A Persian Amsterdammer Blogs.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Concert Tonight

There's a nice concert performed tonight in the grand "de Doelen" hall in Rotterdam. The Tehran Symphony Orchestra will perform the "Music for Peace" composition. Only people invited by the Iranian embassy will be able to attend.

Wow, if this is how our government behaves when they want peace (they executed 2 dissidents this week, and many more will probably follow soon) I just fear the moment they want war.

Luckily many of my friends will go to Rotterdam to protest this atrocity.

More info to be found here: http://www.payvand.com/news/10/jan/1296.html

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Your cracks are showing...

As I've stated before, I'm very sceptical about the Iranian regime collapsing any time soon. Sure, they've taken a bit of a bashing lately. You could even say that the were shaking a bit on their foundation, but who's to say they will not succeed in purging the regime from inconvenient elements and covering up the cracks?

Today two dissidents were executed in Iran. Though they were not post-election protestors, it's obvious they are being sacrificed to scare people from going out into the streets for the big protests in two weeks. Enduring America has a nice write-up.

The esteemed filmmaker Makhmalbaf continues to write about the incredible wealth of Ayatollah Khamenei.

Now, not only is Makhmalbaf systematic in his articles, he's apparently managed to reach the right people, as he's apparently forced Khamenei into denying the claims.

And finally I leave you with a picture showing how Iranian media works. Yes, that's a PA holding up a sign so the nice lady giving the street interview knows exactly what to say.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Sorry for my absense... Update with links.

In this article Robert Kagan compellingly talks about the need for the US stimulating regime change in Iran:


I totally agree that the collapse of Iran's regime would be a blessing, but consider the following quote from the article: "Given the role that the Islamic theocracy in Tehran has played in leading and sponsoring anti-democratic, anti-liberal and anti-Western fanaticism for the past three decades, the toppling or even substantial reform of that regime would be second only to the collapse of the Soviet Union in its ideological and geopolitical ramifications. "

It's true that Iran has inspired many fanatics and funded a few others, but how many groups have grown out of Saudi sponsored Madrassas? How likely is it that this argument would actually convince the government to put pressure on Saudi Arabia's policies?

But apart from this gripe, the main fault of this article (and others like it) is that it fails to mention what exactly the US can do to support the opposition movement in Iran, other than to cheer them along.


A more powerful piece of prose is the letter of a former consular staff to his collueages, urging them to resign as he did. Here's a fragment of the letter:

Dear Colleagues,

Oppressed people like Ayatollah Montazeri had to go through a lifetime of suppression. We observed these crimes and excused them. We lived in residences payed by the dollars of the same people who were killed. Yet, we hugged and kissed our children in our wealthy households.

We boasted to foreigners about a Saadi poem inscribed in the United Nations building: “One Limb impacted is sufficient.” We boasted that Imam Ali cried when a Jewish women was humiliated. We boasted that it is our religious duty to disclaim tyranny and to take the side of the oppressed. Now that the Supreme Council for National Security has confirmed the killings of youth under torture, have we forgotten all of that?

How many verses of the Prophet and Imams did we memorize about justice and oppression?
“If one sharpens the pen of an oppressor, he shares the oppression.”
“If one gives a bit of silk for an oppressor to use in his ink, he shares the oppression.”


For the full letter, go to: http://persian2english.com/?p=5238

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Not exciting enough to write about.

The prison terms being handed out to protesters are not exciting and sexy enough to make it to the papers, but it breaks my heart to think about students, in their twenties, having to spend a decade or more in jail. Often while enduring physical and mental abuse.

Here’s a small selection of prison terms handed out:

Ziaoldin Nabavi / Student / 15 years + 75 lashes

Majid Tavakoli (of headscarf fame) / Student / 8 years and 6 months

Majid Dari / Student / 11 years

Luckily we don’t need to worry about such deviants. Many are being locked up, others are being killed. And the next generation of students will be brought up using state-of-the-art mind control methods:

Happy days.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Understanding Iran

Compared to the amount of articles that appear about Iran, it's probably one of the least understood countries. No wonder, as most Iranians fail to understand it. One of the best books about the history and politics of Iran, covering everything from prehistoric past to the election of Ahmadinejad, is the book Iran, Empire of the Mind, written by Michael Axworthy. Next week Axworthy will visit Amsterdam to talk about Iran, its history and current events.

Info on this site is in Dutch, but event is in English! http://www.rodehoed.nl/nl/programma_details.php?id=821

Also the Netherlands based Iranian Progressive Youth has started a bi-weekly newsletter:


Saturday, 16 January 2010

Upcoming actions

Two upcoming actions:

Call for a nationwide boycott of all state-run media and communication devises on Wednesday: http://balatarin.com/permlink/2010/1/16/1917001

22nd of Bahman (Februari 11th), street demontrations. Posters to be found here:

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Images that move me.

There's a few impressive green-movement images here inspired by Ashura: http://iranianmoharram.wordpress.com/ (also many cliche ones, but eh...)

Photo essay on the man accused of being responsible for the Kahrizak detention center deaths:

One of my favorite sites "Life Goes On in Tehran" had stopped updating. He felt that life didn't go on after the election, the detentions, the killing. I'm very glad massive mail support by his fans convinced him to start again:

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Update on what's going on in Iran + some Dutch actions

So, what's happening in Iran? Well, plenty of people smarter than me are writing about it. So it's easiest for me to link to their articles, but if I'd summarize my view like this: protests have receded to the universities and will not lead to change until other strata’s of society join again in the protests. Maybe they’re waiting for the next “calendar”-event, but we’d do well to read up on some articles in the mean time:

Dilip Hiro makes some interesting comparisons between today’s events and the revolution of 30 years ago. He’s very pessimistic about regime change any time soon. You should read the article yourself, but an interesting conclusion that stands out in my mind the following, Iranians inherent nationalism could get people to back the government if they can spin events to claim it’s the World vs. Iran again. Economic sanctions would help to make such a case.

However, maybe no sanctions are needed to stoke the fires of discontent as government subsidies on food and fuel are coming to an end.

Iranian nationalism is also being used by the opponents of the government whom they accuse of “Arabizing” the country and giving support to movements in Palestine, Libanon and Iraq while the Iranian people suffer. Also the ruling class is accused of siphoning money to foreign accounts in friendly Muslim nations such as Dubai and Malaysia. Sometimes the nationalism takes extreme form when it’s claimed that no Iranian could hit another Iranian, so many Basij and Revolutionary Guards are imported Arabs and Russians and even the late revolutionary leader was Indian. The following site links the recent terror attack on the nuclear physicist to Lebanese terrorists.
Whether all or some of the allegations are true or not, it’s a powerful driving force in the mind of a substantial number of government opponents.

We don’t know if the situation in Iran will get worse, if we’ll get regime change sooner or later, or if the government succeeds in trampling dissent and getting things back to normal. What I do know is that plenty of the Iranian diplomatic staff is getting nervous enough to deflect and apply for asylum. In the past weeks five have deflected, one from Norway, two in Germany, one in France and one in Britain.

I’ll leave you with two clips of what some Iranians in the Netherlands have been up to.

Weekly protest and flower giving action at Iranian Embassy in the Netherlands:

Video clip created by Dutch-Iranian girl and friends:

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

News update

One of the interesting things to witness in the past few months is to see how mature and professional certain people and media have become. People are producing better work and are teaming up with others to create.

For instance, after three years Radio Zamaneh started publishing English material. Sites such as Persian 2 English moved from blog to a full on site.

Also artists, fueled by a sense of urgency, are more active. Have a look at the video that Mostafa made for Faarjam: http://vimeo.com/8692409

My own happy discovery is this little programme produced by Voice of America. Sorry for not having it subtitled, but it's a Daily Show kind of programme, showing shocking news in a funny way:

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Very impressive movie

Most of us know Bahman Ghobadi as the chronicler of life in Iranian-Iraqi Kurdistan. With his latest film No One Knows About The Persian Cats, he's made a tremendous film about the Iranian underground scene. The film is not a masterpiece in the quality of its script or acting, but in its honest portrayal of life for Tehrani youth who just want to make their music.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

There be music here

I'm in Belgium to check out a mini Iranian Film Festival here. Until my next post I want to share my discovery with you. Some boys and girls in Canada started this online radio station just after the elections in Iran. The site is not being updated, but the tracks are still online. Have a look at Rebel Radio:


Happy rebelling.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Another good newssite.

A while ago I listed some sites that keep me updated about Iran. Here's another to follow:


Thursday, 7 January 2010

You are an enemy of the regime, if you are...

I would like to add a few names to the enemies list the Iranian government gave out. Of course this is far from complete, but you are definately an enemy of this regime if you are:

a woman
a journalist
a christian
a filmmaker
a baha'i
a student
a university professor
a Kurd

By the way, Khamenei gave a call last night. He was pissed off that I had posted Ahmadinejad's rap song and not his own. I'm sorry dear leader, we'll rectify the situation immediately:

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Some Thoughts on the Road Ahead (pt. 3)

Long before the time of Twitter, Facebook and e-mail news of solidarity actions would reach those struggling inside Iran. Even in the most desperate of situations hearing about such an event gives hope. My dad recalls being in jail in the time of the Shah and hearing about a demonstration in Sweden in support of Iranian political prisoners and how good the knowledge that they are not forgotten made him feel.

However, in the past few days I’ve also been thinking about actions that direct the powers that be in Iran, rather than just showing support. A little philosophy I would like to call: Kicking Them Where It Hurts.

Of course, it’s tricky to find the emotion spot in a tyrannical government that doesn’t shy away from shooting and raping its own citizens. But there’s a bit more to the story. What sets the Iranian regime apart from other tyrannies is the legitimacy it receives as champion of the faith from being the only theocracy in the world. It needs the support of the religious establishment as well as the approval of its religious citizens. And though we would like to wish them away, there is still a huge population of devout followers of the regime who A) want the regime to safeguard the Islamic character of the state and the country, even at the cost of liberties and human lives and B) fear that the disappearance of the Islamic Republic will result in a backlash against Muslims and Islam in general.

In light of this, shouting anti-Islam profanities and burning Korans is not Kicking Them Where It Hurts, it’s Giving Them What They Want. Not that anyone actually needs to have burnt a Koran, the government media will claim that they’ve done so anyway to disgust and scare the true believers.

(For instance, take a look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IK7a0avFrPI , I asked the poster why there’s no video evidence, as people seem to succeed in videoing protests in Iran when their lives are in danger. Obviously my comment was deleted without a reply)

No, to Kick Them Where It Hurts is to challenge their religious credentials. It’s of course a process that started with religious heavyweights like dissident Ayatollahs Montazeri and Sana’i criticizing the government, and went full-throttle with legions of people clad in what the government considers the colour of Islam being shot and beaten up. Now we need Muslim spiritual leaders outside of Iran to join the choir of disapproval. There’s already talk of Lebanese and Iraqi Ayatollah’s voicing their concern with the Iranian government’s actions after the election (I'll post the sources when I find them). But why not ask progressive neighbourhood mosques to also voice their protests? I'm sure we could find many in Europe and North-America.

In interesting article on even the Khomeini family showing its discontent with the regime: ( http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/01/can-the-khomeinis-challenge-khamenei.html )

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Soundtrack of a Revolution (pt. 2)

Before we continue our talks of how to unhinge the regime, it's time for some articles and music.

United 4 Iran translated the list of institutions that the government accuses of waging a "soft" war with Iran. The usual suspects are present: Radio Farda, Zamaneh and BBC, Freedom House. But also HIVOS and Yale?

An interested argument of how acting without thought, even outside Iran, can hurt what's happening inside:

And as I promised you music, here's a video from a United 4 Iran event, starring Branko Galoic's Skakavac Orkestar, guest starring Stefanos on the violin and myself on the darbouka:

But to think that only the good side can make clips, here's some gangsterrap starring the President himself. MTV, when are you going to call this guy?:

Monday, 4 January 2010

Some Thoughts on the Road Ahead (pt. 2)

Yesterday I wrote about various goals of actions abroad. Today I will specifically add some thoughts on: spreading the message of Iran’s struggle to non-Iranians.

First off there’s a very important question we need to answer. Why should non-Iranians care about what happens in Iran?

Is it only because of the injustice? Surely there are countries to find that are worse off. In Iran the Nobel prize of Ebadi is confiscated, in Birma the Nobel prize winner has been under house arrest since forever. In Iran tens of people have been killed since the protests started. Compare that to Guinea where according to Human Rights Watch the military dictatorship one day in September killed between 150 and 200 people, wounding and hurting many others. (quote from http://www.hrw.org/node/87254 “Dozens of women described being subjected to individual and gang rape and sexual assault with objects such as sticks, rifle butts, and bayonets, while other witnesses described seeing at least four women murdered during or immediately after being raped; one shot with a rifle through her vagina while laying face up on the stadium's field begging for her life.”) The list of countries deserving our attention and support goes on and on.

What I've often heard from well-meaning westerners in political debates is that wanting to help out in Iran's struggle for freedom and democracy is imposing Western norms that we might want and might even be harmful for us. Time and time I've encountered the surprise of people when they hear that the desire to rule by vote of the people rather than monarchy/military/theocracy is over a century old in Iran. A process that was inspired by the West for sure, but also seriously derailed by the West in the fifties.

Regarding the world's concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions, what better way to make the world a safer place than to rid ourselves of Doomsday cultists (look up Ahmadinejad's particularly insane interpretation of Shi'a Islamic teachings)?

But not to forget, the revolution of 1979 and subsequent rise to power of Khomeini is a story that inspired many countries to revolt. It was a movement neither Western, nor Communist, and especially citizens of Muslim nations who had suffered from either one great power or the other now aspire to create a similar theocracy. A very important reason why the green revolution in Iran should succeed is that it will inspire the seculars and moderate Muslims in other Islamic nations to raise their voices and be heard.

In the past few months we have shown ourselves to be incredibly creative in organising demonstrations and events. Especially the Netherlands had a great line-up of speakers rallying the troops. But how many Dutch know Ahmad Batebi, MC Shahin Najafi or even Shirin Ebadi? Why not also get Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein or Michael Moore involved, or stars from the music and sports scene?

But above all, tell a clear story: not just what is happening, but to whom, in what context, and why it matters beyond the lives of the poor souls being destroyed that we stop this injustice.


Some links for the day:

Sadly, we might see the first executions soon.

After blocking internet, short-wave radio, SMS-services even sattelite communication will be hindered:

Chinese show support of Iran's protestors:

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Some Thoughts on the Road Ahead.

These are chaotic times for Iran. Every week seems to bring more unrest, without an apparent strategy on behalf of the protesters. This is a good thing, as no strategy means no leadership that can be arrested or killed to stop the demonstrations.

Also the Iranian community outside of Iran seems to be active without a strategy or even a clear goal. This is odd, as we don't suffer from violence and arrest. In fact, we are allowed to work in complete freedom, yet we have no debate about the type of events we organise or even why we organise them. There isn't much communication between groups that are active, which results in a long time passing without anything significant happening, only to have multiple actions taking place in a few days. We don't even have a site which has a complete list of actions so that the few people who want to get involved know where to go.

I personally think going on like this only serves to make us feel good about ourselves and less frustrated about being powerless to influence even in a small way what happens in Iran.

My own reasons to be active from abroad is to:

- Show solidarity with anyone brave enough to hit the streets and face the bullies of the regime.
- Educate non-Iranians about what's going on in the country and why they should care.
- Give a strong signal of condemnation to the government of the Islamic Republic.
- Create unity in the Iranian community which is splintered in various political groups.
Each of these goals (or a combination thereof) requires a different type of event. For instance, you can organise an event to get non-Iranians involved in the struggle without a single Iranian participating, but that doesn't do much to create unity amongst Iranians themselves.

Tomorrow I will write a few lines about each of these goals. In the mean time, here's a couple of articles to wrap your head around:

Star students in Iran are denied an education (or worse), to keep out undesirables out of the school system:

Baha'i are being arrested in connection with the unrest. This is especially worrying as Baha'i, more so than Jews and Christians, are considered infidels, so it's not "wrong" to execute them:

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Soundtrack of a Revolution

So, what's a revolution if there's no songs to go with it? Here's a few good songs to get you in the spirit. Here's the first videoclip of Mohsen Namjoo, recorded in Amsterdam and dedicated to those who got killed in the June protests:

Next up is a little song called Freedom Glory Be Our Name, featuring lyrics by Shamloo:

Fight For Freedom:

More to follow!

Friday, 1 January 2010

A New Year, a New Beginning

In the past few days many of my (non-Persian) friends have told me they are a bit confused about what's going on in Iran. What are good sources of news if you are not connected to a well-informed web of Facebook and Twitter users? Here's my list of some of the English language sites I frequent.

Radio Zamaneh has started translating about 3 stories a day for its English site.

Tehran Bureau is a well informed and important site and especially in the weeks after the June elections served as a source for CNN and other news networks.

Very good up-to-date site with many articles and videos.

United 4 Iran and Vote 4 Iran are activists sites, but frequently update with newsstories. United in English, Vote in both English and Persian

Persian 2 English collects stories about the struggle and translates them into English.

Andrew Sullivan doesn't exclusively post about Iran, but it's good to take note when he does.