July 31, 2008

French Tourists in Isfahan

French tourists with an antique car, escorted by police, exploring Imam Square in Isfahan.

July 30, 2008

Read, in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher

He was troubled by all the injustice of Mecca.
Slavery, the mistreating of women, greed, gambling, the sacrificing of babies, and the reliance on idol gods made of wood and stone. So as he did every year, he came to the cave. Suddenly, He was surrounded by light.
When he looked up, he saw the Archangel Gabriel standing before him. He was speechless.
"Read" said the angel.
"I don't know how" was the reply.
Gabriel repeated his command three times. And each time the reply was the same. And then Gabriel taught him.
"Read in the name of your Lord the creator. He created men from a clotted blood. Read, your Lord is the most bounty who taught to use of a pen. He has taught men what he did not know."
And then Gabriel vanished.

From: Muhammad, the Last Prophet.


Some of Persian bloggers have decided to publish 27 posts appreciating today (27 Rajab, anniversary of the beginning of Muhammad's career as a prophet). Here you can find a complete list of them. Above photo was taken from here.

July 28, 2008

Jundullah Killed 2 More Captives


According to BBC, Al-Arabia TV Channel states that insurgent Judullah (Army of God) group killed 2 more captives from 16 soldiers who were kidnapped last June in southeastern Iran. Thus the number of soldiers killed by Jundullah reaches 6. However, Iranian officials doubt current and previous claims of Jundullah regarding killing the captives and call it 'psychological war' and 'rumor'.
Al-Arabia TV Channel, located in Kuwait, reported on Saturday that Jundullah (which is active in southeastern Iran) called the channel to reveal that two more soldiers were killed. Jundullah spokesman threatened that "if Iran fails to release 200 of its jailed members, they would kill 2 soldiers every week."
However, it seems that Iran has not taken Jundullah's claims and warnings seriously. Gholamhosein Mohseni Eje'ei, Iran's Intelligence Minister, rejected recent claims and called them 'mere rumors.' He was quoted as saying: "God willing, all of the captives are alive and the claims regarding their martyrdom are not verified. We continue our lobbying and efforts and hope that they will be released as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, an Iranian group headed by Mahdi Hashemi (who is in charge of State Ministry) went to Islamabad to negotiate with Pakistani officials over the fate of captives. No details are revealed except that Pakistan has promised cooperation.
The latest kidnapping happened when Pakistan handed Abdolhamid Rigi (brother of Abdolmalek Rigi, head of Jundullah group) over to Iranian officials. He had been jailed for about 1 year in Pakistan.
Jundullah claims that it is fighting for the cause of Baloch ethnic and religious minority. Iran calls it a terrorist group. Up to now, tens of army officers, statesmen and civilians have been killed in violent campaigns of the group.
[Note: most of kidnapped soldiers were not employed army officers but just some youngsters who had been offering their compulsory military service.]

July 23, 2008

Just Ahmadinejad can do it


by: Sadegh Zibakalam

I do firmly believe that Iran-US relations' most significant transition which is to emerge is due to the presidency of Mr. Ahmadinejad. Truth is that having diplomatic relations with US is more of a taboo in Iran which may only get broken by a tradition-minded, conservative figure. No one may come to bring about a state of détente, negotiate with US and normalize Iran-US relations, save Ahmadinejad himself. We have not yet forgotten McFarlane event (when Imam was alive) and Mr. Hashemi's efforts to revive Iran-US relations; however, conservatives' powerful hands impeded those efforts and McFarlane event came to standstill. In the period of Mr. Hashemi's presidency, Mohajerani (then advisor to Mr. Hashemi) published a column in Ettela'at daily regarding Iran-US relations, which was much more diluted compare to current expressions of Mr. Ahmadinejad; but conservatives' reaction was so tough that he got forced to publicly apologize. Even when Mr. Khatami, in an interview with Christian Amanpour (CNN correspondent), said some relatively fine things about US, psychological pressures of conservatives forced him to utter some harsh words regarding US just few days later in Imam Khomeini's mausoleum. I think that Ahmadinejad is the only person who may bring about a state of détente. During his presidency, this potential vision has evolved into a practical one. He easily speaks of taking photos with an American commander and his deputy in Iraq, and more easily states that 'if we receive any formal request regarding opening US consulate in Tehran, we will consider it seriously', and such stances do not lead to any reaction from either media or others. I believe that Mr. Ahmadinejad's powerful proponents in the regime make him bold enough to freely speak of having relations with US and even march toward bringing about a state of détente and normalizing the relations. Other side of the coin is US. Current evidences suggest that Barack Obama may win presidential elections. However, I doubt it, for I think that 'Silent Majority' of US voters, who constitute 20-30 percent of voters, have not decided to vote for whom and will decide just few nights before final elections, and they are more likely to vote for McCain only to avoid an African-American finding his way to White House. I hope this is not going to happen. After all, if Obama is to become next US president, vision of normalizing relations with US will be much brighter than ever.


Sadegh Zibakalam is a leading reformist author and professor of political sciences in Tehran University. This paper was published last week in Shahrvande Emrooz (today citizen), leading reformist weekly.

July 15, 2008

Prisoner Swap

Tomorrow, a prisoner swap is expected to happen between Israel and Lebanese Hizbollah, in which Israel will receive two soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, in return for releasing Samir Kantar and four Hezbollah prisoners and returning the bodies of dozens.
Two Israeli soldiers are presumed dead. I hope that they return alive. It's in favor of all parties.
Update: my hope failed.

July 12, 2008

Wise Word

It's said that a former Japanese foreign minister once said to his Iranian counterpart: "US is like a wild buffalo. You have stuck to her horns, while we try to stick to her breasts."

July 8, 2008

Ecosystems and Peace

This was a comment to a question: Any other ideas or stories out there about how environmental collaboration in the Middle East can lead to peace?
Ecosystems (un)fortunately don’t appreciate political borders. When a border happens to separate two people even for a long period of time, it certainly fails to stop eco-interactions.

You mentioned sewage system and air pollution. There are certainly many more examples of this kind. For example, when two nations share a lake or jungle, they have to come to understand that the safety of this ecosystem is dependent on a collective effort. Caspian Sea is an example; or Nile may be a more telling story which is somehow associated with the life of many people in various African countries. When people learn that they should cooperate so as to save the ecosystem in addition to improving their own lives, one may say 'Ecosystems fortunately don’t appreciate political borders.'

However, the story of shared ecosystems is not an all-good one. For example, Hamoon wetland in southern east of Iran is enlisted as an 'endangered ecosystem', for building several dams on Hirmand River (the main supplier of water for Hamoon) in Afghanistan as well as recent droughts have turned this area of about 600 thousand acres into desert [source]. Some experts believe that Hamoon Wetland will be a fiction after this summer, unless some heavy raining helps it survive. If this piece of land turns into desert, Iran won't be the only victim: the desert will be expanding to east threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan, a big desert (instead of wetland) would certainly lead to reduction in rain in neighboring areas, etc.

Thus, one may conclude that ecosystems essentially need long-term planning and strategic perspectives. And short-termism, as a relatively new phenomenon in contemporary management, is a grave mistake, regarding Nature as a whole. This is why one might say: 'Ecosystems unfortunately don’t appreciate political borders.'

So, environmental collaboration would only lead to peace if we come to recognize some key measures such as sharing benefits of ecosystems with neighbors, mutual respect for mother nature, paying attention to long-term planning, and probably most important issue is that: Nature is not a weapon capable of defending a nation; rather it's more of a static grenade that will turn the whole area into dust should it be exploded.

July 3, 2008

Ecotourism in Iran

This post was a comment.
Ecotourism is a relatively new idea in Iran and I’m afraid if there is not an organized effort to promote it right now. National Ecotourism Committee is established, though it might take some time for it to run national-level projects. And some non-governmental sites try to introduce possible ecotourism spots, such as this one.
Meanwhile, there are some established procedures for ecotourists: many travel agencies offer special eco-tours, for example to northern parts of Iran (Gilan and Mazandaran provinces, a semi-mediterranean climate) or Yazd (desert ecotourism).
However, professional ecotourists constitute the main source of ecotourism information. For example, we (I and my wife) have decided to spend two weeks in summer in a northern village. I asked several people, and they offered a relatively detailed description: possible destinations, prices, availability of house/room for rent, some pics, etc.
People are eager to spend some time out of metropolitan areas. Therefore some local ecotourism destinations have come into existence. For example, you may find several villages out of Isfahan (our city) which are relatively well-equipped for a 1-2 week stay. Villagers are increasingly getting aware of this possible source of income, thus try to make a better destination.
I hope that while Ahmadinejad is busy with politics, local efforts provide a proper infrastructure within a decade or so.