I always thought that a woman out of a Persian Miniature will be known as the Iranian Marianne—maybe something like this dreamy painting by Farah Ossouli:

farah ossouli adam and eve painting three angels watching michele roohani

or the ageless super model, Yasmin Parvaneh (picture on the left) or her daughter Amber Le Bon (on the right):

yasmin parvaneh amber le bon michele roohani persian

It could have been one of the young beautiful movie stars or myriads of miscellaneous beauty queens or even one of these two who represent the separate worlds of today’s Iranian women:

iranian women worlds apart

Little did we know that an unknown young woman, Neda Agha Soltan, killed ruthlessly in the Iranian election protests last month would be the face of the Persian woman to the world…

jacques brinon AP neda iranian protests

Neda was a “casualty” of the conflict; she gave a face to the faceless victims. May she not have been killed in vain…

melvin sokolsky twiggy masks michele roohani

I am sure Melvin Sokolsky doesn’t mind the great Reza being inspired by him in making the Neda masks.

Michael Jackson dies five minutes away from me at UCLA medical center. He was fifty and his death may be a godsend gift to the Iranian government.

michel jackson dies green michele roohani

The world would be focusing on his death and in spite of him flashing the V sign and wearing a surgical mask (like the Iranian protesters do), his death may be the hardest blow to the people’s revolt in Iran. The media circus will continue to take the attention away from Iran and that would be the real tragedy.

michel jackson dies v sign michele roohani

Not knowing the cause of it, I’ve been annoyed by helicopters hovering over my house all afternoon; I am saddened by his death.

In spite of all his recent problems, after the Beatles and Elvis, Michael Jackson defined the popular music of the 20th century. Monumentally talented but fragile and …weird.

I will never forget his most amazing performance of Billy Jean in 1983 (Motown 25 celebration). It’s like Fred Astaire’s dance: you never get tired of watching it.

Michael Jackson dies young michele roohani

“He was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene”…May he now rest in peace.

Desperately seeking Rostam

June 20th, 2009

It’s 3:00 am Los Angeles time and I can’t go to sleep—I am worried about the possible bloodbath of this latest showdown between the Iranian regime and people; looking for a favorite verse takes me to Ferdowsi who’s poetry has been super-relevant during the past week.

rostam killing the white Demon (Dive) micheleroohani

The following is when people are asking Rostam, the most celebrated mythical hero of Iran, to save Iran—From the book of Kings, Shahnameh (composed by Ferdowsi between 980-1010 AD)

“You are our refuge, our last hope, our one
Protection now that King Kavous has gone;
Alas, Iran will be destroyed, a lair
For leopards and wild lions will flourish there,
Our land will be a wasted battleground
Where evil kings will triumph and be crowned…”


سپاه اندرایران پراکنده شد
زن و مرد و کودک همه بنده شد
دو بهره سوی زاولستان شدند
به خواهش بر پور دستان شدند
که مارا زبدها تو باشی پناه
چو گم شد سرتاج کاوس شاه


دریغ است ایران که ویران شود
کنام پلنگان و شیران شود

getty images iran june 20th

Read Roger Cohen’s great eyewitness account in NY Times (June 20th 2009); he shares with us what CNN and Youtube can’t: amazing journalism.

Cohen’s view about Iran’s youth must be devastating to the regime.

زنـانـشـان چـنـیـنـنـد ز ایـرانیــــان

چگـونه انـد گـردان و جنگ آوران

 

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: 

Should I be jealous of Uhura kissing Spock? After all, he is my first love and I’ve known him since he was speaking Persian to the good old James Tiberius Kirk and they were called Pishtaazaane Fazaa…

spock uhura michele roohani

I have grown up like millions of Iranians with Star Trek—my cousin, Anousheh Ansari, was inspired by them (she even made the vulcan salute before going to space!)

I still have his picture in my bedroom to prove my unchanging love for Spock:

mood board michele roohani spock

I went to see the movie yesterday and I liked it a lot—I am a hopeless Trekkie and all the holes in the plot didn’t bother me a bit. I was relieved to see the first Enterprise where the shield wasn’t leaking energy every few minutes; maybe as Roger Ebert suggested, they did get new batteries…

spock uhura music michele roohani

On a more serious note, I saw a couple of great movies this week: Il Divo, an Italian film about Gulio Andreotti—I loved it in spite of my ignorance about the politicians involved (and the Mafia),

il divo andreotti michele roohani

Somebody called the new Star Trek movie operatic—they have to see Il Divo to see how a governement can be operatic! That clown Berlusconi is not helping the Byzantine image of Italian politics…

gulio andreotti michele roohani

Another very interesting film I saw was Examined Life; I only knew a couple of the Philosophers but it didn’t diminish the pleasure of watching some intelligent thoughts on screen:

examined life michele roohani

It reminded me of Saul Bellow’s funny quote: Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ My revision is, ‘But the examined life makes you wish you were dead.’

The next film was Goodbye Solo, by the hottest young director—according to Ebert—Ramin Bahrani:

goodbye solo ramin bahrani michele roohani

not bad for a young Persian dude

You can watch him with Charlie Rose here.

ramin bahrani Matthew Monteith michele roohani

A good movie to me is the one that stays in your mind for a little more than the two hours that you are spending in the theatre and these films will stay with me for a while like my last year’s favorite, Starting out in the evening or Michael Apted‘s unforgettable Up Series about the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old,  up to now (the next episode will be in 2012).

7 and up apted michele roohani

Imagine seeing the same people grow old in front of your eyes every seven years—it took 42 years to make it—now that’s a documentary!

I do watch entertaining films like the Batman series/Iron Man/Duplicity but from time to time it is refreshing to watch something that makes you stop and think.

Last but not least, today is Mother’s Day in America so please don’t forget to love your mother.

mother’s day calligrapahy micheleroohani rose

Visit my best movie post here; these films are really worth watching again.

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…

The whole world fell in love with Obama. A collective smile, a collective tear of joy…Women dream about him and men want to be his best friend, but will it last?  We are all keeping our fingers crossed.

valentine 2009 michele roohani black hat red heart

Everybody needs a little bit of love in these dark days of uncertainties.

“Cut me a rose, make my tea with the petals…”—from Diana Krall’s very hot  “Peel me a grape”—was my inspiration for this next photo. Watch her sing it here and for a better rendition (just sound) go here.

valentine 2009 michele roohani roses in a tea cup

I have to confess that my love of the moment is this guy  and not somebody with a glass of champagne in his hand; he has the gift of bringing clarity to obscure, chaotic subjects.

valentine 2009 michele roohani roses in a glass

I learned today that Sepandarmaz may be the precursor to Valentine’s Day.

بخوان به نام گل سرخ و عاشقانه بخوان

حدیث عشق بیان کن بدان زبان که تو دانی

Shafiee Kadkani

My Valentine 2008 post was one of the most visited ones of my entire blog—we are all romantics after all.

Here is another part of Tagore‘s beautiful love poem to tie Valentine, Frank Rich,  and his version of the slumdog millionaires…

“Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you,
the love of all man’s days both past and forever:
universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life,
the memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours–
and the songs of every poet past and forever.”

first grade notebook cahier d’ecolier michele roohani rose