Sunday, December 27, 2009


Ashura processions and mourning ceremonies are the hallmark of Iranian society these days. In every city , in every street , in many homes ceremonies are held reciting prayers and commemorating the legacy of Imam Hussein. Imam Hussein is known as the "Light of Guidance and the Ship of Salvation", for he chose a dignified death instead of a life of humiliation and submission to oppression.
The commemoration of Ashura has always been inspiring for Muslims and this inspirational role was instrumental during the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Similarly in Iraq, mourning for Imam Hussein was totally banned during the rule of Saddam since the Baathist regime felt threatened by the vitalizing messages of Imam Hussein. " I do not see death other than salvation and life under oppression dark and useless".
The legacy of Imam Hussein is laden with ethics , even during the battle, his behavior and manners are lessons for humanity. Imam has the chance to close the waterways on the enemy so that thirst would defeat them, but he prevents his army from doing citing the unethical basis of this action. Imam engages in dialogue with the enemy who have come on the orders of the ruler, Yazid to kill Imam and his followers for not accepting his rule and leadership. He invites them to contemplate on their actions , he asks them do you know who I am? Imam is telling them to think twice before they choose on which side they wish to fight. The enemy commander has given them promises he will not be able to fulfill, they have accepted the rule of an oppressor and Imam explains this reality for them. Ashura is not only a historic event but it is a culture of dignity and love.
Today things are very different from what they were even a year ago in Iran. Now 3 decades after the Revolution for the first time serious restrictions are set on the processions and ceremonies of Ashura. Many ceremonies have been banned on the pretext that they belong to the Reformists or the Greens. There have been sporadic, but widespread, protests following the death of Ayatollah Montazeri , now coinciding with processions for Ashura. People marching commemorating Ashura and protesting against the current policies were beaten yesterday in Tehran. Last night, hooligans armed with clubs attacked Jamaran, the home of the late Imam and the center where he delivered his speeches and sermons. Former President Khatami was speaking there when this attacked occured . The audience was attacked with clubs and other Chinese made anti riot gadgets. Large groups of demonstrators gathered out of the center and marched in Niavaran avenue towards Tajrish. They chanted very harsh anti government slogans.
The Greens have called for large demonstrations in all major cities for Ashura, today. The fervor of Ashura is gaining momentum and once again religious values and faith in the Truth are incentives for change. The famous saying that "Everyday is Ashura and Every land is Karbala" refers to the universal and unlimited nature of the message of Imam Hussein, a reference which finds relevance not only in Iran but anywhere in the violence and war stricken  world today.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ayatollah Montazeri

The world has become familiar with the term Ayatollah only  after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The word was officially included in English dictionaries a few years later. Ayatollahs are high level clergy or scholars  of Islam ,the word literally meaning sign of God. They have been the subject of much news and debate and have emerged on the global scene since Imam Khomeini came forward with the paradigm of a religious democracy or Islamic Republic three decades ago.  Imam invested on the concept in Shia jurisprudence which recognizes those leading and knowledgeable Ayatollahs who are aware of world affairs, in control of their egoist desires, and  in struggle with their selfishness  could lead the society if they appeal to the people. Conceptualized into the theory of " Velayate Faghih" or Leadership of the Jurisprudent provided the theoretical basis for the creation of the Islamic Republic in modern times. Leading religious figures like the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri supported Imam Khomeini on this highly debated issue, during the conception of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. During later years Ayatollah Montazeri was appointed as the Vice- Leader but due to harsh criticisms and certain people in his entourage he was stripped from his title a few months before the demise of Imam. Montazeri who enjoyed a very high ranking due his profound knowledge and insight on matters of Islamic studies returned to Qom and led his classes in the Seminary. He also remained critical of political conditions in the country. He had indicated repeatedly that although he believed in the Velayate Faghih and had played an important role in the institutionalization of this concept,  he also believed in regulatory processes that would maintain necessary oversight over the functions of the leader and ensure that he does not surpass the Constitution and the law. Montazeri was a Islamic scholar who believed in standing up for the truth even at the expense of his position. His championed the human rights cause from the perspective of Islamic jurisprudence and in his serious criticism of the actions of the government of Ahmadinejad particularly after the recent Presidential elections provided  inspirational support for the Green movement. Montazeri died last week at 87 in Qom. His repeated condemnations of repressive government policies and his portrayal of Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and human rights, made him very popular among the people and particularly the young generation who saw him as the personification of a true Muslim who courageously stood up against oppression even in the name of Islam to protect the truth and to provide an example for all freedom seekers in the world.
 Mourning ceremonies in Qom were marked by the presence of hundreds of thousands of people , many displaying their green symbols and mourning for the charismatic Ayatollah.  Government pressures and unrest created by holigans on the streets have prevented the ceremonies from taking place in other cities. Security forces have prevented newspapers and news agencies from reporting on these matters. In the Tehran City Council we proposed to name an appropriate venue in Tehran in his name. Government censorship prevented any dissemination of this news. Nevertheless, the demise of Montazeri at the begining of the month of Muharrram has give a new impetus to the Green wave.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Message

The begining of Muharram marks the new year for many Muslims, while for Iranian Shias this day marks the begining of mourning ceremonies commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein the grandson of the Prophet of Islam, about 6 decades following the Hejira. According to Islamic and non Islamic historians , the Ommayid Dynasty that had risen to power after the fourth Caliph ( Imam Ali) was martyred , used their powerful status as the Leader of the Faithful, abusing the sincere devotion of Muslims, and taking the faith as a shield to protect their abject interests. Yazid the son of Muawieh, who was famous for his excesses in eating drinking, womanizing and brutally crushing his opponents payed no attention to the plight of the people  who lived in poverty, and oppression. In outright opposition to the despotic rulers Imam Hussein, defying the ruling establishment sets out towards Kufa where we know as Iraq today, in response to their invitation for him.   Yazid who feels threatened by the charisma and courage of Imam Hussein and his entourage decides to send an army to force him to sign a truce and submit to his rule of tyranny. Imam has come to Karbala with his companions and his family not for battle, but the army of Yazid arrives . " Death is more valuable than a life with humiliation." according to Imam Hussein . Submission to an oppressive ruler constitutes  a form of humiliation that undermines human dignity. Then death becomes more valuable than life.
The message of Imam Hussein still echoes centuries later since it is a message for all humanity irregardless of race, creed, nationality or social status. It is an eternal and universal message for all times.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Negotiations and Iran

As the Vice President of the Islamic Republic, I headed the official delegation of Iran to the Kyoto negotiations in 1997. We were greeted by the Iranian Ambassador to Japan Manouchehr Mottakei ( the current Foreign Minster) and my late father Dr. Taghi Ebtekar, in the Narita International Airport .  Instead of a VIP limousine, which would also emit more greenhouse gases, we took the SHINKANSEN  or the high speed bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto to attend the conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC . (Thats three Cs to make sure. )

 My father( who had a long history of executive and scientific activities in the field of the environment and climate change) had chaired the experts delegation and briefed me on the status of the negotiations. He told me about a Chinese scientist, who led the Chinese delegation, telling the UN session that now since the West has advanced, in energy technologies and their populations are prosperous  in glamorous  cities at the expense of emitting an excess of greenhouse gases to the global atmosphere, they are pressing to curb the emissions of developing countries. Now, a poor Chinese farmer wants to plant cucumbers for his livelihood while he is told that restrictions prevent him from doing so; the Chinese scientist had told the conference. This very meaningful phrase gave me a profound insight into the nature of the negotiations  and debates that ensued and actually continue up to today .
I have been reviewing my memoirs of those days after reading several  news reports about a Danish Text floating around at the UN Copenhagen climate talks yesterday. These talks  are reported by certain news media, to be in disarray after developing countries reacted forcefully  to documents that show world leaders will be forced to deal with an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations. Unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050 are included in the draft meaning that developing countries would have to undertake commitments to cut emissions.While committments made in Kyoto were boycotted by the US and most industrialized countries  never fulfilled their committments in the first place, developing countries are now coerced into accepting new quotas. The unity of developing countries which have forcefully resisted pressures from the rich countries, under the G77 will be shattered since, according to this draft least developed countries are the only ones that do not face any new commitments.
In 1997 during the Kyoto negotiations which led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol , as the Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran , I spoke about the importance of addressing the concerns of developing countries and listening to the voices of the downtrodden people of the South many of whom still face abject poverty and lack the basic necessities of a decent livelihood.  Al Gore,  who was also a Vice President then, spoke before me about the importance of combatting climate change and the role that America , he vowed would play to guide the world out of the devastating tragedy of climate change. A promise that was broken from the moment George Bush was sworn in as the President of the United States of America.

The Danes are now accused of lobbying a pro-west text without informing developing nations.
The Danish hosts now need to come clean about their intentions. The Danish foreign secretary, Per Stig Møller, stressed yesterday that it is crucial the poorer countries get economic support from the rich to make any climate deal work. But only  10 Billion dollars for developing countries is not going to heal the widening gap between the North and the South. It seems that a much stronger political and economic determination at the highest levels is necessary to change current trends and prevent a global catastrophe. I have seen political leaders talk very strongly and emphasize on what has to be done, but in practice very little happens.
On certain documents that indicate that certain data on the warming of the earth have been manipulated I think that Dr. Pauchuri the Head of the IPCC should respond with sufficient clarity on this matter. Further ambiquity and political games on this scandal will seriously damage the reputation of thousands of scholars who have truthfully served this cause up to now.
The final point I would like to make is about Iran. During the seventh and eighth governments, Presidency of Seyed Mohammad Khatami, we incorporated   many policies concerning energy efficiency and curbing GG emissions and abating air pollution. During the ninth government most of those policies were abandoned and regulatory and government institutions on the environment were weakened due to the irresponsible behavior of government officials. It became clear that no serious political will exists at the highest levels of the executive branch to protect Iranian or for that matter the global environment. I have no reason to believe that this government which has been seriously weakened by internal dispute and popular dissent after the Presidential elections this year, will act otherwise. What I do not understand are the intentions of Mr.Ahmadinejad  who apparently wishes to take part in the Copenhagen conference. My guess is that he participates presumably for a test of international legitimacy or media fanfare .

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I was invited by the representative of Imam Khomeini in Hajj Affairs, Mr. Mousavi Khoeiniha to be a member of the International Affairs Delegation, in 1983. I had attended the Omra ceremonies of Hajj when I was very young, but this was the first time I was attending Tamatoh ceremonies.
Hajj, as I understood, was a lifetime voyage that every Muslim who had acquired the necessary wealth, and according to interpretations; necessary insight should make. Hajj is composed of rituals with very profound spiritual, social and political significance, the best understanding of which I had obtained in Dr. Ali Shariati's book, Hajj.
The Hajj Pilgramage is an international congress of the greatest dimension in human history. More than 2 million Muslims from all over the globe , from diverse social, cultural and racial backgrounds attend the ceremony in one common dress, reviving the ceremonies that Prophet Abraham, the father of contemporary monotheistic religions performed. The voyage has several stages,reminiscent of the stages of human intellectual and spiritual development. The Pilgrim has to enter a phase of Ehram ,restrictions which could release the spiritual senses and energies that we loose during the overtly material lives that we lead today. These stages consists of a camp for Cognition in Arafat , and for a battle against the devil in Mena, an attemp to shed all  the negative attributes that deny human dignity .The three days of camping and walking are culminated by the Sacrifice , where each pilgrim has the opportunity to prove his or her pure intentions walking in the steps of Abraham, ready to sacrifice one's dearest attachments for the Divine. The rituals terminate with a ceremony in Mecca ,revolving for 7 times around Mecca or the House of God in devotion and prostration .
In 1983, before the ceremonies commenced, Iranian pilgrims, along with thousands of pilgrims from other nationalities performed peaceful marches in the streets of Mecca and Medina, as a demonstration of the political unity of Muslims against the atrocities of Israel and American hegemony. These peaceful marches displayed the grandeur of the Muslim Ummat in unity and brotherhood . Saudi police prevented these demonstrations for the fear of the large populations in later years.
Many Muslims would take part in meetings arranged by the Representative of Imam Khomeini in the Iranian headquarters. That year a group of Muslim women from South Africa joined us in the tent in Mena on the day of Arafat( meaning cognition). We read a prayer that day,known as the Prayer of Imam Hussein on the day of Arafat. The sisters from South Africa did not know Arabic and I had to translate for them. It is a beautiful touching prayer and also somewhat difficult in terminology and concept, but I did it and we were crying all the way through.
"Oh God-Almighty! Thou are the One Who has poured the sweetness of Your love within the hearts of your friends and lovers so that they should stand in prayer in front of You and adore You with humility. Oh Thou are the One Who has dressed your Believers with the robe of fear so that they should stand and repent in front of you."
The sisters who had joined us had not heard of this prayer, they had enjoyed the ceremony and told me at the end that they never knew that Shia prayers were so powerful and meaningful and so congruent with Sunni prayers. That was a memorable Hajj for all of us.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chemical Weapons

A seminar concerning the effects of air pollution on those injured by chemical weapons was held, this week, in Tehran. Many war veterans and civilians who had been seriously injured during the war had attended. As I entered the seminar hall, loud and incessant coughs could be heard, continuing throughout the session. During the war, between 1980 and 1988, Saddam employed scores of various chemical weapons against both civilian and military targets; enjoying the active support of Western powers and the indifference of international bodies responsible for world peace and security. The tragedy and massacre of Halabje and Sardasht are evident examples of genocide in contemporary times.
Medical scholars spoke on the various long term complications of sulfur mustard, one of the commonly employed gases, on respiratory, skin, eye and immune systems. Those afflicted usually suffer from severe respiratory illneses throughout their life. Government authorities lectured the audience on the importance of combatting air pollution and honoring the war veterans. I noted in my speech that public officials should provide a report of their work indicating what they have achieved . I reported on the status of the environment committee established in the Tehran City Council and particularly what has been done to abate air pollution in Tehran. I was also very careful to mention that the government had failed to fulfill its legal commitments, had dissolved relevant working groups and had not taken proper steps to address the matter during the past four years.
A group of young men who had been injured in the city of Sardasht when they were very young, performed a Kurdish dance at the end of the ceremony. When one of them went up to the podium to describe how he suffered from the wounds and injuries of the sulfur mustard gas employed in Sardasht, when he was only five, many people in the audience wept.

As I spoke with many of the chemical victims, I was thinking about certain European governments that were accomplices in providing Saddam with chemical weapons and their tacit support for his policy of attacking residential areas . Have those countries been held accountable for their actions or have they escaped justice to date?
I have been working with the Sardasht Cohort Study Group on the immune parameters of injured citizens of Sardasht, about two decades after the attack. I will link some of our research articles which have been recently published in this field.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Iran's Fragile Private Sector

Privitization has been an important economic policy for Iran in the Third and Fourth Development Plans. The establishment of new Government owned corporations was banned and those existing were obliged to set their shares for sale to the private sector. According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the economy consists of three sectors, the government, the cooperatives and the private sector. However,due to the difficult years after the Revolution and the Iraqi imposed war, oil revenues had been the major source of income and major development and infrastructural projects were undertaken by government companies or those in which the government had major shares for a long time. Large intergovernmental trusts and corporations also surfaced during those years and made it very difficult for small private corporations to compete and survive. Inspite of official policy to promote private sector interests and activity, rising inflation rates, the recent political crisis and a strong intergovernmental sector have prevented the practical implementation of these strategic policies.
Two major national projects in which these intergovermental corporations won the tenders were recently taken up not only by local media but also by legal authorities as possible illegal transactions. The powerful winner of the bid however has confidently sealed the deal. These are signs of more difficult times for Iran's fragile private sector.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

US Iran Relations -3 Decades

Relations between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been turbulent for decades. Some analysts prefer to trace this difficult relationship back to the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran by Muslim students in 1979. Others however argue that the event that has thrown this relationship off track is a CIA engineered coup d'etat against the nationalist government of Dr. Mossadegh in 1953, therefore the date 1953 and not 1979 should be considered as the origin of this ongoing tension. Hillary Clinton has recently spoken about a trust deficit as a challenge to the relationship betwen the US and Pakistan, while by now she has probably realized that most Islamic countries, including Iran face the same dillema when it comes to relations with the US.
The political faction wielding power in Iran relies on harsh anti American rhetoric as an integral part of its political identity. Even when news about direct negotiations between Iran and the US during the Geneva talks came out, Ahmad Jannati the Head of the Guardian Council who is known for his radical views, tried to infer that Jallili has not spoken directly to the American envoy, "dialogue with the US is not permitted", he emphasized. The current government and more radical Principalist parties have repeatedly blamed the Reformists for yearning to mend relations with the West. Reformists are now accused of formenting a velvet revolution, they are accused of promoting a soft pro-west political viewpoint and many are facing harsh sentences after protesting against the results of a highly contested Presidential election earlier this year. The irony is that this same government and political faction is taking hasty steps to mend relations with the US hoping that this would relieve pressures and santions against Iran. The covert nature of these negotiations, the weak internal standing of the current government and the fact that a number of the Muslim Students Following the Line of Imam are still held on charges of formenting a velvet revolution are all omnious signals of a weak compromise that would barely address the concerns and expectations of either party involved .This seems to be the major reason why many political figures are concerned about the ongoing stalemate among high-level politicians faithful to the Islamic Republic. A large Clergy organization and Mir Hossein Mousavi have recently issued statements seriously objecting to the sudden change in direction in the IEAE (nuclear) debate. Contrary to certain foreign policy estimates, I believe that the Islamic Republic has the strength and courage to accept shortcommings, correct its diversions, mend its relations and bring its train back on its orginal and shining track.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Saeed Hajjarian

We visited Dr.Saeed Hajjarian last week, with some friends. Dr. Hajjarian was freed 10 days ago after over 100 days of detainment. I knew Hajjarian from the days he was a student in 1979. At that time he was known as a young analyst with remarkable insight who provided political analysis for students particularly the Muslim Students Following the Line of Imam Khomeini ( the students who took the American embassy three decades ago). Hajjarian played an important role in later stages and in the making of the institutions of the Islamic Republic as well. He was a founder of the Islamic Participation Front(IPF) in 1997, and an influencial reformist politician who was also well recieved by progressive Islamic student associations. He was appointed as political advisor to President Khatami at that time.

He also founded a newspaper and headed the Center for Strategic Studies for a short period. Hajjarian was elected as Tehran Councillor in 1998. In 1999,an assasination attempt on his life, from a radical religious group, left him partially handicapped. He served on the Central Committee of the IPF until the recent Presidential elections after which he was arrested and detained for over 100 days. Hajjarian was brought on national TV to confess and repent, allegedly under pressure, last month.

His wife, Dr. Vajihe Marsoosi protested against his unlawful detainment and the unacceptable prison circumstances during that time. His conditions improved later and he was actually quite well when we met him last week. He had been accused of promoting the Humanities in Iranian universities, with a Western perspective. According to the charges filed against him and other reformist leaders they had formented a velvet revolution through the dissemination of their thought and ideas.

He told us that he thought it was quite amusing that dealing with Western scholars on issues like democracy and civil society, would be considered as a offense against national security. He said that during his detainment he had no information about the outside world and therefore his statements had been made totally in the dark. I gave him a copy of The Grapes of Shahrivar with my autograph; the published book of my memoirs as Vice President during President Khatami.

Hajjarian is now free but his other reformist friends are still in detainment, we all pray for them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Football Politics

The highly political and volatile atmosphere in Iran is now reflected in all aspects of public life. Football matches or the Derby as they call it has been considered as an opportunity to express opposition to government policies and a demonstration of the Green Power. A major match which was broadcast live from the national radio and TV last month was overshadowed by a large majority of spectators wearing green or banishing green banners. They also chanted slogans protesting against election outcome. As a result the State TV initially switched to black and white and in the second round they were obliged to cut all sounds and scenes from spectators. Last Friday another major match was held with unprecedented security measures, banning any form of green dress or sign . Protesters were warned of the dire consequences of using the opportunity to voice their concerns. People who had attended the game reported that they had been searched in at least three rounds. Yet inspite of the exceptionally tight security spectators chanted slogans in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi so that their voices were clearly heard on national TV and radio. Universities have face a similar predicament. Starting from Tehran University last week , protests have now spread to many cities nationwide. Journalists , students and activists are still being arrested while three more newspapers were banned this week taking the toll to 7 papers this month only. More than three months have elapsed from the Presidential elections, many Reformist leaders are still detained and await legal procedures for charges of the nature that they themselves do not yet know. While government officials have acknowledged illegal and irregular procedures and behaviour in certain detainment facilities, no court or legal procedure has been initiated against these people. Many political and religious leaders speak about the necessity to come to a logical and peaceful resolution and express deep concern about the consequences of the the harsh and repressive behaviour of the government.
The Government hopes that it can improve the dire economic conditions through short term economic measures as well as improvement of relations with the United States. This is in itself a significant development which is rapidly taking pace. Radical friends of the ruling faction who are addicted to producing hot rhetoric about the Great Satan will have to wait for the time. I might write a post about that in the future.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

International Green Qods Day

In a speech I made last year,in an international conference in Tehran, on Global Leadership and Sustainable Development, among other points I mentioned the fact that the world is suffering from an acute case of mismanagement, injustice and double standards. The Palestinian situation is a standing symbol of that injustice and a reason for global public opinion to doubt the credibility of world leaders and international policies.
The 30th anniversary of Qods Day is around the corner.Imam Khomeini proclaimed the final Friday of Holy Ramazan as International Qods Day during the early months of the Revolution. This was the manifestation of the resolve of a nation that had resisted tyranny and oppression and gained victory through the Islamic Revolution had announced its support for the oppressed and subjugated nations worldwide particularly the Palestinian nation. On that day all freedom-seekers in the world were to protest against those who by relying on their wealth, power and deception, had undermined the rights of others by destroying their livelihoods, properties and right to development and advancement. The idea was to protest oppression and occupation in any form and anywhere. Every year irrespective of political or social denominations millions of Iranians and Muslims throughout the world marched in support of the Palestinian cause .
This year Qods day is different.The supporters of the Green Movement have issued an announcement and major reformist leaders have invited the people to join the demonstrations. As a deterring measure, the government has replaced moderate Hashemi Rafsanjani with the radical Ahmad Khatami and Mr. Ahmadinejad will also speak at the prayers. Hashemi had led the Qods Friday Prayers for at least two decades. The rally will be attended by the majority who voted for Mousavi and Karrobi and it will be a manifestation of their resolve despite 90 days of detainment, suppression, censorship and pressures to silence the truth-seeking campaign. Excerpts from this announcement are as follows:
This year Qods Day will be “Green”, so that all shall know that assault is appalling, no matter where or by whom; on land, wealth or honour. This year the Iranian nation, a nation as old as human civilization, invites the world and especially the oppressed Palestinian nation, who not only has suffered the bitter taste of assault but also every year and always has had the support of the people and the government of Iran, to be “Green”, to wear “Green” and to think “Green” in solidarity with us, the “Green Movement of Iran”. We have been victimised in a full scale assault not by strangers, not by disbelievers and not only in our rights, but by claiming to be Muslims and our fellow citizens. We invite them to join our voice, our colour, and our message as we are and have always been joining their voice and message.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ramazan and Difficult Times

Ramazan has arrived bringing a spiritual revival along. Ramazan is a window of opportunity to change monotonous attitudes, lifestyles and behaviours. Eating , drinking, sleeping and lifestyle changes during the fasting period serve to lighten up and freshen the spirit. It is perceived as an action that can revive the soul that has lost its vitality. Ramazan is an exercise for ethical behaviour, it sets a harness on the strong powers of lust, ambition and selfishness. This does not infer that those powers would be destroyed or ultimately weakened but that they would fall into the humane and sublime direction defined by the Creator.It reminds us of the aggressive and oppressive policies ruling today's world.
Fasting gives us a moment of solitude and contemplation. The hunger we experience reminds us of the widening gap between the poor and the rich and the fact that millions die of hunger in the unjust world we have created today. Ramazan reminds us of the soul that is also hungry for love and worship. I remember I met Archbishop Capucci on an occasion during the Revolution in 1979, he described how terrible the food and treatment of the Israelis were in their prisons and how he had lost weight. " But that is good for the flight of the spirit the lighter you are the higher you can fly" he added. We have many innocent Muslim political activists, journalists, students and ordinary people still imprisoned in Iran and many other parts of the world. Ramazan is the time to pray for them and for the ultimate Justice that we all yearn for.
Although we have a miraculous Book at hand to guide us through the storms and blizzards of our times, yet we do not take appropriate refuge in the Quran. Ramazan is the month of reciting and contemplating the Quran.There is so much to learn and gain, so much that could transform our lives and enable us to proceed and persevere in the path of justice and truth.
We are facing serious challenges in the Islamic Republic, we hope that Ramazan will create an atmosphere for forgiveness and truthfullness in these difficult times.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Green Path of Hope

Tragic events have overshadowed the political atmosphere in Iran after the elections. It is clear now, that supporters of Mr. Ahmadinejad , in the executive, military and judiciary sectors have worked together to prove that the peaceful protests of millions of people against fraud and deciet in the name of Islam, was a foreign instigated attempt for a velvet revolution. Interesting to say, all three rivals of Ahmadinejad have rejected election results on the basis of clear and widespread evidence of cheating and fraud at all levels of vote counting and supervision. They who were all devotees and trustees of the Islamic Revolution, with more Islamic and revolutionary credentials than Ahmadinejad felt that the Islamic Republic is facing a serious challenge to its basic principles and values. The major concern was that clinging to power by any means constitues a deviation that that would distance the government from Islamic values and therefore contradict many of those objectives. Decieving the people into thinking that they could bring about change in the context of legal elections by playing the game and accepting the rules, and then accusing them of formenting a velvet revolution was a senario that the ruling establishment had concieved.

What they could not predict was that Mousavi and Karroubi and the people would resist inspite of brutal suppression , arrests, banning of publications, internet sites and in general freedom of expression. It is evident that the Islamic Republic should be protected but does that mean at any price ? Can a system based on religious and Islamic ethics go too far to infringe on all basic human rights in a very widespread level? The reality is that we are facing a paradox of protecting the sanct entity of the Islamic Republic which was intended to be the ultimate utopia of humanity in contemporary times, or protecting the substance and values that constitute the theoretical and fundamental values of this Revolution?
Mousavi has announced the creation of the Green Path of Hope as a widspread movement to follow the objectives of his campaign, Mr. Karroubi has embarked to defend the claims of those abused and victimized during street protests or while detainment. The Majlis has created a Special Committee to follow complaints.
We adopted a bill in the Tehran City Council obliging the Mayor of Tehran to prepare a report on how the City Council could attend to some of the sufferings and pain that the citizens of this city have faced during the unrest and protests after the elections. Supporters of Ahmadinejad are not content with these developments, they consistently deny or underestimate wrondoings and indicate that they will attend to all claims. The State run TV channels have totally censured the events, while many Iranians, even in villages now refer to foreign media for their news.
The post election events and the tragedies that have ocurred have nothing to do with Islam or the Islamic Revolution , they are the result of the blind actions of ambitious politicians who wish to hold on to power at any price. Imam Khomeini considered selfishness and pride, the egoistic ambitions of leaders, the inner drive for absolute power as the major threat for any Muslim official.He would refer to this reality constantly in his speaches. In his final will Imam idicated that the same way that Western powers are a threat, backwardness and egoism are also threats to the Islamic Revolution. We now witness how the legacy of Imam Khomeini stands,once again, as an obstacle to despotism and oppression in Iran.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Savior and the Green Movement

There is no question that the string of events that we have seen during and after the tenth round of Presidential elections have permanently changed the trends of the Islamic Revolution. A major rift among the followers and devotees of the Revolution has now occurred. The biased election officials and regulatory bodies have not been able to convince the three rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad or their large body of followers of the integrity of these Presidential elections.

People believe today that the voting process was rigged and that fraud and deceit in the system has seriously damaged the dignity of the Islamic Republic. In addition, the violent and illegal behaviour of militia and security forces with people demonstrating in the cities, and the irresponsible and inhumane behaviour they have had with the detainees has created many questions. Their actions have led to injury and death for citizens who only demanded a response to their questions on the elections and this has shocked the sincere believers and followers of the Revolution. The only response they have heard, has been allegations of a velvet revolution and foreign conspiracy displayed recently in a large trial of dozens of reformist leaders. Last week former Vice President Abtahi and political activist and journalist Atrianfar made obscure televised confessions in a very awkward manner clearly indicating the pressures they faced in prison. Abtahi who had lost over 20 kilos during 40 days of detainment was evidently under duress. No one on the street believed what they said about taking back their claims on election fraud and denouncing Mousavi. During the last week many leading religious authorities ( Marjaa) denounced the value of confessions under pressure. Pressures from the people has forced officials to announce the closure of an unofficial detainment facility as well as indictment of the perpetrators of assaults against detainees.

In the mist of these events and ongoing street protests, the legitimacy of the government( which is now endorsed and inaugurated) and the confidence of the people has eroded significantly. This is the ethical crisis that the Islamic Republic faces today; three decades after its inception.
Tomorrow we celebrate the birthday of the twelfth Imam ( descendant of the Prophet) who is currently in occultation. He is the Saviour who will appear to bring justice and peace for the world. The philosophy of awaiting the appearance of the Saviour is an integral theme in Shia teachings. Awaiting the Savior is an indication of protest against the status quo and dissatisfaction with existing trends. It is a message to current world leaders that their efforts have not made the world a safer place but that war and armed conflict of people against people and against nature is still taking its toll. The Islamic Revolution has been closely affiliated to the belief in the reappearance of the Savior and today it is clear that due to the serious challenges and crisis that it faces , we need to pray more than ever before for the Saviour to come and take affairs in his divine hands.
The Green Movement feels that it needs to believe and pray for the Saviour to come and change the current conditions of mistrust, insecurity and legitimacy crisis.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Green Movement in the City Council

Although more than 40 days have elapsed since the Presidential elections in Iran, general political and social conditions have not stabilized. In addition to sporadic demonstrations in Tehran and other major cities, the presence of security militia in public areas, Allah-o Akbar calls at night, a ban on SMS messaging and widespread discontent displayed in lowered activity in the government and economic sector are all serious signals of an imminent political crisis.In the few remaining reformist newspapers and news sites as well as the blogs which have survived filtering, news of the green resistance movement dominates. News of men and women who have been illegally arrested with no formal charges, young people injured and wounded during demonstrations and the victims who have given their lives is slowly emerging despite government attempts to block and prevent dissemination.

Members from the Tehran City Council met with more than 50 family members of activists arrested after the elections. Among those arrested were top political party leaders, journalists, lawyers, students and even innocent bystanders. They initially spoke about the plight of their loved ones. They elaborated on their revolutionary and Islamic reputation and the fact that they supported Mousavi who was approved by the Guardian council, they explained how militia men in plain clothes had entered their homes to arrest their kin. Mehdi Chamran the current pro-government head of the Council who had a critical role in bringing Ahmadinejad to power was present in the session. The attendees indicated that they expected the City Council to follow the reports on illegal detainment procedures and also on the biased and distorted reporting of the State radio and television which has a monopoly on national news broadcasting. This behavior is unIslamic and has nothing to do with the authentic values of the Revolution they stressed; we have nothing to do with foreign powers, we fear a serious deviation from the values of the Islamic Revolution. The mother of Sohrab Aarabi , a young student killed during the peaceful demonstrations on the Monday after elections also came to the session. She spoke courageously about the legacy of her son to promote the values of the Islamic Republic, freedom and democracy , "his blood has not been shed in vain" she said, "the green campaign will succeed".

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Prayers for the Majority

The Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran today was very different from other weeks. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has clearly opposed current government policies, led the prayers. People, from all walks of life particularly supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, took part with the hope of expressing their continued protest against the government. Hundreds of thousands of people took part inspite of tense security conditons. Mobile connections were cut off, thousands of police and anti-riot militia lined in the major streets leading to the Tehran University. I took part along with friends and family , we sat in Taleghani avenue and witnessed the presence of large populations who were calmly demonstrating and expressing their support for Mousavi and Hashemi. Although we could not see , but news reports indicated that Mir Hossein Mousavi, sat among the worshippers, attending for the first time since the turmoil began. Many of the tens of thousands at the prayers wore headbands or wristbands in his campaign color green, or had green prayer rugs.We also experienced the smell of tear gas among the worshippers.
Mr. Hashemi spoke firmly despite prior speculation that he would take a conservative stance. He reprimanded the Guardian Council (the body in charge of election oversight) for not listening to the controversy over the election, which was declared a victory for Ahmadinejad despite widespread claims of fraud by all three rival candidates.

"Doubt has been created (about the election results)," Rafsanjani said. "There is a large portion of the wise people who say they have doubts. We need to take action to remove this doubt." He spoke about he spoke of how Prophet Muhammad (SA)"respected the rights" of his people. He recalled the days of protest that people had against the "arrogant" Shah. He criticized the postelection wave of arrests, saying that the system should show sympathy for protesters and urging the release of those detained.
In his sermon, Hashemi Rafsanjani said the Islamic Republic must listen to the people's voices. "We believe in the Islamic Republic ... they have to stand together," he said. "If 'Islamic' doesn't exist, we will go astray. And if 'republic' is not there, (our goals) won't be achieved. Where people are not present or their vote is not considered, that government is not Islamic."

After the prayer ceremony tens of thousands of people marched , chanting slogans such as Mousavi's name and "coup detat government resign resign!". After weeks of suppression of demonstrations and arrests and detainment of students and opposition leaders the people are still in the scene and hopeful for change in the future. It seems that the faith that they have in their campaign has given them the strength and courage to continue. We arrived back home at 4 pm, exhausted and stricken by the sun and 40 degree celsius heat in Tehran.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Highly Skeptical

The American Vice President, Joe Biden, seemed to give Israel a green light for military action to eliminate Iran's so called "nuclear threat", saying the U.S. "cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.""Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," Biden told ABC's "This Week" in an interview broadcast Sunday.

This is a clear change in tone compared to two months ago when Biden told the Zionist regime that attacking Iran without American consent was not an option for the Zionist regime. While President Obama has kept his position on non interference in Iranian affairs, this new tone is considered as an implicit threat. Analysts believe this change in tone may be rooted in the recent post election events in Iran.

There have been many instances in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran when the positions and rhetoric of American authorities has seriously undermined the civil society movements and democratic processes of the country. One example, when during the Reformist term of Khatami , Bush named Iran as a memeber of the "axis of evil" ,thereby giving extremists an opportunity to hijack the political directions of the country.
Now, more recently Obama has mentioned concern for the supporters of Mousavi and the post election protests, while not seen as being helpful; it has not been taken seriously by people who believe that Americans are after their interests in the region and are currently also supporting many tyrannical regimes in the world only to protect their interests.
Biden's recent remarks will not be helpful for Iranian endeavors for reform, since these words will give security forces the opportunity to take advantage and make things more difficult for the people. In addition, any imminent threat to attack Iran will spontaneously unite all Iranians against the external enemy. This act will surely mute the reform movement in Iran for a long time.
It seems quite suspicious for many Iranians that whenever a viable civil rights and democratic campaign has taken shape, within the context of the Constitution and values of the Islamic Revolution, Americans strike the first lethal blow in various forms, depriving it of any opportunity to survive in a society highly skeptical of foreign support and interference.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We Have Succeeded

The recent issue of Nature magazine has an editorial devoted to Iranian researchers and scientists. "Iran's endogenous civil-rights movement needs international solidarity, not political meddling" it says.Other international journals have also embarked on similar endeavors.
On the national level, Mr Mousavi has published his ninth communique calling the elections "fraudulent" and the current government as "illegitimate". Mousavi has called for non-violent resistance and finding new and secure ways of protesting against the government. He has once again expressed his allegiance to the values of the Islamic Revolution and has stressed that the Constitution provides for the democratic foundations of the Repubic which are currently undermined. He has referred to the endless pressures on Iranian activists and his supporters.

These recent acts of violent repression, performed under the guise of crushing a velvet revolution, have left an indelible scar on the image of the Islamic Republic. The reality is that the roots and the popular following of the Green Movement are totally indigenous and have nothing to do with foreign instigation, or a "velvet revolution", as the government seeks to prove through coercive interrogation methods against Reformist leaders. A Reformist cleric in Majlis has recently cried out loud:" we are all Muslims and followers of the Islamic Revolution not foreign infiltrators". It may be that a few hooligans could be found who confess that they have taken orders from abroad but the Green wave was undeniably a symbol of national pride and solidarity with the Revolution.

We have succeeded today since the green wave had united Iranians and brought together many youth who were formerly indifferent. Their peaceful protest in face of all threats and pressures gave a new credibility and value to the Iranian nation in the world. Iranians stood up against fraud, cheating and lies in support of religious and Islamic values that have been the core of the Islamic Revolution. This carries a great lesson for Muslims and believers of Divine Religions throughout the world.
I have included a picture which cannot be denied today. Mousavi has been in the closest circle to Imam Khomeini the Founder of the Islamic Revolution; his sincere calls for democracy, freedom and revival of Islamic values and resistance against injustice will not go unheard.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Letter for Hugo Chavez

Mr. Hugo Chavez
President Republic of Venezuela

Excellency, I hope you remember me . I witnessed how you considered President Khatami as your friend when you visited Iran during his term, I was a colleague of your Minister of Environment and I chaired the High Level Roundtable in the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development of which you were a member.

We, in Iran, are well informed of your resistance against imperialism in Latin America, your efforts to serve your impoverished people, your successful endeavor to remove limitations from election terms for the Presidency and your recent reconciliation and exchange of Ambassadors with Washington.

I speak with you as an Iranian citizen and representative of the people of Tehran. I have learned through an AFP report that you have recently said that the " imperial hand" of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – and of Europe – was behind post-election clashes .On Wednesday, on the margins of a gathering of Latin American leftist leaders you have also said that "Ahmadinejad won the elections legally, we are absolutely sure we know quite a lot about Iranian politics".

I wish to inform you that unfortunately, you know little about Iranian politics or international politics, for that matter. What considerations have led you to take such positions are not known for me and history will judge you on the basis of these words. True politicians never act hastily. Your hasty remarks are considered as interference in our internal affairs, since the Guardian Council which is legally responsible for the approval of the elections has not yet given its final verdict. Therefore, your remarks indicate that you have approved these elections, which have been seriously contested by all three rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad, before the completion of legal processes. Mr. Chavez, all three rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad are loyal to the Islamic Revolution as the Supreme Leader mentioned before, they have more anti- imperialist credentials than you or your dear friend. Attributing their objection against the election results,and the objections of Mir Hossein Mousavi against the arrest and detainment of revolutionary figures and against illegal attacks on citizens, and the peaceful demonstrations of millions, to foreign powers is a clear slander and insult to our nation.
The Iranian movement for reform and change is one rooted in our Islamic mores( which I doubt you know much about) and in the sublime values of the Islamic Revolution. This movement has nothing to do with foreign powers but has suffered due to the pressures which the West and interference of Eastern powers in our affairs.

Human dignity and freedom is highly regarded and cherished in our culture. Mr. Chavez, I wish to remind you of two important slogans of our Revolution < Independence Freedom Islamic Republic and Not East Nor West, Islamic Republic.>I wish you would reconsider your positions and correct your wording. This might improve your image before the Iranian nation.
Since most leaders of the Reform movement were student leaders of the Second Revolution in 1979, I will send you a copy of my memoirs Takeover in Tehran so that you may learn more about the values that we cherish and the dignity that we pursue.
Excellency , please accept my highest considerations.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Authentic Values of the Revolution

The Islamic Revolution was based on the Iranian nation's resolve to abolish dictatorship and tyranny and to establish justice and revive the dignity of human beings. It was a modern attempt to bring Islam back into the center stage of politics, it was a revival of democracy in a country torn apart by decades of colonial and imperial intervention. On the 30th anniversary of the Revolution we are faced with very difficult challenges which could undermine the very basic values of this nation. The threat of falling off course and losing the spirit of the Revolution looms over us.
In those early days the Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini was faced with contradictory views on how to realize the political philosophy that Islam presented. He was faced with groups who believed that an Islamic state, based on only the rule of the Jurisprudence could be legitimate and that a state in the form of the Khalafat would suffice. Imam however believed that in modern times the role of the people in determining their future in the form of democratic systems is necessary to legitimize the establishment and to keep the people in the scene as active players. His idea of the dual powers of the Velayte Faghih and the institutions of democracy were integrated into the constitution of the Republic and implemented with a certain degree of accuracy. Today, we face serious challenges from those who do not believe in the democratic nature of Islamic politics and are on a serious campaign to weaken the democratic aspects.
Mr. Mousavi is a symbol of the movement that calls for the revival of the original and authentic teachings of Islam and Imam and the values of the Revolution. It is a great asset that his discourse has appealed to the young generation. The government however is not ready to relinquish power after they faced the reality of their electoral loss and they have resorted to illegal and unethical scenarios, smearing campaigns, pressures and ways to impose their second term upon the country. I hope that political leaders and elite will find a reasonable way out of this quagmire. Mousavi and the people are firm in their determination to keep democracy alive in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It should be emphasized that foreign intervention and remarks have never been helpful in this campaign. This is a benign development , but they are after labeling it as a foreign conspiracy and giving it a malignant appearance for the ordinary people. Mousavi calls for peacful and legal resistance and opposition to the election results.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Aftermath

I have been very engaged in the past weeks and therefore I had no chance to update my blog. Also at certain times I did not know what to say considering the quick turn of events in Iran. Mr. Mousavi has rejected the official election results and large populations amounting to millions have marched in Tehran. The reality is that this movement is totally rooted in national issues and Mr. Mousavi has stood as a candidate within the Islamic Republic and people have supported his reform movement with hopes for change. The important factor today is to emphasize upon the internal roots of this campaign. Foreign remarks and support could be considered as interference and are therefore not welcomed in this sensitive time. Iran has a long history of colonialism and whenever there has been a liberation movement, foreign intervention has been detrimental.
Millions have protested repeatedly in the streets, their calls of Allah o Akbar at night are heard throughout the cities, university scholars, artists, business sectors and most of the elite in Iran have officially announced their support for Mousavi. Eventhough the Supreme Leader has spoken today asking people not to march and candidates to follow their requests in legal channels, I do not believe things will be resolved readily. I hope security forces and police show restraint and that they prevent the para military groups and hooligans from creating a sense of insecurity in cities.
Now more than ever before, the values of the Islamic Revolution are tied to values of democracy and respect for the choice of the majority.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Presidential debates and foreign policy

I am traveling for the election campaign these days. I have visited Ghazvin, Mashad, Zanjan and Golestan. I have met with large groups of people and spoken about the shortcomings of the current government and the need for change. Students in all cities are very enthusiastic and the majority are supporters of Mousavi.
In addition the official state radio and television campaign has commenced and each candidate has the opportunity to speak in the TV and radio programs in various forms and there is a debate for each pair of candidates. The three candidates are seriously criticizing the current policies and government failures. We are experiencing an unprecedented level of tolerance to freedom of expression and critisisms of the government. This, process I believe is conducive towards the full realization of a democratic society.
Foreign diplomacy issues have also surfaced in these speeches.In one of his election speeches Mr Ahmadinejad has said that one of the saddest moments of his life was when former President Khatami went to France on an official visit. In his meeting with President Chirac, he goes on to say, Chirac stood at the top of the stairways and did not come down to greet Khatami. Ahamadinejad said that this was a great disgrace for Iran. After these allegations , reformist news sites have published pictures of that visit. Pictures indicate that contrary to what Ahmadinejad said President Chirac had came down all the steps leading to the Elysee Palace to meet President Khatami. Here you can view the scenes from 2001.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Green Wave

Green is the buzz word today. It is the color specifically chosen by supporters of Mir Hossein. In Iranian culture as well as Islamic tradition green is the most meaningful color. Now, green is taken as a sign of support for change, a sign of opposition to current government policies and as a sign of choosing Mir Hossein Mousavi. Green head bands, green T-shirts, green scarves are the political fashion in Iran today. I have been travelling from Ghazvin to Mashad and Neishabour and meeting with large audiences, talking about the importance of these elections and why we all have to take this opportunity for democracy as granted and vote for change. Except for the current President all other candidates consider change as their major strategy, change in economic policy, change in social policy and change in our international approach. Apparently, Mir Hossein is leading in the polls in major cities throughout the country. The state run radio and television is under harsh pressure to give a fair share of publicity to each candidate. The President however is an exception apparently since the government has an absolute rule over this monopolized media. His visits throughout the nation have been inspiring.
It seems that even though the government has been increasing wages and providing government shares even up to a month before the elections, people are making independent decisions on the election. The green wave is taking over.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Environment and Human Rights

Shahid Beheshti University ( which is actually the college where I completed my bachelors degree) now has a UNESCO Chair for Human Rights, Peace and Democracy. They hosted, during the past two days,an international conference on Environment and Human Rights. The Conference was attended by academics and experts from all continents. Two days of deliberations on the nexus between environment and human rights had resulted in a significant wealth of academic articles on the matter. I spoke, after the UNEP representative Bakary Kante and the spokesperson of the Judiciary, Dr. Jamshidi, in the closing ceremony yesterday afternoon. As someone who has had an 8 year experience in dealing with the implementation of environmental law, I told them we need to find out why, at the global level, most legislation has not been translated into action. World leaders present attractive rhetoric about sustainable development, but it seems that they do not perform well in practice and implementation.

I continued saying that we need to understand whether the weak compliance of governments is a result of the flawed worldviews of their leaders or is it due to a lack of ethical commitment. Is it because they do not consider environmental rights to be an integral aspect of human rights ? Or is it due to the arrogant and selfish attitude that world leaders have taken against nature? Divine religions particularly Islam provide not only a philosophical explanation for environmental rights but also an ethical framework in which governments should be held accountable. I concluded by saying that environmental rights are an undeniable and indivisible aspect of human rights.
I was invited to give the gifts to the speakers and join the group photo at the end of the session. You can find details on speakers and the program here :

Friday, May 8, 2009

Statement on Presidential Elections

The book launch ceremony was attended by local and international media as well as two ministers from Khatami's government and my colleagues from the academic centers as well as former environment directors. The session was moderated by Amin Arefnia one of the young members of Baran. Mr. Haji former Minister and the Director of Baran ( Foundation for Progress and Freedom of Iran), spoke on the importance of collecting and formulating management experiences and how this process could enable the nation to learn from its past mistakes and move ahead. After him, Fariba Ebtehaj my dear friend, advisor and editor of the Grapes of Shahrivar spoke about the trends which led to the creation of the book. Mr. Masjed Jamei the former Minister of Culture who is also now on the Tehran City Council also elaborated on the cultural implications of biographies and memoirs and how important this is for future generations. I finally spoke , thanking the guests and inviting them to read and provide their views and critique on the book ,which I mentioned ,reflected a certain angle of events during those tumultuous 8 years.

Journalists who had attended began their questions initially on the book, but gradually shifting to the question of the possibility of my candidacy for the office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I speculated that this would arise and therefore I had prepared a statement which I read in that session.

Excerpts of the statement are as follows: The right to decide for one's future and destiny and to freely elect a President for the nation is a democratic right obtained in the process of the struggles for the Islamic Revolution. Today, the Iranian nation can change the course of destiny through elections. Women have consistently played a central and influential role in this process and although a certain narrow minded and backward approach has attempted to confine women to the limits of the house, Imam Khomeini made it very clear that women must be involved with the basic processes of the country. However, a certain backward approach , rooted historically, in the jurisprudence of other religions such as those who endeavored to keep Mary, the daughter of Emran, the mother of Jesus, out of the Temple of Solomon on reasons based on her gender, are today insisting to keep women out of the sphere of political influence in Iran.

While confident that I would qualify for this high office, I believe that we should consider national interests above all and for that reason in order to prevent discord and disunity , I invite all people to take a serious role in the upcoming elections. While I highly regard the role of Mehdi Karroubi, I consider Mir Hossein Mousavi to be the most qualified candidate in this round. For the above reasons I will not stand as a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Grapes of Shahrivar

Now four years after I left government office and returned to my academic work ( and of course the City Council), my memoirs as the first woman Vice-President in the Islamic Republic of Iran will be published tomorrow. I had much enthusiasm and energy to remember the details of the events of those 8 years and to bring them on paper. The editing and organization of the work took longer, and finally the book is out . A ceremony will be held in Baran Organization which is the NGO established by President Khatami to collect , assess and analyse the management experiences of his government. I will introduce the book to a group of reporters and guests and answer their questions. I am not sure whether issues concerning the elections will surface or not, we can wait and see. The book is entitled "The Grapes of Shahrivar".Shahrivar is the sixth month in the Persian calendar. Its in Farsi for now , but who knows, I might get bored one day and decide to write another memoir in English. Destiny has its twists and turns .

The Savior and the Green Movement

There is no question that the string of events that we have seen during and after the tenth round of Presidential elections have permanenetly changed the trends of the Islamic Revolution. A major rift among the followers and devotees of the Revolution has now occured . The biased election officials and regulatory bodies have not been able to convince the three rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad or their large body of followers of the integrity of these Presidential elections.

People believe today that the voting process was rigged and that fraud and deciet in the system has seriously damaged the dignity of the Islamic Republic. In addition, the violent and illegal behaviour of militia and security forces with people demonstrating in the cities, irresponsible and inhumane behaviour with the detainees, all leading to injury and death for citizens who only demanded a response to their questions on the elections has shocked the sincere believers and followers of the Revolution. The only response they have heard, have been allegations of a velvet revolution and foreign conspiracy recently in a large court with dozens of reformist leaders. Last week former Vice President Abtahi and political activist and journalist Atrianfar made obscure televised confessions in a very akward manner clearly indicating the pressures they faced in prison. Abtahi who had lost over 20 kilos during 40 days of detainment was evidently under duress. No one on the street believed what they said about taking back their claims on election fraud and denouncing Mousavi. During the last week many leading religious authorities ( Marjaa) denounced the value of confessions under pressure. Pressures from the people has forced officials to announce the closure of an unofficial detainment faclity as well as indictment of the perpetuators of assaults against detainees.

In the mist of these events and ongoing street protests, the legitimacy of the government( which is now endorsed and inaugurated) and the confidence of the people has eroded significantly. This is the ethical crisis that the Islamic Republic faces today; three decades after its inception.
We celebrate the birthday of the twelfth Imam ( decsendent of the Prophet) who is currently in occultation. He is the Saviour who will appear to bring justice and peace for the world. The philosopy of awaiting the appearance of the Saviour is an integral theme in Shia teachings. Awaiting the Savior is an indication of protest against the status quo and dissatisfaction with existing trends. It is a message to current world leaders that their efforts have not made the world a safer place but that war and armed conflict of people against people and against nature is still taking its toll. The Islamic Revolution has been closely affiliated to the belief in the reappearance of the Savior and today it is clear that due to the serious challenges and crisis that it faces , we need to pray more than ever before for the Saviour to come and take affairs in his divine hands.
The Green Movement feels that it needs to believe and pray for the Saviour to come and change the current conditions of mistrust, insecurity and lack of legitimacy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Persian Gulf: The Eternal Name

We have celebrated the national day for the Persian Gulf yesterday in Iran. During recent years there has been a deliberate attempt on behalf of Arab States in the Persian Gulf to change the historical name of this strategic body. This attempt has been encouraged by some Western governments recently.

Professor Muhammad Sahimi from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California has written the following letter to the Hillary Clinton. I thought it would be interesting for many.

The State Department statement was relatively brief: "The Secretary [of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton] is pleased to announce the appointment of
Dennis B. Ross to the position of Special Advisor to the Secretary of
State for The Gulf and Southeast Asia."

Which "Gulf?" Gulf of Mexico? Gulf of Aqaba? Gulf of Tonkin?
Gulf of Aden? Gulf of Carpenteria? There are so many of them!

We read on: "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and
facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to
energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of
law." Oh! "That Gulf"

Well, Madam Secretary, you need first and foremost an advisor on history
because, given his long history of bias toward Iran, in addition to be
totally unfit for the job, your advisor and "expert," Dennis Ross, does
not know the history of that region. The name of that Gulf is Persian
Gulf, nothing less, nothing more. It has been that way since at least 330
B.C., when the Achaemenid Empire established the first Persian Empire in
Pars (or Persis, the region which is called Fars in the present Iran) in
southwestern region of Iran. After that historical event, Greek - not
Iranian - sources started calling the body of water that bordered this
region the Persian Gulf. It has stayed that way ever since.

In his 1928 book, A Periplus of the Persian Gulf, Sir Arnold Talbot
Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Iraq from 1918-1920, stated

"No water channel has been so significant as Persian Gulf to the
geologists, archaeologists, geographer, merchants, politicians,
excursionists, and scholars whether in past or in present. This water
channel which separates the Iran Plateau from the Arabia Plate has
enjoyed an Iranian identity since at least 2200 years ago."

Madam Secretary, I know that the United States and its allies import
significant amount of oil from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. I
know that the U.S. supports the corrupt and dictatorial Arab regimes
there, because they protect what is perceived as the vital interests of
the U.S. (although those regimes are the main culprit in the rise of
al-Qaeda). I also know that these nations are spending tens of billions of
dollars to buy weapons from the U. S. - weapons that they neither need,
nor will they ever be able to use - and that the U.S. nuclear industry is
going to make billions more by selling nuclear reactors to Bahrain and
other Arab nations in that region (but not, of course, Iran). Therefore,
the new and changed State Department - just like the old ones - wants to
appease these regimes, and avoid doing anything that would offend their
rulers. I know all of that.

But, Madam Secretary, all such considerations do not, and cannot, change
the history of that region. The 990 km long body of water that starts
from Arvand Rud that carries the waters of Euphrates and Tigris rivers,
and ends at Strait of Hormuz - another Iranian name, recognized
internationally - that connects it to the Oman Sea, has always been, and
will always be, the Persian Gulf. This has been recognized
internationally. Nothing, and least of all the billions and trillions of
the corrupt Arab rulers, can change that. If your advisers do not know
that, or are not willing to tell you that, then, you need new advisers.
To be successful in your efforts that region, the first thing you need to
know is the region's history.

Madam Secretary, President Obama has said that the U.S. talks with Iran
must be built on mutual respect. One good place to start showing this
respect toward Iran and Iranians is calling that historical body of water
what it has always been called, the Persian Gulf.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mousavi and Reformist Discourse

I spoke at a University in Qom last night. There were about 300 students and the topic of the meeting was: Why Mousavi?. After the speech there was a question and answer session during which many students spoke about the current situation and brought up their questions. Supporters of the current government criticized reformist policies. I replied patiently attempting to explain all the delicate theoretical principles behind reformist thought. I think this stage of the election campaign is very crucial so that people could pose their questions and search for answers. This is part of the democratic process that we must cherish and uphold. We returned back to Tehran at about 1-30 am.
Election programs are underway everywhere. Reformists are now united and organized behind Mir Hossein Mousavi. All major political groups with reformist backgrounds with the exception of Mehdi Karroubi have indicated their support for Mousavi. Mousavi has spoken clearly in support of individual freedoms, lawfulness,women's rights, the need for economic and political reform and many other issues. Recent polls indicate that Mousavi has gained significantly after Khatami resigned from the campaign. The campaign is gaining momentum and young people are fervently engaged.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Female Presidental Candidtates

"Women can stand for the presidential race and the Council of Guardians will not exclude them on the basis of gender nor will they interpret the term : Rejal." This statement was proclaimed by the Spokesperson of the Council of Guardians on Saturday last week. The term rejal (meaning personality) was inserted in a phrase concerning presidential elections, by the legislators of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, to replace the condition of masculinity for presidential candidates.
A few hours after this announcement a rumour was floating among news and internet sites announcing the imminent candidacy of Massoumeh Ebtekar as a presidential hopeful. I was informed of new of my imminent candidacy during a meeting in the Tehran City Council ! This had happened several times before as well and I had denied the rumours each time. This time however circumstances had changed and I decided to take a serious look at the issue and the conditions surrounding my possible candidacy. The approval of the Council of Guardians of a woman for the first time would pave way for the presence of women at higher levels of decision making.It could also create much hope and motivation for young women, girls and youth in general since it would be a symbol of change and progress. It could initiate a movement to remove glass ceilings and backward interpretations concerning women and youth. I believe, however that women have much to say in the management of affairs; in the economic, social, and political dimensions. "I will decide about my candidacy shortly", I have responded in the many different interviews I had to perform this week. In all cases I stressed that I did not plan to break the unity of the Reformists since I believe that "constructive change" is the most essential requirement of these times.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Potato Elections

When former President Khatami announced his candidacy a few months ago, provincial visits were an important part of his campaign . During these visits , the popular reception was exceptional not only in cities but in villages as well. Peculiar events were reported on the sidelines of these trips. In one village they visited they noticed people were shouting among the usual welcoming notes : "Death to potatoes !" Everyone was surprised and taken aback . What could this imply? The villagers later explained that the government was distributing free potatoes which were thought to be rejected from a major exports project.
At that time, no one thought that this would be a general policy of the government on the eve of Presidential elections. Today, this round of elections are coined by media as "Potato Elections". The government of President Ahmadinejad is distributing potatoes free of charge in cities and villages alike.There has been widespread reporting and criticism of the matter in the independent press. Mir Hossein Mousavi has announced that his campaign headquarters does not have access to public resources like the President to distribute alms and potatoes. He has also indicated that he does not believe in these maligned economic gestures which only aim to gain votes. The reality is that Iranians are now more educated and politically informed than ever before in Iran's history . Many see this policy of the government as a desperate attempt in the final days before the election to gain popularity. The people however feel that this is an insult to their dignity and their wisdom. Votes are based on informed decisions and awareness not on spending to buy them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


The Tehran City Park is just accross the City Council Building on Behesht( paradise) Avenue. It is a paradise in itself. Built during the reign of Reza Shah, this park is Tehran's oldest. Its tall and aged trees, create a beautiful atmosphere and lots of shade for the very hot summer days in Tehran. There are now over 1500 parks in Tehran and every year we have dozens of new parks added to this list. These trees and beautiful greenery are very valuable for a city that suffers from chronic air pollution.

On the election campaign, most Reformist parties and groups have now announced their support for Mir Hossein Mousavi . He has given his first international press conference and is now expressing his views on various contentious and controversial issues. These views seem to increasingly ,conform with ideas that Reformists have promoted during recent years. Mir Hossein has also commenced his provincial trips, meeting with people from all walks of life and giving his positions on a wide range of domestic issues. Change for a better future, is the major objective that we all follow. Elections are a valuable opportunity in democratic societies and young people in Iran hope that this opportunity will be appreciated and lead to significant change in the political atmosphere, directions of the government and administration, in line with the objectives of our Revolution and values.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Love Story for Dialogue

While Romeo and Juliet stands as the epic of love in Western culture and literature, Leili and Majnoon is probably the Persian version, similar in some respects and very different in other. Written about 800 years ago by Nezami Gangavi , Leili and Majnoon is a magnificent example of eloquent poetry, depicting an eternal love between two mortals. In Iranian culture this love is an example of divine love, love for the truth and for the Creator. It goes that when Majnoon was injured he became restless and started crying . The people told him but you have always been so patient and persevering in your love for Leili, then why are you now so intolerant. " This is for the love of Leili, my love for her has filled my soul, so when I feel pain I fear that she is experiencing the pain as well." This is the epitome of love. A total transformation occurs in the true lover , hence becoming more similar to the beloved. When the beloved carries the most sublime qualities of knowledge , power, mercy, beauty and compassion then the lover can also hope to come close to those qualities. This narration depicts the essence of love. Persian culture and Iranians today are still strongly bound to these values and beliefs. In dealing with Iran, particularly during the past decades, when the Islamic Revolution has initiated a revival of these spiritual values, the West has not been able to appreciate and grasp the importance of these mores in understanding the mentality of Iranians.
The philosophy and concept of 'Dialogue Among Civilizations' is probably most instrumental in bringing about that profound understanding that could assist to heal the scars and mend ties.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama,A Political Nowrooz and Emotions

Nowrooz was highly politicised this year in Iran. It all began with the official announcement by Khatami that he will pull out of the Presidential race despite speculation and polls that indicated that he had the highest voter appeal among all candidates. Then, we heard the Obama Nowrooz message which had vast coverage in media in Iran and particularly over the internet. A day later the Leader spoke in Mashad on the occasion of the new year and made clear references to the overture . Finally, Larijani, the Majlis speaker said that the crisis in relations is not an emotional issue and therefore cannot be resolved with words alone.
The reality is, that although Obama's rise to power in the US has been viewed with optimism in many political quarters in Iran, and though he has endeavored to change his tone and approach in dealing with Iran, other members of the administration and the Senate and Congress have not taken similar direction. The overall mentality it seems, is still to follow the carrot and stick approach and hope to achieve something out of pressure and intimidation. Was it not possible for the Congress to at least, delay the imposition of sanctions as a sign of genuine change?
I believe that the Leader clearly pointed to the deep mistrust which still overshadows the relationship. He has pointed to grievances indicating that there is a deep rift between the two countries mainly due to the actions and policies of American administrations. My overall understanding is that the Leader did not close all doors but pointed to the direction and road map for improvement of relations.
Contrary to Larijani , I think relations between Iran and the US, are in a way, emotionally strained. Americans had staged a coup d'etat in 1953, leading to 25 years of dark dictatorship and repression for the Iranian people. Iranians stood up in 1979, to take up their affairs in their own hands and to establish an independent political system not reliant on either superpowers of that age. Americans did not like the idea at all and they started a campaign to undermine the Revolution by any means. The story goes on to take an emotional tone since the big bully cannot repress his patriarchal hegemonistic emotions for Iran and the Iranian people cannot repress their beliefs and feelings for Iran since they see their future their dignity, their homeland at stake. So this is an emotional account by all means. Struggle, perseverance, hope ,altruism and sacrifice all have their origins in sublime emotions, as hatred, greed, lust are rooted in emotions. Therefore I would disagree with those who think this is not an emotional affair. Obama should take action and change the course.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Personal Life of Imam Khomeini

The late Khadija Sagafi, wife of Imam Khomeini, who died on Saturday at the age of 93, was laid to rest beside him in his Shrine in Beheshte Zahra. She was the daughter of a wealthy religious family not interested in politics. She had attended elementary school and had a Jewish tutor who taught her French. That would have been in 1925. Imam was a theological student at that time and was introduced a few years later to their family through a relative. She was reluctant to marry him since she thought some clergy were strict, and some did not treat women properly. The suitor had to ask five times before receiving a positive response, to the surprise of the family. Khadija later said in an interview a few years ago that she had experienced a very demanding and challenging life with Imam, but that he had given her all the respect and love that a woman could imagine. He had always spoken to her with respect, he left her free in her personal decisions, what to wear, where to go. She, in return, created an atmosphere of calm and compassion for him during the tumultuous years of struggle for freedom, the years of exile and the fierce years of combat. As the love story went on, Imam always felt indebted to her patience and dedication. Before the Revolution, Imam wrote in a letter to her from Lebanon,:"My most dearest,during these days that I am away from you I have kept the memory of your beautiful face in the mirror of my heart......" .
Although , as the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam was instantly recognized throughout the world and renown for his courage and determination in the face of superpowers however, the multiple dimensions of the life and personality of Imam and his family are still not properly known today.
The stigma and stereotyping created by western media against Imam during the Revolution prevented many from observing the light and greatness in his prudent personality. His eloquent poetry and personal writings were published only after he passed away. Many were surprised to learn that he had written beautiful poems. Two decades later, his legacy lives and inspires, not only in Iran, but throughout the world. The sun never remains behind the clouds for long.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nowrooz; Revival of Nature and Cleansing of Hearts

Many people do not know the vast influence of Persian tradition and culture in the world. When traveling in Central Asia several years ago , I realized that most of these countries are also deeply touched by Iranian history and culture . In Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, I realized that Nowrooz was practiced during the first three months of Spring. They had celebrations of all kinds many similar to Iranians. In some Eastern European countries you can also find the footprints of Persian culture, some older generations in the Balkans speak Farsi from the poems of Moulavi.
In addition, now that there are many expatriate Iranians living in Europe and the US , Persian customs are more appreciated and understood in the world.
Here in Tehran , the early signs of Nowrooz begin with Khanetakani or " house cleaning" . Iranians thoroughly clean and throw out the extra items piling up in homes. Its a symbol of preparing for new times and better days. It is also a symbol of the changes we need to bring about in our hearts and minds, we need to mend broken hearts and to heal the scars left behind. In Islamic ethics as individuals we need to revisit our practices and behaviours and to evaluate them on the basis of the religion's teachings , we need to clean the greed, deceit and hatred that plagues our hearts and prepare for an inner Spring and new life.
On the other hand, Nowrooz is the revival of nature after a long winter sleep. Nature displays its goodness and services and we need to use wisely and protect these precious gifts.
The Iranian new year coincides with what is called the Equinox and the true shift in the earth's axis and change in climate. Although today we are experiencing the "anthropogenic climate change phenomena" and for this phenomena humanity is now deeply concerned since it has tilted the balance of the ecosystem.
As you have heard in the news, Khatami officially announced his decline to run for presidency in June. This decision deeply saddened his supporters and the sympathizers of the reform campaign but they understood that Khatami has made a very sound ethical decision. Many analysts believe that this decision has elevated his position and rank among various political groups and figures. He has implicitly indicated that he prefers to support Engineer Mousavi in the upcoming race. Some of his followers will follow course while others might prefer Mehdi Karroubi who was the former Majlis Speaker. In any case, we have to wait at least for two weeks until national holidays are over .

Monday, March 16, 2009

Green Spaces and the Presidential Race

Last week the Environment Committee of the Tehran City Council had two major visits . On Saturday we visited Tehran's waste management center in the southern district of Kahrizak. More than 7000 tons of waste is generated daily in Tehran. In recent years, with the establishment of the Environment Committee we have succeeded to promote sound and efficient waste management programs. Currently ,as we witnessed more than 2000 tons of organic waste is composted and more than 800 tons is recylced. On Wednesday we witnessed some of the activities underway to enhance green areas in Tehran. There are 1578 parks of different sizes in Tehran. Currently there is more than 12 square meters of green area per capita, but we believe it is not enough and not distributed evenly. We visited one of the two women's parks in Tehran. This park located in the south of the city is very large, over 170 hectares with all modern facilities, football, volleyball, tennis and badminton courts. Indoor body building and outdoor activities of all kinds were available but most important is that since only women are allowed in the park, they can take off their covering and stroll in the park area without hijab. This is very attractive for women and particularly the young .They enjoy the atmosphere and the opportunity to walk around without the usual covering . There will be at least four such parks in Tehran by the end of this year.
After Engineer Mousavi the former Prime Minister of Iran entered the race for the next Presidential elections , Khatami is reconsidering his decision to run . Khatami's popularity runs high and all polls show him between 20 to 30% ahead of other candidates . He however does not believe that numerous reformist candidates could win the race and is concerned about rivalry among the reformist camp. Khatami believes that ethics should prevail and that is the essence of any political game. He has shown he has no political ambitions and that he will not sacrifice his ethical principles for the sake of power. That's the man that we have known all these years.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Campaign Trail and Environmental Awards

The non-governmental Center for Peace and Environment (CPE) held its annual awards ceremony in Tehran last night. Former President Seyed Mohammad Khatami who had taken part in the previous years was not available. After announcing his candidacy for the up-coming Presidential elections, he has started his provincial visits and yesterday he began a 3-day trip to visit people in Fars, Bushehr and Kohkilouye Boyerahmad three important provinces of Iran. Many predict that the provincial visits of Khatami will create a favorable atmosphere for the reform campaign in Iran. However, pressures and smearing campaigns have also been underway against him during these days and this has created more popularity for Khatami among the young people. His campaign trail is worth following these days.
In the awards ceremony Professor Mohammad Soltanieh was awarded the Prominent Researcher Award for 35 years of devoted research work in the field of air pollution and climate change. Dr. Soltanieh was also a member of the leading team of scholars of the IPCC , the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that received the Noble Peace prize in 2008.
A provincial activist from Gorgan and an NGO from Azerbaijan were also recognized by the Board of Referees for their significant activities in this field. Two environmental journalists also received a prize for their efforts in reporting on environmental issues.
I spoke on the importance of recognizing the work of environmental activists and criticised the government for its lack of insight and action for the environmental cause. I called upon NGOs and media to question Presidential candidates about their environmental policies and to evaluate candidates on the basis of their perspectives and policies on sustainable development.