Saturday, March 31, 2007


Among the Jewish holidays, Passover is my favorite; it has something to do with its occurring around the Iranian New Year as well as something about its meaning which reminds me of most of our holidays: cleaning, preparing special foods, bringing symbolism into life, referring and pointing to one thing which stands for something else.

In our first Passover, my husband gave me a little brochure regarding what should be done. I do not remember how much of it I understood, but I never forget the hot taste of the horseradish on my pallet. I learned about chametz and cleaning the house in certain fashion. It was years later that I learned Passover is not just getting rid of chametz.

We spent the first Passover with my husband’s family, who were not very kosher about it. They zip through the little Maxwell House Haggadah and rushed over the roasted leg of lamb. My husband’s grandfather, rest in peace, after the first page would announce, “Let’s assume we read it.”

Little by little I learned more about this holiday as we occasionally attended the Seders where the Haggadah was read through more faithfully. As we moved to a more orthodox neighborhood and time passed by, I noticed that things were becoming more elaborate than what it was in Park Avenue and New Rochelle. Little by little the list of forbidden items became longer. The leavened bread ban was extended not only to other grains but to the green beans, green peas, sesame seeds and tahini sauce, mustard, and others which I had no idea what for. One Jewish friend explained many of these extensions was to build a fence around the law and to avoid whatever is doubtful, whatever could possibly be mistaken for wheat. Even mustard? I wondered.

As for the history of the tradition, it is told that Hebrew slaves were leaving Egypt towards the Promised Land, a hard and troubled trip through the desert full of hazards, which they succeeded in doing eventually. There are reference symbolically to all the hardship and pain that the Jews went through and many Haggadah have illustrated them beautifully and even humorously. Four questions are raised, always the same: why we eat matzo, why… and why… any why…? And the Table of the Covenants? I once asked, but guess what, I asked in the wrong place! No one knew the answer.

Several years ago we were invited to Rabbi Fund for a Seder. I did not dare ask any question in room full of rabbis. However, as if he read my mind, in a very elegant speech, the rabbi answered all my questions and said nothing about matzo, God bless him.

The rabbi explained that the Jews made a pact and committed themselves to this exodus. They knew they had a very hard and difficult road ahead, but they still accepted it full-heartedly. They were not forced but walked into it willingly and knowingly. Why? Why should anyone willingly accept hardship and danger? Is that not against human nature to avoid what possibly would bring harm? Are we not supposed to prefer safety and survival? Why should our ancestor endanger their lives as such? The answer, of course, is “freedom.” They were willing to pass through the unknown desert from slavery to freedom. But was that all? Is this commemoration of one of a kind incident? And was this “freedom” found in Jerusalem? Was this freedom just an end? Rabbi Fund answered this very eloquently. No, freedom was not an end, it was not “there, in Jerusalem.” Freedom was in that “covenants,” in the “commitment” and in “choosing,” freedom comes when we choose one and commit ourselves to it, when we “make a pact,” when we accepted a way of life, no matter how difficult and hard it might be and when we let go of other possible choices; it was by “choosing” that we liberate ourselves from running astray.

Once more I felt how close we are, this notion of “choice” as a liberating factor which is celebrated in our life again and again, when we are named, when we become Bar Mitzvah, when we choose a partner, when we accept the citizenship of a country, or when we cast our votes. Is that not the same for all of us?

It is years since I, a goy, have lived among the believers. To my dismay, I found very little of any sort of these essentials we share together being acknowledged. On the contrary, efforts are made to distinguish us as much as possible. It seems there is a competition to show how different we all are from each others. You think it is hard? Not at all. When we forget about the meaning, the cornerstone of humanity, and stick to the structure and forms, there we are: the valley of differences and “otherness.”

Last night in the rows of “Kosher for Passover” products I was amazed at the variety of pastas in all forms and shapes (made with potato or matzo), the variety of cakes and cookies, covered and uncovered with chocolates or whatever else, which had filled the supermarket shelves. I wondered what would have happened if we did not eat cake or pasta for a week? What would happen if we deprived ourselves of certain things that we like? What would happened if we restricted ourselves for one week to a tiny flat matzo and cheese and spinach and eggplant and yoghurt and potatoes and tons of other vegetables and call it a week of deprivation for the sake of practicing “choice” and “commitment?” And what would happen if we repeated it every year? Nothing would happen, except that we just might grasp the meaning of these rituals, we might learn that committing ourselves is a virtue that would bring us more freedom, we might learn that a little restrain wouldn’t do us any harm, it might just give us a very satisfying feeling of achievement. We might learn that, after all, limiting our lives a little bit is not the end of the world; it just gives us more room to concentrate on our life and achieve our goals better. We might learn to celebrate “choice” as a real “freedom.” And then what? Nothing. We might learn almost that all religions share this in one way or another. Is it that so bad?

Have a happy Passover.
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Third Annual No Ruz Day Parade

Today was the third Persian No Ruz Parade in New York City. It was the first one I attended and half participated in. Not only did Iranians participate, but the New York City Police Band, the Mother Cabrini Girl’s Band, and the All-City Boy’s Band marched. Our Mayor Mike did not attend; I assume it is not his style. He is scheduled, however, to hold a New Year’s Party for Iranians on Monday. I hope he will honor us with his presence, though I doubt he will.

It was a gorgeous spring day, sunny if little cool. It was the best one could get in this part of the country in this season, and I was grateful. The parade started at 41st Street and ended at 26th Street in Gramercy Park. It took two hours and was extremely orderly and organized. I do not know what the New Yorkers made of it. It did not in the least resemble the TV portrayal of Iran or Iranians, nor did it look like those occasional film clips from Iran. It certainly was a good slap in the face for Warner Brothers and its 300.

It was interesting to see how Iranians identified themselves when they are free to choose, when there is no Islamic Republic to do amr be ma‛ruf va nahi as monker, when one is free to choose only the best. It was a display of colors, dances, and music and best of all was the overwhelming presence of women. It was two hours of dancing and dancing. The folk dresses were so colorful that I do not think Madison Avenue, even with its full array of oriental carpet shops, had ever looked so colorful. I personally was not that pleased with the music selections—I thought that even with the pop music and the very common music or our folk music, the organizers could have chosen better. There was only one singer of live music; there could have been more. There are plenty of good performances of folk music which were not used. However, I think the presence of women and the colors and the whole energy invested in dancing for two hours made up for all this. (On second thought, it could have been their presence which made everything else fade!)

In my humble opinion, this parade was not merely the celebration of No Ruz, and not only homage to our culture by us the immigrants in the United States, but a political and social statement. Millions of Iranian told both the governments of Iran and the United States who they are and how they like to be perceived: happy, peaceful, expressive, colorful, variant, tolerant, and yes, not male-chauvinist. Did I forget to mention that Iranian woman in full color ran the show? They did a wonderful job.

[Please revisit this post; we plan to have pictures of this event posted soon.]

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


In the middle of our heated anxiety over a US war in Iran and the mini-nuking of our country, I received an impassioned email-petition addressed to the film company Warner Brothers protesting the movie 300. Dr. Vahdati Nasab addressed a very important issue in his petition and asked Warner Brothers to research the topic discussed in the movie and apologize for distortion of historical fact by either the script writer or the scenarist or whoever was in charge of the distortion. The petition calls our attention to Iranian history in 450 BC and the reign of the King Cyrus the Great who was even acknowledged in the Old Testament, and even, according to the Iranian epic Shahnameh, is honored by occultation (which he did not mention).

While I do agree with Dr. Nasab, and while it pains me to see any part of our culture getting distorted for whatever reasons, political or else, still, deep inside, I am neither surprised nor willing to cast the first stone. We Iranians are to a great extend responsible for many of these misrepresentations.

A few months ago, the Pope’s speech in his home town Bavaria [.pdf] provoked the Moslem community over an alleged insult to Islam (depicting Islam as war mongering and blood thirsty).

When the clerics in Iran protested the Pope, I had the same feeling as now. Yes the Pope could have avoided his very insensitive remark if he wanted to. Yes, the screen writer could have been more careful in depicting Iranians in the battlefield if he had any sensitivity. Yes, Warner Brothers could have been more careful when producing the movie if they had any interest in giving either accurate information to those who would see the movies or if they had cared about the role they play in documenting history, even if the main purpose of their production was entertainment. And yes, as an Iranian I feel very upset when any aspect of my culture or history is tainted. But in the other hand, are we sure that Warner Brothers has any interest in our national pride or the accuracy of our history? I’m not so sure; I’m not so sure about the Pope’s good will either. I do not even know why we should expect otherwise. These people or institutions have their own agenda and they pursue it. Why should anybody care about our interests? I am not even sure if they know what our interests are. To be even more just, even we are not united in that front either. Our interests and what we take pride in are as varied as our populations and are sometimes even in conflict with each other. Moreover, time and again our countrymen have made declarations to prove their points disregarding the consequences.

I recall just shortly before the Islamic Revolution that there was a conference in Columbia University. One of the speakers was Dr. Reza Baraheni, just released from prison, where he had spent a few months (or, as he put it, “102 days”). In his talk, he recounted a legendary anecdote regarding the King Cyrus’s father who, interpreting his dream that a vine tree which had sprouted in her daughter’s lap had taken over the entire world, orders his minister to kill the baby who was born of his daughter. The minister disobeys and leaves the baby with a shepherd to be nourished. When the king became aware of his minister’s disobedience, he kills the minister’s newborn baby and feeds him with its flesh in a feast that night. He adds to this anecdote that in jail sometimes the meat in the food was bleached white and tasted very different and they were all wondering what had become of the political prisoners who were disappearing. He apparently thought that his ingenious suggestion of Iranian cannibalism rooted in the history would not only overthrow the Shah, but win him a Noble prize to boot. I do recall that after the meeting, when a few of us rushed to the stage to protest this, the organizer, one of the Trotskyists, Nasrin, defended him and said he, being a poet, is entitled to his poetic license and that the goal of the conference was not stating historical facts, but a political statement.

Unfortunately in expressing our disagreement with our governments, the Shah’s as well as the Islamic Republic, we Iranians generally have been so vindictive that we ended up damaging those we claimed we love. It was not only Dr. Baraheni who indulged in this sort of exaggeration and manipulation of fact and fiction to pursue his aim; we all have our own share of misconstruing and misrepresenting history.

Many Iranians opposed to the Islamic regime have raised outrageous claims like Dr. Baraheni’s with the same kind of intention. They are quite unaware that while they are trying to discredit the government, or even trying to prove a very legitimate criticism, they depict the Iranian people and culture, which they supposedly love and care about, as vicious and barbaric.

A few months ago, a feminist activist friend, reading the celebrated book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, was bewildered how “unfavorable the author was towards Iranian women and how ignorant and dismissive she was to the feminist movements back home.” She was right that, the author was so busy portraying Khomeini as villain that she became dismissive of or even disdainful towards the Iranian woman and their incredible progress in every aspect of life.

The opposition’s claim of the growth of prostitution in Iran and the decrease in the age of the prostitutes, which they put at twelve; their allegation of the rise in the rate of “selling the young girls to the Arab countries,” which they now put at thousands and thousands, are just examples which are aimed to highlight the poverty and failure of the Islamic Republic’s economic plan. However these statistics portray Iranians as not much better than their portrayal in 300.

The Islamic Republic has its own share of distorting the facts, truth, and history, which ironically discredits itself, just to maintain its interests and position. I recall how when eleven Jews in Shiraz were arrested and tried and convicted for conspiracy and espionage, amazingly enough, not even a single middle rank, or even lower rank Muslim Iranian official connected to this operation was arrested. I tried to figure out what sort of information these alleged spies could have gathered to deliver to Israel, which did not involve any non-Jewish officials of its protection. Where was that information? Who was supposed to make sure that no one, such as a cobbler, would not have easy access to it? Do we arrive at any conclusion but how incompetent the Islamic Republic’s intelligence services are? How vulnerable the whole system must be is if a cobbler could circumvent all the security services and obtain the secret information! I’m sure the Islamic Republic won’t admit anything of this nature even if it were a matter of life or death.

In the last twenty-eight years, we have heard again and again that how a wide range of Iranian, even clerics, were accused of being “paid by foreigners” and “agents of the enemy of Islam.” Even if a fraction of these claims were correct then, I think, the Islamic Republic, by its own admission, should question not only its legitimacy and its popularity, but its competence.

Those of us old enough to remember life in pre-revolution Iran also recall that we would call anyone who dared to disagree with us a “SAVAK agent.” We all were comfortable in claiming that one third of the Iranian people work for SAVAK. The joke was that even there are three SAVAK agents in any group of two Iranians!

None of us thought then or now that all these ratios and numbers and figures have another side as well. Not all signify the brutality or insensitivity or incompetence of our government, but it also reflects on us, our culture and our country. After all, what sort of person, and for what reason, would spy on his own family and friends and jeopardize their life and welfare? What sort of culture breads the generation of fathers who sell their daughters? Are we reduced to that level within the short period of time of almost a quarter of a century that money dictates our behavior? Are we not declaring something derogatory along with these exaggerations? And why are there no protests when we dishonor our heritage in such a way?

My pain is not just limited to these petty naggings. I have much bigger pain. We have turned our back to our culture in every respect. We do not encourage it, we do not spread it, we do not nurture it. Our rich culture is sitting untouched in the shelves of libraries. The books about our history remain unread and the facts about it remain unexamined and not discussed. If we want to do something about it, we have to do it systematically. If the average audience knew a little about Iranian history, undoubtedly the Warner Brothers would not have dared to produce such film. Why don’t we promote our culture and educate our young generation about it? Why don’t we get the schools and local libraries to have shelves on Iranian culture? Why not donate money to these educational institutions to be used as scholarships for whoever does any scholarly work about Iran? Why don’t we support our young artists who are representing our culture? If every year we can recruit only five hundred PhD students to write their dissertations on Iranian art and culture, after which they will naturally will devote their rest of their lives to promoting it, then we would not need to write these petitions, we would not need to argue with ignoramuses or to stop them; the educated audience will do it for us. Let’s be democratic, let’s delegate responsibility, let’s do our work; let the audience do its work; let Warner Brothers do its; let the Pope does his job; and let our culture do its: let it thrive. Why should we all wait until too late?

"Look, Xerxes, I'm just not that into you!"

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Friday, March 02, 2007

No Rooz: A Religious Festival

Once more Iranians are getting ready for their New Year parties. Hotels and restaurants are the most fashionable places for many, although a few organizations use local public libraries or religious institution such as the Zoroastrian Darb-e Mehr. But for many, No Rooz remains a family and personal holiday.

Though Iranians refer to No Rooz as a national holiday, in fact, this holiday is the most religious holidays, more than Yalda or even Mehregan. If it does not appear as a religious holiday or ritual, it is just due to the Cosmological nature of the religion which is based on, Zoroastrianism. Iranian holidays, unlike any other holidays in Western calender, are not related to any events, or the celebration of life, miracles, and deeds of a great personalities, but mainly are based on the position of planets, primarily Sun and Earth.

Among all the holidays there are two which are associated with the "beginning", No Rooz is the beginning of the spring and Mehregan is the beginning of the winter (in the Fasli Calendar*), thought, a greater importance is given to No Rooz. Its greater sanctity, compared to the second holiest holiday, Mehregan, could be attributed not only to the “beginning” nature of it but to the exactitude of its time. While No Rooz starts with the hour and minute and second, Mehregan is just celebrated on the day. Also, the significance of what begins by No Rooz, the birth and growth, could not possibly be ignored.

What is so holy about the beginning? Not much, just a little more than the end and yet a bit more than the middle. It is not only we Iranians who are obsessed with this cornerstone, but humanity in general. We need to have a starting and an ending point in order to be able to select one whole piece and separate it from the others, no matter how artificial or arbitrary they might be. Try to imagine a story with no beginning and no end. Try to imagine an organism without beginning and without end. Try to imagine a human being without birth and without death. How vain and how aimless! This beginning and ending not only separate entities from each other, but it give them a meaning, a purpose, a moral sense. That is why it is holy. Beginning is, also, a bit holier than the end since it is joyful since it comes with an expectation and hope.

Iranian holidays are all representative of these hidden meaning and purposes. By celebrating them, we are supposed to pursue these aims. By each holiday we prepare ourselves to start a meaningful journey, start walking on a new path with a clear goal in mind and a clear resolution, with the hope to carry it to the end successfully.

Those of us who are old enough remember the preparatory events for the New Year. House cleaning was the most memorable in my family. We would take every piece of furniture out of the house for dusting and cleaning. Removing the carpets was my favorite, the newspapers use as mats under them, yellowish, coated with soft dust, was like an antique treasure to me even though they were only one year old; and washing and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning to which there was no end was still carried on with all the rhythm of poetry. Throwing out the broken, rusty, moldy, torn and worn out was a relief too. And the most important was the last day of all these cleaning, the evening we all impatiently awaited, Chahar Shanbeh Suri, with nuts and dried fruits in our pockets, waiting for the sunset so we could set the fire and jump over it. It was our good neighbor Mrs. Kharazi who would never let us to start the fun without grinding and pounding the myrrh and other herbs and minerals in a big brass mortar while reciting the prayer intend to undo all the falsehood, lies, and deceptions, and cast away all the evil eyes and bad wishes from us.

I still very faithfully try to keep the ritual as a grown-up living in New York City, despite the cold weather, not only to keep the tradition going, but because it is a very important part of my well being. What I like the most about these holidays are their therapeutic effects on me, the same religious effect that was intended by them originally. I do not mean to reduce the whole spiritual aspect of the religion to its psychological impact, but besides the linguistic terminology, how else could we explain most of the metaphysical? I impatiently look forward to this holiday to clean up the pains, the sadness, the losses, the regrets, and the hurts; and put them all in a small brass mortar and pound them. I never missed jumping over the fire even if it was only a candle in the kitchen when we were living in an apartment. Now we are fortunate to have a house with a backyard in which we can burn the trimmings of a pair of mulberry trees saved from the spring gardening and enjoy the good perfume of mulberry while cleansing our souls. And later at night, while the flames wane, I would sit with a whole cup of course salt and sprinkle it over the fire. The yellow sparkles vanish in the darkness and take with them the pain of all misdeeds and misfortunes. I give away whatever does not serve any purpose in my life in the protective warmth of the fire. What do I need the grievances over a trivial argument with a friend or partner for? What do I need hard feelings against someone dear who, in a moments of confusion, said or did something that I did not like? What do I need the sadness due to the losses of those dear to me while I can cherish the good memories in my heart? The warmth and the glow of the fire are the best place to “undress” to get “nude” and to “empty” myself from what ever is a burden. I will never miss this chance.

Cleansed inside and outside, we all should go to welcome the “beginning” with light, with a salute, and with purity. We all know all about the haft seen, that I’m not so kosher about, always placing cinnamon in just to honor Michael Ondatjee. My samanou, is not always samanou but something similar, i.e., sweet and brownish like molasses. Gold fishes and their upkeep are my husband’s passion; they stay alive for years; and when they die, it takes us one or two years to bring ourselves to buy another one. Honestly, we do not know if originally they were seven seen or sheen and what they were; and it seems that whatever they were, sheen or seen, the tradition is fairly new. Our Parsee friends from Bombay who left Iran in tenth century have no idea about this custom. But whatever we miss, we should not miss the fire or candles, one never “begins” without it. Also the flowers, pussy willows and forsythias and quince apple blossoms and, best of all, did-o-bazdid and plenty of kisses are a must.

Finally, sizdehbedar, is my husband’s favorites. We take our sabze’s to the lake, if it does not rain heavily or does not snow, with a big loaf of bread to feed the ducks and geese. He is a big believer in knotting the sabzeh. I will never forget the first year I met him, before we married, he invited me to take the sabzeh he had grown to throw in the river. In his apartment, what I found as sabzeh was three grains of wheat grown to ten inches high! We picked them up, all three grains, and went over Brooklyn Bridge, and we knot them with our wishes. His first one was for our dear country Iran (well!). The second knot was for my sister’s health (after twenty-eight years, thank Heaven and those three grains of wheat, she is fine). The third was for us (we got married six months later). With my wishes I cheated a little, I placed the residues of whatever hard feelings and grief and passivity and gloominess into the knots, hoping they would be washed away into the water. Throwing three grains of wheat from the height of the Brooklyn Bridge to the East River was not easy. We placed them in a tissue paper and placed some pebbles next to them to give them heft, then my husband very skillfully launched them into the water. Oh my God, you may not believe it, they landed so nicely over the water and were carried away smoothly. We both took it as a good omen. He is still a big believer in that.

Try it, I promise you won’t regret it.

Happy New Year.

* The division of the Fasli Calendar is different than our calendar. A year is divided into two seasons and every season into six months, every month into four sections, the first two being seven days each and the second two eight days each. The last five days are called panjeh and are not part of the twelve months. As a result, Chaharshanbeh is always the last day of the year. And no matter what, the year always start with Shanbeh (Saturday). (These names were given to them after changing to the Shamsi calander, i.e. while the tradition is old, the names are fairly new.)

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Rumors of War: Bush and Yazid?

As March approaches, I cannot stop being worried about the rumor of a US war on Iran. Even though my good friend Cyrus, who I believe is the most accurate commentator on Iranian politics, told me that these threats are all rhetoric and nothing will happened, there are Seymour Hirsh’s most recent piece in the New Yorker and that article in the London Telegraph which can cause one to loose sleep. Unfortunately, we do not live in an open society (not in Karl Popper’s free-market sense, but in Bill Moyer's sense). We live in a new Dark Age; the light is the media, which is switched off. If you do not believe this, look at the front pages of the newspapers which keep a running tally of the men who claim to be the father to that Anna Nicole Smith’s child. And television? I got a glimpse of it on Sunday night before the Oscars, and I was so glad we don’t own one.

Turning to the Iranian online newspapers, I was amazed at all the comments on Shahram Jazayeri Arab’s escape from prison. He had been arrested on a monetary fraud charge during the last administration and his trial was a record-breaking television show in Iran during the Khatami’s presidency. According to those articles I read, since the present government did not have any use for his anti-reformist show, he was allowed to escape. The government was so anxious for him to get out of the country that it immediately announced that he and all his family are beyond the Iranian border so that people should not expect any follow-up.

The second big news was regarding the obscene questions about the life of the Prophet asked by the Ministry of Education in one of the teacher’s college entrance exams. (It is such a relief that the offender was not a foreigner and or a non-Muslim. Thank God he was not reformist either, but a full-fledged fundamentalist, one of their own.)

I turn to the blogs. There are few that I read every night. Sayyed Mohammad Abtahi’s nightly article is my number one barometer of calamities. His being a cleric and close to Khatami, his amicable personality, his extreme popularity which keeps every door open to him, his connection to a vast array of classes of Iranians, and his sharpness and courage, makes him uniquely capable of saying things that others are not able to. If he feels safe, I’m safe, and everybody is safe.

Abtahi’s last ten articles do not indicate even a remote possibility of war. He has written about the Jazayeri’s Great Escape and Batebi’s Humble Shirt (coming to a theater near you!), he wrote about writings memoirs, stereotyping, Khatemi-bashing, film festivals and Dehnamaki’s movie Emigrants, the above-mentioned obscene questions posed by the Ministry of Education, Ahmadinejad’s latest gaffe (a sixteen years old girl who built some nuclear something). But there was nothing about the war.

Massoud Behnoud is in England. Although this is a safe haven, he is not the kind of person to sit and watch the events passively. He has to say something. His last ten articles were about the Tehran University poetry reading to protest Batebi’s situation, about Espahbodan’s untimely death, about Iran’s movie industry and its founders, and about Ghaffary’s death. He has also written a few article about the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program and the price Iran has to pay for being isolated due to it. But nothing regarding any war.

Another site which I use as my barometer is Ahmad Shirzad. He was the Isfahan representative in the reformist Majlis. He is very outspoken, extremely knowledgeable in nuclear physics, and a tireless activist. He would not sit idle if America were ready to drop the bomb. He knows for sure what would be the consequence. In his latest article, he invited Ahmadinejad to a television debate over his claim that “even if we stop all the government’s programs for ten years and spend it all on nuclear energy, it would still be in our interest to do so since Iran would move fifty years ahead.” It is very significant that Shirzad would even bother to respond to Ahmadinejad if we were even remotely close to the war. Knowing him, I think he would raise a hell over it. He knows well enough that there won’t be any television crew to broadcast the debate and that no one would be interested in seeing the President is defeated, if the bomb is dropped on Iran.

There are other sites I read on and off: Emad od-Din Baghi, Mara‛ashi, Tajzadeh, Arghandehpoor, Mazroo‛i, Ebadi, and Rafsanjani. None of these sites indicate the war we hear about here. In above blogs and sites, there are several articles regarding the various interview or the results of talks or sanctions and their effects, but none about the possibility of war, a real war in which places get destroyed and people die.

I realize that I am just arriving at a conclusion by a process of elimination, or by some sort of reasoning. We have tried those methods before the Iraq war, and were all disappointed. Reason has nothing to do with politics. However, what I’m trying to say is slightly different. The web sites I read are not government-connected sites. They belong to individuals and activists. They are writing with different motives. That is why I think they are reliable and that is why I choose them as my barometer.

I do not think any of the above-mentioned bloggers and activist would write what they write if they remotely anticipated the possibility of war. I do not think that Abtahi would have gone to a film festival and laugh and write about it if he thought that the Americans were in the Persian Gulf ready to attack Iran. I do not think that Shirzad would have invited Ahmadinejad for a debate on television if he knew that all those fabulous monuments in Isfahan would (God forbid) be destroyed in the near future. I do not think that Baghi would have written about the people in Ahwaz who had been executed. I do not think that Tajzadeh would have worried about the government ignoring the laws that much, and of course Mazroo‛i is smart enough to know that economic plans are of no use if we are getting involved in a war with the US.

What do we conclude from all this? Are we all involved in playing a role in a fiction? Is there no war and our beloved governments are working willy-nilly together, as Christian Amanpour reported? Or there is another strategy? Or bunch of fools putting on an act in an abyss with the people following them?

We all know what will happen when we rely on each others’ weaknesses, when we bluff, when we think the other side thinks as we do, when we think we are all like each other. We think they all are like “me,” and when our calculations fail, we will cry “Va Mossibatta” (“What a calamity!”) if we survive.

Sitting down in front of my computer and reading online newspapers, and going to bed with a false reassurance that there will be no war, I feel guilty of the same error that has been repeated many times in history. I do not think the Japanese even remotely expected the shameless bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have no doubt that Dr. Mossadegh would not believe that America would have acted as she did in 1953; he thought that America’s idea of democracy was the same as his impeccable idea of it, and that the Americans were just as committed to it. I have no doubt that that Shah never thought that Jimmy Carter would have betrayed him in broad daylight as the whole world looked on. None of us thought that America would do what it did in Afghanistan or attack Iraq. We all thought the rule of reason, justice, fairness, shame, etc. were credible enough to prevent catastrophe. Experience has shown us otherwise.

I argue that all these clerics in leadership position won’t sit with their hands folded and wait for America drop a bomb on us. They would do something; that is what they are there for; that is why we have the Vali Faghih, isn’t it? He is there to intervene in critical situations. He can ask this incompetent Ahmadinejad to step down. We have a big office of Maslehat Nezam with Rafsanjani in charge; are they not supposed to oversee the welfare of the country or system? Are not they supposed to take action if the country is in danger and the government is mishandling the crisis? I reason that if they are not taking any action, things are safe and secure. But what if he makes the same mistake I do? Of course the Islamic Republic does not follow my line of reasoning, but it could follow the Imams’. Could it be Imam Hussein’s for example? It may.

Imam Hussein went to war with the Caliph Yazid with only seventy-two people, many of whom were his families, including women and children, who were not skilled warriors. Did he not know the consequence? Did he not know he would get defeated? Or did he know and did it anyhow? I think very likely he thought the same as we are all thinking and many others before us. More likely he did not think Yazid capable of such sacrilegious brutality. He relied on something that he was not sure of, a vestigial sense of decency, righteousness, fairness or even shame in Yazid, who had none. Are we not all following the same footsteps again? What if we are all wrong? Then is there always the option of playing the martyr? Is that what we are heading for?

Let’s see. I’m safe as long as Abtahi and Shirzad’s are not worried. They are not worried probably since Rafsanjani and Khamanei are not worried. All those ruling clerics are not worried because they think America won’t do anything so stupid. Am I right? Is this what they are learning from the epic tragedy of Imam Hussein? Is that what is going on? Why not? We all are assuming at this point and hoping that all decision-makers think like us and wish as well as we do. They may not.

We the people in the world, with all our intelligence and cleverness when it comes to certain things, are not acting intelligently. I cannot believe we have left the world to George Bush, who probably models himself after John Wayne, and Ahmadinejad, though he does not need any model, being a model by himself, who models himself after George Bush. They are bluffing and mishandling and doing meaningless things and together walking into the abyss and taking us with them. Would anyone survive to cry “Va Mossibata”?

PS: I notice that some American military have come out against any American adventure in Iran. Visit their website at

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