- the clergy. Although the intro of Jon Snow was a little less “correct”, as he started by saying: “Iran is, in many ways an extremely controlling state. We have to ask permission for virtually everything we have to film. It's only the severity of the nuclear crisis that's persuaded the authorities here to open up as much as they have, allowing us to talk to ordinary people and those who run Iran.” I still found it very unnerving to watch the live interview of Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani. Particularly how pleased of himself he was, and of being on British TV!

(All day today as I read and listened to the various news about Milosevic’s death, I felt I could relate to the sense of helplessness of the victims -- that was what made me so uneasy while watching the interview.)

But ask an Iranian cleric about human rights or other religions or beliefs, and he will unfailingly give himself away: firstly, Mr. Hadavi firmly stated that human rights are implemented throughout the country, and then, when asked about the Sufis, he initially said they had done things against the regime, and then continued by declaring that it was not the government but the people who attacked them.

Earlier on he had clearly denied the fact that Iran would want to use nuclear weapons, but if this statement were to be compared to the two earlier ones, then how could one feel reassured?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In search...

We have entered a tunnel, a very dark tunnel.

These past days, all the foreign press talked about Iran, there were Op/Eds and analysis all over: The NY Times and Washington Post, Le Monde and Le Figaro, the Times, the Frankfurter, even the Corriere, to mention a few. But not one of them was able to make an innovative analysis, let alone offer the glimpse of a solution. Well, the International Crisis Group did, but frankly Derakhshan's proposal is more imaginative. I expected more from Chris Patten, but then one of their experts on the team was Tim Guldiman, known for being a proponent of compromises with Iran...

And then today I found a very interesting analysis by a Frenchman, Frédéric Tellier (from the Institut de la Recherche Stratégique) published in a Swiss newspaper, of all places! The article, entitled "L'Iran joue la carte nationaliste, qui trouve un écho dans la population" can unfortunately only be found through a search on the site of the paper, but basically, the author makes three points:

- The government in place is using Iranian nationalism (and the figure of Dr. Mossadegh) to rally a disillusioned and otherwise pro-american youth behind it. This strategy was initiated during Mr. Khatami's presidency.

- Mr. Ahmadinejad is very vocal and on the front line, but is not a main decision maker. His election was a very stategic choice by Ayatollah Khamenei, luring the West into thinking that the situation we are in now is due to Ahmadinejad's radicalism. The latter might even be used as a "fuse" in the event of a failure, to be then replaced by Rafsanjani or Khatami.

- The US military option is not impossible. Iran remains one of the main supporter of terrorism, with increasing outreach (all the way to sub-saharan Africa). Therefore a nuclear Iran is unacceptable to the West. The situation in Iraq would not be a enough of a hinderence for the US and airborne hits could be effective.

Monday, March 06, 2006


… thanks to the government of the IRI:

A few hours ago, I checked my blog and could not republish. I would get an error message. So, I tried viewing my blog and this is why I got on the web page:

After trying a couple of other blogs and a few times my own again, guess what was the thought that came to my mind?…

“They” have blocked my site!

And then I asked myself: Is it because of my latest post re what BBC did not dare to put in writing? Does that really makes me worse than the other Iranian blogs? Perhaps it’s those Baha’i photos

While all the other American, European, etc. bloggers just asked themselves what went technically wrong – and rightly so, it was a failure and things were fixed a couple of hours later.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Women, ladies and girls

There has been some talk about women’s rights in Iran lately, whether it was concerning the access to the Iran/Costa Rica match or our first lady accompanying Mr. Ahmadinejad to Malaysia, or on the subject of domestic violence.

Today, the BBC had on its site a piece by its correspondent on how increasingly difficult it was to be a female journalist in Iran. Interestingly, however, there is just one bit of the audio that does not appear in the text on the page, although to me it is perhaps the most revealing, so I have transcribed it:

“Every time I go to the weekly foreign ministry briefing the security officials reprimand me for some tuft of hair showing, then there is one public relations official in the foreign ministry who delights in leaving my name off the list of reporters who want to ask a question during the news conferences. His clear enjoyment of humiliating me borders on some perverted kind of flirtation. He clearly gets a kick out of it. And when I once accused him of having a problem with me because I was a woman, he just laughed as if I’d complimented him. In retrospect, I thought it was quite amazing that I could tell an official he was a male chauvinist, and he wasn’t at all offended.”

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I had promised myself that I would give religion/minorities et al. a break but there he was in the news this morning! And I could not but post it. Mr. Khatami, with your smile and your Dialogue among Civilizations, just remind me which position you held when the 13 Jews were tried in Shiraz?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Karroubi's (recent) letter

A few days ago Mehdi Karroubi wrote an (open?) letter to the Marjaiyat, the centres of emulations, in Qom. On freedom of religion or belief...

Mr. Karroubi explicitly refers to the attack on the Sufis in Qom. However, if one reads further, it is a broader encompassing text, where he appeals to the religious leaders in Qom to protect, in conformity with the lofty principles contained in Islam, the rights of all human beings – “even those who hold beliefs that we don’t agree with"
(دفاع از حقوق همه انسان‌ها حتی كسانی كه عقايد ايشان را نمی‌پسنديم)
... and hints to the fact that perhaps up to now they have rather supported those who only wear the garments of friendship.

For those who can read Persian, I recommend the whole article in Iranema.

Hmmm... probably more reason for some to feel that they have done the right thing in censoring his TV... I wonder how Iran would look like if he had come second in the first round of the elections...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

To google or not to google

I have been thinking about this for some days now, and yet, frankly, I couldn't be bothered with the thought of having to move my newly created blog to some other site, find a new name, work on the design, etc. Then also change my email address, and go where? to Yahoo, not a better choice!

Apathy on one side and a sense of helplessness on the other. The remaining dilema, however, is how can we move our advocacy for human rights beyond mere words. It reminds me of a leftist old lady who used to boycott South African oranges during Apartheid, and I remember asking myself whether this would have any effect beyond depriving her of her daily dosage of needed vitamin C.

I am still convinced that google does not need my blog or my email address, and yet, I feel I am letting the Chinese down, as if I forgot about Ganji or Soltani or let the Basiji beat-up some poor guy next door and turn away, because he was a little different, after all...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Holy Places

Samarra, sacred tombs of Imam Ali al-Hadi and Imam al-Hasan al-Askari:

Qom, Hoseynieh of the Sufis:

Bamiyan, Statues of the Buddha:

Shiraz, House of the Bab:

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Speaking in Brussels at the European Parliament yesterday, Manoochehr Mottaki at one point said: "Let politicians not enter the domain of clerics". This says it all doesn't it? Particularly coming from the Foreign Minister of a country where clerics reside in the domain of politicians.

The rest is all the same, self-contradicting rhetoric and soft-spoken distortions of reality. (I had written a long post but realized it was a sour re-hash of the press release...)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Human or nuclear rights

Amnesty released a report on Iran at mid-day yesterday. In the opening paragraph its press release stated: "The current standoff regarding the country's nuclear programme must not distract either the government or the international community from addressing the country's long-standing human rights problems." What about the media? I watched all day yesterday, for a Reuters, perhaps an AFP ... and again today, no sign of it... Until -- finally -- it appeared on Radio Farda (I know, again, sorry, but hey…) and later on Payvand.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Ahmadinejad said (and unfortunately I am paraphrasing because I can no longer find the link) "If we solve the nuclear issue then they will come after our human rights situation.”

It’s been a while since Amnesty has written a full report on Iran. And as must be the case for all those concerned about the situation of human rights in a given country, I guess, I wish there would be more coverage about it. But the human rights discourse is no longer fashionable. We all know why too, and I will come back to this soon.

I just need to add one more point on the report: although it starts with a clear indication that the situation has worsened since the election of the new President, many of the abuses reported in there were commited during Mr. Khatami’s tenure...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Out of order

I don't regularly check Radio Farda's website, but thanks to E there is now one programme that I make sure I listen to regularly: Kharej az Dastur. It never ceases to make me laugh. Last week's, the one with Larijani's photo, is fantastic.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Shajarian v/ Touré

Weren't we all excited when Mohammad Reza Shajarian (together with Hossein Alizadeh, Kayhan Kalhor and Homayoun Shajarian) was nominated for the Grammy awards. Of course, they had been nominated the year before last as well -- the more reason to hope that they would receive the prize this year! And the "Saz va Avaze Abu Ata" on the second CD of Faryad is just unbelievably soul stirring.

But then, who else was nominated ... Ali Farka Touré ... probably the greatest African musician alive, in collaboration with the griot Toumani Diabate. Very different dialogues between the men and the instruments and yet, equally as mesmerizing.

When I think of the opposition and similarities between the music of Shajarian and that of Touré it reminds me of the two architectural masterpieces: the mosques in Isfahan and Timbuktu.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

More about the cartoons

I thought I was done with the subject of the cartoons, but then first came that so very UNee statement by three UN Special Rapporteurs, on contemporary forms of racism, on freedom of religion or belief and on freedom of opinion and expression. From what I understand they (and their staff at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) had agonized about it for nearly a week! They are treading a very fine line -- it is not for me to criticize.

As much as the previous days had been rather distressing and gloomy, I started to read Brooding Persian's post, qualified by "Psychic" as "brilliant"-- and I fully agree (sorry Psychic, you left no trace, so no possible link on my part). And the day became even brighter as I read in Le Monde the opinion of Soheib Bencheikh, the very enlightened former Mufti of Marseille and that of Mona Eltahawy's in the IHT.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


It is impossible not to read about the cartoons.

I wanted to post an appeal by Tewfik Allal, from the "Association du Manifeste des libertés", but could not find the link.

The three articles that are still remembered by my faulty brain are Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff in the Washington Post, and for those who read Persian, Nikahang's post and French, Olivier Roy's in Le Monde.

What comes to mind first and foremost is the issue that seems to be otherwise obliterated: why is it that it is OK for papers in Saudi Arabia to publish cartoons of Jews drinking children's blood, for TV series in Egypt to bring out the old story of the protocol of the Elders of Zion, for Kayhan to print ad nauseum that Baha'is are creations of the British, Zionism and all the ills of the world and yet when it comes to those Danes...

The OIC has made it a specialty lately to infuse the UN with cries about the defamation of Islam. All religions and beliefs should be respected and I too find it offensive to trample on what is most sacred for others (or for myself). Yet, first and foremost, shouldn't there be a principle of reciprocity?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Too late?

Am I two years too late? Is there a point in starting a blog when it is no longer a novelty, when everyone that had something to say has already posted it, or when all the readers have already chosen and saved their favourites? I guess my do-hezari, or otherwise named coin, took a little stroll before it actually reached its final destination. So bear with me ... as always ...