An Egyptian Valentine

February 12th, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody! I hope not to regret this image on Valentine Day 2012…I too believe that “The army exists to defend the nation, not a regime.”

My super romantic Valentine 2010 here

My 2009 Valentine post here

My 2008 Valentine post with the amazing Gaelle Boissonnard here

Is the Arab world waking up after taking a vacation from History during the past few centuries (as Daryush Shayegan puts it in his book, Cultural Schizophrenia: Islamic Societies Confronting the West)?

I made this image with the hope of freedom (and finally some democracy – even half baked) in the Middle East.

Recipe for volatile social cocktail: “a youth bulge, vast unemployment, inadequate education, and gross economic inequality. but are the richer Arab states immune? There is anger about entrenched authoritarianism and subservience to America’s strategic agenda for the Middle East – especially its  support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians”. Middle East’s reaching a tipping point…

To see some of the brave women of Egypt go here.

Sahyegan’s book in English is Cultural Schizophrenia: Islamic Societies Confronting the West

I have read it in French: Le regard mutilé

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Pharaohs are trembling

January 29th, 2011

Egypt is awakening…Pharoahs are trembling…Pyramids are cracking…and I am hoping for more Cleopatras than the Muslim Brotherhood…

From Maureen Dowd (a few days after my blog got published):

Egyptians rose up at the greatest irony of all: “Cleopatra’s Egypt was modern in ancient times and Mubarak’s was ancient in modern times. The cradle of civilization yearned for some civilization.”

Port-au-Prince: Capital of Pain

January 19th, 2010

ca·lam·i·tiy:

1 : a state of deep distress or misery caused by major misfortune or loss
2 : a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering

This “bar-coded” child is the symbol of the total helplessness of people in Port-au-Prince.

ruth fremson nytimes haiti earthquake

I am heartbroken by the utter distress/despair of Haiti. So much misery and suffering caused by a few seconds of random natural violence…

damon winter haiti earthquake

“Tout est enfin divisé
Tout se deforme et se perd
Tout se brise et disparait
La mort sans conséquences”

jean michel basquiat haiti michele roohani

“Everything is finally divided
Everything is deformed and lost
All breaks and disappears
Death without consequences” Eluard

jean michel basquiat haiti michele roohani radiant child

I wonder how Basquiat would have seen all this suffering in his fatherland; he painted some prescient images in 1980′s…

jean michel basquiat haiti michele roohani untitled

Damon Winter has taken striking pictures of the inconsolable Haiti.

damon winters haiti ny times michele roohani

These are startling moments in recent Iranian history. Breathtaking is the word that comes to mind with every new image out of Iran’s protests. A new tale of Zahhak and Kaveh. “It is as if someone had opened a door and an entire country had spilled out.”

perisan miniature mahmoud mosavvar 1530 smithsonian michele roohani

The difference between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad is one of degree and not of kind but it’s obvious that the islamic republic has been constrained to deny its own convictions—if Rafsanjani is not the regime’s legitimate overlord, who is? Mousavi seems to be running along after the crowd, not leading it…

isfahan protests

The crackdown on the protesters has been way harsher in cities like Isfahan (above) where there are less foreign journalists to report it.

I would love to believe that Iranians are showing the same spirit of resistance they’ve had towards the invaders throughout their long history against the Arabs, the Mongols and Turks.

persian miniature Nezami five poems khamseh michele roohani

The Islamic Republic  has believed its own myth of invincibility and now its legitimate children are fighting each other in front of the whole world. If they had simply arranged for Ahmadinejad to win by an at least believable slim margin! What we are witnessing is the clash of the Titans in a perfect storm.

Rostam 1604 british library persian miniature michele roohani

If the Bazaar turns against Ahmadinejad, it would be the end of him. It is a matter of time before the regime rolls in the tanks. I highly recommend Muhammad Sahimi’s great article on the power struggle in Iran. It is a must read for anyone interested in understanding Iran’s recent history, and how it has led us to the present situation.

Abbas Milani discusses Khamenei’s amazing miscalculation in this article.

Count our votes: the modesty of this demand is particularly moving, set against the majesty of the demonstrations.”

It’s hard to make any deeply intelligent prediction about Iran’s political future right now but I would like to hope that better days will come—though not yet…

1979 all over again? I doubt it. Call me a pessimist but I never thought I will live to see these scenes in Iran again:

Olivier Laban-Mattei AFP tehran

The mullahs are fighting each other (don’t mistake Mousavi for a secular iranian please—scratch any Mousavi and you will find the true face of a muslim revolutionist underneath) and the youth’s hope and badly bruised courage is being sacrificed.

Olivier Laban-Mattei/Agence France-Presse

I’ve been glued to my computer and the TV to follow what is happening—I am amazed by the Iranian government’s  audacity (read stupidity) of forging the election results. Read a great analysis here.

tehran unrest fires

Could this be that wishful thinking got the better of credible reporting?

green wave iran

In spite of being a cynic, I am hopeful that a new era is starting in Iran—I just can’t deny the enormity of what is happening in Iran; I have a worried enthusiasm of maybe being able to join the rest of the world after 30 years of being punished and sent to the corner of the classroom.

iranian thugs and police

The big difference between now and 1979 is that Iran doesn’t have a powerful leader (like Khomeini of 30 years ago); the effectiveness of these protests has yet to be put to the acid test of fighting the black-clad police.

Roger Cohen summarizes these events in this clip from a rooftop in Tehran.

tehran unrest revolutionary guards

Read Reza Aslan’s article here to know a bit more about the real power behind Ahmadinejad.

Now events are rushing ahead and the ayatollahs are blinking…

Who knew that Hossein will be such a popular name in the world? Everywhere I turn, there is a Hossein (Hussain) waiting for me: Hussein Obama, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Hussain (Usain) Bolt, etc…

persian calligraphy thorns have roses micheleroohani michele roohani

The Iranian presidential elections will be held on June 12th and the future of the Middle East is depending on the outcome. The reformist, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is the only serious contender against Ahmadinejad; It’s funny that an architect/painter can be a threat to the incumbent president of the islamic republic of Iran. In my native country, thorns have roses…

appollinare calligraphy iran micheleroohani michele roohani

I made the above images on a bout of “latent nationalism” while reading about how these elections can alter the future of the region—from Morocco to Lahore. I had time to appreciate Obama’s eloquent (and super pragmatic) speech in Cairo but Iranians didn’t—they were too busy with their own explosive presidential debates!

It’s hard to get excited about any of the four candidates (the two other candidates are basically collecting votes for Mousavi) who are all deeply connected to the islamic republic. Ready for an American embassy opening in Tehran by next year?

mousavi rahnavard president iran

How strange that we, Persian women, have to be happy about Mousavi pulling a Michelle Obama by bringing his wife, Zahra Rahnavard (an artist and political scientist) to his side on political rallies! Just shoot me but I have to be content that this lady is wearing a “liberal” scarf under her chador…

This reminds me of this image of Iran in a chador (the face of this woman is the map of Iran) and the beautiful poem by Parvin Etesami:

parvin etesami iran poet woman michele roohani

She wrote it in 1935 lamenting the life of Iranian women before Reza Shah did away (sometimes by force) with their chadors (1928) and opened the schools’ doors to them. Etesami and the Shah must be spinning in their graves…

New York Times has some cool pictures like this one from my favorite Iranian photographer, Newsha Tavakolian.

iranian elections women newsha tavakolian michele roohani

I just found out that this dude, Mousavi,  has “Khameneh” at the end of his last name—yet another unfortunate KH for all of you non-persians. To see the funny side of it click here.

iranian woman ann curry nbc news micheleroohani

NBC’s Ann Curry took these pictures to show the divide:

iranian woman chador isfahan ann curry nbc news micheleroohani

Yesterday, I attended a lecture by Mohsen Kadivar (aka the critical cleric) at UCLA that didn’t alter my view about religion; even the progressive mullahs (the picture is Dr. Kadivar in his full mojtahed regalia and “sans”) can only whitewash the problems of mixing religion with the state.

mohsen kadivar progressive cleric

Hezbollah just lost the Lebanese parliamentary elections—the West is breathing a sigh of relief.

Related and Suggested Posts and Resources:

a short CNN clip about the Iranian Michelle Obama here.
the New York Times article here.
Parvin Etesami here.
to read her poem in Persian in its entirety here.
Iranian Elections  here.
Zahra Rahnavard  here.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi go here.
Struggles of Iranian women, check out Rakhshan Bani Etemad’s clips here.
Parviz Tanavoli’s (the great Iranian sculptor who taught Ms. Rahnavard) interview with Ann Curry here.

p.s. I did the calligraphy on the first image using one of my favorite poems by Hamid Mosadegh.

iranian women voting in presidential elections michele roohani

updated on 6/13/09:

There’s been unrest since yesterday in Iran after the results of the presidential elections were made public: Ahmadinejad won with over 62% of the votes. I am amazed at the arrogance of this regime; the images seen on BBC, CNN and NY Times remind me of Iran i left in 1978/79.

Churchill in a red Kimono

June 1st, 2009

Churchill in a red Kimono…

winston churchill red kimono michele roohani

I just can’t get this image out of my mind since I read about it so I had to make it!

Looking for Churchill in a red kimono, I found the following on the TIME archives:

“Two French officers were breakfasting quietly in a French conference room when they suddenly “beheld an astonishing sight.” The double doors burst open and “an apparition which they said resembled an angry Japanese genie, in long, flowing red silk kimono . . . girdled with a white belt . . . stood there, sparse hair on end, and said with every sign of anger: ‘Uh ay ma bain?’”(where is my bath?)

I first read about it in these wonderful books that give an insight into the minds of Churchill, Hitler and Stalin during the crucial years of 1940 and 1941.

the duel john lukacs churchill hitler micheleroohani

Another great little gem by John Lukacs is “June 1941″ where he describes Hitler and Stalin’s relationship before the German invasion of Russia.

john lukacs june 1941 stalin hitler

The D Day or the 65th anniversary of the 1944 Allied invasion at Normandy is almost here (and the French government snubbed Queen Elizabeth by not inviting her to the big celebrations on June 6th). Churchill is spinning in his grave.

Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation poster michele roohani

In my last trip to New York, I went to this great exhibition in NY Public Library called: “Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation”. Reading Lukacs’ books about the same period, made the exhibition particularly interesting to me—I am a history buff and the two world wars have always fascinated me.

Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation aragon paulhan carte postal michele roohani

It was interesting to see my favorite poets’ letters and postcards during the Nazi occupation of France—the above postcard was sent by Louis Aragon to Paulhan’s wife on a pre-printed postcard (easier to censure!)

Nazi Occupation poeme paris paulhan michele roohani

Poems sent from prison camps and manuscripts smuggled out written on the back of wallpapers…

I loved Eluard’s poem, Liberté (freedom), illustrated by Fernand Leger:

liberte paul eluard frenand leger resistance michele roohani

65 years after the second world war, the world is not a safer place and human beings have forgotten the hard learned/earned lessons; the middle east is as volatile as always, Sri Lanka just ended a bloody civil war, Pakistan is agonizing under the threat of the Talibans, Africa is struggling with its different identities and abortion doctors are being assassinated in America…

It’s harder today to make blanket predictions about the direction history is taking—fast computing and the internet have changed the old orders that were in place since our written history began.

Here are a couple of Churchill’s quotes to finish this post:

“Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.”
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Other things you might not have seen: 

Hillary Clinton in chador is not as far-fetched as we may imagine! Ahmadinejad is already calling for a mutually respectful dialog and the white house is more than eager to oblige…

hillary clinton in black chador iran michele roohani scarf

It took a Nixon to go to China and it will take a Clinton to go to Iran. Only the one who threatened to “obliterate” Iran can now go and mend the thirty year wound between the Great Satan and the Angelic mullahs…

The United States needs Iran’s cooperation to take care of its problems in  Iraq, Palestine (read Hamas and Hezbollah), Afghanistan and now Pakistan. To understand a bit better I suggest reading Roger Cohen’s articles from Tehran.

khomeini khamenei khatami cartoons

Now I would like to clarify once and for all, the mystery of three KH’s for my foreign friends— it’s been unfortunate and confusing that the three important leaders of the islamic republic have last names starting with a KH.

These are not the same person even though they do look alike with that black turban but let’s remember the actual ranking:

Khomeini (the leader of the islamic revolution who—20 years after his death—still induces nightmares for the foreign leaders),

Khamenei (today’s supreme leader since Khomeini’s death)

and Khatami (twice president of the islamic republic).

khomeini khamenei khatami islamic republic

On a less depressing note, I recommend reading Michael Axworthy’s  book about “the remarkable perseverance of Iran’s cultural identity”—in spite of the turbans and the KH’s…

Michael Axworthy history of iran michele roohani

I am a big “Law & Order” fan; who knew that Ahmadinejad will be mentioned in one of the episodes. If this is not a sign of things to come people I don’t know what is! It’s amazing all the positive coverage Iran is getting; maybe they have hired a PR firm…

Mumbai Carnage

November 30th, 2008

It’s 3:30 am Mumbai time on November 27th and I am wondering if it’s a bad time to call my friend Ajay in India; I am watching Mumbai burning on CNN and my heart’s sinking—can’t have even one satisfying answer to why people decide to go on a rampage like this.

Taj hotel mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani

It’s interesting how knowing even one person makes a difference in our relative desensitization towards systematic acts of violence. What causes this rage and brutal frustration?

press mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani gateway of india

I asked my friend, Nimesh Didia, to just go out and take some random pictures of the area and people; I was grateful to receive all of these images from him yesterday.

press mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani

Regular Mumbaikars are replaced by soldiers and the world press; it’s an exercise in futility to try to make some sense of the incomprehensible…

soldiers mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani

The Taj Mahal hotel survived the fire but at least 170 people didn’t. To see excellent pictures click here.

Taj hotel mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani soldiers

Maybe great solidarity and large-heartedness in times of peril will save the city. India and Pakistan have a bloody history since the partition in 1947 and these incidents are not helping.

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani blue sea

Even James Bond couldn’t keep the Regal movie theater open on the first days of attack:

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani regal theatre closed

but the clean up work has started:

Taj hotel mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani clean up

The best article I read is Suketu Mehta’s in NY Times— he eloquently describes the feelings of many of the 18 million people pf Mumbai. Read it here.

As you can see, life continues (it always does) in spite of the recent calamity:

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani fast food

May it be sweeter from now on for India.

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani sweet vendor taj hotel

“Partition’s people stitched
Shrouds from a flag, gentlemen scissored Sind.
An opened people, fraying across the cut
country reknotted themselves on this island.”

Adil Jussawalla