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Among rogue scholars

Inside the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies (IHCS), a Tehran research institute: 1993-1995
Azadeh Azad

In 1992, the publication of a new women's magazine, Zanan, was a first clear sign that there was a rift within the ranks of the Islamic phalanx in Iran, creating a narrow crevice for uttering slightly different opinions without being immediately executed. So, having worked for many years as a social scientist with La Federation des Femmes du Quebec in Montreal, I decided to return to Tehran at the end of that year, to live and work in my birthplace for a few years. I had left Iran in 1969 with the feeling that women's situation under the Shah was unbearable. I thus clearly knew that the wearing of the compulsory hijab and abiding by other rules of the Islamic regime would be detrimental to my psyche; so I returned with the internal attitude of an observing sociologist and not of a woman, in order to cope with the offensive and alienating social environment in new Iran >>>

There will be no revolution

Then what will happen to the Islamic Republic?
Ben Madadi

It would be naive also to under-estimate the popular support that the Islamic regime enjoys. Would the majority of Iranians vote for a non-Islamic, secular, republic if they had the choice? I'm not so sure they would. But maybe even the majority of Americans would vote for a Christian republic if they had the choice, which they don't, for the joy of the liberals, and the Iranians who live in the US. America is far ahead in democracy and it seems absurd to imagine a religious system in the US. But Iran is not like that. Let's not forget that modern Iran, as we now know it, was built on the basis of religion, and that religion was Shia Islam. Modern Iran is not, and was not, the pre-Islamic Iran. Modern Iran was a religious state from the start. Iranians have been bound on Shia religion for about 500 years >>>

The Good Revolution

Why the Islamic Republic is good for Iran
Faraz Jamshid

Many Iranians, both inside and outside of Iran, view the Islamic Republic as an obstacle to Iran's greatness. They believe that the fascist Islamic government should be removed so that freedom, peace, and democracy can spread. They believe that the concept of a theocracy (or more specifically, the velayet-e-faqih) has been thoroughly discredited by history and view the Islamic government as a throwback to medieval ways of thinking. In short, they would like to see Iran take its place as one of the civilized nations of the world, and they believe that the first step is to adopt their institutions. These critics are right in many ways, but they are wrong in one very crucial way. Democracy is not a magic elixir that can cure all of a society's problems. In fact, history has shown us that democracy without the proper ingredients often leads to disaster >>>


Fending off invaders

Photo essay: Beheshte Zahra cemetery
Afshin Deyhim


Kaashteem, dero kardeem

Memoirs of a "government servant" in the 1960s and 70s
Houshang Pirnazar

Pop Islam

Iran's Islamist and pop cultures seems to mingle by loosing themeselves into each other
Anna Mahjar Barducci

The avenues of Teheran have changed their colours. Soon after the Islamic revolution in 1979, led by Khomeini, only the austere black was allowed to decorate the streets of the Iranian capital. Since then, the colours of the revolution have developped. Blinding yellow and fluorescent pink flags wave now in the alleys of Teheran. The colours that used to be part of the profane along the last 27 years have now been incorporated into the holy, with the exception of the rigorous dark women dresses. The revolution overwhelmed the Iranian reality, without being able anymore to cleave the profane from the holy. In this way, the appearace of the Iranian republic has been changed to trasform everything into a product of the ayatollah’s regimes. However, this evolutionary process gave birth to a new pop-Islamic revolution, which influences religious ceremonies too >>>

Pileh kardan beh melliyoon

Jalal Matini's unfair judgements on the role of nationalists in the 1979 Revolution
Hassan Behgar


Blasts from the past

Photo essay: Unearthing half a century of underground revolutionary material
Jahanshah Javid


Graduating with honor

Student protests in Tehran

Rooze khoob

On the liberation of Khorramshahr
Mandana Zandian

The martyr and his creator

Part 9: Returning to Iran: 1986-87
Sima Nahan

Payam-e Shahid (Message of the Martyr) is an everyday tribunal for the rhetoric and politics of the Islamic Republic. A clever propaganda device, it reiterates stock sentiments and injunctions in a new context each time. When it actually is the words of individual men, it also provides a first and last chance for a great number of faceless sons of poverty to claim existence and, however prefabricated and short-lived, a voice. It is a tribunal for Man-as-Martyr-of-the-Islamic-Republic... In the "Vocabulary of Martyrdom" we are given "love," "quest for purification," and "desire for perfection" to substitute for "pain, suffering, and poverty" which, according to the teacher who celebrated the martyrdom of his student, constitutes the vocabulary of the slums of Tehran. But the stock phrases that are endlessly repeated in a sampling of Payam-e Shahid seem to strengthen the suspicion that the vocabulary of man-as-martyr is infinitely more limited than the vocabulary of the slums of southern Tehran, rich with humanity as that is.

On the run

Part 8: Returning to Iran: 1986-87
Sima Nahan

Boys over the age of fourteen are prohibited to leave the country. By the age of eighteen those who have not already volunteered for Basij or joined the Sepah-e Pasdaran are drafted into the army. The Basij -- dubbed yek bar masraf, the "disposables" -- is a volunteer militia corps ranging in age from the very young to the very old. It recruits among the poorest segments of urban and rural populations and provides minimal military training before dispatching volunteers to the fronts. Sepah-e Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards Corps) is in command of the Basij. The Sepah, also a volunteer corps, is privileged with material comforts and a good deal of much feared authority.

Darshaaee az "nassle sookhteh"

Former Mojahed on the "burnt generation" and ideological dogma
Ali Salari

Evin, Qezel Hesar, and milk for the baby

Part 7: Returning to Iran: 1986-87
Sima Nahan

One woman who had spent four years in Evin said that she had begun to get a feeling for the architecture of the place: the bands (communal units) each consisting of one room, one hallway, one communal washroom, and the guards' quarters; the infirmary; the yard; the solitary cells; and the approximate distance and relationship of these spaces to one another. Another woman who was released after only one year had a much vaguer notion of the design of the build ings. To assess her direction she studied the light coming through a barred window high up on the wall in the hallway. At one point, she discovered shadows of leaves playing on the wall or on the floor, by which she concluded that the building must have multi ple levels. But before she could map it out more clearly, and as other prisoners also discovered the little display of the outside world and spent time hovering over the play of light and shadow, one day they found the window draped with a piece of cloth.

What you see...

Part 6: Returning to Iran: 1986-87
Sima Nahan
Photos by Fariba Amini

The vantage points from which Evin Prison compound has such a panoramic display used to be guarded and kept off-limits by the university guards before the revolution - a situation that provoked the students even more and drove them to despise and abuse the perfectly groomed soccer field and the shining sports equipment that used to fill the various halls of the building. But the Islamic Republic does not insist on keeping secrets. The Imam, addressing his Cabinet during the Week of Government in the summer of 1986, declares: "It does not matter if our economy is bankrupt. The important thing is that Islam is not bankrupt." It is in the same no-secrets spirit that the Republic exposes people to the graveyard of its executed victims and students to the sight of its prisons and even to the sounds of its firing squads.

Tulips and poppies

Part 5: Returning to Iran: 1986-87
Sima Nahan

Behesht-e Zahra (Paradise of Zahra) is the name of a huge cemetery outside of Tehran, on the highway to Qom. Conceived and partially constructed before the revolution, it is being rapidly filled, while not yet quite finished, as if testifying to the fulfillment of a grotesque prophecy. Entering the grounds very early on a summer morning, having left home at dawn in order to avoid the mad traffic of downtown Tehran and the scorching sun of midday in the desert, we are relieved by a gentle breeze drifting our way from a generous stream of fresh water running through the main boulevard.

God wears boots

The Power Structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran: transition from populism to clientelism, and militarization of the government
Kazem Alamdari

Since the1979 revolution, Iran has experienced two non-class power structures -- populism and clientelism. Populism, a product of the revolution, helped Ayatollah Khomeini to rule Iran for a decade with absolute power. Clientelism in Iran is linked to Shiism, as well as to a rentier state, and to the revolution, which resulted in many autonomous groups formed in patron – client bonds... The reformist government elected in 1997 failed to deliver on its democratic promises and to end the destructive role of autonomous groups. Therefore, disenchanted with state-sponsored reforms, Iranian society seems to be moving towards pragmatism and utilitarianism, while the political power structure leans towards militarism.

Cries for change

Peaceful women's rights gathering in Tehran ends in violence
Anonymous report from Tehran

Approximately 1,000 women had gathered in Park Daneshjoo on the occasion of the International Women's Day to emphasize their stance in support of women's human rights and peace. The ceremony which started at 4:00 pm, and was scheduled to last one hour, was charged by security forces shortly after it began, who relentlessly beat the protesters, in an effort to disperse the group. Ten minutes into the protest, after security forces had managed to fully film and photograph the protesters for follow-up and interrogations at a later time, the women were asked to disperse, on the grounds that their assembly was illegal and did not have a permit. At this point, the protesters started singing the anthem of the women's movement, which again calls for changes in their human rights status.

Perseverance and honor

Interview with Abbas Amir-Entezam
Fariba Amini

In my twenty-six years of confinement, no one ever saw me in a bad mood. I always smiled and kept up my optimistic outlook. I knew I had done nothing wrong except to defend my own rights and the rights of my compatriots. I knew I had struggled for my homeland. Everyday I saw the distressed faces of my poor cell mates and although at times it was difficult, I had to smile in order to give them moral support. Despite the fact that I had no idea how long I would be kept in prison, whether I would ever be released, or whether I would eventually face death, I still maintained a cheerful disposition. In this respect I was doing what that aforementioned philosopher had said: I had found the reason for living and did my best under the conditions I was faced with.

The forgotten generation

"The Fish Fall in Love" and "The Gaze" International Rotterdam Film Festival
Sasan Seifikar

There are two themes that these films have in common, the first is the theme of return and the second is what I want to call the forgotten generation. The main protagonist in each film is coming back home to Iran after a long stay overseas. They have been away because they were involved in dissident political activities against the regime in the early years of the revolution. Within a couple of years after the revolution, after the religious bosses moved to solidify their power by excluding the younger generation, there was a revolt and in turn a purge that led to the death, torture, and imprisonment of thousands and thousands of the most bright and the most conscientious young people of Iran.

Year of freedom

A letter from Iranian students to freedom-loving people of the world
>>> Persian text

Hear the voice of my father and that of our fathers whose flesh makes up the land of Iran, the land we all love. Hear it and put your differences aside so we can once again love each other, for Iran and for all Iranians. The new Iranian year of 1385 is approaching. We shall call this New Year the Year of Freedom. We shall call upon all Iranians to set up with the help of international organizations, the "Congress for the Freedom of Iran" on March 22, corresponding to the 9,900th day of captivity of the Iranian nation in the hands of a few mullahs.

Revolution by bus drivers

Ordinary Iranians are becoming courageous to speak out against oppression and bullying by the Mullahs
Amir Nasiri

For the second time in the past few months the courageous bus drivers have taken on paramilitary fascist militias on the Tehran streets. According to a friend's observation that the areas the bus drivers had gathered have been blocked by Para military groups and any access to any of the bus drivers is under security watch and tightly controlled. Can this be forefront for a new revolution? Does this mean that other groups who have been yearning for such an occasion would join our heroes and demand for more freedom and rights for all Iranians?

Religiosity of revolutionary guards

Part 2 of reply to Guive Mirfendereski's "The Ahmadinejad in us"
Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian

Resentment of the Jews or, earlier, of the Christian Crusaders, for the occupation of Palestine did not feature prominently in the history of Iran. Gaza had not figured among our concerns since its occupation by the Achaemenids. Nor were Iranians much involved with the Crusades; not even the Saljuq sultans of Iran offer much support to their cousins of Rum when the latter were fighting the Christian Crusaders in the Levant. In  the Shiite tradition of my own memory there was less reference (if at all) to Palestine or to Jerusalem than to Karbela, Najaf, Mashad and Qom. Most Iranians only became aware of Palestine after the Second World War, when they went there, not to pray at al-Aqsa, but to benefit from the medical proficiency of Jewish doctors who had immigrated from European lands.

Bakhtiar beh maa goft!

On the premiership of Shapour Bakhtiar 37 days before the 1979 revolution
S.H. Jalili


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Book of the day

Iran the Beautiful
More than 170 photographs
By Daniel Nadler