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Cinema, Jigar and Ice cream

Cinema, Jigar and Ice cream

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Last week Paul was away for a week and my friends Ali, Faroukh, and Afsaneh made sure that I did not feel lonely and took me out a few times. We do not usually go out to the cinema and often see the Iranian feature films when they come out on DVD which is quite fine with me, the only problem is that most of them do not have subtitles and unfortunately Paul’s Persian is quite rudimentary!

So during Paul’s absence and once in celebration of his return, along with a couple of other friends, we all went twice to the new and much talked about Park Mellat Pardis Cineplex, and once to Arike Iranian which is further west.  We watched Bahram Bayzaie’s new film Vaghti hame khaabim (When We Are All Asleep) and Tahmineh Milani’s Superstar.

If it had been only me I would think that it was just my taste or lack of taste or maybe I did not understand the issues and concerns of such talented artists, but unfortunately it seemed to be the general feeling!!  I was about to lose hope completely when we went to see Bist (20) which was the work of Abdorreza Kahani,- we all liked the film, the acting, the story and overall production, and it was not because the story was about the poor and destitute of Tehran, it was a well made film even if I did not like the final ending.

On one of the cinema outings we went to Ali’s house for some home made pizza.  Ali is in process of renovating his apartment, which has taken a long time but I expected that after two years it would be more or less done.  We all sat in the living room on whatever we could find, being the eldest I was given the armchair, and the pizzas came individually, they were shared among the five of us and the next one would be ready 20 minutes later as the oven was so small that only one pizza plate could be cooked at a time, but it was great fun and we all had a good time.

The second time we went to the cinema, I fancied jigar, (barbequed liver) and it is considered a very nourishing food.   In Iran this is sold in little places called jigari’s. Ali knew of a new good place near his office and we ended up at Jigar-sara-e Ojagh-bashi.  They also do a lot of different kebabs and deliver, but jigar is something that you must have straight from the barbeque. I am very fond of it, and this may be because it always reminds me of the times I used to go out with my grandmother and she would treat us to jigar if we had behaved ourselves.

That night we met Mr Zenozi and his partner Mr Taher and their young good looking cook Mohammad who is from Ardebill in the northwest of Iran and really knows how to do a good jigar.   Jigar-sara-e Ojagh-bashi was opened a couple of months ago and I seriously hope they stay open as we need a good jigari in this part of town.  There are good Iranian customs that if taken in moderation are good to keep and preserve.

On the last evening we ended up near Tajrish Square and enjoyed the famous bastani ice cream of Seyed Mehdi.  Usually there are huge traffic jams because drivers stop to get their ice cream disrespectful of ongoing traffic, double parking etc and then you have to wait in the queue for  your turn.  But that night it was almost closing time and we had parked further away.  We had to forego the halim and ash reshteh, which was sold in the other shop as we all had had dinner, and we left that experience until next time.  The Tajrish late night outing was fun and even if the ice cream did not quite taste like the old times we enjoyed the fun, the people we met and of course the paloodeh & bastani nooni.

Jaye shoma hame kahli !! (we missed you)

Jigar-sara-e Ojagh-bashi
Sheikh Bahaie Square, Seoul Street, corner of 2nd street No. 68  + Tel.  88069828 or 88069882)

Photos: Dormitory in Ahvaz, Iran

Photos: Dormitory in Ahvaz, Iran
Photos by Amir Hossin Kardouni, ISNA

هفته‌ي خوابگاه‌ها – اهواز

This is the Dormitory Week in Iran. The following photos by Amir Hossin Kardouni are from a dormitory in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province.

The city of Ahvaz is the capital of the Iranian province of Khuzestan. It is built on the banks of the Karun River and is situated in the middle of Khuzestan Province. The city has an average elevation of 20 meters above sea level. The city had a population of 1,338,126 in 2006.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Bomb found in toilet on Iran plane

Bomb found in toilet on Iran plane


A homemade bomb discovered on board an Iranian plane has been defused, semi-official news agencies report.

According to several Iranian news agencies, the bomb was discovered on a plane shortly after it took off from the oil-rich city of Ahvaz.

Plain-clothes security guards, who are believed to travel on every Iranian flight, found it in a toilet.

The incident comes at a time of rising tension in the run up to Iran’s presidential elections on 12 June.

The plane turned back to Ahvaz for an emergency landing when the bomb was discovered.

The flight resumed after the bomb was defused.

The incident follows a bomb attack on a mosquein the south-east of the country on Thursday.

In the latest incident, the plane was also flying from a border province – this time, an area that borders Iraq, and has also had problems with restive minorities.

Tension seems to be rising in the run up to the presidential election in two weeks time, particularly as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is by no means guaranteed re-election.

Naomi Wolf: Busted, Pentagon: Why The Photos Probably Do Show Detainees Sodomized and Raped

Busted, Pentagon: Why The Photos Probably Do Show Detainees Sodomized and Raped

The Telegraph of London broke the news – because the US press is in a drugged stupor — that the photos Obama is refusing to release of detainee abuse depict, among other sexual tortures, an American soldier raping a female detainee and a male translator raping a male prisoner. The paper claims the photos also show anal rape of prisoners with foreign objects such as wires and lightsticks. Major General Antonio Taguba calls the images `horrific’ and `indecent’ (but absurdly agrees that Obama should not release them – proving once again that the definition of hypocrisy is the assertion that the truth is in poor taste).

Predictably, a few hours later the Pentagon issues a formal denial.

It is very likely that the Pentagon lying. This is probably exactly what the photos show, because it happened. Precisely these exact sex crimes – these exact images and these very objects — are familiar and well-documented to those of us who follow closely rights’ organizations reports of what has already been confirmed.

As I wrote last year in my piece on sex crime against detainees, ‘Sex Crimes in the White House,” highly perverse, systematic sexual torture and sexual humiliation was, original documents reveal, directed from the top; Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice were present in meetings where sexual humiliation was discussed as policy; the Defense Authorization Act of 2007 was written specifically to allow certain kinds of sexual abuse, such as forced nakedness, which is completely illegal and understood by domestic and international law to be a form of sexual assault; Rumsfeld is in print and on the record consulting with subordinates about the policy and practice of sexual humiliation, in a collection of documents obtained by the ACLU by a Freedom of Information Act filing, compiled in Jameel Jaffer’s important book, The Torture Administration.

The image of the female, probably Iraqi, prisoner being sexually assaulted? That image, or a similar one, has been widely viewed in the Muslim world. Reports of the rape scenes described have also appeared in rights organizations’ summaries since 2004.

And scores of detainees who have told their stories to rights organizations have told independently confirming accounts of a highly consistent practice of sexual torture at US-held prisons, including having their genitals slashed with razors; electrodes placed on genitals; and being told US military would find and rape their mothers.

Is systemic sex crime practiced by the US in a consequence of the lawlessness of `the war on terror’ surprising to those of us who work on issues of sexual abuse and war? It is totally predictable: when you give soldiers anywhere in the world the power, let alone the mandate, to hold women or men helpless, without recourse to law, kidnap them as a matter of policy – as US military kidnapped the wives of `insurgents’ in order to compel them to turn themselves in – strip them naked, and threaten them, you have a completely predictable recipe for mass sexual assault. The magisterial study of rape in war, Susan Brownmiller’s Men, Women and Rape, proves that.

But what is far scarier about these images Obama refuses to release and that the Pentagon is likely to be lying about now is that it is not the evidence of lower-level soldiers being corrupted by power – it is proof of the fact that the most senior leadership – Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, with Rice’s collusion – were running a global sex crime trafficking ring with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Baghram as the holding sites. The sexual nature of the torture also gives the lie to Cheney’s and others’ defense of torture as somehow functional: the sexual perversity mandated from the top reveals that it was just plain old sick sadism gratified by a very sick form of pleasure. I also pointed out in `Sex Crimes in the White House’ that the escalation of the sexual abuse showed the same classic pattern shown by sex criminals everywhere – you start with stripping the victim, keeping him or her completely in your power, and then you engage in greater and more violent excesses with more and more self-justification.

The lightsticks, for instance? We in the human rights world know about the lightsticks. Probably dozens of prisoners were sodomized with lightsticks. In the highly credible and very fully documented Physicians for Human Rights report, Broken Bodies, Broken Lives, doctors investigated the wounds and scars of former prisoners, did analysis of the injuries, assessed the independent verification of their stories, and reported that indeed many detainees had in fact been savagely raped with lightsticks and by other objects inserted into their rectums, many sustaining internal injuries. This same report confirms that female military or other unidentified US-affiliated personnel were used to sexually abuse detainees by smearing menstrual blood on their faces, seizing their genitals violently, or rubbing them against their will in a sexual manner. In other credible accounts collected by human rights organizations, many former prisoners in US-held prisons report that they had been tortured or humiliated by female agents who appeared to be dressed like prostitutes. Indeed, early on intelligence spokespeople boasted in the New York Times of the use of female agents to sexually abuse and humiliate prisoners: it was called in their own material ‘invasion of space by a female.’

Today at lunch, I happen to have sat next to the lovely and brave Dale Haddon, the `face of L’Oreal’ who is also a tireless advocate for women and children through Unicef. She is heading for Congo, to help hold accountable rape and sex crime institutionalized as acts of war. Those criminals will face trials and convictions. In Sierra Leone, the soldiers and generals who used rape as an instrument of war have been tried and many convicted. In Bosnia, likewise. But at another lunch party, Haddon, who travels in many circles, may well be seated next to our own former leaders, violent and systemic sex criminals who are still at large.

When will we convict our very own global rapists, the ones who gave the US the hellish distinction of turning us into the superpower of sex crime? Convictions must come but first we must see the evidence.

And women especially, who understand how sexual abuse and rape can break the spirit in a uniquely anguishing way, should be raising their voices loudly.

Whom are we protecting by not releasing the photos? The victims? Hardly. It’s, as feminists have been saying for decades, not their shame. The perpetrators? Their crimes are archived; if not this administration, another may well obey the law release the images, which are evidentiary. (Again: that rape and sodomy were directed form the top; prosecute those at the top.)

These photos go to exactly why Obama is burning what is left of the shreds of the Constitution by calling for preemptive detention for about 100 detainees. It ain’t because they are `too dangerous,’ his pathetic justification. It is because their bodies are crime scenes. It is because the torture, including possibly the sexual assault, they experienced is likely to be so horrific that if they were ever to have their day in court it is others whom Obama needs who would be incriminated.

In the nineteenth century, when a woman had been raped, or had experienced sexual abuse in the family, the paterfamilias would say she was crazy, get her declared `too dangerous’ to be free, and lock her up forever so her story would be interred with her. That is what Obama is trying to do with preemptive detention for these detainees.

Well, America? Do you want to live with this? Remember: history shows categorically that once the state can lock `them’ up without a fair trial, torture, rape them or sodomize them – well; sooner or later it will be able to do the same to your children or mine; or to you and me.