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Letter from Iran part III: Under the shadow of the Assassins’ castle

I returned to Si-o-se pol a few days later in the company of a young man called Hamid, an employee at a carpet shop next to the Imam Mosque at Naghsh-e Jahan whom I had met after circumventing the entrance fee to said mosque by slipping in with a tour group. I had told Hamid about my morning jogs on Chahar Bagh and he had pledged to take me to a “normal” place to run: the parks along the riverbank.

I first made the acquaintance of Hamid’s colleague Hussein when I exited the magnificence of the mosque and was busy congratulating myself on having saved six dollars. Hussein approached, asked where I was from and why I didn’t have a guide, and gave me a high five when I told him about the six dollars. Some small talk ensued, with Hussein complaining that the Iranian government was “suffocating” its people; he then backtracked to assert that there was in fact room to breathe despite the rules and that the mullahs had at least charitably refrained from blocking the VPNs that were necessary to access Facebook.

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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Letter From Iran – Part II

Every Friday morning in Esfahan, a used book fair is held in an underground parking lot on Taleghani Avenue, named for an ayatollah described by historian Ervand Abrahamian as “the most popular cleric in Tehran” during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Had he not perished shortly thereafter, he “might have provided a liberal counterweight to Khomeini.”Prior to his revolutionary activity in the 1970s, Taleghani was a supporter of the secular nationalist Mohammad Mossadegh, victim of that infamous coup jointly perpetrated by the Americans and British in 1953 to make the world safe for imperial control over the oil business. Nowadays, imperial representatives up in arms over the contemporary orientation of the Iranian state would do well to contemplate Abrahamian’s observation that this very coup—in destroying Mossadegh’s National Front and the communist Tudeh Party (literally the Party of the Masses) via arrests, executions, and the like—“paved the way for the eventual emergence of a religious movement.” Abrahamian explains: “In other words, the coup helped replace nationalism, socialism, and liberalism with Islamic ‘fundamentalism.’… One can argue that the real roots of the 1979 revolution go back to 1953.”

Source: Letter From Iran

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Letter from Iran: To Lebanon and back, Part I

A note from the Editors

Some honest introspection: when The Region has covered Iran, it’s been from the viewpoint of the boardrooms, conferences and the occasional prison-cell. It’s as if, in our new incursion into the bewildering universe of Journalism, our readers are only to understand the Persian Gulf as an in-between space. A cold-war battlefield pitting the clerics of Persia, against the statesmen of Saudi Arabia.

For, as far as the post-colonial world is concerned, West Asia can only be understood as cyclical. The Sunni’s, we are told, are in perpetual war with the Shiite’s. The cold war with the Gulf States on one end, and Iran on the other, is merely a dramatic and modern re-enactment of the Ottoman and Safavid Imperial rivalry in earlier times. Iran, it is to be understood, if  at all, only as a conniving puppeteer.  And thus, Iran is Houthi, Iran is, as of late, Qatar, Iran is Hezbollah, and if we are not too careful, Iran could become nuclear.
But what about the Iranian people? Even when we try to get to the ground a difficulty in the absence of a correspondentwe have found it hard to cover stories that go beyond the occasional human rights appeal. We haven’t been to the mousques, the schools, the intersections on the highway, and the weekly Bazaar. We’re new, and we’re just not there yet.

And while we don’t discriminate in West Asia, usually siding with any who struggle, wherever they maybe, we only get to know activists and dissidents after their incarceration and solitude. The Region is of course, burdened with the truth; political prisoners need our urgent comradely help and the least we can do is tell their stories. But we are also painfully aware that neo-conservative vultures would want nothing more than for us to promulgate an image of Iran that is nothing but repressive.

This is why we are privileged to introduce this three-part series on Iran. It is a travelogue by Belen Fernandez, but not any random one. This is not just another piece written to appease, a “clichéd desire to convey the humanity of a nation that had for so long occupied US crosshairs and suffered attendant vilification” and it is not another declaration of Iranian Humanity. Part I, is rather, a narration of contradiction interweaved into Iranian space and time. We move from the conference room, to the mosque and Bazaar. Every single one of these spaces carries multiple stories. In every space we visit, there is a secret protocol between the generations of the past and that of our own. We are not only taken to the Bazaar, but we are made to feel the pain of past generations within it, and the piety of its presence. In return for its acquiescence to the ruling regime,  embodied in pictures of Khomeini adorning many stalls, we walk into markets of Isfahan which thrive vibrantly. And while the shopkeepers love for the founding fathers of Iran’s Islamic revolution could very well be authentic, who is to fault them? There would be no Bazaar under the Shah, whose intelligence agency almost eradicated the market on the basis of its supposed medieval backwardness.

And this is how you, very briefly, meet the characters of Belen’s story. Each one, somewhere in between two different worlds sharing only the same coordinates. What she lacks in access, she makes up for with historical situation. In times like this, the outsiders eye is paradoxically revealing, even if, with Belen’s humility (and humor) you come to realize that orientalism is an unavoidable facet of every outsider narration. 

http://theregion.org/article/11472-letter-from-iran-to-lebanon-and-back-part-i

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Trouble in the Gulf: the view from Tehran

Throughout the Gulf region people are talking about the rift between Saudi Arabia (and its allies) and Qatar and the unexpected appointment on 21 June of Muhammad Bin Salman (known as ‘MBS’) as Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince. The unprecedented attempt to marginalise a fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member has shocked many in the region, and there are fears that the promotion of MBS may further exacerbate the tension.For months it has been obvious that King Salman was grooming his favourite son as his successor, but few imagined that happening quite so soon.At the core of the Qatar furore lies the longstanding rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Throughout the commotion, Iranian politicians have largely kept quiet and advised both parties to settle their issues through negotiation. But if they were concerned about the inter-Arab squabbling, the promotion of MBS has sent an altogether more powerful message to the Iranians, as he is behind the war on Yemen, and seen either as a ‘reformer’ or as ‘reckless’.

Source: Trouble in the Gulf: the view from Tehran, by Camelia Entekhabifard (Le Monde diplomatique – English edition, July 2017)

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2017 in Middle East

 

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In Saudi Arabia, Trump Reaches Out to Sunni Nations, at Iran’s Expense

As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”That nation was Iran.In using the headline address of his first foreign trip as president to declare his commitment to Sunni Arab nations, Mr. Trump signaled a return to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats, regardless of their human rights records or policies that sometimes undermine American interests.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2017 in Middle East, North America

 

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Wissenschaft in Iran – Kopftuch und Nanotechnik 

“Das ist das MIT Irans”, raunt eine Studentin ehrfürchtig, als sich eine Labortür im Obergeschoss der Teheraner Sharif-Universität öffnet. Der stolze Vergleich mit dem berühmten Massachusetts Institute of Technology wirkt beim Betreten des Raums zunächst bizarr. Das Labor sieht aus wie eine Bastelstube. Auf einem Tisch steht eine längliche Kiste, in die ein Assistent mit einem Gartenschlauch Wasser füllt. In dem Geblubber leuchtet ein grüner Laserstrahl. Doch es ist wie so vieles in Iran: Der äußere Schein trügt. Mit unbestreitbarer Kompetenz erklären die anwesenden Physiker, wie die Dispersion des Laserlichts unter Wasser von Sauerstoff- und Salzgehalt abhängt. Und ein Schaubild an der Wand zeigt, dass der Laser im Wasserbecken keine Spielerei ist: Es ist der erste Schritt zu einem vernetzten Kommunikationssystem für U-Boote. Ein Unterwasser-Internet.

In anderen Laboren der Universität arbeiten Nanotechniker, Quantenphysiker, Biotechnologen und Robotiker. Sharif, das ist Irans führende Adresse für Natur- und Ingenieurwissenschaftler. Von den etwa 700 000 Schülern, die jedes Jahr einen landesweiten “Concours” absolvieren, eine mehrstündige Eignungsprüfung, werden die hundert begabtesten an die Elite-Uni zugelassen. Mit besonderem Stolz blickt die Universität im Herzen Teherans auf ihre ehemalige Studentin Maryam Mirzakhani. Die heute als Professorin im amerikanischen Stanford forschende Mathematikerin hat 2014 die höchste Auszeichnung ihres Fachs erhalten, die mit einer Million Dollar dotierte Fields-Medaille.

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wissen/wissenschaft-in-iran-kopftuch-und-nanotechnik-1.3412021

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Rouhani’s victory is good news for Iran, but bad news for Trump and his Sunni allies

So it’s a good win for the Iranian regime – and its enormous population of young people – and a bad win for Trump’s regime, which would far rather have had an ex-judicial killer as Iranian president so that Americans would find it easy to hate him. Maybe Hassan Rouhani’s final-week assault on his grim rival candidate and his supporters – “those whose main decisions have only been executions and imprisonment over the past 38 years” – paid off. Who among Iran’s under 25s, more than 40 per cent of the population, would have wanted to vote for Ebrahim Raisi whose hands had touched the execution certificates of up to 8,000 political prisoners in 1988?
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iran-election-rouhani-saudi-arabia-trump-bad-news-a7746146.html?amp

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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A Mysterious Case Involving Turkey, Iran, and Rudy Giuliani

The mysterious case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman facing federal charges in New York, has grown even stranger over the past couple of weeks.Zarrab, who is thirty-three, was arrested by F.B.I. agents, in Miami, last March. At the time, he was one of the flashiest and wealthiest businessmen in Turkey. He sported a pouf of black hair; owned twenty houses, seven yachts, and a private jet; was married to one of Turkey’s biggest pop stars; and counted among his friends Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s strongman President.The U.S. government, however, believes that Zarrab masterminded a sprawling operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions that were put in place to hinder the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Zarrab’s operation—which relied on what the Turkish government claimed was a legal loophole in the sanctions—involved shipping gold to Iran in exchange for oil and natural gas, which Zarrab then sold. The scheme, according to prosecutors in New York’s Southern District, involved moving enormous amounts of cash, gas, and gold; at the operation’s peak—around 2012—Zarrab was buying a metric ton of gold and shipping it to Iran every day. The Obama Administration protested Zarrab’s operation, which the media dubbed “gas for gold,’’ but he carried on anyway. For the Iranians, the gold was as good as American cash, and it helped shore up the rial, Iran’s currency, whose value was collapsing.

Source: A Mysterious Case Involving Turkey, Iran, and Rudy Giuliani – The New Yorker

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Middle East, North America

 

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Letter from Tehran: Trump ‘the bazaari’

The art of the deal, when practiced for 2500 years, does lead to the palace of wisdom. I had hardly set foot in Tehran when a diplomat broke the news: “Trump? We’re not worried. He’s a bazaari”. It’s a Persian language term meaning he is from the merchants class or, more literally, a worker from the bazaar and its use implies that a political accommodation will eventually be reached.The Iranian government’s response to the Trump administration boils down to a Sun Tzu variant; silence, especially after the Fall of Flynn, who had “put Iran on notice” after it carried out a ballistic missile test, and had pushed the idea of an anti-Iran military alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Tehran says the missile test did not infringe the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal and that naval drills from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, which began on Sunday, had been planned well in advance.

Source: Letter from Tehran: Trump ‘the bazaari’ | Asia Times

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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The Poet Who Was Turned Away 

In the early years of the last decade, following the shock of 9/11, with George W. Bush in office and the U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan under way, security at American airports was beefed up considerably, under the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Travellers of all types were subjected to greater security checks, and immigration agents were more routinely frosty than they were before. Visitors of certain ethnicities and nationalities, especially Arabs and people from Muslim countries, were increasingly treated with mistrust by American immigration officials. Stories of humiliating episodes abounded and circulated widely in the Middle East. Some of them, sadly, were true.
http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-poet-who-was-turned-away?mbid=rss

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2017 in Middle East, North America

 

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