Friday, December 21, 2012

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dec 19 -2012
Dear President Obama,
Re: Would you also shed a tear for Iranian children with cancer?
Applauding your humane reaction to the recent school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we wonder if you would also shed a tear for the plight of Iranian people caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, as a result of the sanctions imposed on them by the international community led by the American government.
In particular, heart-wrenching reports of ordinary Iranians dying due to a widespread shortage of pharmaceutical drugs call for immediate cessation of hostilities toward the Iranian people, caused by the sanctions. Eyewitness reports in the black market for the drugs and the tearful eyes of families of cancer patients scrambling desperately in this market should concern you as much as the Newtown incident did. Although the former happened beyond your control, the pain and suffering of Iran’s cancer patients are a direct consequence of your government’s policies. Whereas there is barely any evidence suggesting sanctions achieve their political goals, they are causing death and devastation to the Iranian cancer patients as you are reading this letter.
A recent report, for example, from a charitable hospital for cancer patients in Tehran, Mahak (, indicate a shortage of the following pharmaceutical items:
Amp.BC NU Amp.Melphalan Tab.Mitotane Cap.Procarbazine Amp.Topotecan 4mg-1mg Tab.Lanvis-6Thioguanine
We believe you are a man of conscience, and under your leadership the world has a unique opportunity to leave politics behind and attend to the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Iranian populace as a consequence of the sanctions. Will you take this historic opportunity to put people first and ahead of politics? You are well familiar with the following poem by Sa’adi Shirazi:
Human beings are members of a whole, In creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain, The name of human you cannot retain.
Will you consider living up to it?
The following children died senselessly in the Newtown tragedy:
Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez-Greene, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison Wyatt.
You have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to demonstrate your true dedication to fundamental human dignity. These children’s souls are watching.
Will you let the suffering of Iranian children with cancer continue or will you choose to put an end to this tragedy by lifting the sanctions on Iranian people?
With hope,
Yours very truly,
Canadian and Iranian Coalition for Peace

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Student Movement in Iran

Six decades ago, on such  days in 1953, a few months after the CIA engineered coup d'etat which toppled the nationalist government of Dr. Mohammad Mosadegh and re-installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the heroic resistance of young students made history. Richard Nixon, who was then the American Vice President  traveled to Iran to consolidate the shaken relationship and give the impression that everything in Iran is under control. Iranian students who were furious following the severe crackdown  of the coup d'etat and the return of dictatorship, protested against this visit. Nixon's visit was an indication of the continued interference and control of the American government in Iranian affairs.
In Tehran University, students from the engineering college  stood up and protested against this event. Fearing a generalized uprising, the monarchy ordered a severe crackdown and gave security guards and police orders to fire on the students. As a result, three students were killed in the College of Engineering campus and many more were injured.
My late father Professor Taghi Ebtekar, a junior student at that time, was present as was the martyr  Dr. Mostapha Chamran who was also an engineering student in those times.  I have heard their eye witness accounts of the event. From that day onward the 16th of Azar has been commemorated as the Day of Students in Iran.  Students have voiced their protests and concerns on this day during the past decades.

University students have played a serious role in all phases of contemporary Iranian history. Their perseverance and resistance against oppression, dictatorship and foreign intervention has had deep implications for the Iranian society. This progressive approach gave the student movement  a major role in the development of the Islamic Revolution in 1978, during the takeover of the American embassy in 1979 and during the 8 year war against Saddam Hussein. A small part of the non Islamic students had kept their criticism of the Revolution during those years.
During the new reconstruction era, the majority of the student movement in Iran voiced their criticisms as they felt that political and social freedoms were gradually limited. Pressures on the movement augmented and reached their climax once in 1999 and again in 2009. After the disputed presidential elections in 2009, pressures have augmented and the situation has deteriorated.
After 3 years, I  finally agreed to  take part in a debate arranged by the National / State Television. I spoke about the concerns of the student movement, the pressures and limitations on their activity and freedoms.
My comments have been welcomed by many people who believe that the Islamic Republic was established to uphold basic freedoms and respond to the concerns and expectations of the people.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ali Asqar: For the World's Children

The greatest tragedy that occurs during war is the targeting  and victimization of  children. According to UNICEF  reports hundreds of thousands of children have been killed during war during the past decades, many more have been disabled, orphaned and psychologically traumatized . Millions have lost their homes.
I can never forget a tragic photo of children killed during an aerial  attack by the Saddam regime on a school in Dezful,  in southern Iran, dating back to 1983.  Only in the past decade, thousands of children have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria and in parts of Africa, during armed conflict and war. Many children were killed in the recent attack on Gaza when their homes were demolished by Israeli missiles.
During the mourning ceremonies of Muharram, accounts of the tragedy in Karbala (which occurred in the year 60 of the Hejira) are recited. One of the most shocking scenes, is the martyrdom of Ali Asqar, the youngest among the family of Imam Hussein.
Imam Hussein the grandson of the Prophet, comes under pressure by the ruling Ommayid establishment to pledge allegiance to Yazid, the brutal Khalifa. Yet he has come to invite the people of Kufa to return to the authentic teachings of Islam. As Imam Hussein endeavors to avoid the battle, he asks the enemy to let them go back to Medina. But Ibn Sad, the commander of Yazid forces has orders to force Imam to submit or to face the battle. Imam Hussein cannot surrender,  he has risen in face of oppression and tyranny. Hussein has a mission to save the face of Islam and to revive the tradition of the Prophet (SA). Along with his family and companions, he camps in Neinava, a region in present day Iraq. The enemy forces bring the camp under siege preventing them from accessing water. In the dry deserts of Karbala, the women and children are exhausted by the heat and by thirst. Mothers have no milk to feed their infants. Thirst has overwhelmed the caravan and the youngest among them Ali Asghar is restless. Imam Hussein brings the child forward and asks the enemy for water to quench the thirst of the 6 month baby. Yet before he finishes speaking, an arrow from the enemy has slit the little throat of Ali...
Ali Asghar is the child martyr of Karbala. His tragic martyrdom signifies the sufferings that the family of the Prophet face to protect the Religion and also the brutality of the selfish and ignorant followers of Yazid who call themselves Muslims, but have relinquished their humanity in the face of  worldly temptations of the ruling power.
Every year on the eighth of Muharram, ceremonies are held in Iran and other Muslim countries to commemorate the martyrdom of Ali Asghar. Mothers attend with their infants and they pray for the health and prosperity of their child. They dress the children in green Arabic outfits .

Ali Asghar is a legend for humanity . When children are still killed in war and armed conflict, when residential areas are attacked and demolished during war, we need to remind humanity that the struggle for justice, for righteousness and peace must continue...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

For Gaza

More than 120 civilians including mostly children and women are now dead after more than a week of rocket exchanges between Gaza and Israel. Israel has occupied Palestinian land since 1948 and is now annexing whatever it can by building new settlements in disputed territories. For several years Israel pursued a policy of targeting Palestinian leaders by unmanned drones or rockets. The residents of Gaza decided to defend themselves and retaliate by also sending rockets into Israel. Even though Israel has claimed that their Iron Dome anti missile system is effective, dozens of Palestinian rockets have penetrated Israeli airspace during the past week. The aggressors are now more than ever under fire for their inhuman and brutal attack on civilian populations in the defenseless Gazan population. A glance at not only Muslim media but European and American newspapers indicates that public opinion is heavily against Israel aggression. A family of 9 members including several children were killed only yesterday. This has mobilized both Arab and Islamic countries to take a strong and unprecedented position against Israel.
For the UN and related bodies it must be said that the most initial and essential mission of this body is to "safeguard peace on earth"  not to play as an intermediary   between powerful governments and politicians. People still look forward to see this role for Gaza in the UN bodies.
Now, that President Obama is securely reelected to the White House he must remember that he is complicit in the crimes of the Zionist regime. He must remember that he vowed to change the negative and militaristic foreign policy image of the Bush era and that he vowed to cherish human life and dignity in the world.
For the Muslim world, it is upon them to defend themselves their homes and their families. Remember that as the Holy Quran states "Believers are brothers.."( Sura Hujjarat,10) and as humans they are common in their creation.."We created you man and woman..(Sura Hujjarat 13) .

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Supreme Sacrifice of Hussein

Although the month of Muharram is the beginning of the new year for many Muslims, for many Shia believers it designates the commencement of mourning ceremonies. The tenth of this month, Ashura coincides with the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet. Sixty one years after the Hejira, during the tyrannical rule of Yazid the Ommayid Dynasty ruler, who was infamous for his excesses, injustices and oppressive rule, Hussein refrained from pledging allegiance to the Khalifat. Viewing his dignified position and resistance, the people of Kufa (present day Iraq) invited Imam to join them to form a resistance front against the Ommayids. However, after murdering the emissaries of  Hussein, once he started off towards Kufa, Yazid sent his army to force Imam to surrender or to die in an unequal battle. Imam resisted, believing in the necessity to fight corruption and the deviant ways of the ruling system, which were in contradiction with Islamic teachings and had permeated the society. He invited the armies to let him go and not to fight with him. Imam did not wish to engage in battle, he had brought his family and children along, but he also would not accept to surrender to the deceit and lies that Yazid had propagated in the name of Islam. Ultimately he stressed that: "I have come to bring about change and reform in the religion of my Grandfather, but if the Religion will not return to its authentic form  other than with my death; then tell the swords to encompass  me". Along with his few companions Imam Hussein fought until martyrdom. The Ommayids did much to distort the reality and to deny this tragedy.Thousands of sermons were given to prove that Hussein and his companions were foreign infiltrators and rebels who had denied the essentials of Islam. The Khalifat sought to hold on to power by any means, but their reign was shortened by violent events that ensued once the people realized the painful truth.
Ashura is a spiritual and political inspiration for people of all times, it is a message for humanity.  Mahatma Gandhi spoke of Hussein as if they shared the same faith:“My faith is that the progress of Islam does not depend on the use of sword by its believers, but the result of the supreme sacrifice of Hussain (A.S.), the great saint.”
 Imam Hussein stood up for righteousness and truthfulness, thus he belongs to all irrespective of faith, creed , race or nationality. He is the beacon of light and ship of salvation for the distressed generations of today. In a world menaced by  corruption, greed, deceit and war we feel an urge to take refugee in the personality of unworldly role models like Hussein.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Environment Suffers in War

 The Center for Peace and Environment has convened an international seminar every year on the occasion of November 6 the International Day for the Prevention of the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Members of the diplomatic community and countries which have suffered from war were invited to speak about the devastation that war had caused in their homelands. Also, representatives from the international organizations such as the UNDP , OCHA and the International Red Cross attended the seminar and provided reports on their actions in this regard.  As a Champion of the Earth, I would invite these international figures to attend our ceremony and they had usually responded favorably.  This year, considering the circumstances and continuing restraints on the activities of the civil society, the Center decided to issue a statement and postpone the session to the next year. The full statement is available at . This is the opening phrase:

"Since mankind has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, as well as destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained the unpublicized victim of war.
Yet when the environment   suffers in warfare, it threatens the well-being of vulnerable populations and undermines prospects for lasting peace, thus triggering a vicious cycle of destruction...."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Argo, The American Version

    Argo is a movie recently released in the US.  Directed by Ben Affleck, the film concerns the escape of 6 Americans from Iran. As the movies' orientation indicates, Hollywood had embraced the political ambitions of Washington since long ago. The production and recent screening of this movie signals to the world that the infamous American film industry collaborated with the CIA (Tony Mendez) then in 1980 and now to produce their version of the 1979 story. Argo reveals an untouched aspect of the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran  without  providing sufficient resources  to the real reasons behind the event. A short picture animation   of the history of US intervention in the internal affairs of Iran and the coup d'etat of 1953  at the beginning of the film is not enough  to convince the viewers that this will be a balanced and non politicized account of the story.
In an  interview with reporters Affleck confirms this direction  "It was really inspiring to meet Tony. He was steeped in this movie. It was Tony's story, Tony's point of view," 
Tony Mendez is the  CIA  operative who used Hollywood to forward his agency's agenda once in 1980 and now once again,  for the purpose of creating hostility against Iranians on the silver screen, at a time when sanctions and threats against the Iranian nation have escalated.
In that interview, the director also claims that his film is based on historical accuracy. That probably means the kind of accuracy that sees only fragments of history preferable to certain politicians . Those fragments are depicted  such  that  the humane and innocent demeanor of the Americans and the wild and hostile actions of the Iranian students would be set in clear contrast. The people who occupied the embassy are never identified in the movie as college students, whereas this is a very clear historical fact. The education and academic identity of many of those involved is now known and some of them have served sentences or are still imprisoned for their reformist views and political activities.

In addition to historical flaws and mishaps, the film lacks many of the basic qualities of a documentary or reworking of a historical event. It seems that the producers went on a hasty mission to produce a movie commissioned by certain agencies to enhance public American morale against Iranians in such difficult times. Personally speaking I expected much more.

There had been many events during the 444 days that could have been covered by the movie industry and this is a criticism also directed to Iranian directors and producers. During the early months of the crisis, many women and Afro- Americans were freed following the orders of Imam, 50 American activists, journalists and academicians were invited by the students, the first gathering of freedom seeking movements in Tehran was convened and many more events which indicate that the students were endeavoring to connect and establish dialogue to convey the concerns of the Iranian nation and the excesses of the American government. (book

The real question naturally goes to the producers ,directors and the script writer . Why does this production touch so lightly on  the  historical realities of the years before the embassy takeover and the hostility  created by the foreign policy of the US government.  Americans had staged a coup d'etat in Iran in 1953, overthrowing a popular Prime minster and installing a monarch that would impose his tyrannical rule for 25 years on a nation. In addition, they refused to recognize the democratic aspirations of the people in the 1978 Revolution and continued to destablize the newly established Islamic Republic by all means.
 Did  Ben Affleck and George Clooney realize that the  American government had caused Iranians 25 years of brutal dictatorship, during every dark moment of which it had supported the suppression, torture and devastation the Shah had brought about for millions of Iranians.  It seems  that they underestimated the affliction that their government had brought about for this nation or perhaps they  need not to think about humanity, but about the interests of their government whose support is essential for the  top box records of their movie.
Did they for a moment consider the movie industry as a means to promote dialogue and understanding among nations to counter the hostility created by governments and to enhance global peace?
Nevertheless,  Argo is still an opportunity to revisit the turbulent history of relations between Iran and the US.

 If  we could classify the film industry  in terms of public diplomacy, unfortunately this film gives the impression  that Americans are in no position for reasonable and mutual understanding and dialogue.  They are still insisting on the supremacy they aspire in the world and see no one equal in the global equation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

American Elections Influenced by Iran Politics

There are many reasons to believe that Iranian politics affect American elections and political processes. Iran had been traditionally regarded as the “gendarme of the region before the Islamic Revolution.It seems that  American politicians have never been able to come to terms with the Revolution in 1979 and even more, the after  shock of the Takeover of the American embassy  8 months later.
Although the Clinton administration took certain steps to alleviate tensions and acknowledged the illegal and unjustified actions of the US government in Iran, including the staging of a coup d'etat in 1953, many believe that they did not do enough to change the equations governing bilateral relations. To the item that Madeline Albright apologized for we must now add,  installing and supporting a brutal dictatorship for 25 years  and confronting a popular revolution and nation  by sanctions and threats for 32 years.
Now, again in 2012, the major recurring theme in the Presidential debates  is how to deal with Iran.The final debacle of Obama and Romney was focused on Iran and the Middle East. This, accompanied with an orchestrated campaign to rally public opinion against Iran in American mainstream media, has led to a major debate on the reasons for a continued antagonistic and hegemonistic approach against Iran.The nuclear weapon "myth" is meant only to serve as a pretext for more pressure and sanctions against a nation that has not bowed in submission. Irregardless of  the very difficult lessons that should have been learned in Iraq , Afghanistan,   Libya and Egypt, American politicians still seek supremacy and control over Iran.
Conflicting news reports on direct talks between Iran and the US have also surfaced bringing both hope and concerns over the eventual out come of this trend. While some observers in Iran are hopeful that this effort will break the stalemate in relations, others express uncertainty due to the covert nature of these developments.
The hope is that Americans have recognized the leverage that Iran holds in the Islamic and non-aligned world . The hope is that world politicians have realized that another Western backed war in the region is not going to resolve the current challenges. The hope is that the Israelis and the zionist lobby in the Congress will not be the game changers in foreign policy. The hope is that politicians realize that Iranians want change and reform not rebellion, internal strife and civil war.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

True Message of the Prophet

There is a debate among scholars and intellectuals on the essence of  what we understand of God. Is the God that we worship a stern, omnipotent and merciless power or is God the omnipotent, merciful and compassionate Being ? Was the Prophet of God , Muhammad, a messenger of peace and love or hatred and war?   While the Holy Quran clearly indicates that God's compassion exceeds his wrath and that his forgiveness overrides his punishment, but evidently a certain radical interpretation has surfaced occasionally ; mostly in response to attacks from the outer, implying a more radical and violent impression of Islam. A deliberate and well orchestrated effort to display a negative image of Islam by Western media has also been underway for long.
While the insulting films posted recently on YouTube and the offensive caricatures attempting to mock the beloved Prophet of Islam were indicative of a new wave of Islamo-phobia, Muslims worldwide responded in varying tones and forms.  Where American embassies were available, thousands poured into the streets to protest and this led to violence and bloodshed. Among them the most  evident cases were in Libya , Pakistan and Egypt while peaceful marches in other cities still continue.
In an attempt to respond to the accusations and offensive efforts to smear the image of Islam and Muslims, many have resorted to intercultural and intellectual debates. In a recent interview I referred to the Dialogue Among Civilizations as a resort and resolution in face of the current attacks and threats against Muslims worldwide. Some radical sites responded harshly to my comments by claiming that the idea is "shipwrecked" and finished now. The idea which was put forward by President Khatami during his term and welcomed by the UN has stark enemies among radical anti reformist groups in power today in Iran.

In addition many Muslims throughout the world , particularly those living as minorities in Western societies started diverse initiatives to influence public opinion and to counter the offensive efforts in a polite and meaningful manner. In addition to internet and social net campaigns ( one called the True Message of the Prophet has started in Facebook) many groups in the UK and Scandinavian cities set off in the streets to demonstrate the baseless claims of the anti Islam propaganda campaigns.  They talked with people in the streets and gave them flowers along with words from the Quran or from the Prophet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sanctions Hit Hard on the Environment

Tehran is a city of 8.5 million residents, with more than 14 million inhabitants residing in its greater metropolitan area. In the Tehran City Council we have endeavored to enhance environmental standards for the city by proper legislation, consensus building processes and regulation. We have visited the 22 districts in Tehran and  have seen recycling projects throughout the city.
On Thursday, the Environment Committee visited for the 5th time the Waste Management Organization of the Tehran Municipality. We visited the various projects and discussed time frames, budgetary issues and planning concepts.
The Council had adopted a comprehensive waste management plan in 2008 which is currently underway. Among the major projects involved is a large anerobic digester in Abe Ali in the eastern suburbs of Tehran. This complex will generate 2-4 megawatt/hr of electricity with 300 tons of waste every day. The power generator will go online in a few weeks.
We also visited the first fully standard and high tech incinerator which will also produce electricity when burning the waste. In all cases environmental standards for air pollution are implemented.
We saw the final stages of the large and complex sewerage purification system which will transform a BOD of over 60 thousand to just below 200.
We also visited the mega complexes for waste composting . After 4 years of tireless efforts now 6800 tons of waste are composted in Tehran and the complex will shortly harbor the capacity to accept waste from suburban metropolitan areas.

Capture of methane gas from 30 year brown-fields is also underway. 300 hectares of tree plantations are also created in the  in the 900 hectare waste management complex. This means we will have a small forest in the waste management center of Tehran.
The project directors were present and each reported on the status of the projects. I felt proud to see so many successful efforts underway in the Municipality of Tehran. Progress in each project has been satisfactory except for the adverse effect of sanctions in dealing with the projects related to international cooperation and dealings with abroad. Sanctions have hit hard on the environmental projects of the complex and they are now suffering setbacks and delays which are all detrimental for our fragile environment. Sanctions are hitting Iran's sustainable development and responsible actions for the protection of the global environment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Poetry Session on Peace and Nature

The Center for Peace and Environment convened the Evening of Poetry on Peace and Nature on September 20th 2012 on the International Day of Peace, in Tehran. Prominent poets and personalities attended the 4 hour session. This session was moderated by Soheil Mahmoudi the reknown former TV anchor and poet who eloquently spoke about the importance of this gathering and read poetry from Shafie Kadkani a popular poet on the beauties of nature.

 عصر شعر 2
In the opening of this event Dr. Zahra Rakei , current Head of Iranian Society of Poets spoke about the importance of nature protection and how a culture of peace is necessary to promote environmental protection. Rakei thanked the Center for Peace and Environment for this collaboration and proposed that this event be convened each year as a non- governmental event , on the occasion of the International Day of Peace.
I then spoke on the role that Persian poetry has played in introducing Iranian civilization and culture and promoting dialogue. Iranian  poetry  has a profound human and universal approach. The war against humans and the war against nature have a common root, I noted. We need to reach inner peace before we can come to terms with each other and peace with nature, I said. This poetry session intends to promote a message of peace with nations and nature on behalf of the Iranian nation we hope all conflicts will be resolved with dialogue and understanding, I stressed.
Many poets from across Iran had attended the session and were invited to recite their poetry on the essential aspects of peace and protection of nature.  Some poems were recited along with live classic, jazz or Persian music.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Academic Research and a PhD Thesis

As the pre-scheduled  war games of allied forces began  in the Persian Gulf ,  life proceeds as usual in Tehran. My PhD student defended her thesis on Monday, in the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences at Tarbiat Modares University. She had devoted more than 3.5 years of this degree program to her research.  Her work highlighted the immunological mechanisms involved in endometriosis. Endometriosis is a gynecological disease attributed to alterations in immune system function and also related to diet and environmental factors.  In her work she also studied the effect of Dioxin or TCDD which is a environmental pollutant on mesenchymal stem cells.  This work met the highest standards in terms of the methodology, the assays and techniques involved.
Although sanctions have targeted our economy and have made such leading edge research very difficult and expensive but this has not prevented Iranian researchers from advancing in this direction. Immunology is a rapidly advancing field and research in this field is very costly but also very rewarding in terms of the novel findings with diagnostic and therapeutic value.
Our  first article from this work was published in : The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research  We hope to publish the next phases of this work in the future.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beautiful Iran , Gahar Lake

Located at the crossroads of the Eur-Asian climates, Iran harbors one of the most diverse flora and fauna in the world. This great biodiversity has created unique attractions and beauties which have been left untouched mostly due to the relatively low number of tourists (in this case a blessing) as well as relative protection and remoteness in most cases. The Gahar Lake located in the Lorestan Province is one of these relatively untouched beauties.  Gahar is a diamond located in the heart of a protected mountainous area.

The Department of Environment is charged with the protection of these lakes and wetlands. In addition to national studies and management projects the DOE also began international cooperation with multilateral agreements like the Ramsar Convention. I have little news of the fate of those projects but I hope they still continue. Drought, low rainfall and weak management has led to the dryness of many lakes and wetlands in the recent years but Gahar still stands as a diamond.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NAM and the alleviation of pressures

The leadership of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) has been formally transferred to Iran this week. In Tehran as one would expect, the theme of  most debates and discussions  circle around the  16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which is now taking place   from August 26 to 31, 2012..  While friends and foes of the Islamic Republic all agree that this is an exceptional opportunity in difficult times of sanctions, pressures and incessant threats from Israel and the US, critics hope that Iranian diplomacy would be efficient enough to make the best of this important gathering of growing voices against western influence. 
NAM was founded in Belgrade in 1961,  based on a stark reality  of that age , recognized particularly by the Yugoslavia's President Josip Broz Tito, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah and Indonesian President Sukarno.  Non alignment has hence been valued as a position of independence and integrity for nations rising from the clutches of colonialism and imperialism.  -    Even though the group was formed in the cold war era atmosphere, it has fared well in proving its effectiveness in changing political orientations. After the downfall of Communism,  a new enemy had to emerge to justify the military expenses and ventures of  US and the West , 9-11 provided the pretext for a new era of the" Crusades" as George Bush II had once mentioned. The NAM stood firm in negation of the unilateral and militaristic approaches of the  terrible Bush era.
 Now, that Iran is being targeted in an unjustified manner, Syria is broiling over civil war and the transformations in the Arab world have weakened pro-west allies, the NAM certainly have an important ax to grind and a influential card to play.
In international negotiations on the environment, dealing with environmental conventions such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the G77 or group of developing nations ( which began as 77 but now amounts to more than 120 countries) has very similar orientations as the NAM and enjoys a unique leverage among groupings in the UN. In 2001, when Iran became the rotating President of the G77, we played an important role in protecting the multilateral nature of UN decision making by supporting the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol amid the unilateral and antagonistic approach of the Bush administration. The G77 and NAM are parallel groups which bear important leverage in multilateral international mechanisms.
Even amidst widespread  national concern over pressures against reformists and internal opposition groups and increasing inflation,  Iran has much to gain in this event . The hope is that the convening of the 16th NAM in Tehran would improve Iran's relations with the international community and alleviate economic pressures on the global side. In the internal political atmosphere, there is a general expectation that this event would also alleviate pressures against internal opposition groups and reformists and lead to a more stable situation at the national level.    

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eid Fetr

The Eide Fetr is a celebration of efforts that people have made to conquer over their temptations, desires and excesses. Fetr is an Arabic term which means to cleave or break (the fast of one month). It is a celebration of humanity winning over darkness and oppression. Eid Fetr is important for a world that yearns for ethics and moral values in its leaders and government.

Eid Fetr is a great celebration for those who seek peace and love in place of war and hatred.  Fetr follows the efforts of societies who have withstood hardships of hunger and thirst to sympathize with the needy and the poor and to understand their sufferings. Fetr is a thanksgiving feast, thanking God for the opportunity to worship and to remember the blessings bestowed upon us.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quds, A Standing Symbol of Injustice

Iranians are celebrating the  Day of Quds today. What began in Iran as a proposal by Imam Khomeini to support the Palestinian cause is now an international campaign marked by worldwide rallies.

  Even though opposition groups in Iran do not agree with certain aspects of foreign policy, but  they have been united in condemning the crimes and oppression that Israel has inflicted upon the Palestinian nation. The problem is that since Iranian State media have taken a strong propaganda position on this matter and have not gone along with people in many issues, they feel that this issue is sometimes used as  a scapegoat in face of internal mismanagement and wrongdoings. Unlike others, I do not believe that we should remain indifferent now on an ongoing international crisis which is now linked to the future of the region and even our world.

In my international speeches,  in many international fora in the past, I have said that the unresolved issue of Palestine, the historical facts and the conditions of Palestinian people today, all point to the inability or the unwillingness of the international community, the UN Security Council and its apparatus to resolve the matter. Quds is a standing symbol of global mismanagement, a reminiscence of the double standards that govern today's world, a sign of continuing injustices that plague humanity . The plight of millions of displaced people , who are now living for more than 2 generations in refugee status in camps with very dire conditions is now easily dismissed in negotiations, the plight of millions living in siege in Gaza or the inhuman conditions of Apartheid in the West Bank are overlooked and forgotten.The Arabian Spring or Awakening has changed many equations on the ground but the unilateral support of the US for Israel has always tilted the balance in favor of the Zionists.

 I do not agree with some of the radical positions that certain politicians have taken , such as the denial of the holocaust . I do however agree with the question that why should the Muslim Palestinians who resided in Palestine for generations, why should they suffer for the crimes committed by the Germans in Europe?
The expansionist and racist stipulates of the Elders of Zion and the outrageous crimes committed in the name and by Zionist regimes are well known to the international community. More important today is the influence and dominion that Zionism has in American political and economic apparatus. I have spoken with many Americans who are now very fearful of the pivotal role that the Zionist lobby plays in American politics and the dreadful role that they play in manipulating American foreign and national security polity to serve the interests of the State of Israel first and above all. They are now using the upcoming elections in the US as a leverage to exert pressure on Obama and  get the US involved in a new war against Iran.
 The American public need to  realize that the prosperity and good life that they enjoy , is in part due to the sufferings that their government has inflicted upon many nations in the world . They need to understand that if they believe in the democratic nature of their political system then they are accomplices in the actions of their politicians and will be held accountable for the policies of their government .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Anti Iran Measures and Rhetoric on the Rise

The Obama administration and Congress moved  Tuesday to tighten the economic sanctions on Iran, betting that additional pressure  will force Iranian officials to accept a compromise to curb their nuclear activities. The American Secretary of Defense joined Israeli officials in their propaganda campaign on branding Iran as a global security threat and stressing that they will not tolerate an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Americans know well based on their intelligence sources and analysts and based on the National Strategic Report published in 2010 that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. They also have acknowledged the fact that the Iranian regime is firmly set to protect Iranian interests and to protect the independence and dignity of Iran.  Now that the cold war is over , the Al-Qaida terror war is dwindling , American war mongers need a new pretext to start a new war . War mongers need to create an atmosphere of war every 6-7 years in a particular region in the world to sell American arms and to invigorate the American economy with fresh blood.  The recent sales of billions of dollars of arms to Persian Gulf states including Qatar and Kuwait under the guise of enabling them to protect the waterways is part of this strategy.Last week, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, used very harsh rhetoric and explicit threats against Iran to upscale the anti Iran atmosphere in the region. It seems that in the absence of any outright opposition from their people, these Arab governments have sold out their national interests to that of Israel and the US.   While Israel and the US are both an actual threat to the region and have attacked countries in this areas, they have joined forces with allies  to focus not on the actual threats but on Iran. The US and Russia do have thousands of nuclear warheads, Israel, North Korea, India, Pakistan and some other countries do have nuclear bombs. Iran does not have a nuclear weapon , during the past 750 years of history Iran has not attacked or occupied any other nation in contrast to the shocking score card of the US and Israel during the past half century.  
However, coincidentally Iran has access to the worlds 3rd largest supply of oil and second largest supply of natural gas. Iran benefits from a strategic geopolitical position in the region and has vast influence in Iraq, Afghanistan,Turkey, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, Armenia,Yemen,Tajikistan, Syria, Lebanon and even Pakistan. Iran has served its neighbors and has brought a sense of self sufficiency and dignity for peoples of the region. The current Iranian government has many shortcomings and  is facing much criticism for its radical and unlawful behavior, however when the issue of unjust pressures and foreign threats surface, the Iranian society and the political fabric of Iran becomes unified in their resolve to resist and prevent any aggression on Iranian soil. Even political prisoners now in confinement have announced their opposition to any militaristic approach against Iran. 
Has not the time arrived that peace activists across the globe unite once again to condemn the preparatory measure that Israel and the US are taking to confront the fantasy of a nuclear Iran and create a new war in this already war stricken region? Is it not about time that people in the US and Europe stand up in face of their governments to recognize the rights of a nation to stand against foreign pressures and instigation ?

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Inner Housekeeping in Ramazan

The commencement of Ramazan, the Holy month of fasting for Muslims, brings along with it important changes in lifestyle and behavior. In addition to prohibition of eating, drinking and sexual activity during the day light, fasting also implies refraining from unethical social behavior such as lying , backbiting and oath breaking. Muslims practice a sublime set of moral behavior and attitudes during this month, which should set standards  for the whole year around.  Fasting is a personal affair, their are social activities associated with fasting; but in abiding to the rules each individual begins a personal endeavor to change daily habits, and to revisit inner impulses and behaviors.

Ramazan is  the time for self or inner house keeping. The inner affairs of our hearts and minds , our intentions which create our actions and build our personality are revisited and addressed in this Holy Month. The difficulties of fasting and the pressures of thirst and hunger are meant to create a firm and steadfast personality who could resist the temptations and attractive worldly desires which may take a human being to a degraded state of existence and undermine human dignity . Weak people usually give in and sell their dignity for very little. Ramazan is meant to restore strong will and faith in humans who have lost their direction and goal.
During those moments of hunger and thirst the fasting individual considers the sufferings and pains of others and comes to a sublime level of selflessness. Ramazan takes humans to a higher level of contemplation and altruism, a sensation that is compromised in today's material world.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reflections on the Awakening Conference in Tehran

Women have had a central role in the Islamic  awakening or Arab Spring, what ever we name it. They have taken to the streets along with men protesting against dictatorship and tyranny and demanding freedom and a dignified life. Women in Tunisia,Egypt,Libya, Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain all played an instrumental role in the success of their nations. As mothers, wives, sisters and daughters women, took central or support roles in promoting the movements and sacrificing their lives or that of their beloved . In many instances women resisted tremendous pressures and broke the chains of fear and suffering with resilience and hope for the future. Some Iranians believed that the Islamic Revolution and Republic served as an inspiration for their movement. Others questioned whether a Revolution of 32 years age and now facing numerous challenges could still serve as a model for Muslim nations.
The Islamic Revolution of Iran is still unique in many respects, the sweeping victory in 1978 amid the staunch opposition of the number one superpower the USA, surviving a devastating war and crippling sanctions are all indications of strength. Over the years, this Revolution like any other has face numerous growing challenges as well. 
1200 women involved in the Islamic awakening movements were invited to Iran by the government. They met and discussed issues related to the Awakening in the luxurious Milad Tower Conference Center  and later visited touristic attractions in some historic sites. State media gave much emphasis to the importance of this gathering which provided participants with the opportunity to become familiar with Iran and the achievements of the Revolution and which set grounds for a future network of these women .
The Islamic Revolution has taken great strides in providing a self confidence and identity for Muslims , and has given them pride in their Islamic faith and practice. While the great gains of these 32 years are numerous, an objective picture would include the lessons and losses as well. These Muslim women and all those who believe in the legacy of the Islamic Revolution, need to learn the losses and lessons as well as the gains and achievements. It is only then that we can deliver an objective picture and useful exchange of experiences for these nations. Press TV indicated in its report on this conference that these women from 83 countries had a chance in Tehran to freely discuss their ordeal and sufferings and aspirations without the fear of retribution. This is a good start , but hopefully it will also be considered for Iranian citizens as well, so that they could also speak out and voice their concerns and criticisms without any fear of retribution or pressure in their own homeland.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Afghan Refugees Find Precious Support From Iranian NGO

Dressed in beautiful traditional costumes, several Afghan elementary students stood on stage singing a song about their love for Afghanistan.  On the eve of the World Refugee Day, I was invited to speak at the opening ceremony of HAMI. HAMI is an NGO devoted the protection of refugee women and children. Since 1998, Fatemeh Ashrafi has led a non governmental effort to support refugees in Iran. According to the UNHCR official site reports Iran still hosts more than one million registered Afghan refugees. It ranks as the first country in terms of refugee number as well as duration of refugee stay. More precise statistics however, point to a number of 5-6 million Afghan refugees in Iran, most of whom do not have legal status and stay or work permit. Iranians have patiently hosted Afghan citizens for more than three decades when their country faced most difficult times of war, terror and insecurity. Their stay in Iran has been fruitful for both guest and host, although the burden has been mostly set upon Iranians and their government. Due to low economic status and low education, Afghan presence in Iran has been  marred by significant records of unlawful activity resulting in some degree of negative perception among the Iranian society. This has led to certain unreasonable reactions in which for example a  local authority in a northern province banned Afghan nationals from taking part in a certain public ceremony . This led to a strong reaction among some social activists .
HAMI has provided free education for Afghan children, through the establishment of two schools in Tehran and other cities and has supported their families now for several years. Stressing on the importance of providing education for refugees, Ms Ashrafi stated that when parliament elections were held in Afghanistan she felt proud to see that many candidates had announced in their campaign that they  were educated in Iranian universities.
The commitment of the civil society  to humanitarian assistance for refugees residing in Iran is indicative of strong social trends that have persisted in spite of official distaste and aversion, during the recent years specifically . In this particular case HAMI seems to receive some support from government officials.
At regional levels, while government support for neighboring states Afghanistan and Iraq has been significant and substantial the civil society has also been effective in strengthening ties between nations. I remember well that during the official visit of President Khatami to  Afghanistan, after the installation of President Karzai,   President Karzai made the point in a bilateral meeting that Iran had provided the greatest support for post war Afghanistan to that date.

In my speech last week I asked for more recognition and support for our precious civil society efforts from international organisations like the UNHCR and UNICEF as well as from the Iranian government.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Appointment

The Prophet of Islam was appointed today on Mabaas the 27th of Rajab to promote the message of the Revelation.  According to the Holy Quran, Mohammad (SA) is a good example for all( Sura Ahzab 21). He has said : " I have been appointed to complete the best morals". He loves humanity and his life is full of sacrifices for the betterment of mankind.   Yet he is also human and a messenger for all times (Sura Asra 92-93). As Muslims we can name ourselves followers only when we take him as an example in our lifestyle, in our ways and in our words. This requires that we take the Prophet   as a role model, and that we understand his Mission and the teachings of the Quran. The question that arises today is that how can the personality traits of the Prophet and his ways and deeds be applicable to our lifestyles in the 21st century. Islamic scholars and Ulema have divergent views on this matter.
The more conservative and traditional Ulema stipulate that believers should follow and obey the teachings and lifestyle of the Prophet, as it was 14 centuries ago. The progressive scholars believe that Muslims should find the similarities between the lifestyle and manners of the Prophet and seek to implement them. The more modern intellectuals believe that while adhering to the principles and strategies Muslims may improvise to meet the requirements of modern times.
The sublime ethical and spiritual personality of the Prophet along with his sympathy for the oppressed and downtrodden and his support for those suffering from spiritual and material afflictions as well as his love for all humanity all set him in the apex of human history.
He serves as a beacon of hope for the wandering ship of humanity, guiding this wrecked ship to the shores of salvation and bliss.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Farideh Mashini and the Fate of Women's Studies

Iranian universities have  provided post graduate degrees in the field of Women's Studies since 1998. The MA degree program was established by the efforts of both academicians and civil society. The non-governmental Institute for Women's Studies and Research , of which I have been a founding and trustees member, had an instrumental role in proposing the degree and preparing its curriculum in 1996. I was part of that effort and we had proposed at least three branches for the degree program, including women's rights in Islam, family studies, social roles of women.  After approval in 1998, many students studied in this field during the past decade . Recently, during a major review and restructuring of  Human Sciences in Iran, which has been conducted with a certain ideological and political mentality, the Women's Studies degree has been changed to Women's Rights in Islam, thereby limiting the focus of the studies and courses provided. Since the initial attempt had been to delete the degree program in total , this seems to be a compromise to keep the program, but in a controlled manner that would subside the worries of certain conservative groups about the so called Feminist ideology that might permeate and poison such courses. The reality is that an academic approach should enable familiarity with all lines of thought in a particular field,  for only after such an approach would it be possible to make scholarly and unbiased comparisons and appraisals of each school of thought. This is the approach that Islamic leaders and scholars have historically  promoted based on the teachings of the religion.

We have lost a renown woman activist and Quranic researcher, and one of the early graduates in the    Women's Studies program.  Farideh Mashini (1960) died of cancer on Wednesday, after a long struggle against the disease. Farideh is well known among women activists for her dedication to the cause and for her support for the families of political prisoners particularly after the disputed elections of 2009. Mrs. Mashini was briefly arrested in 2009 and interrogated later as well.  Farideh had since several decades, convened sessions for the exegisis of the Holy Quran , particularly on women's rights and status. She was known for her progressive views and insight on these matters. She was a member of the board of the Institute for Women's Studies and has contributed to Farzaneh Journal of Women's Studies  Farideh has also written many research articles and contributed to many national and international conferences. She was one the Muslim Students Following the Line of Imam in 1979 .
We all pray that her soul rest in peace and eternal happiness.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Birthday Celebration in Pristina

I received an email today from a women's NGO in Kosovo . The director of the Nisa Organization was by chance our guest in Tehran, a few months ago. Based in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, they have stated their objective as: "To spread the practice and knowledge of Islam, and to raise the consciousness of our population comparing the similarity of Islam and our Albanian traditions" . These women are from a generation of Muslim Europeans who are seeking to revive their Islamic identity and culture. They have faced the terrible ordeal of racial discrimination at the hands of the Serbs and the difficult years of war and devastation. They are now back to normal life seeking to promote an Islamic lifestyle in Europe.1..JPG

The Nisa members  have celebrated the birthday of the daughter of the Prophet , Fatima Zahra in Pristina. Fatima is considered as a role model for Muslims worldwide and her life and sayings constitute a road map for all humanity.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Women, Power and Politics in 21st Century Iran

 Based on an invitation from the editors, I have contributed a chapter to a recently published book " Women, Power and Politics In 21st Century Iran. link The book is an account of Iranian women who are activists , academicians or politicians about their experiences and their views on Iranian society.  Contrary to the often biased and misleading stereotypes about Iranian and Muslim women, this volume attempts to depict a realistic picture of their successes and challenges.
Women, Power and Politics in 21st Century Iran
 In the introduction Elahe Rostami notes that: As is discussed by Jamileh Kadivar, Elahe Koolaee and Massoumeh Ebtekar, in this book, through much of the history of Islamic Iran, the Islamic concept of Ijtihad has allowed the constant reinterpretation of socio-economic and socio-political matters which can take both a conservative and a democratic form. However Taliban-ism and Saudi style conservatism have never existed in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran from its inception has been engaged in a battle between conservative Islam and reformist Islam....... The authors in this book offer a particular analysis of Iranian  women's struggle for change. ..They criticize the the conservative and patriarchal traditions in Islam which have taken away women's rights and continue to subject women to unequal treatment. At the same time they challenge the perception of Muslim women in the West as passive victims of men and religion. As is discussed by Mehri Honarbin Holliday  our aim is not to wholly negate the history of Western thought but to problematise its absolutist convictions in promoting the centrality and universality of Western traditions. Therefore we argue that simplistic views of the place of women in Islam are part of narratives of inferiority and otherness and that to advance this discourse the West has conveniently ignored the achievements of women in Islamic societies. 

I believe this effort which was undertaken by a group of academics concerned about the misleading stereotypes of Iranian women after the Revolution, has been an important step in providing an objective analysis and contributing to the debate about the status of women in Islam and the role of women in social and political processes in Iran.
I hope you would take the time to read this book which is one of the few insider looks at Iran.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Peace and the Advancement of Science : A Congress in Tehran

​The eleventh International Congress of Immunology and Allergy was held in Tehran at the Milad Tower Convention Center. The Iranian Association for Immunology and Allergy (IAIA)hosted this great event in which over 2 thousand students  and faculty members from Iran and more than 20 international scholars took part. Although it was the 11th time that the IAIA had convened this biennial event, this Congress was spectacular for its organization, scientific content, participation and venue. The Milad Tower is one of the unique touristic attractions in Tehran which harbors many cultural and social attractions. 
The opening session included a panel in which I was invited to speak about the Emerging Challenges of Immunology in the world and in Iran. 
I mentioned some of the  theoretical challenges of immunology as an exciting and rapidly advancing science . I spoke about some of the theorems that have drastically changed in the recent years, in areas such as proteomics and genomics . I also mentioned the interdisciplinary nature of the science as one of the leading biomedical fields in research.
After mentioning emerging topics in vaccines, cancer, autoimmunity and AIDs , I pointed to some of the advances and challenges we face in Iran.  I mentioned a Science Metrix report of 2010 that considers scientific growth of Iran based on ISI publications to be 11 times the global growth rate, thus amounting to the highest in the world. Budgetary constraints and the general morale of academia which has declined drastically after the disputed elections in 2009 are major impediments for advancement I noted. In conclusion I also made note of the fact that sanctions should not be directed against nations and should not target the academia. I ended my speech by stressing upon the need for just Peace as a prerequisite for sustainable development and scientific advancement in the world.

I invite you to visit the congress site at:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More of Paradise in Paradise

These are some more photos from the Tehran City Park, taken today with my cell phone camera. Hope you enjoy them !

Monday, April 9, 2012

Paradise in Paradise

Tehran's parks are beautiful in spring. The Tehran City Park is one of the older parks in Tehran. Yet it is of the most beautiful. These are some of the photos I took with my cellphone camera this morning on my way to the City Council which is  on Behesht (Paradise)  Avenue, adjacent to the park.