The House of Wisdom

"How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization"

09-Feb-2009 (8 comments)
ABU JAFAR AL-MANSUR was taking no chances with his new imperial capital, for this was to be a city like no other. The second Abbasid caliph of the Muslims turned for guidance to his trusted royal astrologers, the former Zoroastrian Nawbakht and Mashallah, a Jew turned Muslim from Basra and now ``the leading person for the science of judgments of the stars.'' The pair consulted the heavens and declared that July 30, 762, would certainly be the most auspicious day for work to begin. Still, al-Mansur hesitated. He ordered his architects to mark the layout of the walls of his proposed city – a perfect circle, in keeping with the geometric teachings of the caliph's beloved Euclid – on the ground, first in ashes and then again with cotton seeds soaked in naphtha>>>


Rehabilitating the Shah

Jottings on Gholam Reza Afkhami's new biography of the Shah

02-Feb-2009 (41 comments)
A common narrative concerning the Shah and the Pahlavi legacy unites much of Iran’s intelligentsia with liberal-left opinion in the West. According to this narrative, Mohammad Reza Shah’s father, Reza Shah, was an absolutist dictator who attempted to modernize Iran at the point of the gun and an entirely unacceptable pace. Meanwhile, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is depicted as a corrupt stooge and a “westoxicated” lapdog of American imperialism who, by squashing the authentic democratic urges of his people, ultimately empowered the fundamentalist scourge now raging in his homeland. As the 30th anniversary of the late Shah’s departure from Iran approached, I had the opportunity to read Gholam Reza Afkhami’s magisterial biography of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi>>>


The Doctor and the Sea

"Resolve: Diaries of a Sea Voyage"

23-Jan-2009 (3 comments)
Zia Emami-Ahari is an Iranian-born retired orthopaedic surgeon. After retirement at the age of 63, he set out to realize a boyhood dream and test the resilience of mind and body of a person at his age. He undertook a mainly single-handed sailing journey on board Athesa a 31-foot sailing boat. The journey took him from Västerås in Sweden to the San Francisco Bay in the US. Following the termination of the journey, he continues sailing. He has in the meantime written a book about his adventures. In this book he describes his experiences while crossing the oceans alone, facing quite precarious situations and enduring harrowing feats>>>


In cold blood

Roots of Islamist and Communist movements in modern Iran

16-Jan-2009 (7 comments)
In 1941, after the forceful abdication of Reza Shah, the angry British government, who saw Reza as a former ally turned into a treacherous enemy, seriously considered the restoration of Qajar dynasty. However, the lead Iranian intellectuals (like Foroughi) could only foresee a major political upheaval, with the return of arrogant Qajars. Although Foroughi was persecuted by Reza Shah, he reasoned that the country had truly democratic laws (constitution) and if the Pahlavi crown prince was ready to respect them, there was no reason for a regime change. That way, Mohammad Reza Shah came to be the new constitutional monarch of Iran, who for nearly a decade respected the democratic institutions of the country. >>>


British, Persian or German?

An illiterate bully who soon became intoxicated with power

09-Jan-2009 (39 comments)
Reza Shah truly instigated the wide ranging modernization of Iran from a filthy, backward and lawless shell-of-an-state, to a functioning and advancing society. With the new roads and trucks, the all too frequent famines of the earlier twentieth century disappeared. Under the new army’s watchful eyes, bandits and tribes could no longer rob the caravans or invade towns and villages. The new schools and colleges gave hope and purpose to many youths for a better future and the flourishing of their talents. Emancipation of women encouraged that half of the population to play a more active role in public life. Municipal modernizations, public health initiatives and vaccinations, lowered the infant and general mortality rates and provided a brighter outlook for young families. >>>


40-year-old dream

How Iran's nuclear program was born

06-Jan-2009 (7 comments)
The Iranian nuclear enrichment program and its potential to create weapon- grade uranium that could be used for making bombs is the hottest topic of discussion among the western powers and international community. In order to better understand Iran’s intention, one must look back to its origin and study the history behind its current activities. Iran’s ambitious plan to acquire nuclear power is nothing new and dates back to the late Shah of Iran. It was his government’s desire to acquire the nuclear technology of the present time. During the past several years, a number of misguided attempts have been made to uncover the truth behind Iran’s nuclear activities>>>


Squeezed between Russia and Britain

The 35 years of Fatah-Ali Shah’s reign witnessed a gradual decline of Qajar dynasty

20-Dec-2008 (16 comments)
After Agha Mohammad fell, his army disintegrated and several months of infighting followed among the Qajar princes. Finally, his nephew was crowned as Fatah-Ali Shah, in 1798, whose only Fatah (victory) was over several hundred wives and concubines. The 35 years of Fatah-Ali Shah’s reign witnessed a gradual decline of Qajar dynasty, who started the nineteenth century like blood-thirsty wolves, but finished it like frail rats. The crippling blow came in the form of Persian-Russian wars. In 1800, incapable of protecting his people against the Qajar invasions, the king of Georgia simply relinquished his crown to the Tsar of Russia! This initiated 14 years of war that coincided with the Napoleonic wars in Europe>>>


Reading Kafka at Harvard (7)

So Critical It Can Win The Case

20-Dec-2008 (4 comments)
“It’s very critical. It’s so critical it can win this case or blow it right out of the water.” In the official court transcripts of the civil action, Afrasiabi versus Harvard, case number EFH12200, these words of the honorable justice Michael Harrington are found. It was day 8 of the jury trial and Judge Harrington was referring to the findings of the hand-writing experts stating that in their opinion the hand-writing of the Harvard detective on trial, Richard Mederos, matched the hand-writing of the person who had purportedly extorted money from the subordinates of professor Roy Mottahedeh. It meant that my allegation of a malicious conspiracy were about to be proved to the jury.>>>


من خود ایران هستم!

كتاب "مقدمه‌ای بر ادبیات فارسی در تبعید" اثر ملیحه تیره‌گل

16-Dec-2008 (2 comments)
در تركیه خود را بیحقوق می‌بینم، در فرانسه پناهنده و در امریكا شهروند؛ اما در همه حال یك تبعیدی. سه صفت نخست، وضعیت قانونی مرا در كشوری كه به آن وارد شدم نشان می‌دهد و صفت آخرین، ذهنیت مرا نسبت به وطنی كه ناگزیر به ترك آن شدم. خواه در امریكا بمیرم، روبروی پسرم "آزاد" كه بر بالینم ایستاده و خواه به وطن بازگردم، اگر روی آزادی را ببیند، باز من یك تبعیدی خواهم ماند. درست مثل آن دریانوردی كه نوار آواز او را در كلاس‏ درس‏ فرانسویم در دهكده‌ی "شانتونه" در سال 83 شنیدم كه پس‏ از سال‌ها كه به میهن بازگشته بود آنجا را غریبه یافت و دوباره به سوی دریا بازگشت. نباید خود را گول بزنم: چه خود را در لس‏آنجلس‏ جزیی از یك جامعه‌ی "موفق" ایرانی امریكایی ببینم و نام این شهر را به "تهران‌جلس" تغییر دهم، و چه خود را چون نادرپور شاعر غریبه‌ای در "شیطان‌جلس" بینگارم، باز یك تبعیدی خواهم ماند. پس‏ بهتر است كه به جای خودفریبی، هویت خود را بشناسم و آن را قدر بگذارم.>>>


Self-desired loneliness

Le Clezio and the myth of the reclusive artist

15-Dec-2008 (4 comments)
I was reading a piece in Persian about J.M.G. Le Clezio, the winner of this year’s Nobel Literature Prize. If you allow me to go to a tangent at the beginning of an essay; it never fails to surprise, and delight me, to see how active Iranians, the ones living in Iran, are in pursuing international and global issues of art, literature, and basically what helps us continue to be human. Considering the information blockade which prevails there, it is quite striking to read pieces in so many journals which show a deep understanding of issues beyond the borders of Iran, and even beyond the immediate concerns of Iranians. I have it from several sources, one particularly reliable, that Iran alone publishes more translated literature than its neighbouring Arab countries together. >>>
Reading Kafka at Harvard (6)

The Question of Jurisdiction -- and Survival

13-Dec-2008 (14 comments)
The evisceration of boundaries and any observable limits to the power of law is another insight of Kafka’s The Trial. The above statement by the Harvard University police officer investigating the crimes of extortion and death threats, alleged by two subordinates of professor Roy Mottahedeh and maliciously attached to me, appears on page 29 of Mederos’s deposition, that has been videotaped. This was an important admission that turned out to have high legal value in my civil rights law suit against Harvard; it harked back to the question that I had innocently asked Mederos and his friend about “jurisdiction” while in their cruiser on the way to the Harvard police headquarter.>>>


Downhill since

Mongol plague and Shia take-over of Iran

08-Dec-2008 (19 comments)
The new Khan of the united Mongol tribes (Genghis) was rapidly expanding eastward into the Chinese territories, but apparently; he was considering Iran more as a potential trade partner towards Europe, rather than an immediate target. Therefore, Genghis was astonished when the riches of a Mongol caravan were confiscated by the border guards of Iran, and all the 200 merchants and guards were executed. He sent another group of emissaries directly to Khwarizm Shah’s court with a plea for retribution, but they too were killed! In response, the angered Mongol chief sent a massive army of 200,000 murderers into Iran.The first wave of Mongol invasion (1220 to 1224) destroyed most of the Khorasan cities (the cradle of Farsi civilization), killing millions and enslaving millions more! All eastern centers of Iranian culture, agriculture and business were irrevocably destroyed or devastated>>>


 ‏برگشتن روزگار سهل است

نخستين زن وکيل ‏مجلس، نخستين زن وزير و مبارز راستين راه آزادي و تساوي حقوق زنان

07-Dec-2008 (16 comments)
روز پنجشنبه ۱۸ ارديبهشت ۱۳۵۹ روزنامه کيهان نوشت: "ساعت يک و نيم بامداد امروز فرخ‌رو پارساي تيرباران ‏شد". مرده‌شوي‌ها از شستن جسد وي خودداري کردند زيرا وي به نام "مفسد في‌الارض" اعدام شده بود. زنان خانواده ‏بودند که پيکر وي را شستند و ديدند که سه تير به زير سينه‌اش اصابت کرده و از پشت بدنش خارج شده است. اين ‏سرنوشت زني بود که در خانه مادري چون فخرآفاق پاراسي ناشر مجله "جهان زنان" و پدري چون فرخ‌دين پارساي از ‏روزنامه‌نگاران بنام زمانه خود پرورش يافته بود. پدر و مادري که تلخي توقيف و تبعيد را در کشاکش تناقضات دوراني ‏که ايران راهي نوين را در پيش گرفته بود، چشيده بودند. مادر از پيشتازان مبارزه براي حقوق زنان و از ياران صديقه ‏دولت‌آبادي بود و پدر در شمار کساني که زبان خود را نگاه نمي‌توانستند داشت.‏>>>


Reading Kafka at Harvard (5)

The Fictitious Crime Story

06-Dec-2008 (16 comments)
“Mr. Afrasiabi. The DA has just given me this piece of paper telling me that after due investigation there is no evidence connecting you to any of these charges. Go home, you are free, and thank God that you live in a free society where there is due process of law.” These were the exact words of the judge presiding at my initial pre-trial hearing more than four months after my arrest. ”Thank you, your honor. It’s Dr. Afrasiabi. While I am happy that these charges against me have been dropped, I am very unhappy that they were attached to me in the first place. The damage has been done. I have lost my job, my income, my reputation has been severely damaged, and I have incurred tremendous costs, not to mention the emotional pain on me and my family...>>>


Reading Kafka at Harvard (4)

Harvard Professor and His ‘Galpal’

On January 27, 1996, the Boston Herald featured a rather unusual article that, its title alone – Harvard professor’s galpal accuses his rival of extortion – must have given serious shivers to Henry James in his grave. Times have surely changed for the worse at Harvard and, sitting in jail like one of Becket’s clowns waiting for a just and expedient end to the horror leveled on me and my family, I concentrated on the necessary antidotes that would keep me from being fated like another Joseph K. The article is worth quoting at length: “A muddied case of alleged extortion, spiced with Middle East intrigue and Harvard prestige grew even murkier yesterday when the only real witness did not pick out the alleged bad guy in court…Shobhana Rana claims she twice turned over $250 payments of her professor-boyfriend’s cash to a death-threatening Iranian last Fall>>>