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Iranian consumers boycott Nokia for ‘collaboration’

The mobile phone company Nokia is being hit by a growing economic boycott in Iran as consumers sympathetic to the post-election protest movement begin targeting a string of companies deemed to be collaborating with the regime.

Wholesale vendors in the capital report that demand for Nokia handsets has fallen by as much as half in the wake of calls to boycott Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) for selling communications monitoring systems to Iran.

There are signs that the boycott is spreading: consumers are shunning SMS messaging in protest at the perceived complicity with the regime by the state telecoms company, TCI. Iran’s state-run broadcaster has been hit by a collapse in advertising as companies fear being blacklisted in a Facebook petition. There is also anecdotal evidence that people are moving money out of state banks and into private banks.

The Iranian authorities are believed to have used Nokia’s mobile phone monitoring system to target dissidents. Released prisoners have revealed that the authorities were keeping them in custody on the basis of their SMS and phone calls archive, which was at officials’ disposal.

One Iranian journalist who has just been released from detention said: “I always had this impression that monitoring calls is just a rumour for threatening us from continuing our job properly, but the nightmare became real when they had my phone calls – conversations in my case.

“And the most unbelievable thing for me is that Nokia sold this system to our government. It would be a reasonable excuse for Nokia if they had sold the monitoring technology to a democratic country for controlling child abuse or other uses, but selling it to the Iranian government with a very clear background of human rights violence and suppression of dissent, it’s just inexcusable for me. I’d like to tell Nokia that I’m tortured because they had sold this damn technology to our government.”

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(Belated hat tip: A.A.)

Berlusconi in Tehran

Slavoj Žižek in the LRB:

Two crucial observations follow. First, Ahmadinejad is not the hero of the Islamist poor, but a corrupt Islamofascist populist, a kind of Iranian Berlusconi whose mixture of clownish posturing and ruthless power politics is causing unease even among the ayatollahs. His demagogic distribution of crumbs to the poor shouldn’t deceive us: he has the backing not only of the organs of police repression and a very Westernised PR apparatus. He is also supported by a powerful new class of Iranians who have become rich thanks to the regime’s corruption – the Revolutionary Guard is not a working-class militia, but a mega-corporation, the most powerful centre of wealth in the country.

Second, we have to draw a clear distinction between the two main candidates opposed to Ahmadinejad, Mehdi Karroubi and Mousavi. Karroubi is, effectively, a reformist, a proponent of an Iranian version of identity politics, promising favours to particular groups of every kind. Mousavi is something entirely different: he stands for the resuscitation of the popular dream that sustained the Khomeini revolution. It was a utopian dream, but one can’t deny the genuinely utopian aspect of what was so much more than a hardline Islamist takeover. Now is the time to remember the effervescence that followed the revolution, the explosion of political and social creativity, organisational experiments and debates among students and ordinary people. That this explosion had to be stifled demonstrates that the revolution was an authentic political event, an opening that unleashed altogether new forces of social transformation: a moment in which ‘everything seemed possible.’ What followed was a gradual closing-down of possibilities as the Islamic establishment took political control. To put it in Freudian terms, today’s protest movement is the ‘return of the repressed’ of the Khomeini revolution.

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We are all Iranians

Nature (Editorial) :

Research bodies and universities — and perhaps a few Nobel laureates — need to speak out louder. They should encourage, rather than discourage, collaboration, and replace past discrimination by welcoming Iranian researchers and students.

With the continuing Iranian crackdown on academics, for example, an exodus of young researchers can be expected. They will need the kind of assistance being provided by organizations such as the Scholars at Risk Network based in New York, an international network of universities and colleges that helps to find work for researchers seeking political asylum anywhere in the world. The international research community should find ways to support and expand such efforts. Likewise, with Iran’s decision on Monday to confirm the re-election — albeit under a cloud of illegitimacy — of Ahmadinejad, who is backed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls nuclear policy, hopes for intergovernmental progress on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been dealt a severe setback. The research community should thus do everything possible to promote continued contacts with colleagues in Iran, if only to promote détente between Iran and the West when relations are bellicose.

Meanwhile, the diaspora of Iranian academics is playing a key part in helping to get across the complexity of the situation in Iran. In informal public meetings, newspaper opinion pieces and discussions with governments and reporters, they say that, in contrast to what is often reported by Western media, the uprising has little to do with any desire to topple the regime. It is above all a broad civil-rights movement that extends far beyond the ‘Twittering’ classes. It is led by young people — 70% of Iranians are under 30 — who are not ideologically motivated, but instead are hungry for the greater freedoms that were one of the main, but unrealized, goals of the 1979 Iranian revolution. The majority of Iranian scientists are behind the movement.

Dugh (Persian Yogurt Drink)

* 3 cups organic low fat yogurt
* 20 leaves fresh mint finely chopped/or dried mint flakes, crushed
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 4 1/2 glasses sparkling water (preferably S.Pellegrino =)

Pour yogurt, salt, and pepper into a large pitcher and stir. Add sparkling water and mint and stir again with an egg beater until there no lumps. Chill before serving.

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Photo source: Ario_j , Some rights reserved

Persepolis 2.0: Iran poll inspires sequel

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Ahmadinejad and his cronies will probably be even more infuriated by the update to the cartoon: Persepolis 2.0. The latest version depicts the excitement surrounding the June 12 election, outrage at the result, street protests, the role of Twitter in the unrest, and the death of Neda Agha Soltan.

The new cartoon was the initiative of two Iranian exiles called Sina and Payman, who have put together a website called Spread Persepolis to promote the project. It was made with permission of the publishers of Marjane Satrapi’s original cartoon on which the film was based.

The New Democrats

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The roots of Iran’s current divide to a great extent lie at the turn of the century, when the country’s ayatollahs essentially split into two camps on questions of religion and politics. The first was led by Ayatollah Na’ini, an advocate of what is called the “Quietist” school of Shiism–today best exemplified in the character and behavior of Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq. According to Na’ini, true “Islamic government” could only be established when the twelfth imam returned. Such a government would be the government of God on earth: Its words, deeds, laws, and courts would be absolute and could tolerate no errors. But humans, Na’ini said, were fallible and thus ill-fitted to the sacred task of establishing God’s government. As the pious await the return of the infallible twelfth imam, they must in the interim search for the best form of government. And the form most befitting this period, Na’ini argued, was constitutional democracy. The role of ayatollahs under this arrangement would be to “advise” the rulers and ensure that laws inimical to sharia were not implemented. But it would not be to rule the country themselves.

Opposing Na’ini was an ayatollah named Nuri. He dismissed democracy and the rule of law as inferior alternatives to the divine, eternal, atemporal, nonerrant wisdom embodied in the Koran and sharia. As Ayatollah Khomeini would declare more than once, his own ideas were nothing but an incarnation of Nuri’s arguments. But for the moment, at least, those ideas were on the defensive. It would be decades before they would reemerge to dominate Iranian politics.

Na’ini’s paradigm, and the idea that Shiism must reinvent itself, continued to beget newer and more radical interpretations. During the Reza Shah period (1925-1941), as the clergy came under direct pressure from a forced secularism modeled on Ataturk’s Turkey, a number of ideas critical of traditional Shiism began to take shape. Iranian reformers at the time called for a more rational, less rigid Shiism, and an end to the self-mutilation that takes place annually in honor of the third imam’s martyrdom. They went so far as to advocate abolishing the dominant role of the clergy. Even in the conservative city of Qom, reformist ideas about Shiism found popularity in a magazine published by the son of a cleric. Ayatollah Khomeini’s first book was a response to these arguments, calling them sacrilege and asking the pious to cleanse the nation of such heretical ideas.

The 1940s in Iran were a period of rising political aspirations. Marxist ideas began to dominate the intellectual discourse, while democratic ideas began to permeate middle-class life. Faced with these new challenges, Shiism again tried to reinvent itself in ways that made it intellectually competitive. Mehdi Bazargan, at the time a professor of engineering–and destined to become the first prime minister of the Islamic Republic–tried to use the laws of thermodynamics to prove the existence of God. Another activist, based in the city of Mashhad, founded a group called the Movement of God-Worshipping Socialists, arguing that, long before Marx, Muhammad had been a proletarian revolutionary. In the smithy of this city’s rapidly changing intellectual landscape, two young men were educated. One was named Ali Khamenei, and the other was named Ali Shariati.

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The Rooftops and Streets of Tehran

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At 10pm families gather on rooftops in Iran’s capitol city to shout together, their voices echoing throughout the sprawling city’s mostly empty streets.

This ritual, reminiscent of the 1979 Iranian revolution which led to the overthrow of the US-backed dictator Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, has become the “responsibility” of one young woman’s family. This young woman Aamina [not her real name] has been risking her security to correspond with Truthout. Names and certain details are being withheld to protect her in light of the ongoing crackdown on journalists and activists in Iran. Aamina recently returned to Iran to be with her family.

“There used to be more slogans like ‘Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein’,” Aamina said, in support of presidential challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi. But the slogans have evolved as the crisis has. Now they shout “Alaho Akbar [God is the greatest], down with the dictator and down with the liar.” Aamina said that in the distance she even hears people shouting “down with [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei,” the Supreme Leader of Iran.

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Iran’s Struggle, and Ours – How a Movement Could Transform the Region

The Iran of the ayatollahs was never a one-dimensional tyranny such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; it is a complex system with an elected parliament and chief executive. Likewise, Iran’s democracy movement is strikingly Western in its organizational discipline and its urbane use of technology. In terms of development, Iran is much closer to Turkey than to Syria or Iraq. While the latter two live with the possibility of implosion, Iran has an internal coherence that allows it to bear down hard on its neighbors. In the future, a democratic Iran could be, in a benevolent sense, as influential in Baghdad as the murder squads of a theocratic Iran have been in a malignant sense.

Iran is so central to the fate of the Middle East that even a partial shift in regime behavior — an added degree of nuance in its approach to Iraq, Lebanon, Israel or the United States — could dramatically affect the region. Just as a radical Iranian leader can energize the “Arab street,” an Iranian reformer can energize the emerging but curiously opaque Arab bourgeoisie. This is why the depiction of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi as but another radical, albeit with a kinder, gentler exterior than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, completely misses the point.

As in the former Soviet Union, change in Iran can come only from the inside; only an insider, be it a Mousavi or a Mikhail Gorbachev, has the necessary bona fides to allow daylight into the system, exposing its flaws. Only a staunch supporter of the Islamic Republic such as Mousavi would have been trusted to campaign at all, even as he is now leading a democratic movement that has already undermined the Brezhnevite clerical regime. It is unfinished business of the Cold War that we have been witnessing the past few days. The Iranian struggle for democracy is now as central to our foreign policy as that for democracy in Eastern Europe in the 1980s.

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