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Marzieh, 'Voice of Love,' Dies at 86; Iran Elected OPEC President

15 Oct 2010 15:063 Comments

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Persian Songstress a Voice of Iranian Political Dissent

Washington Post | Oct 14

Marzieh, a celebrated interpreter of traditional Persian music whose career in her native Iran was silenced by the clerical dictatorship and who in exile became a sharp voice of political dissent, died of cancer Oct. 13 at a hospital in Paris. She was 86.

The daughter of a moderate Muslim cleric, Marzieh became widely known through concerts, radio work and records from the 1940s onward.

She remained a captivating entertainer through recent years, with a mesmerizing voice that for her most devoted fans reinvigorated a sense of nostalgia for the monarchist era. She boasted a repertoire of 1,000 songs.

Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Persian Studies, said Marzieh cultivated a lyrical style with "really sinuous, winding tones, notes and melodies."

She was especially noted for songs that came to be known as Tableaux Musicale, which presented metaphoric vignettes of love and helped popularize classical Persian lyrical poetry in an accessible way.

Her career was effectively scotched after the shah was overthrown in 1979 and mullahs established a hardline government. Solo female voices were prohibited from the radio.

She spent 15 years living in a village near Tehran, keeping her voice trained but never performing in public. She described herself as devastated emotionally.

In 1994, on a visit to Paris, she defected. Her subsequent concert dates -- at such prestigious venues as London's Royal Albert Hall, the Olympia in Paris and the Pantages Theater in Hollywood -- became a blend of entertainment and political messages.

"I sing mostly love songs," she told the Chicago Tribune in 1995. "Love is incarcerated and killed in Iran."


Iran Elected to OPEC Presidency

VOA | Oct 14

For the first time in 36 years, Iran will assume the rotating presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It takes effect next year. The appointment was announced Thursday at the start of this week's OPEC meeting in Vienna.

Iran's oil ministry's official website, SHANA, announced that Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi will become the elected president of the 12-member oil cartel. Iran is OPEC's second-largest oil producer and was unanimously elected during the 157th session of OPEC's ministerial meeting.

OPEC, which provides 35 percent of global oil demand, also reached an agreement on its oil production target. The cartel said Thursday it would make "no changes" to its official oil production target of 24.84 million barrels a day.

OPEC comprises Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Venezuela.


Iran Wants to Discuss Dates to Start Nuclear Talks

Reuters | Oct 15

Iran wants to discuss specific dates for talks with six major powers on its nuclear programme after a European Union offer to meet in Vienna in mid-November, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Friday.

"As you are fully aware recently I announced that October or November from our point of view is a good time to restart talks between Iran and the 5+1 (major powers)," Mottaki told reporters during a visit to Brussels, one day after the EU made its offer.

"It is good news that authorities here are following the matter. This is the way to coordinate some specific, fixed date for starting talks."

2 Germans Arrested in Iran 'Admit to Breaking the Law,' Iran Says

CNN | Oct 15

Two German nationals arrested in Iran for illegally gathering information on an Iranian woman convicted of murder have admitted to breaking the law, state media said Friday.
Iran said the two Germans posed as reporters in order to speak to the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who gained international attention this year when she was sentenced to death by stoning.

"The two Germans have acknowledged their offense, saying that claiming to be journalists was not right," Iranian Prosecutor-General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei told reporters, according to state-run Press TV.

Ejei said the two had ties to "hostile elements" outside Iran.

"They were pursuing a certain agenda in the country," he said.

At Lebanon Rally, Ahmadinejad Vows, 'Zionists Will Disappear'

Washington Post | Oct 15

In a fiery speech two miles from Lebanon's border with Israel on Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised a cheering crowd that the "Zionists will disappear" and that "occupied Palestine will be liberated."

On the second day of a visit to Lebanon, Ahmadinejad traveled to this border town in the southern Shiite heartland, which was hard hit by fighting during Israel's 2006 war against Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas. Iran contributed generously to the cost of rebuilding the town and other Lebanese communities devastated by the war, and the Iranian president used his trip to the border area to voice support for the fight against Israel.

A crowd of thousands waving flags of Iran and Hezbollah greeted Ahmadinejad in the stadium in Bint Jbeil, where he said that the local people had given Israel "the taste of bitter defeat."

"You proved that your resistance, your patience, your steadfastness, were stronger than all the tanks and warplanes of the enemy, "Ahmadinejad told the throng.

"The entire world should know that the Zionists will disappear," Ahmadinejad said as a pair of Israeli helicopters flew along the border within sight of the stadium. "Today the Zionist occupiers have no choice but to surrender to reality and return to their homes and countries of origin."

"Rest assured that occupied Palestine will be liberated from the filth of the occupation by the power of the resistance and through the faith of the resistance," the Iranian leader said, bringing a roar from the crowd.

Obituary: U.S. Diplomat Seized in Iranian Hostage Crisis

Washington Post | Oct 14

Richard Morefield, an unflappable career diplomat who was consul general in Tehran when he was seized by Iranian militants in 1979 and endured 444 days in captivity, including three mock executions, died Oct. 11 at a hospital in Raleigh, N.C., of pneumonia. He was 81.

Mr. Morefield was a seasoned Foreign Service officer who arrived in Tehran four months before a mob of Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy on Nov. 4, 1979.

An economics expert with a self-possessed demeanor, Mr. Morefield was sent to Iran because of his experience working calmly amid violence-racked countries such as Colombia.

He found an explosive situation in Tehran, which was then churning with anti-American sentiment after the United States gave safe passage to the ailing shah.

The revolutionary fervor led to the seizure of the embassy and the holding of 52 U.S. hostages. An international crisis ensued, prompting 14 months of intensive diplomatic negotiations to secure their release.

The United States staged a military rescue mission in April 1980 that proved a disaster. Two of the helicopters collided, and eight U.S. service members died. Their charred bodies, left behind, were displayed on Iranian television and deepened the sense of foreboding about the embassy hostages.

Just after being sequestered, Mr. Morefield was taken to a basement holding space and blindfolded, forced to stay silent except when interrogated. He was told to kneel and a pistol was placed against his head. The gun clicked. The chamber was empty.

This happened twice more during his captivity. He was otherwise held in isolation in a cramped cell lit only by window slits high above him.

Sakineh Ashtiani's Lawyer Condemns Iran Executions

ICHRI | Oct 14

The lawyer representing Sakineh Ashtiani -- the Iranian lady facing the death penalty -- has described Iran's leaders as "among the worst offenders of human rights abuses".

Mohammed Mustafei addressed MEPs on the European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee on 14 October 2010 during a hearing to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Ms Ashtiani is facing death after being convicted of adultery in 2006.

Officials suspended her stoning sentence in July, but there are fears she will now be hanged.

In 2006 she was given 99 lashes after being found guilty of having had an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband.

The case has provoked international outcry, and in September the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the death penalty in Iran to be ended immediately.

Her lawyer told MEPs that the death penalty was common practice in Iran, as well as execution of juveniles and the amputation of peoples' limbs.


We Can't Stop Iran from Going Nuclear, So Stop Pretending That We Can

Barry Gewen (New Republic) | Oct 13

Barack Obama faces no more important foreign policy decision during his presidency than whether to take military action against Iran's nuclear program (a decision that also includes whether to give a green light to Israel to do so). Among the possible consequences of a military strike, we must consider a long-term, inconclusive war with Iran, a wider conflict across the entire Middle East, the destabilization of moderate regimes in the region and an increase in terrorism around the world. Then, too, the possible consequences of a failure to strike include a more aggressive Iran, a nuclear arms race across the entire Middle East, the destabilization of moderate regimes in the region and an increase in terrorism around the world. It's damned if you do, and damned if you don't. Compared to the three-dimensional chess game playing out between the United States and Iran, Afghanistan looks like tic-tac-toe.

Some experts estimate Iran has now come within a year of acquiring the bomb (and others say the experts have been estimating the same thing for years). Many, perhaps most, Israelis view a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to their country. Tellingly, Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will wait no longer than December for economic sanctions to generate results.

If there's any satisfaction to be taken from our current perilous situation, it's that the debate over Iran has proved fuller and more wide-ranging than anything that preceded the 2003 Iraq war. The prime example of this debate was Jeffrey Goldberg's indispensable cover story in the September Atlantic Monthly and the extensive discussion on the magazine's website that followed it. After interviewing about 40 Israeli policy makers, Goldberg concluded: "there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike."

Just about every major publication in America and England (and no doubt Israel as well) has contributed to the debate. All possible viewpoints and positions have been expressed, so that when the crunch comes, no one can claim to be ill-informed or surprised. Yet I, for one, have been unable to take much satisfaction from the discussion. As someone who has reached the conclusion that military action against Iran would be a bad idea--or, rather, a worse idea than the alternative--I worry that the way the argument has been framed makes military action all but inevitable.


Interview: Mehdi Karroubi on Iran's Green Movement

Interview with Mehdi Karroubi by Laura Secor (New Yorker) | Oct 12

There is a widespread perception outside Iran that the Green Movement has been defeated. We no longer hear about millions-strong demonstrations, and a great many opposition figures have been imprisoned or forced out of the country. Is there still a Green Movement in Iran? Does it have an organized structure and a strategy for achieving its goals?

Because of heavy government suppression, people are not visible in the streets, chanting and demonstrating. But the movement runs very deep. If the government allowed any kind of activity in the streets, the world would see millions of people. The authorities know it, and that is why they have cracked down for the last sixteen months, shutting down any kind of opposition in the most brutal ways. The government has many problems at the moment.... The economy and foreign policy are both sources of conflict. All of this makes it very hard for the current administration to accomplish anything. In the first months and days after the election, many officials from the top down were sent to prison, and this has continued. These are clear signs that the movement is still alive.

The Iranian diaspora includes a great many young people who were politically active when they left Iran (many of them very recently), and who wish to be involved with the Green Movement from outside. What role, if any, can these Iranians living abroad play?

Iran belongs to all Iranians, from those who left Iran years ago to all who reside in Iran today. I have always stressed that Iranians outside the country should retain their identity and stay in touch with their homeland. I cannot tell Iranians outside the country what to do, but I can say that it would be good for them to try to convey Iranian public opinion and elite thought to the outside world, to help project the voices of those who are voiceless in Iran.

If it were up to you, what would be the attitude of the United States government toward the Green Movement?

We look to our own people, to our own country and its interests. We try to avoid any dependence on other countries, nor would we suggest any strategy for them. This movement is our own responsibility, and we do not expect other nations or governments to do anything for us. But if they feel a humanitarian obligation to support us, that is another thing.

Do you feel that your safety and freedom are in peril? What is it like to function--and to live--in this environment? How has it changed your daily activities, as a person and as a political leader?

There are many difficulties, and the pressure is intense. I have no security in my home. Recently, for five days in a row, there were rocks and grenades thrown at my house. Our neighbors have been frightened, their property burned and destroyed. Our opponents are not afraid of anything. They closed down the office of my party and even my own private office. I knew I might face such malicious tactics. From when I was speaker of parliament to the present, when I have no official position, I have always defended the rights of the people. I am prepared for any incident or accident, and I am not afraid. But I am concerned about Islam, and I am afraid that these people who are attacking and harassing people in the name of Islam are doing serious damage to our religion in the eyes of the world.

Last year, you publicized allegations of sexual abuse inside Iranian prisons. To your knowledge, do these kinds of abuses continue to take place, or has the problem been addressed?

In our culture, victims of rape suffer deep shame and depression. Moreover, the authorities made the situation very intimidating, such that rape victims were afraid to speak up. Even so, some of the rape victims came to see me, and consequently, some of them have been silenced or forced to leave the country. I do not even know how these people are doing or if they are recovering. I just documented their claims and made a film of what they said happened to them while they were in jail, so that if anyone tried to deny that detainees had been raped, I would have something in hand. I will say it clearly: they raped people in detention in the early days of the movement, and they continue to torture dissidents in brutal ways in prison. I have nothing in hand to indicate recent or continuous rape in detention.

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"I used to go to the countryside and sing to the mountains, the birds, for the water, for the hills, just to avoid my voice reaching one mullah."

"They said music was only for the wicked. I was becoming a pale autumn leaf ... What would a nightingale do if you put her in a cage? She would die in 24 hours."

I love Marzieh's voice. May she rest in peace.

We are a people who are not even allowed to perform our own traditional music in our homeland. What a sorry state we've been in for these past decades.

Cy / October 15, 2010 4:09 PM

I think Marzieh was a great singer. It is a big pity that she was ab/used by MKO. I can not figure out how she could have let those tyrant and dogmatic MKO people take advantage of her. But anyways, nobody is perfect! RIP Marzieh.

Amin / October 15, 2010 9:38 PM

My parents once took me to Marzieh's concert. Alas, I was too young at the time to appreciate it.


ahvaz / October 15, 2010 9:45 PM