The sad legend of Kharanoo

Kharanoo, the best pet ever, was found once lonely passing an overcrowded street in Tehran metropolitan.

It was a 7th of July, right before my departure to Norway, when I received a phone call: “Nima! I found a lovely creature! You have no idea how cute!” My sister excitedly said: “We don’t know how to feed it. What does a hedgehog eat?”. She was really worried and I should have taken care of the emergency situation: “- How on earth should I know what hedgehogs eat?!”. I answered wisely and hanged up!

At night we had already started to call societies of animal protection in the capital and some related NGOs but no useful information. I even called an NGO that we had tried recently when Mishoolak, a found kitten, died due to drinking fat cow milk according to their advice. The lady over the phone said: “- Sorry, We know nothing about hedgehogs. We’re cat professionals!”.

Some others were more informative: “- You might find a local zoo!”. A zoo? Good idea. The closest one was Darabad museum of Iranian natural history, full of snakes. We discussed and finally suspected that if they can’t manage to find room for Kharanoo, their disgusting reptiles will have a dinner party over Kharanoo. Never!

Thankful of everyone’s hospitality, he survived. Kharanoo made it finally, being treated to dead insects, cat food, and water. He became a part of the family, sleeping in daylight and clattering at nights. He was a hunter, or at least was pretending to be harmful to cockroaches. He was really polite but too shy. Whenever we entered the room, by turning on lights on he would run away and hide himself for hours! But despite all the cultural differences, he was happy and we were happy with his happiness.

Kharanoo was really fast in response to auditory stimuli. You could make him dance with any rhythm, just if simplified to a bunch of click sounds:

One week before I left Iran, We made a farewell trip with my parents and my sister. To the green lands in the north of the Alborz mountains. We had concluded that Kharanoo is an Erinaceus Concolor (known as “European hedgehog” in Iran). Google had informed us that they are widely spread in the southern woods of the Caspian sea, where we were heading to. We took Kharanoo with us to set him free.

We loved each other but he had to continue his natural life with creatures of his own type. We offered him food, shelter and security but no nature, friends or relationship. Though he was not very social, we knew he will take care of the rest if we leave him were he belongs.

Honestly, I was mostly thinking of myself. He was not the only migrant in the scene. Becoming dramatically nostalgic I was more in love with my homeland than ever before and really didn’t want to leave it to elsewhere. Eventually under the moonlight, He became a symbol of immigration for me. Each time I missed home after that night Kharanoo was present in the back of my mind!

Let’s get back to Kharanoo. We went deep in to the forests and set him free. He left us to find friends and start a new life…

Every thing was fine! At least for us. But sadly, this was not the end of the story.

Last week I was back home again, forgetting all about symbolic aspects of Kharanoo: migration. I was flipping pages of a reference book, “Mamals of Iran”, something laying there that I had missed out. And suddenly the bitter truth revealed itself…

Kharanoo was not an Erinaceus Concolor. He was a Paraechinus Hypomelas (known as Brandt’s hedgehog). The crazy thing is that the geographic range of those two look-alikes in the map was just partitioned with no intersection! Two completely opposite climates. One species lives exactly where the other does not, as if they have divided the country to their territories! Those who have been to Iran know how different climates these two regions have…

We had confidently taken the poor thing from the dry ecosyatem he belonged to, leaving him in the foggy forests of the north.

Kharanoo, you have my guilt… and my love, forever!

Happy “Yalda”

Tonight is the longest night in the northern hemisphere, where most of humanity inhabits. Tomorrow, Earth axis is the most oriented away from the Sun which marks the “winter solstice”.

Called “Chelleh“ or “Yalda”, tonight, has been celebrated by Iranians since more than five millenniums ago. It was first as the birth of the Indo-Iranian goddess “Mitra” in the ancient Persia (which was later associated with Sun), and then as a Zoroastrian religious fest. Nowadays, it’s a social occasion where families and friends gather around and stay together, keeping the fire (or candles) burning through the longest night until the sun rises again, reading poems and eating nuts, watermelon and pomegranate.

p.s. Persian Calendar, like the Gregorian calendar, is solar. Moreover its important dates are inspired by nature rather than  human made historical events. For us, today was the last day of autumn and winter started tomorrow, not because one out of billions of humans had birthday or another took over a dynasty and took power. Only astronomy.

p.s. Many thanks to Negin Ehtesabian for that two years ago she made this copyrighted illustration for this blog and I finally use it now. 🙂

Shit happens

Mr Sarkozy said:

How is it that a people such as the Iranian people – one of the world’s greatest peoples, one of the world’s oldest civilisations, sophisticated, cultured, open – have the misfortune of being represented as they are today by some of their leaders?

Well, that’s kind of you monsieur :). If you eventually discovered “how is it that”, let us know! Meanwhile we work on it…

December 6, “Student Day” in Iran

Back to 55 years ago and during the Shah era, when Iranian police agents fired and killed three students (two marxists and one nationalist) inside the campus of University of Tehran, the day 6th of December has been recognized as an official day in Iranian calendar called Student Day. Since then, before and after the revolution, Iranian students, both seculars and religious, celebrate this anniversary, protesting against the dictatorship and policies of the government.

This year the student organizers preferred the day after, December 7, to hold the protests. Therefore, today and yesterday, students at University of Tehran synchronized with other universities in the capital and other cities have held gatherings, calling in particular for the release of the imprisoned and re-admittance of the suspended students and the fired faculty. The students of other universities who were not allowed to pass into the university broke the western entrance gate to join the crowd and some are arrested. In spite of that all of the campus universities were fully surrounded by police, the state security forces, and intelligence and security agents, many of the students succeeded to attend. According to some attendants’ observations, the atmosphere has been violated more and the slogans have become fairly more anti-governmental being compared to the previous years.

Cut this loop

This is a real story about my dilemmatic closed chain, the last night:

  1. My wallet was in the office and the door was locked.
  2. The office key was attached to my car key.
  3. The car key was in the gas station for the service.
  4. The person in charge would demand some money to give the key back.
  5. I had money/cards but it was was in the wallet! (go back to 1)

I needed to cut this loop to get the car back and drive home, accordingly by:

  1. Breaking the office door. (Trouble)
  2. Asking the man to disattach my office key, going back and force… (Time consuming)
  3. Stealing the keys! (Crime)
  4. Asking the mechanic to give me the car back trusting that he will get the money. (Embarrassing)
  5. Borrow that money from a random dude for several minutes. (Weird)

What do you think I did and what would you do?

A book called…

“The Road to Democracy in Iran”

I’ve met the author, Akbar Ganji, several times back home in Khordad newspaper, one of the dozens of reformist newspapers in the age of the Iranian former president. I’ve always been a fan of his brave investigations and an active reader of his many Persian books and articles since more than a decade ago. It was of course despite the fact that in the naturally conservative context of Iranian reformism, many of his close friends were blaming his radical approach, claiming that their own moderate solutions “to step back and pay less when fundamentals are coming forward” could be wiser. During these hard days the Iranian people are facing the results of such a wisdom, I think!

I just ordered this first English book by Ganji published by MIT Press and thus highly recommend it hereby:

Akbar Ganji, called by some “Iran’s most famous dissident,” was a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But, troubled by the regime’s repressive nature, he became an investigative journalist in the 1990s, writing for Iran’s pro-democracy newspapers. Most notably, he traced the murders of dissident intellectuals to Iran’s secret service. In 2000 Ganji was arrested, sentenced to six years in prison, and banned from working as a journalist. His eighty-day hunger strike during his last year in prison mobilized the international human rights community.

The Road to Democracy in Iran, Ganji’s first book in English, demonstrates his lifelong commitment to human rights and democracy. A passionate call for universal human rights and the right to democracy from a Muslim perspective, it lays out the goals and means of Iran’s democracy movement, why women’s rights trump some interpretations of Islamic law, and how the West can help promote democracy in Iran (he strongly opposes U.S. intervention) and other Islamic countries.

Throughout the book Ganji argues consistently for universal rights based on our common humanity (and he believes the world’s religions support that idea). But his arguments never veer into abstraction; they are rooted deeply in the realities of life in Islamic countries, and offer a clear picture of the possibilities for and obstacles to improving human rights and promoting democracy in the Muslim world.