I Heart Iran
Aslan Media Columnist Parisa Saranj shares all the little quirky things that make her *heart* her homeland.
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 00:00
Do not congratulate me if you think I am happy that a “reformist” (read with extra sarcastic emphasis) has won the Iranian presidential election in Iran. I find nothing more saddening than the message this election just sent the world. Some argue that Hassan Rouhani is not even a reformist. A colleague called him “the least conservative” candidate. Yet, seeing the glimpse of hope once again rising from the ashes of Iran’s struggle to democracy broke my heart. Even though the turn out was not as significant as four years ago when voters tried to stop Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from a second term presidency, those who participated chose the so-called “lesser evil.” On Sunday afternoon, a day after Rouhani's victory was officially announced, I spoke to a friend in Iran. An Iranian-American who was born and raised in America and was witnessing her first presidential election, she enthusiastically described the celebrations on the streets of the Capital, Tehran. “What a historic moment!” she said and wished that I was there to witness it with her. I, on the other hand, rolled my eyes and scoffed at her observation. “People are dancing in the streets,” she added. “We are a nation of gher dadan,” I said and it made her laugh. And I stand by my testament that Iranians love to celebrate, be happy and "dance!" While this presidential election was an historic occasion for my friend and probably for those less familiar with Iran, for me it was nothing but a repeat of history. I’ve been witnessing the same short-lived enthusiasm after soccer games, weddings and presidential elections. Ironically, I have witnessed the same energy and gathering for occasions marking death and less cheerful anniversaries. Either I am too keen on finding history repeating itself or it's that the hopefuls fail…
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
The Iranian circus of presidential elections has officially opened. Less than a month away from the election day and already social media has witnessed several occasions of uproars caused by candidates, candidate-wanna-be, and their fans. Hold on tight! I'm going to bring to you the election updates, I Heart Iran style. First, the early days of nominations were spent making jokes and laughing at ordinary Iranian citizens who had stormed the interior ministry for registration. Here are some of them: This man dressed as his campaign agenda waves for the media... ..while this woman with hopeful eyes holds up some type of certificate. Perhaps it is her college degree diploma, proving she is as intelligent and capable of any man. But, in the eyes of the Iranian government, she is nothing but a woman, which is enough for disqualifying you for becoming president. Another fashion statement (as well as a political one) was made but this man dressed in a shroud, adorned with flowers, slogans and the Holy Quran. Yup, even in Iran, it is important that a presidential candidate prove, he was born in his motherland! Let's not forget those who wish to run for the next Iranian presidency, but cannot: My personal favorite is Mahnaz Hedayati, a self-proclaimed poet and writer, based in London. On her blog, Tabestan-e-dagh, Hot Summer, she writes, "I am the first woman, in the history of Iran, as the elected president of the people." And yes, she says it with the same, let's say, peculiar grammar. She continues, "though, this is a dream, currently, the future of Iran will be built by the green thoughts, whether I'm dead or alive." And here what her "fans" have created for her campaign, taking place right now on Facebook. Another candidate, invited by a group…
Tuesday, 09 April 2013 00:00
Two years ago, when I came across the reality show, Googoosh Academy of Music, I was immediately hooked. The Iranian icon of pop music Googoosh, in a high quality and professional voice competition, was cooperating with two other musicians to produce an exciting and entertaining program much like America's "The Voice". This TV "reality" series is produced by banned - and now operating in the West- media outlet "Manoto" (which means "Me and You"), and broadcasts to Iranians all over the world via satellite. It films in the UK.
Friday, 29 March 2013 00:00
In the wake of Spring and President Obama’s Persian New Year message to Iranians, I took my boyfriend to Canada for a weekend of celebration with relatives. It was his first Nourooz party and I was worried how he will react to a house full of loud, dancing, slightly drunk and exquisitely happy Iranians. But of course it went well. The famous Iranian hospitality took us in with open arms, fed us well and made sure we were comfortable. In front of him, they whispered in Farsi, “He is cute.” And behind him, they constantly asked me to look after him to make sure he has everything he needs. His white skin and blue eyes were a major hit as some praised the Aryan blood and rejoiced that my boyfriend is “one of us.” We both rolled our eyes of course, as we’ve had many conversations about Iranians’ obsession with “Aryans” and the notorious “Persian Pride” separating them from other nations in the region specially Arabs, Afghans and Turks.
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 00:00
Can you imagine a Christmas without candy canes? Valentine’s Day without the chocolate? How would you feel about a Fourth of July BBQ without the hot dogs? What about a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration without the booze? Imagine that all these essential holiday items run scarce because the prices are so high you can’t afford them, or better, are so ridiculously high, you decide to do without them. As some of you might know, tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20th is Nourooz. The first day of spring marks the Persian New Year for man Persians, Kurds, Tajiks, Afghans, around the world. In Iran, Nourooz is a thirteen-day period of house-cleanings, celebrations, visiting family and friends, consuming a lot of sweets and nuts as well as giving money to the young (like exchanging gifts for holidays.) Not surprisingly, there is something wrong with this year’s Iranian Nourooz. Pistachios! As mixed nuts are essential to the Iranian did-o-bazdid or New Year visits, dearth of pistachio has created a dilemma among Iranians in Iran, who can't afford the new high prices. As everything else in the country at the moment, finding a reason for the high price and scarcity of pistachios have become the hot topic of this season. Officials who always have an "answer," offered a long list of reasons (or, shall I say, excuses): 1- The head of the Pistachio Association (didn’t know there is such a thing) Mohsen Jalalpour, blames the currency market. According to him, pistachio is a major export produce for Iran, and since dollar exchange rate is currently very high, the price of pistachio automatically has been skyrocketing. 2- Asgaroladi, also known as Iran’s King of Pistachio, blames the farmers for setting high prices and claims since everything in Iran is expensive, pistachios are not any different 3- Head of…
Tuesday, 12 March 2013 17:37
“When I die, do not touch my mother,” says Iran’s Supreme Leader in this imaginary conversation with the Iranian president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who (once again) has raised many eyebrows for his unconventional musings. This time, in Venezuela, during the funeral of Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad displayed some plainly un-Islamic and un-Iranian behavior. First, upon hearing the news of Chavez's death, Ahmadinejad announced a national day of mourning. Then, he called him a “martyr.” A loving way of remembering a friend, you might think, but no. Don't be surprised when I tell you this remark has enraged even the religious hardliners who might praise Chavez's stance against the US. In the Islamic tradition — especially the Shia' tradition — martyrdom is the holiest and most prestigious achievement for a Muslim. It's a privilege reserved for the soldiers of wars and victims of acts of terror against Muslims. Dying of cancer, though tragic, is certainly not a reason to earn this "blessing."
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 00:00
One of the greatest misfortunes (or fortunes?) of living under a despotic regime is that no matter who or what you are, your life is going to be affected by propaganda and schemes that are designed to guarantee the stability and security of the establishment. For example, in Iran, if you are a monkey, and if you are the lucky, chosen monkey, you will be used to demonstrate the scientific achievement of the Islamic Republic in the aerospace field. Meet the squished, gray monkey tightly strapped to a rocket called Peeshgam (meaning pioneer, also the name of an Iranian-made missile.) He was sent to space according to the Iranian Defense Department to check it out for the Iranian astronauts that plan to follow suit. As it is always the case with Iran’s politics and state projects, the results were miraculous; the monkey came back a different monkey; his visible, large mole had vanished and his gray fur turned orange.
Monday, 26 November 2012 19:13
Last year, for the month of Muharam, I wrote a piece about how the clash of modernity and tradition in Iran shows itself around the ninth and the tenth of the month, when Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of the 3rd Imam, Hussein. This year, as I was on the look-out for witty and humorous cases to discuss the significance of Muharam, I noticed the criticism and mockery of this old tradition evolved around its economic aspects; meaning extravagant celebrations for this religious holiday while the country is struggling with financial troubles. Critics of the lavish ceremonies came together with religious critics, and what we've seen is all kinds of satire in Iran.
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 00:00
It is not very easy to tell the tale of being questioned by the Basij in Isfahan, Iran, two years ago. Almost immediately, I can see the confusing look by those who can't grasp the idea of police interfering in one’s personal space. I have to make sure I set the tone and the background first. Terms such as "dictatorship," "theocracy" or "the government wants you to live based on proper Islamic behavior" always help. Then, I give a few example of growing up in Isfahan where shopping centers were frequented by men and women who stopped the shoppers at the door and asked them to fix their scarf, clean their make up or take off visible jewelry (for men.) (Non-fiction) stories are a great way of showing what life is like in Iran, but there is also the magic of images. For Iran, a country characterized by hypocrisy and force — a country where speaking your mind against the regime is not welcomed, being brief could have a deeper effect than being outspoken and verbose. This week, I saw two images that help me further explain what’s like to live under control where every aspect of your life is dictated.
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 00:00
Hello lovelies, Have you noticed that I haven’t written in two months? I was struggling with a terrible "I Heart Iran" identity crisis. Questions crawled in and out of my mind like poisonous ivy plants making me doubt my writing. “What am I achieving by making fun of people?” I asked over and over, but the only answer I got was “nothing.” I knew that I had chosen to write in order to be a voice for the voiceless and I was certain that I had chosen humor because it’s a tool Iranians use to cope with their situation, yet I wondered why I don’t see the impact of my writing?
Tuesday, 04 September 2012 00:00
Jigar, meaning liver, is a term of endearment in Farsi. Think about it, can you live without your liver? So, it’s very common to hear this word exchanged between friends and lovers. Khar, meaning donkey, on the other hand is a belittling term that indicates ignorance and incivility.
Monday, 20 August 2012 14:58
The holy Muslim month of Ramadan came and went. Muslims from around the world celebrated the end of the month-long fast by praying, feeding the poor, feeding themselves with delicious foods and sweets, and sending Eid greetings. Muslims rejoiced having the ability and opportunity to finish a physically demanding and mentally disciplined task in their own ways. And of course, “in their own ways” may mean in their own “ironic” ways.
Monday, 13 August 2012 10:04
I’m writing to you with a broken heart. Two major earthquakes hit north west Iran, leaving more than 300 dead and 2000 injured. As I spent my weekend looking at devastating pictures, following the news on Persian websites and feeling guilty for my helplessness, the contradictions began to show up.
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 00:00
I am very stressed and saddened these days by the circumstances in Iran: soaring prices of food putting pressure on the middle class, the recent back-and-forth threats of war, not to mention the unrest in Syria which sparks so many unanswered questions about the future of the Middle East.
Monday, 23 July 2012 16:29
To someone who didn’t know and asked what Ramadan is, I said two days ago, “it’s a month when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sundown to practice patience and being grateful.” “Wow, that’s insane! LOL” he responded and I laughed with him. Then, I reminded him “self-discipline is tough” and added some more LOL versions of my own to keep his opinion on religious practices welcoming and the discussion on Islam float peacefully.
Friday, 13 July 2012 00:00
If you are not following me on Twitter or Facebook, most likely you have missed the exultation and buzzes over my fifteen seconds of fame last month when I had the honor of sitting down with the amazing girls from Sex and Fessenjoon, a funny and witty blog about living life as Iranian-Americans to share my stories of being one.
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 00:00
Missed me last week?! I missed you, but couldn’t write. I was one of the many trapped in the power outage that after violent storms and a heat wave struck many states from Ohio to Virginia and Maryland. At home, with no power, no Internet, no food (had to trash everything in the refrigerator, and no local grocery store or restaurant had power) I was hosting a relative who had just arrived in the United States after a decade of waiting for his Green Card. Embarrassed for giving him a paper fan in the 104 degrees heat, I had to apologize wholeheartedly and explain that power outages are rare in the US. "The huge scale of damage" I said "makes it difficult to restore the power."
Monday, 25 June 2012 00:00
The slow connection of the Iranian Internet shows the little face of my nine-year-old nephew blurry, at times even frozen or oddly stretched. But none of these problems or low qualities stops us from hours of video calls on weekends. One by one, he calls his parents, grandparents and aunts in front of the webcam and we talk about everything from what has been for lunch to politics, soaring prices of food and finally, family news.
Monday, 18 June 2012 15:25
By now, you must have realized that I Heart Iran tries to show the complexity of Iranian society, varieties of opinion that float in the cyberspace, and how Iranians make use of their limitations and make sense of the information (before and after it goes through the filter and manipulation of the government.) For a culture that traditionally, commemorates death or its politically vital moments in history by large gatherings, with loud and excessive display of feelings, not being able to publicly remember the death of those killed in the aftermath of 2009 election is grievous and hurtful. As always, this month, on the third anniversary of June 15, 2009 (post presidential elections) in Iran, Iranians are trying their best. The blogosphere and social media sites are commemorating those unfortunate events and admitting their hope for democracy by poems, articles,videos and songs while the tight security, lack of leader (Green Movements’s key figures such as Mousavi and Karoubi are under house arrest) and fear of punishment keep them at home. The Images and videos of protests or clashes of the police with people with the title of “three years ago, today” filled Twitter and Facebook:
Monday, 11 June 2012 12:38
A few days ago, I got one of those viral, forwarded emails from Iran about a scandal around a logo of an Iranian News Paper in 2010. Mohammad Ali Ramin, the associate minister of culture and Islamic guidance at the time had criticized the logo of Tehran-e-Emrooz or Tehran Today for looking like a dancing woman and had explained in details how each letter represents one part of a woman’s body. To make the long story, short, the newspaper ended up changing its logo and the issue was long forgotten till now that someone decided to bring it back (also, give me an excuse to write about it.)
Monday, 04 June 2012 11:00
In summer time, I miss Iran more than ever. These days remind me of my visits to Iran where I was no longer one of “them.” Rather an outsider who comes to visit. In her visits, she points out to drastic and subtle changes occurred in the society, while looking for answers to why Iran is so different from the country she left almost nine years ago.
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 09:43
The P5+1 group (five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany) met with Iranian officials in Baghdad last week to discuss the Iran’s good old nuclear issue. As expected, no agreement was reached, and the parties decided to meet next month in Moscow. Iran stood firm on its claim and pressed on its right to enrich Uranium for peaceful purposes while the west stayed as inflexible as always and did not promise any ease on sanctions against Iran.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 07:43
Several times, at I Heart Iran, I have talked about the soaring Iranian economy which is hurting the ordinary Iranian people. Both the sanctions against oil, banks, etc. and the unsuccessful economical policies of Ahmadinejad’s administration are increasing inflation and the prices of food almost weekly in Iran. The gap between the classes are becoming wide, often make is easy to differentiate between dara and nadar--a common Persian expression meaning those who have and those who don’t. Luxury cars and brand name clothes or accessories in comparison to low quality Chinese products are a few obvious differences any observer can point to.
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 08:35
I was raised--let’s say--in an unconventional Iranian family. Blasphemy was never a problem in our house. Even though my father fearlessly had no respect for any kind of religion and my mother’s tolerating religious beliefs never criticized his comments, the family knew whatever said in the house, stays in the house. In a country where every move and words are watched at school, on the streets or at work to make sure Islam is practiced, one just learns to lead a double life. That’s how I learned to never say my father doesn’t pray, or we have an illegal satellite TV. For example, when I was being interviewed for a competitive high school about my parents religious beliefs, I lied about them being devout Muslims, not because I believed it would increase my chance of getting in, just because that’s how every one lived those days. Ham rang-e-jama’t sho “Be like every one else if you want to survive!” In those days, any one who had lived in Iran or was familiar with the political and religious repression, in one way or another witnessed or heard of the notorious punishment of questioning religion. So, growing up with a fear of prosecution, I learned it’s normal to live a private life so different from a public life. And never thought I would live to see a day when Iranians would publicly say the things I only heard in private. This week when an Iranian artist, Shahin Najafi who lives in Germany started an uproar with his song, Naghi, I realized I was wrong in my predictions. Of course, the consequences have followed and a religious figure in Iran has issued a Fatwa of death on the artist. Also, many people were not happy about the song or the CD cover and…
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 07:04
Last week, this picture was the talk of the town among Iranians! Facebook, blogs and emails were being updated to make sure every one sees this photo. I believe this commotion around a picture sends a message beyond sarcasm or humoring a major political figure in Iran. The popularity of this image along with the cartoons and commentaries made about it shows the intellectual and awareness level of the Iranian nation who recognizes “dictatorship” is no longer justified. Making a holy symbol out of a leader and blindly following him are not accepted. And even though publicly disgracing the highest political and religious presence is punishable, not every one cares anymore.
Monday, 30 April 2012 21:00
Blaming the foreigners for interfering in Iranian matters is not anything new in Iranian foreign politics or domestic policies. Throughout the pre-revolution history, the Russians, the British, the French and finally the Americans have competed for power in Iran leaving a sense of distrust and paranoia on the Iranian psyche. The revolution of 1979, when a people’s revolt under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini ousted 2500 years of Monarchy, legitimized this fear even further and what some people thought in their heads now was publicly said. Ayatollah Khomeini called the US the "great satan" and turned his back to America. Since then, Iranian officials have continued to accuse USA of secretly plotting against Iran and its Islamic values from provoking the protesters of green movement to sending spy drones and impregnating Iranian women via Internet. What was once a political tactic, now has creeped into minds and lives in a form of a stereotype mixed with love of conspiracy theory and has made it easy to believe any rumor that evolves around the foreign powers’ hand in anything that goes wrong in Iran.
Saturday, 21 April 2012 22:00
The finals week is approaching for some of us students and I thought to cheer us up and inspire us by humoring the education system, I Heart Iran style. A few weeks ago, Hamid Reza Haji-Babayi, Iranian minister of education proposed his brilliant idea. He called for further gender segregating the schools (in Iran only private kindergartens and some colleges are co-ed). Only this time, the text books for all grades and levels should be gender specific. Immediately after his remarks, Persian blog sphere filled with suggestion for Mr. Minster and his ideal text books. Here are a few: Math for Boys: 2+2=4 or even 5, who cares! Math for Girls: 2 stems of flowers added by two more becomes a bouquet that we will gift to our dear mother. Geography for Boys: If you hold your right hand toward the East and your left hand toward the West, the North will be in front of you, while the south is behind you.
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 15:19
Can you name the most essential thing you use on daily basis, so basic that you often take it for granted? Now, can you imagine you have to use that discreetly or in fear of getting arrested because the government bans it? In Iran, satellite TVs, among many other things are banned. However, government control does not stop the public from acquiring them. And I “heart” Iran because most of the time, these ways are funny and make me smile. This week, I decided to share with you this photo since it brings back memories of when in mid 90s, I was a school girl and satellite TVs were starting to become popular in Iran. People who owned a huge satellite dish, tried many different tricks to hide them from the local police searches or even occasional helicopters hovering above neighborhoods. But before hiding the satellite dishes, there was a mafia-like process of going through an underground business to buy the dish and receiver set. Today, these “illegal” satellite dishes are so common that no one any longer bothers to hide them. Iranians fearlessly put them on the roofs or balconies and even if the police confiscate one, another one is replaced almost immediately.
Monday, 09 April 2012 01:00
I hope in the past few months of I Heart Iran, we have learned that no one is spared from the "forced" hijab. Iranian education system and religious authorities use any tactic to implement the hijab policies and mold young minds into accepting it as a garment designed for the well-being and protection of women. Though I personally have no opposition to the hijab, forcing it upon women (in the case of Iran) is what makes me come back to this concept over and over again.
Monday, 02 April 2012 00:00
As an Iranian-American who is always trying to fix the ruined image of Iranians (by the mainstream media and politics), I wish I would wake up in the morning and miraculously find out that the whole world has changed its attitude toward us. In my dream, the American public knows that Iranians are a misunderstood nation that, unlike their despotic government officials, do not say hateful things about other nations. (For example, I enjoyed the love messages exchanged between Iranians and Israelis in the past week.) Also, in my dream, my audience have realized it is possible to laugh at ourselves, our politics, our governments and our officials--just the way Iranians are doing so in Iran as the only option left for them.
Saturday, 24 March 2012 20:00
Only in Iran, the government makes a movie about cracking down on its protesters and shooting at them, then blames it on foreign spies and the people themselves. A new movie called Ghaladehay-e-Tala or The Golden Collars, premiered for the Persian New Year, is telling the story of the 2009 presidential election and its aftermath which led to what the West knows as the Green Movement. See the trailer here. Screening of this film at this time is significant since two other Iranian movies scheduled to be screened at the time of Persian New Year celebrations were banned while one in particular depicts the activities of Gasht-e-Irshad or Morality Police which harasses the Iranian youth for not following Islamic codes of clothing and conducts. As the screening of the movie have raised a lot of criticism and anger, this time, Iranians feel betrayed by some of their favorite actors and actresses who have played in the movie and call on the boycott of the film and its characters.
Sunday, 18 March 2012 20:00
Nourooz Mubarak! That is what you are hearing these days if you run into Iranians or check out their websites, blogs or Facebook pages. Persian New Year, which marks the first day of Spring and the most celebrated and beloved holiday, is here. Though this holiday is not exclusive to Iranians and other nations and groups such as Afghans, Tajiks, Kurds and etc celebrate Nourooz as well, I'm going to speak about my only experience; Nourooz in Iran.
Tuesday, 13 March 2012 20:00
This week's I Heart Iran has everything to do with Iranians right here in our own backyard: Los Angeles! And of course like any thing else that has to do with Iranians, the buzzes around these people have not been few either. I am talking about the new Bravo TV show, Shahs of Sunset. The show is not even a week old yet and the anger and annoyance of the Iranian-American community can be heard from every corner of social media and Internet. Facebook posts, sarcastic videos in response to the show, and editorial articles and articles in New York Times and NPR are making rounds online calling the show every thing from “racist” to saying it “lies;” to some, it is “disgusting” and “misrepresents.” Of course, in light of the other drama — those in Washington beating war drums — the show is seen by some as “dangerous to the political tension between Iran and US.”
Sunday, 04 March 2012 19:00
If you “heart” Iran, you should know by now that happiness doesn’t last long in that country. The joy of winning the first Academy of Award in Iran soon vanished when the parliamentary elections were held on Friday, March 2nd. You might be surprised to know that the first round of victory of the conservatives over the supporters of the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not the reason for this sudden shock of sadness.
Sunday, 26 February 2012 19:00
This week’s reason to "heart Iran" is the man who made so many Iranians proud, brought tears of joy to their eyes and (probably like me) caused a great deal of throat pain from screaming so loud. Yes, Asghar Farhadi won the Academy of Award for the Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday, February 26. A Separation
Sunday, 19 February 2012 19:00
Gerani or Gerooni is a Persian word that translates into English as “inflation.” But in the context of Iranian society, it means a mixture of the dearth and the expensive. It's a three-part blend of a troublesome economical situation, an "America-sanctions-us-again" political reality, and "the-price-of-dollar-rises-so-must-everything-else-in-Iran" mentality. Nowadays, Gerooni is the main thing Iranians talk about. Those who live in Iran complain to one another or remind those who live outside of Iran about how difficult their lives are getting day by day. Also, diaspora Iranians who are in contact with home wonder where this is going. Almost every Iranian blog I look at is talking about Gerooni and cartoons, sarcastic poems, jokes and slogans are circling the web and social media where Iranians have a prominent presence.
Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:00
To be honest with you, I had a very rough week. I talked to my friends and family in Iran (after many attempts since Internet speed was reduced as a part of preventing uprising in the anniversary of Islamic Revolution and the February 14 protests) and they all complained about the rising price of food and goods in as the result of the recent sanctions implemented on Iran’s oil and central bank. Then, I turned to the news and read rumors and predictions, that within the next six months Iran might face a famine. As if the scary rumors weren’t enough, when my best friend called, she said the stores in her neighborhood are hoarding their products so they could sell them for more expensive price later. Also, Israel's ongoing saber rattling about Iran really scared me this week when I read that the recent visit of a Mossad’s chief to America had been to pressure the U.S. to attack Iran. Can you imagine how the talk of war makes most people from Iran feel? The fear of witnessing another Iraq and Afghanistan, the fear of Iran’s retaliation, plus the human toll of any type of attack are among the many reasons that concern me and others like me.
Monday, 06 February 2012 19:00
Month of Bahamn (Jan19-Feb 21) is the month of celebration in Iran when the Iranian regime commemorates the return of Imam Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, from exile and what they dub as the victory of the Iranian people over the ousted Shah in 1979. Celebrations include cheery, celebratory marches, TV programs, and the revolutionary songs that are repeatedly played on radio and TV.
Monday, 30 January 2012 19:00
Since I haven’t had one of your favorite topics, Hijab propaganda ads, in a while, I thought we could take a break from all the crazy politics and the unfortunate and ongoing effects of sanctions on Iran to take a look at yet another Hijab poster: The Cultural Committee of Cleaning the Sea Program, The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance at the city of Mazandaran presents: My Sister! Refine the Beautiful nature of the Sea with your Hijab.
Monday, 23 January 2012 19:00
Iran’s recent crackdowns on Barbie dolls made me think about my first Barbie. Do you remember yours? Her hair color and her dress? Do you remember the first doll house you had for her, or her first car? Your memories must be very similar to mine. My first Barbie doll came from Germany, a gift from my grandmother. When I was growing up in the '90s, in Iran, Barbie dolls weren’t popular in my small town of Isfahan. But, the long way my first Barbie had to travel to reach me wasn’t because the Islamic Republic considered them un-Islamic, or an attack on "Iranian values." It was simply because the popular culture of consumerism that we witness almost everywhere else around the world did not fully exist in Iran's smaller cities. Barbies were sold for high prices in a few upscale stores. Today, however, Chinese production, make things cheap and accessible. Based on that, Barbie should be available everywhere in Iran.
Monday, 16 January 2012 19:00
Since the most recent, new sanctions on Iran were implemented, every American news corner you turn to, you'll hear talk of attacking Iran as though it is inevitable. Whether Iran would close the Hurmoz Strait or not has been the question experts are trying to predict. One of the economic consequences of all these war talks has been a drop in the value of Iran's Riyal (while, the price of the US dollar skyrocketed), leaving the ordinary Iranian people more and more under financial pressure. As always, Iranians-- who can't control or change much about the situation-- turn to humor. A picture which is going viral via emails that reads: "Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wins the The Prize of the Century in Chemistry for turning Riyal into cow dung."
Monday, 09 January 2012 19:00
If you’ve lived in Iran or are familiar with its politics, you know that every day a new government policy or a statement sends shockwaves through the public sphere. Yet, these often--ridicules exclamations are received with passivity or laughter by the people-- who are so used to being oppressed at this point that they can't do anything but let it just wash past them.
Monday, 02 January 2012 19:00
As I’m wishing you all a very Happy New Year, let me cheer you the way Iranians are cheering each other nowadays: Followed by a recent remark by the Chief of Cultural Heritage, who said “Instead of spreading the ominous news of the financial fraud, create happiness for people,” this cartoon made its way around the web. A group of dancing men dressed in traditional Iranian shower-wrap or Lung are leaving the bank which has turned into a Hmam (a public bath) while singing “two billion has been stolen” based on an old Iranian comedy film. Even bad news can be delivered in a happy way.
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 19:00
In the last decade, divorce rates have been skyrocketing in Iran. The shameful reality of divorce for an Islamic country, which insists everything it has done since its birth in 1979 are correct, is hard to swallow. It is very easy to detect government efforts to address this new phenomenon. For example, when one tunes into state media, various campaigns are taking place to educate the public on how to have healthy families and prevent divorces. Numerous talk shows features psychologists and marriage counselors, while seminars and work shops on relationship topics are offered in town and cultural centers. Banners on streets advocate for lowering the standard of lives for newlyweds, while religious figures deliver sermons on ideal marriage and functional families.
Monday, 26 December 2011 19:00
Remember how I always say nothing goes unnoticed in Iran? The fact that Iranian people are so critical of their own government, and are aware of the contradictions and hypocrisies of the government’s version of Islam forced upon them, must be held in mind when looking at Iran. As you might remember, followed by the attack on the British Embassy, the officials claimed that the act was carried out by a minority of angry students who had no ties with any religious, official or governmental agencies:
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 19:00
Did you think American conservative politicians are the only ones who say crazy things about closing the non-existent American Embassy in Tehran or about the Palestinians: the invented people? Or of gays who wish to strip families from their American values? The good news is that Iranians and Americans have more in common that they think. Last week, an Iranian clergy warned about American spies disguised as Madah, religious singers who recite mourning eulogies and epic poetry to the crowd in the month of Muharram. He claimed that their doomed goal is to creep into Islamic Iranian culture of Muharram in order to promote western values. I wish the two countries would stop hating each other and instead use these crazy, "common values" to open a forum for discussion and debate. Don’t you think the Iranian and American politicians could just sit together peacefully, cheerfully, and talk about the next crazy thing they can come up with?!
Monday, 19 December 2011 19:00
As we are approaching the end of Muharram, holy month of Shia Muslims, let’s mark the end by talking Iranian paradoxes. While mourning the martyrdom of an Imam who lived more than 1000 years ago seems to some outsiders outdated and too traditional, in Iran there is always a way to fuse the old fashions to modernity. When I was growing up in Iran, the only way of commemorating this religious holiday was watching the marching bands which passed the streets on the 10th and 11th of Muharram. The marchers held large banners displaying Quranic verses or religious poetry which mourned the loss of Imam Hussein and his 72 soldiers. Loud music would fill the streets as a group of religious, bearded men and young boys (some even barefoot) beat their chests with heavy chains.
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 19:00
Could you imagine searching a term on Google and waiting five minutes for it to come up? And when it comes up, half of the links you would like to click on were filtered? How would you feel if your access to YouTube was blocked? Do you know what’s like to look up an image and see a row of white boxes with X across them? That’s what using Internet in Iran is like. Terms such as "Filtershekan"--literarly Filter Breaker--and "VPN" are common in day to day conversations. There are endless How-To blog posts on tricks to increase the internet speed in Farsi, while at the same time, the government is restless and relentless about controlling the content and speed of the Internet.
Saturday, 10 December 2011 19:00
You know how I always say “Iranian women get it?” Well, they continue to fascinates me when they talk about their position in the family and in society. Not only are Iranian women aware of the double standards applied to them, but also they are vocal about the inequalities. My generation of Iranian women know are conscious of living in a patriarchal society. Though It might not always be easy to challenge the stereotypes and conservative beliefs, these women do all they can to let others know they defy "traditional" views on the female body and female roles. One method, of course, is sarcasm (our favorite). In this little prose, the female Iranian author uses the claims of religious figures and officials to make her point against them:
Sunday, 04 December 2011 19:00
When I was a child growing up in Iran, there was only one type music to dance to: the illegal music out of Los Angeles. Pop singers, who in fear of persecution had fled the country after the 1979 revolution, produced tapes (remember those?) and later on their CDs would be smuggled into Iran where they were widely available. Last year when I was Iran, I heard songs whose singers I could not recognize. I found young boys and girls dancing to these songs and I heard the most cheerful songs, with somewhat inappropriate-for-an-Islamic-country lyrics played in restaurants, coffee shops and department stores. I was curious to find out how these public places don’t get in trouble with authorities for playing songs that openly speak of love, booze, flirting, checking out girls, disloyalty and etc. I asked around and Islamic Republic Produced Music was my answer!
Saturday, 03 December 2011 19:00
Some months ago, a little boy appeared in a live children TV show, but little he knew he was going to be the symbol of honesty and truth in Iran. When the host asked the audience to name some of the activities they do on their own, Farnood, among others, innocently raised his hand. The microphone approached him and he said, “When I go to the bathroom, I wash my own wee wee.” Well, as you might not know, Iran is an Islamic country and since one cannot use such vulgar language on national TV, the host immedialty washed Farnood’s wee wee for him and said, “Oh, no, no, children should never turn the washing machine on their own!”
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 19:00
Now that the news of the attack on British Embassy in Tehran is haunting the media, Iranians inside and outside of Iran are enraged and upset that such an unthoughtful and brutal act has been carried in their name. In the middle of all that, I thought we all could use a good laugh. And what better than some bad English? A protester is vandalizing the walls of the British Embassy in Iran...Or should I say, trying to vandalize it by writing "down with"...but his enthusiasm got away with him....
Tuesday, 29 November 2011 19:00
Saturday, November, 26 was the first day of Muharram, the first month of Islamic Calendar. In Islamic traditions this month is believed to be amongst the most scared months of the year. For Shia muslims in particular, this month marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, which is specifically observed on the 10th and 11th of this month. In Iran, this month is remembered by thirty days of mourning, banning of happy occasions such as weddings and parties and holding mass religious gathering and speeches in public and private places. On Saturday, however, Mr. Seyed Mohammad Sadat-Mansouri, a religious figure and Chief of Center of Answering Islamic Questions caused an uproar in Iranian social networks and made news with his suggestion on how Iranian media could better help commemorating this month.
Tuesday, 29 November 2011 19:00
A reason I Heart Iran is for its “sisters,” a term used to refer to women in a country where every thing is gender segregated: In this country your police “brother” tells you to cover up for your own safety. And, in this country even a cardboard cutout “brother” doesn’t bother to eliminate the problems and abuses you face on daily basis, instead telling you to not to be the source of troubles: Dear Sister:
Monday, 28 November 2011 19:00
Each time I read Iranian blogs and newspapers, surf the pages of Facebook or receive emails from Iran, I realize just how aware Iranians are about their position in the world. They are so observant (and particular) about how the world perceives them and where they stand internationally. It’s almost like they know they are what I call “differently the same.” In the middle of the current international pressure and sanctions storming down on Iran, Iranians know how the world treats them. And the neuroses of that comes out in strange ways; sometimes Iranians can read a little too much into things. When I came across this image and the extensive commentaries and blog written on it, I could not help but recognize how quick Iranians are to point to perceived discriminations held against them, even if they may not be intended- or real.
Monday, 21 November 2011 19:00
Ayatollah Javaid-Amoli, a prominent Islamic scholar and hard-liner, is known for his odd time-to-time comments- taken seriously by some and not very seriously by others. Here is a quote from one of his visits with a group of architects and contractors: “Building houses with open kitchens wherein owners cannot be protected from the guests is not Islamic. When there are guests in the house, a woman must be able to do her work without being exposed to them.”
Monday, 14 November 2011 19:00
Iran is a country of ironies. Like most promises made in politics and during revolutions, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 has also failed to fulfill its promises. The following picture is a great example of everyday ironies that show the contrast between the promises made and the outcomes achieved of this revolution that had promised to take the hands of the poor and less privileged and offer them a better life.
Monday, 14 November 2011 19:00
Lake Urmia, a salt lake located in Northwest Iran, has been the subject of many protests and conversations for some months now. As the threat of the lake drying up and losing some of the rarest wildlife has risen, Iranians have come together in social networks such as Facebook- and even in the streets- to protest how officials have neglected this natural national treasure.
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 19:00
Growing up in Iran, every Mother’s Day (which, there, commemorates the birth of Fatemah, the Prophet’s Muhammed’s daughter), school officials would gift the girls whose names were Fatemah, Zahra, Marziye, etc. (there's over fifty on that list) As a little girl with a purely Persian name (those names were based on Arabic names), I would be saddened and felt discriminated against by the country's Islamic system.
Monday, 07 November 2011 19:00
Poetry is an important part of Persian culture. Not only it is popular among the educated, but also the less educated (unlike in the "west"); in Iran, even the illiterate understand the language of poetry. While we have a wide range of poets with different styles of work, from classic to more contemporary, people of all classes and backgrounds are familiar with a number of leading Persian poets. One poet whose poetry is cherished and recited on daily basis is Sohrab Sepehri. Known for his modern mystic poetry, Sohrab’s delicate view on life and nature invites the readers to constantly question their beliefs and views.The Water’s Footsteps in which he cherishes his simple life and appreciates what he has as well as questioning the most basics traditions and beliefs of his reader, is one of the most famous and widely memorized poems in Iran.
Monday, 31 October 2011 20:00
I came across this little quote on a Facebook status update. It is a simple, yet accurate (I think), message capturing the attitude and ambition of Iranian women today: "The strongest person in the world is not a man who lifts 250 kilos in one attempt...She is the Iranian girl who despite threats, gang rapes, splashing acid in her face, morality police, catcalls and abuses on the streets, is still going to college, drives a car, works, falls in love, trusts, becomes a mother and teaches her child to be a decent person in this country."
Sunday, 30 October 2011 20:00
Iranian people keep an eye on their own society and can sometimes be critical of themselves. A criticism I personally heard growing up in Iran is how passive and insensitive we could grow toward our country’s problems. This passivity and frustration increased after the brutal crackdown following the 2009 presidential election. A friend of mine recently posted the following piece on her Facebook wall. The interesting thing is that, finding it to be very well said, I ‘liked’ the post and asked whether she had composed it (or if it’s a joke going around the country). She was --I gathered--somewhat offended and commented on my question that “for someone who lives outside of Iran, it is a poem or a joke; for Iranians it is the truth of living in this country.”
Sunday, 30 October 2011 20:00
In one of the October issues of Keyhan, a conservative Iranian newspaper, the headline read, "Supporters of Gaddafi Yesterday Are Claiming Libya Today". Photos of four presidents and national leaders on the front page adorned the article about the "West's effort to take over Libya." The Iranian public, however, was quick to send out a viral email with the following photo called "The Picture Keyhan Left out"
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:00
Ayatollah Janati is known for being a hardliner and having conservative beliefs, often reflected in his somewhat daring comments. In the Nov. 29, 2008 issue of Sarmaye Newspaper, this appeared; A succinct and to-the-point quote for a nation whose women occupy 60% of universities and hold 80% of Math and Science degrees: “Ayatollah Janati pointed to the statistics showing an increase in the average age of marriage: Girls attendance in universities is one of [our] miseries.”
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:00
In an Islamic context, "Hadith" are the sayings of the Prophet and the Shia Imams. The accuracy of them, however, is very difficult for the average people to prove. One must have extensive theological education to do so, and often only the clerics or those who study the Hadith could say whether or not a phrase truly belongs to the Prophet or Imams. I found this image of what seems to be a more religious, conservative Iranian woman participating in a march. Her sign indicates the Hadith she quotes is from Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Mohammed. Or maybe she just made it up herself?:
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:00
The variety of paradoxes I come across in Iran can only make me smile and love Iran. Look at the name of a barber shop adorned by a picture of Mohamad Reza Golzar, an Iranian actor known for his looks- and lack of acting talents: Mahdi’s (May Allah Speeds Up His Return) Castle of Make-up Mahdi is the twelfth Imam of Shia Muslims. He is currently absent and is believed to be the redeemer of Islam. It is said that his coming alongside Jesus Christ will spread peace and justice in the world.....or a good makeover, depending on your perspective.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:00
A rather blatant grammatical mistake on this announcement is yet somewhat true and worthy of notice. An old trick in Iran when a couple are pulled over or questioned about their relationship is to tell the morality police or the Basiji that “we are cousins” or “we are family.” This is a widspeard and well known trick that sometimes works and other times doesn't. This piece of paper, placed on the front door of a business (perhaps a cafe or a motel) reads: “Followed by the orders of the Union, we can no longer offer our services to the families who are not related.” Can you imagine having “unrelated relatives?!”
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:00
A confiscated car in Iran. The banner used to seal the car reads: “Confiscated due to bad-hijabi (improper covering) and referred to the judicial authorities.” I should point out that at the bottom of the banner, the signature belongs to “Chief of Patrol Police.” This branch of the police in Iran is exclusively responsibe for traffic and highway matters. To see that even they are inforcing what is known to be the duties of the "Morality Police" shows how widespread the control over women's bodies and the use of the Hijab has become in different cities.
Monday, 24 October 2011 23:00
Remember the first Morality Police ad from my blog? I found another one on Facebook. This one is called “Clothing and Personality.” Besides the cartoon image which I think is brilliantly similar to what one could come across on the streets of Tehran. It is the text on the bottom which I think deserves recognition:
Monday, 24 October 2011 22:00
I have found Iranians to be some of the most nostalgic people, hanging on to their past a lot. They constantly compare their life before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The state of cinema and television is one of the areas they often talk about in awe. This is an example of an actress before and after.