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Postby Admzad » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:20 pm

http://www.smh.com.au/text/articles/200 ... 22626.html

The changing face of Iran
Date: August 19 2006

The mullahs rule the streets but behind closed doors Iran's well-heeled toke
on pot and pass the bootleg vodka. Paul McGeough looks at an authoritarian
state at war with itself.

ON A sultry afternoon at the crossroads of life in Tehran, a mother in her
40s wistfully recalls the excitement of the revolution - how almost three
decades ago she ran into the streets of the capital as raw people power knocked
the despised Shah of Iran from his gilded throne. "Today, our children attack
some of us for being so stupid," says the woman, grinding the end of her cigarette
into a glass ashtray.

She's a little ashamed a few friends try to save face with their children -
denying they had even been in the streets. She hesitates over another cigarette.
And then she makes a pained admission: "I went to the Shah's grave in Cairo and
I told him it was all a big mistake."

In Tehran worlds collide - stock images of ayatollahs and turbans are not the
whole story. By nature, Iranians are pleasure-seekers, forever exploring the
void between what the state declares lawful and what they can get away with.
Young women in particular find themselves at an extraordinary fork in the
revolution's road.

Some offer to put their lives on the line. Hundreds dress as suicide bombers
for stage-managed parades that provide a backdrop for the rhetorical salvos
in Tehran's war with the world. Masked and menacing, they hitch their bomber's
vests as they turn to Lebanon and Palestine. They raise a fist defiantly at
the enemy: Washington.

Another army of women is bandaged and bruised. There is no regime choreography,
but they wear their wounds with much the same badge-of-honour determination.

Numbering thousands, they emerge from the waiting rooms of Tehran's plastic
surgeons and rush to their favourite coffee shops to show off a new symbol of
Western decadence in Iran: their reshaped noses.

Both armies are a product of a propaganda war that intensifies as Iran flaunts
its nuclear ambition and flexes its muscles as an emerging regional power, a
status brought on by the US-led defeat of enemies that previously hemmed in
Tehran: to the west, Saddam Hussein; to the east, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The suicide squads are easily identified as a regime creation. But the obsession
that has made Tehran one of the nose-job capitals of the world - by some estimates
up to 100,000 procedures are done each year - is a surprising byproduct of a
propaganda campaign that emanates from distant California.

A battery of pirate satellite TV stations run by Iranian exiles in Beverly Hills
and the San Fernando Valley bombards their homeland with anti-regime propaganda.
Despite claims by the pirates that their calls to action have instigated
spontaneous street protests in Tehran, Iranians from all walks of life - the
regime, academia, the media and in the streets - tend to dismiss their rallying
as the out-of-touch ravings of "armchair" counter-revolutionaries. And while
many young Iranians tune in, a good portion of them ignore the propaganda.
Instead, they lap up the entertainment that comes through the ether.

The Tehran regime has only limited success in jamming the signals from Los
Angeles and, despite several campaigns, it has failed to shut down a thriving
black market in satellite dishes. This week it had police teams back on the
rooftops in the capital and in three of the provinces, ripping out dishes in
a futile attempt to control the flow of information.

That it worries so much is revealing because many young Iranians are believed
to have opted out of all politics and propaganda. Instead, they immerse themselves
in a make-believe world of Hollywood films and MTV.

The cosmetic surgery craze is a surprise amid the straitlaced fervour of the
mullahs. But Bahareh Ahmade, a 22-year-old student, proudly tells the Herald
that her new nose was designed from a very up-to-the-minute magazine tear-out
of the singer Michael Jackson's nose. Bailed up on the curb in leafy north
Tehran, she says: "My life is a bubble - I have absolutely no interest in
politics. I study and I worry about getting a job; I hang out in coffee shops,
I swim in the pool or go to parties with my friends." Does she watch satellite
TV? "Just the movies and the entertainment," she says.

The award-winning Iranian filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei was so perplexed that he
made a film on the nose phenomenon - Noses Iranian Style. He asks: "Is this a
whole lost generation? In the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, young Iranians lost
whole limbs and parts of their faces for their country; now they line up
five-abreast in operating theatres to give up a part of their faces. What has
happened to their values? How did they become so distracted from real issues
in such a short span of time?"

The fixation of young women, in particular, with westernising the only visible
feature on their well-covered bodies has come to symbolise the thinning ranks
of foot soldiers in a gloomy internal review of the Iranian reformist movement's
failure to win and hold sufficient political power or to demonstrate that it is
possible to change the grinding reality of life under the successors of Ayatollah
Khomeini.

The Herald's observations of life in Tehran confirm a foreign diplomat's snapshot
of the state of play 27 years after the overthrow of the shah: "The mullahs have
firm control. The top end of business relies on corrupt government deals and
permits, so they're not too upset; professionals and the middle class who have
not joined the brain drain stay indoors and get smashed on homemade vodka; and
the poor masses are too hungry and too desperate to think of reform or revolt."

Even amid such despondency, maintaining state control still requires a campaign
of intimidation. Journalists, lawyers and intellectuals are regularly rounded up
and jailed on spurious charges. And street protests by women, by bus drivers and
by minority Sufis have been busted in a harsh new police crackdown.

Exact figures are not available. But hundreds are said to be under detention
without trial. And thousands more are harassed in a constant bid by the regime
to wear down the will of would-be reformists, often threatening them with the
loss of their jobs or cancelling their access to university studies.

UPHEAVAL in the region is creating a new balance of power. Shiite and Persian
Iran is on one side. The US-backed Israelis are on the other. And fretting
between them are all the Sunni-dominated Arab regimes who see their influence
being eroded.

Previously isolated, Tehran is back in the business of attempting to export its
Islamic revolution to the Muslim - and mainly Arab - masses of the region. It
has its hand up the back of the Shiite leadership in Baghdad and the militias
who own the chaotic streets of liberated Iraq. It is drawing in the new Afghan
government. It still counts on Syria as its ambassador in the Arab world, and it
sees Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Occupied Territories as its proxy
pincers on Israel.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, US President George Bush locked
Iran into his "axis of evil" depiction of the global threat faced by Washington.
Top US officials, Bush included, have left open the option of military strikes
as a response to Tehran's refusal to bow to Western demands to curb its
uranium-enrichment program. But despite all its rhetoric, Team Bush seems for
now, at least, to be opting for diplomacy over forced regime change.

The evidence that Tehran funds, supplies and guides Hezbollah in Lebanon appears
to be much stronger than the Americans' fabricated weapons of mass destruction
case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But despite his insistence on getting to
"root causes", Bush subcontracted the war against the Iran-sponsored Hezbollah
to the Israeli Defence Forces, who failed to deliver on the promises they made
as they went to war in July.

And, uncharacteristically, Bush sits on his hands while European, Russian and
Chinese diplomats make painful efforts to defuse the nuclear crisis. That issue
comes to a head again at the UN Security Council in 12 days.

AT FIRST glance, it seems anything goes beneath the perpetual pollution haze
that blankets Tehran. A visitor loses count of the shiny BMW and Lexus cars
on jammed freeways. Giant billboards shriek Western indulgence - Pierre Cardin,
Calvin Klein, Versace…

There are glitzy shopping strips and coffee shops. The florists' displays are
exquisite. Monsoon restaurant, on the north's Ghandi Street, is so expensive
it doesn't bother with a menu in Farsi.

Despite a state ban on alcohol, bootleggers do home deliveries of imported or
home-brewed beers, wines and spirits. Party hosts offer pot to their guests as
readily as they dispense their preferred analgesic - a local, paint-stripper-like
variant of vodka. "Is it Danish?" the Herald asks a host who produced the
distinctive aluminium flask in which Danzka Vodka is marketed. He replies:
"The bottle is!"

But that's well-heeled North Tehran, where the bandaged noses of young women
are like beacons of indifference in the pavement crowds and where pharmacists
report a run on nose bandages by those who can't afford the surgery - but who
want to look hip.

Across the city, the state does its billboards, featuring revered ayatollahs
and the pitiable martyrs of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War. The wall of a downtown
high rise is given over to a huge depiction of the US flag - hung vertically,
it has skulls for stars and each red stripe is the trajectory of a falling bomb
marked: "Made in the USA."

Then there is the poverty of southern Tehran and the sprawling hinterland,
powder kegs of resentment over economic hardship that are capable of erupting
at any time.

Despite Iran's huge oil reserves, imported petrol is in short supply and
becoming more expensive - there's talk of rationing. Inflation and unemployment
are rampant. Meat and housing are priced beyond the means of most families who,
on average, earn a quarter of what they were getting under the ousted shah.
Prostitution and drug abuse are said to be widespread.

But Saddam's Baghdad it is not. In Tehran, regime control is a sophisticated
blend of a crude but velveted glove that warns dissidents not to step beyond
the bounds of what is tolerated.

Euphemistically referred to as "red lines", the bounds are delineated for the
many by the hammer-fist treatment of the few who are prepared to speak out.
Iranians are allowed to express raw opinion, but to have it published domestically
can be fatal. Just to be interviewed by a foreign correspondent can lead to charges
and time in the notorious Evin Prison.

IN THE midst of all this stands the mercurial new Iranian President, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, whose popularity is soaring in this time of twin crises - nuclear
energy and Lebanon. Exploring Ahmadinejad's diatribes against Israel, a city
lawyer takes time to consider whether his President is serious or merely indulging
in crude diplomatic sport when he calls for Israel to be "wiped from the map".
"He's not a stupid man, is he?" the Herald ventures. There was a pause before
this reply: "We can't be sure."

But Amir Mohebian, a writer who claims to be a friend of the Iranian President,
tells another reporter: "Wipe Israel off the map? Really? Israel has atomic
warheads. Maybe we make irrational statements, but we're not mad by saying things
like that, we know the US runs to help Israel - and that's expensive, we think."

Ahmadinejad is rated as the most fundamentalist president since the 1979 revolution.
But he is also a deft populist - recently he blocked a police effort to codify
women's dress.

But even he can overstep the mark. Before this year's World Cup football tournament
in which Iran was knocked out early, he declared that the ban on women attending
public sporting events should be lifted. He was overruled by the mullahs.

Promising justice, an end to endemic corruption and to put Iran's huge oil income
"on the people's tables", Ahmadinejad came to power on a landslide vote last year.
He holds onto that support with targeted cash handouts in the provinces and in his
appeals to Iranian nationalism through his hectoring of Washington over Iran's
right to go nuclear.

But the presidency is just one spoke in an Orwellian wheel in which the will
of the people, the voice of the parliament and that of the executive are
subservient to "divine" rule by a deeply corrupt and conservative clerical
elite headed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Khomeini's successor as the Supreme
Leader of the Revolution.

Dissent is allowed but rigidly controlled. Support for reformist elements,
like the Iran Participation party of the former president Mohammed Khatami,
waxes and wanes according to the whim of an unelected religious leadership
that retains all real political power for itself.

In what became known as the Tehran Spring, the reformists won control of
Iran's elected parliament in 1997, but that did not mean control of the
country - virtually every reform bill they passed in the following seven
years was rejected or watered down by the overarching authority of the clergy.

The reformists lost credibility because, despite all the religious strictures,
they acquiesced rather than confront the ayatollahs. There had to be a showdown,
but they didn't bring it on.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi underscores
the impotence of the reformists during the Tehran Spring when she says:
"[When I was arrested in that period] the president said he was very sorry -
he couldn't help. Now it's not much different, but the President doesn't
apologise any more."

The reformists' hands were tied, too, because the religious authorities reserve
the right to vet the Islamic and revolutionary credentials of all would-be
parliamentary candidates.

Before the 2004 elections more than 3000 reformist candidates, including 87
sitting MPs, were disqualified by the religious authorities. Even the brother
of then president Khatami and the granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini had no
protection - they were swatted like flies. "Resignation and hopelessness
forced many to stay away from the polls," says Tehran politics professor
Hermidas Bavand.

Bavand admits to being one who turned his back on the reformists because of
their submission to the will of the Supreme Leader. "People became indifferent
and as a result of their non-participation, the hardliners emasculated the
reformist movement," Bavand tells the Herald.

As the reformists attempt to pick up the pieces, they are confronted by a new
hurdle - the nuclear and Lebanon crises have become the dominant prisms in all
internal debate. Tehran's handling of both draws huge public support in a country
where historic US interference has embedded a ferocious anger in the political
psyche.

There is the possibility that Iran's overt support for Hezbollah in Lebanon
could backfire: "Many Iranians don't see a vital interest for Iran in Lebanon,
but we are paying a very high price [because] these military operations could
become a kind of solution for Israel and the US [to regional problems]. The
scenario is frightening," Bavand says.

But this week Ahmadinejad was triumphant. On the stump at Arbadil, in Iran's
north-east, he taunted Washington on the failure by Israel to achieve its combat
objectives: "God's promises have come true. On one side, [the] corrupt powers of
the criminal US and Britain and the Zionists with modern bombs and planes. And
on the other side is a group of pious youths relying on God."

Despite being on the back foot, the reformist movement does have a star player.
But Shirin Ebadi defends the nuclear program, saying it is those in control of
nuclear power who constitute a security threat, not the energy program itself.

She argues in a recent paper that the nuclear program is rooted in Washington's
1970s encouragement of the Shah of Iran to go nuclear: "[In power, the Iranian]
reformists supported the program but wanted it to be in compliance with Iran's
international obligations. But instead of backing Iran's fledgling democratic
movement, which would have led to nuclear transparency, the US undercut it by
demonising Iran."

Criticism of the nuclear program or the Supreme Leader is not tolerated. And
any who dare to question Tehran's support for Hezbollah are pounced upon as
"Zionists" by publications speaking for the regime.

Mohammad Atrianfar, publisher of the reformist newspaper Shargh, dared to
publish an unsigned criticism and in an interview he tells an American reporter:
"Officially, Iran is not aware of what Hezbollah does. [But] logically and
unofficially, Iran is always aware. The reason is clear, because of all that
Iran has done for Hezbollah. Hezbollah is Iran in Lebanon - when Iran looks
at Hezbollah, it sees Iran."

Dubbed "the face of resistance", the journalist Akbar Gangi was jailed for
six years after he publicly linked a series of dissident killings to senior
figures in the regime. When he was released from Evin Prison this year, he
was so gaunt after a three-month hunger strike that friends did not recognise
him.

Gangi remains defiant, but he has fled to the US, from where he still attempts
to co-ordinate protests against the regime.

ACROSS the city from Bobby Sands Street, 51 pairs of shoes at the door to a
fourth-floor apartment suggest unusual activity. There are no banners or
posters in the street, but the furtive coming and going of foreign TV and
press crews confirm something is afoot.

By the standards set by the Irish Republican Army hunger striker, this assembly
is small beer. But under the menacing eye of the Iranian security services the
assembly is a small sign of courage in the face of such deep despondency about
the political commitment of young Iranians.

The shoes' owners - student, political and women's rights activists - have
responded to a call by Gangi for reformists in Iran and exiles around the
world to pressure the regime with a three-day hunger-strike.

This is the third day and the air in the closed apartment is pungent. In the
semi-darkness, Abdullah Momeni, 29, a student activist, says that none of the
Tehran media shows an interest because the protest is too hot to handle. He
has done 45 days in solitary and is awaiting the outcome of an appeal against
a five-year jail sentence for his protest activities.

As his comrades loll on pillows and watch videos, they allow themselves only
sweet tea and water. Meanwhile, pleased as Momeni is just to have a gang
around him, he makes clear that it's not enough. "We have to show to human
rights groups outside Iran that our efforts to win the release of political
prisoners have hit a dead end."

Momeni's explanation for the small turnout goes to fear of the regime - but
it also turns on young Tehran's plastic surgery obsession. "Young people
became frustrated by the performance of the reformists in power. When they
looked at their first few years, they could see that the fundamentalists and
extremists were in control.

"The risk in joining a protest is huge, so they opt out and worry instead
about the shape of their noses and the colour of their eye lenses. Anyone
who protests gets kicked out of university and suspended from other community
activities. You get threatened or you get sent to prison."

ISA SAHARKHIZ has been a prominent journalist in Tehran for 20 years. But, his
lawyers say, in the coming days he will become an inmate of Evin because he
dared to question the nature of what Iran likes to call its system of guided
democracy.

Under the reformist rule of Khatami, the fortysomething Saharkhiz was the
government overseer of the domestic press, but it was his subsequent writing
and publishing that were his undoing.

"What am I guilty of? I printed articles against the state, Islam, the
constitution, the revolutionary guard and, for good measure, the clergy,"
he says during an interview. "When I defended Gangi they closed my newspaper."

The Iranian reality, Saharkhiz says, is that there is no reality: "Genuine
debate is impossible. Editors no longer tell the truth - they all live a
lie. Key reformists are arrested; student offices are closed and activists
jailed; people are not allowed to assemble; even political parties are not
allowed to have annual conferences. And independent-minded clerics are barred
from the mosques."

Like others who spoke to the Herald, Saharkhiz is hoping the regime will collide
with its own economic failure. Inflation is getting worse, jobs are harder to
find, and the brain-drain and the flight of capital will continue in such a
lethal combination that even soaring oil process cannot save the regime, he
says. He doesn't have a timeline, but he makes a blunt prediction: "It will
be the poor, not the intelligentsia, who will revolt."

But for now the tea leaves that Tehran analysts and political players read
are Lebanese - not Iranian. The regime seems emboldened by what it perceives
as the success of a more confrontational foreign policy - especially its
sponsorship of Hezbollah. They predict that the outcome in Lebanon - a
stalemate that allows Hezbollah to claim victory as Israelis resort to
infighting over what went wrong - will fire the regime's urge to crack down
even more tightly on domestic dissent.

The film director Oskouei - frustrated that most of his work is banned in
Iran - describes how, so far, he has sidestepped the authorities.

"Every day in the forest, the deer wakes up and runs to escape from the
lion. The lion wakes up to chase the deer - it's an everyday activity and
the one that runs faster is successful.

"I am the deer - this is my life."


-------------my notes------------------------------------------

"I am the deer - this is my life."

But Miran being Miran, it is different!

In Miran, it's not the shir, but the KIR who chases after victims,
doing ro'zeh khuni "man bodo aahu bodo".

The whole country beh goh keshideh.

--------------

"It will be the poor, not the intelligentsia, who will revolt."

jallal khaaleq, damet garm baabaa!

gaavo olaaq hich gohi ham nakhaahand khord,
they could only stampede to raise some bull dust.

Since when 'revolt' could lead to anything?

Even in Russia, it wasn't the 'revolt' that did the trick,
it was the MJ Lenin & his killer Bolsheviks, who took the power by force,
after years of civil war & mass killings & labor-camps.

KK Mullahs know that people hate them.
They also know how they came to power by force & killing, with Masters' help,
so they will not easily let go. They have to fight to save themselves &
their filthy families.

This is all further proof that Miranian can't do no revolutions!

Comparing the old regime with the mollahs' regime is like comparing heaven & hell.
If Miranians live in HELL for over 25 years without any major revolt, then they
couldn't have possibly done revolution when they lived in heaven!

The only hope is "Masters gave & Masters took it away".
They gave in 53 & took it away in 78.
They will do it again, coz there is money in it for them.
It has to happen before the oil runs out.

sing it loud:
They got the wholllllllle world in their hands,
They got the wholllllllle world in their hands,
.....

If Miranian holly clergy can be so MJ & KK to F* their own religion &
country & people to fill their pockets & foreign bank accounts,
can we expect their non-clergy to be any better?!

But at the end of the day Miran will be ruled by whoever Masters choose,
like it's been in the whole region for over 70 years.

cho Iran mabaashad, taneh man beh mollaah beshaashad.
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Admzad
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