Sunday, July 17, 2005

Iranian Lessons


Today's New York Times' article by Michael Ignatieff is both well-written and accurate in the way it describes Iran.
I especially liked this section:
From their vantage point inside a theocracy, young Iranians long for ''a wall of separation'' between religion and government, as Thomas Jefferson called it, and they told me they found it puzzling, even disappointing, that religion and politics are not actually separate in the United States. I tried to explain that keeping God in his place in a democracy is work that never ends.

and this one:
In any event, America has almost no capacity to promote democracy inside Iran, and some capacity to do harm to Iranian democrats. Every Iranian I met wanted to spend time in the United States -- and wished there were more scholarships to take them to America -- but nearly every one of them laughed when I mentioned the recent Congressional appropriation of $3 million to support democratic opposition groups inside and outside the country. Iranian democrats look on American good intentions with incredulity. It would be fatal for any of them to accept American dollars. ''Do they want to get us all arrested as spies?'' one said to me.

But nothing is truer than this:
With oil at about $60 a barrel as I write, there is little likelihood that the regime will be forced to open up and reform the economy. But unless it does, there won't be much democracy or progress for the poor. One human rights truth, universally acknowledged, is that oil is an obstacle to democracy in every developing society. When a government can get what it needs out of oil derricks and ceases to derive its revenue from taxes, it loses any incentive to respond to the people. Theocracy in Iran is built on oil and will endure as long as the oil price holds up.

- Photo by Lynsey Addario/Corbis, for The New York Times.
- Read a criticism on Michael Ignatieff's views here in the leftist website, Counterpunch.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Benjamin Franklin on Liberty and Security

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Benjamin Franklin

Picture: Benjamin Franklin. Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery. From IEEE Virtual Museum.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Newsweek's Report on Iranian Everyday life

Dadbeh Bassir

Turn the speakers on, click here and listen to the Newsweek's report on the everyday life in today's Iran.
The Photograph: The Exit Signs, from "My Life; Self portraits" by Dadbeh Bassir. Courtesy of

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I Awake in Your Eyes

Kourosh Adim

The July issue of the Italian photography magazine, Private, is about Iranian contemporary photography. To my surprise it didn't have anything from photographers like Shirin Neshat (who are famous not for their talents but for their connections to the New York art business) or Abbas Kiarostami (who is famous for his movies but somehow managed to become famous for his photographs as well).

"I Awake in Your Eyes" (the name of this issue of Private) is a fine selection of contemporary Iranian photography. Many of the photographs in this collection are by artists I know to be genuine representatives of Iranian photography. I once mentioned some of them in a link here in this weblog, and I even chose a picture for the post that is also published in the first page of "I Awake in Your Eyes". It seems my taste is very similar to that of the photo editor of this magazine.

Iranian photography flourished after the revolution. Compared to Iranian painting, theater, and even cinema, Iranian photography is far better in its artistic quality. It reflects more of what is going on in that surreal republic, and at the same time it doesn't exoticize the culture for the "Western" eye. Despite the media's realistic nature, Iranian photography is very much based on metaphors, a characteristic that connects it to an older tradition of poetry. At the same time the fact that for years photography has not been taken seriously as an "art" form in Iran gives it the opportunity to get rid of what Iranians call "Ostaad" or "Masters": a bunch of useless obsolete "experts" in different art fields who don't know anything about anything but are the ones who have the last words in everything.

The only art field that can compete with photography in Iran is graphic design. Iran has developed a very unique style in graphic design that has not gotten the international attention it deserves. The reasons for the obscurity of both Iranian photography and graphic design are not clear to me, especially at a time when the worst Iranian movies get so much attention in Europe and the US. I hope that publication of collections like the latest issue of Private will be a beginning for their introduction to the outside world.
* This issue of Private is published both in English/Persian and Italian/Persian.
- The above photograph: "Présence Pure" ("Hozoor-é Nâb" in Persian) is by Kourosh Adim.
- The photograph below is by Mehran Mohajer, 2001.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

My Silence

I know... this time it took me a long time to blog again. What can I do? I guess I should call it "blogger's block" ... like "writer's block."

What happened in the last few months could be one of the the biggest changes in Iran during the last 8 years but I was completely indifferent. I guess I am used to Iran's constant surprises. In Iran you never know what is going to happen in a few months. Future events are always very different from what everybody thinks.
Iran's culture changes constantly. It changes so quickly that people who try to analyze it can not catch up with its fast pace.
It is like a turbulent ocean. A strong whirlpool might take you down to the bottom of the sea in a matter of seconds, and you might never know which wave took you there, what caused it, and who is responsible for the death.

It is a very dynamic society, too dynamic to be understood.