Reflecting on Iran’s Recent Protests

Iran’s anti governmental protest enters its fourth day. People follow with mixed feelings, hope and worry. Few points and opinions for the western audience that the mass media may not highlight:

1. Technically, this time around things didn’t even start in the capital. They took off in few smaller cities across the country and spread to some big cities and then reached the capital. This points to different dynamics that could make the uprisings more difficulto control for the government. More than 30 cities have been involved. This is unprecedented.

2. Iran has reportedly repealed some net neutrality (restoring its freedom as some put it!) by reportedly discriminating against massaging apps that are used to mobilize populations. If protests spread further, they may shut down the whole network as they did before. In comparison to 2009 uprisings the Internet penetration rate has nearly doubled reaching above 80%.

3. During the first couple of days the hardliners tried to seize the protests and view them as economic disatisfaction of the masses to use it against the reformist government. That however backfired and slogans targeted the regime as a whole. This will intensify if the revolutionary guard (under the supreme leader) enters the scene; so far only the police forces have been in charge of controling the crowd with limited casualties.

4. Protesters as usual protest economic pressures and also demand social and political freedom. Economic pressures are partly due to neoliberal policies of the reformist government and the power it has given to the banks. This plus some typical-range curroption and mismanagement is not unique to Iran. Iran’s economy, however, suffers from few other elements:

The country has grown several political mafias in the past 40 years from cartels under the rule of the Islamic revolutionary guard and many other theocratic organizations. On top of these, the economic sanctions that were supposed to be relieved after the Iran Deal, still keep pressuring people. Needless to say that US under Trump resisted the agreement illegally, although Europe did its part after Iran showed its commitment to the nuclear deal.

5. Now Trump’s administration backed by the war machine is trying to harvest the fruits of this economic pressure their own way. His message [although in pure syntax and without a context] was heart-warming (The world is watching, we are supporting the people of Iran, they differ from the government, bla) in reality was only worrying, given where it came from!

The truth is, the majority of the people in Iran are tired of its theocracy, though a majority of those – hopefully – have some historic memory on what has happened to other places that US offered a hand of support; Iraq, Lybia, Afaghanistan, Yemen and Syria, directly or indirectly. So it seems they will pass this time too. Plus no one should be fooled that Trump’s administration has a slightest care for this thing called human rights, in any part of the world.

This is a political excuse to use against the geopolitical adversaries, and never against the temporary allies. And in itself is a hypocratic and psychopathic measure.

6. Along those lines, Fox News is shamelessly repeating that Obama lost a golden opportunity in 2009 to interfere or else the Iranian regime would not be in place. I wonder what kind of people watch this show. What’s their level of intellect, their fact-base or their empathy level, to buy this rhetoric, still in 2017? One of these three at least shall be questioned for any houshold who gets their news and analysis from such sources.

Had Obama meddled in 2009, [a quick look at other countries where they meddled show that] not only the theocrats in Tehran wouldn’t be in place right now, but lots of buildings and roads, infrastructure and universities and historic monuments and probably some half a million people wouldn’t also be there. Thus, Obama did the right thing not to seize that *opportunity* to wage war against a complex and misunderstood country. And did it wrong with any other country that it did meddle with, including Syria and Lybia. It’s that simple. And it’s mind-blowing that a large fraction of the American public watch this rhetoric on channels like Fox and don’t call it bullshit to change the channel immediately! This is about time for Americans (and with respect to the trends, soon the rest of the west) to understand how short-minded and manipulative these rhetorics are and to stop seeing themselves as the saviors of the world. Especially America that needs to deal with its own rigged politics before exporting a democracy that is running out at home.

7. War is a lose-lose game. That is, the end of all hopes. And the war machine does not miss any opportunity to wage another war. The west must not repeat its mistake this time around, when US adiministration will come to team up to get allies to participate in another war. We must be very clear that it is not an option.

War is lose-lose game for the whole planet, including the western voters who keep voting for war-friendly politics, not paying enough attention to the fact that much of their issues come from those counter-productive policies. Only few will win in a war: Right wing politicians, such as the Republican Party and the sentaros who will use it to distract the public while looting them. Hardliners, Mullahs and right-wings in Tehran who will probably get more powerful if they won’t be overthrown, as they did it before in the 80s. Even if they are rid of, other perhaps new radical groups and brands such as ISIS who will norture from a post-war ecology. And not to mention, of course the weapon industry and their shareholders. These groups combined mke a very tiny fraction of the world population. They are the winners of the next war and every one else will lose. Generations will be hurt and that pain – as usual – will NOT stay within the borders of the affected country. Its shockwaves does spread through immigration, economic difficulties, disease and a lot of other mysterious ways that Karma works. So do not get hopeful when you see another country in war cast on your TV. Right in that moment you are participating in it, and Karma works in mysterious ways!

8. Social and political freedom is a win-win game. It’s time for theocrats in Tehran to let go of their repressive measures and let the people breath. They sure know policies such as compulsory hijab, or the organizations that keep an otherwise democratic code from functioning democratically, do not come from their faith in some ideology. These are just symbolic signs to show who has the power, or some institutions to presever it. And similar to the collapse of soviets, they aren’t working for them anymore and if they try to keep those elements, they may lose it all.

So it’s about time for the Iranian government to allow genuine and radical reforms – socially and even politically – not as a passive response to the political unrest, but as proactive measures for the future events that will sure come their way even if they manage this one. In fact this might be one of their last chances to do so. The moment people know a different reality is imaginable they will not tolarate theb current fourty-years backwards politics of isolation. We are hopeful and we wish that somehow without any other foreign intrusion, the Iranian people manage to mobilize peacefully to align their demands, and confront their local dominators in large numbers to show that enough is enough. Let’s see how the future unfolds. But a large political shift, like a referendum should be within reach.

And as a usual princinple, screw the dominator!

Peace and love

3D Miniature Sculpture

from Sayag Gallery by Tannaz

Tannaz, my Internet friend, suprised me with a 3D miniature face of me without ever meeting the real object, and only based on my profile pictures on the social media. No 3D printing and no Inkjet. 100% handmade and baked in a home oven in the size of a thumbnail. Unbelievably detailed and it was her first try ever making face sculptures! Check her Sayag gallery. Very talented. I’m proud. Thank you!

Traitor to the country!


A controversial poster:
This year, SAIH ‘s annual campaign was fronted by a poster spread around all the Norwegian academic cities. Their controversial poster entitled “Beware! They are educated!” shows a group of dictators escaping from protesting students. The illustrated dictators are Hitler, Gaddafi, Mugabe, Kim Jong-il, Stalin, and Ayatollah Khomeini. On October 14 SAIH wrote under “Khomeini in a bad company” that they have received a letter from the Iranian embassy in Oslo. The letter asks them to remove the posters since it illustrates Ayatollah Khomeini among 5 brutal dictators:

[…] “The Embassy of The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly protests against this action and wants your organization to remove this picture as soon as possible”; it is further stated in the email from the embassy. […]

For half a century SAIH has defended student’s right for free speech and this time the organization itself is entitled to the same right: In a press release, they referred to their main objective: “We defend students’ free speech” and announced that they will not comply with the request from the embassy. This press release led to a coverage by many Norwegian newspapers, first and foremost by Aftenposten which cited the embassy’s claim in their article: “You have offended the feelings of a great nation”.

My reaction: Here comes my featured chronicle in Norway’s largest newspaper, Aftenposten entitled “They suppress all the critics” pointing out that in an under any authoritarian regime an embassy represents a government, not a nation:

The Iranian embassy’s intolerant reaction to SAIH’s campaign stands as a symbol of how Iranian authorities suppress all criticism from students in Iran.

This chronicle was followed by an interview with Adresseavisen (The main regional newspaper): “Iranian student supports the student campaign”. I cliamed in the interview that I know of many Iranian students at NTNU who would support the campaign but they do not dare to side with the campaign and its poster, due to the potential risk when they visit their homeland.

Government’s reaction to my article/interview: Some Iranian governmental websites covered the story supporting the action by the Iranian embassy and condemning the poster together with my article. Teribon, an Iranian governmental news portal wrote with a very tense and ideological tone in their article “Iranian embassy in Norway reacted to a blaspheming poster of Imam Khomeini“:

[…] But this was not the end of the story. Nima Darabi one of the Iranian students in Trondheim had an article in Aftenposten. In that text which was fully traitorous to the country [Iran], he supported SAIH’s action. He said that Iranian embassies are not representing the Iranian people and if Europeans are willing to listen to the voice of the Iranian people, they should instead hear it among the angry Iranian crowds protesting outside the embassies. Bringing up the electoral fraud accusations in the recent presidency election [June 2009], he made his article even more betrayal.

Fardanews, another governmental website close to the head of the parliament, cited the same paragraph in  “[Iranian] Greens in Norway, allies with anti-Iranian groups against Imam Khomeini”.

Parazit

Parazit is an Iranian political comedy show launched by Voice of America in 2008. Three weeks ago I was the exact 200,000th member joining  their Facebook page and I will – according to them – receive a “very very nice present”!

Growing exponentially, Parazit has so far become the most popular Persian page on Facebook with more than a thousand of new joiners each of these days. Given that Facebook is filtered in Iran their actual fans are way beyond this.

Suprisingly a couple of weeks after Washington Post  called them the Daily show of Iran and so did the CNN, Jon Stewart actually invited them to his show. Here it comes:

IRAN ABOUT

In the first trip I made home after moving to Norway, I divided my Facebook pictures into two categories: Private, and Public. It happened naturally and I didn’t even think of that. Since then I was asked about the reason by my Norwegian friends quite a few times.

This movie shows the dual life in the past three decades of Islamic dominance in Iran, but still doesn’t show how natural and normal it has become.  It fails to picture how adaptive the human nature is, to cope with a forced situation at the least harm and cost.

Freedom of Expression in Iran, Transfering the Memes of Democracy

A Rising Hope – The People Have Spoken The human rights situation in Iran

  • Where: Samfundet, Klubben, Trondheim, Norway
  • When: Wednesday 13.10.2010, 19:00 – 21:00

Why is one of the most educated countries in the Middle East constantly troubled by Human Rights abuses and suffering? Can they change this? Can we change this? Amnesty International Student Network in Trondheim welcomes you to a theme meeting about the past, presence and future of Iran and democracy development. Speakers:

  • Ulrika Mårtensson (PhD) – Assistant Professor in religious studies at NTNU. Spesializing in Islam.
  • Nima Darabi (PhD student, NTNU) – Student activist and blogger from Iran.
  • Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam (PhD) – is an Iranian human rights activist, University of Oslo, Norway. He was awarded the Norwegian Amnesty International’s Human Rights Prize in 2007.

I just had a talk at the event “A Rising Hope – The People Have Spoken” held by amnesty international in Trondheim. You can download my presentation entitled “Freedom of Expression in Iran, Transfering the Memes of Democracy” here:

Watch, it’s a trap!

Akbar Ganji dreams of a Free Iran:

The misfortune of the people who live in the Middle East, the region from which I come, is that the international conditions have never been conducive to achieving democracy. Quite to the contrary, these conditions have always been to the benefit of the enemies of freedom.

[…]

People of the Middle East had been living under the tyranny of secular and corrupt governments, which were all supported by the United States and other Western countries. This context left them recourse to only one political alternative: religious fundamentalism. The United States and the Western world reaped the first fruit of their own deeds with the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and today they face fully grown and powerful trees of violent fundamentalism.

What comes is something in agreement with Ganji that I’d written while ago – before I got to read this article – with few corrections in the terminology:

Here is the warning: As a reaction to secular dictatorship, I think we Iranians were the first nation in the contemporary middle east who actually went into a trap called religious fundamentalism as a political system. We’ve experienced it now for more than three decades and now as the counter-reaction we are about to survive. Sooner or later we’ll overcome a totalitarian religious form of a regime. What concerns me the most is actually about our neighbors: a possible dark future for some other middle eastern states. Pakistanis, Arabs, Turks, other potential nations should not remake our mistakes; democracy is still the only way to resolve. Or else, the failures of the Bush administration will remain in the middle east for a century.

Related @ Nim:

Masters of Persian Music @ Berkeley

I just attended the Masters of Persian Music performing at University of California, Berkeley.

I have no more doubt about their performing skills, that is awesome. As of the concert during the second half I was bored by Grammy award nominees (for the best traditional world music)! That might be due to their monophonic and repetitive use of the very same melody patterns in Shur scale back and forth (dastgāh-e-Shur is a scale close to medieval Phrygian mode). Once they eventually modulated to minor and I noticed that it suddenly attracted every one’s attention around me. Just to know, my seat was in between of two groups of Americans and Iranians.

Their performance was consistent, harmonic, homogeneous, and professional, but there were really no innovation and creativity going on; no more ways of brain tickling. That was just in a way it used to be in one, two, or even three decades ago.

When it comes to traditional Persian music, my taste seems to be developing. Facing recent innovations in poetry, melody and rhythm as well as new approaches of correlating form and content in Persian music has moved it towards a more complicated and challenging scope. I am not talking about updating instruments, changing the orchestration, hiring polyphony or choice of the scales. These innovations can be accomplished within the exact same set of ensembles.

p.s. Their albums Faryad and Without You is available at Amazon.

Berkeley, CA, October 2008
Nim at Berkeley last year

The Dictator’s Dish

The picture shows today’s huge pro-government protest during the rush hour around Azadi square, Tehran to mark the 31st of Anniversary of Iran’s Revolution.

The information that is not shown on the picture is the that most of the attendees around the Azadi square are opposition demonstrators who didn’t dare to carry green symbols because of the governmental high security control. I talked to two of them on the phone today and they regretted playing the role of two additional grains of rice on the supreme leader’s dish tonight!

As a result of new executions and having anticipated vast number of security forces and militia men, the green movement this time employed a highly compromising “Trojan Horse” strategy: the opposition supporters were to dress and act as pro-government demonstrators to safely join the crowd and then later on turn it into a protest; however, unlike the former clear hijacks they failed accomplishing it but adding more pixels to the image.

I wish the GeoEye service was launched/working or we were somehow aware of that on June 15, 2009 when the opposition took to the streets of Tehran (estimated between 2 to 3 million) and many of us pointed the need for a counting method, which could metaphorically be such a big pot of delicious food for the lovers of democracy and peace.