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Liberal Iranian
Liberal as in Liberty and Freedom. Iranian as in Cyrus and Ferdowsi.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Gift of the Impudent Thief
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I intentionally did not make any comments during the recent hostage-taking crisis of British marines by Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRG) of Iran. It was clear to me that the whole incident was staged by elements in the Iranian government. There were some clues, such as the initial "mistake" in the Iranian claimed position of the captured marines that was in Iraqi waters. But the people who could ultimately shed some light on the incident were captive and there was no hope that they would speak freely in captivitiy. Their "interviews" could not be trusted in the hands of a regime who has constantly forced even its most benign prisoners to confess to unimaginable crimes on TV since the begining of its existence. It was a well-calculated move by Iran, one that avoided a full clash with the US while sending a message that they could be a significant annoyance if they want to. I was particularly bothered by the continued state of inaction by the British and other European countries prior to the incident and their apparent puzzlement at the result of their irrational optimism toward unworthy actors in Iran's politics, the so-called "reformists."

But the ultimate insult came when after exploiting the staged situation for all its propaganda worth, Mr. Ahmadinejad announced that the marines are being released "as a gift" to the British people. It seems in the Islamic Republic's logic giving a gift is no different from returning stolen goods. This particularly persisting impudence is the essence of the Islamic Republic's existence.

Now that the marines are free and back home they can and are giving us a glimpse of their experience in captivity. As it appears, and I think the course of events is well explained by their statements, the marines refrained from a military engagement because they recognized the IRG was heavily equiped. Had they chosen differently they could have jeopardized not just their own lives but those of the people of Iran in the aftermath. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman claims these are "staged" statements. But what would the marines lose? Would they face an uncertain period of time apart from their families and loved ones? Would the costs of telling the truth be so high for them that not even one would confirm his or her statements made in Iran? Does the Iranian spokesman really expect the sane people of the free world to believe him instead of 15 free men and women?

Impudence indeed! 
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Happy Passover!
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An interesting costum in a Persian jewish Seder ceremony is to
simultaneously chant the Passover song "Dayenu" and hold bunches of either celery, chives, leeks or scallions in their hands and lightly beat each other on the back and shoulders to symbolize the sting generated by the whip of the Egyptian taskmasters.
Happy freedom and enjoy your matzos! 
Monday, April 02, 2007
Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?
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I just read an interview of Jafar Panahi, the renowned Iranian director, in LA Weekly (hat tip: Normblog) that contained an anecdote I could not help noting down here before going to bed.

Panahi is recalling 2003 when he was summoned to the infamous Ministry of Information. His 30-something interrogator has just gone on a 15-minute rambling of goverment memos indicating Panahi had published offensive material.
Then he said, “Why is it you’ve continued to stay here? Why don’t you just leave? Go abroad. They like you there, don’t they? They like your work. Go there. Why would you even want to remain here?”

I didn’t reply immediately. I was halfway done with my cigarette, and I put it out in the ashtray, and I looked at him and said, “Listen, I know exactly what I’m saying to you. And I realize where I am and I know where I’m living. So, it’s with full possession of my faculties and freely that I say this to you: Who the hell do you think you are to tell me I shouldn’t live in this country? If you ever said such a thing to me outside this building, I’d punch you so hard you’d never be able to get up again.”

He didn’t expect anything of the kind, and frankly, no one in their right mind would say such a thing to an interrogator in an official building. He was floored, and for about two whole minutes, he didn’t say a thing. Then, when he tried to speak again, I picked up where I’d left off. “Now,” I said, “you want me to leave this country? Let me tell you something. I’m never going to leave this country. If you want, you can expel me. That isn’t up to me. It’s up to you.”
This straight-forward, well-calculated and extremely courageous reply is basically the essence of Panahi's films too. I have been in that room myself and know the arrogant and self-confident air these interrogators exude. To say to them the truth as it is in such circumstances takes more than courage though. It takes clear thinking and the knowledge that in spite of their self-assured power they will be standing naked if one pulls the single thread that holds their dreadful outfit together.

But with all his courage, I do fear for this man's life. If he goes too far at some unfortunate moment, these people won't hesitate to kill him -- the murderers that they are -- as they have many a courageous soul before. I wish him safety and many more great films. 
Sunday, April 01, 2007
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I have been very busy -- and let the all important new Persian year go without notice. Spring is here. Let us hope that it brings more freedom and peace than shackles or unrest.

Today is the thirteenth day after noruz (literally, the new day) -- the sizdah bedar. It's a day of outing in the nature and the countryside, of being with family and friends and of cherishing the goodness of life. There is also a practice of having fun by making practical jokes or making false and outrageous claims, very much like April fools day jokes. It is interesting to note that the two days coincide exactly for some years including this.