Monday, December 21, 2009

Israel harvested organs in '90s without permission

Glad they are admitting it. Hope they stop it, if it is still going on. Perhaps Israelis could make donating their own organs the legal norm which would need to be opted out of. This might help solve the shortage of legally donated organs, if there is one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Propaganda and Scapegoats

by Julie Jigsawnovich

Tehrani friends tell me that when the economy started going bad in Iran, Ahmadinejad distracted the populace from his mismanagement by launching a "moral" crackdown on "problem" youngsters--including young women wearing bright colors. And the Shock propaganda TV shows were used to divert attention from government failings by scapegoating rappers, as Erfan Paydar pointed out in an article posted to this website.

The Islamic Republic is now "re-educating" youths, redoubling efforts to instill/and reinforce Islamic ideas via a media "soft war," as reported in the New York Times.
But if the IRI is at all sophisticated, surely they realize that some Iranians will never show real enthusiasm for Islam. Now the IRI may also try to capture the attention and imagination of Zoroastrians and Iranians who love Persian history--try to get these people on their side.

I recently read the manuscript of a new book by a young Iranian who rewrote history to make Jews seem like the enemies of ancient Persians, even though they actually, historically got along well. The book was written within a mythological, game-like genre which may have the additional usefulness of especially appealing to military and basij-age males.

If the IRI succeeds in scapegoating and isolating Iranian Jews within the fantasy realm, they may have built on groundwork laid by the earlier Holocaust Cartoon exhibition in Tehran.

And if international sanctions do not successfully target Sepah/Revolutionary Guards, but instead mostly impact the populace of Iran, then an economic atmosphere may be created where propaganda scapegoating Jews inside Iran--because it's convenient--could be more readily accepted than it could be otherwise. This would violate the very spirit of Koroush/Cyrus the Great--and the greatness of heart of the Iranian people. Jews remember Cyrus for freeing them and allowing them to practice their religion. Iran is currently home to the largest population of Jews in the Middle East, outside of Israel.

Present day Iran seeks to bolster their defense against attack. Iran is being presented with an ideology of absolute submission to the will of the Supreme Leader--and religion is being used to sell this supposed utopia. 1930's Germany was afraid of being attacked. Germany was presented with an ideology of supposed racial purity and strength--and religion was used to sell this supposed utopia. The irony is that if the IRI passes special laws against Jews and persecutes them in a way even remotely resembling what happened under the Third Reich, then the IRI will strengthen Zionism exponentially.

Addendum: Fellow blogger, Faryarm, pointed out in their comment on this article that the regime already persecutes Bahais.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Iran Basij Member Regrets Election Rigging & Violence

By Channel 4 News

“Sayyed” is a member of the Basij, Iran’s religious militia. Now living in the UK, he has spoken to Channel 4 News about his role during this year’s presidential elections. We are disguising his identity.

Election orders

“In truth the orders didn’t come after the election. The orders for all that you witnessed came before the election.

“We were prepared. But we didn’t ever imagine that people’s actions would be so great. We had received orders regarding student activities.

“From three or four months before the election we had attended classes on ideological and political thought and crowd control.

“We knew what we had to do but nothing prepared us for what we saw. There were severe clashes in the first few days, and so new orders were given for forthcoming days.” (article continues below)

Religious dilemma

“I’m in complete turmoil all the time. I spent more than twenty years raised like this, and before me a household of martyrs. I keep thinking, which is right? What I’ve chosen now, or the path they’ve taken.

“Our family is no small undertaking. It has many martyrs. My uncle was martyred with Mr D, Mr AHD.

“We are a prominent religious family – always there on the frontline, always with memories of war, frontline and revolution. Since these events I keep thinking, who is right?”

Election build-up

“From three or four months before I had a social undertaking, preparing to see how people would encounter the elections, the level of attendance – would it be well received, do they believe in it, do they think something could still be done?

“It was going well even though they spoke of Khatami (reformist former president) coming, and then he wasn’t coming. All this created excitement. People came with genuine enthusiasm.

“We got various statistics and analysed them. We wanted to get an idea of what the mode of clashes would be.

“When the campaigns began the excitement reached a new height.

“We had received orders a matter of months before that there is jurisprudence, that there is the jurisprudence of the Imam Zaman, (the 13th Imam, who is expected to return like a Messiah) whose incarnation is Ayatollah Khamenei, and that he had announced that for the advancement and development of Islam and the development of the revolution no-one could be more effective than Mr. Ahmadinejad.

“Therefore the order came that Mr Khamenei has him in mind, that Mr Khamenei has Mr Ahmadinejad in mind for the presidency and so he must be announced as the winner.

“It’s he who is best suited to this revolution, order and Velayat Faqih (Iranian system of Islamic jurisdiction)” (article continues below)

“Scary and horrifying”

“I was extremely taken aback. How can I explain? This is someone who I couldn’t even entertain a conflicting thought against.

“It was truly a scary and horrifying scenario to go against wishes or opinion, especially if that opinion belongs to the Supreme Leader or that of the Velayat Faqih, for you to express a personal opinion.

“It was a terrible situation. On the one side I saw the people and on the other there was the order.”

Ballot box fraud

“The answers to your questions go back to before the elections. In the private meeting we had for those responsible for the ballot boxes, including my brother and me, it was made clear.

“The orders were announced as to how everything would be conducted on the day of the election. We were among those responsible for the ballot boxes.”

Role of the Basij

“I don’t know how much you know about the Basij but it is an extremely vast organ, much more extensive than you would imagine.

“Although you may think that it is without formal organisation, it is in fact very precise and extremely organised with sophisticated planning and everything is specified.

“When an order is received, or when the Supreme Leader has announced his opinion, well, Mr D is the spokesman of the leader and we are Mr D’s spokespeople.

“The foundations of Islam and the foundations of Shi’ism and Velayat are such that we have accepted the Velayat. When the Velayat has an opinion, everyone’s opinion must follow, because if it’s outside of this there is no place for you. You’re an outsider.

“He [Khamenei] makes his announcement and Mr D translates this in the form of advice and discussion.

“Everything has a hierarchy. It doesn’t call for Mr Khamenei to come and directly make an announcement to the soldiers, when I say soldier, I, or we, saw ourselves as soldiers of the Imam Zaman.

“He doesn’t need to come and make his announcement to the forces directly, he expresses his opinion and according to the hierarchical system, the news will reach those who need to hear it.

“Mr D’s opinion is an absolute obedience of the Supreme Leader. We’ve been told this in meetings.

“In the private meeting I mentioned to you, the commanders of the Sepah (Revolutionary Guard) were present as well as those of various Basij units from different areas.

“It was imperative to have the leader’s vision, and it was announced then that his vision is this, that he elects Ahmadinejad.”

Election fraud

“For us who were responsible for the ballot boxes the order was this: that Aqa’s [Khamenei's] wish is for Ahmadinejad to win.

“For illiterate people and those not able to complete their ballots, you must do so for them and complete them accordingly (for Ahmadinejad), no matter who their vote was intended for.

“Same with blank votes. In the counting the blank votes wouldn’t be announced as void.

“They [the illiterate] were generally made up of elderly men and women – and they are great believers in the mosque community and religious matters and areas where there is a lower literacy rate like the villages or areas of the big cities.”

Youth vote suppressed

“Our problem was the young people and university students, we had prepared for the others.

“Well they [the students] weren’t around for the count. When they left, how can I say, I’m very ashamed now, but they just came up to the box and then left.

“After the voting was over it was only us who were there. We were honest in that the command was followed.

“When the voting was over, the boxes were opened, but not all of them.

“A few were opened and counted, then we received another order to send the boxes to the main centre.”

Stopping the protests
“Because a reaction was expected, we had been ordered from before the election for all security forces to be ready for the following day.

“They told us to come early for group prayers. We went along with others who’d been invited. Prayers took place. This was followed by a short speech confirming Mr Ahmadinejad’s victory and the congratulations in order.

“Sweets and pastries were offered and the forces were organised into two shifts.

“There were areas that had been previously noted as problem areas – we called them the red points – where security presence was essential.

“These were announced, the shifts were determined and everyone was deployed. It was early.

“We had set out very early before anyone could get started. Everyone took their positions and were armed.

“The command was that we were to prevent any gathering of people to take shape.
Violent suppression
“Any hint of protest was to be firmly supressed." If anything occured, to attack.

“Attacking people meant nothing. As I told you, anyone who thought differently to Ayatollah Khamenei and outside of the Velayat Faqih was considered an outsider.

“Therefore his protest has no place, therefore his opinion and protest is meaningless.

“It was simple. It was not for us to think anything of them – both voters and protesters.

“In our view, it was not a protest against the issue but a protest against Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

“And it’s just not comprehensible to us that someone should want to question him. He is our guide.”

Controlling the city
“On that day in this area there were batons, and cables that coil and extend easily. If it attaches to someone’s hand and you pull it you can do serious harm.

“Sprays like pepper sprays. Some were given handcuffs. Yes, we went prepared.

“Everything went according to plan because everything had been thought through.

“The vehicles came on time, breakfast, prayers, all on time. The city was under our control.”

“Unprecedented” clashes

“Because I had been in charge at the polling station the night before, I was on the afternoon shift. I went home to rest and then came back in the afternoon.

“When I came back I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I never thought. It was unbelievable. The level of clashes was severe.

“This was unprecedented. I had witnessed attacks before but never at this level. People wouldn’t stay back, they couldn’t be suppressed and we were really in trouble.

“As I said, I had issues with everything that had unfolded and was confused. I really didn’t want to get involved. But I had to be there. I didn’t have the right to say I didn’t want to be there. My physical presence was required.

“The clashes were very heavy. The forces were seriously involved and the people wouldn’t give in or retreat in any way. There was no end in sight.

“They would be dispersed then gather again and come back. They were standing up to us.

“I wasn’t one of the ordinary forces to have to involve myself in the situation. I could have, but I also had the choice not to.

“People like me who were supervising and observing and reporting back could just stand there. I stood there silently by my colleagues.

“As I talk to you now everything comes back to me. It’s very hard. I still can’t fathom it all. Why did it have to be like this?”

Permission to shoot

“The first day was very hard for us. When we all got back to the base that night, the commanders gave their reports from the various areas of the city.

“We were told that there would be new orders for the following days. The order came to attack everyone without restraint or mercy regardless of age. Anyone who was in disagreement.

“It was made clear, there was to be no difference between child or adult, men and women. Proper attack, without warning, or any discussion.

“This was very strange to me. Everything was surreal. This was not trivial.

“We had permission to shoot. We were all to be armed. We were supposed to support the police and security forces.

“The next day it seemed that people like us were prepared. They were ready too, and there were more of them. Just as we were prepared, they were too.”

“Watch people die”

“On the second day, I don’t know how to say it, it’s so painful to me, talking about it is hard, the memory of it is awful…the wounded, and those who died.

“It’s really hard to stand there and watch people die. I had to stand there. I had no choice.

“No [I did not kill anyone], I only accompanied others. I was trying not to get involved at all.

“They had prepared a hospital for the wounded and dead. It was a Basij hospital. It was very hard. If there was an issue with killing, it was explained that the killing was for a cause and was a good deed.

“I saw one person killed on the street but in the hospital there were many many more than was seen on the streets – from all parts of the city.

“Because the directive had been given, permission had been granted. It was intolerable.”

Unspeakable things

“It’s from then that things got even worse. We were all strangers. Orders and commands were followed. Clashes took every shape and form.

“How can I say. some of the things are unspeakable. I can’t mentally and ideologically fathom what’s happened.

“In the clashes, anyone who was wounded would be arrested. If they couldn’t catch them they’d get someone else. They would arrest anyone they could.

“It made no difference who it was. Wounded, not wounded. If they were activists, all the better. Young children, young adults.

“The treatment of them – the mode of attack and length of attack on them left me in shock.”

Arrest orders

“The command was to arrest as many 12-18 year olds as possible and bring them back.

“This group caused the most trouble so the idea was not to give them any opportunity to congregate. Many were arrested.

“Again, several locations had been prepared to take them and keep them there.

“The night I was there, I followed my brother there. I hadn’t seen him for several days as we’d been caught up in everything. I have a lot of respect for him and love him dearly.

“Since we were children we’ve always done everything together. We’re like twins. He said, I’ll be there tonight. Come there and we’ll go home together.

Sound of screams

“They had some containers ready. They had arrested some youngsters and were asking them their age and were separating them accordingly.

“Over 18s went into to one container and the under 18s into the several other containers. The number of children under the age of 18 was greater. They filled three or four containers of some 25 people in each.

“I saw all this and passed them on my way into the main courtyard building to see my relative. I greeted him and other friends.

“Then we heard noise from the yard. We thought it must be the youngsters making trouble. We went there and saw there was no-one, just the forces. The sound came from the containers.

“The sound of screams and pleading and crying. We didn’t understand what was going on.

“They were pleading: ‘We’re sorry, please, we regret our actions’. Or screams, or crying. We were confused. I couldn’t believe that they would want to do such a thing: to rape.”

Sexual violence

“This is such a heavy burden, my head hurts. But you’re a woman. I’m sure you understand. Can you give me some time?

“It’s as if it’s replaying in front of me.

“The faces, the screams are with me every moment. It’s not something you can forget or separate yourself from.

“They were pleading, they were crying, they wanted help, but my brother is a more senior authority than me. We went to see what was happening.

“There were two men of the Sepah and they came forward as we approached.

“We asked what all the noise was about. They said “Nothing, this is Fath ol Moin (aid to victory).

“We said: ‘What do you mean, what are you doing? Who’s in there?’

“Because they were Basij from the provinces we didn’t know them. We asked: ‘What’s happening, why are they crying?’

“As we pursued the matter the confrontation got worse and they said ‘You have no right to enter.’ My relative said: ‘What do you mean? I’m one of the leaders here. You can’t tell me I have no right.’

“And it really was so, but they didn’t allow us entry. We were all responsible and we clashed. After a few minutes a vehicle came into the courtyard.

“Someone must have alerted the others that we were trying to prevent them from achieving what they set out to do, the Fath ol Moin.

“They had come for us to prevent the scene from deteriorating. They said our superior had summoned us.

“They said: ‘Let’s go. He wants to speak to you.’ When we got there he was visibly furious, very frustrated. He didn’t speak.

“They said: “Let’s go. Haji wants to speak to you.” My relative was furious and very frustrated.

“He was very angry. When we got there he said: ‘What is this? Sexual abuse is a serious crime. Who gave this order? Who authorised this?

“Haji calmly replied with a smile: ‘This is Fath Al Moin. It’s a worthy deed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Why are you complaining?’

“When he said this Haji thought it would calm my relative down to know this. But the opposite happened, he became more upset. He raised his voice saying: ‘What do you mean it’s not a crime?’

“What do you mean it’s not a recognised crime? That it’s a good deed? Haji saw that he had lost control and said: ‘What’s the big deal? Nothing’s happened. What is the issue here?’

“My relative said again: ‘What do you mean what’s the big deal? Is there anything more filthy than this, more ugly than this? With children, these are children, they haven’t done anything. They’re from our own home town.’

“Haji saw that he couldn’t control him, that he wanted to return to the base and stop what was going on.

“He said: ‘You can stay here for now. Tomorrow we’ll have a meeting about it, we can discuss it and see what the issue is.’

“I insisted on staying with him. But Haji said: ‘You go and rest and we’ll get him home. You go, the driver will take you home and wait there. We’ll call you.’

“They dropped me home and my relative stayed there.”

Pain and shame
“The pain and the shame in front of people and before God. I’ve lost my world and my religion.

“I never thought that these matters could be contaminated like this.

“I thought that I was continuing the path of my uncles and our martyrs. All my interest and enthusiasm: to have the integrity for martyrdom.

“We really saw ourselves as upstanding and separate from others. We really believed that what we did was correct, that we were serving the people, that we were serving God and that our mission was nothing but worshipping God.

“But now I am ashamed in front of people, even say that I was mistaken, and I am ashamed in front of my religion. I committed crimes, knowingly and unknowingly.

“Now I’m left with my conscience punishing me for what I did.

“I hope that God and people forgive me.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

US Sanctions Against Iran: Bills Pending Passage or Rejection

H. R. 3922
October 23, 2009
Accountability for Business Choices in Iran Act of 2009
April 30,2009
Iranian Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Batebi vs. Dabashi: Sanctions Dilemma

by Julie Jigsawnovich

New York--Last night, on Iran University Student Day, the New York Chapter of Where Is My Vote presented a conversation with Columbia Professor Hamid Dabashi, Former Iranian Student Activist Ahmed Batebi and American Student Activist Elizabeth Joynes on the campus of New York University.


Batebi was placed in solitary confinement for over a year and condemned to death by the Islamic Republic government for taking part in demonstrations during the Summer 1999 Student Uprising. A photograph of Batebi holding up the bloody shirt of a fellow protester who was assaulted by security forces was published on the cover of The Economist magazine. This photo became an icon of the new Iran. Batebi suffered a brain hemorrhage while in custody, and was temporarily allowed to leave prison. He then managed to escape and flee from the Islamic Republic.

The EconomistDuring last night's panel discussion, Batebi said that at an earlier time, Iranian Intelligence, Revolutionary Guards, and Judiciary were arresting people and trying people independently--they had no contact with each other. But now each has clearly defined their work regarding domestic security and outside threats. Batebi continued, saying that part of the Intelligence service refused to work with Ahmadinejad. The Revolutionary Guards fired (not sure whether he said 1,200 or 12,000) employees in the Intelligence service, and the Revolutionary Guards created an intelligence service within the Revolutionary Guards. Batebi said that under Khatami, some Intelligence people were fired due to murders--but these people were then hired by the Revolutionary Guards. He said the RG learned in Russia how to put down demonstrations. And he said the way the security apparatus is operating now is unpredictable, and is very dangerous.

Batebi discussed some Islamic Republic laws that he believes should be changed--such as the law that a woman's testimony in court is only worth half that of a man's, and a law that results in hands being cut off. He said that we need to put pressure on the Iranian government to change laws.

Batebi said that the Revolutionary Guards control the Iranian economy, control the infrastructure, and own hundreds of companies inside and outside Iran. He said we should try to suffocate the economic aspect of their power, and that we have to use sanctions against the coup government. Batebi continued, stating that we need to identify the economic branches of the coup government around the world, and suffocate them. That intelligent sanctions could be put in place which target the Revolutionary Guards specifically, not the Iranian population in general.

Theology of Discontent: The Ideological Foundation of the Islamic Revolution in IranProfessor Dabashi strongly disagreed, stating that he categorically opposes sanctions. He said that sanctions would be a precursor for military strikes on Iran, as they had been in Iraq. And he pointed out that the Revolutionary Guards would benefit from increased sanctions politically and also economically, since, Dabashi said, the Revolutionary Guards profit from black market trade.

Batebi countered that Iran and Iraq are not comparable, and that Iran already blames the West.

During Q and A, Sadra Shahab, an administrator of the New York Chapter of Where Is My Vote, stated that WIMV NY opposes sanctions--and another WIMV NY member confirmed this.

Dabashi seemed somewhat surprised and very disappointed by Batebi's support of any kind of sanctions, but after trying a bit more to persuade Batebi, Dabashi graciously said that they agree to disagree, and perhaps they are there for each other regarding blind spots.

Julie Jigsawnovich is a writer, artist and musician living in New York City. Her articles have been published by, PBS FRONTLINE Tehran Bureau, ArtSlant, and Persianesque Magazine. She is currently studying Persian and hopes to one day be able to read poetry in Persian script.

 This article was also published at

60 Minutes - Torture in Iran (April 5, 2009) 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nuclear Concerns and Sanctions: New Yorker Talks with Tehrani Friend


by Julie Jigsawnovich

New York--Amid growing international concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions, and renewed talk of not only strengthening sanctions, but bombing Iran, I spoke with my 21yr old Iranian friend who lives in Tehran. We met on the internet through our shared enthusiasm for certain kinds of music, and have found that we can also talk about religion and politics without fighting. In accordance with his wishes and those of another Tehrani friend who created the illustration for this article, I will not publish their names. 

JJ: I went to a panel discussion about Iran recently where an American General talked about bombing Iran. My American friend asked what we can do to support human rights in Iran, but the General avoided the question at first. He returned to it, mentioning that for awhile it looked like Iran's Green Movement might topple the regime--but the Iranian regime cracked down hard. I wondered to myself--the US is worried about Iran getting nuclear bombs, but what if Iran already has nuclear bombs and hasn't used them? What do you think, doost-e man?
They have bombs called Shahab 3, but not the uranium to put on them. 
Iran has the missiles, but not the enriched uranium to make them nuclear?
When they get it, do you think they will bomb the "Zionist regime" of Israel?
I don't know if they're looking to get nuclear bombs. I don't know. 
If Mousavi was Iran's president, would Iran be less dangerous than with Ahmadinejad as president--if Iran did get nuclear bombs?
Really there is no big difference between Ahmadi or Mousavi, because everything is in the hands of Ayatollah Khamenei--Supreme Leader. 
And Sepah. Some people here think Sepah, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, have more power than Khamenei now.
Yeah, they have. They have a lot of money, a lot of forces, and a lot of men. 
What do you think of the conflict in Yemen--and the Saudis against Iran?
I'm not interested! But in religion, Saudis are Vahhabi. And Vahhabis think that Shia's are Moshrik. Do you know what Moshrik is?
Moshrik = heretic?

Mmm, it's hard... And I've heard that Vahhabis believe that if they kill two Shia's in life they will go to heaven. I don't know exactly, but it must be something like this. This is not a modern war. I say it's the old fashioned Islam War.
Do Shia's believe that if they kill people, they will go to heaven?
I've never heard of it. But in Quran there are a lot of ayes about killing.
Ayeh. Ayat.
Some people here in the US say Islam is a religion that supports violence. But some Muslims here say, "No, it supports love." What do you think?
Quran is so complicated. You can have both impressions of Quran.
The Christian Bible is complicated too. The Old Testament seems to support violence. But Jesus supported non-violence.
Creed people do violent things.
Creed people?
People that believe in religions--like hard Muslims or Jews or Christians.
Religion can make people into tools.
Yeah, exactly.
The US is worried about Iran getting nuclear bombs, partly because Iran is religious--more religious than the US.
Are you worried about Iran getting nuclear bombs?
Of course. People will die. War is not a good thing. Ayatollah Khomeini has a quote, "War is a good thing."
The US has been trying to negotiate with Iran, but Iran is taking so much time. Some people in the US think Iran is just stalling in order to get time to get nuclear bombs.
But if the US is going to bomb Iran, they will just bomb the nuclear facilities in Esfehan and Ghom. 

And Natanz and Bushehr. Maybe more, if the US or Israel know about more. This could make a radiation problem.
Yeah, a lot of people will die--maybe me too.
What should the US do?
Be more diplomatic. Stop sanctions.
How would stopping sanctions help?
Then the Islamic Republic couldn't say the US is not showing good will and is not being honest.
What is the relationship between sanctions and honesty?
Look, today Obama said, "We will talk and negotiate with Iran." Tomorrow they do more sanctions. What would you do if you were Iran? 

Well, Ahmadinejad said he might negotiate, bu the Iranian Parliament said, "No negotiation to send uranium to Russia to be enriched."
No, it's not like this. They just have the problem of HOW the trade will be done.
I hope so. I read something different. But maybe it changed again.
But if I was a politician, I would do what the IR is doing right now. It's not a good way--talking about negotiation and doing more sanctions at the same time.
Iran doesn't trust Russia so much, because Russia is taking too long with the Bushehr nuclear facility.
Russia messed up Iran a lot of times throughout history.
What about China?
We have good relations in our history with China. Do you know about negar gari?
No, what is negar gari?
It's an art form, a very well known Persian art form. Kamal Edin Behzad is one of the most famous artists. Negar gari miniatures are inspired by Chinese paintings.
Persian culture is influenced by Chinese art?
For hundreds of years?
What effect have US sanctions had on Iran?
They've had a lot of effects on airplanes and airline industries.
Because Iran used to buy US airplanes?
Yeah, and they need parts. And the sanctions effected the oil industry, and a lot of things. But Iranians have found ways to get out of them.
Ways to get out of sanctions?
By making them not work. They make companies in Malaysia

What kinds of companies?
I don't know exactly.
Some people here say sanctions hurt poor people the most.
Yeah, that's true.
Do you think that if the US dropped sanctions, it would stop Iran from making nuclear bombs? Or is it possible that Iran would still make nuclear bombs, plus the Iranian economy would be stronger?
Dropping sanctions would open the way to better negotiations with Iran. They can't negotiate with people who sanction. 


Putin and Khamenei  photo:

You've said before that Iran is just trying to figure out HOW the uranium enrichment with Russia would happen. That is negotiation, isn't it?
Yeah, it is, but it makes it complicated when new sanctions are brought by the US. 
The US may make new sanctions because Iran is taking too long to negotiate.
Maybe, but I just saw the news on the BBC. The headline was "Obama said, 'We will negotiate with Iran.'" The third headline was, "New Sanctions." It's not good.
If US makes new sanctions against Iran, what will happen?
They won't negotiate.
What effect would stronger sanctions have on Iranian people?
You saw the airplane crash last year? That's because of sanctions.
If that is true, flying inside Iran will be very dangerous. This will effect Iranians, and also tourists. I flew from Tehran to Yazd.
Thank God that didn't crash.
Mersi, azizam. If planes crash in Iran because of sanctions, does this make Iranians mad at the US or at the Iranian government?
Iranians mostly don't know about these things.
In closing, US trade sanctions against Iran have been in place for so long, my friend's suggestion that we drop them altogether seemed quite shocking. This is a good time to closely examine the sanctions already in place. I must add that although I am concerned that innocent air passengers' safety may be jeopardized by sanctions, I also realize that passenger planes can be used for violent purposes. 

The panel discussion I mentioned in this article was presented by United Against Nuclear Iran and Bipartisan Policy Center, on November 23rd at the 92nd Street Y in New York. It included speakers General Chuck Wald (Ret.) USAF, Senator Charles Robb (D-VA), Senator Daniel Coats (R-IN), and was moderated by Dr. Leslie Gelb. UANI literature distributed at this event advocates boycotting companies who do business with Iran, while the UANI website additionally advocates sanctions that reportedly seek to prevent US taxpayer money from going to companies that do business with Iran.
I realize that boycotts could also be performed by consumers who do not support legislated trade sanctions against Iran. For instance, many Iranian Green Movement supporters requested an international boycott of Nokia-Siemens after it was discovered that they sold spy technology to the Islamic Republic of Iran which facilitated the regime in tracking down cell phone users' locations and also opening private emails. The regime exploited these new capabilities during their violent crackdown on voters questioning the "official" results of the 2009 Iranian presidential election.
Julie Jigsawnovich is a writer, artist and musician living in New York City. She is currently trading English lessons for Persian lessons. She's hopes to be able to read Iranian poetry in the original script in the future. Contact her at:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thin Men, Strong Women--Looking at Music: Side 2

by Julie Jigsawnovich

In early 80's New York, kids who stole spray paint and covered the sides of subway cars with their names would have serious art collectors, art students would reach the stature of rock stars, and a white women from Jersey would make a groundbreaking, best selling rap record...

Read the rest of my art review here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An American Perspective: Iran and the Iranian Election

by Julie Ashcraft A.K.A. Jigsawnovich

NEW YORK–Going to Iran, seeing the presidential campaign, and transitioning from being a tourist into being a supporter of the rights of Iranian voters was an evolution in knowledge and feelings.

I was upset when the Taliban blew up the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan--I’m not religious, but I’m an artist and I care about history. Then, the US military invaded Iraq, and their national museum was looted. I thought, “What could happen next? Israel has been threatening to bomb Iran for a while. Which places and things of artistic and historical importance could be at risk?”

Photos of extremely beautiful Iranian mosques and palaces beckoned on Flickr. “Cyrus created the first human rights document,” announced a caption to a photo of his tomb on Flickr. I stumbled upon Hichkas’ “Bunch of Soldiers” music video on Youtube–and feared triggering a Dept. of Homeland Security file, so scary and nationalistic it was on first viewing. But after finding a version with English subtitles, I realized that Hichkas’ lyrics showed insight and compassion, and he was advocating strength in defense–not adventurism. The music drew me in with a compelling combination of rap and traditional Iranian instruments. The shots of Azadi Tower were stunning. Tehran seemed so exciting–I had to see it in person!

Fear crept back onto me when further internet searches uncovered videos of Iranian women being arrested for revealing too much hair, prison guards whipping inmates, and executions by stoning. I realized there were internal and external dangers, but I still wanted to visit Iran.

After warily reading the Iranian Constitution and penal code, I persuaded my best friend to vacation in the Islamic Republic with me. I mentioned the upcoming Presidential election, and suggested that the run-up to it could be an exciting time to visit. And it was! In Iran, we were thrilled to see supporters joyfully and openly handing out presidential campaign literature. We took photos of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Ahmadinejad election banners in Tehran, Shiraz, and Esfehan. Mousavi supporters repeatedly showed tremendous enthusiasm–and we even heard kind words for our own president, Barack Hussein Obama. His Norooz greeting had been well-received.

Although I was keenly aware of Sharia law, and felt an underlaying angst in Iran–at the same time I met such kind and charming people there and saw so much beauty, that I experienced unexpected culture shock upon returning home to New York City. I missed being around Iranians, and wondered where I could find some. I found them on the internet, and they showed me a side of Iran I hadn’t seen as a tourist, or even as a YouTube viewer. On June 13th, the day after the presidential election, someone told me that Sepah had staged a coup d’etat in Iran. Having no idea what Sepah was, I struggled to comprehend the complicated system of Iranian politics, militias, religion, and civil rights. Within a week of the election, I attended a rally at Manhattan’s Union Square in support of voters in Iran.

I brought a Mousavi poster with me. An Iranian journalism student asked to photograph me posing with the poster–from the front, with my full face showing. I declined with the sinking feeling that such a photograph could cause real problems for me if I ever returned to Iran.

President Obama hasn’t specified a significant difference between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad regarding the nuclear issue. I felt certain there were considerable differences on other issues, however. Mousavi had set a precedent by campaigning with his wife, and he received strong support from women seeking more freedom. Hardliner Ahmadinejad cracked down on women during his first Presidential term, and he was closely aligned with the Basij.

Astonishing graphic documentation of injuries, wounds, and murder flooded the internet. Horrifying and upsetting, the videos were also morally compelling and intimately human. People tried to rescue and treat the fallen, they cried, they screamed, putting their bloody hands in the air--seeking witnesses to the violence.

Next came thousands of arrests, documented prison torture and rape, and script-like “confessions” at Revolutionary Court show trials. In the midst of this I attended Iranian rallies, hunger strikes, teach-ins, panel discussions, and art exhibitions. Before the election, people in the Islamic Republic of Iran were full of energy, life, and hope. Many Iranians there, here in New York, and all over the world, still are. So, I resist reconciling memories of my wonderful vacation in Iran with the raw severity of the crackdown going on there now! I believe that cruelty carries the seeds of its own destruction. And I tremendously admire the brave Iranians who, undaunted, and in their own ways, support democracy, freedom of speech, and human rights.

(c) 2009 Julie Ashcraft
All rights reserved

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Playa Philosopher: Fred Khoshtinat

by Julie Jigsawnovich

FRED Khoshtinat is renowned for Hichkas, Xaniar and Taham videos he directed and edited. Now FRED's first official track, "If You Want Me" (Age Mano Mikhay), has debuted at He also wrote the lyrics, arranged and produced the song.

Measuredly impatient, words roll off his tongue in Parsi, "Don't act like a good girl for me. You know that we don't have much time till the end of the if you want me, please hurry because my cognac is losing its effect on me, girl....I don't feel like dancing tonight. We're gonna dance enough in my room." Khoshtinat walks the tightrope of frankness with devastating Persian aplomb!

This song is crunchy, subtly nettling--but pleasure overrides pain with net results that exposure to this song is physically thermodynamic. You will want to get with someone. And you'll want it now!

One of the sound layers in the mix imparts a classic video game feeling, triggering my memories of visiting an arcade in Times Square when people were getting shot there on a regular basis. Deceptively simple in content, this song has the confidence and casual appeal of psychological game marksmanship. And something about one of the repeating percussive sounds recalls expertly, gently applied whips.

I asked FRED what effect he would like this song to have on women. He said, "I want them to feel weak in the vastness of their need to a male, and they will feel like a slave to a great power of gravity that is coming from the man--and the fact that sometimes they will do anything to conquer it." Deeply impressed by his cosmic sensual metaphors, I was none the less confused by the last phrase. "The man conquering the woman or the woman conquering the man?" I asked.

"Woman conquering man," he replied.

"Bale? To Conquer implies gaining mastery over someone. It's tricky because, I think, you are going beyond a simple slave/master symbol. You are transcending. What is 'it' that the woman will do anything to conquer?" I asked.

"Gravity that is coming from the man--the attention," he replied.

I asked him to repeat his metaphors in Persian. Khoshtinat said, "mikham ehsas zaaf kone joloye shahvat niaze shadidesh be yek marde khass, ehsas kone ke bardeyi shode nesbat be in niaz va ghodrati ke az tarafe mard sater mishe va dokhtar ro mikeshoone va jazb mikone, yaade oon mavagheyi biofte ke vaseye fathe in tavajjoh va raaf kardane in niaz hazere har kari bokone hatta khodesho payin bire va koochik kone, humiliate herself."

Although I have no illusions regarding the many power dynamics of sexual attraction, I found his desire for the woman to humiliate herself troubling--partly because I believe there is more to Khoshtinat than this statement allows. A clue, perhaps, is the photo accompanying "If You Want Me" (Age Mano Mikhay.) FRED's head rests in the lap of a woman with strong-looking legs. He lies on his back, peering out at the viewer, smiling.

originally published at:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tehran Bureau "Soheil Tavakoli: Painting Green"

My first article for PBS FRONTLINE Tehran Bureau. Am I excited? Of course!

sloppy spin mistress

The evolution of truth has had its quirks. Even though I honestly like the current trend towards clearly biased, opinionated reporting with no facade of objectivity, and enjoy reading conflicting opinions during my daily effort to sift out facts and find some sort of truth, I still tremendously admire the AP writers and researchers. Here is a sparkling example of AP writing:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Karoubi's Bodyguard Seriously Injured During Protest

"(4 November 2009) Security forces and militia used brutal force to disperse thousands of protesters on the streets of Tehran and other cities today, resulting in a number of injuries and arrests, in violation of international standards regarding the proportionate use of force against peaceful demonstrations, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The protests occurred parallel to officially sanctioned demonstrations on the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the United States Embassy in 1979.

"Protests also took place in other cities, including Shiraz, Rasht, and Tabriz. Many protesters were reportedly arrested in Tabriz after security forces attacked demonstrators using pepper spray and tear gas.

"Eyewitnesses have told the Campaign that, despite an intense intimidation program aimed at stifling the demonstrations by SMS threats promising prosecutions for taking part, and the closure of metro stops to discourage gatherings, thousands of protesters appeared at Hafte-e-Tir Square, Kargar Shomali, and other locations, and were met by vast numbers of riot police backed up by quasi-official militiamen. The presence of huge numbers of security and anti-riot forces and brutal attacks were common in all reports by eyewitnesses.

"Numerous demonstrators were arrested, including Ali Mashmouli, Vahideh Movahed and other prominent persons. According to a report by his son, security forces shot tear gas canisters directly at opposition politician Mehdi Karoubi, seriously injuring his bodyguard who was taken to a hospital. According to reports received by the Campaign, live ammunition was used in shots fired over the heads of demonstrators.

"The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expressed its deep concern about the continuing and excessive use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, and called for the immediate release of detainees."
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Iran's Sepah--More Secular or Simply More Severe?

There are comments on this article as posted on That site has an amazing number of page views per day. It's a great site, and a great community.

by Julie Jigsawnovich
Dictators may or may not be religious. There is speculation in the US about whether Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Sepah, will become less and less religious as they seize more and more control over businesses and industries in Iran. The following news story might reinforce this speculation. But does it really mean that Sepah is becoming more secular? And if they did become more secular, would this result in an easing up on laws supposedly based on religion in Iran? Would the great irony of brutal secular dictators granting more personal freedoms of expression--as long as they did not challenge the State--occur? Well, from what I've seen, don't hold your breath for that. Religion is a mighty power in Iran, and a useful one. Sepah may instead be simply positioning themselves to perpetrate an even more severe round of political repression, exceeding even that of the clerics.

Some of my Iranian friends are secular and some are devout Muslims. Those who are religious resent the regime's exploitation and corruption of Islam as a means to the end of brutal repression. Those who are secular deeply resent having religion and Sharia laws forced upon them, and would prefer a separation of religion and state. Within the context of awareness of their concerns, I read the following article with great interest.
via Tehran Bureau headlines

"IRGC Chief: Preserving regime more sacred than Islamic prayers

According to Sepah News, the official website of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Guards, in an IRGC meeting in the city of Urumiye on Wednesday, said "Preserving the Islamic Republic establishment is even more vital [a duty] than performing namaz" [Islamic daily prayers, the main pillar of Islam].

[This is the first time an IRGC commander appears to be issuing a religious edict. Some suggest it is a reformulation of an existing 1988 fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini.]

'No one dares to claim that the Islamic Republic regime must be destroyed, and no one must dare to challenge the principles of this establishment,' Jafari added.29 Oct 2009"

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seeking Refuge: Mahdyar Flees the Crackdown on Iran's Hip-Hop

Photo by Farbud Akhtarry

by Julie Ashcraft (A.K.A. Jigsawnovich)

At the tender age of 17, Mahdyar Aghajani produced the critically acclaimed, top-selling album, Jangale Asphalt (Asphalt Jungle) by Iranian rapper, Hichkas. Taking an art form that sprang from the streets of New York into their own hands, Mahdyar and Hichkas teamed up to create a uniquely Iranian Hip Hop sound, with Mahdyar incorporating traditional Persian instruments and tonalities. Yet, Hip Hop is forbidden in Iran, and the authorities there soon came looking for Hichkas and Mahdyar. Hichkas remains in Tehran, but Mahdyar fled the country. He spoke with me a few days ago, from Paris.

What are you working on now?

Mahdyar: Six albums, one film. The albums are Reveal, Quf, Bahman Ghobadi, my own instrumental album, a London based alternative band, and Hichkas' new album. And the film is 60 Seconds about Us by Bahman Ghobadi.

Plus, you told me that you made two songs for, and play yourself in, Ghobadi's film, No One Knows About Persian Cats--which won the Un Certain Regard and the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. This film is about the underground music scene in Tehran. Do you miss Tehran yet?

Mahdyar: Sometimes...somethings...'someones.' But the thing is, right now I have lots of things to think about. I'm in a kind of survival mode.

Was it a culture shock coming to Europe--women wearing fewer clothes, etc.?

Mahdyar: Not at all. My friends in Berlin, they were like, "Look at this building, look at this bar, look at these chicks--why aren't you surprised?!" And I was like, "I traveled outside of Iran a few times when I was a kid. Maybe that's the reason."
Where did you go when you were a kid?
Singapore, Malaysia, Emirates and Turkey. But I think that's not the reason.

Are private parties in Tehran like parties in other countries?

Mahdyar: They are like parties here in Paris, exactly the same.

You are finding it easy to adapt to living in Europe?

Mahdyar: Because of cultural differences, or because of starting a life from zero?

I was thinking of cultural differences. Starting a life from zero would probably be hard anywhere.

Mahdyar: There is no cultural difference, I think. I mean, we were living the same, except we were living "underground" that way.

The big difference is your music is not illegal in the West. You don't have to fear being arrested and imprisoned just for making a particular genre of music. That's a big change.

Mahdyar: Yes it is. And it's the main reason I got out of Iran.

What is it like to have freedom of expression now?

Mahdyar: I always had freedom of expression. When you really don't care about being arrested or dying--you always, wherever, whenever you are--you are free.

I heard Hichkas was arrested a while back. Was the Iranian government looking to arrest you too?

Mahdyar: I was always on the list. I was making all of Hichkas' music. He was mentioning my name in his lyrics. But their first goal was to arrest Hichkas, because he had the most influence on people.

When did they first arrest him?

Mahdyar: Two or three years ago, after releasing the Jangale Asphalt album.

Were there lyrics to songs on Jangale Asphalt that the government didn't like? Or did they dislike it because Hip Hop is "Western music?"

Mahdyar: Both. Mainly because of the political lyrics, but there are so many rappers rapping political lyrics. The thing is, he was so famous. Everyone was listening to his tracks. They liked it, and he had lots of fans.

Which songs had political lyrics the government didn't like?

Mahdyar: "Ghanoon" and "Ekhtelaf." But they didn't say it was because of the lyrics. They said there was a problem because he is a rapper, and he is polluting the culture! And because he was the most known, he was targeted in their efforts to destroy Iranian Hip Hop.
Ghanoon is about things happening in the streets. Everyone is aggressive and all, but it's not their fault. It's because of the government that we have, that everyone hates everyone. And in the chorus he says, "Look, don't handcuff me. Why do you say, 'Shut up,' when you arrest me? I'm just a sacrifice from the jungle," --someone who they kill in Islam like a sheep for the god. I dunno the word in English. He says "I'm ghorbani from the jungle." Ghorbani: the animal they kill for the sake of god.

When he was rapping about them treating him like a sacrifice, did people listening to it think he was criticizing the Islamic regime in a religious way too?

Mahdyar: Yes, of course. He, himself, believes in Islam. But he knows that the government is using and changing Islam against people. He finishes one of his verses in "Ghanoon" like this: "I'm innocent, God is my witness. Or did someone pay God a bribe too?"

Do you express love in your music sometimes?

Mahdyar: Not really. Most of my songs, like 99%, have a sad theme. And I haven't made any tracks about a girl, or love.

There is a lot of "sadness music" in Iran. I think sadness is part of the culture.

Mahdyar: It is.

But the sadness is beautiful.

Mahdyar: I love it. Sometimes I want to be sad. I kinda like the feeling. But for some time now, I'm already so sad, that I'm looking hard for happiness.

It can't be easy, being an artist fleeing political persecution.

Mahdyar: My first night in Berlin was very hard. I was told that someone would pick me up with his car from the airport, and put me in a ready home studio--with a fridge full of food, and a cell phone, and money, and all the things that are needed for a life. So I should only think about my music, and do my music--completely focused and free. But when I came to Berlin, there was nothing, no one.
I rented a room in an apartment. I got to the apartment with the metro--carrying all of my tools and life with me. When I got to the room, the owner wasn't there. Someone showed me my room, and said, "You sleep here." Every door was locked. Just my room and toilet. No food in the kitchen.
The owner was an artist. I didn't know that. In the room there was a lot of blood on the ceiling and walls. And the apartment was in the ghetto. Some drunk guys were fighting each other in the street, yelling.
What happened in that room!? What was the blood from?!!
It was paint, I think. But he put it there like blood. I will tell you about him later. In that situation, I was thinking, "What did I do--leaving the life I had made in Tehran with my own hands for this." But it became right the second night. The artist was a 30yr old, cool guy. He listened to some of my music and he was so excited. We became friends.
In Berlin, after one month, I made a life again. I had a home studio. I had friends and artists around me. The city was great. Everything seemed to be going well again, until my visa expired.
They told me don't worry. You'll go to Paris--again the same--you go straight to your ready home studio and lawyers are going to get you a two year business visa in a day. But when I came, again there was nothing. I couldn't even find a place to sleep.
I found a lawyer the day after, and talked with him. He told me to forget getting a long visa. The only way is to ask for refugee status, and that is so hard to get.

Mahdyar's case is in court. Reveal's album, and Quf's album, will be released soon. Mahdyar is looking for a studio, to master Quf's album.

 Julie Jigsawnovich is an artist who visited Iran a few weeks before the election. She lives in New York, and can be contacted at Jigsawnovich1 (at) This article was first published in Persianesque Magazine, and later published on