Monday, August 23, 2010

Virtual Migration

 Although we are witnessing the globalization trend worldwide, but this has not resulted in a denial of national identity and nationalist sentiments. In fact globalization has enabled nations to appreciate their culture and national heritage . It has also created concerns for those who fear that this trend will result in the monopoly of a certain culture at the expense of marginalizing other indigenous cultures. However, inspite of their roots and attachments many have decided to migrate, either in pursuit of better circumstances of life and work or due to the pressures and limitations on basic freedoms. Many developing countries have experienced the "Brain Drain" during the recent decades. Unfortunately Iran has topped global statistics in some years. The exodus of well educated and in many cases wealthy Iranians has been more significant during the recent years. Many feel reluctant but have no other choice other than to move ahead.
In a similar context in the web, virtual hosts and service providers have created cities  for bloggers .These hosts may have a national or international identity. For the past years I was a member of Persianblog. I had a  Persian weblog Greenebtekar on which I wrote 431 posts and received thousands of comments. A few months ago I was filtered by the Government and ultimately my Farsi blog was shut down. I presented my defense to authorities indicating that I had not broken any laws or crossed any lines. As a child of the Islamic Revolution, I sincerely believed in freedom of speech  and believe that Islam is a religion of tolerance and dignity.
I had no choice but  to migrate from an Iranian host Persianblog to an international host and new address on blogspot:    .
I hope I can continue to write for my Iranian fellow country men and women, and for my own heart.                                                                               

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Anniversary of a Coup d'etat

The Center for Peace and Environment (CPE) held its annual General Assembly session last Thursday. About 60 members attended the meeting, in which the Executive Director, Dr. Sedique Babran delivered a report on the Center's activities for the past year. In light of the very difficult circumstances we faced last year, the Center was not as active as before. We had a very important session before elections last year entitled "Expectations of the Environment from the President" .Along with large group of NGOs and experts in this field, we proposed a plan for environmental protection for the next President. The approved plan was taken up by most candidates and Mir Hossein Mousavi even convened a session on the matter, which was attended by a very large numbers of activists and environmentalists from around the country.  Later, after the disputed elections and the ensuing events   the CPE,  like many other NGOs was not very active. This Assembly approved the Director's fiscal report and elected an Inspector for the Board as routine.

Today, the 28th of Mordad is the anniversary of the American coup d'etat against the nationalist government of Dr. Mohammad Mosadegh in 1953. Operation Ajax was aimed at toppling the Prime Minister and reinstating the Monarchy who had fled the country considering the growing power of nationalist and religious revolutionary forces. The event brought a terrible blow to the democratic processes of Iran and returned, Iran to 25 years of dark despotism and backwardness . The Shah then, indebted to the US for protecting his throne became a subservient servant to protect American interests in the Persian Gulf. Iran was coined as the Gendarme of the Region, for more than 60,000 Armed American forces were stationed in military bases in Iran. While in a state of  hypocrisy, common to the cold war era, Americans claimed to lead the world to freedom and democracy, the case in Iran was totally moving in the opposite direction. These double standards led the Iranian nation to stand up during the Islamic Revolution  in 1978 and oust the Shah and establish a Republic based on Islamic standards. Even though  American Secretary of State, Madeline Albright,  during the Clinton administration presented an official apology , the event has left  a deep scar in the history of Iran. Many observers believe that the current democratic challenges and pressures on Reformists, are rooted in such tragic policies of Western powers.
Incorrect American policies during the Islamic Revolution and since then up to now, has strengthened the walls of mistrust between the two countries now for decades. In many international gatherings when we discussed the history of the Revolution and the Takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979, many observers believed that the American staged coup d'etat of 1953 set a legitimate stage for the skepticism and suspicion that led to the student takeover in 1979.
We still today, stand in a quagmire of mistrust complicated by the bullish approach of a former superpower that needs to learn how to engage in dialogue  not  as a superior, but as equals.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ramadan Lifestyle

In  2004, as the Vice President of Iran  and during the Khatami Administration , I was invited to deliver a speech at the University of Seoul. The conference hall was jammed with students and academics who were curious to hear from a woman Vice President from Iran.

In that session I spoke about the common aspirations of human societies , about the fact that many global challenges including environmental degradation and the widening gap between rich and poor nations are rooted in the distorted lifestyles that we humans pursue. We need to improve ourselves individually and collectively in terms of  consumption patterns,  destruction of the natural environment, violence, war and abrogation of human rights.Today we come to the conclusion at the international level that we need to change lifestyles and attitudes in order to correct the current unsustainable trends. I mentioned the need for an inner journey to correct the attitudes and behavior that has become so detrimental. The Four Journeys of Mulla Sadra could be taken as a model , where four stages of cognition and spiritual upliftment were included, I noted. I was fascinated to hear the very intelligent questions and the level of understanding that Korean students displayed to concepts which came from a very distant country and culture but which touched common human values and aspirations. 
The inner journey we all aspire for may begin with the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a chance to change the monotonous routine of our self-centered and egoistic lives . It is a chance to see beyond the material limits of the self and by closing doors on material senses and desires, to open a door to the mystical realm of the spirit. Ramadan is the month when Muslims refrain from eating and abstain from desires. One should endeavor to refrain from lying and all other sins during this holy month. Ramadan is a time for the inner journey for perfection.  Ramadan has benefits for both the mind and the body as well as the spirit. Eating, sleeping and work behaviors are all altered during this month paving way for a new lifestyle during the whole year ahead. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Obama Sending Mixed Signals to Tehran

Last week, Mr. Obama invited a group of journalists into the White House to talk about Iran. According to the Washington Post's David Ignatius, Obama's agenda was to signal Iran that the United States might "accept a deal that allows Iran to maintain its civilian nuclear program, so long as Iran provides 'confidence-building measures' to verify that it is not building a bomb." He said that his Administration is prepared to lay out "a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons." Together with the tightening of sanctions against Iran and the CIA Director Leon Panetta's June 27 conclusion that sanctions will "probably not" dent Iran's drive for a "nuclear option" and also former CIA Director Michael Hayden's recent statement on CNN that a strike on Iran now "seems inexorable," the Administration seems to be sending mixed signals to Iran . Some analysts have concluded that other than his unsuccessful attempts to engage with Iran, Obama has come to very similar positions with Bush on Iran. Now, some believe that calls for deals and dialogue on both sides are only to brush of the guilt of being complacent and not doing enough to prevent another tragedy in the Middle East. Neo-cons and zionists whose thirst for war and destruction of the Islamic nation has not been quenched by wars in Lebanaon, Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, now insist that the storm clouds of war seem to be circling in the Middle East once again.

In synchrony with other pro-war voices , the Washington Times, yesterday attempted to legitimize an attack:” An Israeli strike may or may not be in the cards, with the acquiescence, if only privately, of some Arab states and others, but the question nevertheless arises: Would an Israeli strike on Iran necessarily be unlawful? “

There is much hope in Iran that Obama will not ultimately play into the hands of the extremists who are similar to certain elements within Iran, in their thinking that any attack on Iran will lead to apocalyptical conditions thereby ushering the rise of the “Hidden Imam” for the Muslims or the “Messiah” for the Jews and the Christians alike. These extremists have gone to the verge of predicting when the Imam will appear and who his true allies would be. Such prophecies had an important role in the initial election of Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2005 and still continues to be a source of religious arousal for his followers, amidst the very difficult times he is facing now in Iran.

I believe it is also very important to mention that Reformists and the Green Movement do not approve of the escalating tensions between Iran and the West . Sanctions and economic pressures are useless tactics that ultimately destabilize the economy, weaken the private sector and put more pressure on the masses thereby impeding democratic processes in Iran. The notion of striking or attacking Iran is outrageous considering the chain reaction it would initiate not only in the Middle East but throughout the world. Dialogue and alleviation of tensions are the only way ahead. Taken in that light, while his other policies were reminiscent of the Bush era,  this recent step by Obama may be cautiously envisaged as a step in the correct direction.

Monday, August 2, 2010

30 Months Ahead : Ya Ali

According to schedule this round of urban and rural councils would  conclude its four year term next April. However, a bill was introduced in the Majlis last year, to merge the timing of  Presidential elections held every four years according to the Constitution, with Council elections also held every four years. Iranians have been going to the polls for elections of various officials practically every year and this has always been taken as a partial indicator of a democratic process in the Islamic Republic (except for, of course, the previous disputed Presidential elections).
Last month the Majlis also adopted a bill according to which the third round of the Councils would be extended for 22 months. Many observers believed that after the tragic events of last year and the unresolved disputes on the elections, any new election this year would be unwelcome for  the people and the turnout would be very low. Supporters of Ahmadinejad in the Majlis were against this proposal and insisted to convene elections according to schedule . The low turnout would be to their benefit as their minority would overtake the Councils, in which a majority are currently  critical of the government and more than 40% are Reformists. The Reformists were also against the proposal, but for a different reason. They believed that the elections would be an opportunity for more freedom of speech and a chance to speak out on different political matters which are unspeakable under ordinary circumstances (like now).
The Majlis approved the bill and the Council of Guardians approved it without any fuss to the surprise of many.
In any case, as a representative of 9 million inhabitants of Tehran, I pray  God will grant me the strength, courage and insight to defend and promote the rights of these citizens and to enhance the quality of life for those living in Tehran.
Begining from this month we have 30 months ahead of us to serve.
For the second round of his Presidency, when it became evident how difficult it would be to stand for another four years Khatami stood for his candidacy with the slogan Ya Ali. In Persian it is customary to say Ya Ali when you need strength and wisdom, since Imam Ali is an example of both.