So is the new president of Iran a true reformist? Is he Khamenei’s surprise to Iranian people to cleanse himself partially of the catastrophes of the last elections? Ahmadinejad’s 8 year parenthesis is finally closed (with a four year delay) but questions remain amid the euphoria of Iranians.

hassan-rowhani-iran

He never even vouched for the green movement yet people voted for him. Can Iranians finally begin to hope for easier times? The world needs a moderate Iran to calm down the chaos of the Middle East. I hope (against my better judgment) that the new president wants and can make a good difference…

sina shiri farsn ews iran

“He has three law degrees, including a doctorate from a university in Scotland, and as president of Iran’s strategic research center, he regularly publishes essays. Rouhani is more likely to at least speak more diplomatically to internal and external challengers. And unlike Ahmadinejad, when addressing United States politicians and citizens, he may not need a translator” says Ben Brumfield. 

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These are some pictures of the spontaneous celebrations in Iran even though “Rouhani has not called for an overall sweeping shift in Iran’s foreign policy. For instance, Rouhani has neither asked Assad to step down from power nor pressed to halt the Islamic Republic of Iran’s military, intelligence, financial, and advisory support to Damascus” says Majid Rafizadeh.

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The pictures are from Arash Ashoorinia:

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The irony of having a Hassan in Iran and a Hossein in the U.S. as presidents is not lost on us, Iranians, who all grew up with the names of these Shia martyrs;)

These young people were happy to oblige and let me take the below picture in a restaurant in Tehran last month (I went back to Iran after 20 years); did they know something was happening?

young people iran tilit michele roohani

Let’s hope for the change in spite of all our doubts!

chappatte iran

I love these cartoons by Joep Bertrams (below) and Patrick Chappatte (above):

JOEP BERTRAMS

Yes he can and he did it again!

November 8th, 2012


“We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party. And to do the latter we have to fix our Hispanic problem as quickly as possible, we’ve got to accept science and start calling out these false equivalencies when they occur within our party about things that are just not true, and not tolerate the intolerant.” John Weaver (a Republican strategist)

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov


Trick or Trick or Trick

October 31st, 2012

Another scary year…

It’s a rainy afternoon in Paris, just the way I like it, but I am in bed 3 weeks after a foot surgery and lots of time to read.

Some time ago I was nudged by my friend, Ajay, (happy birthday Ajay) to read Paris: a love story. I thought maybe it’s about the one among millions of little/big romances in the city of lights so I didn’t rush to it. I was surprised to find a very interesting book by Kati Marton:

She was the wife of Peter Jennings and Richard Holbrooke and she has been in love with Paris all her life. I liked both these gentlemen and her story starting in Hungary and continuing all over Europe and United States kept me reading through the night (pain is also responsible for keeping you awake).

I knew Holbrooke from his days in Bosnia and Afghanistan and Jennings was coming to all our homes for years via ABC News. After that book and no brighter future in pain reduction, I started reading The unquiet American, a very interesting book published by Holbrooke’s friends after his death in 2011.

It is an amazing book if you like history and/or are interested in high diplomacy; Richard Holbrooke shines with his whole package of qualities and imperfections. I am considering to read (finally) a book by John le Carré, being nudged this time by Holebrooke himself!

I rarely read fiction so it would be hard to choose which of these two to read and which just watch as a film. The free first chapters from Kindle will help me make up my mind. I am as they say a “promiscuous” but loyal reader – I read many books at the same time but I do finish them all!

“History keeps her secrets longer than most of us. But she has one secret that I will reveal to you tonight in the greatest confidence. Sometimes there are no winners at all. And sometimes nobody needs to lose.”  John le Carré

 

Can Obama charm us again in 2012?

September 7th, 2012

I made the above image 4 years ago for this post.

I remember how happy I was when creating these and I am still hopeful that maybe he will be able to deliver in his second round…

And I remember this gloomy yet hopeful december in California in 2008…

My favorite picture of Obama is still this one:

Many are a bit disappointed with him but the alternative is just scary…

 

Today is the second and final round of the French presidential elections and the “Sun King” will be chosen! France is hoping for a miracle from the new president.

This will be a referendum on Europe’s austerity measures (Sarkozy for and Holland against  them). Paul Krugman must be happy that there has been a definite shift in opinion in the past month.

I went to the first round to observe and learn how it works in France where you actually have to pick up a piece of paper with the name of the candidate printed on it and take it to the booth and put it in the envelope and then to the voting urn.

The fate of France and Europe is decided in a sea of blue envelopes today. Nicolas Sarkozy’s Socialist challenger Francois Hollande beat him in the first round of elections and is the front runner in all opinion polls that have predicted he will win tonight but it’s not over till it’s over…

In the first round on April 22nd, Hollande came out on top making Sarkozy the first ever President to lose the number 1 position in the first round of votes. These are chaotic times and the global financial crisis couldn’t help any incumbent in the shadow of austerity and looming recession.

After the closing of the urns, the volunteers can help count the votes—something I have never seen in the U.S.—and everybody can ask to be a part of the “dépouillement” (tally in english). They just let me take pictures but I couldn’t count because I don’t vote in France.

I should be in L.A. to vote in November because this has made me nostalgic about home.

It’s the time of sweet smelling wisterias (glycine in french) in Paris:

and it must be the time of jacarandas in L.A. where it rains purple in the month of May:

But in France, people who vote don’t get a sticker!

See some amazing jacarandas here

See me get angry about politics here

If Sarkozy goes to the guillotine today it will be because of this woman

Yesterday, I was walking home through a quaint neighborhood of Paris, la Butte aux cailles, when I noticed these posters of Hollande on the wall of this little street, rue de l’Esperance (street of hope in French):

I can’t vote in France but I have been following the elections and if you want to know a bit about it, I recommend reading these two short articles from today’s New York Times. The first one’s called: “Victor Hugo on the ballot” by Robert Zaretsky.

The other one is “Voting for Yesterday in France” by Oliver Guez:

Take a few minutes to read them—they are quite interesting…

On a more cheerful note, there is always hope as long as there is spring and lilacs that remind me of my childhood in Iran…

To read one of my favorite posts about lilacs in Paris go here.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends” wrote Hitchens last June and I am heartbroken to know he passed away yesterday…

I didn’t agree with everything he said (but who would? who could?) yet I learned a lot of very interesting things from him especially his relentless atheism that provoked the wrath of the faithful!

He sold his soul to the devil of alcohol and booze who helped him write but killed him prematurely. Keeping his great wit until the end he said: “In whatever kind of a ‘race’ life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist”.

Here are some quotes from him that I like:

“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”

“People are being too easily pleased. I’m amazed they settle for so little.”

“A gentleman is someone who is never rude by accident.”

“A lot of friendships absolutely depend upon a sort of shared language.”

“I hate stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”

His friend Richard Dawkins said: “I think he was one of the greatest orators of all time. He was a polymath, a wit, immensely knowledgeable, and a valiant fighter against all tyrants including imaginary supernatural ones.”  

I got to know his work via his excellent articles and book reviews and then I read his great book, “God is not great, how religion poisons everything”. I laughed all the way through the book! I liked his succinct biography of Thomas Jefferson  and his latest book, Arguably, is patiently waiting in my Kindle.

Graydon Carter says: “There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar.”

I read in Time that When Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, believers of all faiths prayed for his health — and his salvation. The staunch atheist responded that he was grateful for the good wishes and hoped that praying for him made the faithful feel better. ”Hitchens was never far below boiling point. He was an evangelical secularist, an atheist warlord.”

His friend, the novelist Ian McEwan, once said of Hitchens: “It all seems instantly neurologically available: everything he’s ever read, everyone he’s ever met, every story he’s ever heard. I’ve seldom met anyone who speaks in such fluid, elegant, nuanced sentences, dizzying in their breadth of reference.”

I loved the fact that he didn’t like Kissinger, Lady Diana, Jerry Falwell or Jacqueline Kennedy (he called her widow of opportunity!)

I strongly disagreed with him on his stand on the Iraq war or his view on abortion but he bought me back when I read what he had said of George Bush, when he was governor of Texas: ‘He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things’.

Another quote: “Marx says criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism. Philosophy starts where religion ends, just as chemistry starts where alchemy breaks off or astronomy starts where astrology runs out. It is the necessary argument. Not believing in the supernatural is the critical thing.”

These past few months, It was heart wrenching to read his articles about the cancer killing him but he never lost his grace. His memoir, Hitch-22, was a good (if not great) read because I was curious about what made this man who he is. I would like to see his friends, Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, write about his death, his life…

Read about his last days here.

Read Hitchens’ article about his own imminent death here.

A good article about him is on today’s NYTimes here. 

Greece, the tragedy of Europe

November 7th, 2011

The unfolding drama of the Greek tragedy has stunned the world , especially Europe who took the Greeks in and refused Turkey the key to the fortress Europe.

Who will survive it and which will be the winner of  the three major currencies for global dominance: the United states dollar, the Euro or the Chinese Reminbi ( Yuan)?

Iran may be United States’ best/only ally in the hellish war of the tribal belt region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

tribal belt iran afghanistan pakistan micheleroohani

An ignorant approach to the Afghan realities and the “benevolent negligence” regarding Pakistan will have more dire consequences for the U.S. and the schizophrenic government of Iran (saddled by Iraq and Afghanistan’s unrest on both sides) may be a necessary ally in the necessary war…The Islamic Republic will do anything  to avoid facing up to the “enemy within” (aka millions of unhappy/angry Iranians)

pakistan afghanistan tribal belt map micheleroohani

Look at the map of the world’s most dangerous place; most of the 4,000,000 Pashtuns who live in the tribal belt between Afghanistan and Pakistan refuse to recognize the British-drawn Durand Line, which divides the two nations and splits families. Afghanistan, the fifth poorest country in the world with a life expectancy of 44 is deservedly called the “graveyard of empires”. It has been in a civil war in the past three decades.

exodus from afghanistan 1990 reza deghati michele roohani

The above picture, Exodus from Afghanistan,  from the formidable photojournalist Reza Deghati has haunted me for years—the silence of this cold journey moves me deeply. I almost forget the picture was taken just twenty years ago; “Time” has indeed suspended its flight in this  godforsaken country…

the old wise man reza deghati afghanistan 1983 michele roohani

I met Reza in Paris last month at the opening of the exquisite exhibition (organized by my friend Anahita Ghabaian) of 165 year of Iranian Photography at the Quai Branly Museum. Stay tuned for next week’s post about PhotoQuai.

I was once again impressed by Reza,  the great master photographer. We talked about his humanitarian work at Aina, a media & Culture center in Afghanistan. His extraordinary talent deserves a post all to itself—I became a fan years ago thanks to his National geographic’s photos like this one:

reza deghati national geographic dervish 1993 turkey micheleroohani

Only a few months ago, the Pakistani military was still inclined to view the Taliban as agents of influence able to provide their government with help to contain the Afghanistan in the west as it confronted India to the east. As Roger Cohen puts it: “the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing—the result is self-amputation. Even Pakistan’s competent General Kayani, noted for his patience, diligence, intelligence and sheer determination, may be doing the wrong move in the right direction, too little too late.

Today’s news that Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the Afghanistan’s runoff election exasperated me even more; I can’t believe his official explanation for doing so but as Churchill says:

“in wartime, Truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of Lies”

and Afghanistan is deeply at war…

Take a look at Reza’s Webistan here.

Visit Aina here.

Visit the PhotQuai here. (click on “honoring Iranian Photography” to see some great photos)