A Persian Amsterdammer Blogs.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

An Eye For An Eye

A case that's been discussed extensively by the Iranian media is that of the woman who was blinded and had her face disfigured with acid by a man who's advances she'd rejected. By Iranian Quranic law of eye for eye she has the right to blind the man by injecting his eyes with drops of acid.

Though these cases or commonplace in Iran, where usually the family of a killed one is asked if the killer should be put to death or bloodmoney should be paid to spare his life, it's the possible blinding of a person that has caught the public's attention and has sparked the debate.

One of the articles written a while ago was against this system of revenge killing and maiming, to which the sister of the victim wrote this response. It was very difficult for me to read, as the writer sympathetically argues for the right of her sister to blind her attacker.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Having heard the tales of Irish resistance over the years, I was surprised to hear from the Irish themselves that they're a docile people. Centuries of servitude to the Brits has left its mark. Apparently no one goes to demonstrate in Ireland. When 1000 people gather in Dublin for a demonstration it's huge and makes it all the news channels. More often a demonstration is ten or twenty people walking in a figure of eight.

Maybe it fits the national psyche more to work in small efficient work units. A guerrilla approach to activism. Whatever the reason for their success is, I was inspired by the Iranian Group of the Irish branch of Amnesty. A small band of brothers and sisters that uses a lot of creativity in organizing their actions and in the short time they've existed have become one of the most active branches of Amnesty Ireland.

On this very same trip we were lucky enough to meet the Dutch couple that set up Amnesty in the Netherlands many decades ago. Such stories they had to tell!

Anyway, here's some inspirational material for you. First off, iconic material from over the years:

And a short animation to mark the fiftieth birthday of Amnesty:

Saturday, 28 May 2011

An Alternative to Where's My Vote

Since the last presidential elections in Iran the slogan of the protest movement has been: "Where's My Vote".

While I have to confess I didn't vote in the elections, I supported both the protesters as well as their slogan. For me the slogan wasn't just about the votes cast and thrown out in the 2009 elections, they were for all votes that we cannot cast for candidates of our own choice.

However, since two years have passed, I believe if we want to start another round of protest, we need another set of slogans. Slogans that obviously refer to the events of 2009, but take the reality of today into account. The sad issue we face is the great number of people who've been killed and the greater number of people locked up.

I suggest the following slogans:

Where's My Teacher?
Where's My Classmate?
Where's My Friend?
Where's My Son?
Where's My Daughter?
Where's My Journalist?
Where's My Lawyer?
Where's My Mother?
Where's My Father?
Where's My Filmdirector?
Where's My Busdriver?
Where's My Musician?
etc. etc.

Every Iranian has a friend who's been killed, locked up, or has left the country. The majority of students I spoke to outside of the country have said they left the country without the intention to stay, but really don't want to go back to their country.

Also, every Iranian knows someone who's a supporter of this regime. We know millions of people who live in a separate reality with no access to the articles we read, people we speak to, Youtube clips we watch. Consequently they refuse to believe the injustice that goes on in their own country (though the ones I've spoken to do have a strong sense of justice, they curse the regime of the Shah for locking up, torturing and killing innocent people). Ask them the questions I just wrote. Where are these people? Why do you trust a government that needs to survive by killing and locking up students, teachers, lawyers, journalists, etc?

Just kick those shins a little bit. If we all do it, it might be more effective than the next protest that gets a few thousand people into the street, exposing them to the batons of the Baseej militia.


Here's something heartwarming. A dissident action in which speakers are distributed in Tripoli, blasting the forbidden anthem of the country.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Why Syria Matters

Syria has reached a pivotal moment in her history. It's make or break time! And I for one hope that the people make it by breaking the government. Of course as an Iranian I have a special interest in Syria. Of all Arab countries that have been infected by the virus of revolution, Syria's government is a special friend of our Ayatollahs. Where the other revolutions were extensively covered by Iranian media (to show the people the Islamic revolutions are spreading) they had to ignore events in Syria. If Iran the democracy is only friends with other democracies, then why the popular uprising? If Assad leaves we don't know who will replace him, but it will certainly be someone who's less friendly with the Ayatollah's, isolating them further in the region, and exposing another one of the lies they sell to their own people.

After the Iranian mock-elections of 2009 many people went into the streets, both in Iran as well as in other countries, to demand answers about the elections, an end to killing and torture. As Iranians we saw that the world stood with us, as we protested hand in hand with people from all over the globe. It felt so natural for us to receive this support. If you are a supporter of democracy why wouldn't you be in the streets protesting for some kind of change in Iran, one of the most oppressive countries in the world?

Sadly we don't pay back the same kindness to other people and other nations, even if their fate is so intertwined with our own. I haven't seen many Iranians take to the streets in support of the Arab uprisings. In the case of Syria it's not too late. We can still gather, Arab, Persian and Kurd, hand in hand in front of Syrian embassies worldwide, to demand an end to the cruelty.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Happy Birthday

We arrived in Ireland two days ago. Many hours of delay because of Obama's arrival, and an elated crowd, much more excited than when the Queen of England visited a week before. However, the highlight of my day was not Obama's visit, it was celebrating the birthdays of Bahman Amouyi (husband of journalist Jila Bani-Jaqoub) and Masoud Bastani. These two men are political prisoners adopted by Amnesty's Ireland Iran group. The celebration is to let them and their families know that they are not forgotten.

Here's two articles that give you a bit of an idea of who these two men are:




So this is it. two years pass since the mock elections of Iran, and when we get involved it's to comfort the relatives of those who stuck out their necks for the rest of us. Is there no one else who will raise his voice or his fist?

Maybe this is another reason why I obsessively follow the news in Syria and Libya, to comfort myself with their eventual success where Iran has failed, and hope that their success will inspire us.

Fight on, my brothers, fight on, my sisters. And with fight, I also mean dance, laugh and sing.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The waiting artists

The American poet Charles Bukowski once famously wrote about prostitutes and poets that society outlaws the one ignores the other, which should give you an idea about the power they have.

In Iran the poets are not being ignored. Our filmmakers, these current day poets, deal with censorship and repression on a daily basis. The most famous case being that of Jafar Panahi, who was sentenced to six years in jail and a twenty year ban of making films. He's free at the moment (though not allowed to leave the country) waiting for his appeal, but what is waiting life for an artist who's not allowed to create? Below you'll find an excerpt of his "This Is Not A Film":

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What I want for my birthday

Today I turned 31. Or as we say in Persian, I entered my 32nd year of life. I was overwhelmed by all the love and support I received from friends and relatives, but really, when I fired up the internet I wanted to receive for my birthday the news that Libya and Syria were liberated.

Sadly, the struggle continues, day by day, inch by inch, claiming lives without the guarantee of final success. However, one little thing that happened did feel like a nice birthday gift:

Iranian-American-Canadian journalist for Al Jazeera was released by Iranian authorities!


In other news. From the country that will probably be the last Arabic country to experience revolt and revolution, Saudi Arabia: A lone demonstrator shows up on a square filled with police and plainclothes thugs. He speaks about the injustice that exists and predicts he will end up in jail immediately after his interview. Sadly he was right. It's been two months since that event, and Khaled is still held in jail.

Where is Khaled?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Out of the closet.

For the past weeks I've been following the blog of Amina. Little did I know that we in the Netherlands have an Amina of our own. Monique Samuel, the Dutch-Egyptian publicist who was on TV almost every day during the unrest in Egypt, came out in an emotional post on her blog. She's divorced her husband and has told the world she's a lesbian. Though I've met her only once, when we were both invited to speak in a panel about the Iranian and Egyptian protest movements, I have to say I'm very proud of her and wish her luck!

Unfortunately this is only in Dutch:

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Arab Spring

Howdy folks, apologies for the long absence. Work at the Mezrab Cultural Center took over and I was crazy busy. Anyway, I'm back now, and hope to be back for a while, posting news and reflections on politics, culture and life in the Middle-East.

The ongoing struggle in the Arab is in danger if dropping off the front pages as unrest in some of the countries has been subdued or doesn't seem to go anywhere (Bahrain, etc), while in other countries it has become civil war or is in danger of becoming civil war (Libya, Syria, etc). Not the sexy success stories we would like to consume.

However, even the messy stories of people getting killed by the dozens, rebels taking and retaking quarters in embattled cities are all part of a larger narrative that will fundamentally change the face of the region.

Now since any grand narrative can be broken down into smaller pearls of human experience, here's a few that you should know of:

Some Libyans have set up an English language radio show. It's really funny since they're discussing serious stuff, but in a strong Cockney accent. It's a station of Ali Gs!

The most moving story from Syria is the blog of Amina A. who writes from Damascus. She's put her life on the line, writing about her life as a lesbian dissident, staying in the country with her father while the rest of her family has left the country:

Radio Zamaneh does a great time covering the conflict between Ahmadinejad and the clerical leaders on their English language site. This conflict reads like a complicated game of Chaos Chess, with many pawns and moves and shifting rules and alliances. The highlight of it was when one of the Ahmadinejad clique was accused of witchcraft and Djinn-binding. Here's the latest move: