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Photobloggies 2006 awards nomination phase is now open. You have 8 more days to nominate your favorite photoblogs. Last year Kosoof (which means solar eclipse in Persian) – Arash Ashoorinia’s photoblog – was elected as the best middle eastern photoblog thanks to huge votes by Iranian internet users. Arash has a keen eye for the world around him and has taken memorable pictures of different important social events in Iran. His landscape photos are also beautiful, and he usually adds a Persian poem to his landscape photos to add to the effect.

The most important photos that he has taken recently are photos of Akbar Ganji, Iranian dissident journalist who was released from prison after 6 years (onetwo). When it comes to such important issues, Arash and his camera are always present right at the moment they should. For Iranians in daispora, Arash’s camera works like their eyes back home.

I’m sure he will be nominated this year as well. But my worries are that this year’s final winners will be selected by a jury and not the public. I don’t know whether this jury (that seems not to have any Iranian members) will understand the importance of photos Arash takes or not. Many photos of Arash should be judged within their own Iranian contexts. For example, his photos of Iranian women gathering on International Women’s day this year should be viewed within the context that photographers were not allowed to take pictures that day and many of them were harassed by the police. So, the fact that he could take pictures within that difficult situation adds more to the importance of those photos, regardless of their technical quality.

I hope the jury will recognize the importance and beauty of Arash’s photos. Take a look at them if you haven’t seen them before and judge for yourself (and don’t forget to nominate him!!)

* By the way, I was wondering if Photobloggies considers photo pages in flickr as photoblogs or not. Any ideas?

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I had this strange dream today. I was in Tehran. I could feel it. In my dream I was thinking wow this is real, this is not a dream anymore!

When I was a child, I always liked flying with airplanes or going to the Caspian see. So, almost once in a week I dreamed of flying on a plane or swimming in the Caspian See. I usually flew with a plane at least once in a year to visit my uncle in Mashhad. But we didn’t used to go the Caspian See very often. I always thought I dreamed these things that often because I couldn’t have them as often as I liked.

Now, being in Iran or traveling to Iran has become a recurrent theme in my dreams. This time it was so real, but all my worries were with me as well. I was thinking with myself that I didn’t go to to the embassy for applying for renewing my visa before going to Tehran. I was thinking with myself that I didn’t bring my books with me to write my papers, forgot to tell my professor that I was leaving, and forgot to bring my laptop and camera with me. Then I suddenly saw I have my camera with me. So, I started to take pictures of the beautiful sunset on my way home. I was with my dad. Then it was a party where my aunt (who passed away last month) was dancing. She was very sad and she was dancing alone. I was worried how I was going to write my papers without having my books with me. I suddenly realized it’s the same old Tehran. It’s difficult to reach academic books. All my family was there except for my nephew. I was looking for him and I suddenly woke up and found out that it was a dream again.

I miss them so much. I wish I could go back this summer. I’m afraid if I go to Iran then they don’t issue my new visa on time. That’s what happened to my husband three years ago. It took them 6 months until they issued his new visa, while it usually takes a month to issue the visa clearances. It had a bad effect on his academic work and now we are both afraid of going back to Iran while we are on visa and don’t have a green card.

I left Iran on May 14 two years ago. Every single day of these past two years I have missed my mom, my dad, my sister, my nephew, and my friends. I’ve missed Tehran’s cafés. I’ve missed hanging out and laughing with my cool friends. I’ve missed our lively and heated discussions with the women’s group I worked with. Now dreaming Iran has become a recurrent theme in my life. It makes you feel good when you are dreaming, but it makes you feel horrible when you wake up and find out that it was just a dream. There are moments that you want to hug your mom badly, and you feel miserable since you realize it’s impossible. I feel so helpless in these moments.

I could never imagine migration can be this difficult. I never predicted these difficult moments that all you want is a hug and you can’t get it. The remedy is easy. Some people say: go back to Iran! No one has forced you to live here! But then the wise side of me starts talking. Hey! You wanted to study in a good university. You were tired of all those difficult conditions. You are not afraid of drinking, partying, walking in the streets at midnights, wearing colorful clothes without wearing a veil, or expressing your opinions any more. You are enjoying the peace of this small town. You are happy that you finally got rid of the paralyzing traffic of Tehran, the migraines, the harassments. But then my heart starts talking again, my heart makes me dream…

I don’t know how many more years I would bear staying here without visiting Iran. I don’t know if I’d be able to stay here till I get my green card. I think I can’t wait anymore. If only I could go back to Iran for just two weeks this summer. If only I could hug my mom. If only there was this magical system that would help US homeland security system issue visa clearances for all the students sooner and insure all students that they will get visa in a month. If only there wasn’t this rhetoric of war everywhere and I could go back to Iran this summer without the fear of not being able to come back to continue school. It feels so bad; it feels painful not to be able to hug your mom when you want…

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This is one of the reasons I’m against the current ways of US financial help to Iran for democracy! This article has been used as the basis of a series of attacks by one of Iranian reformists against another one, accusing him of having the intention to open a radio in US and spent the $$ he has received from US administration to hire Iranian students and thus endanger their lives. While I have no intention of taking any stand in this heated debate since I don’t think there are enough evidence on this issue, I just feel sorry that such careless announcements by US administration about giving money to Iranian oppositions caused such debates among Iranian reformists. Many Iranian reformists are now accusing each other for either betraying Iran by going to Bush’s camp, or for being the agents of Islamic Republic of Iran. While the main threat for our homeland is now Ahmadi Nejad’s nuclear policies and the war rhetoric of Bush administration, Iranian reformists are attacking each other. Hardliner newspapers in Iran are the only beneficiaries of these debates. They are watching these debates and attacks cheerfully and quote the allegations to attack reformists. This is the last thing we need in such a critical time.

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Berkeley Forum is a group weblog by three talented Iranian students in Berkley University. They write about various interesting issues, specially political issues related to Iran. In a post of this blog on April 21 you can see a short video which is made by Omid Memarian. The video is about Student Government elections campaign on Bekley’s campus.

Omid came to US a year ago as a visiting scholar at Berkeley. He is a talented journalist whose works have been featured in NY Times and SF Chronicle several times. Omid spent several days in jail two years ago along with some other Iranian bloggers. I’m so happy that he was released and he can gradually get over the bad memories of solitary confinement and get more academic background in journalism in US. You can follow up his work through Berkely Forum and his personal English blog Iranian Prospect.

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I feel much better now after that those outrageous allegations had been removed from Judith Apter Klinghoffer’s blog, although her semi-apology was not acceptable to me and my other friends, specially because of the last story she has added to that post. I’m not going to waste my time on this issue anymore for the time being, since I should work on my final papers. However, I reserve the right to follow this issue legally, since what she did to me has harmed me morally and had negative effect on my schoolwork and on my emotional status in this critical time that I should submit two papers in less than four days.

I still wonder how a member of academia can act so unprofessionally. Her reaction (or let’s say no reaction!) to all those harassing comments are also very questionable. This is even against their own published policies about the comments they receive in the site.

Meanwhile, I should admit the support of my friends in Persian blogsphere was amazing and I feel so humbled by their support. I’m so happy that many bloggers, despite their disagreements with me on many issues, still protested to her unfair and unprofessional action. I’m so happy that people have not forgotten who I am, what I have done, and what my political stands are.

Thanks my dear friends. Dametoon garm, kheyli bahalalin! :)

*PS. Reading this post by Khodadad is a must for anybody in my idea!

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Now this is what you get in return, if you are against war and violence against your country. I seriously deny anything this blogger has posted about me. I’m totally sure the “reliable” source that has given this wrong information is a frustrated Iranian living outside Iran who hopes Iran will reach democracy through a bloody war. If there will be a war, there will also be a bitter civil war inside Iran, not to mention thousands of innocent lives that will be taken. If there will be a war, I don’t think any of our generation will see democracy in our lives ever. If there will be a war, people like this “reliable” Iranian source will be the main roots of a deadly civil war in Iran. But I’m pretty much sure that if there will be a war, this “reliable” source will not be inside Iran to bear the consequences of the disasters that will accompany the war. Innocent poor people of Iran should bear the consequences instead.

I hope “Dr.” Judith Apter Klinghoffer will remove this post from her blog and apologize all of us. I wish I could sue her for the ruthless accusations she has put in her blog. Just take a look at my archive to see how wrong her “reliable” sources are.

*Update:
Fortunately she removed our names from her blog after we contacted their editor and informed them that if they don’t remove our names we will seek legal ways. Here’s part of what she has written after removing our names:
“…I understand my friends speculation has upset the persons mentioned. If so, I am sorry. Moreover, since they contested the accuracy of her speculation, I removed it from the posting.”

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I got this important email form one of my Iranian friends. Please pay attention to it and spread the word:

Hello my friend!

Having a missile that can penetrate the Earth is important for armies as it enables them to destroy their enemy’s deeply-buried strategic targets. A sample of those strategic targets is our country’s nuclear facilities that many people are talking about these days.

Fortunately (or might be unfortunately as you will see), it is not easy to penetrate the Earth much as it absorbs most of the energy of any rocket quickly. Practically, it is not possible to go more than a few meters underground even with the fastest missiles with very hard casing. One possible solution is using a nuclear warhead to compensate this problem by producing much more energy than conventional warheads. However, as it is shown in [Nelson03], even if you use a nuclear warhead, you need a very powerful one to destroy things deeply buried. For instance, if you use nuclear weapon with the power of Hiroshima’s bomb, you can just destroy stuff buried 30-40m deep. If you increase that power ten times, you cannot still destroy anything more than a hundred meters below the Earth’s surface (well! roughly speaking!). The important issue is that you cannot increase the yield of you nuclear warhead that much because if you do, you would ruin the whole area and hence kill thousands of people (I assume that you just want to destroy some special target and not the whole country).

If Bush wants to destroy nuclear facilities of Iran using his Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrating weapons, he would kill many people alongside. There is no safe way
for destroying those with a missile (or you may propose a one and get DARPA’s fundings! (; ). And I think you, like me, do not want people get killed.

I want you to talk about this whole problem with your friends, write about it in your weblogs, write in your journals, and any other possible way. I know that no single one can do anything special about it, but I believe that if we talk about it much for a long time, and persuade others to talk about it too, we can spread the word to the world (remember the small-world network). If the world becomes concerned about the consequences of this possible act, those silly politicians may not think more about this hazardous option anymore.

Anyway, if you are not concerned about it at all, or you think that there is no use in talking/thinking about that possible nuclear disaster, you may still want to read [Nelson03] paper. It is fun specially for those who is/was interested in weapons, destruction, bombs, explosions, and etc. (;

-Robert Nelson, “Nuclear Bunker Busters, Mini-Nukes, and the US Nuclear Stockpile,” Physics Today, Nov. 2003.
http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-56/iss-11/p32.html or
http://www.princeton.edu/~rnelson/papers/physicstoday.pdf

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BBC’s article “Iran fears drive oil to new high” reports:
“Brent North Sea crude oil for delivery in June ended at $71.46 per barrel on Monday, rising for the ninth consecutive day. Markets are anxious about the idea that the US could launch military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites.”

So, gas price continues rising in US and elsewhere now (in the summer that demands for gas are high), while oil companies should pay the higher price in the future and not now. Who will benefit here?!

I still doubt US will attack Iran, partly because oil’s price will rise above $100 per barrel which I don’t think will be beneficial for the oil companies anymore. But the war rhetoric and the fear it spreads now (which Hersh’s article worked successfully in this regard) definitely benefits oil companies. And no need to say what oil companies have to do with US administration!

*I will write about the other reasons I think US will not attack Iran soon.

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I finally found out why this blog has been filtered in Iran. On the description of this blog on the top I had written “My naked observations from this crazy world of words and worries and wishes.” I just heard from one of my friends that one of the ways blogs get blocked in Iran is through software or robots that identify websites who have used special sexual words. I guess the word “naked” on the top of this blog was the reason my blog has been filtered, as mentioned by one of my readers. So, I removed this word today, and I’ll wait to see if the filter will be removed.

They have also blocked sites that include the word “women” in Iran (the word “women” in Englis). You can’t even search the word “women” through Google in Iran if you use the ISPs who have implemented this kind of filtering. Recently there have been some online campaigns against censoring websites for having the word “women.” But the campaigns have had no results so far. This has caused some problems for people who want to do research about women’s issues. It is a bitter irony that the word “women” is censored in Iran. It reminds me of many women who are censored in Iran. But the censorship is only partial, because women in Iran are active agents who do not get paralyzed by censorship or patriarchal rules. They struggle, they manipulate the situation, and they progress despite all the hardships and oppressions.

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Jimbo was the keynote speaker of a conference about free culture at UF today. I liked his talk although he mostly talked about how Wikipedia operates (which wasn’t new to me). The way he presented was really interesting and I liked the way he conceptualized Wiki community as a model that can work in many other areas in the society as well. In his idea Wiki community model is not all about democracy which is based on the majority’s opinion, but is more about consensus where the minority’s ideas matter too. I was hoping to hear more about the open source movement from him. But I guess his audience – who were mostly computer gigs – was more interested to know how Wikipedia works. (I will add links about his talk later if I see anything written about it online by people who were present).

One of my classmates had a presentation about the use of Wikipedia and Wikiversity in education. I found this in his Wiki talk page which gives a good synopsis of his ideas.

One of the lecturers talked about the importance of open source journals. The idea basically is getting a short amount of money from the author to publish his peer reviewed work online. But the article will be open source and free for the use of public. This is not a new idea and for example PLOS has been working based on this model for a while. But it is certainly a brilliant idea in my opinion! When I first came to US, I was surprised that how expensive all journal articles are, while the authors do not get paid for publishing in journals (of course they will be supported by their universities through grants and other forms of funding.) As long as you are at school and your university is subscribed to the online or print versions of the articles you are OK. But what if you are not in US or a US university? What about all those countries that have no access to academic databases or cannot afford subscribing these journals? (ex. Iran!) This is one of the big reasons for global knowledge gap as well as brain drains I think. Those who have access to all this knowledge get more informed day by day and the gap between them and those who do not have access to these sources increases. Many educated people from less developed countries leave their countries to go to more developed countries to get access to all these sources of knowledge. So the developed countries keep developing and the less developed countries stay where they were!

I hope the idea of open source journals gets more widespread. The presenters at the conference were very optimistic that all journals will eventually become open source!

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