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Monthly Archive: March 2004
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March 23, 2004

Environmental Problems in Iran: Can We Do Anything?
Guest Auhtor: Yasaman Farzan

mountainview.jpgDespite all the sacrifices the environmentalist groups make, the environmental degradation in Iran continues. While the results of global warming will show up in future, other environmental problems have already started taking their toll. In recent years, 30-40 hours of rain in northern parts of Iran has caused a flood while 25 years ago, similar rain would not cause any problem even if it lasted for 100 hours.
Floods occur every year due to deforestation, killing hundreds of people and inflicting millions of dollars of property damage. We have not managed to phase out the consumption of leaded petrol, and as a result, every year more than 4000 people fall victim to air pollution in Iran.

Unfortunately, disasters caused by preventable environmental degradation are not limited to these two examples, and unfortunately again, it seems that environmental issues are not receiving enough attention on the news headlines and websites regarding Iran. The good news is that any of us can make a difference, no matter how limited our time is. Even those who are currently living abroad can play a role in enhancing the public awareness on environmental issues in Iran. Here, I have few suggestions that anybody can implement in her/his life.

Give responsible gifts
I suggest buying some receptacles for recycling for each other as presents. That way whenever the municipality starts collecting recyclable items, the family who has received the gift will readily cooperate.
There are lots of toys on market in developed countries that are intended to teach kids to be more concerned about Nature. These toys can make a great gift ("soghaati") for kids as well as grown-ups.

Talk, talk and talk more!
Surveys in America show that whenever a new product comes to market, only 10% of the customers learn about it from ads. The rest learn about the new item from that 10% zealots. Considering the long history of oral tradition in Iran, similar pattern presumably also works in Iran, not only in marketing but in all social matters. Of course depending on the subject, the time scale over which the word is spread will be different. We can easily play the role of those intermediators, educating each other just by talking. There are many who want to help but they do not know how. For example, some people release their golden fish into lakes. It seems romantic, but those innocent-looking little creatures are the worst kind of pollution, multiplying rapidly and leaving no oxygen for other fishes which can be a source of protein for the locals.

Long live ordinary people!
An American friend once told me that while in Europe the environmental projects are enforced by authorities, in the USA, similar to most of other issues, the driving force behind environmental projects are people at a grass-root level, organized through/with NGO's. It goes without saying that in Iran the latter will work better than the former. Although there are some NGOs in Iran which are concerned with protecting nature at the moment, Iranians in general are not friendly to the environmental activists. The activists need, at least, moral support and encouragement to proceed.
In the end, I must remind that the by-products of the environmental movement are enormous. If only recycling is implemented, more than 5000 job opportunities will be created for the most underprivileged, which can partly solve the homelessness problem.

Note:
Picture by: Yousef Ghalati, courtesy of irsen.org.

Yasaman Farzan, a graduate student in high energy physics at SISSA, Italy, received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Physics at Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. She is currently studying at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), USA.

March 17, 2004

Chris De Burgh; why is he so popular in Iran?
Babak Farzad  [info|posts]

CdeB.JPG Chris De Burgh, the British pop singer, has recently released his last album called "The Road To Freedom." The album will be available in Canada on April 19, 2004. A pure Chris De Burgh. As one of the most popular western pop singers in Iran, many Iranians have been following his music for years. If we compare this with their world-wide popularity, then with no doubt, Christopher J. Davison alias Chris de Burgh (CdeB) is the number one. Why is he so popular in Iran? He, himself, is very surprised about the CdeB phenomenon in Iran. I try to find an answer to this question.

Suggested answer: CdeB has been strongly in touch with Iranians and that is why Iranians appreciate him. I list some evidence which I think would be interesting for the reader:

He has never lost an opportunity to make a connection with his fans in Iran and to express his dream of having a concert in Iran:

-I know that this is a country that I am popular in and I was speaking to some Iranian people recently about my desire to go back there and they gave me the feeling that it may not be possible at the moment. Certainly not to go there and play and sing. But itís certainly a dream I will like to continue with, and I would love to do it some day.

-I would of course very very strongly wish to visit Iran and perform there, even a solo concert I would be very happy to do that.
-I'd like to stress how excited I am to receive all those messages from my fans in Iran. Ö I would love to do concerts in Iran. I know there are big changes going on in that country, and I certainly would like to feel that I would be welcome in Iran by so many fans who have been in touch and so many people who want to hear me what I do. I think if the authorities would relax a little bit and let people like me in.
-I had no idea that my lyrics have been translated into Farsi. ... I have been particularly impressed by the number of people who log on my website from Iran. And trust me when I say that I cannot wait to go there and sing on probably a solo tour to start with. It is difficult, but I want to say a very personal thank you to all my supporters from Iran.

On Shirin Ebadiís winning the Nobel Peace Prize:

-When I read the news, I was absolutely delighted for a number of reasons that I have mentioned in the past like my interest in Iran and the continuing struggle there to change things. And I was absolutely thrilled and delighted when I heard about this major, major victory. Particularly when it's on a world stage like the Nobel Peace Prize. So again many congratulations for that! Because I am sure, all Iranian people share in her joy and her belief that things can change, if you work hard enough, if you sacrifice yourself and if you take risks.

A special message from Chris de Burgh on the earthquake in Bam:

-I am sending my sincere condolences, thoughts and sympathy to all my friends and fans in Iran who have suffered during the recent earthquake in Bam-Kerman. My thoughts are with you.

However, his reminding of his interests in Iran and his Iranian fans has nothing to do with his popularity for a couple of reasons:

(1) It is not more than a few years that CdeB has realized about his surprising popularity in Iran. His popularity in Iran is almost 20 years old. He was a beloved pop singer in Iran when he would never talk about his Iranian fans.

(2) CdeB has sung only one song which has something to do with Iran: "Eastern Wind." Surprisingly, this song, and in fact the whole album (album is called "Eastern Wind" too), is one his least popular songs in Iran.

-I was writing this from the point of view of a farmer in the Midwest of America, who doesn't understand too much of what's going on. But he puts his own feeling to it and his own thoughts and he doesnít like what's happening [in particular, 1979 revolution in Iran]. And he knows that this is something that should it come anywhere closer to him like a bad storm to a farmer, he will have to react and protect himself and his family and indeed his country from further threat.

I believe, however, the following reasons, altogether, made him a big shot in Iran:

(1) In the early 90ís in Iran, right at the time when CdeB was blooming, the pop music was totally banned. Note that it was only in the late 90ís when specific forms of traditional music could be produced in Iran. Iranian pop-music-in-exile had not been entirely formed. So, western music became the first musical resource for Iranian youth. Western pop music was the closest category to the Iranian musical habits (in compare with Rock, Jazz, etc.). For the same reason the only Rock album of CdeB—"This Way Up"—did not meet his Iranian fansí expectations.

(2) The English that CdeB sings is easy for his Iranian fans to understand. His songs are more audible in the sense that an Iranian can catch most of the words when he sings. The lyrics usually do not contain high level English vocabulary such that an Iranian high school graduate can understand the most of it.

(3) CdeB used to dress the way that Iranians call it normal. He neither has a strange hair style nor wears make up. He is not accompanied by a bunch of sexy girls on the stage. He does not make the so-called dandy gestures there (just compare him with other singers of his era—which is not over yet). This makes him fit in our cultural definition of a "gentleman."

(4) Iranian culture is sexually shy. Songs about earthy loves are not that welcome in this culture. And, most of CdeBís love songs can be easily interpreted as holy love songs. The fact that CdeB has not made many video clips for his songs has intensified this picture of him.

(5) While this culture seeks for spiritual qualities of this singer, his fate-based songs such as "Spaceman," "The Risen Lord," "Saint Peter's Gate" and etc. fit well even in the Islamic system of beliefs. This search for spiritual qualities in a person, has sometimes made the culture to see the person as they like ad not as he/she is. In Iran and only in Iran, there has been this rumor that CdeB has been a priest (or his mother wanted him to be a priest) but he has understood that his songs has more influence than his preaching. Another interesting fact is that many of his Iranian fans have asked him why he has never sung a song for his mother and her true love. We like him to be one of us, so we see him that way.

(6) Last but not least, who can ignore the fact that for some strange reason, he has always had our lullabies. When our soldiers were leaving for the battle field he had "Borderline"; when they were coming back he had "Last Night"; when their bodies were coming back he had "The Simple Truth"; and you name it.

Walking past the border guards,
Reaching for her hand,
Showing no emotion,
I want to break into a run,
But these are only boys, and I will never know,
How men can see the wisdom in a war...

March 15, 2004

 Art 
Cinema, the Bible, and Redemption
Farhad Ghassemi  [info|posts]

crux.jpg from http://kommisto.deviantart.com From Ben-Hur (William Wyler-1959) to The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson-2004), before this period, and probably after it, the Bible and its stories have been and will be recited and narrated in many movies. This is of course not accidental as even from a secular point of view, religion is always a subject of interest, and shares many common areas with art and culture beyond our control. Nevertheless, whereas many of these movies tell the stories and recite verses, they are unsuccessful in capturing that fascinating moment of inspiration and deliverance that one would possibly seek in the metaphysical world. In this article, I would like to give three examples—although there are more—of the movies that have achieved in delivering those moments through the texts of the Bible. It is somewhat surprising that they come from unexpected corners, from directors that we are not sure if they are religious, and in characters whose lives do not stand up with those regularly-known religious merits.

The main theme of Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski-1994) is cultivated around a famous passage of the Bible written by Paul to Corinthians. It reads:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." The New International Version Bible, I Corinthians, 13

In the movie, Julie (Juliette Binoche), after being badly injured, survives an accident in which she loses her husband and her child. She unsuccessfully attempts to kill herself and later finds out that her husband had affairs with another woman and that woman is now pregnant. Her husband, a musician like herself, was working on an unfinished piece of music for the unification of Europe before his death. Despised with the reality of her life, Julie does not want to finish her husbandís work but their common friend, Olivier (BenoÓt Rťgent), insists in her doing so. The movie is the story of Julie overcoming this distaste for life and finishing the unfinished piece whose song is from the above verses. Throughout the movie, as Julie struggles with her feelings, we hear the incomplete parts of the music come to her mind in crucial moments of her life. In one great examples of such scenes, Julie is in the swimming pool and as she climbs off the edge of the pool, we, all of a sudden, witness her being hit by the music and a moment of inspiration.

In Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino-1994), Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is a professional hitman who recites his own version of Ezekiel 25:17 to his victims before he kills them:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

In one of such incidents, Jules and his colleague Vincent Vega (John Travolta) escape a death coming from bullets fired by a man who ambushed them. The incident touches Jules and he decides to quit his job and 'walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu.' Vincet, unable to make sense of what his colleague thinks argues with him over his decision in a restaurant:

Vincent: That's good, man. You're starin' to lighten up. You have been sittin', there, all serious and shit.
Jules: I just been sittin' here, thinkiní.
Vincent: About what?
Jules: About the miracle we witnessed.
Vincent: Miracle you witnessed. I witnessed a freak occurrence.
Jules: What is a miracle, Vincent?
Vincent: Act of God.
Jules: And what's an act of God?
Vincent: When, um, God makes the impossible possible. But... this morning I don't think qualifies.
Jules: Hey, Vincent. See, that shit don't matter. You're judging this shit the wrong way. It could be God stopped the bullets, changed Coke to Pepsi, found my car keys. You don't judge shit like this based on merit. Now, whether or not what we experienced was an according-to-Hoyle miracle is insignificant. But what is significant is, I felt the touch of God. God got involved. ...

In Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese-1980), the biblical reference is not even in the body of the movie and only appears as a twist when the movie ends. Raging Bull is the story of Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro), a middleweight boxing champion, who seems to know his way in the ring but outside, his insecurities lead to a miserable life that only brings suffering to him and his loved ones. Jake, aware of his weaknesses but incapable of overcoming them, punishes himself harshly by letting his opponents batter him in the fights. The movie starts with Jake rehearsing a monologue for a nightclub performance. He is 42 years old and his boxing career is over. The movie then takes us to his past to tell us his story. When it comes back again to the present, we recognize a man whose spiritual journey seems to be reaching a turning point in accepting his faults and becoming content. The movies ends with these verses from the Bible:

So, for the second time, [the Pharisees]
summoned the man who had been blind and said:
"Speak the truth before God.
We know this fellow is a sinner."
"Whether or not, he is a sinner, I don't know."
The man replied.
"All I know is this:
once I was blind and now I can see."
The New English Bible, John 9,24:26

March 14, 2004

On Why They Do It
Arash Jalali  [info|posts]

karbala.jpgTwo weeks ago, Tehran, as well as many other cities in Iran, were once again the scene of mourning rituals for the 1364th anniversary of the alleged killing of the third Shiite saint (a.k.a. Imam). To Iranians, religious and non-religious alike, the whole practice has become as ordinary a phenomenon as a rainfall in the autumn, but for many, especially the people in the West, such ferocious display of grief over the death of a person who has been dead for the past fourteen centuries is simply unfathomable. It might be a perfectly valid question to ask why the ritual is performed by the Shiites with such intensity and passion that often leads to violent, obscene and barbaric performances, but I am personally more interested to know why people still perform the ritual at all.

When I was an elementary school boy, in our "religious teachings" course, they used to tell us all about the gory details of that day's battle. About how the hands of the brave brother of Imam were chopped off, or how Imam's little child was brutally killed, or how the Imam himself was beheaded by his enemies; and then the teachers told us about how it was our religious duty to cherish and revive the memory of the grave injustice that befell the Imam. "Alright," I used to say to myself, "but why in the world do you people have to hit yourselves and scream like maniacs?" It was as if the whole enterprise seemed perfectly justified, and all I could not understand was merely the way it was conducted. At some point I actually used to feel guilty that I could not shed a tear for the man who was said to have been deserted by his friends, betrayed by his allies, and decapitated by his enemies. Never in my wildest imaginations as a child, dared I question the authenticity of all those emotions. It all seemed genuine to me. I cannot blame myself for that. It was the early 1360's and I was just a kid.

GheymeNazri.jpg

Some people, especially mothers, vow to cook and give away food on the day of Imam's alleged martyrdom if "God gives them what they have wished for." A huge number of people usually line up to get a piece of that food, not necessarily because they can't afford to buy food, but because it is believed by some that "Imam's food," as they call it, has healing powers; or at least that's the excuse for demeaning themselves for getting a lousy piece of that food. (Picture by: Nader Davoodi, courtesy of iranian.com)

Things did not however remain the same. Sometime between now and then I gradually started to develop this, sometimes explicit and sometimes prudent, feeling of contempt towards everyone and everything that exhibited any religious flavor or tendency. Regardless of what caused this feeling, which might partly be due to the contemptible nature of many of the people who claim to be the representatives of different religions, it all led me to this rather immature, simplistic, and typically mediocre conclusion that all those who practice religion, especially Islam and Shiism, are plainly stupid, well-below-average-intelligence individuals. "What else in the world do these idiots need to see before they finally realize how stupid this whole thing is?" I kept asking myself. "Haven't they seen too much already to still believe in the rubbish preached by a Mullah? - The likes of that Mullah who had the run-away girls in a so-called Center for Islamic Orientation work as prostitutes, or the one who made women into doing him sexual favors in exchange for a legal permission to annul their marriage to their abusive husbands?" I came to this conclusion that no individual with the least bit of sanity and common sense would continue to believe in this nonsense of tragedy, let alone mourn over it with such ferocity, and sometimes, barbarity.

This year, however, something happened that made me reevaluate my argument and the conclusion I had reached at. A group of people, mostly young men and women, or better to say boys and girls, from the northern, typically rich, neighborhoods of Tehran, gathered together, and in their own "eccentric" way, performed mourning rituals for the death of the Imam. Never mind the events that occurred afterwards and their being beaten up for their "eccentricity", and for perverting a noble practice of savagery into nothing more than the little girls' softball. This whole event demonstrated the different roles such ceremonies and rituals play in the lives of different people.

My previous conclusion was based on the premise that every religious ceremony signifies the deep religious beliefs of its participants; that every public display of religious convictions is yet another blessing extended to the regime by the people; that all those who hold and participate in such ceremonies truly grieve the death of someone killed fourteen centuries ago, allegedly for the noble cause of keeping "the pure Mohammedan Islam" alive. The truth is, Muharram today is nothing more to many people in Iran than what the Oktoberfest is to the Germans, or corrida de toros is to the Spaniards.

alam.jpg

The heavy iron emblem of the mourning platoon, called "Alam" in Farsi. It is usually carried by one man ahead of the rest of the mourning crowd. In this picture, people watching the young man bear the heavy thing on his shoulders reward him with some cash. (Picture by Soheil Poorgolnar. Courtesy of 7sang.com)

It is a time of year when people can gather together and break out of the habit of living a metropolitan life in which every one is busy and no one will even notice if the next door neighbor is dead in her apartment. It is an excuse to stay out all through midnight and early in morning. It is the time when boys meet girls. The youth of the neighborhood proudly show off their muscular abilities to the girls by skillfully handling the big heavy iron emblem of the mourning platoon. It is a time for them to exhibit their underappreciated vocal and musical skills, and again, to some it is merely a business. Big season to sell sheep for sacrifice, to get subsidized rice and other much-craved-for necessities from the government to cook a bit for the poor and take the rest to one's own home. To a few, it is still a time when they can shed a tear. For what? It does not really matter. It could be for your dead loved one, your long lost love, your failed exam or your shattered dream, or simply for nothing but to do what you rarely get the chance to: to cry and unload yourself, to get a good dose of "the opium for the masses". And yet, it is the season for the savage fanatics, to wail, scream, and beat on their empty skulls, and sometimes even slash their head, or that of their baby, with sharp blades.

I do not intend to question the authenticity and sincerity of the feelings of the very few who actually believe they should bemoan the death of their holy Imam, and I still am disdainful of the not so few individuals who insist on keeping alive the traditions and the practice of savage men in the twenty-first century, but I think the reason why such rituals are still being so widely performed today, has very little to do with beliefs or religion per se. In a country where big crowds of people in the streets are considered a threat to the "national" security no matter what their cause, be it demonstrations or merely victory celebrations for the national soccer team, an occasion such as Muharram serves as a rare opportunity for many to pursue their own agenda without major fears of harassment by the regime.

Notes:

  1. The author wishes to thank Mr.Jahanshah Javid of iranian.com for kindly allowing the use of a picture from their Muharram photo gallery in this posting.
  2. The use of the "Alam" picture, reproduced in this posting from 7sang is in accordance with the policy stated in their homepage. The author also wished to thank them for their kind permission.

March 10, 2004

Iran vs. IAEA vs. EU vs. US vs. Iran
Kaveh Khodjasteh  [info|posts]

q1.jpg
I have the following questions:

(1) Why a clandestine nuclear facility, and all the attempts at its secrecy? To make them secure against possible security threats? To hide them from the Iranian people who might not approve such use of their national resources? Are these facilities supervised by the official executive parts of the government? Are there bills approved in the Iranian Majlis [parliament] to approve such facilities? I mean, how would that stand against the Iranian laws, forgetting the International commitments?

(2) Nuclear Weapons? For what reason? Who would they be used against? As deterrent? Against whom? Stability in the Middle East? A regional cold war? Who would benefit most? Who would be devastated in the end? To what end?

(3) Contradicting statement from different individuals and spokespersons in the Iranian government? What do they signify? Who has the final say in this matter and what is it?

(4) Since when, have the European powers become colleagues of the Iranian government? What is this particular partnership [or alliance, which would be a more literal translation] based on?

(5) How is the change of direction on the part of the European powers correlated with the recent rigged parliament elections in Iran?

Not that I expect any answers.

March 05, 2004

 Media 
On being an Iranian in North America
Sarah Kamal  [info|posts]

frontal.jpgI've worked on understanding what I am for a long time. My Mom's Chinese, my Dad's Iranian, I'm a Canadian citizen, and I study in the US. All of these pieces are important, but I'm finding that more than these pieces in isolation, in today's political and social climate, it's their combinations that really determine my sense of self. And of course, with fear of Islamic and perhaps in particular Shi'a fundamentalism on the rise in the West, I am most conscious at the moment of being a composite of pieces that connect a historically bitter divide—of being an Iranian in North America.

I was born a few years before the Iranian revolution. I lived on a farm in Kashan before completing grades 3 and 4 in Tehran. Then my family left Iran in 1985 for England before finally settling in Canada when I was 10 years old. My Chinese-Iranian duality had been intense enough in Iran and Hong Kong, but it was only on reaching North America that I really became conscious of an identity tug of war.

I struggled a lot with my Iranian side as a teenager—the spectre in the eyes of other people was, or I perceived it to be, of Iranians as dark, dirty, smelly, sweaty hostage-takers. I was ambivalent over my Iranian-ness with friends and strangers: half-defiantly proud, and half sweeping it under the rug. For me, on seeing the reactions of friends coming to my house, the unwritten rule became clear: my mother, being Chinese, was socially acceptable. My Iranian father was not.

I knew somewhere deep inside that this was ridiculous. As a 9-year-old in England, I was put in a class of 12-year-olds because my Iranian elementary schooling had been so strong. My Iranian extended family would gather at my grandmother's house every Friday for heated debate on politics and the economy in a way that I have yet to see replicated in other households. So I knew that there was another reality to Iranian society that was more complicated than the ominous fanaticism implicit in media portrayals of chadori women and slogan-chanting masses of humanity in the streets.

But I didn't know how to articulate my inner frustration and doubts. I was young, and questioned my powers of perception—surely I must be wrong if all the objective, respectable, professional media outlets were saying something else. And as I grew aware that part of my background was utterly uncool, I felt shame when yet another negative portrayal of Middle Easterners hit the screens. While I knew this wasn't what Iran was all about, I couldn't actually prove it. And in many ways, I became racist against myself.

Of course now, as a media scholar, I'm finding my childhood experiences to be very interesting fodder for investigation into diaspora identity, cultural dualities, and constructed social worlds. While I don't like to generalize, I honestly feel that it's sad that the cultural wealth of the US is funnelled through such a culturally poor mainstream media. Other than Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan more recently, I can't think of any Chinese actors, singers, or pop icons. With all the talent and beauty streaming out of Bombay, I'd have thought that US popculture would have had at least one big name from India. And of course, while Middle Easterners are good enough as occasional goofy sidekicks or villains, I can't think of any who are household names in their own right.

I'd really like to understand the differences between people who are represented and those who are not in the main cultural flows of their environment. For me, the sense of being invisible in mainstream media has left me with a constant sense of being an outsider. I am looking in onto the ideal world - I am an interloper, the swarthy fringe friend on the outskirts of the circle of acceptance. Don't get me wrong—I've had a very healthy social life. I just mean that somewhere somehow subconsciously, I've learned that I don't exactly fit.

None of this is new, of course, and certainly a large part of the greater diversity of skin colours in media flows is testament to the courage of the civil rights movement and other grassroots mobilizations. I guess I just wish that by now this fight would have been over, and more of us would be represented in the social world that is reflected into all of our eyes.

I also wish that my reality was part of public discourse. You see, the bombed ruins of Bam aren't my experience of Iran. Destitute, wailing victims and nuclear facilities aren't my reality either. They make great front page news, but don't get anywhere close to what I know as Iran. My truth is that smell just after it rains in Tehran, the comfort of mountains always to the north, the stepped walls and the sound of rushing water from the canals lining steeply sloping streets.

My truth is warm liquid dark eyes and truly good people. That's what I breathed in and enjoyed when I finally went back to Iran after 14 years away. And that's what I wish would replace the 20-year-old highly unrepresentative media pushbutton of the Iranian bogeyman.

Now that I've had the chance to grow up, to revisit, and to choose, I've become a lot stronger in my sense of who I am and where I belong. I've come to terms with my ambivalent dualities: the pieces that conform, the pieces that don't. Personally, I like my many-sided identity. I keep the parts I like from each culture, and discard the rest. Easy.

The problem emerges in that my (for lack of a better term) "personal culture" has become so individualized, that it's hard to find my pack, my tribe. Who on earth is going to have patience for my bizarre mishmash of Iranian-Canadian-Chinese cultural moodinesses, superstitions, prejudices, and assumptions? I often hear this concern from people who have moved to countries very different from their own. Marriage prospects are difficult, they say, because people at home will never truly understand, and neither will people in the new country. So they could only find longterm compatibility with multi-nationals like them - with other people who straddle intensely different cultures and understand the funny invisibility and special several-realitied-understanding of never truly fitting in any one culture again.

I guess that means I'm kinda stuck. The only other Iranian-Chinese-Canadians I know are my brothers and sister. And you know, they're cute, but really not that cute.

But I don't mind. Here's to multiple layers of being! It's often an uncomfortable state, but I think a very privileged one. And I am very glad to have been born into mine.