One Million Signatures Wanted

 By lysanzia

2006 protest sign - “We Condemn Any Kind of Discrimination” (photo by lysanzia)

This is a guest post by Saideh Jamshidi, a journalist born and raised in Iran who is doing graduate study in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She wrote this post to accompany the Islamic Feminism radio show.

A group of Iranian women, many of them young activists, gathered in Haft Tir square in Tehran, Iran, on June 12, 2006, to collect “One Million Signatures” for women’s rights in Iran. They were asking the government to change “unjust” laws and to stop legalized discrimination against half Iran’s population. But the peaceful demonstration was brutally disrupted. Police attacked the unarmed women and beat them with electronic batons. Forty-eight women and 28 men were arrested that day. They were detained and prosecuted on charges of “endangering Iran’s national security” and “participation in an illegal assembly.” A chain of arrests followed days later, and many more women’s activists were detained and prosecuted on vague charges. Continue reading

Islam in Iran: Interview with Saideh Jamshidi

saidehIran is very much in the news. For example, the mass protests against last year’s disputed presidential election generated tremendous support for the Iranian people. Also, Tehran’s nuclear program is causing fears that Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship with the ability to launch devastating terrorist attacks. But how do ordinary Iranians view their country and Islam? I talked to Saideh Jamshidi recently, a journalist born and raised in Iran. She came to the US in 1999, has been working for Free Speech Radio News, and just started her graduate study in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Continue reading

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

the-ayatollah-begs-to-differ-hooman-majdIt is interesting how the context you grow up in can determine a lot of what you come to learn in your life. Growing up in a Sunni family and mostly Sunni community, I knew very little about Iran except that it was a Muslim country–Shia predominantly, near Iraq, and that the language spoken was Farsi and not Arabic. Although I grew up in a very diverse community, I did not come to meet many Iranians. When I look back at it now, it seems to me that part of the reason that I am not familiar with that part of the Muslim world is that in some ways it was always distant.

With all that is happening in Iran–the elections and post-election protests, I wanted to know more about a part of the world that still remained unfamiliar to me. This past week, I got my chance to learn more about Iran by reading Hooman Majd‘s book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran. Majd will be joining Here on Earth tomorrow to talk about his book and Iran. Continue reading

When Poetry Meets Twitter



When hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the street to protest against the presidential election results last month, many of them also flooded to Twitter, a popular social networking tool, to distribute information and voice their opinions. In the torrent of tweets from Iran, one voice stands out with its Persian prose and poetic power. That voice belongs to Parham Baghestani,  a 26-year-old engineering student and web developer from Isfahan. “My love has gone underground. The taste of night is nothing but awareness.” His tweets like this one caught the attention of NPR and landed him an interview on the Weekend Edition program. When poetry meets Twitter, readers are just one click away from the poet, but more importantly, the poet knows exactly who is following his words. He’s not alone, he’s within a network of readers, a network of support.

Parham's tweet

Parham's tweet

“Poets are the refuge of every wounded nation,” Roger Cohen of The New York Times wrote. When their voices are silenced in official media during political turmoils, poets with a will to speak will find another outlet. In China, the country where I grew up, underground poets posted their poems on a wall along a busy street in Beijing during the democracy movement in the winter of 1978. Twitter is much harder to close down than a brick wall. A network of readers in cyberspace is much harder to dispel than a crowd on a street. Poets in Iran, one tweet at a time, shall always have their voices heard.

Have you come across any poetry in Twitter? Do you know any other creative use of Twitter during the protests in Iran? What other technologies are useful in getting around information censorship? Please share with us by commenting on this entry.

Juan Cole on Engaging the Muslim World

A past program in the Inside Islam radio series “Reaching Out to the Muslim World” covered President Obama’s promise to alter the course of the Bush administration’s war on terror in his inaugural address. Informed Comment blogger and Middle East historian Juan Cole joins host Jean Feraca Wednesday at 3 pm on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders for a live show about ways of “Engaging the Muslim World” with diplomacy and dialogue.

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Muslim Women and Soccer in “Football Under Cover”

Woman's Football TeamToday on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders the crew that also produces the Inside Islam radio series will air a related program about the German and Iranian women’s soccer teams at 3 pm Central. The show will focus on the documentary film Football Under Cover. For information on how to listen and to find out about today’s guests co-director David Assmann and producer Marlene Assmann, click here.

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Passionate Uprisings in Iran

Author Pardis Mahdavi wrote Passionate Uprisings from personal experiences during the seven years she spent observing politics and sexuality in post-revolution Iran. Mahdavi claims that the country is undergoing a momentous generational shift away from religious traditions toward democratic values. This changing image is missing from mainstream news in the west but in fact, Mahdavi says, people in the west have a lot in common with this new generation that embraces individual freedoms.

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A Listener Responds to ‘Women and Sharia’

Dave Wood, a listener of the Inside Islam radio series on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, writes:

I wish I was writing with typical accolades but unfortunately I’m sending a note about my disappointment in your Inside Islam series. I think it not only lacks objective reporting but, even worse, it whitewashes Islam leaving your listener less prepared to identify radical Islam’s threat to our freedom and culture. Perhaps most important, your program does not challenge Muslims to face the profound human rights issues their religion faces.

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Love and Dating in the Muslim World: True Stories of Finding Love

Next on the Inside Islam radio series: Love and Dating in the Muslim World: True Stories of Finding Love. Do Muslims date? If they don’t date, how do they decide whom to marry? To investigate the changing nature of Muslim courtship, Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders is collecting love stories from Muslims living in Madison, Wisconsin. You’ll be hearing them in the Valentine’s Day edition of Inside Islam on Thursday, February 18 (rescheduled from February 12) when we talk with the BBC’s Navid Akhtar, producer of the series “Modern Muslim Marriage.” Akhtar talked to young people in Britain, Malaysia, and Iran about their hopes, frustrations, and expectations about finding a mate, Muslim women who marry outside their faith, Muslim women who initiate divorce and Muslim divorcees looking for love again. But don’t call it dating. Dating is what non-Muslims do and it almost always leads to something sinful. Do you have a great story to tell? Give your opinion! Share your views! Tell your story! Make your comments below!

Update: February 10, 2009: The show has been moved to Wednesday, February 18, 2009. Also, you can listen to a radio promo posted on the radio show page for this show (link in the update below).

Update: February 6, 2009: The radio show page for “Love and Dating in the Muslim World” is now live. Find out how to listen to the show online, on the radio, or subscribe to our podcast. Also, check back for updated information on the show and additional resources on related topics leading up to the broadcast.

Adultery, Porn Videos, and Moral Authority in Iran

Video of an Iranian cleric apparently committing adultery leaked online and was spread and popularized by a social bookmark site in Iran. A hidden camera was recording evidence as part of an investigation by the Intelligence Ministry according to a Blogger for The Daily Beast Telmah Parsa in “Iran’s Hottest Porn Video.”

The cleric was apparently a member of the government-run Friday Prayers Committee in Hamadan province. Semi-official news sites tried to downplay the impact of the video, which leaked out of an Intelligence Ministry investigation. But their reports did acknowledge that the man involved was a married cleric, and that the video depicts the consummation of an unlawful affair.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this video, not the titillating and voyeuristic elements, but what it might say about the interaction between interpersonal relationships and religion in Iran and elsewhere. Does this controversy change your opinion at all? Is this just another example of government-level hypocrisy that we see all over the world or does it have some special meaning in the context of Iran?