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Welcome!

Welcome to my blog! True to my name, Shiva the Spy, I will be your eyes and ears in Iran, bringing you detailed accounts of everyday life from my perspective. You'll have a window into the social, cultural, political, and historical aspects of the country. I will bring you the stuff that American media can't...or won't. So, check back regularly for stories, photos, commentary, and anything else your curiosity calls for.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Professor Ahmadinejad?!?

My cousin, a civil engineering major who attends the University of Science and Technology (3rd most prominent school in Iran), recently divulged an interesting tidbit of information. It seems that right up to the two weeks before Iran's recent June presidential election, one of his professors was Mr. Ahmadinejad. At the time, he was mayor. And apparently, he was the teacher everybody likes--friendly, laid back, cheerful, and an easy grader! He taught my cousin's traffic engineering course, while his bodyguard would sit outside.

Aside from teaching undergrads, he also was professor to PhD students. If this guy fits the classic stereotype of the cool teacher, then it's no surprise that he won the election.

President Ahmadinejad somewhat reminds me of New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin because of his down-to-earth, mover-and-shaker honest approach to politics. In his recent Sept. 17 speech at the UN meeting in New York, President Ahmadinejad "kept it real":
"Some powerful states practice a discriminatory approach against access of NPT members to material, equipment, and peaceful nuclear technology, and by doing so, intend to impose a nuclear apartheid.

"We are concerned that once certain powerful states completely control nuclear energy resources and technology, they will deny access to and thus deepen the divide between powerful countries and the rest of the international community. When that happens, we will be divided into light and dark countries....

"Regrettably, in the past 30 years, no effective measure has been implemented to facilitate the exercise of the legally recognized right of NPT state-parties to have access to and use peaceful nuclear energy in accordance with article IV. Therefore, the General Assembly should ask the IAEA in accordance with article 2 of its Statute to report on violations by specific countries that have hindered the implementation of the above article and also produce practical strategies for its renewed implementation.

"What needs our particular attention is the fact that peaceful use of nuclear energy without possession of nuclear fuel cycle is an empty proposition. Nuclear power plants can indeed lead to total dependence of countries and peoples if they need to rely for their fuel on coercive powers, who do not refrain from any measure in furtherance of their interests.

"No popularly elected and responsible government can consider such a situation in the interest of its people. The history of dependence on oil in oil rich countries under domination is an experiment that no independent country is willing to repeat....

"Therefore, as a further confidence building measure and in order to provide the greatest degree of transparency, the Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to engage in serious partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment program in Iran. This represents the most far reaching step, outside all requirements of the NPT, being proposed by Iran as a further confidence building measure."....
Click here for the full transcript.
Public support for the pursuit of nuclear energy within Iran transcends all boundaries of age, education levels, socio-economic status, politics, and gender. Iranians want nuclear energy because they see it as the epitome of modernity. Anyone you ask on the street will firmly assert its importance for technological advancement in the scientific, medical, agricultural, economic and many other sectors.

While Iran has consistently stated that the nuclear energy it seeks will be used for peaceful purposes, there may be a chance the country will withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if the U.S. and/or the EU trio persist in trying to bar Iran's legal right to pursue such energy.

This is an interesting predicament...will the rule of law prevail, or the interests of the most developed and richest countries in the world? We shall see....

9 Comments:

Anonymous Alx said...

Shiva, Thank you for bringing up this subject here. In an ideal world, peoples of all nations would be better off utilizing natural energy resources such as wind, water, the sun etc. But given how the world is and the number of countries that make use of nuclear energy, let alone those who threaten others with their nuclear weapns, and knowing of other significant, peaceful benefits of nuclear energy, Iran has every right to develop its own nuclear energy resources. The US and its client states are blatantly hypocritical at best and extremely dangerous adversaries at worst. I, too, like many other Iranians support the Iranian Government on this matter.

Taking the tough stance agains the Adversary is most appropriate, particularly if it is accompanied by a consistent effort to better Iran's international image - which is still pretty negative, and which forms a pretext for the hypocrites to hinder (to put it mildly) the progress of our great nation. I certainly hope the new president of Iran can and will address these crucial issues.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Shiva said...

Hi, Alx,

Thanks for your insightful comments. I agree with you that Iran should proceed with the development of their nuclear resources, especially since they are doing so within the constraints of the NPT.

Besides, the U.S. and its allies in this issue are tossing out empty accusations that Iran is in pursuit of nuclear weapons. As far as I know, Iran's government has not shown itself to be hostile or irrational towards any country, in the 26 years it's been in power.

In addition, I read in today's paper that Iran ranks first in the world in energy consumption, which increased by 10% this year. Well, it seems consumption will increase exponentially over time, so Iran may need nuclear energy to cater to its demand. I don't think the country has any other choice.

And I'm right with you on the idea that energy produced by the sun, wind, water, etc. isn't very practical in today's world. Would you happen to know if there are any countries utilizing these types of resources as a major source of energy?

8:00 PM  
Anonymous alx said...

Shiva, I'd say no, not as a major source of energy. However, I believe in Australia and perhaps in Germany there have been a number of ongoing trial cases. The reasons that such attempts never get the financial backing they need are primarily to do with the everlasting alliance between the multinational energy corporations and the incumbent government heads, to whose mutual benefit it is to continue using the more traditional sources of energy, particularly those belonging to weaker countries, which can be purchased as cheaply as possible.

Incidentally, how's your Persian studies coming along?

3:22 PM  
Blogger Shiva said...

Yea, I guess "traditional" sources mean the most cost-efficient ones, in terms of labor, time, and capital. Even the attempt to popularize hydroelectric cars in the U.S. has been met with little enthusiasm, due to issues of inefficiency related to the rechargeable battery.

As far as my studies go, in a class with five Koreans, one New Zealander, one half-American Iranian, and one German, I am the slowest reader. But in terms of speaking, I am the best!!! Woo-hoo! That's because both of my parents are Iranian, and although they spoke 1/2 English, 1/2 Farsi to my siblings and me growing up, we can at least communicate effectively (albeit grammatically incorrect at times) with others.

Other than reading and writing regularly, you got any tips?? I heard from a stranger that learning poems is the best way to learn the language.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shiva jon:
I read what you wrote about president Ahmady-Nejad and his speech on Nuclear energy. I thought his clearly and powerfully made his point. It is about time for US and it's allies to stop pressuring and manipulating so called 3rd world countries for their own benefit.
Persia

10:07 PM  
Anonymous alx said...

Shiva,

Cost-effectiveness, though may be true, sounds more like a good excuse to refuse giving funds to those advocating the use of natural energy sources. After all, think of all the money NASA spends to explore space!

And on your Persian improvement,it's interesting but maybe not so coincidental (as I, as an ESL/FL teacher, who just followed up your comment) that you ask me about tips in foreign languag learning. I'm not surprised that you're the best in your class. Sentence structrue, along with other lingistic areas can all more easily be learnt through receptive and productive macro-skills of listening and speaking.

Poems are probably the most difficult point of entry into learning a second/foreign language, though I'm not surprised that an Iranian would have suggested that, after all where would and Iranian be without h/her poetry? Try listening to music and lyrics and singing along, rather than poems alone. Or anything that keeps up your intrinsic motivation. That said, not knowing your precise level of Persian makes it hard for me to give you a proper tip (not that I believe you really need one). My assumption is that you're obviously a sharp, intelligent, modern bilingual, who is rather after more socio-cultural experience in the country of your parents rather than linguistic improvement, particularly since I don't believe you quite qualify as a spy!

I must say that as an Iranian expat of over 30 years, I find it most intriguing that you are in Iran trying to learn Persian. Are there many others with your background doing the same? I bet a lot of Iranians treat you as some kind of celebrity. Was this your own idea or your parents', if you don't mind my asking?

10:07 PM  
Blogger Shiva said...

Hi, Alx,

You're right, I am not a spy. At least, not in the conventional sense. But if your name was Shiva, and you tried purchasing a domain name, you'd realize how difficult it was to be creative...most people can easily remember shivathespy.com, and as my professor suggested, it gives a lil' character to my site. This site, by the way, also served as my final project for a class, ergo my professor's input. And actually, your assumptions are correct, except that I am trilingual (Spanish- also studied abroad). In terms of any celebrity status in Iran, I don't sense it, not even remotely. With all the foreigners bustling around nowadays, and with the Iranian girls looking like movie stars, I think I'm pretty average. I prefer this, of course, because in the past when I'd get attention for being American, it would make me uncomfortable.

As for my Iranian and non-Iranian friends in the U.S., most thought I was crazy for deciding to study abroad in Iran. However, I knew this was the only way to learn Farsi professionally, by being forced to use it regularly. Plus, I am interested in Iranian politics, which in many ways is directly tied to culture, societal norms, economy, etc. So far, I haven't met anybody with my particular background here, but two of my classmates came to Iran to not only study Farsi, but also to pursue or continue with their higher education in Iran. Of course, these two kids are the only ones I know who've decided to take this step, which is still more than I expected. Most of the people in my school are studying Farsi for personal enrichment, work-related reasons, and others.

My parents are not the type to decide anything for me. They offer valuable insight, but in this particular case, my dad did ask me (as the date for my departed grew closer), "Shiva, why don't you just study Farsi here?" Overall, my parents are quite supportive of any endeavor I choose to pursue, which is great.

Thanks for the tips on how to improve my language skills. I will try the music idea, especially with the slow classical music that may be easier to follow. I also try to watch Iranian sitcoms, a few of which are hilarious.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous alx said...

Hi Shiva, Que tal?

Thanks for your candid and honest reply. There's no shred of false modesty that I can detect in what and how you you've put your comment, which I find admirable.

I think your decision to further develop your Persian in Iran is a terrific idea. I also think that Shiva the Spy does add that extra bite to your beautifylly and tastefully designed site. While I presume you must be, at least to some extent, eccentric (not to mention independent) to have decided to do what you're currently doing, I'm still left curious as to what deeper and inner factors make a girl born and raised in CA to want to travel to and live in Iran. I hope you don't think I'm prying - (nor do I work for any counter-intelligence agencies)as I don't expect any direct answers at all.

Speaking of listening to Iranian music, try listening to Banaan's songs. With his lovely, soft, melancholic, sensational, olive oil voice, he not only sang Khayam's poems, but lived according to Khayam's philosophy. His songs may appeal to your curious sense of learning. The old singer, as I heard, died a few years ago.

By the way, are there really hilarious Iranian sitcoms on Iranian TV?

7:03 PM  
Blogger Shiva said...

Thanks for the compliments, Alx, and for the suggestions and inquiries.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by deeper and inner factors. If you mean reasons, then I assure you that my reason for living here is to learn to read, write, and speak Farsi on a professional level. I think it's precisely because I was born and raised in CA that I don't have a problem studying abroad here. My parents never fled, they went to the U.S. on student visas, and they even met and married there. I've been lucky in that I haven't been carrying around any sort of stigmas, like some of my Iranian-born-and-fled buddies. I want to learn Farsi for several reasons: to be able to effectively communicate in my own tongue (especially since I thought it absurd that my Spanish is better than my Farsi, due to the reading and writing proficiency); to be able to learn more about my culture (how will I ever enjoy our poems without knowing the language; and without language, what is culture??); and to sharpen a skill I already have. My goal is to know Farsi as well as I know English because, well, it should be every Iranian-American's goal.

I have no choice but to go to the Farsi headquarters--as an ESL instructor, you've probably experienced some fairly mediocre English, by way of your students. Presumably, they've all studied English for years in their homelands, but still cannot "flow" when it comes to fluency and fluidity of speech. It's only when they have come to live in a country where English is the official language that they learn most effectively, right?

Plus, I don't fear Iran. I see it as a huge treasure chest full of learning adventures. This sounds corny, but it's true. Actually, I don't fear any country because I'm usually ill-equipped, in terms of knowledge, to do so. I've been to Iran many times to visit family, so I don't really feel lost and lonely; and of course, I've got my classmates, who don't even have the background that I do in Farsi. They're the ones that should be admired and considered eccentric (in the good way, of course).

I assure you, I have nothing to hide. My choice to come now rather than some time in the future had to do with timing. In short, I have no obligations to attend to right now, so taking the year to study Farsi seemed most opportune. I hope this lengthy explanation directly addresses your questions. In general, Iranians outside of the country have difficulty digesting the idea that I want to study abroad in Iran. Hopefully, once they see it can be done, they won't view such a decision with shock and disbelief.

And yea, there really are some funny sitcoms on Iranian TV--my favorite is "Barraareh", written by and starring Mehran Modeeri. This guy is a genius. All his shows are hits, and he is popular among all age groups. In this show, the story is set in an imaginary village with its own customs, laws, and dialect. It focuses on the urbanite Tehrani journalist who comes to write a story, but ends up living in and trying to adapt to the village's quirky lifestyle. OK, my description doesn't do it justice--I hope you get it on satellite!!!

8:27 PM  

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