Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy Norooz, or something to that effect.

Author’s Note: This piece is dedicated to Ali Gharib’s beard. Do not ask me why. I don’t know why either.  

I have to do a google search to learn that this Persian New Year is the 1394th year. That makes it the 10th Persian New Year that I have not been in Iran. It is approximately a third of my lifetime, in earthly years, that I have not celebrated the Persian New Year (Norooz) in Tehran, with my family, witnessing in amazement how beautiful, charming and clean my hometown, Tehran, that crowded Persian bathhouse of a city, can be. About the same time that I have not seen the majestic peaks of Alborz mountain chain separating Tehran from the Caspian sea. Those wonderful blossoms on the trees in the streets, those excited smiles of the entire families on the streets.

I no longer care about Norooz. These days, I am afraid, I get more excited about Christmas. I blame it on my eyes. On my surroundings. I blame it on Obama. (Joking!! Also, Bill O’Reilly, love u!)

But, really, I have to work on my emotions, and try hard to get excited about the coming of the Persian New Year. But, what’s the point? Yesterday was the first day of the Spring in the south central region of the US, and I was in a coffee shop – during the commencement of the Spring – talking to a guy I had just met, Charles, about the Persian New Year. Charles was from Birmingham, Alabama. He seemed like a gay person, or maybe he was not, but talking to him was pleasant. I had asked my Iranian friends in Baton Rouge, if they wanted to get together to celebrate the moment the Spring commenced: One response was that the tradition was to celebrate the coming of the new year in your own home with your own family. Well, this responder, was a married one, and she was right as far as I my memories of Norooz helped. The other two responses were “We are going to a dinner party.” Needless to say I was not invited to either of the two parties. What I did was going to a fundraiser of a college radio station and listening to  grunge and rap performances of the young and enthusiastic artists. It was fun. But, it did not feel right.

I no longer care about the Persian New Year. Its comings. Its goings.

Oh, I also did something else. Before ending up in that coffee shop, I went to a nearby restaurant called Al-Maza (Flavor in English) owned by an Iranian guy, Hamid, who is originally from Isfahan. He has lived in the US since the early 80s. He has always been friendly to me. Talking to him reminds me of all the warm-hearted, nice Iranian men who were my dad’s friends. Talking to him is reassuring.  (Let me wipe my tears and then I will get back to writing again. Just a minute please.)

Hamid’s father, aged 94, had died three months ago -- and, I was not up-to-date on this sad news. I don’t go to Hamid’s restaurant often. This time Hamid told me about this tragedy. I became speechless. When my own dad died a couple of year ago, Hamid had called me about it as soon as he'd learned about it. I was ashamed that I had not done the same for him. But, what I could do was to listen to him telling me memories of his father. Of his life. Of his own relationship with his dad. And how his mother and brother and sister had asked him to not come to Iran, for everything was ok – and he had a business to run, a family to take care of. Hamid can go to Iran. He has no political or social problem with the Islamic Republic. But, his job has prevented him from going to Iran and visiting his father’s grave. I told him that I yearned to see a picture of my dad’s grave. He told me his family had sent him a video of the body of his father getting washed according to the Islamic code, a stage before the burial in the ground.

Anyhow, after a few hours of chatting, the customers started to come into the shop, and I took my leave. I wished him a happy new year. Whatever that means.

Funny was that Hamid also told me he no longer cared about the coming of the Persian New Year.

Happy New Year, guys.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

B'day rant -- 2014 edition.

It seems favorite part of my birth days are no longer the festivities, for such actions are not really called for, but my motivation to rant, aka, blog.
Here we go, for this year:
My mom just called, and wished me a happy B’day, I answered, “I congratulate you too” (in Persian, the word congratulate is used when wishing someone a happy b’day). My mom and I always banter, sometimes they end up in shit, sometimes they end up in laughter, sometimes in a serious goodbye. Usually, I criticize, analyze and try to subtly offend my mom when bantering. At this moment in time, after 8 years of not having seen her, I am used to being away from her, and usually thinking about her, I can only remember all the shitty stuff of her personality, history and such the quickest. Basically, I am trapped with my shitty memories of her, and there is no way in sight of making new memories with her. Obviously, if anyone is about to initiate a new memory-making phase, it would be me, for she is not only old, but she is too IRANIAN. I am not too IRANIAN at this moment, but I am getting old. And, I can’t see how I will ever initiate anything positive with her, talking to her, or, more accurately, not being able to talk to her without hurting her in one way or another is simply impossible.
What I know is the slightest direct criticism offends her severely.
I have already started to prepare myself for another shitty chain of events in future.
My dad had cancer and we had stopped communicating a year or so before his imminent death, but with my mom, we have this shallow, misleading veneer of communication (once every 7-8 weeks or so), which makes it all the more difficult. For example, today I knew one way or another I am going to receive a call from her. I could either ignore the call, or answers it. And, I answered it. And, now, I am feeling sorry for myself. I mean today is my B’day, and I have always been depressed on this special day since years ago, but to feel sorry for oneself and be depressed is a shitty combination, I tell you.
(When I am depressed, I do not feel sorry for myself usually, I am usually angry and sad. Sorrow is neither sadness nor anger.)
Not that I want to make you feel shitty too, but I don’t care actually.
My mom asked me what’s new, I said hichi (means nothing in Persian). I cannot talk to my mom about shit actually. Whatever I say, she will comment or say something which I would fine either stupid, offensive or judgmental. It is “safer” not to talk about anything but “her” relatives. I mean really HER relatives not mine, for example: Mom said today that Aunt S. has called home in Tehran and has congratulated “my” B’day. I replied why didn’t she call the house of Mamad Agha (a typical nobody in Persian) to congratulate MY B’day! She should do it next time. What I mean is why should an AUNT of mine call my MOM to talk about MY B’day. I mean it is my B’day, I think, not my mom’s. And, this aunt has my number, I did give it to her a few years ago, but she does not call me. Whatever.
The other day I was thinking I should start making my own family, but I am too scared of any and all relationships, I highly doubt I will manage to find and maintain myself a regular fuck buddy let alone a romantic, committed relationship.
I guess rant is done.  


Monday, September 22, 2014

IranWire's blogger perpetuates false notions of homosexuality & gay asylum seekers among Iranians

A so-called satirical piece in Persian published Saturday, September 20, 2014, on the IranWire website -- a news and commentary website in both English and Persian languages run by the prominent Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari, which some of its English articles are also featured on The Daily Beast website – as part of an ongoing satirical series on the issue of seeking asylum by Iranians in Turkey is the reason for this outburst.
Homepage of the English version of Picture of Maziar Bahari is between pictures of Iran's FM Javad Zarif and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. 
The latest installment of this series tries to poke fun at those asylum-seeking Iranians, who fake homosexual tendencies as the primary reason for asking to be granted asylum by the United Nations. The author, Sharagim Zand – who happens to be currently residing in Turkey seeking asylum at this moment, probably, on the basis of his work as a journalist in Iran – opens this piece promising he is as ignorant about the Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) refugees as the society he is trying too hard to criticize:
[Claiming] homosexuality is the most convenient, most straightforward and the quickest method of achieving the asylum status in Turkey [granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)]. It is the proverbial piece of cake. Convenient and direct as it does not require attending any church [service] or getting baptized and receiving a letter of recommendation [from pastors – basically, things that those claiming to be Christian converts need to provide as evidence of their convictions].Similarly, it also needs no standing warrant [issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran], a past stint in jail, traces of lashes [on your body], and torture and political activity. These types of cases are quick and homosexual people, in case of passing the interview, will be heading to European and North American countries ahead of other asylum applicants. The reason for this matter per the UN is that homosexuality is not a choice but an immutable birth trait, also, homosexual people have already experienced oppression in Iran and the Turkish society is not fully accepting of them, therefore, they [homosexuals] are given special passage to the West sans any waiting period and [any regard] for the queue [of other applicants waiting to be processed.]

With the above alarming, misleading and entirely unfunny opening, even in Persian, out of the way, the author goes on to refer to gay asylum cases as "The Golden Case" in the lingo of the asylum seekers -- meaning, these types of cases are sure to be successfulSubsequently, Mr.Zand tries to shed some light that the UN does not ask people who claim to be homosexual to perform any same-sex sexual act. Afterwards, Mr.Zand goes on to write a more disturbing passage, which can be considered humorous if you are into gross generalization of the patriarchal mind
The number of [asylum request] cases [involving fake claims of] homosexuality [is so much that makes] it the 2nd most popular form of fake asylum cases after the cases of [fraudulent] apostasy [claims]...
[Translators's note: Both apostasy and homosexuality in Iran have a documented history of death punishments.] 

The only reason fake homosexual [asylum] cases are not ranked number one yet is because homosexuality is not acceptable in the [Iranian] society and, in particular, in male groups -- a surely undeserving status, but due to reasons, which are not fully clear to the author, this type of fake cases is becoming more and more popular among the ladies, and it can be predicted [with a fair amount of certainty] that in the near future a new wave of lesbian refugees will head to the UN offices, and, consequently, elevate this [type of fraudulent] case to its deserved standing [of number one] among the various fake cases [and asylum claims].

Fortunately, since a few years ago, homosexuality has been considered a classy and stylish deed among the ladies, indicative of their special social, and even artistic, persona ...
 Regardless of the telltale signs that the author, Mr.Sharagim Zand –– is into lesbian porn flicks, a common trait of porn-watching heterosexual male species of our times, it is Mr.Zand's casual repetition of an unfortunately popular, but deeply flawed thought among the Iranians – on-line or off-line, old or young – that homosexual behavior is of people who seek undeserved attention or that it is a proclamation of one's intellectual, contrarian standing, which makes this passage to stand out.  

(How is this repetition is funny is beyond my comprehension. Please let me know why it is funny if you can laugh at it.)

Mr.Zand's mindless regurgitation of a foul cliché of the Iranian mind, which has been ceaselessly causing pain and hardship for the Iranian LGBT for decades, undermines the preemptive, introductory note of his post. He writes:
Comment: Oppression of the homosexual people in Iran is an undeniable fact. The [asylum seeking] cases of many homosexual refugees in real. This satirical piece is only about those who abuse the hardship of the homosexual, Iranian refugees to achieve asylum status [via the UN] in Turkey. 
A second comment, explaining the already clear: With apologies to the majority of the good readers of the website, let me repeat for the minority who are not aware:  These pieces are satire [Mr. Zand has written so far 13 satirical pieces for IranWire on the subject of asylum seeking in Turkey], and are not ho-to manuals [of asylum seeking]. IranWire has no responsibility in the case of [those] following this series [to attain asylum status], let us repeat again, this series is written in the form of satire and are not manuals [to achieve asylum]. We hope that we have stressed enough on the word satire! 

Obviously, Mr. Sharagim Zand is fully aware that writing about Iranian LGBT issues is touching a controversial subject for the Iranian audience. Obviously, he has a good sense of the his audience. But, does he think that writing in ignorance is going to be funny? Is satire that which is perpetuating the widely-held flawed notions of sexuality? Is satire supposed to maintain glorifying the male gaze? Is satire supposed to be about a subject the author is seemingly as ignorant about it as the society he tries to criticize?

Furthermore, why is IranWire, a promising young publication, giving voice to this rubbish? Is this what passes as satire these days among news and commentary outlets based out of Iran? (Another case is what I wrote about Iranian satirist Mahmud Farjami in 2013.)

Mr.Zand further goes on to provide advice to the male Iranian applicants of the fake homosexuality claim on the difference between trans and gay. Needless to say I have no idea what Mr.Zand means when he writes Trans, does he mean transgender, transvestite, transsexual or transqueer or any other derivative?! or, does he mean trans*?  For the sake of this post, I am assuming he means transgender. He writes:
My advice to the brothers who are to submit a gay claim is to be as normal as possible on the day of the interview [with the UN case office for refugees] and be themselves. Most of the times, a homosexual person is no different than a normal person. Combing your hair like a doll, tattoing the eyebrows, applying eyeliner, and wearing a earrings and wearing tight leather pants, spike-stud, fishnet clothing and high-heels, are common behavior among trans people. Swearing on God, trans  is different from homosexual. Why are you doing this??

Even more frightening than the prospect of Mr.Sharagim Zand’s future efforts to write about trans* people is his casual use of homophobic rhetoric and sheer ignorance regarding transgender people.  
  • Example 1: Mr.Sharagim Zand does not know, or ignores that transgender people can in fact be homosexual. There are differences between gender and sexual orientation which need to be explained to Mr.Sharagim Zand before he goes on to provide funny advice to others. 
  • Example 2: “Most of the times, a homosexual person is no different than a normal [emphasis added] person.”  

Per IranWire's blogger, homosexual people are not normal, but most often they act like normal people, who are probably Mr.Zand, his readers and editors at IranWire. We -- the gays -- should be probably thanking Mr.Zand for his wisdom in understanding that most of us, most of the times, act normal. Thank you, Mr.Zand.  

I know you will find it disappointing, but I am not going to translate any more passage of this rubbish that IranWire has published claiming it is satire. Instead I want to draw your attention to the aftermath of publishing this garbage which is unfolding in the social network website Facebook, the most popular social network tool among Iranians.

I start by Mr.Zand’s comment on his Facebook page after it is published and shared on the IranWire Facebook page. 
Screenshot of the Sharagim Zand's Facebook page and the status in question. 
He writes:
The comments left in IranWire Facebook page under my article are full of insulting and humiliating comments toward the homosexuals. This is really shameful. Some internet users and reader of IranWire hold a deeply inhumane and primitive view of homosexuality that I am sorry I referred to fake cases in satire in my writing!
I, on behalf of myself, apologize from all the people who are homosexual and are being insulted in the comment section of Facebook by some idiot fellow citizens of mine.
What is sad is Mr.Zand's lack of comprehension that his writing is homophobic, transphobic and idiotic. I can try to appreciate that Mr.Zand is not trying to hurt homosexual people or queer people in general, but what makes it difficult is his willful negligence of his own problematic language and message.

Did anyone force Mr.Zand to perpetuate false notions held widely in Iran regarding homosexual people, homosexuality and trans* people?

Did Mr.Zand, as a blogger, who is published on IranWire try to reach out to any Iranian gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans* before publishing this garbage?

Or, maybe, because Mr.Zand has a couple of very good gay friends, he’s an all-knowing entity on the gays? And, we have to submit to his eminence?

I am speaking as an Iranian queer human here: Mr. Sharagim Zand, your recent writing is deeply offensive, disturbing and perpetuates dangerous false notions. You and IranWire need to acknowledge this matter and fix it. 

 Here hoping IranWire reaches out to me, or published my post on their website. I give IranWire full permission to do what it likes with my response. So, maybe some of their readers get to see another slice of the Iranian society which is not into perpetuating false notions of homosexuality and gender.

NOTE: Yesterday, I reached out to IranWire's Maziar Bahari and Azadeh Moaveni on twitter, radio silence is what I got so far. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Watching World Cup As a Coping Mechanism.

If you ask me to name a football match which I really tried to find the time to watch during the 24 years I lived in Iran, I can only name one game: Iran vs Australia matches to qualify for the 1998 France World Cup.   

I never cared about football in my life. However, my father was a big fan of football. He would watch anything. From third-rate European club games to Serie A of Italy and Iran's Azadegan League. In other words, whatever football match the Iranian State TV deemed ok to broadcast, my father would have liked to watch. Seriously. 

Many times, when I was a kid, I wanted my dad to play with me or hang out and such, but, many times he chose watching football over me. I actually used to think of football as my rival. So, many times, when a football match was on one of the few TV channels, I would not inform my dad that a football match was happening even if no other interesting program was on. Imagine this: my dad and I were in the living room, and of the then-four channels, three of them had clerics talking about Islam and such, except for one channel showing a football match. And, I knew it was happening. But, I'd rather have the TV show a cleric babble than my dad's watching another football match.

Every minute he would watch football was a minute he was away from my mother, and siblings and me. 

My dad usually left home at 7:00 AM for work and returned about 5-6 PM nearly everyday. He and my mother were never on friendly terms (whenever they talked, it ended up in arguments and shit) as far as I remember. I also blamed this on football. "Football is the reason my dad never bothers to take the time to talk to my mom and hash things out." "Football distracts my dad from everything including his family." I was a kid, you know. 

(I think the other reason I did not like football was I was queer and I did not know it. But, whatever.)

Now, months after my father's death (last year about these days), I am finding out that I love, love to watch every single game of World Cup. This can mean either of the followings: (1) I am getting old and boring. (2) I am looking for the entertainment my dad was so addicted to. 

If (1) is true, well, any conclusion will be as boring as fuck, so, I skip it. But , if (2) be the case, then it is my unconscious mind finding ever weird ways to cope with the unfading pain of loss.

And, I am grateful for it. When I am watching matches of this World Cup, I am remembering my dad: his excited, and funny half-jumps from his chair when a goal was in the making, his shouts, his Ahhhhhs, his triumphant grin when his favorite team was scoring, his frowned look when the "damned referee" was ignoring fouls, and his cheerful demeanor when Iran's National Football Team was recognized as the winner at the end of any match. He would stand up, and slowly, excitedly spin around with a smile and kiss anyone who was close on their cheeks. Even my mom did not object to those kisses. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

PhD in assholery.

So, finally, after wasting years in the grad school, I defended my thesis "successfully."

It feels good. Very good, actually.

Here is me trying to jot down stuff I do not want to forget a year from now:

Thursday, April 3, 2013:

I was driving home when I started crying waiting behind a red light.  Thoughts of my father, his smile, his voice -- his warm, and kind voice, his eyes when he heard some good news, and such came to me all at once. Knowing he is in the ground, his cancer-stricken corpse decaying away, becoming one with the fucking nature, was too overwhelming that only tears could be uttered in response. What is there to do?

Friday, April 4, 2013:

Defense commenced at 1 PM. It ended at 3 PM. I passed.

Went to Chimes and started calling people to come in and drink! It was fun, fun, fun.

Most of the people I called were not my friends, but I was friendly with. I have very few friends in this town. Another reason to celebrate the successful defense. 

Sunday, April 6, 2013:

Talked to my mom in Tehran. I had called her on Saturday but nobody answered the phone. Anyways, I talked to her for more than an hour at least -- probably two hours. I asked her if she had visited Dad's grave in Behesht-e Zahra graveyard, or not. Of course, I knew she had visited the grave. It's the tradition for Iranians to visit the grave of the deceased dears and commemorate their memories on the joyous occasion of a new Persian year (Nowruz). She said she had visited the grave. And, I asked her how she commuted to the grave and back. I do not remember in all my life seeing my mom in person driving. There are pics of her driving some Citroën my parents had before the revolution, but they are just pics. She said she hires a cab. My family's house in Tehran is near Seyyed Khandan bridge, which is one of the hubs of transportation in Tehran. So, I know there is always some cabs waiting for customers there. My mom further added my father is known among the drivers for the many trips he and my mom took the chemotherapy clinic. My mom said some of the drivers even get out of their cars when they give a ride to my mom to Behesht-e Zahra and wash my dad's tombstone. Washing the tombstone by some water (or, rose water) is another tradition of Iranians. Hearing my mom telling me of cab drivers paying respect to my dad, visiting his grave, and washing the tombstone, I could not do anything but burst into crying. This is the first time I cried on the phone with my mother on the other end since my dad died in the Summer of 2013.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Sharon was better than Assad or Khomeini, U know!" --- Meir Javedanfar The Fatuous

Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Sabra & Shatila finally died -- after 8 years of dying, you know. Sharon's death was naturally an occasion for all the Zionists and co. to express how sad they are that a certified murderer is dead. I am sure someone is keeping track of all such reactions, but, my focus here is Iran, so, unfortunately, the so-called expert of Iran-Israel, Meir Javedanfar, is usually on my radar. He who gallantly claims on his twitter bio:

Now, Meir Javednafar is not a stranger to this blog. We need to cover him because he, due to his knowledge of Farsi language, gets to be the face of the Israel and Zionism that the Persian Media deems fit to present to their oppressed Iranian audience -- who will watch anything that is not turban-oriented, mind you.
As expected, after Sharon's death, he was invited to go on BBC Persian to talk about it -- probably because he's an authority on murderous Israelis, I assume.
In a series of Tweets, Meir Javedanfar expressed how Shaoron is unfairly "abused" on twitter while Assad is The murderous one --- this specious, misleading, shallow reasoning is not just a staple of Javedanfar's commentary on all issues Iran and Arab World, but seems to be an integral part of the greater Hasbara campaign run by the Zionists. After all, it seems, Mr. Javedanfar can't believe an Israeli butcher killing non-Jews can be as bad as an Arab dictator killing Arab people. I guess only a racist can think like that: Life of humans is decided by the fact of what race they are from!
Anyways, see for yourself:

Now, genius of Javedanfar is to compare the butchery of Sharon to that of Iranian modern dictators, and citing an anonymous Iranian friend,who could be his ass or the infamous warmonger Sohrab Ahmari for all we know, he opines:
Furthermore, Javedanfar reveals what credential he expects of self-proclaimed Experts on Iran. His bar is so high, mind you: A trip to Iran and a quick chat with some friendly Bazaari people in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran.

As you notice above, Sharon knew Iran "firsthand" -- whatever that means. Going on a limb,I would say Sharon probably knew Iran more than Mr.Javedanfar.

Some more of the graceful and enlightening comments by Javedanfar follows:
As noted above, Javedanfar does not seem inclined to mention Sharon's butchery -- probably, for very good reasons.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why I am not giving a shit about Night of Yalda (Winter Solstice)

Well, the answer in short is, I can. Anyways, the following is a longer answer.

I have reached that point in my adult life (fucking hate this adult life) that I can no longer give a shit about any Persian holiday. I lied. I still give a shit about Ashura. And it is funny for if you ask me, I will tell you I am an Atheist. Let's talk about it some other time.

(Ashura is certainly not 100% Persian, but like any other thing Arab occupiers shoved down the throat of the Persians, it is now 120% Persionaized.)

Well, 7 years of being away from Iran, stranded in a backward corner of America, has made me forget having any excitement over any Persian Holiday: Norooz (Persian New Year), Shab-e Yalda, Chahar Shnabeh Soori (Last Wednesday of the Persian Year), 22 Bahman (commemoration of 1979 Revolution), etc.

And I am in that state. I do not experience any excitement over any holiday, therefore, I find it hypocritical, fake and outright pathetic of myself to pretend I am excited about it when talking to other Iranians be it on twitter or in real life. If they are excited, good for them.