Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nega's Face in London

I drove past the Iranian Embassy in Princes Gate yesterday evening. There were a few hundred demonstrators on the far side of the street shouting, chanting and holding up pictures of Nega Aghan-Soltan. (I made the mistake of watching the full video of her death on YouTube. The very fact that it looked like a movie death made it somehow worse.) I sounded my horn in support, almost running into the car in front in the process. My wife was partially obscuring my view as she leaned across to shout and wave encouragement. It is strange and cheering to have a cause in the Middle East that even the most sceptical can unconditionally support.


  1. those pictures could have been of three different women. I think they chose the best one, not too middle-eastern, not too western (talking of which, which movie death?)

  2. Jeez, Ian, how cynical? Anyway it doesn't matter about the sodding photos.

  3. Ayatollah Khamenei: “Brown is one of the most inefficient politicians of England who has witnessed cases of financial corruption in his cabinet … and has moved his country towards collapse and destruction…”.

    He sounds a bit like you Bryan.

    Read any of Rumi's writings? 'Say all in Persian even if Arabic is better – Love will find its way through all languages on its own'

  4. Good on you. It's frustrating not being able to do anything for the protesters so showing some solidarity is a fine thing.

    On the theme of not making a difference, I was watching the British Lions play on Saturday whilst following events in Iran via The Daily Dish. My reactions were disconcertingly similar: I was absorbed by both events, and so presumably taking some form of enjoyment from both.

    I wondered whether as far as I was concerned they were both spectator sports? I'm not sure whether on a moral level, there is much difference between watching the two. Certainly existentially there would be no difference.

    This question is obviously of total insignificance beside the events in Iran themselves, but a bit troubling nonetheless.

  5. FYI, her name was Neda not Nega. Agha-Soltan, not Aghan-Soltan.

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  8. Too painful to follow in many ways. One report (the Times online) has been enough, thanks. At least this murder has shown the Iranian government for exactly what it is. Khamenei and the rest of them may well carry on for quite a while but I think this has finished them as people who could have anything worthwhile to offer their country or the wider world. They're just another bunch of gangsters.

    Sorry about the reposts but my browser is playing up.

  9. Unconditionally support? I'm not so sure. Mousavi was Prime Minister in 1988 when up to 30,000 dissidents were massacred - something which has been given little if any air-time since this crisis began.

    None of which alters the horror of this innocent girl's death. I also made the mistake of watching it on Saturday, and I won't easily forget that look in her eyes. I could beep a horn for her sake - but not for an opposition led by a man with that past.

  10. but of course it matters about the photo. how can you not see that? it's always about the right face.

  11. Ian, here is confirmation, via Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, that the dying woman was, in fact, Neda Agha-Soltan.

  12. You'd swear any of us actually had a clue what was going on anywhere in the world. Where does this arrogance come from in the west that we think we have all the answers for every other country? With mixed intentions this perception has caused untold harm all over this planet.

  13. Sorry, me again. I feel sorrow for all those caught up in these conflicts, all over the world, but you can trace their roots right back to some sort of outside interference. Interference upsets the natural balance in a country, where tyrants will eventually be toppled, disputes settled. It is in countries like north korea where you wonder HOW could some idiot rule with such totality an entire country. It's simple, the country was interfered with. This is always the result regardless of the intention, be it a desire to conquer, to bring stability, to spread idealism, to bring aid. It's always the same, as it is always borne of the same arrogance. Look at the protesters both in iran and other areas of the world - they are holding signs in the english language. They know exactly who they are appealing to. We are all so used to foreign intervention. We slate it when it goes against our desires. We appeal to it when we consider it useful. The much maligned US is still the first country called on for help when a natural disaster strikes. We want to have it everyway.
    The fact is, we dont know what's best for anyone but ourselves, to think otherwise is extreme folly. We also dont know how good or bad anyone else has it. Maybe they are better off, to have some clarity of side and purpose as opposed to the draining subtle corruption ineptness and lack of any strong ideals that we have over here. It is awful to see people get killed. But then the place where i come from in the west of ireland has an insanely high suicide rate. Why is that if we have all the answers? The answer is that we havent a clue, we can just about take care of ourselves. I believe strongly in compassion but academic and useless opinions about other people's politics are damaging, damaging because they cloud our thoughts about our own situations, damaging because they perpetuate a macroscopic approach to judging right or wrong, damaging because they distract our righteous energy from personal improvement.

  14. Blimey, he only honked a horn, Michael. In London. Where he lives.

    Even if we didn't live in a world where globalisation, immigration and technology has rendered your brand of isolationism irrelevant (which we do), you've got to be careful that your argument doesn't reduce to: "the basics of democracy and freedom are ok for us whiteys but no good for the ignorant darkies".

    You are right though about "we havent a clue, we can just about take care of ourselves." But that's just the human condition; not an excuse for doing bugger all.

  15. Korea was 'interfered with' by China and Japan throughout its entire history. I'm afraid 'interference' is a constant and not something invented by the West.

    Certainly, I think we should try to be better individuals and do what we can to make where we live better. But this isn't mutually exclusive with doing what we can to make other parts of the world better. We just need to do it with healthy scepticism and a deal of humility (much like at home, in fact). And I think debates such as this one help us in that objective.

  16. Korea was 'interfered with' in the 1950's, but it produced two diametrically opposed results: a Stalinist basket case and a prosperous democracy (eventually). Clearly the problem isn't interference per se, it's the wrong kind of interference.

  17. What a helpful page. I'm honking with Bryan and shouting with his wife, needless to say. In spirit as they say. I've been thinking much about that. Identification. How real is it? Richard identifying with the Appleyards in Princes Gate? If that is possible, then ... who knows?

    The fragments of news on Twitter and elsewhere today are far from good. But let me share one moment of hope from early Monday. I pointed in a series of three tweets to something I'd just noticed: the reported involvement, through a representative, of Ali Sistani in the Assembly of Experts at the holy city of Qom, just south of Tehran. I strongly doubt I would have spotted that without Twitter, by the way. Here's what I put, cleaned up slightly given the greater open spaces here:

    #IranElection Al Arabiya reporting that Sistani pushing for two world-changing developments: (1) replacement of Khamenei with a committee (2) resignation of Ahmadinejad and presumably a new vote. "Remember, Sistani stood up to Bush, Cheney, and Wolfowitz and won. Khamenei is finished." Pray for Ayatullah Sistani and colleagues at Qom. See third comment here.

    As far as I could tell the Al Arabiyah article refered to is this one. There's some helpful commentary from a New York pundit here. Twitter and Google keep the brain ticking over, I find.

    A few moments later I got this response from someone calling themselves Firoozeh, from Shiraz, Iran (Twitter moniker @All_Eyes):

    @rdrake98 Thanks for this valuable and interesting info. I hope it happens soon! #iranelection.

    Now Firoozeh has only five followers, since Sunday including me. He (or she) lives much closer to Basra than to Qom, about the same from Baghdad as Tehran. What Ayatollah Sistani is up to could well be of great interest to such a person. (I admit I'm taking him or her as genuine. I don't trust all Iranian 'tweeps' by any means but that would take us on much too great a detour.) That evening he replied to a cynic on western involvement of any kind:

    @brently2003 You r mistaken. Spiritual support is not "nothing." Although POTUS cannot take a formal govt. stand, the people can and do.

    Well said that man. However different he or she may be to me in countless ways, I can't help but feel we agree on that crucial point.

    And the news about Sistani could still be extremely significant for all of us with an interest. Here's a 'postmodern' perspective I surprised myself by tweeting on today:

    Lévy: We always forget that the 1979 revolution lasted almost a year. Earthquakes in Tehran only the start #IranElection article here.

    That year-long revolution could be extraordinarily bloody, much more so than the overthrow of the Shah. But right through such a time 'Spiritual support is not "nothing."' Amen to that.

  18. I'm not sure how you could reduce what i said to that brit, that our way of life is no good for ignorant darkies. The opposite of thinking democracy is good for everyone is not that it is no good for some, the oppposite is not having an opinion on what is good for everyone.

    You misinterpreted what i said as being isolationism, or an excuse to do bugger all. It isn't. It's a belief that we can effect great change by concentrating on the personal and the internal. As einstein said, we teach by example, no other way. Everything else, all of these discussions, are academic, macroscopic, and meaningless. I can assure you this is not isolationism, but the oppositive, a belief in the interconnection of all people. Compassion is developed in oneself not by being politically aware of the situation in iran, or with the naive belief that there is a 'good form of interference' (says who? Who judges this?) but by guarding the inner self. This is by far the most important thing. Much like in modern physics the answers to the universe at large lie deep within a single atom.

  19. Who judges? We do. We might be wrong, but we still have to do it. Even to do nothing is to implicitly shape events. Who are we *not* to judge? You yourself talk about compassion - compassion for whom? Compassion for the antelope is death for the lion, and vice versa, because only one can live. So who judges? To act or not to act? It effects matters either way.

    We might not have 'inner selves' anymore if we don't pay attention to the political situation in Iran - they might acquire nuclear weapons and use them. The microscopic only exists as long as there is a macroscopic realm to sustain it.

    The Nazis weren't 'taught by example' were they? They were educated by the application of substantial quantities of high explosive. I'm not necessarily saying that's in order for Iran, but I think you're the one who's being naive.

  20. I forgot to add, the whole point about democracy is that it allows people to decide for themselves what they find good. So if you impose democracy, you're not deciding what's 'good for everyone' you're giving them the opportunity to decide that for themselves. They can democratically decide to implement any policy which was in place before the democracy was imposed, so what have they lost?

  21. Michael:

    You misinterpreted what i said as being isolationism, or an excuse to do bugger all. It isn't. It's a belief that we can effect great change by concentrating on the personal and the internal.

    Potato, potahto.