Translating Hafiz

What is a “translation”?

I recently came across a reference to the 14th century  Persian poet Hafiz (thanks, paulinelaurent!) who recommended the book The subject tonight is love, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. Wanting to explore Hafiz further, I googled for some texts of his poems and found a few examples of the Ladinsky poems here. Here is one:

Damn Thirsty


The fish needs to say,

“Something ain’t right about this

Camel ride –

And I’m

Feeling so damn


[*disclaimer:  I am thoroughly enjoying this particular Camel ride.—N]


Read the rest of this entry »

New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh: possible Iran invasion

UPDATE 7/1/08: Links are no longer active, for new links click |here|.


The New Yorker has published a piece by Seymour Hersh about the possiblity of U.S. military action against Iran. Hirsh says the policy makers surrounding the President have recently updated their plan for attacking Iran.

This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq….

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its operational components.”)

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency.

For more insight from the author, including a discussion of how U.S. diplomacy with Iran has differed from a recent deal successfully concluded with North Korea, listen to the interview with Hersh on NPR.

Posted in Iran. Comments Off on New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh: possible Iran invasion

Iranian Barbershops closed by religious police: Can the unibrow be far behind?

Religious police have closed some 20 barbershops in Iran as a part of a crackdown on “bad hijab” or unIslamic clothing. On the forbidden list are makeup, tattoos, hairstyles with gel where the hair stands up, and plucking eyebrows for men.

Plucking eyebrows?

I saw a barber who knew how to do this in the north of Jordan. A friend of mine had a rather wolfish look–widow’s peak, eyebrows growing close together and a huge Arab mustache. I walked around with his sister while he went in for maintenance. The eyebrow plucking he was adamant must be done with a string. The string is held between the barbers two hands and dragged across the skin. As it is dragged across the skin the thread twists. The hairs get caught in the string and are plucked. After my friend emerged from the barber, I realized he had a unibrow and needed frequent attention to keep from looking Neanderthal.

The hair-plucking trick with the string is common and women do it too. One day I went with my Iraqi neighbor to find a beauty salon with reasonably priced haircuts. We ended up paying around four dollars each. I didn’t know what I wanted, so the stylist said “I will give you a Versace cut” and it was pretty good too. My friend knew in detail what she wanted layered and so forth and her haircut was more of a process. At the end, the stylist pointed out some courser facial hair on her temples, a new price was negotiated, and out came the string, deftly rolled across her forehead. I couldn’t see a difference but she was enormously satisfied with her appearance.

bert_and_ernie_and_duckie72.jpgAfter my friends’ experience with plucking hair, I started becoming more aware of the appearance of Arab men on the street. A surprising number of them look like they might have unibrows that are kept separated into distinct eyebrows only by a barber’s frequent attention.

I am picturing the new Iran, without barbered eyebrows. A chorus line of Iranian men comes on stage in the Monty Python tradition looking like they might be ready to burst into a chorus of Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! As they turn, you can see they each have a unibrow and look exactly like Bert as in Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

Of course there is only one song that goes with Bert’s unibrow. The line of husky Iranian men bursts into a chorus of “Rubber ducky, you’re the one…”

Panelists from Jordan, Iraq, Iran and the US discuss Iraq’s regional security dimension at World Economic Forum 5-20-07

The following statements [ahead of the May 26 meeting between the US and Iran] by Jordanian, Iraqi, Iranian and U.S panelists appeared in The Jordan Times. The original article remains online for one week. Boldface and italics were added.

Jordan, Iraq call for zero interference in internal Iraqi affairs

By Linda HindiDEAD SEA — Jordan and Iraq called for zero interference in internal Iraqi affairs during a panel discussion on Iraq and the regional security dimension on Sunday, the last day of the World Economic Forum.“We have to end proxy wars, we don’t want any party to use Iraq as a fighting ground for capital gains,” [Jordan] Foreign Affairs Minister Abdul Ilah Khatib said at the session, entitled “Iraq the regional security dimension.”

He added, however, that the Kingdom first wants to see Iraq achieve political reconciliation internally and the revival of Iraqi nationalism.

“When there is a national feeling of weakness it opens the door for other affiliations to emerge… at the expense of our collective security in the region,” he said.

Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al Hashemi stressed that the security of Iraq is becoming the security of the region and it is trying to convince its neighbours that “the situation in Iraq is going to spill over sooner or later.”

He asked for help from Iraq’s neighbours to reconcile internal differences before moving on to resolve external conflicts.

“We are not asking anyone to come and make decisions for us. All that we need is to stop people who are capitalising on our human tragedy; if this is beyond the capacity of the US then let the United Nations and our neighbours take over,” the Iraqi vice president said.

Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, who also took part in the panel, said the roadmap to achieve stability must start “with an Iraqi national pact or power sharing arrangement” for it to succeed, adding that “there must also be a regional pact that includes the US.”

In response to questions asked about Iraq’s view of a May 26 meeting between Iran and the US to discuss peace in Iraq, Salih said: “We have a fundamental concern if this means that Iran and the US will decide the future of Iraq; that will be unacceptable.”

Copanelist, Mohammad Larijani, director of the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics of Iran, said it is not in Iran’s interest to interfere in Iraq.

“Iran is not interfering in the Iraq affair. We are there to help them, period… also we do not send arms into Iraq, they don’t need them, Iraq is already full of arms,” Larijani said.

US panelists participating in the discussion, senators Orrin Hatch and Gordon Smith disagreed with Larijani, saying there was concrete evidence that Iran is supplying weapons, bomb-making components and military trainers to Iraq.

“We have respect for Iran and desire to work together to stabilise the region; on the other hand we don’t think that Iran is doing one tiddle for peace in the Middle East. Our country needs to do a better job, but it makes it very difficult when we know that Iran is sending weapons into Iraq that are killing Americans and Iraqis,” said Hatch, a Republican from Utah.

Smith, a Republican senator from Oregon, added that he has seen confiscated Iranian weapons as well as captured Iranian advisers, who confessed to their mission to train Iraqis in military tactics.

“There is no question that we have evidence that Syrians and Iranians are working to destabilise Iraq. They should know that the days are coming to an end where Americans are in the streets of Iraq, but we will always be around to make sure a vacuum is not left that terrorists would fill,” Smith said.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Iranian diplomacy: an oxymoron

“We will tell them where they were wrong,” says Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki about the upcoming meeting between the U.S. and Iran in Baghdad on May 28.

Oh joy, Iranian hindsight. I wonder if that will be as much fun as the recent Iranian holocaust denial convention.

Foreign Minister Mottaki, speaking Saturday at the G-11 Economic Forum now being held at the Dead Sea, said that “Iran plans to lecture the United States during an upcoming meeting in Baghdad on what it said were mistakes that Washington made in its war on Iraq,” according to The Jordan Times.

Brilliant diplomatic move.  But do they plan to talk about Iraq’s future?

The Jordan Times, which is indirectly owned by the Jordanian government, published further extensive details of the Iranian foreign minster’s remarks about Iran’s role in the region:

At Saturday’s politically charged discussion, which also hosted Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Mottaki fiercely defended Iran when the panel’s moderator said that successive US policies, including the Iraq war that toppled Saddam Hussein — Iran’s archenemy — have unintentionally helped Tehran increase its influence in the region.

“We don’t need any help,” Mottaki said. But he quickly realised his undiplomatic comment and said jokingly: “Some say that we’re speaking behind doors, which doors, I don’t know.”

Mottaki also invoked a conspiracy theory for the reason Iran refused to meet with the U.S. previously:

Iran’s top diplomat also said that Tehran had publicly warned Washington about its policy “mistakes,” especially regarding the invasion that toppled Saddam. “But they never listened” until recently, when a bipartisan US panel released the Iraq Study Group report which criticised the Bush administration for not engaging Iran and Syria in efforts to quell violence in Iraq, Mottaki said.

Mottaki said Washington requested a meeting with Iranian officials a year ago, but it never materialised because the US only had “propaganda purposes” in mind when it called for the event.

So now Mottaki can read minds, too.

I miss the days of U.S. presidents like Jimmy Carter, but let’s face it, the current hardening of the U.S foreign policy in the Middle East came as a result of Iran’s seizure of U.S. diplomats as hostages during the Carter administration back in 1979. Carter’s legacy was tarnished as a result, and successive presidents have more than learned the lesson of “no more Mr. Nice Guy” when it comes to the Middle East.  It looks like Iran still has not joined the, what– eighteenth century?

Mottaki has not just opened his mouth to change feet. He has stuffed both feet in his mouth and is now just sitting there looking proud of himself.

Posted in Iran, Middle East, peace. Comments Off on Iranian diplomacy: an oxymoron

Iran’s Dress Code Police Freak Out Over Mannequin Cleavage

iran-mannequincropped72.jpgEvery summer as the weather gets warmer the Iranian government admonishes women about proper dress. But this year the police are arresting women and impounding their vehicles in the current dress code crackdown. Some clothing boutiques have even been sealed by the police, and others have been ordered to saw the breasts off their mannequins. This is just too weird.

But why would this be considered Islamic? Where are these injunctions in the Koran?


Related posts:
Ahmadinejad’s Creepy Kiss

Posted in Bush, Gender, Iran, Islam, Religion, Women. Comments Off on Iran’s Dress Code Police Freak Out Over Mannequin Cleavage

Ahmadinejad’s Creepy Kiss

The attire of Jordanian women has always intrigued me. Why, for instance, do bedouin women wear black polyester–in the desert– in summer? The classic answer is they’re afraid of the men. If the guys can’t see it, they won’t bother it.

One day on the bus, I saw a woman with gloves on her hands–in the middle of summer. Now what, I thought. I found out several weeks later when my usual newsstand ran out of my beloved Jordan Times and I had to walk up the street to look for another news vendor. I didn’t like this one. It was inside, and although the door remained open, the clerk’s counter was in the back. Anyone buying a paper was out of sight of the street. In Jordan there is safety in crowds, and danger in privacy.

There is also a body language one learns on the street. In America, you tune out the crowd and pretend it doesn’t exist. If you bump someone you tune that out, too. An American crowd has anonymity.

In Jordan you have to be constantly aware of the distance between your body and the body of every single other person on the street. Bumping is not accidental (well, almost never). The way you walk on the street demonstrates your awareness, and although it can be exhausting to spend so much energy focusing on just walking down the street, it sends a subtle message to any would-be perverts and stops a great deal of potential harrassment. Going into a shop intensifies the need for body-awareness. When you leave a shop, Jordanian men don’t act like you’re invisible, they subtly step to one side as a nonverbal message that they are devout and you do not have to fear them.

So back to the newspaper shop. When I asked for the Jordan Times, the guy’s body language was all wrong. Sure enough, when I held out my palm for the change, he was all over my hand. Eewwwww. I never knew making change could be so creepy. I wanted to wash. I wanted to go home and get off the street. I wanted to wear gloves forever and never take them off.
kiss-ahmadinejadcropped72.jpghug-ahmadinejadcropped72.jpgSome people are saying that Ahmadinejad kissed the (gloved) hand of his elderly teacher as a sign of respect, and some say it was a substitute for actually paying teachers a decent salary. But I’m with the thought police on this one. According to the hard-line newspaper Hezbollah:

“The Muslim Iranian people have no recollection of such acts contrary to sharia law during Islamic rule [since the 1979 revolution],” it said.

“This type of indecency progressively has grave consequences, like violating religious and sacred values.”

Ahmadinejad, leave that teacher alone.


Related posts:
Iranian Dress Code Police Freak Out Over Mannequin Cleavage


Posted in Gender, Iran, Middle East, Women. Comments Off on Ahmadinejad’s Creepy Kiss

Ahmadinejad Bedeviled by Security Council’s Ancestors from Hell

Do nations that espouse “godless communism” have ancesters from hell? Apparently so. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted in the Friday-Saturday edition of The Jordan Times :

“Today, the Iranian nation fully possesses the nuclear fuel cycle. If all of you gather and also invite your ancestors from hell, you will not be able to stop the Iranian nation,” he said.

The reference was to the five permanent member of the UN Security Council–the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France–plus Germany whose ambassadors reached an agreement to increase trade sanctions and add more individuals and organizations to the list freezing assets.   The text adds to the agreement reached by the Security Council in December and will be presented to the full 15-member Security Council for further discussion.

Iran must be terribly dull these days now that the Holocaust Denial Convention is no longer in town.

(The following is the complete text of the article–JT links are active for one week): UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Six world powers reached agreement Thursday on a package of new sanctions against Iran including an embargo on arms exports and financial restrictions on more individuals and companies associated with Tehran’s nuclear and missile programmes, many linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Their draft resolution, obtained by the Associated Press, expresses concern at “the proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear programme.” It reiterates the demand by the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used to produce nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

The governments of the five permanent Security Council nations — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and Germany gave a green light Thursday morning to the draft resolution hammered out by their ambassadors.

“We have an agreement and I will introduce a text on behalf of the six,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said after a meeting of ambassadors from the six countries. “It’s a text which is our suggestions. It’s not take it or leave it.” The full 15-member Security Council then met so the draft resolution could be presented to the 10 non-permanent council nations, who are elected for two-year terms and have been left out of negotiations.

They will need time to consider the text and the current council president, South Africa’s UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said Wednesday. “We anticipate that the voting would happen maybe well into next week.” But the agreement by the five veto-wielding permanent members will be a strong signal of the unity of the key nations on the UN’s most powerful body — and a sign that they want to send a united message to Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programmes and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programmes.

The council said it would consider further nonmilitary sanctions if Iran refused to suspend enrichment. Iran’s response was to accelerate its enrichment programme.

The modest package of new measures in the new draft would freeze the assets of 10 additional individuals and eight additional entities, according to a council diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the annex to the draft resolution with the names was not released.

Seven of the individuals are members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and three of the organisations are affiliated with the elite military corps, which oversees vital Iranian interests, including oil and natural gas installations and the nation’s missile arsenal, the diplomat said.

Acting US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff had called the issue of the Revolutionary Guards one of “the trickiest” in drafting the resolution.

Under the draft, Iran would be banned from supplying, selling or transferring “any arms or related material” and all countries would be prohibited from buying Iranian weapons.

The proposed resolution does not ban arms imports to Iran, but calls on all nations “to exercise vigilance and restraint” in supplying tanks, combat aircraft and other heavy weapons.

In the financial area, it calls on all governments and financial institutions not to make any new commitments “of grants, financial assistance, or concessional loans” to the Iranian government.

There is no travel ban, but all countries would be asked to exercise “vigilance and restraint” on the entry or transit through their territory of the individuals whose assets have been frozen. The draft would also require all countries to report the transit or entry of any of these people to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iran.

Iran insists its enrichment programme is peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy, but the US, European nations and the UN nuclear watchdog are concerned that Iran’s goal is to produce nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday called the UN Security Council an “illegitimate” body and said that any new sanctions imposed on his country would only stimulate it to be self sufficient and further develop nuclear technology.

“Using the Security Council as an instrument, the enemies of Iran want to prevent the progress of the Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the state Islamic Republic News Agency. “But the Security Council today has no legitimacy among world nations. What are you seeking to prevent [Iran] from,” Ahmadinejad said at a rally in Ardakan, central Iran, speaking of the West.

“Today, the Iranian nation fully possesses the nuclear fuel cycle. If all of you gather and also invite your ancestors from hell, you will not be able to stop the Iranian nation,” he said.

“We have an agreement and I will introduce a text on behalf of the six,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said after a meeting of ambassadors from the six countries on Thursday. The package will now be considered by the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Ahmadinejad suggested at the rally Thursday that new sanctions would help enhance — not undermine — Iran’s development of nuclear technologies.

“Haven’t you imposed sanctions in the past 27 years? Which machinery or parts did you give us,” he said in reference to US sanctions against Iran and refusal by European countries to sell Iran technologies that could also have nuclear use in the past three decades.

Friday-Saturday, March 16-17, 2007