Omid Memarian

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Here is my piece on targeting journalists in Iran for traveling outside in IPS (Inter Press Service) today:

BERKELEY, California, Jan 31 (IPS) - In a new blow to free expression in Iran, security forces arrested three members of a 15-woman delegation of journalists en route to a training workshop in India last week, accusing them of infringing national security interests and threatening them with trial.

After being interrogated at the airport Jan. 25, their passports were confiscated and they were sent to the notorious Evin jail near Tehran.

Is Iran behind the Attacks in Iran?

During the last days CNN has been very active to portrait Iran as the back of insurgency in Iraq. "Iran's Factor" TV show,what they call it, broadcasted last night about the insurgency in Iraq and the role of Iran was a weak and unrealistic program performed by Anderson Cooper. I am not sure he is the producer or is just an anchor.... it was terrible the way he was trying to justify the failure of different forces in Iraq ro promote security and make a "bad guy" picture of Iran.

Here is also Thomas Friedman's article at New York Times today... I like the realistic analogy...

Here's a little foreign policy test. I am going to describe two countries , "Country A" and "Country B" , and you tell me which one is America's ally and which one is not.Let's start: Country A actively helped the U.S. defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and replace it with a pro-U.S. elected alliance of moderate Muslims. Country A regularly holds sort-of-free elections.

Country A's women vote, hold office, are the majority of its university students and are fully integrated into the work force. On 9/11, residents of Country A were among the very few in the Muslim world to hold spontaneous pro-U.S. demonstrations.

Country A's radical president recently held a conference about why the Holocaust never happened , to try to gain popularity. A month later, Country A held nationwide elections for local councils, and that same president saw his candidates get wiped out by voters who preferred more moderate conservatives. Country A has a strategic interest in the success of the pro-U.S., Shiite-led, elected Iraqi government.

Although it's a Muslim country right next to Iraq, Country A has never sent any suicide bombers to Iraq, and has long protected its Christians and Jews. Country A has more bloggers per capita than any country in the Muslim Middle East. The brand of Islam practiced by Country A respects women, is open to reinterpretation in light of modernity and rejects Al Qaeda's nihilism.Now Country B: Country B gave us 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11.

Country B does not allow its women to drive, vote or run for office. It is illegal in Country B to build a church, synagogue or Hindu temple. Country B helped finance the Taliban. Country B's private charities help sustain Al Qaeda. Young men from Country B's mosques have been regularly recruited to carry out suicide bombings in Iraq. Mosques and charities in Country B raise funds to support the insurgency in Iraq.

Country B does not want the elected, Shiite-led government in Iraq to succeed. While Country B's leaders are pro-U.S., polls show many of its people are hostile to America , some of them celebrated on 9/11. The brand of Islam supported by Country B and exported by it to mosques around the world is the most hostile to modernity and other faiths.

Question: Which country is
America's natural ally: A or B?Country A is, of course. Country A is Iran. Country B is Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Three Iranian Women Activists Arrested!

As you are aware, over the past several months, a group of women Iranian activists (including but not limited to scholars and journalists) have been active in a campaign to gather signatures to urge the Iranian officials to change the unfair laws pertaining to women's rights in Iran. Three of these activists, Tala't Taghinia, Mansoureh Shojaie, and Farnaz Seify were arrested this morning in Tehran while attempting to board a plane to attend a workshop in India.,01,27,10,51,19/

I would like to urge you or your organization to look into this heinous and unfair incident, to promote awareness of this incident, and to ask the Islamic Republic of Iran for immediate release of these women. It is feared that this might be the beginning of a large scale attempt to arrest and silence all women involved with the "1,000,000 Signatures Campaign." I implore you to take immediate and effective action with respect to this incident.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Whose Iran?

Here is Laura Secor's article about Iran. She has been a few months ago in Tehran. Last year Luara has a long article at New Yorker on the student movement and the activists in Iran, titled Fugitives. He has talked with some of the Basijis in southern Tehran and also with a hardliner cleric, close to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi in Qom. He wore chador (something like veil) to visit this cleric. Something doesn’t happen very often by a foreign journalist. They sometimes insist on the very normal kind of Hijab. But, definitely she wanted to impress him to get the story...I am about to finish it....At the time fundamentalism rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad has provoked the international community, approaching the hardliners in Tehran sounds timely. Many people want to know "what they think about the governance of Ahmadinehad."
"Ahmadinejad has continued this trend. He has generated considerable personal good will in poorer communities, but hardly anyone I asked could honestly say that their lives had gotten better during his presidency. He fought to lower interest rates, which drove up lending, leading to inflation and capital flight. The government cannot risk infuriating the public with the austerity measures that would be required in order to solve its deep-rooted economic problems. But as long as its short-term fixes continue to fail, the government will go on being unpopular. The last two presidents have lost their constituencies over this issue. And so officials seek to distract people from their economic woes with ideological posturing and anti-Western rhetoric. Not only has this lost its cachet with much of the Iranian public, it also serves to compound Iran’s economic problems by blackening its image abroad.

“Iran has not sorted out its basic problem, which is to be accepted in the international community as a respectable government,” Alizadeh said. “Investors do not take it seriously. This is a political crisis, not an economic crisis.”
For a Western traveler in Iran these days, it is hard to avoid a feeling of cognitive dissonance. From a distance, the Islamic republic appears to be at its zenith. But from the street level, Iran’s grand revolutionary experiment is beset with fragility. The state is in a sense defined by its contradictions, both constitutional and economic. It cannot be truly stable until it resolves them, and yet if it tries to do so, it may not survive."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad Feels Economic Heat

Here is my piece at
IPS (Inter Press Service):

"Iranians all over the world have expressed their objection to any kind of military attack on Iran; the greatest fear is that if the U.S. attacks Iran, the hardliners will have even more ammunition to suppress their critics and opponents.

If the U.S. attacks Iran, the government will almost certainly seize the opportunity to rally the Iranian people behind the flag and crush the remnants of Iran's civil society. With the U.S. more unpopular than ever in the Middle East, and especially in Iran -- where the Central Intelligence Agency instigated a coup against the country's most popular government in 1953 -- together with major failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, many believe that military force would only strangle democracy in a society that is already transforming. "

Read the rest of the story here...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Here is my piece at Los Angles Times on the situation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the latest election and increasing the military threats against Iran in the Persian Gulf region:

*The clock may be ticking on Iran's fiery president

Also, as you follow the new sets of restrictions toward bloggers in Iran, by announcing the new legislation which force them to register their webistes in a governmental office, BBC has interviewed a few bloggers on this topic and here is the link:

*Iranian bloggers on web restrictions

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ancient Persian wonders, modern Western cities and surprisingly warm welcomes await intrepid U.S. visitors
Jason Rezaian, Iranian-American journalist who finished his first documantary about Iran a few months ago has talked about his experiences and explorations during the time he was in Iran, last summer. (My interview with Jason at BBC Persian). In his latest article in San Francisco Chronicle, he gives a first hans view of the Iran's today. His half an hour interview with Andrew S. Ross, executive foreign & national editor of the San Francisco Chronicle is interesting too. It seems that Chronicle has become more interested on issues related to Iran recently... I like Yalda Moaiery's pictures contributed for this piece. She is one of the most talented photographers in Iran...

" The joke was barely out of my mouth before I regretted making it. "The Great Satan," I'd quipped when the Iranian airport security official asked me where I was from. Unsmiling, he looked me up and down and said, "Please come with me."
A thousand thoughts exploded in my head, none of them comforting. But it turned out the man only wanted to walk around the corner for a little privacy so he could ask about getting a visa to come to America.

It was a most unexpected welcome to Iran -- but not, as it turned out, all that
unusual. During the month I spent there last fall I had similar exchanges with Iranians from all walks of life, few of them interested in discussing the animosity that has existed for so long between our two governments. Even as sabres rattled a little louder last week with President Bush's Iraq speech -- which in part sounded like a not-so-veiled warning to Iran -- I was reminded that the beef is between the two governments, not the two peoples. Nobody burned an American flag in my presence. Nobody threw rocks or taunted me. Many, in fact, expressed embarrassment over the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, when 52 Americans were held captive for 444 days. "

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A new breed of young Bay Area philanthropists redefines the meaning -- and methods -- of giving

How do the poeple give their money to make difference in the world? Here is a story or young philanthropists in Bay Area which look at this world with a different eyes....

Noosheen Hashemi is among these people. She runs HAND fundation "with two goals: fighting childhood sexual abuse and building the middle class in developing nations."

Read the rest of this article here in San Francisco Chronicle...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iran: Blogs and Websites Should Register!

I can not even imagine that Iranian bloggers or websites should register themselves in a government office. I was talking to some of my friends in Tehran and felt how they feel frustrated by the new law which forces to consider new set of limitations and in result, they will have less space than whatever they have had up to now… Here is
my piece on this topic at Inter Press Service (IPS). You can find more information about it there:

"In a bid to clamp down even harder on information disseminated through the Internet, Iran's hardliner government has demanded the registration of all websites and weblogs sourced in the country by Mar. 1, drawing objections from many Iranian bloggers who say the move clearly violates free speech.

A committee of government officials, including members of the intelligence, judiciary, telecommunications, and culture and Islamic guidance ministries, will be in charge of approving the content of websites. The committee is commissioned with blocking or filtring websites or weblogs that they deem illegal. Over the ast few years, the government has banned and filtred thousands of websites and weblog without explanation. However, for the first time, the new law is specific about what kinds of content are not allowed. "