Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The society, Iranian style

Once upon a time, an American discovers that the Western media news coverage of Iran is not reliable. He decides to make a journey to Iran in order to get to know the country from Inside. In the U.S., he had heard a lot about the influence of Islam on Iranian lifestyle and politics. So decides to start his field trip by visiting a large mosque in Tehran.

Stepping inside the mosque, he is surprised to see that there is no sign of any ritual prayer. Instead, people are sitting all around the area, eating chicken and rice. Obviously, it’s a feast of some sort…. The American is very surprised and starts a conversation with a young man who is standing in a corner.

American: “Excuse me…. What’s going on in here? I thought a mosque was a place for people to pray, but everyone’s eating here!”

Young man: “That’s true. But you don’t see much praying in here. If you wanna see people pray, you should go to Tehran University. They have large prayers, especially on Fridays.”

The American is now even more confused:

“at the university?! Isn’t that supposed to be a place for students, academics and intellectuals?”

Young man: “Yes, normally. But the students and intellectuals are all in prison nowadays, so….”

The American can’t believe what he’s hearing:

“In prison?! That’s the place for thieves and criminals, so where do you keep your criminals?!”

The young man looks at the American and shakes his head in disbelief: “who the hell do you think is running the country then?!”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just a few days ago, senator Barack Obama did, in his quest for the US presidency, what every candidate is supposed to do: sucking up to the Israel lobby, AIPAC.

Here are some interesting statements that Obama made during his speech:

"Israel should preserve its identity as a Jewish"

"Jerusalem should remain undivided as the capital of Israel"

"Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, more than Iraq has even been"

"As an 11 year old, I understood the Zionist wish to live in own territories"

"I will ensure Israel’s military advantage in the region"

"I will always support the Israel right to defend itself in the UN"*

"I will isolate Hamas"

"The recent Israeli military action in Syria was justified"**

"We should never force Israel to negotiate with anyone"

"We will sanction Iran"

"I will keep the threat of military action against Iran on the table"

From a candidate who preaches change, these lines sound too absurd and too familiar

Yes, we can…. Go to hell!


* Veto every resolution condemning Israel’s actions and policies against Palestinians.

** So how come that was justified and the war in Iraq wasn’t?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

60 years

Israel celebrates its 60th year of existence. Over the years, we have seen many celebrations of independence around the world, but a national birthday is quite a rare moment is history. Like many Israelis, I cherish this moment, although for different reasons.

I believe this moment can be used to draw attention to a number of historical events, prior to and following the establishment of Israel. A few years ago, I was amazed to find out how little some people knew about the history of Israel. In their view, Israel existed for thousands of years, and was not just created following a political process overnight. Should we blame them? Yes, and no. Indeed, the Israeli discourse claims historicity by taking the Israeli roots back to the ancient time, when Moses led the exodus of his people from Egypt. They were called Israelis too. But that is the only similarity. The truth is that those people, apart from a shared religion, have no cultural or racial similarity with the majority of individuals who call themselves Israelis today. So what do we mean, when we are talking about roots?

The establishment of Israel seems to be a forgotten event. It is not in any way represented in the Israeli and Euro-American political discourses, although it lies at the very basis of the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Israel has the right to exist”! That’s one phrase that is being recycled over and over in response to critiques of Israeli aggression. But how exactly has Israel acquired this right? The creation of Israel has been a result of a political consensus between a few powerful states directly following the Second World War. It was decided that Jewish people, being the primary victims of the holocaust, should be able to live freely in their own land*. But as they did not possess a land, the former Palestine, which was at the time under the British mandate, was chosen as the best geographical location for the new country. Almost the entire Western world approved a UN resolution, which sought to implement this plan. All Muslim states rejected it. No one asked the Palestinians whether they liked the idea of a Jewish state in the middle of their territories. In a few years time, a large part of the original residents of the Palestinian land was forced to flee their homes, following Israeli military aggression. Thousands of people lost their lives, others have lived under repression ever since. To date, Israel has persistently denied these refugees’ their legal right to return to their homes, in spite of numerous UN resolutions.

Today, as the 60th anniversary of Israel in being celebrated, I cannot stop thinking about the atrocities, and the human suffering this country has caused. I wish the Palestinian refugees a safe journey home, perhaps some day in my lifetime.

* Apparently this plan had a historical context.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Food crisis

Recently, CNN reported that the food shortage in Africa and Asia is not only a humanitarian crisis, but may also become a global security problem. It takes a trained eye, and a fair amount of cynicism to decode what this sentence really means. Let's break it down.


Food shortage: a situation in which a population does not have enough access to food supplies. We don't care about the reasons behind such conditions. Mainly, we believe it's their own fucking mistake.

Africa and Asia: Some warm places, far, far away. Basically, we don't know what happens out there most of the time.

Humanitarian crisis: conditions under which human life is endangered due to poverty, disease and war.

Humanitarian crisis in Africa and Asia: stuff we shouldn't be worried about.

Global: referring to parts of the world dominated by rich countries (see also "international community").

Security problem: threats to economical and political interests and institutions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wright is right

Recently, the U.S. public conscience has been shaken up by Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s controversial statements regarding the U.S. approach towards foreign policy and racial issues. As a result of this controversy, Barack Obama has distanced himself from Wright, whom he once considered as his mentor.

Following this controversy made me once more realize how different my political views are from the mainstream American perspective. While I considered some of Wright’s statements as pure speculations, I couldn’t agree more with the rest, especially as some of these statements go beyond the ideology and represent factual events.

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.”

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

“The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 years now. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.”

In the past week, I kept asking myself: what’s the big deal? What is really going on? The American society is acting, like any other society, in a self-absorbed and narcissistic way. It should strongly repress and condemn any form of criticism, for it would otherwise lose its self-value.

At an epistemological level, controversy and radicalism do not necessary imply falseness. The norms of the majority cannot be used as criteria for the truth. The case of Nazi Germany shows us how inhuman and destructive the societal norms can be. An ideal society should be open to and stimulate all forms of self-criticism. We all have a long way to go.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Walking paradox

Humans are multi-layered, complex, and paradoxical beings. They are perhaps the prime sites where cultural symbols manifest themselves; where the modern meets the traditional, and spirituality meets materialism. There are only a few images so strong in documenting this very particular human nature. This picture is taken at an Ashoura ceremony in Iran.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Protest against discrimination at the universities

Dear friends,

I would like to request your support for our protest against the structural exclusion of Iranian students and academics at two Dutch universities.

Universities used to be open, scientific forums where students and researchers were selected based on their academic qualities, not their nationality. University of Twente and Einhoven University of Technology have decided, in an unprecedented move, to reject all Iranian students and academics "as a results of the UN sanctions" against the Iranian government. This means that even students who are interested in subjects that have nothing to do with nuclear technology, such as social sciences and industrial design, are denied admission to the university.

Dear friends, this is the first time, since the Second World War, that a specific group of people is excluded from higher education. It is sad to observe that it should happen in a country that used to be praised for its liberal and progressive climate.

What needs to be done? We have already the support of a large number of academics at the Dutch universities. Also, we have lobbied so much that the Parliament will hold a session on this topic within the next few days. We can really stop this, by sending a strong message to the government and the universities that we do not accept discrimination against innocent students and researchers, just because that have "the wrong" nationality.

We need all the support that we can get. That is why I would like to ask you to read our petition here.

If you sign it, it would even be better! And please, spread this message in your network.

Many thanks