Omid Memarian

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Here is my latest piece on the letter of 9 Noble prize winners to the Iranian offcials supporting shirin Ebadi and her Human Rights organization.

BERKELEY, California, Aug 28 (IPS) - Nine Nobel Prize laureates have sent a letter to the Iranian government asking it to retract its threat to prosecute Iran's most prominent independent human rights organisation founded by Dr. Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

On Aug. 2, Iran's
Ministry of Interior declared that Ebadi's Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) had failed to obtain a valid license and warned that the organisation would be prosecuted because its activities were "illegal." The DHRC has been a devoted and powerful voice for human and minority rights in Iran since its inception in 2001.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Khatami in the United Stated

Mohammad Khatami, the former president of Iran will visit the United States next month. He was in Japan last week. He talked to the Japan’s prime minister on the Iran’s current situation in international community considering its defiant attempts to achieve nuclear power. Khatami told Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that increasing the pressure on Iran fans Mideast fire further. He also clarified that Iran has no plan for Nuclear Bomb. While it seems the Iranian’s respond to the western incentive package has not made the UNSC members satisfied, Khatami tries to convince the other countries that any kind of harsh reaction against Iran will magnify the voice of radicals in Iran.

There are some speculations about his trip. There are some people who believe he shouldn’t come to the US, while he collectively talk about the idea of the dialogue among civilization. Some people believe that the Supreme leader asked Khatami to launch this trip to decrease the huge political pressure on Iran which can be ended with a kind of sanction or a military strike. The logic behind this idea is his pleasing relationship with Ayatollah Khamenie, Iran’s religious leader, during the eight years of his presidency. Ali Larijani, secretariat of Iran’s national security council told reporters on Sunday that West should not go through a lose-lose way. Iran’s latest military maneuver is a signal to the Unites States that any kind of military operation against Iran will make their life miserable in the Middle East. These remarks show that Iran’s aggressive tone is used as a preemptive policy.

Regarding to this speculation, Khatami’s mediation role will base on convincing the US officials by his talks and perhaps small gatherings of some certain influential people in Washington DC and the other cities that he is going to visit. But is it sufficient? I am not sure. There is another speculation based on Khatami and reformist camp’s concern on strengthening the radical Islamist in Iran. Then, Khatami will talk on the effects of the US doctrine in the Middle East on democratic movements in the region. I think Khatami should say why he couldn’t use his power to send this message broadly to the International community and support the reform movement strongly as an active member. By the way Khatami will be in the US next month and I am sure there are many people who are enthusiastic listening him.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More Human Rights Violations

98Court summons, temporary detention, disregard for prisoner conditions, closure of newspapers, heavy sentences, forced confessions are only some of the developments in Iran that speak of more human rights violations. Karimi Rad, the spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary who also happens to be the Minister of Justice, recently rejected the hunger strike of Ahmadi Batebi imprison whose health is reported to be deteriorating. He has also spoken of continued detention of Mousavi Khoeni and forthcoming ‘confessions’ of Ramin Jahanbegloo to be broadcast on national television.

The death of Akbar Mohammadi 2 weeks ago after his 9-day hunger strike has increased concerns about the life and health of other political prisoners. In a letter to Iranian officials Amnesty International (AI) had called for immediate measures regarding Ahmad Batebi even before the news of his hunger strike was reported.

Amnesty’s letter lists the health problems that Batebi suffers due to torture and other cruel acts imposed on him during his previous prison term. He has lost some teeth, his hearing is impaired, has an infectious lung, etc. AI’s letter mentioned a letter that Batebi himself wrote to Iranian judiciary officials in 2000 in which he described how prison officials tied him to a water pipe and beat him up with boots and struck his belly, finally emerging his head into the sewage. It also references that in 2004 Batebi’s father told an Iranian news agency that his son had been suffering from mental disorder due to the pressures he had been subjected to. And even though he is now in a hospital. Batebi cannot be reached and his health condition cannot be verified.

And while Batebi’s health conditions deteriorate, a court is in the process of upholding an earlier sentence on another student political activist behind bars Abdollah Momeni. Momeni’s lawyer said that Tehran’s appellate court upheld his sentence of 23 years in prison, which can be reversed.
Another student prisoner Mohammad Ghaem Maghami 26, a graduate student in nuclear physics who was detained by security forces 32 days ago and was on a hunger strike, was unexpectedly transferred to a mental hospital outside Evin prison after being held in the Ministry of Intelligence’s notorious 209 ward. Ghaem Maghami is an acknowledged outstanding student in physics who had been arrested for a few months earlier in 2004 in Hamedan, where he had been subjected to mental and physical torture and thus suffers from various nervous, hearth and kidney disorders. Last week, because of his health condition caused by his hunger strike, he was transferred to a military hospital belonging to the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards.

In Sanandaj of Kurdistan province, a revolutionary court sentenced Kaveh Daood, son of Najmoddin to 5 years imprisonment on charges of taking measures against state security.
A new chapter in interrogations was opened last week when Mohammad Reza Khatami (a former Majlis deputy, the brother of the former president and former secretary of the Mosharekat Party) was interrogated regarding his comments made during a sit-in protest by former Majlis (Iran's Parliament) representatives in which he expressly criticized the government. Badamchian, the number 2 man at the conservative Motalefe party (Islamic Coalition party) equated Khatami’s words to those of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The media and the press too have not remained immune from the new government encroachments. Conservative Resalat newspaper claimed that during its last meeting of the Press Review board, it had filed a claim with the judiciary against Karname newspaper for publishing ‘immoral’ reports, and ordering a suspension of publication. During the same meeting, the license of another newspaper, Asia, too was suspended.

These human rights violations have been gaining momentum in Iran during the last few weeks. In addition to these, the pronouncements that Ramin Jahanbegloo has made ‘confessions’ about his activities which have been promised to be displayed on national television, all confirm the fears that a new assault on intellectuals, thinkers and dissidents was on its way. The human rights picture in Iran continues to turn darker and more serious by the day.
(Published in Roozonline)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

America, why humiliate Iran?

Here is mu article on "Open Democracy" online magazine. I feel very close to this story. There are many things to listen for the US officials and ,of course, Iranian authorities. here is the link. The leading paragraph is:

Imagine if eighty prominent American scholars were invited to Tehran for a conference. After months of securing visas, final clearances, and days of travelling, they arrived at the Tehran airport only to be detained, shackled, and deported back to the United States. Such news would inevitably make headlines in the US.

On 2 August 2006, more than 300 Iranian scholars, professionals and scientists travelled to the Hyatt Hotel in Santa Clara, California, for an international alumni
reunion of the prestigious Sharif University of Technology. This reunion is held every two years in a different country. Most of these Iranian nationals were flying in from their homes in Europe and north America. Eighty of them, however, were coming from Iran itself.

Book: Starting a New Conversation About Iran
"Let me Tell You Where I've Been", by Persis karim

Persis karim, the Author of "Let me Tell You Where I've Been", lives in Berkeley. In a gathering of bloggers, last month, I met her. She was calm, a little bit shy, as most of the writers, and also thoughtful. I asked her to interview. she kindly accepted. I did a in depth interview and beside I asked her to answer a few more questions for my blog. Here is the link of my interview with her. Also you can read 4 questions, 4 answers with the author of "Let me Tell You Where I've Been", just for my blog:

Omid- What makes this book different than other books about Iran? It is a collection of more than 100 poems, short stories and essays. How such a huge diversity help the readers to get the sense of Iranian culture?

Persis- This isn't really a book about Iran, as much as it is a book about the experiences of Iranians--many different kinds of Iranians who have a story to tell, something to express. I am not trying to capture a particular image or voice of Iran, but rather, to convey the ways that Iranians are responding creatively to their circumstances, whether they are first, second, or third generation living outside of that country. This collection reflects what I think is a complicated process of coming to terms with departures, arrivals, homeliness in the world. That's interesting to me and it's also a book that gives women, many women a place to speak from. I think Iranian women have a lot to say and they've been made to be silent for a long time. I think this is just the beginning for women of Iranian heritage.

Omid- Is this book aimed at Iranians, Americans or Iranian-Americans? Why?

Persis- This is a book that has something for everyone, but I think it's appeal will be for all three of the audiences you suggest. I think for Americans it's interesting because it enrichs their understanding of Iran/Iranian culture. For Iranians I think it can be very interesting, but also troubling. Many Iranians don't like to see their children lose the Persian language, but the reality is, Iranians live in the West, they're writing in English, and they're able to write effectively about many things, including about their culture. Iranian-Americans, I believe will also see themselves here, because it's capturing something that many of us have felt or observed about Iranian culture--that you can take the person out of Iran, but you can't take the Iranian out of the person. My friend Robert Karimi, a half Guatemalan/half-Iranian guy coined a term I really like--it's really a word that draws on the Spanish use of the suffix "dad" --which is an adjectival modifier. He uses the term, Iranidad--and by this he means a kind of "Iranianness" that he feels, observes, sees expressed among many people. It's not about language or how you look as much is about how you feel about that culture. I'd associate with a kind of" affinity" for Iranian culture. People always ask me, you're half French, half Iranian, grew up in the US. Why do you identify so much with Iranian culture? I can't give straightforward answer, really. But the other day when I was doing a reading in NY city, a Columbian woman came up to me and thanked me for the book, and said, "I'm in love with your culture. I'm in love with all things Iranian--the food, the music, the people, the cutlure." I told her, "Senora, you have Iranidad!" She laughed, but she understood what I meant. This book is as much for her as anyone. And really, I hope this is a book that is more about the literature, the really stupendous writing contained in it than about any kind of essential audience I am looking for. The quality of the literature makes it readable, interesting powerful to everyone. It transcends all cultures, I think.

Omid- What have been the effects of living in Berkeley for such a long time?

Living in Berkeley is both a curse and a blessing. Not a curse really, but sometimes it's easy to think of the blessing as the dominant view. And, it's not. Most of the US doesn't think like Berkely residents....Because you're in a place where there is a high engagement with politics, intellectual discourse, you cannot but be surprised, dismayed, disgusted even, when you go other places and realize how little people know in this country about the world. And that's a difficult thing for me sometimes. I have a friend in Texas who told me the other day that the Christian fundamentalists are rejoicing about the state of affairs in the Middle East, because they think the world is coming to an end and they're sermonizing with vengeance because the day of reckoning is coming and the messiah will return. I can't fathom that kind of thinking in Berkeley (or at least on any kind of larger scale.). I can't fathom how anyone would be celebrating the death of innocent people anywhere. It makes me absolutely sick. Berkeley is a unique place in the world. It can be overly-righteous or groovy, but I think there is a level of civic engagement and concern that I wish was present in more places. I talk about it to my students--and I tell them, in Berkeley, people debate and struggle with real forms of democratic participation.

Omid- What's your plan for the future?

Persis-I am working on a few projects--a collection of poems called "Conversations with Neruda" and a fictional narrative loosely based on my father's life. He had a fascinating life and lived through some fascinating times including the first and second world wars, the coup in Iran, and his own complicated life as an immigrant has inspired so much for me. He was a very interesting man and he gave me many gifts. I promised him I'd finish the writing he'd started in his later life. Some of it was fiction and others of it was memoir. I must write it out of respect for him. The other, more academic project I'm working on is a collection of essys called, "In the Belly of the Great Satan: Art, Literature and the Emergence of a Public Iranian-American Identity." I am absolutely fascinated with how art, literature, music is the place where people come to find themselves, find a home, and create these fusions, spaces of resistance. I think the term Iranian-American has come into greater currency in the last few years, and in part, it's because of art and literature. There's a kind of empowerment to art that is undeniable. I want to investigate that, chart it, and observe it. All of this requires time, and I don't have enough of it. But I am inspired by all this, and I am also interested in never being stuck or placed in a box. So, even while I deploy the term Iranian-American, I am also a little uncomfortable with it. But I think the role of art is to make us uncomfortable. To make us look again at ourselves. That's my goal in any of my work—to create and to be a little uncomfortable.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Losing Control over the Nuclear Dossier!

Here is my piece on the latest news on the Iran's nuclear dossier. After what has happened in Lebanon and what is happening in the UNSC, it seems that Iran's control over its nuclear program is about to end. Now they should see and watch. Can they threaten the International community to go toward a sort of retaliation? What else? How the Iranian officials interpretate the latest war between Hezbollah and Israel? Here is my conclusion paragraph at the end of this piece on
Roozonline daily:

“In any case, the game played by Iranian officials is coming to its end. During the recent months, the issue has been slipping away from the hands of Iranian officials and its negotiators have taken larger leaps backwards. While last year Iran probably could get some concessions in its talks with the West, or by accepting the incentives package when it was first submitted, today things are very different and the Security Council resolution has turned the issue into a clear call for a suspension of all nuclear activities. Should that not be acknowledged, then other measures will be taken, whose outcome again will not be in the hands of officials of the Islamic republic of Iran. “

Monday, August 07, 2006


I have written a piece with Dariush Zahedi, political economy professor at UC Berkeley on the current situation in Lebanon and rule of Iran in this crisis in IPS (Inter Press Service News Agency). IPS doesn’t publish the whole analysis and just newspapers around the world can use it. I put some of the paragraphs here which is not published anywhere else:

"Hezbollah’s provocation combined with Iran’s intransigence on its nuclear program has increased the influence of Iran hawks in the Bush Administration. They have labeled Iran as a primary cause behind instability in the Middle East, and have embarked on a policy of further isolating, weakening, penalizing, and humiliating the Islamic Republic.

These policies, designed to set the stage for an eventual regime change in Iran, are predicated on a number of presumptions. Above all is the notion that not only is it possible to cut off the “long arm of Iran” by crippling Hezbollah, but that doing so will have a salutary impact on the stabilization of Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories. It further assumes that Iran is ripe for making a transition to democracy, viewed as ultimately the best means of dealing with the nation’s quest for nuclear capability.

The administration has attempted to persuade America’s Arab allies to wean Syria, Tehran’s closest ally, from Iran. The imposition of UN sanctions, meant to enfeeble Iran, have also been advocated. Bush officials expect that a degradation of the power
of Hezbollah will be a further devastating blow to the prestige and strategic capability of Iran.

Israel may have degraded the retaliatory capability of Hezbollah and thereby weakened Iran’s ability to use Hezbollah to deter American strikes against its nuclear installations.

At the same time, however, the annihilation of Lebanon’s infrastructure,
particularly in the south where most of the Shiites reside, has laid the
foundation for both Iran and Hezbollah to consolidate their ties while endearing
themselves further to the Shiites. Poised to reap more than $70 billion
form the sale of its oil, Iran will more than happy to shower Hezbollah with the
money it needs for the reconstruction of Lebanon. It will also exploit any
opportunity to replenish Hezbollah’s arsenal."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Akbar Ganji talks at UC Berkeley

Akbar Ganji, the most prominent dissident and Human Rights activist, who was released last March from 6 years of imprisonment, will deliver a lecture on "Gender Apartheid in Iran".

Since releasing from the jail, Ganji has left Iran for a tour around Europe and United States. He has been in many cities and has had different talks. His talk has sponsored by three different departments at UC Berkeley.

This trip has been an amazing opportunities for Ganji and talk to many prominent scholars around the Western countries. Dr. Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies at Stanford University has translated many articles of Ganji to English which provide a better understanding for people in US to listen to him.

I talked to Ganji during the last days to organize this event in Berkeley. As we belong to the similiar atmosphere and the same social life, have common perception on different things. He tries to associate himself to the universities and not any political groups or even people who love him; however he tries to go through the academics....The hall he is going to talk is exactlly the one that Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Noble Peace Prize winner in 2003, talked a few months ago...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Iran Walks Razor's Edge in Israel-Lebanon

Here is my story on the current situation in
Lebanon in IPS. Dr Said Mahmoudi, dean of the Law School in Stockholm University contributed at this story. I interviewed him once in Malmo city in Sweden in 2003. It was about the Iran’s nuclear program which was published later in Yase-no newspaper.

Also, Trita Parsi, a Middle East scholar on Iran- Israel relationship also has talked about his opinion on the current events in Lebanon and Iran’s position in it. This article has been published also in
Asia Times too.

BERKELEY, California, Jul 31 (IPS) - Despite Iran's strong rhetoric condemning
Israel's military onslaught against Lebanon, Tehran, which is accused by the
U.S. of supplying weapons to Hezbollah, has become cautious in supporting its
most flourishing investment abroad.
( to be continued…)

Money Can’t Buy Us Democracy

Here is Akbar Ganji's Op-Ed piece in New York Times today. He criticize the US policy toward bringing democracy in Iran. Now, he is in Bay area, and he is going to have a talk at the University of California, Berkeley soon.