Archiv für den Tag 14. September 2014
Berlin| Versuche über das Vertrauen: Bahiyyih Nakhjavanis [Iran/F] Short Storys über die iranische Diaspora
20.00 Uhr – St. Canisius_CHARLOTTENBURG
Das Leben im Exil ist für Außenstehende nur schwer vorstellbar. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani beschreibt diese Exil-Existenz in ihren neuen Texten, in denen sie die alltäglichen Erfahrungen persischer Exilanten zwischen der Banalität des Alltags und den schönen und schrecklichen Erinnerungen an die Heimat darstellt. Protagonist ist dabei nicht ein Individuum, sondern ein Kollektiv, ein »Wir«, dessen Teil man beim Lesen oder Hören der Geschichten wird.
Moderation: Tobias Hülswitt, Sprecherin: Regina Gisbertz
HRANA News Agency – Saqi Feda’i, a Bahai from Mashhad, has been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and arrested.
According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), she was first arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on July 8 this year, following a raid on a Bahai religious meeting in her home on June 1.
She was released on bail about one month later.
Her mother, Mey Khalusi, was arrested during the raid on June 1, as were two other Bahais from Mashhad, Dari Amri and Shayan Tafazoli.
These three were transferred from the Ministry of Intelligence facilities in Mashhad to Vakilabad prison on August 2. They have now been held for three months without trial or charge.
HRANA News Agency – In two separate incidents, three men were killed, a baby and a woman got injured when Iran Police opened fire on them without warning.
At the first incident, “Abdollah Moradzehi” a citizen of Khash district was travelling back from Zahedan with his family – his wife and two children- when they were shot upon by police without initial warning. The shooting was done by Second Lieutenant “Mohsen Bandohi” who is suffering from mental and psychological problems and based on the report of Forensic pathology he was not mentally fit to carry weapons. The shooting killed Abdollah Moradzehi on the spot and seriously injured his wife and his child whom were admitted to a hospital.
At the second incident, which took place on Thursday noon, 11 September , 2014 at Dehbandan Police Post ( a rural district of Nukabad district in Khash county), police officers opened fire on a Peugeot 405 passengers without a warning and any acceptable reason. The shooting injured the driver and caused the vehicle to swerve and subsequently fell off a bridge. The fall resulted in explosion of the vehicle and both passengers were burned to death.
The video and pictures of these two incidents are in the following:
Policy discussions in Washington continue to circle around the idea that somehow, the deep freeze in US-Iranian relations might thaw. Supposed common interests in Iraq, some say, should lead to cooperation and possibly even the renewal of diplomatic relations. Hypothesized success in the nuclear negotiations, others argue, could be another route. American intransigence is a common explanation for the continued cold war, but the reality is otherwise. The enmity in this relationship comes from Tehran, not Washington. Worse still, recent events in Iraq, Syria, and Gaza are increasing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s determination to expand the anti-American and anti-Israeli strategy he calls “resistance.” The tide of that resistance strategy will increase hostility and tension over the coming months, regardless of US policy.
Resistance is a fundamental component of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s domestic and international strategy and policy. It eschews interaction and compromise with the US and its allies and aims to withstand the pressure America and Israel supposedly exert on Iran and the Muslim world in general. Iran supports its own allies in this endeavor—groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, and elsewhere, which form what Tehran calls the “axis of resistance.” Supreme Leader Khamenei views this strategy of resistance as a fundamental component of regime security because he operates under the assumption that the US will always seek to subvert Iranian interests. According to recent analysis [i] done by Mehdi Khalaji, a Qom-trained Shi’a theologian and a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, on Khamenei’s decision making “the term ‘resistance’ has likewise become a key word in discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran’s nuclear program, and other major foreign policy issues.”
The collapse of Iraq and Syria has increased Khamenei’s commitment to this strategy. The Supreme Leader and Iran’s senior military officials now include Shi’a militias in Iraq and ‘Alawite irregulars in Syria in their enumeration of resistance forces. They have united behind the assertion that the US created terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and continues to support them as tools to exacerbate sectarian conflict. Tehran’s view of the Iraq conflict has been brought squarely into the resistance narrative and offers no prospect of defining any common interests there.
Khamenei and his subordinates have also announced their determination to expand the resistance in Gaza and into the West Bank as part of a larger effort to turn the regional tide against the US and Israel. It is still unclear which mechanisms Iran could use to “arm the West Bank” and whether Iranian support would come through partners like Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) or other channels. But the tone of Iranian discourse is changing dynamically as regional events reshape the Middle East, and the “axis of resistance” continues to be a core concept guiding Iranian strategic thought, with which we must contend.
PARAGON OF RESISTANCE
The resistance doctrine stems from the core conviction of the Iranian regime that the US will always seek to impose its will throughout the globe, with Israel as its instrument in the Levant. This conviction was explicitly part of the ideology that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power in 1979, and has remained central to regime theory and rhetoric ever since. Ayatollah Khomeini provided the original impetus for Iran’s claim to be the refuge and centerpiece for global resistance. During the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini exemplified this inflexible notion of resistance when he rejectedan Iraqi ceasefire offer in 1982, knowing that Iran had neither the material nor financial means to sustain an offensive campaign. Khomeini drove Iran to fight on for six more years, until he accepteda UN-proposed ceasefire in August 1988. Even then, Khomeini railed against his own capitulation: “Taking this decision is more deadly than drinking from a poisoned chalice,” even though he knew the agreement would ensure the survival of the regime.
Khomeini’s intense sentiments towards submission and defeat are sewn deep in the fabric of the regime. We can only understand the current messaging points echoed by the senior leadership about resistance and Iran’s intent to proliferate the movement through that prism.
The concept of resistance also appears to be deeply woven into the Supreme Leader’s own personality; it is the very essence of Khamenei’s foreign policy strategy. Khamenei’s interpretation of resistance assumes the inevitability of conflict between the US and those who resist dominance: “America’s policy towards [disobedient states] is that any possible tool must be used against them” He sees invigorating resistance movements as an effective way to allow Iran to project force, while countering US influence in the Middle East. Resistance is thus a means of deterring the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) considers resistance a comprehensive strategy; it is the primary framework for promoting and defending the Revolution, deterring and retaliating against adversaries (and their conspiracies), and facilitating Iran’s political influence and will. This framework seeks to deter enemy plots in the region.
The IRGC’s weekly publication, Sobh-e-Sadegh, published an editorial on the resistance, arguing that the West tends to interact with Iran through negotiations and economic pressure to gain submission, which would undermine the central ideological tenet of Iran’s resistance doctrine. Ceding ground in any of the pillars of the “axis of resistance” (Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria) is antithetical to Iran’s revolutionary discourse; the banner of resistance cannot be lost. Iran has defined the axis as a deterrence strategy and a symbol of its regional ambitions.
In 2013, Khamenei’s senior foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, said, “Syria is the golden ring of resistance,” and this past May, IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, who was the Syrian operations lead from 2012 to 2014, reiterated that point: “Today Syria stands as a symbol of resistance against global arrogance [West.]”
The fall of Mosul to ISIS against the backdrop of Iran’s ongoing efforts in Syria prompted Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani’s senior advisor, Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi, to define Baghdad as the “connection to the Resistance and Hezbollah” that cannot be lost. Whether in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, or Gaza, Iran’s senior leadership is unanimously behind the idea of enduring pressure and resisting the West. Iran’s reaction to these crises elucidates the Supreme Leader’s ability to unify his subordinates behind a single policy shaped by an institutionalized worldview.
Iran faces a plethora of internal economic and sociocultural challenges and a grave external threat in Iraq and Syria. Yet Tehran continues to search for avenues of intervention that serve the regime’s commitment to becoming the standard-bearer of the Islamic world, while expanding the “axis of resistance.” Recent statements from senior Iranian officials and IRGC commanders outline aconcerted effort to strengthen the militants in Gaza and to expand the resistance front into the West Bank through material support.
The recent Israeli operations in Gaza have led Iran’s senior leadership to coalesce around Khamenei’s strategy to exploit the crisis—as is also the case in Iraq and Syria—in order to arm resistance movements in the West Bank. Such an effort would enhance Iran’s legitimacy as the leader of the resistance bloc and reinforce its ability to deter Israel.
Several former and present high-ranking IRGC commanders signed an open letter titled, “Million Man March from Karbala to Jerusalem” on July 23, pledging their unwavering commitment to “divine” resistance. (Karbala, Iraq, houses the shrine of the third Shi’a Imam, Hussein ibn Ali. Karbala and Jerusalem are likely noted in this letter for symbolic, rather than pragmatic reasons, in order to invoke emotional play on Shi’a passion and sentiment for the two revered Islamic holy sites. Prominent signatories included: IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the Supreme Leader’s Senior Military Advisor Yahya Rahim Savafi and his Strategic Council on Foreign Policy Advisor Ahmad Vahidi, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, and Expediency Discernment Council Secretary (EDC) Mohsen Rezaei. A week later, Quds Force Commander Soleimani—who has operational commandof Iran’s efforts in Iraq—wrote a rare signed open letter reiterating the regime’s unified stance towards supporting Palestinian resistance against Israel:
We emphasize and insist on the victory of the Resistance, elevating it until victory and until the earth, sky, and the sea turn into hell for the Zionists. Murderers and mercenaries must know that we will not back down an instant from supporting the Resistance and defending the Palestinian people. All of the world must know that disarming the Resistance is a false belief and an imagination that will be unfulfilled. We advise weapons, blood, and munificence to defend humanity and the Islam that can be observed in Palestine.
Basij Organization Commander IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi urged the resistance groups in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria to “sign a defense and security agreement to confront external threats, particularly the present danger of the Zionist regime.” The Supreme Leader delivered a speech saying: “We believe that the West Bank must be armed like Gaza… the firm and armed resistances of the Palestinians and its expansion to the West Bank is the only path of confronting this barbaric regime [Israel].” Khamenei’s foreign policy advisor, former Quds Force Commander Ahmad Vahidi, hammered this point home: “Arming the West Bank is the high strategy of the Supreme Leader.” Further signifying unanimity of command, Expediency Discernment Council Secretary (and former IRGC Commander and presidential candidate) Mohsen Rezaei wrote an open letter to Hamas’ military wing Qassem Brigades, which read in part: “Your fight continues and your needed arms and ammunition will reach you even if they come from underneath a rock.” This letter gives credence to the strategic aspect of arming the resistance; it also signifies Iran’s commitment to supply Palestine with material support beyond the confines of Gaza. Spreading the armed resistance movement provides Iran with a long-awaited opportunity to gain a more compelling foothold in the West Bank. This rhetoric is overheated, and it is hard to see how Iran can follow through on it. But it is a noteworthy, emphatic, and explicit public declaration of intent that marks a departure from recent stated policy. It bears careful watching.
The specificity of the rhetoric is particularly odd at a moment when IRGC operational capabilities are precariously overstretched. ISIS has solidified a control zone through territorial gains from ar-Raqqa, Syria, into Iraq’s al-Anbar Province, further stretching Soleimani’s capacity to mobilize local support in the form of Shi’a militias. It would not seem to be an opportune time to be picking new fights, or even doubling down on old ones. Nevertheless, Iran has made its intent to expand the armed resistance in Palestine explicitly clear, through the Supreme Leader’s orders and reinforced by Soleimani’s impassioned remarks.
The Supreme Leader and senior officials and commanders of the IRGC have united rhetorically around the resistance doctrine as a comprehensive framework for advancing Iran’s regional ambitions. Recent Iranian statements have been unwavering in their pledge to expand the armed resistance in Palestine. Khamenei’s call to arm the West Bank has become the regime’s declaratory strategic priority. IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami underlined this critical messaging point during a televised address on August 10, “The West Bank will certainly … enter the field of combat.” Senior officials vociferously support the resistance and its expansion, often touting its success in Syria and Lebanon as a great act of ingenuity, rather than the Pyrrhic victory it actually appears to be. The resistance strategy must be seen as succeeding, even when it fails.
The Islamic Republic has forcefully rejected any grounds for interaction, let alone cooperation and compromise with the US to address the ongoing crises. One of the Supreme Leader’s most trusted friends and military advisors, Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Hassan Firouzabadi hammered this point home when he said “Cooperation between Iran and America will never happenand has no meaning.” Iraq and Syria are existential security issues for Khamenei and, despite being hampered by a struggling economy as well as Soleimani’s operational overstretch, Iran’s senior leadership continues to manipulate and encourage political instability in Palestine by seeking to expand material support for Hamas and the PIJ. Iran will continue to implement the resistance doctrine to safeguard its interests, meaning it will remain a staunch supporter of the armed resistance in Gaza and its expansion into the West Bank. The US and its allies cannot simply dismiss Iranian discourse in the interests of wishful thinking. These overt and calculated statements made by Iran’s current leadership are rooted in mistrust and enmity towards the US and Israel, which is only deepening.
[i] Mehdi Khalaji, “Tightening the Reigns: How Khamenei Makes Decisions,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, March 2014. Available:http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus126_Khalaji.pdf.
Varga-Sinai has lived in Iran since 1967. Originally Hungarian, her passion for Persian culture probably exceeds most cultured Iranian artists. She speaks Farsi fluently with an elegant and poetic choice of words, yet with a perfect grasp of modern everyday literature.
The artist’s newest project is an amazing series of work exhibited in several countries and soon to be unveiled in Tehran. While working on this project, she is also passionately pursuing two other cultural projects. One is a short film for an upcoming festival in Tehran, a project she agreed to do to encourage Iranian youths to pursue the arts. She will also spend some time in the south of Iran to work on an art project about the Persian Gulf.
When asked in a telephone interview with Al-Monitor about young and rising Iranian artists, Varga-Sinai says, “We professional veterans need to work hard to keep up. There are so many promising young artists in today’s Iran. Some of them have this new hobby of meeting up and gathering in art galleries. A large number of upscale modern art galleries have sprung upon the artistic scene of Tehran over the recent year. Most exhibitions open on Fridays, when people are off work and traffic is surmountable. A lot of young artists and art lovers have set this tradition of meeting up at these art galleries. Girls doll up and boys dress impeccably, and they spend their Friday afternoons seeing art and mingling. It’s amazing.”
I ask Varga-Sinai about the current condition of the arts in Iran, and whether she has observed any notable developments under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani. She replies, “During [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s presidency, pretty much everything in the artistic sphere was on hold. There was no activity. Over the past year, however, fresh blood is running into the veins of modern arts and artistic events in Iran. A lot has already evolved, and much is changing for the better.”
Varga-Sinai recently unveiled her travel book on Georgia, about her first trip to the country. She tells me she found it a great experience. She says, “Although the country is so close to Iran and I travel so much, I had never been there before. I love the post-socialist freedom that has brought about so many artistic virtues in Georgia, particularly among the youth. I related to that entire ambience.”
Gizella Varga-Sinai was born in Budapest at the height of World War II. The story of her life, family and upbringing is a one-of-a-kind tale spiced with everlasting longing to discover the East and yearning to decode the West. She moved to Vienna and then to Iran with her renowned filmmaker husband, Khosrow Sinai, and eventually called Tehran her home and herself Gizella Varga-Sinai.
Varga-Sinai is an artist I know well, and I have lived through the decade of not seeing her by following her artwork. She is a true artist who lives art, practices painting and preaches poetry distant from the conventional narcissism and negativity of many artists. She’s modest and cheerful and ever ready to explore and experience. So when she gathers this all into a collection reflecting her worldwide travels throughout the years, accentuating elements that have affected her work, the collection becomes a must-see.
“The last bit I’ve added to the bits and pieces symbolizing my life over the years is a copy of my national card [a relatively recent addition to Iranians’ personal identification documents]. The strong point of this exhibition is that it could be folded up and then spread out fairly easily. So it’s quite portable, although showing it with all the installation along with it requires ample space.”
In this new collection of Varga-Sinai’s art, you see her wearing slip-on shoes and carrying her brown suitcase with a maple leaf on it. She is placing her belongings and her faith in the suitcase en route to Vienna from Budapest, on the „Viennese Waltz,“ the name of the train running over the Danube between Budapest and Vienna. At an exhibition in Budapest, her daughter played her as a young aspiring dreamer. She herself was, of course, the eternal dreamer, present in the exhibition as the Varga-Sinai of today. She says she would love to show her recent work in the United States and is open to invitations to exhibit the collection.
Varga-Sinai calls herself a „Hungarian wanderer in Iran,“ which is the title of her newest batch of artwork as well. She knows Iran very well, and always speaks of the Iranian cultural, literary and natural elements that have helped shape her work over the years. She used to visit Hungary more often, when her mother was alive. In recent years and in the wake of her mother’s passing, however, she has been visiting her homeland less frequently, and has been staying more in Iran — her other and beloved homeland, as she calls it.
One of Varga-Sinai’s new creations is what she refers to as her „magical veil.“ On it, she has printed pictures of herself over the years and in the countries where she has lived, and elaborated on them with symbols of those countries and those eras. Her passport photo (in a socialist Hungarian passport, symbolizing her country as she left it), her picture combined with the lion-and-sun symbol of the Iranian flag before the revolution, and a copy of her Iranian national card are among the images. I ask her the reason she chose a white veil to collect all these symbols and elements. Varga-Sinai replied, “It bears a feeling of home, of Iran and my love of Iran. Traditional Iranian women still wear a white veil with a colored floral print when they want to go outside the house in the yard, or to run a quick errand nearby. This is the familiar veil, the chador. And mine bears its imprinted magic of the years and times.”
Gizella Varga-Sinai is an artistic phenomenon. Once, years ago, she told me, “Hungarians used to be nomads, and I think that may be the root of my passion for the East, and for Iran. Who knows? Perhaps, in another life, I was born and bred in Iran.”
Drought triggers protests in Iran
The water crisis in Iran, where several important rivers and lakes have dried up, has become so seriousthat in certain areas of the country, citizens have been demonstrating and protesting to express their concern.
From the early hours of the morning on Aug. 30, thousands of residents of Esfahan and the smaller cities and villages nearby demonstrated near Zayanderood River, holding placards, protesting the drying up of Zayanderood and officials not paying proper attention to this issue.
Zayanderood is the biggest river of the central Iranian plateau and is 200 kilometers (124 miles) in length. It starts in the Zagros Mountains, particularly the Zard Kuh Bakhtiari Mountain, crosses the central Iran desert toward the east and, after passing the city of Esfahan, eventually ends in the Gavekhuni swamp. After 14 consecutive years of drought, climate change and mismanagement, parts of the river in areas near Esfahan have turned into dry riverbed.
Mohammad Reza, an environmental activist who took part in this demonstration, said, “The number of residents who had turned up for the demonstration was astonishing. It is beautiful to see that people care this much about the future of our water resources and environment, and it is tragic that the officials refuse to seriously look for a solution to this crisis.”
According to Reza, the demonstration was peaceful. People were chanting, “We only want water” and “Where is my river Zayanderood?” This last slogan, however, shows that the demonstrators have yet to forget the protests following the 2009 presidential elections. In those demonstrations, people protested the contested election by chanting: “Where is my vote?”
The water crisis of Zayanderood will have terrible consequences, including the destruction of the river’s ecosystem, loss of different life forms and destruction of wells and streams. It will also destroy agriculturearound the river and will deeply affect the industrial sector as well.
In March 2013, a group of farmers had staged a demonstration protesting the drying up of Zayanderood. In June, a group of residents of East and West Azerbaijan provinces held a similar demonstrationprotesting the drying up of Lake Urmia.
It appears, however, that the water crisis is not unique to Azerbaijan or Esfahan. Back in May, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s minister of energy, Hamidreza Chitchian, issued a serious warning on the future of water in Iran: “In the past 10 years, we witnessed the average rainfall in the country drop from 250 millimeters (9.8 inches) to 242 millimeters (9.5 inches), and we are facing serious problems regarding our water and water sources.”
On Aug. 19, the CEO of Iran Water Resources Management Company, Mohammad Hajrasooliha, cited a 52% drop in surface runoff — the water from precipitation and other sources that moves across the earth’s surface — and had said that at the end of the fourth month of the year, after a drop of about 10% compared to the previous year, the amount of surface runoff in the country had fallen to 39.267 billion cubic meters. He said, “Last year, the number was 42.442 billion cubic meters.”
It is notable that only four months prior to this, in April, Hajrasooliha had presented a different set of numbers and had said: “The amount of surface water in the country had been estimated to be about 90 billion cubic meters, but the real amount is only 55-60 billion cubic meters.”
An environmental expert who lives in Tehran told Al-Monitor, “People are alarmed. The numbers are different, but according to the Ministry of Energy the amount of renewable water has dropped drastically, almost by 50%, in the post-revolution decades.”
In 1979, the amount of water allocated for each individual was 4,000-4,500 cubic meters. Right now, the number is less than 1,500 cubic meters, more or less. We are witnessing a serious drop. The population has grown and the underground water sources are shrinking due to illegal and irregular exploitation, and currently we don’t have anything to replace these water sources.
Chitchian has also said that underground water sources are shrinking. At the end of a session in parliament, Chitchian told members of parliament, “Unfortunately, there are a lot of illegal wells and even those with the proper license have been exploited beyond their sustainable level. This has resulted in a drop of about 100 billion cubic meters in the static underground water supplies. The number has reached 11 billion [cubic meters] in the past year.”
Chitchian said, “The presidents who took office in the post Iran-Iraq war era, Hashemi Rafsanjani, [Mohammad] Khatami and [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, were all interested in structural management and thus destroyed the crucial water sources and the underground water supplies and none of them are taking any responsibility for their actions.”
On Aug. 24, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Iranian Department of Environment, warned that environmental problems in Tehran have reached a critical level. She said Tehran had reached its ecological limit in 1996 and any industrial expansion in Tehran should have been stopped after 1996.
According to Ebtekar, natural resources in Tehran are being exploited seven times more than their normal capacity. Given that in Tehran the amount of drinking water is limited, experts have issued serious warnings in the past few months regarding the level of nitrate in the drinking water in Tehran.
State-owned media, including IRIB, repeatedly ask citizens to use water economically. This is while Parviz Fattah, who served as the minister of energy during Ahmadinejad’s first term as president, had said thatagricultural use accounts for 92% of Iran water usage, and that “on average, only 70% of water should be used for agriculture and therefore the numbers show that Iran has 22% more water usage than the international average.”
Although government officials constantly warn about water crisis and drought, they are yet to introduce a serious solution or management method that would help solve the water crisis. However, on Sept. 6, Ebtekar said that Rouhani’s administration was trying to help farmers reform their irrigation methods.
A senior professor of sociology at Tehran University told Al-Monitor, “All these years we were discussing economy, politics, society and democracy. Now, however, these discussions all sound absurd to me. Given the current situation, we will either die of thirst or run away. I am no longer sure there was any point in all those discussions.”