Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - The paradox of anti-Americanism in Iran

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - The paradox of anti-Americanism in Iran: "The paradox of anti-Americanism in Iran

By Nicholas Schmidle
Special to The Daily Star
Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Of all the governments in the Middle East, the Iranian regime remains the most resolute in confronting the United States. The Iranian leaders' persistence in vilifying the U.S. illustrates the deep antagonisms between the two countries. Indeed, regime-generated anti-Americanism is the product of the Islamic ideology promoted by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but also a reflection of the tense and complex history of their relationship.

Yet Iran itself suffers from internal contradictions that the mullahs wish did not exist. The Iranian people love America, and there is very little the government in Tehran can do to cool pro-Americanism on the streets. In an ironic twist of political fate, 25 years after the Islamic revolution, Washington probably influences public opinion in Iran more than the Islamic regime. The Iranian government unwittingly created pro-Americanism in their country; Washington should be diligent not to unwittingly destroy it.

Many of the reports coming out of Iran in the past few years have shared a sense of bewilderment in describing the overabundance of pro-Americanism there. In a country where chanting "Death to America" is a provision of political assembly, the thought of being treated like a celebrity because of an American passport is almost unthinkable. After recently spending two months in Iran, my experiences attest that Iranians do, in fact, love America. But I also discovered that their love is a complex and twisted one.

Iranians' fondness for America is nearer to that of a secret admirer than what exists between lifelong chums. By distancing itself from the United States, the Islamic regime has allowed many of its citizens to create "America" in their own minds. For the older generations, "America" recalls an era of economic affluence that the mullahs have been unable to reinstate since overthrowing the shah. For the younger ones, "America" evokes a fantasy of liberal social attitudes. Many young Iranians now openly defy the regime's prohibition of alcohol and coed activities.

The other way the regime has strengthened fondness for American is by, well, being itself. Because the regime portrays America as its No. 1 enemy, and the population sees the regime in the same way, Iranians have come to love America out of detestation for their own government as much as for any other reason. And while many Iranians are certainly enticed by Western-style democracy and social freedoms, being pro-American is largely an issue of domestic politics. Proclaiming a love for America offers Iranians the chance to shoot a quick jab in a domestic tiff with the uncompromising mullahs in Tehran.

Just beneath the veneer of avid pro-Americanism, the Iranian mind is crowded with a vivid sense of nationalism and memory of past American deeds. Kaveh, a doctoral student at Tehran University's faculty of law, illustrates the complexity of Iranian relations with the United States. One evening, Kaveh railed against the Islamic regime. "This government is not a 'national' government," he said. "They only care about their family, friends and their pockets." The next night, Kaveh knocked at my door and handed over a note. It explained that he thought my room was under surveillance and our conversations were being recorded. He wanted to resume our discussion "on tape," but this time, direct his diatribe toward the America government. It quickly became apparent to me that he was as passionate in his criticism of the U.S. as he was of his own government. "The United States is only looking to establish an economic and militaristic foothold in the region," he contended. "They want Iraq to be another Okinawa."

Frankly, America has done much to feed this ambivalence. In 1953, a CIA-sponsored coup overthrew the only democratically elected prime minister in Iran's 2,500-year history, Mohammad Mossadeq. Eleven years later, Mohammad Reza Shah, the U.S.-backed ruler in Tehran, signed an agreement granting diplomatic immunity to U.S. citizens in Iran, provoking Khomeini to rant: "Even if the shah himself were to run over a dog belonging to an American, he would be prosecuted. But if an American cook runs over the shah, the head of state, no one will have the right to interfere with him." The next day, Khomeini was exiled to Turkey.

When Khomeini returned to Tehran 15 years later in the midst of the revolution, he pushed the anti-American float to the front of his parade. "But for the Iranian people," said Reza, a 34 year-old former revolutionary-turned-reformer, "the only period of anti-Americanism was the two years before and after the shah left."

Now, 25 years later, anti-Americanism remains at the core of the government's rhetoric, only now Iranians aren't listening with both ears.

One problem Iranians constantly face is determining the credibility of the information that they read and hear. Most people acknowledge that the Iranian media contains little more than party-line propaganda expressing an unrelenting and perpetual harangue against America. But this doesn't prevent many of these same Iranians from believing that the American and English news sources are colored by their own bias. "I don't know who to believe," exclaimed one engineering student. "When I go to CNN.com or the BBC online, I know that they are only telling the story as America and England want the story told."

Even at most renowned bastion of anti-Americanism in Iran, the Friday sermon at Tehran University where thousands gather to hear the regime's weekly wrap-up of world events, some people are unconvinced by the government's rhetoric. I went there one morning eager to observe the "other half" of the Islamic Republic, the half that reveres the fundamentalism espoused by the hard-liners and the half that actually does despise "The Great Satan." After a couple of hours spiked with rousing stanzas of "Marg bar Amrika," or Death to America, it appeared that I discovered one of the revolution's enduring strongholds. But on the way out of the front gate, a security guard stopped me. "You are American? It is very good to meet you," he said. "I like America very much. I wish you a nice visit in Iran." As he said this, a stream of sermon-goers exited behind us, resuming chants of "Marg bar Amrika" and "Marg bar Bush."

While many Iranians remain predominantly pro-American in a region where anti-Americanism spreads quickly, U.S. policymakers should respect the prevailing complexities of the Iranian polity. Just because there is a reserve of good will for America doesn't mean Washington can take it for granted. For while keeping a lid on Tehran's nuclear program might not be within Washington's means, preventing an explosion of Iranian nationalism is.

As I was cautioned by Hamid, a 25 year-old student activist, "If one U.S. soldier comes to Iran, all this [positive sentiment toward America] will change. It is like we are in the 90th minute of a soccer match. Anything can happen."

Nicholas Schmidle is a graduate student at American University in Washington who spent the summer of 2004 in Tehran. This article is published in THE DAILY STAR courtesy of the Southwest Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington"

Filmmaker Recreates Iran's Persepolis Using Simulations

Filmmaker Recreates Iran's Persepolis Using Simulations - Persian Journal Latest Iran news & Iranian Article News paper: "Filmmaker Recreates Iran's Persepolis Using Simulations

Nov 16, 2004, 15:30
Every detail matters for archeological filmmaker Farzin Rezaeian, whose new documentary was 2,500 years in the making. In Persepolis Recreated, Rezaeian switches between real-life images and computer simulations to create a complete interpretation of ancient Persepolis, which was destroyed by Alexander in 450 B.C.

To present details like the palace's carpets and the columns' ornamentations, Rezaeian used artifacts excavated from the Persepolis site. With these artifacts, some of which are held in the Oriental Institute, Rezaeian projected certain designs and patterns that he then presented in the film. One carpet pattern was created from scraps preserved in the ice of southern Siberia.
"There is no single person in the whole wide world who knows exactly what Persia looked like, but there are presumptions, theories, and bits and pieces that we used. We had good contact with many world-renowned specialists," he said.

Dr. Matthew Stolper of the Oriental Institute was one of those specialists. He played an important role in the film by translating ancient clay tablets that had records of transactions for workers on the site. His findings helped lead to the conclusion that no slaves were used in the building of Persepolis. Rezaeian also said that some women were paid twice as much as men and even had supervising positions.

Farzin Rezaeian spoke with awe when describing the ancient city of Persepolis. "It was governed in a very spectacular way," he said. The city was one of the four capitals of ancient Persia. At its peak, the empire was governed by Darius the Great, and stretched from present-day India to Egypt. It encompassed 80 percent of the known world at the time.

"This kind of atmosphere is quite interesting-to see that 28 nations were under the rule of one man," Rezaeian said. The advanced empire even had "the first kind of Pony Express," he said, which ran 2,800 kilometers from central Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1992, Rezaeian began a project to chronicle Iranian civilization from prehistory to the end of the 19th century in seven documentaries. During his research, Rezaeian became particularly interested in Persepolis. "It was so impressive that we decided to start our work there," he said.

The 40-minute film leads the viewer on a tour of the buildings-much as a visitor two and a half thousand years ago would have seen them. "Persepolis had more of a ceremonial rather than a political connotation," Rezaeian said, adding that the city was only used a few times a year.

According to Rezaeian, Persepolis was coined "the richest city under the sun," and was an ostentatious spectacle constructed to impress its guests.

The film will premiere at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday in Breasted Hall of the Oriental Institute. Rezaeian chose to premiere the documentary at the University because of the close ties that the Oriental Institute has to the project. "Of the 70 scholars consulted for this project, five or six were from the University of Chicago," Rezaeian said.

Rezaeian's next project is a documentary called, "Seven Faces of a Civilization," which examines periods of history from 4000 B.C. to the end of the nineteenth century.
He gave no timeline for its completion."

Iran ranks 2nd in number of deaths from quakes

IranMania News: " Iran ranks 2nd in number of deaths from quakes

Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Nov 16 (IranMania) - UN Resident Coordinator Fredrick Lyons on Tuesday said that Iran reported the highest number of deaths from earthquakes during 1980-2000.

Addressing the inaugural session of a seminar entitled `Policies and Practices for Seismic Risk Management in Urban Areas', he said that in terms of the average number of people killed per million inhabitants per year, Iran ranks second in the world.

"Nearly a year ago, we were all deeply shaken by the Bam earthquake," he said, stressing that "beyond the terrible toll in lives and suffering the earthquake reminded us of the need for greater emphasis on earthquake risk management."

According to IRNA, the seminar, organized jointly by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and UNDP with the support of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, brings together experts and decision-makers from some of the most earthquake-prone countries of the world, he added.

The severity of the impact of the Bam earthquake can be gauged by the fact that 60 percent of all deaths from natural disasters worldwide in 2003 were from this single event, he said, adding that the quake killed some 30,000 people, left more than 26,000 people injured and rendered more than 75,000 homeless.

The 2,500 year-old historic citadel of Bam (Arg-e Bam), an internationally acclaimed heritage site, sustained severe damage, he said, stressing that the economic prospects of the Bam region and the livelihoods of its people were dealt a severe blow.

Expressing his concern over the persistent earthquake risk in Iran, Lyons said that on average one earthquake with a magnitude of four on the Richter scale occurs every month in Iran.

Every year one earthquake with a magnitude of six occurs and every 10 years one earthquake with a magnitude of seven or above occurs in the country.

The UN official further underlined the need to take measures to ensure that people live better and safer lives in the future.

"We need to look ahead and explore what can be done to prevent the recurrence of further Bams in other parts of Iran and the world," he added.

Referring to Iran's significant technical expertise in almost all aspects of earthquake risk management, he expressed his regret that this wide range of technical expertise and knowhow has not yet translated into tangible action for disaster risk reduction on a large scale.

"We need to ask what needs to be done to apply all this knowledge and experience to reduce the impact of future earthquakes."

He further stressed that disaster risk management at the local level was a key element in any viable national strategy to reduce disasters risks, building on the quality of community networks, the social fabric and effective local governance.

"We now know from the experience of the past 20 years that strengthening `stand alone' emergency management institutions, often with external assistance, does not work. There is a need for institutional arrangements that link public, private, and civil society sectors and build vertical ties between local, district, national and global scale actors.

"Local communities need to be the focus of a large part of our public awareness raising and capacity building efforts," Lyons stressed in his speech.

He was optimistic that the seminar would provide the opportunity for grappling with the many existing challenges and provide tangible directions for future action not only in Iran but also in other earthquake-prone countries."

Marashi: Iran`s tourism is about $500 mln annually

IranMania News: " 'Iran tourism revenue stands at $500 mln yearly'

Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Nov 16 (IranMania) - Head of Iran cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Hossein Marashi said that Iran`s share of world-wide tourism is about $500 mln annually.

Speaking to reporters, he added that it is estimated that the figure will stand at $2 bln by the end of the fourth five-year development plan (March 20005-2010). "After the revolution tourism was frowned upon for long period as a luxurious and conspicuous activity," he said. "Iran has not made adequate investments, commensurate with its indigenous talents in its tourism sector," according to IRNA.

Marashi, also vice-president, said modernism and tradition have often stood against each other in many societies. The conflict has also manifested itself at the realms of cultural heritage, the head of ICHTO said.

Any nation which has neglected its historical treasures has found their value the hard way later on and begun to pay special attention to them. The wave of modernism which began at the end of the Qajar period and adversely affected the cultural heritage gave away gradually to a culture of restoration and renovation, Marashi underlined.

He also lauded the formation of a new cultural heritage and tourism organization, which, concurrently with the inception of the fourth development plan will provide a good opportunity for revising the prevalent outlook regarding the merits of tourism. "During the plan new policies and programs will be implemented in the sector," Marashi added.

He said that currently, Iran`s share in the world tourism revenues is a meager 0.0001%. Marashi said the average growth of the tourism in the Third Five Year Development Plan (March 2000-2005) stood at 6.5%.

He further reckoned that the industry`s growth will rise to 30% annually at the beginning of the fourth development plan. "The sector will be at the forefront of the national economy during that fourth development plan", Marashi added. Achieving the objectives hinge on efforts by officials and organizations and private sector.

The private sector will burden 83% of the investments during the fourth plan. "Of the 17% of the government`s share in overall investments, over 10% will be paid out to private sector in the form of subsides," Marashi concluded.

He said that the Iranian people and government should look positively to the issue of tourism, and strive to sweep away doubts, concerns and suspicion regarding the tourists visiting the country.

Marashi said formation of a committee has been outlined as part of the comprehensive plan aiming to educate the society on the positive aspect of tourism. President Mohammad Khatami in November called for close links and strong cooperation among the cultural heritage and tourism organizations in Iran and France given the significant position of cultural heritage in dialogue among civilizations.

In a meeting with Director of France`s Louvre Museum Henri Loyrette in Tehran, President Khatami said the museum, that is a great asset of mankind, has been playing a crucial role in introducing many big and outstanding civilizations of the world.

Loyrette for his part highlighted historical and cultural commonalities between Iran and France, saying French President Jacques Chirac is to assign part of Louvre Museum to displaying Islamic arts works."