Visiting Iran

My friend Nihar is posting some really interesting stuff about his recent backpacking trip across Iran. Check out part one here and part two here. Looking forward to the next installment, Nihar!

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Atash

I know exactly where I’ll be on Wednesday nights: Red Fez, listening to an amazing middle-eastern fusion band called Atash

Atash was born in the vibrant arts and music scene of Austin, Texas, where musicians called The Gypsies began creating an exquisite fusion of world sounds as early as 1996. Quickly hailed as “Austin’s best-kept secret!” (Austin Chronicle), The Gypsies earned numerous accolades for their theatre and film scores, most notably their “live” score to Tod Browning’s 1929 silent thriller, The Unknown, and their incidental music to the play The Conference of the Birds, by Peter Brooks.

My friend and I had just left his music set at Hickory Street, and we were thinking of calling it a night when we passed by the open door of Red Fez. The crowd inside and the smell of hookah enticed us to enter. I’m so glad we did! The band sounded very traditional at first, and they would smoothly transition mid-song to more western beats. All of the members were outstanding musicians, and seemingly each was from a different corner of the world: Indian sitar player, Korean and Mexican violinists, Anglo stand-up bassist and drummer, Guinean Djembe player, and Iranian singer. Atash (which means “fire” in Persian) plays most Wednesday nights at Red Fez. Here are a couple of sample tracks from their site (press the little play button to the right):

Destiny (Majnun’s Song)

Al-Munaajaat (Conversation with God)

Breaking The Silence

(The links in this post are via this Metafilter post.) Some of these testimonies from Israeli soldiers are just stunning:

So they blew up two huge buildings and a police station. Because they blew up two buildings of 15-20 stories with a ton of explosives, so the whole nieghborhood had to be evacuated.The whole nieghborhood, it was an upscale neighborhood, and in the rich Palestinian neighborhoods there is one rule, they don’t shoot. Because if they shoot, then their home will be destroyed.Palestinians, Arabs are like Arabs, worry about their own ass. It was a nieghborhood of all the corrupt Palestinian Authority people. It was a nieghborhood, what can say, if you’ve ever been in north Tel Aviv, it’s the same.Villas and new cars.It wasn’t Gaza at all, I should only have such things. Huge houses, Villas, ofcourse they didn’t shoot at us even one bullet from there.

They blew up that area?

Yes, it was exploded. The story is that we had to evacuate 4000 people. Did you see Shindler’s list? When they evacuated the ghetto? although you have to make a thousand distinctions, it was an amazing picture. Really amazing, you see thousands of people. They pass in amored vehicles and big loud speakers shouting at them in Arabic,passing out leaflets, a special unit passes almost house to house and evacuates everybody, without shooting, nothing. But 4000 people, you can imagine. Those were very big buildings simply, the first thing that comes into your head is Shindler’s list. You see thousands of people with small children.

How were they evacuated?

How were they evacuated? They simply told them to go east. Just take everything and go east. 4000 people. In the middle of the night. You just see children, old people, women, all crammed into cars…on foot. Nothing, nothing an amazing sight….it just gives you the chills…as if, I just couldn’t…I just…I just….you can’t compare, but it was just like in the movie…ofcourse, you know it isn’t the same thing because you’re not a Nazi and you’re not killing them out of hatred or something. You’re even doing it for their own good, so that they don’t get hurt from the explosives, you understand. But I can’t help but not compare and not think about it.

One wonders if Nazi testimonials would sound much the same. This is from a new site called Breaking the Silence, which aims to reveal through soldier testimony the abuses suffered by the Palestinian people, “in order to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created.”

More discussion can be found in this Independent article:

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What Every American Should Know About the Middle East

Hey America, read this:

middle-east.jpgMost in the United States don’t know much about the Middle East or the people that live there. This lack of knowledge hurts our ability to understand world events and, consequently, our ability to hold intelligent opinions about those events.

For example, frighteningly few know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and most think the words “Arab” and “Muslim” are pretty much interchangeable. They aren’t. So here’s a very brief primer aimed at raising the level of knowledge about the region to an absolute minimum.

It’s a pretty decent run-down of the major high points, the basic stuff most of us should know – especially considering how involved our country is in the region, and how involved all of us should be in the political process. I don’t know about the “Roman Catholics are to Shia as Protestants are to Sunni” analogy, but otherwise, a quick primer that couldn’t hurt to be learned.

The Gaza Bombshell

Recently uncovered evidence shows that at the highest level of American leadership there were plans to spark Palestinian civil war. Read more in Vanity Fair’s The Gaza Bombshell: Politics & Power:

po01x_gaza0804.jpg After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.

If we expect leaders of other nations to be held to international law, we should expect the same scrutiny for our own leaders. I would love to see the lot of them facing a tribunal in The Hague; there must be some kind of consequences for these types of actions, some kind of justice.