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(This is a rough translation of one of the recent posts of my Persian blog.)

Unlike the previous elections, I’m not so passionate about the nomination of Khatami for presidency in the forthcoming elections. Honestly, I wished reformists would nominate someone else instead of Khatami. The fact that Khatami has already been the president for 8 years and is now running again does not give me a good feeling. People get a chance, 4 to 8 years, to accomplish something in the capacity of the president, and I think Khatami did really well in his own term. However, I think this is a failure for the reformists’ camp to play Khatami again as their only card. This shows the stagnation of this group (party?) and their backward movement. It shows that reformists could not reorganize, have an influential and useful think tank, and progress. This group that calls itself reformist has not been able to even make any reforms within its own internal organization.

I don’t want to sing the disappointment song and predict that Khatami won’t be or should not be elected. He might very well win more than 20 million votes again. After all, when there is a shortage of key political figures, the charisma of a character like Khatami might help big time. I also don’t say that people should not choose between the “bad” and the “worse.” A pragmatic and realistic person who does not dream about another revolution would admit that the one that is “better” should be chosen anyway.

But what I’m saying is that the third nomination of Khatami is at odds with reform as an ideology. I can see that if we end up with Khatami and Ahmadinejad as our only options, Khatami would win with a landslide. But we should keep in mind, and the close circle around Khatami and his staff who apparently read our blogs should keep in mind, that if Khatami wins, it does not mean a victory or success for the so-called reformists. It would just mean that people didn’t have any better options.

I have a series of questions from anybody who calls himself a reformist in Iran: What do they exactly mean by reform? What do they want to reform? I don’t want to push it like some of my radical friends to ask why the “reformists” are not crossing the red lines and want to keep the status quo. I understand that we are talking about reform, not a revolution. Reform always works within the institutions and only changes some structures from within rather than destroying the whole institution altogether. It might be disgusting for some, but in order to pragmatically and realistically reform, you should negotiate with the power structures, you should give up some causes, and you should accept some undesirable aspects of the status quo. I also think that in the present situation of our country reform is a much more feasible and suitable option comparing to a revolution or the rule of the hardliners. (Well revolution is almost impossible.) But, are the people who call themselves reformists really believe in the concept of reform?

We can’t expect from the reformists to go head to head with the absolute power of the supreme leader or try to eradicate the Islamic nature of the republic or ask for lifting mandatory Hijab. Well reformists want to work within the present governmental system, and supreme leader status, Islam, and Hijab are main parts of the identity of this regime. If you take these things from the regime, nothing will be left from it. But are the reformists going to make changes in other aspects of the current system that are not so much entangled with the identity of the regime? Do they for example have a practical plan to reform the messed up situation of our economy and look after the poor and underprivileged class of our society whom identified more with Ahmadinejad in the previous elections? Do the reformists really have a practical plan to reform our educational system? Any plans for women’s rights? Do they for example have any plans to support the cause of the women’s movement in Iran in practice, a movement which is reformist in nature and not revolutionary? Would you be for example witness to Khatami’s support of One Million Signature Campaign through his actions to meet the campaign’s demands anytime soon?

My guess is that there are no plans. My guts tell me the scope of the status quo, that should be kept the way it is, is very broad for the reformists. My feeling is that there won’t be any radical changes, that is, no new change would happen comparing to the previous eight years of Khatami’s rule. My feeling is that at best case scenario we will experience a similar situation to the previous Khatami era; a period which was good for its own time. But more reform? More change? I don’t think so.

I think those who have a platform to talk should definitely challenge the reformists and ask similar questions from them in the time left to the elections. We should remind the reformists that “reformist” is not just a title; it has an ideology behind it that needs pragmatism and needs action. Reformists should be reminded that repeating the previous Khatami’s era is not enough and does not mean reform. Something beyond that should take place.

Dear reformists, tell us about your plans. Why should we vote for you other than the fact that we should choose the better option between “the bad” and “the worse”? What do you exactly want to reform and how do you want to do it?

I hope we won’t limit our demands to the least possible and won’t give up asking for more…

My friend Nazli finally got the OK from Hossein Derakhshan’s sister, Azadeh Derakhshan, to publicly announce that Hossein Derakhshan, one of the first Iranian bloggers, was arrested in the afternoon of November 1, in Tehran.

I am quoting this news from Nazli Kamvari, a friend of Hossein Derakhshan and an Iranian blogger living in Toronto, who has been directly in touch with Hossein’s sister and just wrote about this news in her Persian blog.

My understanding is that Hossein’s family has been under pressure from the authorities not to talk about Hossein’s arrest and not to get a lawyer for him. So, it is understandable that they are not talking to the media. But we at least can assure both the Persian and global blogospher, who were previously in doubts about Hossein’s arrest, that he’s really arrested.

Hossein has gone through various changes in his politics and he has rubbed many activists the wrong way, including myself. (I personally don’t approve his politics and we have had couple of fierce arguments and fights in the past few months.) However, we should not have double standards when we deal with human rights. Any human being should be entitled to freedom of expression and should have access to an attorney while in jail. I hope human rights advocates start campaigning for Hossein Derakhshan.

Update: I personally talked to his sister, too. She is very worried about Hossein. We should be careful with the way we spread the news not to have a negative effect. Absolutley no neocon propaganda shit.

Globe and Mail: Blogger’s family confirms his arrest

Police moved in quickly, Goodman said, and Salazar, who was taping the altercation, found herself backed up against a car. Salazar shouted, “Press, press,” Goodman said, but the producer was forced to the ground, and had a boot placed in her back.

‘Democracy Now!’ host back at work day after arrest

And CNN said more than 260 were arrested outside the republicans’ convention, 150 of which charged with felony.

Watch the film of Amy Goodman’s arrest here.

Sad days for American “democracy” and first amendment,  isn’t it?

I kept staring at this blog all day. This is the blog of a man who does not exist anymore because he was executed yesterday. He was a journalist. He was 28.

He was accused of being a member of Jundollah, a terrorist group who kidnaps and kills Iranian soldiers. His trial was not public. So, we will never know if he had a fair trial and whether he really belonged to Jundollah. We would never know if the writer of that blog – which is all about peace, people’s poverty, and protest against government’s lack of care for its oppressed people – was ever part of any terrorist organization. We will never know if he, who was the founder of a Youth NGO which had the required official permits, and he, who was a social activist supporting poor women in his town (according to the testimony of social workers in the city of Zahedan), and he, who was the editor-in-chief of a newspaper, was ever involved in killing or kidnapping people.

But we know, that a journalist was executed yesterday without a fair public trial. We know that a blogger, whose blog posts were about the love of people, is dead. And we know, that there are now two Iranian women’s rights activists who are in prison based on similar charges. They are accused of being members of separatist terrorist groups too. And you know what? It won’t be very surprising if we hear the news of their executions one day too (زبونم لال). It will be another piece of news in our websites’ news boxes. We will get shocked for a few hours and then will move on.

We have all become sick. We Iranians, we all need therapy. Years and years of therapy. We are getting used to news about executions and arrests. We have been desensitized to all the horrifying inhumane news. Execution has become an ordinary event for us. We don’t get moved by the thought of the throat of a human being getting squeezed by the ropes to death, to gradual suffocation while hanging in the air. Not only We don’t question whether we have the right to be gods on earth and take people’s lives, we also don’t question why people get executed based on confidential closed trials. We don’t question how come a journalist whose record of work portraits him as a public servant is charged with terrorism accusations and is executed so quickly. We don’t ask many questions, because we are desensitized.

Yes, we need therapy. We are all sick. We need shrinks for our 70-million population, and perhaps we will need more shrinks for our shrinks. I kept staring at the blog of the now executed Yaqoub Mehrnehad for hours yesterday and couldn’t move. I kept staring and thought how useless my being is, how I can’t do anything, how much I wasted my time with education thinking that I can make a change, and how impossible it is to make any changes when your people have become desensitized about the idea of political execution.

What’s going on in Gaza is outrageous. Yes, it’s as outrageous when they torture or stone somebody in Iran, and I don’t need to be reminded that a lot of human rights violation happen in my own country, many of which I have written about. But I was wondering where all these concerned governments and human rights organizations, that cover every single human rights violation in third world countries, are now? Are they going to for example ask for sanctions against Israel?! I mean, come on, this is 21st century for whatever-you-believe-in’s sake. How can we justify this blockade when there are 1 million and a half people living in Gaza strip, some of which do not definitely support attacks on Israel, just for the simple fact that they are children! How anyone can justify punishing children? How can the world watch and stand this collective punishment? How will Gaza’s children grow? Will they grow with the love for Israel and peace? I doubt it…

I wish bloggers from all around the world would write something in solidarity with innocent people in Gaza who are suffering from the blockade. Human rights should be valued everywhere on this planet, not on selective parts of the world.

*Update: They are easing the blockade, but they promise they will do it again if the attacks continue.

P.S. Persian blogs will post something on January 30th in solidarity with imprisoned Iranian students (the organizing solidarity blog in Persian). Perhaps English, Arab, and Israeli blogs should make the same move for Gaza people.

P.S. 2. Great news thanks to my occupier electricity is back! (Mona El-Farra – From Gaza, with Love)

My friends threw a great birthday party for me yesterday. The food, the cake, and the gifts were awesome. We drank so much that had to stay the night at my friend’s home.

I’m happy that I had my birthday yesterday, instead of today. Because I woke up today and saw the news about another arrest, and suddenly turning thirty lost its meaning. This time was Maryam Hosseinkhah‘s turn:

مریم سین خواه

Maryam Hossienkhah, Journalist, member of the Women’s Cultural Center, and an active member of the One Million Signatures Campaign was arrested earlier today. A few days after the site of the Women’s Cultural Center, a leading women’s NGO, was shut down on order of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Judiciary, Maryam Hosseinkhah, an editor of the site of this organization as well as one of the eiditors of the site of the One Million Signatures Campaign, Change for Equality, was summoned to the security branch of the Revolutionary Courts on Saturday 17th of November. She was interrogated for over 2 hours on Saturday and was told that she is charged with disruption of public opinion, propaganda against the state, and publication of lies through the publication of untrue news items on the site of the Women’s Cultural Center and the One Million Signatures Campaign. Maryam Hosseinkhah was also ordered to return to the Revolutionary Courts for more interrogation today, Sunday November 18, 2007 at 9:00am. After arriving at Court today, an order of arrest of issued for Ms. Hosseinkhah, and to our disbelief she was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison at 2:00pm.

My homeland might be hijacked, but I’m glad that my sense of identity is greater than ever. I’m glad that I’m part of a social movement whose members are courageous and conscientious women like Maryam.

The government of Iran is just showing its fear and weakness by these arrests. History has proved that the governments can put pressure or even stop social activism for a while, but they cannot stop it forever.

Delaram Ali’s attorney told ISNA news agency today that the judiciary chief has stopped Delaram’s sentence and her case is sent for revision. This does not guarantee that she won’t go to prison, but at least she has a chance for now.

But, two young women in Iran’s Kurdistan are in prison. They are both members of one million signature campaign:

Hana Abdi Arrested in Kurdistan, Ronak Safarzadeh Still in Prison

Do you remember the rally by women’s rights activists in Tehran on June 12, 2006? Do you remember the pictures of policemen and policewomen beating the participants? Do you remember the pictures of a girl being dragged on the asphalt pavement of the streets whose hand was broken by the police? She was Delaram Ali, a young student in her early 20s. She is a young children’s rights activist who voluntarily teaches street children in the most impoverished areas of Tehran and who has traveled to Bam several times and lived in Bam for months (the city that was destroyed in an earthquake a few years ago) to teach and play with the tormented children who still live in camps. She is also a member of One Million Signature Campaign, a peaceful campaign that aims at educating and collecting signatures from one million Iranians about the gender discriminatory laws and the need to change them.

On June 12, 2006, more than 70 people were arrested. Some of them were released, some of them were sent to court. From those who had a trial, a few of them were sentenced to prison terms and lashing. Delaram was one of them.

Delaram Ali

Delaram got married two months ago. She has spent a big time of her life teaching poor children. Delaram’s hand was broken while being humiliated and dragged on the streets by the police on June 12, 2006, because she was exercising her constitutional rights to stand up in a square in town to peacefully show her dissatisfaction with discrimination and opression. Delaram is 24, but in a few days she should bear 10 lashes and spend the next 2 years and 6 months of her life in prison.

And guess what? She is just the first among many women’s rights activists who are sentenced to prison terms and lashing. You will hear about the rest of them soon. They will go to prison one by one, because the Iranian regime is deadly afraid of women’s rights activists in Iran. Because the stupid Iranian government think the women’s movement in Iran wants to overthrow the regime or is being led by the American government! The Iranian government is afraid of the women’s movement in Iran, because this movement is raising consciousness among at least half of the population. Well, of course the Iranian regime doesn’t like that! Awareness is dangerous. Awareness stops people from following stupid authorities like sheeps. Awareness raises questions. Awareness might cause people see that the emperor of religion is not actually wearing any clothes!

***

I had never ever seen the government of Iran this much vulnerable and stupid. And of course I have never ever been this much disappointed in my life. Seriously, we are stuck in a rock and hard place. By we I’m talking about members of Iranian social movements. We have no place in this world. On one hand there is the threat of war and the US administration who is waiting like vultures to see discriminations in Iran to add to its alibis for attacking Iran (and yet add much more to the oppression of Iranian people). And on the other hand there is the dictatorship in Iran that is suffocating the activists and ordinary people. There is nowhere to refer to to seek help. There is no option that can help us get rid of this dictatorship peacefully. We are just stuck with this government forever. Any dissent is treated harshly. Students are imprisoned and tortured. Women’s rights activists are getting imprisoned. Bus drivers who strike for a raise in their salary end up with being beaten and imprisoned. I can go on and on. And yet there is no hope, no way, to get rid of this oppression…

For the first time I’m happy that I’m not in Iran anymore. I seriously am! Of course whenever I see an American police car I shiver, because I know being an Iranian can be enough for being considered as a terrorist, but still I feel safer here. It certainly feels bitter that I feel safer in a country which is not my homeland, but that’s a reality that I should eventually swallow.

I highly recommend everyone to read this thoughtful post by Hamid Dabashi*, an Iranian professor at Columbia University, about Bollinger’s racist remarks and the politics around Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University. Best article I’ve read about the issue so far:
Of banality and burden

Also, the following article written by an Iranian queer woman about Ahmadinejad’s infamous remarks about not having homosexuals in Iran is worth reading:
Blown out of proportion

*Note: I don’t necessarily approve all Debashi’s views and perspectives, but I found this specific article very well-written and with valid arguments. Also, I don’t approve Ahmadinejad’s politics at all, and I didn’t see these articles as apologetic of Ahmadinejad’s politics at all, either.

I sometimes wonder if I’m just wasting my time at journalism school. We so much talk about ethics in our classes, and then we see these ethics hardly being observed in American mainstream media. I watched 60 Minutes interview with Ahmadinejad on Sunday and I was amazed how unprofessional Pelley acted. Has any journalism professor who teaches at American universities watched that interview?!

We learn that in an interview we should not lead the interviewee to an answer. If the interviewee does not answer our question, we can reword the question, but we are not allowed to force the interviewee to answer in a specific manner. After all, we should respect someone’s right not to answer a question. We should always be polite. We should talk based on facts. We cannot generalize and give comments without having direct and indirect quotes from credible sources. A journalist should not add his own subjective biases to the story. A journalist should let the reader/audience decide.

As much as I dislike Ahmadinejad and am against his policies, I was disgusted by the rude, ill-mannered, and unprofessional behavior of Pelley.

Does any journalism professor actually care how journalism is really practiced in the American mainstream media these days? What should I do with what I learn about ethics of journalism at school on one hand, and the interviewers’ and the “super stars” of cable news networks’ practice of journalism on the other hand? Which one is the right thing to do? If the latter is right, then why do we bother ourselves at school to talk about ethics?

p.s. 1. Again I repeat that I dislike Ahmadinejad greatly and am against many of his policies fundementally. That doesn’t stop me from criticizing the practice of journalism in the US though, specially while I know how journalism schools insist on ethics. Pelley’s work was abhorring last night.

p.s. 2. I have more to say about Ahmadinejad’s remarks (and sometimes big fat lies) both in 60 Minutes and at the University of Columbia. But I should sleep now to get up early and go to the airport.

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