December 22, 2010

Daddy, I got a job!

(The previous generation believes we are lazy. That’s not true, I think. Here is why.)
As a kid, I used to hear my parents wishing me a happy life. They hoped to see me grown up, educated, living a decent life, and employed. To them, a good job would be an indispensable part of the bright future one might desire to achieve. They were right, indeed.

I managed to grow up, get higher education in prestigious universities, live a life conforming to principles I find reasonable, and find a job. I’m a freelance translator and media professional, doing business with many individuals, groups and companies. This is a lovely job with a good payment.

After a while of working, I’ve got a circle of friends whose occupations and preoccupations are somehow similar to those of mine. To keep ourselves up to minute and offer best services we can deliver, we practice many things, including surfing the web, reading news here and there, spending a good time on weblogs and social networks, attending conferences and meetings, etc. Even we have our hobbies related to the job we do. Watching movies, reading novels, participating in social events which have something to do with culture and media and taking photos are some of our leisure time activities. In sum, people who belong to this circle have a lot in common in terms of what they do.

My friends and I share a similar background, as well. We are from middle class, somehow traditional families. Our fathers, now retired, had been employed in state-run companies and organizations, working a certain number of hours a month to get a somehow fixed compensation. This latter issue plays a significant role in their definition of work and their perception of proper job.

Let’s recall their jobs. Their working hours were fixed, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the case of my father who worked for Iranian Telecommunication Company. They had to carry out some predefined tasks which were determined by the boss. In other words, they were paid for doing what they were ordered to do. They never had the chance to run a business, to get to know the dynamics and forces of the market, to take risks.

And they had a permanent and almost fixed source of income which was risk-free and payable in the end of each and every month. In fact, the state-run economy of Iran in last decades made many people swear by almost risk-free status of employment in public companies. To them, the sense of security brought about by this type of working was very desirable, very true.

And they used to separate work from hobbies, job from the life. To them, whatever tasks which could directly lead to an income would be considered job, and other things were nothing but hobbies and leisure time activities. In that model of public economy, when the employee needed to learn a new method or technology, he/she was paid by the boss to do so. Hence, “taking time and even paying some money to learn something new which might probably lead to an income” could be just a secondary occupation, not the primary one.

However, above characteristics may not apply to doing business in free market. And in the case of what my friends and I do, none of them actually applies to our career.

Such differences are not problematic per se. The problem arises when the past generation judges us upon his preferred standards. Our fathers never try to understand that to work doesn’t necessarily mean going to office every morning. (In fact, I can stay in my own room and work and make a nice income.) To our fathers, taking working time to surf the web or participating in social events is a waste of time, while to us, i.e. idea-sellers of the information age, this is an investment and real work. To them, watching movies is a leisure time work, while we consider it a work-related practice.

Given above differences, my father believes that I’m not doing my best, that I’m lazy, that I’ve not yet found a real job. Sometimes I wanna yell, “Daddy, I got a job, believe me!”

November 22, 2010

Tech Effects, Iranian Style

- Technology is more than a noun – it’s a lifestyle!

A lot is said about the effects of technology on our lives. Such effects can be positive or negative, simple or complicated, superficial or profound. The technology is not per se neutral for it intrinsically encourages some special ways of doing things. In my opinion, however, there is no such a thing as good/bad technology because new technologies usually affect our lives in many diverse ways, some of which may be indeed very good while others might be very problematic. The effect’s spectrum gets even wider should various applications developed for a certain technology be considered.

There are numerous examples to cite here, ranging from two centuries old inventions such as Steam Engine to Information-Age phenomena such as World Wide Web. Take, for example, Email. On the plus side, it is cheap, saves time, allows us to make frequent contacts with the people we love and value, and to make it green, it saves tons of trees and fuels every day! On the negative side, it increases the possibility of (mutual) misunderstanding, replaces face-to-face encounters which are (were?) a richer form of communication, contributes to obesity and laziness, increases our exposure to unwanted messages, and even opens the door to new crimes and illegal actions.

By the above, I surely didn’t mean to share with you something new or extraordinary. BTW, above paragraphs was a review. Now I would like to turn my and your attention to a more nuanced aspect of technology’s effects: local characteristics of the effects of global technologies. Or put it slightly differently, recall the title: “Tech Effects, Iranian-Style.”

As it’s self-evident, in such a debate no one can cover all technologies, much less all of their effects. Hence, I would like to focus on a profound effect of Cell Phones: how cell phones helped establish new norms and practices of Privacy. To demonstrate this effect of cell phones on Iranian lifestyle, we first need to know how life used to be before Cell Phone Age.

When I was a teenager, private room was a luxury privilege. (For the first 15 years of my life, my family used to move every year. Some years, I had a semi private room, enjoying solitude during the night but sharing the room with other family members during the day. In other years, I had to completely share the room with another family member.) Another example: I usually had a personal commode. However, it was not that personal: my parents frequently took a look at it, often out of my sight, “just to make sure that everything is OK.” It was kind of a preemptive monitoring, even if there were no sign of threat. BTW, that was a common characteristic of many parents in that period. Diaries had a similar fate as personal commode. Even though I personally didn’t use to write diaries whatever the reason, I’m almost sure that if I did, it would have been subject to unwritten, non-negotiable rule of “preemptive monitoring.”

While these facts surely had something to do with common parental worries, there was another element in them as well. Intimacy and love had a special meaning for parents: the mental arena and most of the physical world should be shared by all members of the family. If it didn’t happen, they would feel as if they were outsiders.

This “your private space makes me feel as if I’m outsider” was a general behavioral rule of that period, not only applicable to parent-child relations but also relevant to peers’ relations. Moreover, “I need some privacy” was often interpreted as “I want to do some bad things.” The rationale for this was very simplistic: if what you want to do is not ‘bad,’ you can do it publicly.
All above facts and analysis converge on one simple point: privacy was not recognized, acknowledged and respected.

Over time, many factors helped transform that situation. In my opinion, Cell Phones played an important role in this regard. When cell phone technology entered Iran, it was an expensive option. To make a comparison, consider that while acquiring a mobile phone subscription would cost around US$ 1,000 just ten years ago, nowadays a prepaid subscription costs only US$ 5. Therefore, in recent years, many Iranians have found Cell Phone affordable and consequently got used to it.

However, the cell phone technology didn’t come alone; rather, a new lifestyle accompanied it. The lifestyle associated with Cell Phone Age may be analyzed in terms of its features. First of all, it has made communications easier and more personal. While family members used to share just one landline phone, today each one of them has his/her own cell phone. Moreover, one can easily define with whom he/she wants to exchange calls and messages. And he/she can easily hide his/her contacts, making them his/her private asset.

In addition to easier communication, cell phone has many built-in features such as calendar, alarm clock, cameras, games and GPS services, each one of which has impacted our culture in its own unique way. What matters in regards to our discussion is portable memory and interface (Bluetooth technology) that allows easy file sharing. In second place after contacts, this feature made cell phones much more personal. One may record or save various files on his/her cell phone, classify them, and define several levels of privacy for those want to access classified files. In some ways, cell phone memories can reflect much of the personality of the owner.

In sum, personal services of the cell phone technology and almost absolute control of the user over it has made some privacy out of it.

As an increasing number of people turned to cell phone and took advantage of its personal features, they better learnt that each person needs his/her privacy be recognized, acknowledged and respected. And in this way, I believe, cell phone technology contributed a lot to the emergence of modern values and norms of privacy.

Cell Phone and its privacy-related effect is just an example to show how profound the effects of new technologies can be. In fact, many other technologies imported to Iran deserve close look to reveal their hidden socio-cultural aspects.

In the end, I would like to emphasize an important point. Even though new technologies “encourage some special ways of doing things” and can introduce a new lifestyle to the society, we have our ways to adapt the technology to our needs and expectations. As George McRobie nicely put it, “The choice of technology, whether for a rich or a poor country, is probably the most important decision to be made.”

P.S. Title of this post is borrowed from Divorce, Italian Style, a 1961 movie. Subtitle is borrowed from William Arthur Ward who once said, “Love is more than a noun – it is a verb.” Many other things are borrowed from many other people. Big thanks to them all.

October 26, 2010

Slavery Mall in Israel

A few days ago, I came across a piece of news (Prostitution in Israel) in a pro-Ahmadinejad news website, Rajanews. Quoted from another website, significant sentences of the story were as follows:

“In an evident case of promoting indecency and moral corruption in Zionist society, women are displayed for sale in Israel’s chain stores... According to Haaretz, each woman has a label that includes her age, weight, dimensions and country of origin. Following pictures shed some light on modern slavery in Israel, the country which claims to be a democracy.”

Then, some photos of the store, along with ‘Slavery Mall in Israel’ caption, were provided to make the whole story even more striking.

Being sure that something should be wrong with the story, I checked the web. A simple search in Google made it clear: “the display was part of an installation by the Working Group Against the Trafficking of Women, part of a widespread campaign.”

I criticized the fallacy in my Persian weblog and sent an SMS to a friend close to Rajanews administrators, asking them to hire qualified gatekeepers for their website. Several other people made fun of Rajanews as well. Consequently, the page was removed from Rajanews website. (Its cached version is still available in Google, copies of it are available here and here, and to get an impression of its impact, check Persian webpages that reported it).

According to Rajanews, original website that reported the fake story was either Mashreghnews or Qodsna. Given the frank, unambiguous article published in Haaretz, I can hardly imagine that this case could be a simple misunderstanding. Rather, it’s fair to believe that the original news editor/translator distorted the story, assuming that no one would ever dare to find the truth. Such a bitter fact that awkward distortion of the truth is still considered a suitable instrument to manipulate the minds of the audience.

Second implication of the event, however, is far more important. Many Iranians had visited the page, found the story to be consistent with their preconceived perception of the Jewish state, thus related to it and cached it in their long term memory as another indication of Israel’s brutality and corruption. The Israeli society I knew, however, could not be this wild and obscene. That is why I doubted the originality of the story, while many other people, even the educated and the elite, did not even give it a second thought. In other words, average Iranian perception of Israel is far different from the objective truth. Unfortunately, the same point arguably applies to the Israeli side as well.

Opposing or disagreeing with another country is one thing, hating it for non-existent causes is a far different thing. Put it slightly differently, there is a knowledge gap that needs be bridged. When, how and by whom? It’s a difficult yet critically important question.

September 20, 2010

My Persian Weblog

My Persian weblog is availabale here. Check it out.

August 21, 2010

She is my Girlfriend

In MEY: English, Persian
Here is Iran. A young boy goes hand in hand with a young girl. Or they’ve just resorted to a not-so-much-crowded quarter of a park. Or they hang out together.

A Police Officer approaches them. A familiar scenario is as follows.

The officer asks the boy, “Excuse me, what is your relationship with the lady?”
The boy replies, “We are engaged,” such a common answer.
“Are the family of the lady aware of this?”
“No. I’m just trying to find out whether or not she is the one.”
“Please call the family of the lady to come here to learn about your relationship, or we’ll bring you two to the police station.”

In most of the cases, the two are not formally engaged but friends. And in Iran, where girls and boys are separated from an early age, the young would not seek for a ‘simple’ friendship. They wanna be intimate friends. They want to experience something they’ve been long denied.

With a large number of the single having a friend of the opposite gender, this practice is becoming more usual day in day out, especially in metropolitan areas. Even many middle- and upper-class parents feel that a friendship of this type might be acceptable should the two seek for a long-term relationship probably leading to the marriage. And if the two don’t cross some certain redlines (i.e. no consummation before formal marriage), more parents may welcome their friendship.

Investigating the cause, statistics come to join natural inclination as the compound reason explaining a growingly observable social trend. Iran is of a surprisingly young population, almost half of which are 30 years old or younger. And the average age of marriage is going up. According to Parliament Research Center, marriage age is 29 and 28 years for the boys and the girls, respectively. So, who waits +28 years to have his/her first experience of the opposite gender?

Where the young find each other doesn’t matter that much. It might be a chat room where young Iranians seek for friends of the opposite gender and exchange numbers. Or just in the streets with the common form being the boy giving a free ride to the waiting girl. Or in the university. Or in a simple party. Or in friendship circles. Or in subway with exchanging looks and blinks. Or in the workplace.

What matters the most is that they used to hesitate to make their secret public because neither the former generation nor the formal regulations would approve it. According to the old tradition and state-run culture, it shall be either formal marriage or nothing. And for the young generation, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Change, however, is happening as a growing number of the young publicly declare they have a girl- or boy-friend. While a not-formally-married couple would have been isolated in the past and might prefer not to appear in the public, now they can easily find similar couples (as well as public acceptance) and engage in various social efforts, ranging from spending a few hours in café or parks to going on a vacation together.

The trend is so meaningful that even the mainstream media can’t ignore it anymore. In parallel with the facts on the ground, The Distance, a drama aired by Iranian state TV, crosses former red lines and portrays a boy, Saeid, son of a veteran and devout Muslim, who meets a pretty girl in the workplace and befriends her. As opposed to old customs, the fact that some relatives or friends may see them together doesn’t frighten him. Their defiance culminates when his uncle (also a religious figure) asks him who the girl is, and he insolently, and even proudly, maintains: “she is my girl*friend.”[1]

Not surprisingly, the story line of The Distance tries to discourage such friendships. It goes on to provide more details about personal life of Saeid’s girl*friend, Bitaa. Her father had been found guilty in a murder trial and sentenced to death. Bitaa should gather US$ 60,000 to pay the family of the murdered so as to save her father’s life. Since she has got no good-paying job, her last resort is to befriend men, old and young, and try to either steal some money from them or blackmail them. Saeid’s father follows Bitaa and learns about her indecent behavior. He first tries to aggressively discourage his son from befriending Bitaa. However, his efforts were fruitless because his son was in love with Bitaa. Then, he tries to be patient and let his son find out the truth. His patience finally pays off and the morale of the story is established: street friendships are bound to fail.

That drama offers an almost unique story. Parents’ patience in The Distance helped them maintain and strengthen traditional norms. However, in real life, society’s patience may work in the opposite direction because not all the girls/boys who befriend someone of the opposite gender are indecent ones. In fact, many of the young boys and girls form sincere relationships. And in the long run, people may come to believe that such friendships should be not only accepted, but also supported and encouraged.

Besides statistics and street evidences, there is another meaningful argument indicating that such friendships are becoming quite normal in Iran. A few months ago, there were rumors that a new department called Relationship Police was to be tasked with patrolling streets and public places and taking into custody or penalizing not-formally-married couples. Subsequently, in a TV interview, Ahmadinejad firmly decried this act [2]. His stance faced harsh criticism of clergies and hardliners. However, he reemphasized his position. Ahmadinejad, as a populist president sticking to power no matter what, knows that swimming against the current is a grave mistake. And, in this case, he sided with the people, I believe.

[1] This translation may be disputed. The original dialogue is “she is my friend.” However, as noted earlier, a simple boy-girl friendship is almost meaningless in Iranian culture, and a female/male friend usually means a girl*friend/boy*friend.

[2] He was quoted as saying: “to stop a girl and boy in the street and investigate their relationship is really hideous. Their relationship is none of your business.”

July 23, 2010

Giants and Giant Killers

It is said that in 1722 A.D., while the last Safavid king spent his time in the Harem courting his many wives and concubines, Afghans orchestrated an attack on Iran led by an afghan commander called Mahmoud. It took almost 16 years for an Iranian hero, Nader, to rise and defeat Afghans. Even though the rise of so-called Napoleon of Persia was promising, with his various invasions of Indian territories bringing some invaluable treasures to Iran, his last years was an absolute catastrophe. Nader, who was once admired as a giant-killer, became a cruel giant himself. A new giant killer was needed to remove him from power.

In Iran’s history, the story of giants and giant-killers is not limited to the old times. This pattern is of a fractal nature, extending across many inter- and intra-regime changes. Despite a few exceptions, almost all regime changes in Iran might be considered examples of this pattern.

In terms of intra-regime changes, Rafsanjani-Ahmadinejad struggle is an interesting chapter of today Iran’s politics. Rafsanjani, pragmatic post-war president of Iran whose main motto was ‘reconstruction,’ believed in a capitalist philosophy. As expected, his semi-capitalist reconstruction was not pain-free. Consequences of that period, including increasing gap between haves and have-nots, made people feel as if a giant was formed. To some of the supporters of the Miracle of Third Millennium [1], Ahmadinejad is the new giant killer and he has been successful so far in defeating Rafsanjani in public performance and attracting masses, even though Rafsanjani’s team is still of a considerable influence in Iran’s politics. (You may skip following three paragraphs which describe one of the fronts of Rafsanjani-Ahmadinejad war and read the concluding paragraph.)

The recent struggle over controlling Islamic Azad University (IAU), which is perhaps one of the most important privately-run enterprises in today Iran, is a front of proxy war of power between Ahmadinejad, represented by High Council of Cultural Revolution (HCCR), and Rafsanjani, represented by IAU Board of Founders.

IAU was first founded by a group of revolutionary figures including Ayatollah Khamenei (then president of Iran who later resigned from his position in IAU), Ayatollah Rafsanjani (then parliament spokesman), Mir Hosein Mousavi (then premier of Khamenei administration), etc. Due to limited capacity of public university, its mission as a private enterprise was to provide higher education for those talents which could not ‘conquer’ difficult entrance exam of public universities. By opening many branches in almost every province and major metropolitan area of Iran, it turned into a prosperous institute with a huge amount of working capital and assets. IAU currently serves around 1,350,000 students and offers undergraduate and graduate programs. With a stable management, IAU turned into a camp for moderate politicians and Rafsanjani supporters. As expected, conservatives couldn’t tolerate it and tried to contain it. Ahamdinejad’s election was a suitable time, so they resorted to HCCR which is supposed to manage higher education institutes to achieve their goal.

10 months ago, in a preemptive act, AIU Board approved a bill which earmarked IAU as a devoted public charity, which, according to current laws, implied that the government could exercise no control over it. Six months ago, HCCR passed a bill aimed at changing statute of IAU and bringing it under the control of the government. HCCR bill replaced some of the IAU Board members, most notably Mir Hossein Mousavi, and set new guidelines for its management. IAU refused to subscribe to new statute. The debate got so hot that the Supreme Leader had to intervene and suspend both bills temporarily so that a ‘close examination of legal issues’ lead to final decision.

AIU-HCCR struggle is just an example of Rafsanjani-Ahmadinejad war. Whether or not the new hero can defeat the old giant is not an issue. The most important concern is that how this cursed circle of ‘Giant Killer-Becomes-Giant’ may come to an end.

[1] “Ahmadinejad: The Miracle of Third Millennium,” Fatemeh Rajabi

July 13, 2010

I Have a Dream

I have a dream.
I have a dream which offers me almost everything I miss in my life. Dignity, pride, self-esteem.
I have a dream in which I don’t need to pretend. It is me, just me. And my dream respects my ego.
My dream is a wonderland in which love is traded for love. Be just for your soul mate and she will be yours, just yours. Be everything to your soul mate and she shall be everything to you.
My dream is a manifestation of beauty. No element need be added, taken away, or altered. Everything, seemingly, occurs almost perfect.
In my dream, colors, pictures, moves are so kicking that one can hardly tell whether it’s reality or dream.
What makes my dream perfect is me, just me. No other one can replace me. And I’m satisfied with this part.
I live my dream.
I don’t want to wake up.
O’ clocks, go dead please!

June 5, 2010

Your Charisma Still Lingers Here

Since a long time ago, I wanted to write a feature on Imam Khomeini. Yesterday, the day before the anniversary of his death, I and my friend, Saleh, had some time to go to Isfahan’s bazzar and took some photos. Interestingly, there are still some merchants in whose shops some photos of Imam Khomeini are installed. In near future, I will compile a feature to complement following photos.

* The title of this post is borrowed from a song of Evanescence.

April 19, 2010

Individuality is worth it all

“Capital dwellers” is the adjective attached to us. The smoky Tehran, the expensive Tehran, the merciless Tehran, the lonely Tehran! Loneliness is as fashionable here as individuality. And I perhaps fall for this individuality; this fact that not all the time I’m being monitored and judged. This is why I don’t like smaller cities in which, it seems, everybody is obliged to control you. In which all the people find themselves entitled to comment on every petty issue of your life, your appearance, your mood and your secrets. And the smaller the city, the more meaningless becomes the privacy. And the stronger becomes the rivalry. And gossiping and talking behind others’ backs becomes more frequent. And the atmosphere becomes more intolerable. Right, Tehran is expensive, polluted, crowded, not that much moral-minded. I, however, never exchange the individuality I have in Tehran for the [seemingly better] life in other cities.

Source: Green Desert

April 16, 2010

All the President's Dreams

A nice joke says that hedgehogs always dream of somebody giving them a close hug. A similar joke says that zebras always dream of taking a colorful photo.

In your opinion, what does Ahmadinejad usually dream of?

You have one week to participate in the game (either through comments or through Email) and the most interesting answer will be awarded 10$. Believe me, Ahmadinejad is not worth more.

April 7, 2010

A Dirge for an Old King

O’ the old Cheetah,

Once you were the fastest in our county,
Preserving the order as a king, the mighty,
Wolves and foxes in our desert scared,
To me, your strength was the utmost beauty,

As opposed to those who called you wild,
I believed in your potency to keep the county, your child,
Happy and prosperous, not letting lions of neighboring woods meddle,
It took many lives, I know, but this was what we had to abide,

You didn’t let anybody stand, grow up,
For you had to be the one, front and up,
And your turn came, to get old, to fall,
Wolves and foxes, waiting; they run a coup,

O’ the old Cheetah,

What did you do to our county?

P.S. 1: Big thanks to a cyber friend.
P.S. 2: Any political interpretation is due to your crazy mind. :D

March 15, 2010

To You: Nagoya Oceans

I was with them for almost 12 days. Regulated, disciplined, on time. In short, Japanese, very Japanese, conforming to all what I used to hear about and expect from them.

Nagoya Oceans Futsal Club represented Japan in AFC Futsal Club Championship 2010 which was held in Isfahan, Iran. And I was their liaison officer. Such an easy job, given their well-organized, reliable personal and team behavior.

Their tomorrow schedule was always ready the night before, detailed and practical. And when it came to act according to the schedule, they were on-time, or more exactly, caring about every simple minute. To them, 7:30 means just 7:30, neither 7:29 nor 7:31. And you know, to an average Iranian, 7:30 means a period as wide as 6:00 to 8:00. It took me almost a day to get accustomed to their systematic, timely behavior.

They were very conservative, and meanwhile very friendly. Only one of them, Murayama (supervisor), was a fluent speaker of English. Watanabe (club manager) and Miyazawa (interpreter of the Portuguese head coach) spoke decent English. And I made friends with all of the three English speaking ones, especially Miyazawa. And with the head coach, Jose Adil, who invited me to a delicious pizza on the last night I was with them. And with the photographer, who fixed my camera once I was absolutely frustrated. And with Muri, whose fantastic performance in the pitch and nice dance in the stadium won the hearts of spectators. And with everybody else, less or more.

I was excited when they won just to get sad when they lost. I was not only with them, but also somehow found myself a member of their delegation. Waking up everyday at the same time, exchanging ‘hello, good morning’ every day, walking together, and touring the city together. Even I practiced with them, though not physically. And when they failed to make it in the semi final against Al-Sad from Qatar, I was as sad as the Japanese. It was then that I told Miyazawa “when you are this sad and exhausted, I feel sad and exhausted as well.”

At the gate of Imam Khomeini International Airport where they were about to depart, when I said goodbye to each one, especially once someone took the last photo of me with Miyazawa, I was about to burst into tears.

Such a great experience. Such a near-Japanese experience. Such a great memory.

Murayama gave me a JFA T-Shirt and Miyazawa gave me his Nagoya Oceans sportswear. Such a nice, great, invaluable present and memory, to remain in my custody, in my heart, forever.

I miss you all, my friends.

February 28, 2010

Sweet Moments Gone

It’s so easy sometimes, so simple, so everyday issue, that you just get impressed once it’s gone.

That’s when you find out how badly you needed it, grown accustomed to it, even though it didn’t last for more than a few hours.

Those sweet moments which you didn’t taste when you sampled.

February 22, 2010

Book of Law, narrative of an inherent conflict

Book of Law, the movie

Book of Law is the latest movie of Maziar Miri, the young, promising Iranian director. The story begins with an Iranian scholar, Rahman Tavana, traveling with his colleagues to Lebanon to meet a group of representatives of Lebanese NGOs. There he meets a young, Christian interpreter, Juliet, who also owns a café in Beirut. He falls for her. In his next trip to Lebanon, he finds out that Juliet converted to Islam. In his third trip, he marries Juliet and they together come to Iran to live with Rahman’s family.

Almost all members of Rahman’s family (save a sister of Rahman, Kobra, who is the second good-guy of the movie next to Juliet) as well as the people around the neighborhood play an important role in the movie. They constitute a traditional Muslim society which is, in some respects, far away from original Islamic norms. The newly converted Juliet, who chose the name Amena, tries to educate them, challenging the traditional Muslim community to put aside what she finds non-Islamic. The salesman who sells expired dairies, the Muslim women who talk behind others’ backs, etc. do not hesitate a second to accuse Juliet of being naïve and unaware of ‘True Islam.’ Rahman’s family even use Juliet’s personal album including her old, not-properly-dressed photos to prove that they are better Muslims for their hair and body was never seen by a stranger. Indeed, they can’t bear numerous, harsh criticisms she makes based on the Book of Law, i.e. the Quran. Due to its long-standing experience of Islam, the traditional Muslim society believes in its authenticity to prescribe Islamic version of things. This is the most important theme of the movie.

The story of Book of Law indeed presents a cliché of contemporary art forms dealing with self-diagnosis of Muslim society. A non-Muslim converts to Islam only to find out that the Muslim society is not that Islamic at all.

The movie is idealist in the sense that it repeats an old theme, that ‘the original Islam is all good.’ And the storyteller gets pragmatist in one of the last scenes, when a Lebanese taxi driver preaches secular ethics according to which being good doesn’t have anything to do with the religion one chooses to follow. (No wonder that these statements were not translated in subtitles, probably a consequence of editorial pressures.) And maybe this idealism-pragmatism conflict is another indication of today Iran’s tough situation, symbolizing a transient nation which is still hesitant to give up on its traditional values despite all the setbacks such values brought about, the nation which still hopes to cure all the problems through radical reforms, getting back to True Islam.

Juliet can not tolerate all the inhospitality she faces in the family, in the society. In a so-called Muslim nation, she can’t adhere to original values of the Book of Law. She returns to Lebanon just to find Rahman getting there to find her. They are still in love with each other.

The last scene of the movie pictures an airplane taking off, carrying both Rahman and Juliet on board. But going where?

To Iran? Or to a dreamland in which you can be a true Muslim and enjoy all the benefits of original Islam, even if this dreamland happens to be a non-Muslim country? Rather a tough question, as tough as the choice some devout Muslims have to make.

February 17, 2010

My Dream School

Managers of my dream school, only concerned with sharing their affections, traditionally reserved for their own kids, with orphans.

My dream school’s statute, comprised of only one article, no exception or discretion included in it. “Your only income shall be the peace you earn by serving the disadvantaged.”

My real friends, each of them, playing a role in my Dream School, established in the most disadvantaged neighborhood of the city. One of them, a civil engineer, prepares blueprints. Another friend, again a civil engineer, supervises the construction. A professor prepares the concrete and a businessman lays the brick. Our wives arrange for the lunch. In less than a year, the banner is unfurled.

Interesting is that we wouldn’t pay a penny for workers. More interesting is that we wouldn’t need to flatter investors.

My Dream School (or, Our Dream School, better said) welcomes all the children who face severe problems or miss their fathers. No need for mothers to hide the facts, for example, that the father is imprisoned. The more disadvantaged the kid, the more appreciated he will be.

Teachers of our Dream School devote few hours a week to receive a child’s happy smile, insuring their success, both here and in hereafter. A teacher comes from a public department, another from his office or company, the third from a university and the fourth comes right after participating in the cabinet meeting.

Hoping for a day in which the first bell rings in our Dream School, the sweet childish humming filling our sad, discriminated neighborhood.

February 16, 2010

Veiled Feminism

Feminism is of some common expressions known to almost every observer, namely claiming equal, indiscriminate access to sports, cultural and political opportunities, or the girls becoming less willing to get married. However, a subtle feminism does exist in which religious sections are involved as well. This subtle layer of feminism, which is indeed of a feminist nature but to which least attention is paid, is “women’s dissatisfaction with just fulfilling the role of a noble wife and/or mother.” This tendency demonstrates itself in the girls’ willingness to pursue higher education, acquire job opportunities or involve in social activities. Once such efforts replace women’s primary duty, i.e. playing the role of a perfect wife and an affectionate mother, it should be regarded an indication of a chronic problem.
For such women, devoting themselves to the husband and family is not satisfactory. They can not justify some Islamic traditions, such as the famous one, “the noblest strife of the woman is to treat and serve her husband the best.”

The author of above paragraphs, who blogs in Armankhahi (which roughly means Idealism), is an old friend of mine. He (yeah, I know, you expected the author to be a He) usually writes concise, clear-cut texts to express his ideas. You might find the above an indeed incomplete analysis of the current gender issues in Iran, or just a confession to an increasingly evident fact, i.e. that the Iranian women are no more satisfied with their traditional roles. The author tries to diagnose current status, while you may appreciate it. Choice is yours. Or ours?

January 25, 2010

Local Varieties of English: Isfahani Version

I once read an article about local varieties of English, that some nations develop their version of English, incorporating some of their grammar and/or syntax elements into it. The most common type of localizing English, however, should be expected in dialects, such as the manufacturer of this danger sign who adapted the pronunciation of Danger to Isfahani dialect.

Note: In the original dialect of Isfahan, ‘e’ usually replaces ‘a.’

January 24, 2010

Province of Jurist

By ‘Province of Jurist,’ the author has certainly meant Velayat Faghih, i.e. the fundamental principle of Islamic Republic of Iran’s political structure that reserves final word in almost all cases for the Supreme Leader, a notable clergyman. Velayate Faghih roughly translates into: premiership of the knowledgeable clergyman.

My diagnosis: The author opens Babylon Dictionary, searches the Persian term Velayat in it, and finds only one English equivalent for it: Province. (Note that Velayat in Persian means both premiership and residence.) He (she?) again searches the Persian term Faghih and finds Jurist for it. Period.