Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunita Basnet: An Extraordinary Young Woman from Nepal

In the past few days that I have stayed at the Asian University for Women-Access Academy in Chittagong, Bangladesh, I have had the privilege to get to know many amazing young women from various countries in the continent of Asia. One of these uniquely extraordinary young women is Sunita Basnet who demands respect with the way she carries herself, her confidence, intelligence and her determination to make a difference in the world. She is the example of a young woman in the process of becoming a world leader some time in the near future.

Sunita Basnet is standing as a candidate for One Young World, a platform where she can represent my generation and her country, Nepal, on some of the greatest challenges ahead. Help her become a delegate by voting for me now. Please take the time to read a bit about her story, her accomplishments and her dreams for Nepal and the world. I am sure,like, me you will come to really admire and respect this young woman. So, please vote for her by clicking the below link: (You have to have a Facebook account to be able to vote. Once you sign in Facebook, you can open the following link and vote for her).

Sunita Basnet needs your vote in order to represents Nepal at the One Young World and to make a difference in Nepal's future through this venue.

Here is a brief summary of Sunita's life and work. I am quoting her bio from the World Pulse: Global Issues Through the Eyes of Women website for which Sunita writes regularly.

I am Sunita Basnet from Nepal but currently in Bangladesh studying with full scholarship in Asian University for Women (AUW). I grew up in a remote village of about five hundred people in the Terai area in the eastern part of Nepal. Most people in my village especially the girls are poorly educated. I am the eldest daughter of five sisters and a brother. My father supports our family as a farmer. Additionally, I volunteered in human right journalism forum in Biratnager, Morang in Nepal. Furthermore,as an intermediate for the campaign “Constitutional Assembly and People’s Dialogue’ in an NGO named Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) eastern regional branch in Nepal. In that NGO I had to aware 80 people who are underpriviledged women, Political Leaders, Business Men, Farmers, Teachers and Service holder in two different village development council in Morang, Nepal. On the other hand, in Bangladesh, I am also volunteering as a supervisor in IT lab, financial department, Library in AUW. In future I wanted to work against poverty especially with women for their right, education and improvement. For this I had already started my journey from my country by opening women’s saving club which will help women to save their money and take loan in a low interest in their necessary. I wanted to convert saving club into credit union bank which will be run by only women in the future for women’s improvement.

And here are some more links about Sunita:
1) Youth Action Partners for Development

2)Asian University for Women

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bangladesh (2)

Asian University for Women
Access Academy

Close your eyes. Forget whatever you know about a typical college. Close your eyes and travel to a 9-story building somewhere in the city of Chittagong in Bangladesh with me. It is called Asian University for Women(AUW)-Access Academy. Imagine over a hundred or so young women (19-25) who have come to this 9-story building from all over Asia to learn. They all live and study in this building. Some of their teachers live in this building, too. The Admissions office, classrooms, health clinic, Access Academy office and the library are all in this building. We are now at the door of AUW-Access Academy. We enter. Like most apartment complexes in cities, there is a front desk and a receptionist. She is a young girl who is both a cleaning lady and a receptionist. She knows enough English to greet you.

As you go up the stairs, you begin to see many young women who go up and down the stairs. Everyone is busy doing something: running to the computer lab to finish an argumentative essay, going to the library to study for an exam, meeting with a teacher, going to the cafeteria, going to the roof to hang the clothes that they have just washed, going to the Karate class and many different activities. They all wear colofrul clothes. They see you and very quickly they identify you as a “newcomer”. They smile and greet you politely: “Hello, Miss. How are you?” I have never seen these many beautiful smiles all at once. They are from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Cambodia and they are awaiting more peers from a few more countries in Asia next year.

I am here to interview some of the women at the Asian University for Women-Access Academy. At first, I thought of what I have to do here more like one of the “projects” that I have been assigned to do this summer. By project I mean an interesting activity that has a starting point and that will result in a written document. Very soon, however, I realized that my time here is truly more than just a project and it is really an experience that I will never forget throughout my life.
I live in the same dormitory as the students (but in a nicer room). At first, I was not all that happy about my living situation mainly because I did not know anybody and at nights I felt lonely and I thought I would make the students uncomfortable by appearing in their spaces. I did not like the food and I was scared to be alone in a big area all by myself. Above all of this, I am scared of cockroaches and bugs which really impacted my mood during first few nights here.

Gradually, I started to interact and speak with the students and without even realizing it I ended up making many friends here. It is only a week since I have arrived in Bangladesh and I already have made friends from 6 different countries in Asia. In the evening, we sometimes hang out and joke around. We talk about their futures, their worries, dreams, determination to succeed, their desire to establish a family one day, their families and how much they miss being with them. We talk for hours and hours. They sing for me and talk about their feelings, sad and happy thoughts. They ask about my life and how it was to move from Iran to the United States. They want to know how I got into a good university and what they should do to become even more successful than they already are. They are thirsty to know more about the world. When I told them I was in Argentina and Mexico for a few months they asked me to tell them all that I remember from those two countries. They just want to know, know, know...

Some of them have had hard lives and amazing life stories at this young age. They have different personalities and dreams. They come from different background and different families. But, now they are like family members for one another. Some of them are far away from their parents and siblings and have not seen their family for the past one year and a half. They have made the decision to come all the way to Bangladesh in order to get a unique education; something that is very uncommon for women their age in their localities. Of course, they dearly miss their homes and families. But, they have found profound ways to survive here. They love their teachers and each other. Undoubtedly, there are sometimes quarrel, but they know very well how to resolve the situation quickly and all by themselves. During their time they have created a family of their own with about 120 other young women who are here only to excel and learn about themselves and the world.

I am amazed by their patience, intelligence, kindness, their ability to dream big dreams and to run toward those dreams despite all the hardships and barriers. I close my eyes and imagine some of them in year 2015. They will be working at NGOs, helping their communities and the world, travelling in the world, speaking in conferences and writing about their opinions and experiences and simply making a difference in the world.

This is only the beginning of their stories. Some of these young, intelligent and beautiful women desire nothing less than running the world. I am convinced that together (and along with other hardworking determined youth in the world) they will, in fact, run the world. They are restless for the day when they are at the peak of their careers and lives. I try to remind them that the process of hiking all the way to the top is just as beautiful as the moment of victory. With their beautiful eyes that are full of energy, they try to hide their restlessness and smile. Each one of them is a true heroin and what I love about them is that they know that they are exceptional.

It is hard to describe how much I am learning from them about life, patience, determination and not losing hope.They have no idea that they are teaching me a new lesson every time they speak with me. As they go to bed every night and dream about their future, I put my head on the pillow and think about all the hardships that they have had to go through to get to where they are.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our Neda will Stay!

I wrote this in reaction to the tragic death of Neda. I am writing this piece as I am in Bangladesh for my summer internship. This is only a way for me to try and calm down and express all this grief and…

Since last week, not a single moment has passed without Neda. I did not know Neda. But I feel I know her well enough to tell you all about her …I know Neda now… Neda, like you and I, loves to live a life full of happiness and achievements. She loves to smile. Her smile is dream-like and beautiful. She could talk for hours and analyze the world with her philosophical theories. It’s so cute when she speaks her mind in this profound way that resembles a post-modern version of the Greek philosophers.

Like many of us young women, she enjoys looking pretty. She spends some time in front of the mirror every morning and night making sure her eyebrows are symmetrically done, putting on her eye shadow, fixing her hair….She keeps up with fashion religiously…A fashionable and beautiful philosopher…

Neda has been with me in the streets of Bangladesh. In fact, we went shopping the other day one of the chaotic (but fascinating) bazaars of Chittagong. We both acted very silly in our Bangladeshi outfits. All the men were staring us down in the street as they could tell we are not from around here. They would say, “Madam, hello….hello…how are you?” We both would giggle and walk away as soon as we would hear their silly greeting words in English. We bought some random things like T-shirts, scarves and things. We bought mango and peanuts.

Neda looked very beautiful in her Bangladeshi dress(Shalwar and Kameez).It was my second time wearing their traditional outfit and it was her first time. At first we both felt funny, but then we were entertained by our new look. Her dress was bright yellow. She looked like the Lady Sun that has one day decided to come down on this planet and look around. She looked so stunningly beautiful.

Neda told me about these past few years in Iran and how she is just sick of the restrictions she faces in the university and in the streets. She told me she loved her family and that they are the best part of her life. She, like me, said that she loves her dad. She said that she knew of my mother and that she had read some of her articles on women’s rights in Iran. She told me about some of her friends’ house parties in Iran. She said that despite all the restrictions, they always find a way to at least have a little bit of fun.

Neda followed me to the dormitory in which I stay here in Chittagong. I introduced her to some of the students of the university for which I am interning. They loved her. They told me, “Miss, it’s great that you have brought your friend. She is so kind and so beautiful…” Neda talked with some of them about their lives and dreams. They just loved Neda. One of the girls sat next to Neda for a few hours and said to her, “Miss, I just want to sit next to you. Tell us about Iran.” Neda talked and talked and they listened and listened.

When the girls left my room late at night, I thought Neda must be tired. So, I went and prepared the bathroom so that she could take a shower before going to bed. I stepped out the bathroom to tell her that the bathtub is ready for her and that I left her shampoo, conditioner and a clean towel. She was not there. I looked for her. She was not in the room. She was nowhere to be found.

Staring at the video clip of her that was not even a minute long, I cried all night. The damn internet was too slow here in Bangladesh for me to understand what was happening in the video clip. It would get stuck on a scene and get blurry. Looking at the blood that had covered all over her stunningly beautiful face made me nauseous. Along with her father I screamed, “Neda…Neda….” No one heard me. I did not even hear myself. I felt some scary and violent man was cutting my nerves off from inside my body. I looked away just because I could not see the rest of this brutality; “brutality” is an underestimated way to describe what happened to Neda. I looked at the bed that I had prepared for Neda. Her yellow dress was sitting there; ripped and with blood stains all over. I cried and screamed and sobbed. I am shattered like a mirror that has gotten shattered into a million and half pieces.
I cry and think about the uselessness of my tears. Neda is gone and there is nothing I can do to bring her back to this world. There is nothing I can do to apologize for what happened to her. There is nothing I can do to give the world even one more chance of witnessing her beautiful smile.

They call her a martyr now. She was simply a young woman like you and I who wanted to freely walk, smile, love, dress, talk….Give our Neda back to us. I will never forget….forgive? You slaughtered Neda. No, I won’t forgive. I will try hard to forgive. I will try. But I doubt that I can. Give our Neda back. Give her back. Do you even have a heart in your chest? You shot her in the chest…Close to her heart. Do you even have one yourself? Bring my Neda, our Neda, Iran’s Neda back to us….Bring her back.

“Neda, fear not!” “Neda, Stay!” “Neda, Stay!” “Neda, Stay!”…The last words of her father….Did she hear these words? I hope that the angel of our dreams who is sitting somewhere in our most beautiful dreams and is looking at us with hope from afar, heard her father’s last words….they were the most important words for the future of Iran and I hope she heard them. We need Neda to stay. Neda will stay. She will. Neda will stay forever. She will stay even after we all die. She will be our name. She will be the name of our generation, our land, our loss, all the humiliations that we have undergone since childhood, our dreams and our resistance. Neda will stay and take the revenge of our generation with her peaceful, beautiful and innocent smile. She will. It is now your turn to be scared of her smile. You slaughtered her with your bullets. Now it is your turn to fear her beautiful eyes that imply nothing but peace and the dream of freedom and youthful happiness.

Her blood stained your divine talk for good. Neda will stay. She will.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


My childhood friend just sent me a message on the facebook telling me that he is back in the United States. He said that he just got back from Iran yesterday. I said, "I am happy that at least you are safe". He got very angry with me and wrote back, "Do you even know what you are saying? Safe? Safe? Do you know how many of my friends died or got beaten up? Safe? What are you talking about? I am safe. So what? What about my friends? What about them? "

I had nothing to say. Nothing...Other than staring at my laptop silently and in tears...

Happy Father's Day to Neda's Father!

Neda is a girl who got killed by the governmental forces in front of her father yesterday. Let us take this moment to ask for peace for the innocent and brave spirit of Neda who made history! And let us(with grief and hope) wish a man who lost his beautiful and intelligent daughter, a happy father's day....Let us remind the mournful man that his daughter, Neda, will never die in our hearts and in the history of Iran.....

Please watch this video only if you care to know what goes on in today's Iran and not to simply watch a violent video clip. This clip captures last moments of Neda's life and the brutality that is enforced upon her fragile body....

Happy Father's Day, our dearest Neda's father!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Iran...Our Iran....

I am worried. I am scared. I am proud to be a member of a generation that is couragously creating history. I am ashamed for not being among them in the streets of Tehran. In the past 10 days, I have only lived "Iran". My heart and my thoughts only belong to Iran and those who are being injured and killed in the streets of Iran.

I have just arrived in Bangladesh and while everything around me in this country is new and fascinating, I cannot help but to think of my own countries. Many have been killed in the past few days. A very young and beautiful girl was killed.

What could we do? I cannot stop crying. The internet is too slow here and I cannot follow the news as closely as I would like to. What is happening in our Iran? I hope there is a happy ending whatever that may be.

Today, I am proud to be Iranian and I wish I could do my part to help and to voice the demands of the youth. Live has not determined the fate of being in Iran right now. But I will do what I can to inform those around me about what goes on in Iran....

My favorite Iranian film director and artist, Mohsen Makhmalbaf has urged all Iranians who live abroad to think of themselves as ambassadors of Iran and to use our connections and reputation to spread the news about Iran and to speak out about the violence that is being enforced.

Let us hope for a Iran that is clear of violenec and injustice....What else could I do all the way from Bangladesh right now other than listening to Mohsen Makhmalbaf's piece of advice?


Boston to Dhaka-July 16th, 2009

Even though I had to go to Logan Airport in the middle of the night in order to catch the 6:15 AM flight, Mimi (my mom) insisted to accompany me to the airport. As we left our apartment building to enter the cab, I looked back at the huge concrete buidlinding called 2 Peabody Terrace in which Mimi and I lived for a year and said goodbye to the life that we lived there. Mimi is leaving Boston for Washington DC for 6 months and after that who knows where…. After my time in Bangladesh is over I will return to Boston to begin my final year of Masters. It will be lonely, cause Mimi won’t be there anymore. We will go back to our routine of being far away and worrying about each other from afar.

I said goodbye to our good old 2 Peabody Terrace and got into the cab with Mimi. This was the beginning of yet another journey; a journey that like most of the journeys I have experienced in my life is new and nothing like I have seen in my life. Mimi was looking out the window and I was looking at her. I was going to miss her. Sometimes when I look at her face, I remember that I am still capable of caring and loving. I looked at her again as I was lost in my thoughts. She caught me looking at her, held my hands and said, “Enough of this drama, Azadeh. You are going to see a whole new world. I am proud of you for always trying to get out of your comfort zone to go and see new things. Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. Remember? I managed to live without you for forty years before giving birth to you. Go on your journey, young lady!”

We got to Logan Airport at around 3:30 AM. After I checked in my luggages, the coffee addicts that we are, we began to hopelessly look for a coffeeshop that was actually open that early in the morning. After looking for a while, we found a Dunkin Donuts close to the baggage claim section of the terminal. To our surprise there was already a long line at the store. We stood in line and soon we realized that all of the people who had lined up were the luggage section’s staff. After half an hour of waiting, we finally got our coffee and in a sleepy/happy mood went upstairs to sit somewhere nice and drink out coffee.

I kept on checking my blackberry for the news of Iran. Our beloved land is going through some serious tough times. One of the reasons I was not all that excited about my Bangladesh trip was the fact I was going to be disconnected from the internet for a while which meant that I could not closely follow the news of Iran anymore. Mimi and I often exchange our political views and this time neither one of us could come up with an answer about Iran’s future (at least its immediate future). It is worrisome. I know life under those restrict circumstances in Iran is tough and I know and remember the impact of getting insulted by the authorities. I know how frustrating it is to feel that a government is playing games with you that could result in the worsening of your lives. So, I understand the reasons behind all these protests and I truly admire those who risk their freedom, career and lives to go to the streets and protest. But I still get worried and a bit pessimistic when I think of violence as the solution. Those who participate in the protests have tried to be peaceful, but there have been many encounters with the ruling government and the Sepah that has changed the direction of these peaceful protests. Many are injured and, based on some of the official news, about 8 individuals were killed. I have always been scared of violence and the rush that it brings to its perpetuators. Violence generates violence. That’s all I know and this much is enough to make me terrified of Iran’s future.

These thoughts about Iran have not left me alone even now that I have arrived in Bangladesh. At least in Boston, I could share my thoughts and worries with Mimi who had experienced the Islamic Revolution (she never felt that revolution was the answer, even at that young age) and the Iran-Iraq war. But during my long flights to Bangladesh, I felt I was going to explode with all my thoughts about Iran. I kept on thinking, “Why in the world am I going to Bangladesh when my own country, Iran, is very close to burning in violence and agitation.” But I remember that 7 years ago I had no choice but to leave Iran as the authorities had taken the beautiful peace with which we lived as a family from our lives. They did not like my parents and their work for human rights which meant that they were going to do anything that they could to eliminate them from the political scene of the nation. I remembered how much I have missed Iran during the past 7 years, how much I miss my father and how much I feel I could effectively utilize the knowledge that I have gained in the US to improve at least a few people’s lives in the country that I love dearly. But…Alas…Alas that we are confined to our destiny….My destiny, it seems, fl ew me out of Iran 7 years ago and it does not seem to want to have me return to Iran at least for some time.

I went from Boston to NYC and from NYC to Dubai. I had a couple of hours to spend in Dubai. It was a pretty emotional time for me as I kept on hearing the announcements from Iran Air and the flights to Iran. I wanted to leave my gate and get on one of the flights to Iran. “I should go to Iran right now….Why am going to Bangladesh? Am I escaping from my passion and my love for Iran? Why am I lying to myself?” But I was not strong enough to change gears and to go to Iran from Dubai. I ended up taking the flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh. As we were lined up to get on the plane, I met an Iranian guy who was on his way to Islamablad, Pakistan. He had the Gulf News in his hand and was proud to be Iranian as he thought the current unrest in Iran is a positive sign. He said that he was a climber and that he was going to Islamabad to meet some other Iranian climbers and to begin a climbing journey.

Meeting him made me feel less lonely and strangely. It somehow felt good to know that there is another Iranian person on this flight who does strange things that do not fit in the clichés of an ordinary life. I mean, seriously….He was going to Islamabad to climb! Who goes to a country that is as unsafe as today’s Pakistan for climbing. I admired him in my heart, but deep down was glad that our seats were not next to each other. He came and invited me to go and sit close to him as he had empty seats next to his. Even though I enjoyed my conversation with him, I did not go to say to him for most of the flight(I only went when were almost landing). I did not go, because I was afraid that talking about Iran on this flight was going to make me cry. I did not want to cry in front of a stranger. So I just sat in my own seat away from him and once in a while quietly shed tears. A part of me was excited to go to a country of which I had very little imagination and a part of me was worried for Mimi in the US, Baba(my dad) in Iran and Leili(my sister ) in Canada. This time around, I was also worried for all those young faces that I kept seeing on CNN and BBC and Youtube who are protesting in Iran.

Dhaka to Chittagong- July 17th, 2009-06-18

We landed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was different from arriving in Western cities as everyone on the plane got up way before the pilot allowed us to get up. People were speaking all the way from one side of the plane to the other with each other and so on. I already had received a few strange looks from the people on the plane. I think they had figured out that I was not from Bangladesh and they had this question mark on their face that wanted to ask me, “why are you in Bangladesh?”. One guy asked me some questions in terribly broken English and when I responded, he said that he does not understand English. He wanted me to see his passport and to see that his Bangladeshi passport had stuff in English in it. At first, I was sitting next to him. But, as he started talking and move too much in his seat, I got a bit nervous and asked the flight attendant to change my seat. I felt everyone was staring at me when I got up and sat on a different seat. I thought to myself, “Azadeh, this is only a tiny sample of what is awaiting a single young woman in Bangladesh. So, prepare yourself, woman! Be strong and not scared.”

As I stepped outside the plane, I felt I was walking into a Sauna; very hot and humid. I was worried that the heat would remind me of Tehran and make me feel even more nostalgic for not being there. But, fortunately the humidity made the climate feel very different from the dry heat of Tehran. As we approached the baggage claim area, I saw two computers for public use. I left the cart that I had picked up for carrying my luggage and quickly emailed Mimi and Leili(my sister) to tell them that I had arrived to Dhaka safely.

Already sweaty, I went up to the baggage claim section. My host organization had told me that someone was going to meet me at the Dhaka airport and will stay with me for the 2 hours of my layover time in Dhaka. They had told me that the Dhaka airport is not all that pleasant for a foreign woman. I walked out of the secured area of the airport with my big luggage hoping to see a sign for “Asian University for Women”. But unfortunately the person either never showed up or I could not find him. I looked very confused and clueless which meant that people were staring at me to try and figure out why I was in Dhaka. Finally someone guided me to the domestic flights’ section. I had to give my luggage for security check. The old man who was sitting at the security table saw that I was trying hard to pick up the luggage from the cart and put it on the table. I think he felt bad for me and asked, “Bad things or no?” I said, “No”, he said, “OK!” and let me go. Someone who looked like he could be the airport staff approached me and asked, “GMG?” I gave him the confused look. He took my ticket from my hand and guided me to sit and wait for the airplane to arrive. I am not going to lie…I was a bit scared. But I think it was a great introduction to Bangladesh for me and made me realize that if necessary I should figure out things on my own.

A couple of random men approached me and tried to ask me where I was from and things like that. The airport and especially the domestic flights section looked more like a bus terminal than anything else. Different GMG (my domestic airline) staff would come and ask me questions and sometimes there were very nice. For instance, once a guy from GMG asked if I wanted tea or coffee. Some other men who also was wearing the airport uniform and had a stick in his hand came up to me and said, “whiskey?” and pointed to my luggage. I said, “No”. He said, “Sure?” I said, “ Yes, sir” and he just walked away.

It was getting close to the flight time. They came, took my luggage and took me to a different area where the shuttle comes to take the passengers to the plane. Half an hour later, I was told that the flight was delayed. I was very tired and sleepy and was trying hard to keep my eyes open. I took a book to read so that I don’t fall asleep. A guy approached me and asked me if I was studying. I said, “no, well, maybe”. He asked me where I was from and when he realized that I am originally from Iran, he told me that he has been following the news on elections and that he thinks Ahmadinejad is a good minister (all of this in broken English). I just nodded and smiled. I did not feel like talking or explaining or anything. I just wanted to pass out on some bed. Later, it turned out the reason he was talking with me was because he was trying to convince me to switch my flight from GMG to Royal Bengal. That’s how tight the competition between domestic airlines seem to be here. They send their staff to convince you to switch your flights! I was so confused when he asked me to switch my flight. I kept on saying, “No, thanks!”

Our plane finally arrived and we got on the plane. It was a very tiny plane. As we sat down, the flight attendant who was a beautiful young Bengali woman began by saying “Allah Akbar…La Elaha Ellallah…” It was quite a while that I had not heard these words on a plane. Those words took me back to Iran and the agitation that has taken over my country in the past few weeks.

When the plane was taking off, I got incredibly terrified. The plane was making all sorts of loud sounds and the whole thing was shaking as we were taking off. All of that fear did not last long as I passed out for the entire hours of the flight. I woke up just in time to hear that we were in Chittagong (my destination).
I was very worried that no one was going to show up to pick me up. It was already midnight and I had no idea what I would do. Fortunately the driver of Asian University for Women was waiting for me with a sign. He helped me get in his van and in broken English he said, “hour or more”. We were in the car for more than hour. As I was hopelessly playing with my Blackberry in the car, I realized that I could send text messages to the US with it even though I was in Bangladesh. I sent a message to Mimi and my friend in the US. My friend responded saying that he was worried for me. Being able to communicate with them made me feel a bit less tired and nervous.

I looked out the window of the car and was amazed by the traffic flow in the streets of Chittagong. For the most part, there were no traffic lines or lights and every car, bike taxis and motorcycle taxis were going in all sorts of directions. It seemed that everyone was always honking their horn. I looked at the sideways. It felt as though the entire city was outside at this late hour of the night. People were out, walking and doing things. Everyone seemed busy or in a rush. Vendors were all over the place. Women in their colorful outfits were walking in all directions and men, too, seemed busy carrying things, selling or chatting. I was fascinated to watch the guys who would bike 2 or 3 people on their bike taxis. They all seemed very thin with very strong legs. I looked at some of their faces. They looked very focused and concentrated on pedaling. Buses would drive in all directions. I saw people even sitting on the roof of busses. People were hanging from the bars of the bus and half of their body was outside the door. Every place, every car and bus looked overcrowded and full.

This was a new world. I was a true newcomer into this scene. It felt as though I had just discovered the land that only seemed and felt fictional with its many hardworking people and its heat.

Note 1: I am sorry if this piece is all over the place and not comprehensible at times. I am still adjusting to my new environment, cannot stop thinking and worrying about the events in Iran and have a hard time concentrating on writing. Hopefully as I write more about my experience here, I will figure out a better style for my pieces. Bear with me, please!

Note 2: I have been taking many photos. I wish I could upload them here or on some other website. But unfortunately, the internet is too slow for me to be ale to upload them while I am here. Hopefully, I will share them with you upon my return to the US.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


In less than an hour the presidential election day begins in Iran. Iran has witnessed a few weeks full of tension, hope and fear. I have been amazed by the courage of many Iranian men, women and youth who have, one way or another, raised their objections to the government's policies and regulations.

I have tried to find some substance to this "hope" in the agendas of the less conservative candidates. Unfortunately, I have not found much hope for any kind of effective change in their words and agendas. I am also well aware of the limitations of elections in the political system of Iran. I know that not all of us could have our true candidates in the race; as the Guardian Council has the power to refrain candidates whose background does not show consistent faithfulness to the Islamic Republic from making it to the final stage of nomination. I know that sometimes voting in an imperfect so-called democracy could only strengthen the faulty principles of that political system. I know that the Constitution of the Islamic Republic does not allow any kind of fundamental reform.

I still vividly remember the sweet taste of the hope of Khatami's Reform Movement that soon turned into despair and hopelessness. In fact, I am still living the storm of lost hopes that came our way during Khatami's presidency. We believed Khatami's promises for reform. I think, even President Khatami believed his own words. I know he is a good person. He just maybe one day forgot that his ideals of civil society and reform cannot take place in today's Iran. Mousavi and Karoubi, too, seem to have forgotten their limited power of the president in Iran. They have made too many promises and I am fearful that they,too, could not implement those promises.

You got it right. I am not all that optimistic. I am tired of promises and the excitement that follows hollow slogans of reform. I am terrified that once again all those beautiful and young faces who risk their freedom by going to the streets and chanting out their objections and their hopes will lose hope. I am worried...

Despite all these worries, I think I will vote tomorrow morning. Why? I will vote because I feel I should not decide for those who live in Iran. I have been following the news in the past few weeks and have come to the following conclusion: Most of those young women who live in Iran, who remind me of the kind of life that I lived in that country and whose struggles are well familiar for me have become united to vote. They are determined to try their chances once again and to vote for reform and change in solidarity. I do not give myself the right to doubt their decision as it determines their future.

I salute them and their efforts. I have tremendous respect for all those who have swallowed their bitter memories of the final days of Khatami's reform and have decided to stand up with hope once again. I respect all those who are still able to have hopes in the country where having hopes is considered a crime. All I could do from miles and miles away is to follow them in their attempts and to vote with the hope that their lives will become slightly easier and less restricted in the near future. I salute those young, beautiful and hopeful faces in the streets of Iran and hope that their wishes turn into reality...Let us hope for an Iran whose youth are content, free and proud to be Iranian...I vote only for them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obama's DC

Last week I was lucky enough to go to DC on a short trip. Washington DC is the first city in which I resided when I came from Iran in 2001. So, I consider DC my second home and I feel strangely comfortable in the streets of this city. Even though I have not lived in DC for a few years, I continue to consider DC my most favorite city in the US. I don't like DC because it is a pretty city and things. I like DC because of the political energy that runs the city.

Last week, I went to DC for the fist time since President Obama has begun his work. I did not stay in town for long enough to really feel the kind of energy that President Obama's administration has brought into this town. However, even in my very short stay I encountered a distinct level of energy in DC. I overheard many conversation as I was on the metro or in other public spaces about specific policies that are being implemented by President Obama. I overheard many young professionals talking about President Obama as though he was simply one of them.I felt the sense of distance between the people and the White House has decreased. I also felt a buzz among some of the young professionals that I encountered that I believe might be rooted in the sense of responsibility to the United States and the world that nowadays has become the dominant theme of this town.

I am not trying to say President Obama has fully transformed the city in the best possible way. All I am trying to convey is that I felt a level of energy, hope and responsibility around town that I had not felt in the past. Let us hope that this positive energy will, in fact, impact the United States' domestic and foreign policies in effective and sensible ways.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Iran's Next President

I had the priviledge to take part in a panel in Washington DC and at the New America Foundation to speak about a poll on the Iranian election that was just released yesterday.Please go to the following websites for more information about the poll, the results and to watch the event

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