Friday, May 29, 2009

Presidential debates and foreign policy

I am traveling for the election campaign these days. I have visited Ghazvin, Mashad, Zanjan and Golestan. I have met with large groups of people and spoken about the shortcomings of the current government and the need for change. Students in all cities are very enthusiastic and the majority are supporters of Mousavi.
In addition the official state radio and television campaign has commenced and each candidate has the opportunity to speak in the TV and radio programs in various forms and there is a debate for each pair of candidates. The three candidates are seriously criticizing the current policies and government failures. We are experiencing an unprecedented level of tolerance to freedom of expression and critisisms of the government. This, process I believe is conducive towards the full realization of a democratic society.
Foreign diplomacy issues have also surfaced in these speeches.In one of his election speeches Mr Ahmadinejad has said that one of the saddest moments of his life was when former President Khatami went to France on an official visit. In his meeting with President Chirac, he goes on to say, Chirac stood at the top of the stairways and did not come down to greet Khatami. Ahamadinejad said that this was a great disgrace for Iran. After these allegations , reformist news sites have published pictures of that visit. Pictures indicate that contrary to what Ahmadinejad said President Chirac had came down all the steps leading to the Elysee Palace to meet President Khatami. Here you can view the scenes from 2001.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Green Wave

Green is the buzz word today. It is the color specifically chosen by supporters of Mir Hossein. In Iranian culture as well as Islamic tradition green is the most meaningful color. Now, green is taken as a sign of support for change, a sign of opposition to current government policies and as a sign of choosing Mir Hossein Mousavi. Green head bands, green T-shirts, green scarves are the political fashion in Iran today. I have been travelling from Ghazvin to Mashad and Neishabour and meeting with large audiences, talking about the importance of these elections and why we all have to take this opportunity for democracy as granted and vote for change. Except for the current President all other candidates consider change as their major strategy, change in economic policy, change in social policy and change in our international approach. Apparently, Mir Hossein is leading in the polls in major cities throughout the country. The state run radio and television is under harsh pressure to give a fair share of publicity to each candidate. The President however is an exception apparently since the government has an absolute rule over this monopolized media. His visits throughout the nation have been inspiring.
It seems that even though the government has been increasing wages and providing government shares even up to a month before the elections, people are making independent decisions on the election. The green wave is taking over.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Environment and Human Rights

Shahid Beheshti University ( which is actually the college where I completed my bachelors degree) now has a UNESCO Chair for Human Rights, Peace and Democracy. They hosted, during the past two days,an international conference on Environment and Human Rights. The Conference was attended by academics and experts from all continents. Two days of deliberations on the nexus between environment and human rights had resulted in a significant wealth of academic articles on the matter. I spoke, after the UNEP representative Bakary Kante and the spokesperson of the Judiciary, Dr. Jamshidi, in the closing ceremony yesterday afternoon. As someone who has had an 8 year experience in dealing with the implementation of environmental law, I told them we need to find out why, at the global level, most legislation has not been translated into action. World leaders present attractive rhetoric about sustainable development, but it seems that they do not perform well in practice and implementation.

I continued saying that we need to understand whether the weak compliance of governments is a result of the flawed worldviews of their leaders or is it due to a lack of ethical commitment. Is it because they do not consider environmental rights to be an integral aspect of human rights ? Or is it due to the arrogant and selfish attitude that world leaders have taken against nature? Divine religions particularly Islam provide not only a philosophical explanation for environmental rights but also an ethical framework in which governments should be held accountable. I concluded by saying that environmental rights are an undeniable and indivisible aspect of human rights.
I was invited to give the gifts to the speakers and join the group photo at the end of the session. You can find details on speakers and the program here :

Friday, May 8, 2009

Statement on Presidential Elections

The book launch ceremony was attended by local and international media as well as two ministers from Khatami's government and my colleagues from the academic centers as well as former environment directors. The session was moderated by Amin Arefnia one of the young members of Baran. Mr. Haji former Minister and the Director of Baran ( Foundation for Progress and Freedom of Iran), spoke on the importance of collecting and formulating management experiences and how this process could enable the nation to learn from its past mistakes and move ahead. After him, Fariba Ebtehaj my dear friend, advisor and editor of the Grapes of Shahrivar spoke about the trends which led to the creation of the book. Mr. Masjed Jamei the former Minister of Culture who is also now on the Tehran City Council also elaborated on the cultural implications of biographies and memoirs and how important this is for future generations. I finally spoke , thanking the guests and inviting them to read and provide their views and critique on the book ,which I mentioned ,reflected a certain angle of events during those tumultuous 8 years.

Journalists who had attended began their questions initially on the book, but gradually shifting to the question of the possibility of my candidacy for the office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I speculated that this would arise and therefore I had prepared a statement which I read in that session.

Excerpts of the statement are as follows: The right to decide for one's future and destiny and to freely elect a President for the nation is a democratic right obtained in the process of the struggles for the Islamic Revolution. Today, the Iranian nation can change the course of destiny through elections. Women have consistently played a central and influential role in this process and although a certain narrow minded and backward approach has attempted to confine women to the limits of the house, Imam Khomeini made it very clear that women must be involved with the basic processes of the country. However, a certain backward approach , rooted historically, in the jurisprudence of other religions such as those who endeavored to keep Mary, the daughter of Emran, the mother of Jesus, out of the Temple of Solomon on reasons based on her gender, are today insisting to keep women out of the sphere of political influence in Iran.

While confident that I would qualify for this high office, I believe that we should consider national interests above all and for that reason in order to prevent discord and disunity , I invite all people to take a serious role in the upcoming elections. While I highly regard the role of Mehdi Karroubi, I consider Mir Hossein Mousavi to be the most qualified candidate in this round. For the above reasons I will not stand as a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Grapes of Shahrivar

Now four years after I left government office and returned to my academic work ( and of course the City Council), my memoirs as the first woman Vice-President in the Islamic Republic of Iran will be published tomorrow. I had much enthusiasm and energy to remember the details of the events of those 8 years and to bring them on paper. The editing and organization of the work took longer, and finally the book is out . A ceremony will be held in Baran Organization which is the NGO established by President Khatami to collect , assess and analyse the management experiences of his government. I will introduce the book to a group of reporters and guests and answer their questions. I am not sure whether issues concerning the elections will surface or not, we can wait and see. The book is entitled "The Grapes of Shahrivar".Shahrivar is the sixth month in the Persian calendar. Its in Farsi for now , but who knows, I might get bored one day and decide to write another memoir in English. Destiny has its twists and turns .

The Savior and the Green Movement

There is no question that the string of events that we have seen during and after the tenth round of Presidential elections have permanenetly changed the trends of the Islamic Revolution. A major rift among the followers and devotees of the Revolution has now occured . The biased election officials and regulatory bodies have not been able to convince the three rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad or their large body of followers of the integrity of these Presidential elections.

People believe today that the voting process was rigged and that fraud and deciet in the system has seriously damaged the dignity of the Islamic Republic. In addition, the violent and illegal behaviour of militia and security forces with people demonstrating in the cities, irresponsible and inhumane behaviour with the detainees, all leading to injury and death for citizens who only demanded a response to their questions on the elections has shocked the sincere believers and followers of the Revolution. The only response they have heard, have been allegations of a velvet revolution and foreign conspiracy recently in a large court with dozens of reformist leaders. Last week former Vice President Abtahi and political activist and journalist Atrianfar made obscure televised confessions in a very akward manner clearly indicating the pressures they faced in prison. Abtahi who had lost over 20 kilos during 40 days of detainment was evidently under duress. No one on the street believed what they said about taking back their claims on election fraud and denouncing Mousavi. During the last week many leading religious authorities ( Marjaa) denounced the value of confessions under pressure. Pressures from the people has forced officials to announce the closure of an unofficial detainment faclity as well as indictment of the perpetuators of assaults against detainees.

In the mist of these events and ongoing street protests, the legitimacy of the government( which is now endorsed and inaugurated) and the confidence of the people has eroded significantly. This is the ethical crisis that the Islamic Republic faces today; three decades after its inception.
We celebrate the birthday of the twelfth Imam ( decsendent of the Prophet) who is currently in occultation. He is the Saviour who will appear to bring justice and peace for the world. The philosopy of awaiting the appearance of the Saviour is an integral theme in Shia teachings. Awaiting the Savior is an indication of protest against the status quo and dissatisfaction with existing trends. It is a message to current world leaders that their efforts have not made the world a safer place but that war and armed conflict of people against people and against nature is still taking its toll. The Islamic Revolution has been closely affiliated to the belief in the reappearance of the Savior and today it is clear that due to the serious challenges and crisis that it faces , we need to pray more than ever before for the Saviour to come and take affairs in his divine hands.
The Green Movement feels that it needs to believe and pray for the Saviour to come and change the current conditions of mistrust, insecurity and lack of legitimacy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Persian Gulf: The Eternal Name

We have celebrated the national day for the Persian Gulf yesterday in Iran. During recent years there has been a deliberate attempt on behalf of Arab States in the Persian Gulf to change the historical name of this strategic body. This attempt has been encouraged by some Western governments recently.

Professor Muhammad Sahimi from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California has written the following letter to the Hillary Clinton. I thought it would be interesting for many.

The State Department statement was relatively brief: "The Secretary [of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton] is pleased to announce the appointment of
Dennis B. Ross to the position of Special Advisor to the Secretary of
State for The Gulf and Southeast Asia."

Which "Gulf?" Gulf of Mexico? Gulf of Aqaba? Gulf of Tonkin?
Gulf of Aden? Gulf of Carpenteria? There are so many of them!

We read on: "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and
facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to
energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of
law." Oh! "That Gulf"

Well, Madam Secretary, you need first and foremost an advisor on history
because, given his long history of bias toward Iran, in addition to be
totally unfit for the job, your advisor and "expert," Dennis Ross, does
not know the history of that region. The name of that Gulf is Persian
Gulf, nothing less, nothing more. It has been that way since at least 330
B.C., when the Achaemenid Empire established the first Persian Empire in
Pars (or Persis, the region which is called Fars in the present Iran) in
southwestern region of Iran. After that historical event, Greek - not
Iranian - sources started calling the body of water that bordered this
region the Persian Gulf. It has stayed that way ever since.

In his 1928 book, A Periplus of the Persian Gulf, Sir Arnold Talbot
Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Iraq from 1918-1920, stated

"No water channel has been so significant as Persian Gulf to the
geologists, archaeologists, geographer, merchants, politicians,
excursionists, and scholars whether in past or in present. This water
channel which separates the Iran Plateau from the Arabia Plate has
enjoyed an Iranian identity since at least 2200 years ago."

Madam Secretary, I know that the United States and its allies import
significant amount of oil from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. I
know that the U.S. supports the corrupt and dictatorial Arab regimes
there, because they protect what is perceived as the vital interests of
the U.S. (although those regimes are the main culprit in the rise of
al-Qaeda). I also know that these nations are spending tens of billions of
dollars to buy weapons from the U. S. - weapons that they neither need,
nor will they ever be able to use - and that the U.S. nuclear industry is
going to make billions more by selling nuclear reactors to Bahrain and
other Arab nations in that region (but not, of course, Iran). Therefore,
the new and changed State Department - just like the old ones - wants to
appease these regimes, and avoid doing anything that would offend their
rulers. I know all of that.

But, Madam Secretary, all such considerations do not, and cannot, change
the history of that region. The 990 km long body of water that starts
from Arvand Rud that carries the waters of Euphrates and Tigris rivers,
and ends at Strait of Hormuz - another Iranian name, recognized
internationally - that connects it to the Oman Sea, has always been, and
will always be, the Persian Gulf. This has been recognized
internationally. Nothing, and least of all the billions and trillions of
the corrupt Arab rulers, can change that. If your advisers do not know
that, or are not willing to tell you that, then, you need new advisers.
To be successful in your efforts that region, the first thing you need to
know is the region's history.

Madam Secretary, President Obama has said that the U.S. talks with Iran
must be built on mutual respect. One good place to start showing this
respect toward Iran and Iranians is calling that historical body of water
what it has always been called, the Persian Gulf.