December 23, 2007

a New Revolution; is it feasible?

Following a post in MEY, a series of comments were exchanged that one of them is worthy of being posted here.
Eric said:
  • There are some fundamental questions regarding fomenting a “new revolution” that will see overthrowing the existing regime in Iran. Since the actual rulers of Iran currently are religious figures, would these revolutionaries overthrow them? Is there that much of a secular-minded movement existing in Iran, and if not, could it even come into being? Would the armed forces support such an uprising? It would be natural for the current regime to accuse any serious movement of this type of being agents of the US and Israel. How would such a movement refute these accusations, and could it survive them?
And, here is my answer:
These are some answers to your questions, obviously based on my experience of this society, and not necessarily true answers or applicable to the society as a whole.
  • Since the actual rulers of Iran currently are religious figures, would these revolutionaries overthrow them?
If you mean denouncing the religion itself, the answer is this: Absolutely No. today there are some new trends of religious life (close to mysticism and etc.) on rise between some youth, which shows that people are still bonded over religion, though they might hate the political (ab)use of it.
If you mean removing religious figures from power, that is an option, and another option is finding some moderate religious figures… suppose that a sudden regime change happens in Iran; do not get surprised if you read some day in news headlines that ‘Khatami: new president of Iran’ (Khatami: reformist president before Ahmadinejad)!!
  • Is there that much of a secular-minded movement existing in Iran, and if not, could it even come into being?
Iranians, even some devout ones, are increasingly getting used to a new model of religious life which saves the religion in private and follows social norms in the public. if you call it a ’secular-minded’ movement, yeah! Congratulations! That is happening!
But this movement is almost based on personal experiences, not on some social or philosophical grounds. The ‘personal experiences’ of the people are converging to the point of secularism: they feel that it is better to let everybody live his/her preferred life.
  • Would the armed forces support such an uprising?
Not, at all. Two major parts of armed forces are: Artesh (classic army) and Sepah (Revolutionary Guards). The latter is a fanatic supporter of Regime, in all levels of its employees (anyone to enter Guards should pass several examinations, and a full investigation would be done to ensure that he is also a fanatic supporter of the regime). Sepah, as well as country’s ministry of intelligence, enjoys a supervisory role over Artesh.
  • It would be natural for the current regime to accuse any serious movement of this type of being agents of the US and Israel. How would such a movement refute these accusations, and could it survive them?
People usually don't care much about these matters, I think. Its very usual to hear a sentence like ‘God may forgive Shah, he was a better ruler’ from everyone who faces/hears a trouble somewhere in this country (troubles ranging from getting a permission from municipality to the holes of the roads, to the price of bread, to the earthquake news, to weather forecast!), and that means that people would embrace every person (even Shah) who might help them make a better life.

December 7, 2007

Controlled Torture: American style of Interrogation

A series of blows to Bush administration happened during the past week. In the last one, Washington Post and Guardian reported that CIA destroyed videotapes showing use of harsh interrogation techniques, including Waterboarding (simulating drowning), against Al-Qaida suspects. Here is the beginning and the end of Guardian’s article:

The CIA destroyed video evidence of the coercive interrogation of al-Qaida operatives held under its secret rendition programme in order to shield agents from prosecution, it was revealed yesterday. The decision to destroy two videotapes documenting the use of waterboarding against Abu Zubaydah and another high value al-Qaida detainee was made in November 2005 - as American media were just beginning to focus on the existence of the secret CIA prison network... The footage would have clarified what practices such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation - both of which a gravely wounded Abu Zubaydah was subjected to - involve.

Another daily calls it ‘Simulating drowning in a controlled environment’! I don’t know how exactly they practice it, but let’s assume that they use supercomputers to control the amount of water which enters the lungs of the accused person. Then, if the person dies due to a bug in the programs coded to control the process, that would be just an accident, yes?

Also, I think that ‘amputation in controlled environment’ is not much different from ‘simulating drowning’: “let’s cut some fingers, and then order professional medical stuff to repair it.” Whatever reason they suggest to justify Waterboarding, one might use that very reason to justify Controlled Amputation.

What about rape? Less painful and more productive.

UN should pass a resolution to set limits for being shameless, I believe.

December 6, 2007

“States of the Arabian Gulf” or “Arabian States of the Gulf”... That’s the question!

The cultural heritage of Persia, both before Islam (as an Empire) and after it (as an important actor in the Golden Age of Islam), means a lot to Iranians. Indeed, that is a part of their (i.e. our) ego... and a source of conflict, as well.

In the context of philosophy of language, professors usually emphasize on the semantic value of the names. In that way, ‘name’ is just a sign used to refer to an object. But psychologists’ rule of thumb is this: The more important the (role of the) object (in the life of the person), the stronger the (psychological) effect of its name.

A person (usually) inherits his father’s family name. Sometimes it happens that Mr. X is eager to change his family name to Mr. Y. If Y is not taken yet, Mr. X may freely take it here in Iran. But if there is another family using Y as their family name, Mr. X should get their permission (from the oldest person of that family) to be able to legally change his family name to Y. This example might show how we (as Iranians) are bonded over names which belong to us.

‘Persian Gulf’ might be just a name which locates a place on the map, but it means part of the heritage of Persian Empire to Iranians. Therefore it is a very sensitive issue, here in Iran... and a source of conflict, as well. It was not a long time ago when National Geographic used ‘Arabian Gulf’ for this piece of water, and Iranians got united, at least in the cyber world, to change the mind of that magazine’s directors. This name, Persian Gulf, has turned into a national symbol of Iranians. Many Iranians believe that there are some hands which try to change this name... and whoever tries to change this name or supports any other name, is supposed to be betraying Iranians’ culture and history.

Few days ago, President Ahmadinejad participated in a meeting with some Arab leaders. What made this event a very important one for Iranians was a board in the meeting’s room, on which an Arabic sentence was written: “مجلس التعاون لدول الخليج العربيه”. At the early moments of the event, many people were misinformed that this sentence meant “Cooperation council of the states of Arabian Gulf”, and a very strong wave of criticism surrounded Ahmadinejad and his administration. Many people said that he shouldn’t participate in the meeting, and even some of his enemies accused him of neglecting Iranians national symbols and pride. But, after a while, the true translation of that sentence was published, which calmed people: “Cooperation council of Arab states of the Gulf”. ‘Persian Gulf’ is still untouched or at least less-touched, many believe.

Ahmadinejad was lucky, very lucky. Participating in a meeting bearing ‘Arabian Gulf’ name was more than enough for many Iranians to run several rounds of demonstrations against him. But, if the true name of the meeting was ‘Arabian Gulf’, could he avoid participating in it? I don’t think so. I even doubt if he could feel the danger.

December 2, 2007

Got a problem? Send a letter to Ahmadinejad.

Nobody expects bureaucracies, especially in developing countries, to work in an ideal manner. When it fails to fulfill its duties, you might resort to the high ranking chiefs as the last possible option. When somebody goes directly to the headquarter to complain and ask for help, a responsible chief should be careful not to undermine the whole system but to use this opportunity to identify holes within the system and repair them. He might sometimes intervene in the process to solve a problem individually, but that must not turn into a common practice. A by-product of this act might be increased popularity of the chief and increasing number of those who directly go to headquarter before trying other options. A stupid chief would let this positive-feedback continue until the whole destruction of system. And Ahmadinejad is obsessed with this dumb idea.

As the mayor of Tehran, he practiced direct-talks-with-people over and over. In these direct talks, people could communicate their problems. And he used to order resolving the problem. Since such orders were usually in the form of writing these things in the margins of the very page a direct-talker brought to his office and finally signing the page, it was briefly known as ‘signing’. Many people warned in that period of time that a chief should remain a chief, not to turn into a ‘signature machine’.

Assuming power 2 and half a year ago, he, aware of the positive consequences of these acts in terms of popularity and more power, continued the practice. In every visit he paid to different provinces, hundreds of thousands of letters were sent to the president, asking him for help. Many people ask for financial support, and very often it happens that they receive a reply from president’s office with about 50$. Since the president is not able to support all his people, such helps are insufficient in amount and random in frequency.

A very good example which shows the deficiency of this practice happened when he was to enter a stadium to give a speech. Before getting there, a disabled person on wheelchair, apparently a causality of Iran-Iraq war, asked the president for help. He needed a car and Ahamadinejad instantly ordered to give him a car. He entered the stadium, offered the speech, but before getting out of that place some of his guards told him that many other casualties are waiting outside the door to ask president for brand new cars... and Ahmadinejad escaped from an emergency door.

Recent developments: Hamed Talebi, a reporter who follows Ahmadinejad closely, reports that if you go near presidential palace these days, you will see some professionals who have pen and blank papers and can write a very good letter for you, a letter which provokes Ahmadinejad enough to solve your problem. At least, this has provided some new jobs for the jobless... got a problem? Send a letter to Ahmadinejad!