Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mousavi and Reformist Discourse

I spoke at a University in Qom last night. There were about 300 students and the topic of the meeting was: Why Mousavi?. After the speech there was a question and answer session during which many students spoke about the current situation and brought up their questions. Supporters of the current government criticized reformist policies. I replied patiently attempting to explain all the delicate theoretical principles behind reformist thought. I think this stage of the election campaign is very crucial so that people could pose their questions and search for answers. This is part of the democratic process that we must cherish and uphold. We returned back to Tehran at about 1-30 am.
Election programs are underway everywhere. Reformists are now united and organized behind Mir Hossein Mousavi. All major political groups with reformist backgrounds with the exception of Mehdi Karroubi have indicated their support for Mousavi. Mousavi has spoken clearly in support of individual freedoms, lawfulness,women's rights, the need for economic and political reform and many other issues. Recent polls indicate that Mousavi has gained significantly after Khatami resigned from the campaign. The campaign is gaining momentum and young people are fervently engaged.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Female Presidental Candidtates

"Women can stand for the presidential race and the Council of Guardians will not exclude them on the basis of gender nor will they interpret the term : Rejal." This statement was proclaimed by the Spokesperson of the Council of Guardians on Saturday last week. The term rejal (meaning personality) was inserted in a phrase concerning presidential elections, by the legislators of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, to replace the condition of masculinity for presidential candidates.
A few hours after this announcement a rumour was floating among news and internet sites announcing the imminent candidacy of Massoumeh Ebtekar as a presidential hopeful. I was informed of new of my imminent candidacy during a meeting in the Tehran City Council ! This had happened several times before as well and I had denied the rumours each time. This time however circumstances had changed and I decided to take a serious look at the issue and the conditions surrounding my possible candidacy. The approval of the Council of Guardians of a woman for the first time would pave way for the presence of women at higher levels of decision making.It could also create much hope and motivation for young women, girls and youth in general since it would be a symbol of change and progress. It could initiate a movement to remove glass ceilings and backward interpretations concerning women and youth. I believe, however that women have much to say in the management of affairs; in the economic, social, and political dimensions. "I will decide about my candidacy shortly", I have responded in the many different interviews I had to perform this week. In all cases I stressed that I did not plan to break the unity of the Reformists since I believe that "constructive change" is the most essential requirement of these times.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Potato Elections

When former President Khatami announced his candidacy a few months ago, provincial visits were an important part of his campaign . During these visits , the popular reception was exceptional not only in cities but in villages as well. Peculiar events were reported on the sidelines of these trips. In one village they visited they noticed people were shouting among the usual welcoming notes : "Death to potatoes !" Everyone was surprised and taken aback . What could this imply? The villagers later explained that the government was distributing free potatoes which were thought to be rejected from a major exports project.
At that time, no one thought that this would be a general policy of the government on the eve of Presidential elections. Today, this round of elections are coined by media as "Potato Elections". The government of President Ahmadinejad is distributing potatoes free of charge in cities and villages alike.There has been widespread reporting and criticism of the matter in the independent press. Mir Hossein Mousavi has announced that his campaign headquarters does not have access to public resources like the President to distribute alms and potatoes. He has also indicated that he does not believe in these maligned economic gestures which only aim to gain votes. The reality is that Iranians are now more educated and politically informed than ever before in Iran's history . Many see this policy of the government as a desperate attempt in the final days before the election to gain popularity. The people however feel that this is an insult to their dignity and their wisdom. Votes are based on informed decisions and awareness not on spending to buy them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


The Tehran City Park is just accross the City Council Building on Behesht( paradise) Avenue. It is a paradise in itself. Built during the reign of Reza Shah, this park is Tehran's oldest. Its tall and aged trees, create a beautiful atmosphere and lots of shade for the very hot summer days in Tehran. There are now over 1500 parks in Tehran and every year we have dozens of new parks added to this list. These trees and beautiful greenery are very valuable for a city that suffers from chronic air pollution.

On the election campaign, most Reformist parties and groups have now announced their support for Mir Hossein Mousavi . He has given his first international press conference and is now expressing his views on various contentious and controversial issues. These views seem to increasingly ,conform with ideas that Reformists have promoted during recent years. Mir Hossein has also commenced his provincial trips, meeting with people from all walks of life and giving his positions on a wide range of domestic issues. Change for a better future, is the major objective that we all follow. Elections are a valuable opportunity in democratic societies and young people in Iran hope that this opportunity will be appreciated and lead to significant change in the political atmosphere, directions of the government and administration, in line with the objectives of our Revolution and values.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Love Story for Dialogue

While Romeo and Juliet stands as the epic of love in Western culture and literature, Leili and Majnoon is probably the Persian version, similar in some respects and very different in other. Written about 800 years ago by Nezami Gangavi , Leili and Majnoon is a magnificent example of eloquent poetry, depicting an eternal love between two mortals. In Iranian culture this love is an example of divine love, love for the truth and for the Creator. It goes that when Majnoon was injured he became restless and started crying . The people told him but you have always been so patient and persevering in your love for Leili, then why are you now so intolerant. " This is for the love of Leili, my love for her has filled my soul, so when I feel pain I fear that she is experiencing the pain as well." This is the epitome of love. A total transformation occurs in the true lover , hence becoming more similar to the beloved. When the beloved carries the most sublime qualities of knowledge , power, mercy, beauty and compassion then the lover can also hope to come close to those qualities. This narration depicts the essence of love. Persian culture and Iranians today are still strongly bound to these values and beliefs. In dealing with Iran, particularly during the past decades, when the Islamic Revolution has initiated a revival of these spiritual values, the West has not been able to appreciate and grasp the importance of these mores in understanding the mentality of Iranians.
The philosophy and concept of 'Dialogue Among Civilizations' is probably most instrumental in bringing about that profound understanding that could assist to heal the scars and mend ties.