Friday, July 31, 2015

Author opposes US appeasement of Iran

Everything the Obama administration does in the entire Middle East region is first and foremost calculated in the framework of that rapprochement, according to Glavin, author of seven books and winner of numerous literary and journalism awards. Photo courtesy of Terry Galvin
Everything the Obama administration does in the entire Middle East region is first and foremost calculated in the framework of that rapprochement, according to Glavin, author of seven books and winner of numerous literary and journalism awards. Photo courtesy of Terry Galvin
LOS ANGELES, USA – Renowned journalist and author Terry Glavin believes that, under US President Barack Obama, Kurds have been neglected in favor of the religious autocrats ruling Iran.
“For nearly six years now, the Obama administration has been turning its back on the Kurds, owing to Obama's first priority of rapprochement with the Khomeinists in Iran,” said Glavin, referring to the followers of Iran’s late revolutionary patriarch, Ayatollah Khomeini.
Everything the Obama administration does in the entire Middle East region is first and foremost calculated in the framework of that rapprochement, according to Glavin, author of seven books and winner of numerous literary and journalism awards.
The US held back from confronting Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad because “a confrontation with Assad would mean a confrontation with Iran,” he claimed in an interview with Rudaw.
Glavin also doubts that the US really wants to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) group. He believes that ineffectual US air strikes against ISIS are simply a show, and that the present US government has no real intention of providing robust backing to the Kurds in their war against ISIS.
“The Obama administration intervened in the case of the Yezidi pogrom and the ISIS advance on the Kurdish capital of Erbil last September only because Obama was shamed by world opinion into acting, and the US-led coalition is a very weak effort,” he said.
“After explicitly refusing to assist the Kurds in the defence of Kobani, the US acted with supporting airstrikes only because the Kurdish struggle for Kobani had captured the world's attention,” Glavin added, referring to the Kurdish city in Syria that was liberated by Kurdish forces in January after months of fighting.
He said he found the Kurdish struggle fascinating – wherever it was taking place – in Iran, against ISIS in Iraq and Assad in Syria, against the “police state” in Turkey and the Shiite government in Baghdad.
His travels through Kurdistan, Glavin said, ingrained in him “an enormous respect” for Kurds. He said he was impressed by Kurdish “resilience, determination, generosity, patience and hospitality.”
His most unforgettable moment in Kurdistan, he recalled, was when he crossed the Tigris River from Iraqi Kurdistan to Syrian Kurdistan, or Rojava.
“The Kurds on the little landing craft seemed overjoyed that they were crossing from one semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan to a newly-liberated region of Kurdistan,” he said, referring to the autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq.
With the uncertainty surrounding the region and the Kurds, Glavin’s advice for his Kurdish friends is to deal with reality and not sacrifice it for idealism.
“While a Kurdish homeland, a nation-state and trans-border national emancipation would be ideal in the long run, in the near-term it is not what is necessary,” he said.
“In Turkey, the political struggle continues, and it is my fervent hope that the PKK isn't forced back into an active armed-struggle phase. The "democratic decentralization" effort is the far more sensible and imaginative strategy,” he said, as Turkey and the PKK plunged into violence once again, beginning over the weekend.
“In Iran, for the moment, it seems the Kurds are simply going to have to "keep their heads down" and try to build more international alliances and friendships,” according to Glavin.
Glavin, who is praised for his brave criticisms and astute observations, does not shy away from openly disapproving of the the US-Iran nuclear deal signed this month, lifting sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
He believes that was appeasing Iran, and advocates a firmer approach.
“The approach I favor, I admit, is informed by priorities well outside the current thinking of Euro-American elites,” he admits. “But I do think a broader and more militant approach to Tehran would be -- if not the ‘best’ way to deal with the Khomeinists, then certainly a better way.”

The piece was originally published in Rudaw

Friday, July 17, 2015

Will Iran’s Kurds benefit from lifting of sanctions under nuclear deal?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with Kurds in Sanandaj (Sinna) province during his election campaign last  year. Photo: ISNA.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with Kurds in Sanandaj (Sinna) province during his election campaign last year. Photo: ISNA.
LOS ANGELES, USA – Kurds stepping to the Halperka beat also featured in the street celebrations across Iran after Tehran signed a landmark nuclear deal with world powers on Tuesday.
But what does the agreement, which lifts decades of crippling international sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program, mean for its Kurds? How will it affect the suffering of a historically marginalized and suppressed minority?
Esmail Ebrahimi, a Vancouver-based political analyst, said that, instead of enhancing the power of the regime, the agreement will cause it to lose support.
“The agreement is an ideological contradiction to what the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on: ‘a holy regime against Western Imperialism.’ Their fans are disappointed and question the regime” Ebrahimi said.
“Iranians will also notice that despite the lifting of sanctions the economy will remain crippled, if not worsened. Hopefully, that will end in a great awakening,” he added. 
But he believes it will mean greater neglect of Iran’s estimated 7 million Kurds, who suffer in the country’s most deprived regions.
“Before reaching an agreement Iran had some motivation to reduce suppression,” Ebrahimi said. “But now that they are an ally of the West, their crimes will be swept under the rug.”
Activists believe that decades of crimes against the Kurds in Turkey have gone largely unrecognized in the mainstream media because Ankara remains a NATO member and US ally.
Majid Hakki, founder of the CAPK Academy, a Kurdish civil society NGO in Finland, is more hopeful that Kurds in Iran will benefit from the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions.
“For the first time, Iran solved a problem through negotiation and not war,” he said. “They are also under pressure to improve the situation of human rights in Iran. This is the best opportunity for the Kurds.”
He added that this is “a critical moment” for Iranian Kurds.
“It’s time for us to become one voice, have strategy and plans and a concrete list of demands to be presented to the Iranian regime. If they refuse those, we can now appeal to the Western world and put pressure on Iran to respect our rights. Iran will not be able to ignore us this time, because if they do, sanctions will be put back.”
Despite promises made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his election campaign last year, the lot of Kurds in Iran has not improved. Iran has executed several Kurdish activists over the past year.
Shahed Alevi, a writer and activist based in Washington DC, said he was both joyous and cynical over the Iran nuclear deal.
“The good side of the deal is that the increasing economic pressure on Kurds -- who are among the poorest in Iran -- will be reduced,” he said. “This doesn’t mean they will be wealthy now, but the speed with which they were getting poorer will decrease.”
“The bad side of the deal is that Iran has only agreed with the deal out of weakness,” according to Alevi. “To make up for that weakness and to re-establish their power, they will be putting more political pressure on all, especially the Kurds. I am worried about Kurdish prisoners and activists.” 
Kurdish-Canadian filmmaker Soran Mardokhi said he believes the lifting of sanctions will mean better economic conditions for everyone in Iran, including the Kurds of Eastern Kurdistan.
“I'm hopeful that this nuclear agreement and lifting of the sanctions will have a positive economic impact.  The people of Eastern Kurdistan live within the boundaries of Iran, and any such improvement will definitely have a positive impact on their lives as well,” Mardokhi said.
But he cautioned that, while the Kurds will benefit economically, Tehran’s policy towards its Kurds will not change.
“ I do not believe that there will be any changes in Iranian domestic policy with regards to the Kurds,” he said.
Tuesday’s deal, for Iran to scale back its controversial nuclear enrichment program, follows nine years of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reader's Reaction to my story Lullaby

My wonderful publisher Vered of Novel Rights has asked the readers of my story to fill up a questionnaire. Here are some answers to "What were your initial feelings as you read the story?"
This book was upsetting but also informative. I now have a basic understanding of the position Kurds have and the difficulties they face. I also have an understanding of the ideological nature of justice in countries such as Iran where by a "God' can be quoted and used as a prosecution. This ideology in any justice system is abhorrent.
That I know little about Kurdish people and their treatment or history. That I should know more about these people and their treatment.
This format of grabbing attention with the human story and following it up with extra info and facts is very effective. I would like to see it being used in more mainstream media where it is frequently one or ther other. Comments sections on media websites can be a good gauge of public feeling. They often show the opinions that are formed when dealing with subject matter that has not been contextualised within the effects on human beings lives, are harsh, judgemental and unsympathetic. These stories have the power to change this.
One of anger , empathy
I sensed beauty.
The impact of the personal story. Incredulity that this kind of thing is commonplace. Guilt that I frequently hear about it in the news in a general way and never stop to consider what it actually means for Kurds
Heartbreaking. It hurts while I read it. Very sad. It reminds me that I need to continue campaigning for the protection of human rights worldwide.
It felt realistic as if I were reading the actual thoughts of the prisoner.
It made me annoyed at the injustice.

If you'd like to read the story too, you can go here

Friday, July 3, 2015

Acclaimed director keeping lens focused on Kurdish struggle in next film

Bahman Tavoosi: Kurdishness was only a family tree and me playing the saz.
Bahman Tavoosi: Kurdishness was only a family tree and me playing the saz.
LOS ANGELES – Canadian-Iranian director Bahman Tavoosi, who received international acclaim for the story of an execution of Kurds in Iran, said he wants to continue giving voice to the Kurdish struggle in his next movie.
Tavoosi, who is half-Kurdish, said he is traveling to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region: “Because the second movie will also be giving voice to Kurdish struggle, I hope to receive some support there.”
The 29-year-old director originally wanted to visit refugee camps in Kurdistan for a film. He is unsure that is what he will focus on, and hopes to gain greater clarity during his time in Erbil.
Tavoosi’s first feature film, A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution, won him international praise and made him a household name in Canada, after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired the film on TV.
The film was inspired by the story of four photographs: one won the Pulitzer -- but for 26 years the photographer who shot it hid his identity and did not come forward. 
The story of that picture began after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
That year, when the clerical government that usurped power was bombing and killing Kurds, four photos of a mass execution caught the brutality of the mullahs against the Kurds.
In the first picture, Revolutionary Guards kneel before 11 blindfolded Kurds,  guns pointed at their targets. The last camera click forever freezes their bullet-holed bodies falling to the ground. 
The executions were ordered by the late Sadegh Khalkhali, a hard-line cleric who earned the moniker “hanging judge,” for mowing down lives with summary executions.
Just months after the revolution, Khalkhali arrived to pass judgement on a group of Kurds who had been labelled “counter-revolutionaries.”
They had been banished to a barren place near Sanandaj airport, in the Kurdish region of northwestern Iran. There, unsurprisingly, Khalkhali condemned them without trial and ordered them shot.
But also shooting that day was a cameraman. When one of his photographs won the Pultizer Prize in 1980, the photographer did not come forward to take the credit.  It was only in 2006 – after 26 years – that Jahangir Razmi identified himself as a journalist and the anonymous photographer.
That was the story that inspired Tavoosi.
A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution is the director’s attempt to recreate that photo – but with his own literary and cinematic license.
In Tavoosi’s film the victims and executioners are from different parts of the world: actors are hired not just for their talents, but also for their stories; the victims are male and female and come from around the world; they are refugees and immigrants in Canada, and all have suffered oppression.
“My film connected me with the Kurdish community and Kurdish audience,” Tavoosi told Rudaw in a telephone interview.  
“Before that, Kurdishness was only a family tree and me playing the saz, divan and daf (musical instruments),” the director added. “It used to be a personal matter.”
Tavoosi told Rudaw: “I have my own criticism of the question of identity. I think it’s a tricky double-edge sword and one has to be careful to not fall for extremism. But my understanding of my roots developed after my movie came out. The Kurdish audience has been supportive, more than Persians.” 
The first theatrical release of A Dress Rehearsal for Execution is scheduled at Magic Lantern Films, New York on the anniversary of the day they were taken: August 27. The Persian services of the BBC and VOA will also air the movie this summer, and CBC will rebroadcast. 
Canadian audience connected with Tavoosi when they came across the film at film festivals and on their national media outlet. Tavoosi has travelled with his film around the world, from Europe to South America and Asia. But he says people who have experienced oppression first-hand show him the strongest support.
“The most impressive response I received was in Myanmar. Since this people have lived under oppression -- there is still a strong dictatorship -- the film was shown three times and every time the theatre was packed. Four hundred or 500 people had gathered with enthusiasm. That was incredible and it made me happy the film had such a strong impact. They also made me happy about who I am,” Tavoosi said.
Yet, Diaspora Iranians have repeatedly objected to the film, accusing the director of whitewashing the Iranian government’s image. Objectors feel that the executions carried out by the Iranian regime imparted a unique suffering, and that the director has trivialized that pain by placing it in a universal theme.
But there have also been moments that have given Tavoosi comfort. He remembers the time when the sister of a victim approached protesters to defend Tavoosi’s, saying his film had done a good job of telling the story of her brother to the world. “So, the family of the victim defended me,” he beamed.
Tavoosi, who has Kurdish and Azeri roots, grew up and lived in Tehran until 2006, when he left for Canada.
“I come from a double-minority background,” he joked. 
“Most people in Iran suffer, but it is doubly worse for Kurds,” he said. “The experience of oppression is not even as deep with Azeris. They have a big population in Tehran and a lot of Azeris are part of the government.  For the Kurds, the situation has been more critical.”