Monday, December 31, 2007

'The Kite Runner' Critiqued: New Orientalism Goes to the Big Screen

By: Matthew Thomas Miller

While The Kite Runner movie is now captivating audiences throughout the country—much as the book did four years ago—with its enthralling tale of “family, forgiveness, and friendship” and the promise that indeed “there is a way to be good again,” very little has been written critiquing this work and its prominent role in the New Orientalist narrative of the Islamic Middle East.

Iranian literature specialist Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz (Washington University in St. Louis) has classified this book as one of the recent works that she argues constitute a "New Orientalist" narrative in her book Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran. (Dr. Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University also has written about New Orientalism and expatriates who serve as “native informers” or “comprador intellectuals” in respect to the Middle East).

Keshavarz broadly characterizes the New Orientalist works thusly:

"Thematically, they stay focused on the public phobia [of Islam and the Islamic world]: blind faith and cruelty, political underdevelopment, and women's social and sexual repression. They provide a mix of fear and intrigue—the basis for a blank check for the use of force in the region and Western self-affirmation. Perhaps not all the authors intend to sound the trumpet of war. But the divided, black-and-white world they hold before the reader leaves little room for anything other than surrender to the inevitability of conflict between the West and the Middle East."

While The Kite Runner is perhaps less obvious in its demonization of the Muslim world and glorification of the Western world—what Keshavarz terms the "Islamization of Evil" and the "Westernization of Goodness"—than books like Reading Lolita in Tehran, these themes nevertheless clearly permeate the entire novel. While seemingly just a captivating story of Amir and his redemption through the heroic rescue of his childhood friend Hassan’s son, Sohrab, the entire plot is imbued with noxious stereotypes about Islam and the Islamic world. This story, read in isolation, may indeed just be inspiring and heart-warming, but the significance of its underlying message in the current geopolitical context cannot be ignored.

At the most superficial level, the characters and their accompanying traits serve to advance a very specific agenda: everything from the conspicuous secularity of the great hero, Amir’s father, Baba, to the pedophilic Taliban (i.e. Muslim) executioner and nemesis of Amir, Assef, clearly perpetuates the basic underlying theme: the West (and Western values) = ‘good,’ while Islam = ‘bad,’ or even, ‘evil.’ The inherent goodness of Baba and evil of Assef is repeatedly reified for the reader in some of the most dramatic and graphic scenes of the entire book. Baba valiantly lays his life on the line to protect the woman who is about to be raped, while Assef brutally rapes children and performs gruesome public executions in the local soccer stadium. Yet, perhaps the most telling attribute of these two characters is the particular national ideologies that they express affinity for: Baba loves America, while Assef is an admirer of Hitler.

The most pernicious element of this novel, however, is also the same aspect that American readers consistently have identified as the most heart-warming and inspiring: the story of the redemption of Amir thorough his harrowing and heroic rescue of Sohrab. In short, Amir, the successful western expatriate writer must leave his safe, idyllic existence in the U.S.; return to an Afghanistan that has been ravaged by the Russians (our Cold War enemy) and the Taliban (the representation of our new Islamic enemy); and rescue the innocent orphaned son of his childhood friend from the incarnation of evil itself, Assef. Amir’s descent into this Other World, a veritable ‘heart of darkness,’ appears to be the only hope for its victims’ salvation.

This adventurous and engrossing story neatly functions as an allegorized version of the colonial/neo-colonial/imperial imperative of “intervening” in “dark” countries in order to save the sub-human Others who would be otherwise simply lost in their own ignorance and brutality. These magnanimous interventions, of course, have nothing to do with economic or geopolitical concerns; they are purely self-sacrificial expressions of the superiority of the imperial peoples’ humanity and ideology. When considered in this frame, the profound guilt that Amir suffers from his inaction during the violation of his innocent friend Hassan seems to represent the collective guilt of all “good” western or western-oriented people who watched idly while the Islamic bullies—epitomized by Assef—violated Afghanistan and the innocent western-oriented people like Baba and Amir. Of course, the implication then is that we also must redeem ourselves by returning and “rescuing” the people there from the Assefs of Afghanistan—this is our “way to be good again,” in the words Khaled Hosseini’s character Rahim Khan. This new recapitulation of the old “white man’s [now, western] burden” narrative, when combined with the “Westernization of Goodness” and “Islamization of Evil” clearly present throughout the novel, provides a superb ideological framework upon which to justify our present occupation and future military interventions in Afghanistan.

It certainly does not take much imagination to expand this story and its message to the entire Islamic Middle East—especially when we combine this work’s portrayal of Afghanistan with the other New Orientalist works on the Islamic Middle East, such as Azar Nafisi’s popular Reading Lolita in Tehran, Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul, Geraldine Brooks’ Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, and even scholarly works like Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. If what these works say about Islam and Islamic countries is the whole truth, then surely the continued and expanding U.S. military presence in that region is a good thing, right?

For anyone who has been to, or studies the Middle East, it is obvious that these accounts are gross distortions of the full reality on the ground there. It is not wrong to identify and write about the flaws of a particular country, religion, or ideology, but it is wrong and dishonest when an author’s writings systematically dehumanizes and reduces an entire culture and religion to the actions of its extremists. Especially, when these are the same people and countries that our leaders tell us need to be attacked and occupied by our military.

Matthew Thomas Miller is a graduate student in Islamic and Near Eastern Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He can be reached at

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Windows on Iran - NIE Special (with bonus info)

Dear All,

I hope you are well!

Monday's *NIE Report* focused the attention on Iran once more. This brief special window is an attempt to clarify a number of important and interesting issues:

*Did Iran have a clandestine nuclear weapons program?*

* You might be curious about the reactions to the report in Iran. While the mood among those close to the Iranian President is jubilant about the report, a wide range of Iranian commentators and politicians are apprehensive about the spin put on the NIE report _which implies the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapon's program until the year 2003_. According to these sources, the conversations among Iranian officials, which was intercepted by American intelligence, points to a lively debate about whether Iran should or should not go in the direction of creating such a weapon's program. Since, in that debate, those opposed to such a program got the upper hand, it was never created. The IAEA inspections support this view.

* The Iranian newspaper headlines also show that the opposition by many Iranians to the creation of a weapon's program was not a result of outside pressure. Since in 2003 such a pressure was not there. Rather, those opposed argued that the country did not need to spend its resources on such a dangerous and useless program. * A similar debate is going on here in the Iranian American community. The following short essay by *Daniel Pourkesali* is a fine example. The essay provides the actual content of the NIE Report, and interesting observations on it:

*It Makes Sense to Adjust Policy with Reality*

* President's Bush suggested today (Dec. 4), that Iran is still dangerous even though it does not have a weapon's program because it possesses *the knowledge to make one*. The President of National Iranian American Council *Trita Paris* wonders how is Iran supposed to eliminate this knowledge (if indeed it has it).
To read his article visit:

Have a great weekend,

Special Bonus Info!

Fatemeh mentioned last week that the American media had misinterpreted Ahmadinejad's statement about the American report. Here are the details of that (from her friend Daniel M Pourkesali):


First let me say that I much rather see Ahmadinejad keep his mouth shut because the west continues to use him to demonize Iran and Iranians by deliberate mistranslation of his words. On their English site <>BBC quotes him as saying:

*"If you want to start up a new game, the Iranian people will resist and will not step back one inch. If you want to negotiate with us as an enemy, the Iranian people will resist and will conquer you."*

But the actual speech as posted on their own BBCPersian <>site
is quiet different:

*"Aval elaam konid az cheh mozzeii mikhahid baa mellat-e Iran gotogoo konid; agar mikhahid az moze-e doshmani barkhord konid, mellat-e Iran dar moghabeleh shoma khahad istaad va shomaa raa nakaam khahad kard." *

Which translates to:

*"You must first announce the angle from which you want to talk to the Iranian people. If you approach us as enemy, then the Iranian people will stand up in resistance and make you fail" *

Note how his actual speech is meant as a response to an act of external aggression while BBC's English translation casts Iranians as the aggressors who do the "conquering" (or "ghalabeh" ), a word NOT used in his speech.



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gonzales is coming! Gonzales is coming!

The WashU Student Union has decided to pay $30,000 to disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to speak at WashU on Feb. 19.

I'll have a bit more to say later, but for now the take-home message from the Student Union is that even though this event might be "controversial" it's worth it because it builds our university's 'prestige'. This, judging from the below video clip, makes us not quite as "prestigious" as the University of Florida, who managed to contribute to Gonzales's defense fund bills before we did:

We decided at the last meeting that the Peace Coalition will be protesting this insult to democracy. Anyone have any ideas from the video or otherwise?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Week in Peace and Social Justice (11-15-2007)

War With Iran

We must take action to stop the march to war with Iran! And, Now! Attached to this email is a PDF document prepared by CASMII entitled “Twenty Reasons Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran.” It is long, but it is a must read! We need to counter the propaganda that is coming from the Bush Administration before the U.S. gets led into another war under false pretenses. Also please sign the ‘Stop War with Iran’ petition at Peace Action.

The Surge is Working!!! Hmmm, actually, not really…

Please be very skeptical of the recent claims that Bush’s Surge is working. There are a couple of problems with this claim. First, as in the past, the statistical methods that the military uses are always suspect (see the second article below). It is notoriously easy to manipulate statistical analysis. Secondly, as the first article below reveals, probably the primary reason that a drop in overall violence may have occurred is the major demographic shift that has happened over the past few years in Iraq: Baghdad has been completely religiously segregated; thousands have been killed; and millions have fled the country and are now living as refugees in surrounding countries.

Iraqi Government: “Don’t Extend Mandate for Bush’s Occupation”

“The United Nations Security Council, with support from the British and American delegations, is poised to cut the Iraqi parliament out of one of the most significant decisions the young government will make: when foreign troops will depart. It's an ugly and unconstitutional move, designed solely to avoid asking an Iraqi legislature for a blank check for an endless military occupation that it's in no mood to give, and it will make a mockery of Iraq's nascent democracy…As far back as the middle of 2004, more than nine out of 10 Iraqis said the U.S.-led forces were "occupiers," and only 2 percent called them "liberators." Things have only gone downhill since then.” “While the Bush administration frequently invokes sunny visions of spreading democracy and "freedom" around the world, the fact remains that democracy is incompatible with its goals in Iraq.”

Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu Likens Israel to Apartheid Regime

Anti-Apartheid leader Desmond Tutu called for the end of the Israeli “occupation of Palestinian territory” and said that demeaning and inhumane practices of demolition of Palestinian homes and endless check points reminded him of South Africa under the Apartheid Regime.

Gap, Mattel, Speedo, and Wal-Mart Products Linked to Child and Sweatshop Labor in China and India

The title says it all. Please do not shop at these places or buy their products! (Thanks go to my friend Mark Zaegel for this article)

The New Faceless Wars: Bombing Afghanistan (and Iraq)

U.S.-supported President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has called on the U.S. to stop the air strikes. In Afghanistan this year, U.S. forces have killed as many innocent civilians as the insurgent forces. Why so many air strikes? First, because the U.S. forces are stretched thin and don’t have as many troops to secure Afghanistan as is needed, and secondly, it reduces U.S. causalities when we bomb instead of sending in troops to an area—never mind the fact that we may kill dozens of innocent civilians in the process. This same tactic is also used in Iraq. (Thanks go to my friend Mark Zaegel again for this article).

The American Dream vs. The American Reality

More staggering statistics on poverty and inequality in America: “Just 1 percent of Americans currently hold about half the financial wealth of the entire United States. Meanwhile, notes Washington University sociologist Mark Rank, the nation' s bottom 60 percent hold less than 1 percent of that wealth, and 75 percent of Americans, sometime in their adult lives, can now expect to ‘experience a year either in poverty or near poverty.’ If the United States keeps to its present course, Rank predicted last week at an insight-rich national conference on inequality in North Carolina, the nation could "begin to reflect the bifurcation patterns more typical of third-world countries," with the privileged opting to ‘physically separate themselves from the middle and bottom.’”

Friday, November 9, 2007

St. Louis Activism Map

Check it out here!

View Larger Map

School of the Americas Podcast!

So WashU's Amnesty Chapter had a cool School of the Americas event last night with Marilyn Lorenz of the St. Louis Interfaith Committee on Latin America as a speaker. She talked about the history of the SOA and of the annual protests outside of the training facilities in Georgia. Thanks to the amazing Peter Jones, you can listen to a podcast here.

Once you get sufficiently ticked off about the U.S.'s meddling in Latin America, go here to take action by telling your congressperson to vote no on the Peru Free Trade Agreement.

And of course, don't forget the event mentioned in the above flier at Mokabe's.

Update: We now have a podcast for the SOA Event at Mokabe's (thanks again Peter).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Question of the Week

How do you think we can get people on campus more involved in the anti-war movement?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Understanding Iran: To Bomb or To Talk

By HENRY J. WATERS III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune
Published Sunday, November 4, 2007

I spent a pleasant hour with a sprightly lady named Fatemeh Keshavarz, an Americanized native of Iran and professor at Washington University who is on a book tour trying to explain to Americans that we have a better chance to get along with her country than we might think.
She told our reporter Iranians are not terrorists seeking to use nuclear weapons against America and most don’t support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

She’s on a campaign to soften talk of military action against her country, not because she hopes for some sort of victory for Iran and defeat for the United States. Quite the opposite: In her book "Jasmine and Stars, Reading more than Lolita in Tehran," she contradicts the notion women in Iran are oppressed. Instead, she says, many are actively fighting for liberation, and the combative Iranian president suffers from low public approval ratings in the George W. Bush range.

She objects to the language used by antagonists on both sides, such as the label "Axis of Evil," thrown out by Bush.

"Speak about the world around you in a different way," Keshavarz said. "Begin to think about the world in a different way. When you hear the same phrases over and over, it closes the possibilities." (click here to read the rest of this article...)

An Ode to America: The World Will Dare to Love You

By: Fatemeh Keshavarz

Fatemeh Keshavarz is Professor and Chair of the Washinton University Department of Asian & Near Eastern Languages & Literatures. She is the author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran, and writes a regular email newsletter, Windows on Iran. She read this poem at the No War, No Warming rally in downtown St. Louis on October 20, 2007.

Your tall buildings, the night’s reachable stars
Your vast supermarkets, neat flower shops
Your brightly colored fast cars on gliding highways
Your big guns
They all work

And yet, you must understand the beauty in simple things
That’s how you started
And you must understand that
It has come, once more, to simple things
Bread and soup will save swollen bellied kids from vultures
And shoes will help boys and girls caught in permanent wars
To hold onto their dream of walking to safety
For bare feet, no one can go far

Why scratch the face of the earth? (your own face)
Why be mighty?
When you can be married to amazement
Inviting, intriguing, the world’s light in so many ways

The war is over
It has to be
For soon there will be no peace left for anyone,
Or anyone left to look for peace

The world dares to love you
When you come with your feet humble
And your hands bare, not rifled

The world remembers how to speak
When you turn off the roaring guns
The world, with the people in it walking tall, olive-skinned, and able
Dancing in the vastness of daylight
To the rhythm of flowers bursting open – not bombs
Flowers, giddy with their own scent
The world dancing to the drumbeat of small unknown hearts

Everyone, is always a bit like you…and all the while like themselves

See them!See the suns that rise in their wake
Shedding warmth onto your long winters, the earth’s winters

Let the birds of words – loud and surprising
Take off in large numbers from your fields
As if wild lupines were growing in the palm of your hands

Not words that poison the joy of the unknown
But words that gush forth from lips and cool down
The silent wounds of anger -- like rivers in seasons of drought

Face the eastern horizon sometimes and listen
For the music of a distinct laughter

Do not steel your glance
If you come with your feet humble
And your hands bare, not rifled

The world will dare to love you.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This Week in Peace & Social Justice (10-27-2007)

Clinton Receiving Unprecedented Support from U.S. Weapons Industry

The U.S. defense industry has joined big Wall Street businesses in their robust support for Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. This reverses the defense industry’s traditional partiality towards Republicans. "The contributions clearly suggest the arms industry has reached the conclusion that Democratic prospects for 2008 are very good indeed," said Thomas Edsall, an academic at Columbia University in New York.

World War III

Bush, in the same week that he signed a new round of unilateral sanctions on Iran into existence and labeled part of Iran’s military a terrorist organization, also began using the term “WWIII” in reference to the situation with Iran. This scary escalation of rhetoric is reminiscent of the sharp escalation in administration rhetoric in the weeks and months before the Iraq War. (Please see the next article below for a better idea on what the real facts are).

Commentary: Stalin, Mao And … Ahmadinejad? (Fareed Zakaria)

“The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality…Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?”

Billionaires Up, Average Americans Down

This quote says it all: "The 25th anniversary of the Forbes 400 isn't party time for America. We have a record 482 billionaires - and record foreclosures. We have a record 482 billionaires - and a record 47 million people without any health insurance. Since 2000, we have added 184 billionaires - and 5 million more people living below the poverty line."

Guatemalan Labor Unions’ Leaders Killed

Marco Tulio Ramirez was the fifth Guatemalan labor union leader killed this year. "Masked gunmen dumped a Guatemalan banana picker's bullet-ridden corpse yards from fields of fruit bound for the United States, a grim reminder of the risks of organizing labor in the Central American country." Pay attention to the U.S. companies mentioned at the end of the article and make sure you select your fruit carefully next time you are at the grocery store.

Quote of the Week: At a Stanford University discussion, Gen. John Abizaid (Ret.), the former CENTCOM Commander, said, when asked about the Iraq campaign: "Of course it's about oil, we can't really deny that…We've treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations. Our message to them is: Guys, keep your pumps open, prices low, be nice to the Israelis and you can do whatever you want out back. Osama and 9/11 is the distilled essence that represents everything going on out back."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Veil of Silence: A New Play about Iraq

Veterans for Peace presents Veil of Silence: a new play about Iraq, by Andrew Michael Neiman and Suzanne Renard.

Performances Fridays & Saturdays November 2, 3, 9, & 10 at 8 PM, and Sundays November 4 & 11 at 2 PM.

At The Black Cat Theatre, 3810 Sutton in Maplewood. $15 General, $12 Students/Seniors/Veterans.

Tickets and information
314-315-5129 or

Ahmadinejad's Columbia Visit

Mr. Ahmadinejad's reception at Columbia continues to generate discussion particularly among the Iranian Americans here in the U.S. One favorite pastime has been looking up previous Columbia visitors who might be described as less than democratic. I have attached one image (the first attachment). The caption reads: " A Petty cruel dictator in Columbia University, but wait he is recieving a Doctoral degree in Law!"

Windows on Iran - 42 (Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz)

Hi All,

I hope you are all doing well. We are here at Washington University right in the heart of the semester which is why the windows have been coming your way more slowly. Still, hundreds (yes, I mean hundreds) of new subscribers have joined these windows in the past weeks. Welcome! I hope you find these enjoyable and informative.

I have three visual attachments this time. However, the content of each is fairly small. Let me know if your computers have problems downloading them.If you know of anyone who signed up but did not receive the windows, do please e-mail me. And now, to window number 42.

The Iran that Smiles!

Thanks to my cousin Abe Massoudi, I can open this window with a colorful slide show of a face of Iran that smiles: a beautiful wedding in a village in Gilan. To see the show, click on the attachment "Gilan Wedding," the second attachment, then on view and then on slide show.

Current Issues

The U.S. Government will impose new sanctions on Iran. While there is doubt about the actual effectiveness of the sanctions, and the agreement of other nations with it, nevertheless the move is another step away from reconciliation. Here is yesterday's N.Y. Times article on the new sanction:

A very interesting analysis of the catastrophic economic consequences for the world as a whole of a possible strike on Iran in today's Washington Post:

Reporting on Iran continues to be problematic. Words and images project images of religious fanaticism, or violence, even when the content of a report indicates the opposite. The coverage of the visit to Iran by Mr. Putin, the Russian president, in New York Times on Oct. 17 is a perfect example. According to the report, the Iranian, Russian, and other Caspian Sea nations oppose the possibility of a military intervension in Iran and call for a diplomatic approach to all conflicts - including the Iranian nuclear issue. The image used in the article (p. A6), shows Mr. Putin and Ahmadinejad walking past a row of wall decorations depicting pre-Islamic Iranian guards symbolically escorting the two leaders. The caption to the image reads "Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran followed in the footsteps of Persian soldiers yesterday."

Here is a NY Times article with more details on the visit of the Russian President to Iran which was itself a historic event. The main purpose of the event was discussing Caspian Sea resources including oil. Besides Mr. Putin, leaders from Azarbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan expressed objections to further military action in the region:

Matt Miller has shared a fascinating interview/article with the millitary historian Gabriel Kolok from Spiegel. It provides a very interesting analysis of a possible U.S. millitary attack on Iran. Thanks Matt:,1518,511492,00.html

The identities of the six British Members of Parliament who were present at the meeting with Debra Cagan have now been revealed and yesterday, the New York Times reported a virtual re-confirmation by the MPs that Cagan did indeed say that she hates all Iranians. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on everyone to ask journalists why they have not covered the story of Debra Cagan and her outragous remark, "I hate all Iranians."

If you are in St. Louis on Wednesday, Oct. 30, come to Busch Hall, Room 100 at 7:00p.m. to see a film on ancient Iran by the award winning documentary maker Farzin Rezaeian. In this major new documentary called Iran: Seven Faces of a Civilization, Mr. Rezaeian uses the latest technology to showcase the 7,000-year history of Iran's art and archaeology.
Iranians look upon the recent Nobel Lauriete Doris Lessing as a daughter of Iran:

Iranian men and women chess players maintained their lead in Asian Chess Championship held in Manama, reported Gulf News on Oct. 19:

Visual Delight
Time to close Window 42 with another painting exhibit. This time, the work of Vadjiheh Fakour, the painter from Tabriz. She has had many individual and group exhibits. And as you will see, she has a way with color. Enjoy.

Have a great weekend, until the next window on Iran.


Fatemeh Keshavarz
Professor and Chair Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures
Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156 Fax: (314) 935-4399

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Teach-In For Tolerance

As some of you may know, the College Republicans sponsored an event at the WashU campus this week as part of David Horowitz's "Islamofacism Awareness Week." In response, the College Dems and several other groups (including the Peace Coalition) organized a Teach-In to discuss just how dangerous Horowitz's extreme ideology is. Here is what the speaking lineup looked like:

Eric Reif, College Democrats, Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. Howard Brick, Professor of History Professor of American Culture Studies, Washington University In St. Louis

Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, Chair of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, Professor of Persian Language & Literature, Washington University In St. Louis

Rouhollah Rahmani, Muslim Students Association, Washington University in St. Louis

Becky Hufstader, College Democrats, Washington University in St. Louis

Thanks to a certain member of our group and our friends at the St. Louis Indy Media Center, we have the whole wonderful event recorded. The speakers were all excellent, so check it out here!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

T-Shirt Slogans

We're going to be screening some T-Shirts in the near future for our group that will probably involve something with a peace sign. Any ideas for a good slogan to put on the shirts?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


So, we've now had tombstone displays at UMSL, WashU, and SLU; and Fontbonne will be this Thursday. There was a cool slideshow posted today on StudLife about the WashU display and a photo (slide 1) with one of the world's most ridiculous quotes in the Post-Dispatch. What are people's thoughts about how the display went?

Also, check out these awesome photos by Dale!

Update: So now that Fontbonne is finished, I can report some of the results from the week. Overall, over 150 students signed up for peace groups during the displays at UMSL, SLU, WashU, and Fontbonne. We had media coverage from Fox 2 News, Channel 4 News,, the Post-Dispatch, and several of our student newspapers.

Two new student groups were formed that did not previously exist at UMSL and at Fontbonne. Fontbonne, in fact, did not have *any* student group on campus that worked on peace and justice issues (not even a College Dems) until Kathy started organizing the display.

We had hundreds if not thousands of students (and parents) come by our tables and wish us well. One woman called after seeing her grandson's name on the news to thank us for putting up a display honoring the troops.

Anyway, there were a lot of positives from the week.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Windows on Iran--41

Dear All,

Greetings after a relatively long break. I hope you are very well. I have been wrestling with computer problems in preparing this window. A number of housekeeping issues before opening window number 41.

First, if you cite these windows, please remember that they are my personal work. Their goal is to supply the community that nurtures me with as much information that I can provide about intellectual, artistic, social, and political life in Iran. I hope these lead us to understanding and away from another war.

Second, a warm welcome to a very distinguished scholar of Persian language, literature, and culture who is joining our list from Italy. It is my pleasure to tell you about Professor Riccardo Zipoli's art of photography. I had always known Professor Zipoli for his literary work, now I know he is an equally accomplished photographer. With his exquisite photography, he shares images of beautiful scenery and of ordinary Iranians. Do please visit:

Also, it is my pleasure to welcome a group of awesome women from our own community in St. Louis who are interested in learning more about Iran through these windows. A warm welcome to Barbara Eagleton, Jean Carnahan, Robin Carnahan (and about 40 more I cannot list here fully). I hope you find these windows informative and fun to read.

Rumi on NPR
On October 5, I was guest of NPR' s Tom Ashbrook on the show On Point. My good friend Professor James Morris (Boston College), and the famous translator of Rumi Coleman Barks were also on the show. We had a great conversation on Rumi's mysticism, personality, and poetic art. Here is the link if you like to listen:

The Song of the Reed
Still more on Rumi! Our celebration of his 800th birthday last Saturday in Maryland with Afghan, Tajik, Iranian, and American friends was absolutely delightful. A master Iranian flute player and a young American vocalist performed verses from Rumi's Opus Magnum the Masnavi. This was all thanks to the vision and the hard work of Prof. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Center for Persian Studies he has founded at Maryland University. Unfortunately, I don't have a recording of that performance to share with you. But do I have another treat for you. Professor Jawid Mojaddedi of Rutgers University, who has been translating the Masnavi of Rumi into English verse, has just shared with us a pod cast of his own reading of the introduction and the first 18 verses of the book known as "The Song of the Reed." Enjoy! and share with Rumi lovers:

Mr. Ahmadinejad's Visit to Columbia University

In the last window I promised to tell you about Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia. Since you have read a lot about this end of the trip, let me tell you a bit about the reactions in Iran.
The initial reactions to Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit, and the insulting remarks by the President of Columbia University, was a statement of support issued by the Iranian university presidents in which Dr. Bollinger's remarks were condemned. Ironically, this rare expression of support for Mr. Ahmadinejad by the Iranian university community is practically a gift from Dr. Bollinger.
In response to Dr. Bollinger's suggestion that American academics would not be permitted to speak freely in Iran, five Iranian Universities have issued invitations to him and the Columbia faculty for unrestrained visits to the country and exchanges with Iranian students and faculty. If the initial responses in the U.S. are any indication, the invitations will not be taken seriously.
Iranian bloggers engaged in extensive and interesting debates about the pros and cons of Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia University. While most debaters felt frustrated by the remarks of the Columbia President, the debates did not lend full support to the Iranian President either. Mr. Ahmadinejad's Visit to Tehran University

The sympathy expressed for Mr. Ahmadinejad's mistreatment at Columbia does not seem to have lasted very long. His visit to Tehran University yesterday met with protests from more than a 100 students who criticized him for his lack of openness to criticism from the Iranian academic community. While the Iranian president spoke to a selected group of students inside the hall, riot police prevented the demonstrators from entering. Later, his car had to avoid the crowd and leave through the back door. The students' banners read "Free the jailed students." I have attached the picture of one banner that reads "Why Speak in Columbia. We have questions for you here!"

Here is an NY Times piece sent to me by Matt Miller on the student response to Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit to Tehran University:

Iraq Will Have to Wait
The anxiety concerning the possibility of a military attack on Iran continues inside and outside Iran:

The Iraqi President Jalal Talebani objected to the arrest by the American forces of an Iranian in Kurdistan saying "I express to you our outrage for these American forces arresting this Iranian civil official visitor without informing or cooperating with the government of the Kurdistan region, which means insult and disregard for its rights." He called for "his release immediately in the interest of the Iraq Kurdistan region and the Iranian-Iraqi relations." This is not the first instance of an Iraqi official expressing support for Iranians. You will find the full article at:

In a disturbing piece, in Truthdig, Scott Ritter discusses the fact that our full attention to Iraq may distract us from the fact that a more serious situation is brewing with Iran. He writes: " Here’s the danger: While the antiwar movement focuses its limited resources on trying to leverage real congressional opposition to the war in Iraq, which simply will not happen before the 2008 election, the Bush administration and its Democratic opponents will outflank the antiwar movement on the issue of Iran, pushing forward an aggressive agenda in the face of light or nonexistent opposition."
Of the two problems (Iraq and the potential case of Iran), Ritter suggests, Iran is by far the more important. "The war in Iraq isn't going to expand tenfold overnight. By simply doing nothing, the Democrats can rest assured that Bush’s bad policy will simply keep failing. War with Iran, on the other hand, can still be prevented. We are talking about the potential for conflict at this time, not the reality of war. But time is not on the side of peace." Thanks to Paul Appell for this article which you can read the rest at:

Seymour Hersh's recent article in the New Yorker is not reassuring either: (thanks to Amir Amini for sharing this article).

Reading "Guernica" in Tehran
Jahanshir Golchin has shared this interesting article by an American woman married to an Iranian and writing from Tehran: Rosa Schmidt Azadi. What adds to the complexity of Rosa's perspective is that this long time activist anthropologist who has traveled between Tehran and New York for many years, witnessed the falling of the twin towers:

Iranian Women Golfers Earn Second place
Iranian women golfers acquired the second place in the ninth international women's golf competition in Cyprus: Delight

To close window 41, I would like to share with you the painting of Niloufar Ghaderinejad, a painter with a style of her own. Ms. Ghaderinejad, who has had 35 national exhibits in Tehran and other Iranian cities was selected this week by a prominent gallery as artist of the season. To see a slide show of her most recent exhibit, please click on the second attachment, then on slide show and then on view. Until the next window, I wish you a very pleasant week.

Fatemeh Keshavarz, Professor and Chair Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156 Fax: (314) 935-4399

This Week in Peace (10-14-2007)

This Week in Peace (10-14-2007)

New Resistance Group Emerges in Iraq; Seeks Ouster of U.S. and "Al Qaeda"
This week a new group, the Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance, was established with the aim of “bringing together the main non-al-Qaida Islamist groups in the Sunni areas;” “rejecting sectarianism and attacks on ‘the innocent;’” and “declaring the armed resistance against illegal foreign occupation to be the legitimate representatives of the Iraqi people.” This group includes some groups that have previously been working with the U.S. military.

Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations
While the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, in 2005 the Justice Department secretly promulgated another opinion which constituted “an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the CIA.” “The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.”

Most in Poll Want War Funding Cut
Nearly half of Americans want President Bush’s $190 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “cut sharply or entirely” and 7 out of 10 want it at least reduced. Furthermore, over 55% of Americans want the Democrats to do more to challenge President Bush on his Iraq policies. Despite this, congressional democrats are still moving ahead with plans to continue to fully-fund President Bush’s wars.

Chris Matthews Says Cheney Pressured MSNBC Brass to Influence Content
Free Press? Chris Matthews revealed that Vice President Cheney's office “called MSNBC brass to complain about the content of his show and attempted to influence its editorial content.” This is not an isolated incident, which is why it is so important to read independent media ( , ,, etc).

Educate Yourself about the Military-Industrial Complex: What is The Carlyle Group?
Hint: It is an investment group that has included former U.S. President Bush I, current U.S. President Bush II, Former British Prime Minister John Major, members of the Bin Laden Family, former U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, and it is intricately tied to global war industries and is currently profiting handsomely from the drastic increases in defense spending in many countries after 9/11….

4. Best Thing to Watch on the Military Industrial Complex in general: ‘Why We Fight’ documentary. Trailer at:

Commentary of the Week: The Mega-Lie Called the "War on Terror": A Masterpiece of Propaganda
Yes, I am including this again because this is an absolute must read! Please read the whole thing—it is quite enlightening!

US-made 'Censorware' Aiding Oppressive Regime in Burma and Beyond
While the popular revolt of monks and other brave citizens was gaining ground a few weeks ago in Burma, their military junta decided to censor its internet and eventually decided to shut it down because it was unable to control the images of oppression and revolution that were pouring out into the rest of the world via the world wide web. What was not discussed is that OpenNet Initiative (ONI) testing in 2005 indicates that “Burma censored the Internet using software made by Fortinet, a Sunnyvale, Calif., company.” Other U.S. tech companies such as Websense, Secure Computing Corp., and Blue Coat Inc. provide censorship technology to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Tunisia. Should U.S. companies be supplying technology that stifles free and democratic expression? Is our government’s highest concern for “freedom and democracy” as they claim, or for the expansion of U.S. business interests?

Monday, October 1, 2007

This Week in Peace (9-30-2007

Spotlight: Blackwater Scandal
“In last week's incident, Blackwater guards shot into a crush of cars, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding 12. Blackwater officials insist their guards were ambushed, but witnesses have described the shooting as unprovoked.” However, Iraqi eyewitnesses insist that the Blackwater guards fired completely unprovoked.
A U.S. general said that the Blackwater scandal is worse than Abu Ghraib in the damage it has done to the U.S. image in Iraq. This scandal is particularly important because there are currently more U.S. contractors (circa 180,000) than U.S. troops (circa 163,000) in Iraq. These contractors were granted immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rice successfully pressured the Iraqi government into withdrawing their demand for the expulsion of Blackwater from Iraq and Blackwater was rewarded for their exemplary behavior with a NEW government contract this week from the Pentagon.

Private Security Puts Diplomats, Military at Odds

More Contractors than U.S. Troops in Iraq

TPM: Blackwater

Pentagon Gives Blackwater New Contract

Eyewitnesses Insist Iraqis Didn't Fire on Blackwater Guards

Congress Quietly Approves Billions More for Iraq War
“The Senate agreed on Thursday to increase the federal debt limit by $850 billion - from $8.965 trillion to $9.815 trillion - and then proceeded to approve a stop-gap spending bill that gives the Bush White House at least $9 billion in new funding for its war in Iraq.” Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) was the only Senator to vote against it; and among the fourteen “no” votes in the House were Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Lacy Clay (D-MO) voted “no.”

[General] Petraeus Admits to Rise in Iraq Violence

Senate Endorses Plan to Divide Iraq
Reporting for The Washington Post, Shailagh Murray says, "Showing rare bipartisan consensus over war policy, the Senate overwhelmingly endorsed a political settlement for Iraq that would divide the country into three semi-autonomous regions." This was a non-binding resolution, but it will initiate the diplomatic efforts at the regional and national level to make this plan happen.

U.S. Is Top Arms Seller to Developing World
“The United States maintained its role as the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006, followed by Russia and Britain, according to a Congressional study to be released Monday. Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the U.S.’s top buyers.” Russia came in second, and it is noted in the article that they have sold weapons to Iran and Venezuela.

Highly Recommended Commentary of the Week: 'The Mega-Lie Called the "War on Terror": A Masterpiece of Propaganda'

Quote of the Week:

“We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we've had about 20 of them. Khrushchev and Mao and of course Stalin, and for a little while Gadhafi was our Hitler. And now we have this guy Ahmadinejad. The reality is, he's not nearly as powerful inside the country as we like to think he is. The Revolutionary Guards have direct control over the missile program and if there is a weapons program, they would be the ones running it. Not Ahmadinejad.”

-Seymour Hersh (In interview: ‘Bush Has Accepted Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq’ at:

Peace and Social Justice Suggestion of the Week:

Independent Media. I highly suggest that if you don’t already, you start getting your news from independent media sources. The big media outlets, NBC, Associated Press, CNN, Fox, CBS, ABC, etc., are all controlled by big corporations and therefore do not offer fair nor balanced news. Here are some of the independent media sources I suggest:

Friday, September 28, 2007


Welcome! Check back this weekend for new postings!

-Wash U Peace Coalition