A dakhma, or "tower of silence" is an ancient structure created by Zoroastrians for the disposal of the dead. Within an elevated courtyard, surrounded by high walls the bodies of the deceased are laid out in a circle. Vultures descend into the structure and consume the bodies. Like the Tibetan sky burial the gift of one's flesh to the birds is seen as a final act of charity by the deceased. After the bones bleach in the sun they are put into a ossuary or placed into a central pit to crumble to dust. While Iranian Zoroastrians ended their use 40 years ago the tradition continues in India. A pesticide related decline in vulture population is endangering the practice.
If you visit the Humans of New York website or on the Facebook page now and in the next few months, you'll find portraits and stories from beyond New York. Brandon Stanton and HONY will be going on a "world tour," to be part of the UN's Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group effort to raise awareness for the eight international Millennium Development Goals with a target date of 2015 . Currently, HONY is "suddenly a war report form Iraq". [more inside]
23-year-old Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji takes some amazing photographs and 360° shots of Iran's historical sites. [more inside]
Over the past two weeks, Iranian women have been publishing pictures of themselves without hijab, as a protest to the 35-year long encroachment on their right to choose how to dress. [Guardian] [HuffPo] [Vocativ] [more inside]
Forty maps that explain the Middle East. Includes sections on Middle East history, the region today, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and oil, Iraq and Libya, and "points of light." [more inside]
The Story of Gordafarid (dir. Hadi Afarideh, 2008, 34 mins.) is a brief, poignant documentary about Fatemeh Habibizad, a.k.a. Gordafarid, a woman in Iran performing as a solo narrator of Persian classics. Gordafarid is also an inspirational character from Ferdowsi's 10th Century epic, the Shahnameh. [more inside]
Veiled Truths by Hossein Fatemi [New York Times] [ Photo essay.] Photographs of women in Iran — who still face censure for insufficiently modest dress — through their hijabs.
Carry cash, take the metro and always look at people's feet – Araz Fazaeli, who lives in Paris but runs the street style blog Tehran Times with a team in Iran, offers his tips about how to make the most of the capital.
In March 2007, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson flew to Kish Island, an Iranian resort awash with tourists, smugglers and organized crime figures. Days later, after an arranged meeting with an admitted killer, he checked out of his hotel, slipped into a taxi and vanished. For years, the U.S. has publicly described him as a private citizen who traveled to the tiny Persian Gulf island on private business. But that was just a cover story. An Associated Press investigation reveals that Levinson was working for the CIA. In an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts — with no authority to run spy operations — paid Levinson to gather intelligence from some of the world's darkest corners. He vanished while investigating the Iranian government for the U.S. [more inside]
This is The Big Picture, an official television report of the United States Army, produced for the armed forces and the American people. Now to show you part of The Big Picture here is Master Sargent Stuart Queen
The series consists of ~822 documentaries produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service from 1951 to 1971 to educate both soldiers in uniform and the American public about military concerns as well as things like historical battles, world geography, famous soldiers, the latest weapons, space exploration, strategic objectives, peaceful initiatives, and the life of a soldier. Being a product of the Federal Government it belongs to the the American people, and is thus freely available to all to copy and distribute. Most can now be viewed on archive.org[more inside]
In a six-month agreement, Iran will cap uranium enrichment at the 5% level, reduce its stockpile of already enriched uranium, and allow for more robust international inspections. In return, it will receive no new nuclear sanctions and "sanction relief" in the amount of $7 billion. [more inside]
The Langner Group, based in Germany, has published the most detailed report yet on the Stuxnet malware that was used to sabotage Iran's uranium enrichment efforts. [more inside]
The Yellow Dogs was a NYC-based group of young expatriates who fled their native Iran for Williamsburg, Brooklyn in order to freely pursue their dream of playing rock music, saying what they wanted to say, and, well, having fun, which were three things they couldn't do back home. Three members of the band were found murdered today. A sad farewell to The Yellow Dogs. [more inside]
In 2011, the CIA declassified documents admitting its involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's elected government and installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, details of which were first first disclosed by the New York Times in 2000. Timeline. However, they refused to release them to the public. Today, the National Security Archive research institute has (after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) obtained and made the 21 documents public. "Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup. [more inside]
Iran has a new president, Hasan Rouhani, does that mean there might be hope for a thawing in diplomatic relations? In his inaugral speech Roughani urges an end to sanctions and promises a new era. While the White House response seems cautiously optimisitic US Senators have been pressing for tougher sanctions.
Silent War. "On the hidden battlefields of history’s first known cyber-war, the casualties are piling up. In the U.S., many banks have been hit, and the telecommunications industry seriously damaged, likely in retaliation for several major attacks on Iran. Washington and Tehran are ramping up their cyber-arsenals, built on a black-market digital arms bazaar, enmeshing such high-tech giants as Microsoft, Google, and Apple. With the help of highly placed government and private-sector sources, Michael Joseph Gross describes the outbreak of the conflict, its escalation, and its startling paradox: that America’s bid to stop nuclear proliferation may have unleashed a greater threat."
Meet the Iranian Parkour Girls, the Gaza Parkour Team (while bombs fall) and the first Iraqi Parkour team.
"'If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.' So goes the old saying. Yet conditions in some American facilities are so obscene that they amount to a form of extrajudicial punishment." Mother Jones is profiling "America's 10 Worst Prisons." Facilities were chosen for the list based on "...three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates." [more inside]
Syria Options Go From Bad To Worse
As reports have surfaced of possible use of sarin gas in the Syrian civil war, calls by long-time proponents of U.S. intervention on behalf of the anti-Assad rebels have grown to a fever pitch. These same voices, both at home and abroad, have evoked the administration’s previously stated “red line” on use of chemical weapons. But even assuming that reports of WMD usage in Syria turn out to be true, the Obama Administration’s position may be far more nuanced than previously thought.[more inside]
It's been five years since the death of Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. No one ever claimed responsibility for killing him. Hezbollah publicly blames Israel's Mossad, a charge they unsurprisingly deny. So, who killed The Driver? [more inside]
Kurdish men are dressing in women's clothing in response to the punishment given to a convicted man earlier this month. He was paraded down the streets of Marivan in a woman’s dress in order to humiliate him. [more inside]
Dawn reports that the largest earthquake to hit Iran in 40 years struck the Balochistan region along the Iran-Pakistan border. At least 45 people are dead, but that figure is expected to rise. Earthquaketrack says it was 7.8 on the Richter scale. At emptywheel, Jim White notes that two smaller Iranian earthquakes last year killed over 300 people.
It's still there. A tale of loss.
Wrestling Out Of The Olympics - The Gods Must Be Crazy Mad
The whole lucrative sham of it all was exposed once again this week when the executive board of the IOC — Informal Motto: "Me Some Too, Yes?" — recommended that wrestling be dropped as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Summer Games, which are supposed to be held in Istanbul, Tokyo, or Madrid, depending on whose checks clear first, I believe. According to the board, wrestling is no longer a "core sport" in the Olympics and it will have to petition for inclusion in 2020 along with, and I am not making this up, sport climbing and wakeboarding. This is terrific. Why don't we just hold the Olympics in an REI outlet store somewhere?[more inside]
Suffice it to say, Persepolis is quite a work. It’s a testament to the power of the graphic novel. The art’s simple linework helps the story feel unpretentious and direct. Persepolis was adapted as a 2007 French animated film, written and directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. Among other honors, it was nominated for an Academy Award. Why would someone want to ban such a book?
I feel creatively emboldened to personally say something on the subjects that I am documenting. In terms of how it is produced, intellectually I am more excited than I have been in years. I am envisioning so many more possibilities for the work ... I feel for first time empowered on my own terms. We are calling our own shots and have created somewhat of our own institution.An interview with the six-woman Middle Eastern documentary photography collective Rawiya, whose name means "female narrator" in Arabic. [more inside]
Iran as the West rarely sees it. reddit user mossikan shares lovely photos of modern-day Iran, with thoughtful captions revealing a vibrant culture generally at odds with its current "mainstream" portrayals in Western media. [more inside]
Funnyman Jon Stewart is taking a 12 week hiatus to direct a film adaptation of Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari's book Then They Came For Me. John Oliver will take over hosting duties in his absence. Daily Show clip of Jason Jones interview before Bahari's arrest. Post - arrest Daily Show interviews. Previously
"If nothing else, "Argo" is an exercise in American exceptionalism - perhaps the most dangerous fiction that permeates our entire society and sense of identity. It reinvents history in order to mine a tale of triumph from an unmitigated defeat. The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days and destroyed an American presidency, was a failure and an embarrassment for Americans. The United States government and media has spent the last three decades tirelessly exacting revenge on Iran for what happened." -- Nima Shirazi explains what's wrong with Argo's depiction of the Iranian hostage crisis.
A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars Back to Iran. Iran’s Cartridges & Their Quiet Distribution to Brutal Regimes and Many Wars. [more inside]
Iranian Human Rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, currently serving a 6 year term in Tehran’s Evin prison, for ‘violating the Islamic dress code’ and ‘for acting against national security’ as ended her second hunger strike, when travel restrictions against her family were rescinded. [more inside]
In Shahr-i Shōkhta, near the Iran/Afghanistan border, archaeologists found the remains of a six foot tall woman who they speculate might have travelled there from the Arabian peninsula. What they do feel sure about, though, is that her golden prosthetic eye was produced there in Shahr-i Shōkhta, also the home of the world's oldest backgammon set; early evidence of brain surgery; caraway seeds; evidence of metal work; an important body of textile artifacts, but apparently no weapons. It is thought to suggest the existence of a major, non Mesopotamian culture. [more inside]
Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons. "We throw thousands of men in the hole for the books they read, the company they keep, the beliefs they hold. Here's why." An article on solitary confinement (previously) by Shane Bauer, one of the three American hikers who were detained in Iran in 2009 (previously).
Today marks the release of the film Argo, about the effort to smuggle out six Americans from Iran after the fall of the shah. The film is based on the actual events of the Canadian Caper, during which the Canadian embassy and staff in Iran sheltered the six Americans and, in cooperation with the CIA, provided Canadian identities and passports for the six. They were then smuggled out under the ruse of being part of the film crew for a science fiction film based on Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light. [more inside]
"...it should be made clear that Tehran in the ’70s was not an equivalent to New Orleans, Chicago or Detroit. There was no funk haven per se, but within the Iranian pop world some tracks did appear, and those records are a rare treasure trove for funk aficionados." — Searching for Iran’s lost funk [more inside]
The satellite man is typically young, with an entrepreneur’s zeal and a sense of adventure, often from the mercantile district of South Tehran, trained by colleagues in the black-market niche of satellite TV installation...
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a "foreign terrorist organization". When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of "international terrorism", one of its prime examples was Iraq's "sheltering" of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any "material support" to that group. Now, in the with the support of A-list American politicians who have been handsomely compensated for their efforts, the MEK are being delisted. [more inside]
Richard Silverstein, an American journalist and blogger on Israeli affairs, says he has been given a leaked document which outlines a plan for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. (BBC).
Iran confronts its alcohol problem. 'After years of denying the prevalence of illegal alcohol in Iran, officials are addressing the issue, while continuing to treat drinking as a sin and a crime.' 'Recently, two men in a northeastern province were given rare death sentences for drinking, as part of the country's three-strikes law. Each man had been convicted of drinking twice before.' [more inside]
An unauthorized certificate could be used to spoof content, perform phishing attacks, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks. This issue affects all supported releases of Microsoft Windows.
"Flame" is the name of a newly-identified malware program which utilizes a previously unknown MD5 collision attack to successfully spoof Microsoft Terminal Services, and install itself as a trusted program using Windows Update, Microsoft has confirmed. The program appears to have targeted computers in the Middle East, and specifically Iran; analysts have alleged it is likely created by the same entity that designed Stuxnet. Flame has been live and actively spying since 2010, but went undetected until recently, due to sophisticated anti-detection measures. [more inside]
U.S. and Israel have been confirmed as the authors behind the Stuxnet virus. The program — codenamed "Olympic Games" — was started under Bush and accelerated under Obama. The virus was never meant to expand beyond the Iranian nuclear facility it targeted. (non-NYTimes link)
An anti-censorship software package Simurgh, aimed towards aiding dissidents in Iran and Syria, has been circulated with a backdoor that reports keystroke logs back to a server hosted in the U.S. but registered with a Saudi Arabian ISP. [more inside]
To the Iranian people. To all the fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters. For there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate. I'm not afraid of you, I don't hate you. I don t even know you. No Iranian ever did me no harm. I never even met an Iranian...Just one in Paris in a museum. Nice dude. [more inside]
The British newspaper The Guardian has obtained a cache of 3,000 emails purported to have been exchanged between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his wife, and a close circle of advisers and friends. The personal emails allegedly show Assad dismissing his government's proposed reforms, mocking the efforts of Arab League monitors to spot military tanks besieging cities, as well as Assad's wife placing extravagant shopping orders, sometimes through intermediaries. [more inside]
Iran has pledged to open its oil bourse to currencies other than the US dollar as of March 20th, 2012. Previously. The phrase "nuclear option" gets thrown around in a lot of metaphorical contexts -- perhaps this one would be the most apt. [more inside]
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran has tripled its production of >20% enriched uranium in the past three months, while adding 2,600 new uranium centrifuges to its main enrichment facility in Natanz. The agency has not received a "satisfactory explanation" of how 20kg of uranium metal went missing from an Iranian research laboratory. Iran has been blocking IAEA inspections, and the agency "is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities". In recent years, Russia and China have chosen to limit UN sanctions against Iran, whose government denies it aims to make atomic weapons.
The ‘Cyrus the Great Cylinder’, is an artifact of the Persian Empire from the 6th century BCE inscribed in Babylonian (Akkadian) cuneiform on a clay cylinder, which has been widely, falsely claimed as the first known recorded declaration of human rights, issued by the emperor Cyrus the Great. (Translation of the text.) A recent TED talk by Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum and host of the BBC's History of the World in 100 Objects, previously) discusses the Cylinder, and places it into historical perspective: 2600 Years of History in One Object. [more inside]