Saturday, June 14, 2003

Graphic Gooya pictures. In the day of the internet, if anyone in the outside world cares, Iranians don't need someone like Ahmad Batebi to hold up t-shirts so much. Perhaps "The Economist" can get a good picture of this weeks' protests if the Israel/Palestine events don't overshadow it, and then the mullahs will be in severe difficulties.
Last night, the fourth night of the protests, I met a Reuters journalist, Jon. Jon has been in Iraq for a while, but has returned recently. I asked Jon how he estimated crowd sizes and he said it was just experience, and to think of a football stadium for example. A Manchester United match could be 50000 people. Before Jon left to go cover the protests (with his gas mask!), someone said to him to be careful because a Japanese reporter and his interpreter had been arrested. Any foreigners in the area would probably be treated with great suspicion. People were saying everywhere was crowded, the IR was going to end soon. Many soosools were protesting (can someone translate that term?).

I stayed behind and watched "Dr Strangelove". I hadn't seen it before, the video quality was bad and Dr S was difficult to understand. It was rather eerie. Of course I thought of what would happen if the mullahs got nukes. What would a regime whose ideology is centered around death and martyrdom understand of the notion of a nuclear deterrent?

This morning I read Jon's report and I was glad I wasn't with him! The New York Times report wasn't so good, because they equated basij and ansar-e-hezbollah. Ansar are more extremist and there are many more basiji than ansars. Basij are morality police who set up checkpoints to see if unrelated men and women are together and look for Western music or alcohol. I haven't seen checkpoints for a while now. Ansar don't do anything except beat people up, as they go around on their 1000cc motorcycles (more than 250cc is illegal here, unless you have connections, as they obviously do). But they are both mindlessly obedient to the Leader.

I had a discussion recently about the Iranian price of a Nissan Maxima (~$US50-60000) whereas the actual cost is about half that. The same is true for Kia Prides; the Economist reported that in Syria better quality Kia Prides are sold for less than half of the $US8000 they cost in Iran. The difference goes to the government here, who are thieves. I also talked to a professor about the car accident death rate Hooman commented on below. We agreed that I was wrong because it should be deaths per passenger mile, which means that the Iranian death rate is more than 10 times as bad, because passenger miles are much higher in the US than in Iran. Certainly, there are severe social as well as political problems here.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Elsewhere in the Middle East, HAMAS gives travel advice for Israel, asking foreigners to leave. The prophet Isaiah said "my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" but it doesn't look like that's going to be true for a long time. Terrorists have other ideas... Another Haaretz article explained what Israel's actions look like to Palestinians, and what the consequences will be:

Therefore the PA has only one answer to the question why Israel decided to eliminate Rantisi now and not several months ago, when there was no dialogue with the PA and when there was no Israeli commitment to the road map - Israel wanted to stop the peace process. ...

Senior PA officials were already talking yesterday about how "thanks to Israel, the Hamas now has another national hero who at least in the near future will dictate the atmosphere."

In Tehran, more people know the direction to point their satellite dish than the direction to Mecca!
Iran denies UN nuclear team access to electric company. It won't go down well at next week's meeting. Yesterday Rumsfeld talked about Iranian nuclear ambitions.
Data on traffic accidents in Israel. I can learn some things about Iran from that... July and August are the most dangerous months, 5-7pm the most dangerous times. Death rate in Iran is >20000 per year and about 40000 per year in the USA. I used to think of it as number of people (USA = 290m, Iran=70m) but obviously there are many more cars in the USA. I read that in 2001 there were about 2.5 million cars in Iran, and 290m people in the USA, so approx. 145m cars in the USA. There are 5 million cars in Iran, half in Tehran, and 10m by 2008. so... death rate of 0.4% per car per year. Can that be right? (0.03% in USA).

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Dormitory is looking worse for the wear.
One of the slogans of the students (same as four years ago): "Ansar jenayat mikonad, rahbar hemayat mikonad". (The followers (of Hizbollah) commit crimes and the Leader (Khamenei) supports them.)

Gooya reported that the students had arrested 3 ansars and wanted a prisoner swap :-)

Iranian Reformist Newspaper Promotes Democracy Without Americans. The things the yas-e-no editor says to foreign publications! Inshallah it's a sign of better times to come.

Thousands protest in Iran. I didn't hear about it until I read it on the net this morning. Which satellite TV channel was that?

Last night I went to a house in Darrus to meet a prospective new English student, and the family had four dogs: a pekinese, a daschund, a poodle, and a shih-tzu. My landlord has a dog and a cat, because he has space for them. But my apartment is too small.

Azam quotes the Iranian proverb that "a knife does not cut its own handle". But Mr Probitas suggests he will end it all soon.

Egypt bans "The Matrix Reloaded". "The first film was shown in Egypt, but was criticised by some Islamic newspapers, which claimed it espoused Zionism." Such nuttiness! They see Zionist plots everywhere, just like the leaders here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

NIGHTLIFE. Tehran's nightclubs are renowned throughout the Middle East, which doesn't mean that the visiting foreigner will find them to his taste. The most westernized of these are located in or around the large hotels: Arya Sheraton, Intercontinental, Hilton (Persian Room, dinner-dancing from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.); International (tea dance on Fridays at 5 p.m.); Park, Marmar Tavern, etc...

Most of the discothèques are on Pahlavi Ave., Baccara, Casba, Cave d' Argent, Le Château, Miami; or on Kouroosh-e-Kabir Ave., Borsalino, Harlem, Bohème, Cheminée, Lane Kaboutar; Markis, opposite the Iran American Cultural Society, Vozara St. The Moulin Rouge at Ferdowsi, Sevome Esfand St., offers entertainment in the local style. Private boxes are available.

Tehran's best cabaret is the Shekoufeh Now, Simetri Ave. The Copacabana, Takht-e-Jamshid Ave., also presents a show.

BARS. Between Shah Reza and Takht-e-Jamshid Aves. there are a dozen establishments of very special character where you can have a drink in the company of charming hostesses. A glass of iced tea sipped in such surroundings will cost you 300 Rs, which is not exactly a bargain.

There are also bars in the international clubs and large hotels. The bar in the Hotel Marmar is very fashionable (once a week, caviar is served on the house; the barman is a great character). Also fashionable are the Xanadu bar (beer on tap; attractive setting) and the Tehran Club bar (open fireplace).

Added suggestions for touring grand-dukes: Boccacio, Roosevelt Ave.; Lido, Shahabad Ave.; Rainbow,Shah Reza Ave. and Forsat St. As a general rule, bars stay open very late.

"Fodor's Iran 1979", by Richard Moore and Peter Sheldon, David McKay Company, New York, pp131-2

Monday, June 09, 2003

Here is a book review of "Religious Minorities in Iran" which I mentioned here a while ago, having seen it at last year's Tehran International Book Fair. "Iranian secularists and the left have done themselves no favours in their own lack of sympathy for the Baha'is. This is not because they may or may not have legitimate grievances about the religion, but because it portrays a continuing inability to understand what human rights are about." What can I say other than "he is right"? I don't have a solution. The measure of the humanity of a society is in how it treats its most marginalized citizens. Admzad has similar criticisms, but again no answers. He thinks that hatred is one of the features of Iranian culture. If you know a prominent Iranian in Iran who's spoken against the treatment of Bahai's in Iran please comment.
I was mentioned by Michael Ledeen as "one of the other bloggers" in his article. He didn't address my criticisms of him. He doesn't admit his own mistakes.

I've been looking at the Lonely Planet Iran guidebook... "...wages are lamentable by Western standards..."

Is it possible to measure how curious and knowledgeable about the outside world Iranians are? A review of Amir Taheri's "The cauldron: the middle east behind the headlines" suggested:

"And,yet, it is remarkable how misunderstood the Middle East is in the West. ( The reverse is even more true: as the author of this book shows , Middle Easterners know even less about the West and much of what they know is fantasy!)"

I couldn't find that quote in the book when I looked at it in the US. I think it is true (I need to add many nuances though - later!), but quotes like this about a certain Californian at the Lonely Planet thorntree don't increase my confidence...

``An example of American decadence: Got a neighbor three houses away who has 3 SUVs! One for himself, one for his wife and one for his 16-year old daughter. Each SUV sports an American flag. He also has an American flag attached to his garage and one on a flag pole in his front lawn. He's constantly yelling at his wife and daughter, and he allows his two dogs (German shepherds) to run the neighborhood and shit on other people's lawns. He worships George W. Bush to the point of telling everyone that Bush's profile should be carved on Mt. Rushmore, and he thinks we should nuke Iran because "they're a bunch of commies!". Michael Moore would have a field day with this guy! ''

I saw a lot of SUVs and houses with large American flags and Republican stickers in the Deep South. I'll see if I can find a good picture.