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December 15, 2003

Interview with Pedram Moallemian (Part 2)
Hamid Ahmadi  [info|posts]

pedramm.jpgThe following is part 2 and conclusion to the interview. (You can read part 1 here.)

If I can ask, how do you handle the flag problem? Both the allah and the lion and the sword carry heavy baggage. Is there an effective alternative or do some of us have to settle for the plain?

I proudly own several Lion and Sword flags and have one on display by my computer as I write my blog. That flag pre-dates the Pahlavis and in fact was first recognized as the official flag for Iran by the first parliament after the constitutional revolution of early 1900's...

That's the Majlis that was fired upon by Russian artillery brigades, on the way to bringing our first flirtation with democracy to an end. The Allah flag is religious in nature and as someone who believes in restrict separation of mosque and government, I don't believe it matches our aspirations, not to mention its exclusion of non-Muslim Iranians.

Do you ever get hate mail for some of the things your write on your blog? If so, can you tell us about some of them?

I've been getting hate mail and worst for so long, it has become a part of my everyday life. The ones that concern you are those that just reek of violence. You can write and say something like you are stupid, you should be thrown out of the country, we will destroy our enemies and send you back to Usama, all of which I have heard, and just know that it is coming from utter ignorance and a sever shortage of good judgment. But when you get someone threatening you life and safety, or that of your family, then you can't be sure if you are dealing with just an empty threat or is this person nuts enough to actually want to end someone's life because he or she doesn't like their opinion. I am glad to say that lately, there has not been many of the latter types and in fact those were more normal before 9/11 and when I'd speak against radical and fundamentalist version of Islam.

What was your model for Eyeranian when it was first conceived on blogspot? Has that model changed since then?

Yes. The original blog was designed for a few friends. These were people who knew me personally and would often ask why I don't write anymore or wanted to have my perspective on some issues. Fortunately or unfortunately, it was soon discovered by others and suddenly thousands were reading it and I did not think the original format was very fitting of a broader audience. That's why I moved, renamed and changed it to give it a distinctive identity and make it more user-friendly and also include links and other features that are hopefully of use by the visitors.

This is also where the idea of a magazine came about, as I thought it is a horrendous waste if a wide audience gets to read my material, but is never exposed to anyone else' great work. I thoroughly believe in the idea that none of us owns 100% of the truth and it is only when we get exposed to a broad spectrum of ideas and beliefs, that we are able to form our own opinions based on all the facts and varying points of view.

Lately I've noticed that you are posting a little more about your personal life. How do you balance your personal life with your political one? Are they connected at all, or is it like juggling two different worlds?

If you are implying that the content has changed, I disagree with you. My blog is a reflection of my own personal pre-occupations at any particular time. For example, when I first moved to and over the first few months, the invasion of Iraq and the implications it had on Iran was the hottest topic both in media as well as in my own mind. So the posts reflect that. As we have moved on from there, other issues are presented and those include discussing more of my own personal life, the way I had it on blogspot. I suspect this will be a natural tendency for as long as the blog is still alive.

But to answer your question, I don't balance those two very well. This has always been a struggle for me. One of the reasons I moved from Canada was just that; my public life had stretched so wide, it had left no room for my personal one. I needed to get out of that. At the moment, I live two completely different and separate lives. Most of the people in my personal life, work or social interactions, don't even know about my other side and vice versa. This is the only way I have been able to maintain both and I don't think that situation is very unique to me either. Unfortunately, we live in a world where we can't always live by just doing what we enjoy most and are probably best at. So many artists, activists and others are forced to live dual lives. Our best painters may be serving coffee 18 hours a day and our brightest poets drive a cab. Only very few are lucky enough to combine the two successfully.

How long will I be able to live this dual life effectively is the big question mark. One I am not looking forward to finding the answer to just yet.

There were a couple of hot months before and during the July 9th demonstrations this past summer. Some American blogs were even writing about Iran related subjects everyday. What, in retrospect, do you think was really happening?

Most westerners, particularly those from U.S., the ones you called American, a term I try hard to avoid, live in a culture of sensationalism and the 30 second attention spans. This is what they are used to from their media and public life. As soon as a few hot button keywords like terrorist, dirty-bomb, pro-democracy, fundamentalists, etc. are used about Iran, their curiosity peaks and suddenly they are very interested. This sudden attention quickly fades and almost exclusively applies to negative events and never anything positive.

One of my biggest criticisms for the blogs you are referring to is just that. They follow the old traditions set out by the mainstream and biased media instead of creating a new format of spreading news and commentary. You can have a million stories about the wonderful work of Iranian activists inside Iran and abroad, success of our artists, the amazing grass-roots struggle towards democracy for over 100 years or anything else that is positive and you'd be hard pressed to find one or two posts on non-Iranian blogs about it. Yet, some obviously biased group may say they have found a secret nuclear plant or somebody is sentenced to the horrible fate of death by stoning, and suddenly they are all very interested. I am not suggesting those issues should not be addressed or covered, but some sort of a balance may be welcomed.

And how is the magazine coming along? I know it must be a hell of a thing to organize.

Like everything else, it has had a few ups and downs expected by any volunteer and no budget project. But we are past all of that now and I expect to have some very positive news on that front very soon. I'll use the opportunity to invite anyone who may be interested to work on this project to contact me directly, particularly writers, artists and others who believe a voice for a more progressive outlook by Iranians is missing in the international arena and the upcoming on-line magazine will hopefully be the start of much larger steps to get our voices out to those who matter.

Have you ever had that dream, where you are kicking G.W.Bush and his dog keeps barking behind you? By the way, what do you think his chances are in the next election?

No. It has taken me years to kick all violent tendencies, even if form of dreams. A family member recently became very impatient with me as I spent 20 minutes "guiding" a fly out of the window and refusing to kill it.

As for his chances? They are pretty good, I'm afraid. Just wait until they suddenly "find" Usama or Saddam on the eve of the election, or continue manufacturing good economical news as they did this past week. They are dealing with an electorate that is not particularly savvy in politics or ideological positions, and is therefore easy to manipulate with short-term hallucinations and misguided by deceit. It will be interesting to see if the Democrats have finally become sophisticated enough to not play the game with rules set-out by the extreme right and manage to offer a true alternative for a change. If that happens, or there's suddenly a major wrinkle in W's conduct between now and then, it could get very interesting.

Thank you for your time Mr. Moallemian and for the Monday Morning Motivationals which go so well with my own Monday morning hangovers, I thank you again.

I should thank you again for allowing me to share a few comments with your readers. has certainly raised the bar in both style and content of what is available to read in Iranian blogs and I must congratulate all of the people involved to have been able to pull it off. It is certainly one of my regular stops in the blogestan and I look forward to discovering more bright and talented hamvatans through its pages.

Arash Jalali at December 15, 2003 11:38 AM [permalink]:

Now that Saddam Hussein seems to be captured should we all lose hope of not seeing George W. in the office for another term, or should we wish that this Saddam Hussein is just a Hussein-lookalike? I think I prefer the first choice in spite of how I feel about George W. and what he stands for.

Dr. Metaphor at December 15, 2003 05:10 PM [permalink]:

Americans said they'd checked the DNA, and rest assured that it's Saddam himself. Our prayers during the war with Iraq are finally, though partially, answered! Now it's time to find his look-alikes.

So why do you think they chose to show Saddam being examined by the baldy? Is a metaphor intended here? Are Americans gonna search for the "louse" all through the region, one country at a time, examine us all and if needed cure us of our ills?

Mehdi Yahya. at December 16, 2003 03:00 PM [permalink]:

Pedram's article encouraging Iranian to start writing in English was helpful for me to overcome my
hesitation to write. I remember it was published in I recomment people who are not conviced yet why it is important to start writing read that article.

His blog is impressing. He writes more often than all the FToI's authors together!

Seńor Gręd at December 16, 2003 03:57 PM [permalink]:

I don't have a weblog, although I have flirted with the idea of making one some day in distant future. One problem with weblogs is almost anyone who can have a weblog has one. As a result, there are so many of them out there and you don't know which ones to read without wasting your time! It takes more than a little bit of exploration to find a weblogger whose writings resonate with you. Another problem with personal weblogs is their lack of diveristy (all writings, after all, originate from a single mind) and also the aura of vanity that some authors exude. Yet another problem with weblogs is, again since the writing does not face an obstacle called Editorial Board, the writings, even when the writer is our beloved political analyst, Massoud Behnoud, tend to be blabberings that do not merit spending time on. Unless, of course, you are a big fan of that particular person. So templates become little temples indeed for a group of fans ("fan" is short for fanatic). The reason why I like FToI (even though the feelings may not be mutual!) is there is no authority up there, the comments are shown right below the posts, and the readers' viewpoints are not relegated to secondary status.

I shouldn't say anything about the effect of weblogs on making the public opinion, but my impression is that their imapct remains limited to a circle of followers. I therefore wish Mr. Moallemian good luck with his future magazine.

Seńor Gręd at December 16, 2003 04:58 PM [permalink]:

I should haste to add that in writing my previous comment, I had in mind only those weblogs that offer a point of view, an insight, or an idea. To be sure, a lot of weblogs out there are nothing more than online diaries of semi-self-absorbed individuals whose function is simply catering to the readers' voyeuristic instincts, especially us Iranians who are so keen on finding out what's going on inside other peoples' personal lives. :-)