Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in the Tehran City Council

Armenians Celebrating Christmas in a Church in Tehran
The Holy Scripture of Islam, which is believed to be a total revelation  to the Prophet Mohammad (SA), has several recurring references to the succession of Prophets who all came to deliver the message of the Creator. The Quran is unique in that it makes strong references to the beliefs and teachings of other Abrahamic traditions; emphasizing on the common themes of monotheism, abolition of all forms of slavery and subjugation,and the basic ethical and moral principles that all religions preach. The story  of  each prophet and their societies includes references to the incorrect beliefs and practices that have set blows to the livelihoods of peoples and undermined their dignity and each narration also points to the direction of salvation and eternal happiness for all humankind. Actually, most  divine Prophets deal with the lost ones, those who have not found their goal and direction in life, those who are disoriented and have forgotten their selves.
Among these narrations the story of Maryam the mother of Jesus, and the birth and life of Jesus is extraordinary. This story begins with references to the vow of the mother of Maryam, and that when she realized that her child was a girl, and was dedicated to serve the House of Solomon, she insisted to proceed with the vow; which meant that  a woman would serve in a Jewish monastery  for the first time. The chastity of Maryam and her status as a woman chosen to be a model for all are hallmarks of the Chapter and verses devoted to this lady.  The birth of Jesus and the fate of Maryam are also described in beautiful terms in the Quran.
Today ,in the Tehran City Council, a Christian member of the Friends of the Council, delivered a report on the conditions of district 8. This Armenian citizen who has been elected like hundreds of other Friends of the Council to oversee and facilitate the functions of local municipal authorities, was chosen to deliver the weekly district report. His report to the City Council included references to their activities, as well as  the social and environmental problems in the district.

Meanwhile, reformist members  of the Council took the opportunity to greet Christian Iranians on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tazieh, Art of Ashura

Today is the tenth of Muharram and Ashura is celebrated in many Islamic nations. Mass processions continue for several days in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, parts of Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan , India and many other countries.  Several years ago, I was surprised to learn that Ashura is an official holiday in India, a country which harbors 75 million Shia Muslims. Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Hussein the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. He was killed on orders from Yazid, the Ruler of Damascus in 61 (AH) for the reason of  not endorsing the oppressive and tyrannical rule of Banni Ommayeh. Imam Hussein and his few companions fought in Karbala to expose the hypocritcal nature of the Ommayeh regime and to demonstrate the authentic values of Islam. " I `have no intention in my uprising other that to revive the authentic values of Islam and to bring reform to the religion of my Grandfather." he stated when threatened in Karbala.
Mourning processions, speeches and , food which is distributed on the basis of vows for Hussein are the hallmarks of these days. Many  speeches and mourning ceremonies are also held to discuss the dimensions of the Hussein's revolution.   Ashura has served as an inspiration for not only the Islamic Revolution in 1978, but also for Shia's in their struggle against Saddam in Iraq, against the Israeli aggression in Lebanon and Palestine, and for many others against any oppressive system. Even today, ceremonies reflect the political atmosphere that surrounds them. Some of them take a more political and critical dimension while others only take the form of rituals.
Ashura has its own artistic appeal as well. Black, green and red are the colors of Ashura. Many have read poems for Imam Hossein or created paintings, and other artistic creations. One of the traditional arts of Ashura is the Tazieh,  literally meaning condolence theater;  which is a theatrical replay of the events of Ashura symbolizing epic spirit of resistance and righteousness. Tazieh is practiced and performed in many countries; in India and Pakistan the tradition is to build a replica of the masoleum of Imam Hussein, which I have seen in some ceremonies. Tazieh is usually performed in the street or in a local  public area. Abbas, the brother of Imam wears green armour and Shimr the person who martyrs Imam Hussein wears red. They recite poems and tell the story of Ashura .
We watched a Tazieh this morning in Tehran. Dozens of spectators were standing in a circle and the skit was perfomed in the street using small loudspeakers. They were wearing colorful costumes and they invited people to pay their vows. Even though now, some academic art centers in Iran are reviving the arts in the authentic forms, it is  still sad to hear that tradtional arts like Tazieh are gradually fading away and that few people are learning this art from their elders.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tehran's Uncertain but Radical Diplomacy

During the past week, after a group of radical youth attacked the British Embassy and Gholhak residence in Tehran, many reactions have occurred. Diplomatic missions have left host countries on both sides and rhetoric in condemnation and support of the action has not subsided. The majority of political observers have questioned the intentions behind the action and even some conservative and pro-government groups seem to have condemned the act. The stark reality is that Principalists who are wielding absolute power in Iran, are responsible for all the events taking place at both internal and external levels. The financial scandals and rising inflation on one side, the unlawful policies taken  and the ongoing pressures on Reformists and critiques on the other, all point to the incompetence of the Principalists in managing the affairs of the country. The two rival factions of Principalists, as a result of  their serious internal disputes, have created many setbacks in the economy. Some believe they are resorting to taking the internal disputes to a new diplomatic and international level.

The majority of Iranians hope that rational policies will replace the current decisions and that the international community will prevent any radical decision against Iran. Sanctions and economic pressures are taking their toll, initially on the private sector and the people . Even the threat of harsher action or a military strike will play into the hands of the radical forces and create more difficult conditions for the people and opposition groups like the Reformists.
Even the threat of war should not be tolerated at a time that we are still witnessing the crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the name of NATO and international coalitions.  Where has war created more security and happiness? Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine are all paying a heavy price due to years of war and violence resulting from occupation and oppression.  Libya has suffered much from the aerial attacks of NATO even though these attacks resulted in the removal of a dictator. Neocons and radicals in the US and the Zionist lobby are pressing for war against Iran once again ,since they feel threatened by the influence of a strong and reasonable Iran.
Let us hope that the American people will remind Obama that they voted for him since they were weary of the war mongering Bush and his neocon entourage . Now what is to be done if Obama proceeds in those very steps towards a new war and aggression? His analysts and advisors need to inform him that Iran is now very different from any country that has been attacked in contemporary history. He also needs to be informed that Iran has not attacked nor initiated war against any nation in the past 750 years , more than three times of US history.
Another piece of advice that Obama needs is that Israel does not look to secure US interests in the region. Instead it supports creating more havoc to find room for its aggressive policies in face of the Arab Spring and Islamists coming to power in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya through a democratic process which might undermine Western hegemony.
European countries like Britain should display more restraint and revisit their one sided policies against Iran, the majority of British voters who condemned the militaristic actions of Blair will not side with  a war mongering Cameron either. He better also see the wider picture and change tone and attitude towards Iran. On an internal note I hope that pressures on Reformists will diminish so that we could witness a strong turn out for the up coming elections.

 Time to hope and pray for better prospects on all said above.