Sunday, June 29, 2003

Why they crack
This is from the June 30 issue of the Time magazine , page 29, under the title of "In Cosdoty Why They Crack" source.

The U.S. government maintains that it has not used physical torture in its interrogation of alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. So why would the al-Qaeda operative give up his colleague Iyman Faris to the feds? Because, experts say, eventually everybody cracks. The only variables are how long someone holds out and what pushes him over.

Inflicting bodily harm can actually be a poor method of extracting information. A detainee is likely to be so eager to end his pain he will confess to anything, even untruths, notes Rick Smith, a retired 25-year veteran of the FBI.

The most efficient technique is to break down a detainee's defenses, Smith says, then build up his trust. The first step is achieved through a combination of physical discomfort and psychological disorientation. A captive might be subjected to extreme heat or cold, deprived of light or dark, made to squat in painful positions, questioned and fed at irregular intervals, kept awake for hours on end. Most important is confinement in isolation, divorced from all that is familiar. "Human beings want to control their environment," says Ilan Kutz, an Israeli psychiatrist who has treated former captives. "If you can't control it, you lose the coordinates of the self." This, of course, is the plan. It sets the stage for a good cop — bad cop strategy in which the captive comes to depend on the supposed ally as the sole means of comfort and is thus likely to offer information to please him.

Loners, who are used to having few emotional connections, take longer to crack; so do those with deep beliefs, who can find nobility in suffering. Whatever the background of a detainee, as soon as he capitulates, he is likely to tell all. Says Kutz: "The interrogators can say, 'You're ruined to everyone on the outside. You might as well tell everything and let us help you.'"

Extreme heat or cold? deprive of light or dark? made to squat in painful positions? fed at irregular intervals? If these are not torture then what is torture? HELLO!!!
Thanks Lord I lived to understand the true definition of torture.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Life is beautiful

During the past two days all teaching and research assistants in my school received two surprising emails from the administrative assistant. Below you can read parts of those two emails.

Effective September 1, 2003 TAs and RAs will have their employee health insurance premiums increase from $0 to $143 per month for employee only and the cost for any dependents will be double the current premium cost.

Here is information I just received from the Graduate Dean's office regarding Fall TPEG, stipends and orientation.

Good Afternoon All,
I'm sure many TA's and RA's have been asking about the TPEG and stipend amounts. We now have information for the Fall 2003 semester.
The Texas Public Education Grant (TPEG) amount for TA's and RA's for Fall 2003 will be $250.00 - half of what we have been dispensing.

I had just found me a new source of income to earn about $400 per month to pay for the additional costs that we will have when my beloved wife arrives. I was so exited that we will have a smooth start and she will even be able to go to college. All in all these emails will add at least $1200 per Semester to my expenses. With this new expenses I have to pay all the additional money that I may earn from the new source of income to school to maintain the current status. You know, I am beginning to like George Bush. He is truly a compassionate man. He tries hard to make sure American tax payers' money will not end up in the pockets of irrelevant lousy foreigners like myself. That is the true fairness I suppose, with the standards of a compassionate conservative. Now, there might be some american teaching or research assistants also that will be hurt by this new costs but that is a small sacrifice Bush administration is happily ready to make. Viva tax cuts.

On a completely irrelevant note, just last month the news was out that the school of engineering and computer science had hired a new dean with a salary of $250,000 per year.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Without a title

I couldn't help taking a look at the car before ringing the door bell. Parked in front of the door, it looked nice enough for a Toyota Corolla 95 . A tall beefy man with unshaved beard opened the door. my 6 feet bag of bones looked so tiny beside him. His Middle Easter appearance confirmed the Arabic accent that I had detected in our short phone conversation. We didn't waste much time and headed for a test drive. He said he only had about 30 minutes to catch a class in SMU.
In the car I started a more friendly chat. I wanted to know more about the car in the middle of conversation. He was going to SMU for a part time MS program in management. It turned out that he had made his BS degree in my school in early 90s. He was as talkative as many other Middle easters. He was a frank man who didn't care much if the way he stated things would upset others.
"Where are you from?", I asked.
"Syria", He replied.
"Oh, I have been to Damascus twice."
"Really? how did you like it?"
"It was a nice city."
I didn't tell him how small and poor Damascus looked to me and how that ugly night club into which I only wanted to take a look out of curiosity, ripped me off $100 in less that an hour.
"So, where are you from?", he asked.
He tried to show up his information about my country by talking about the chances of an American invasion and the positions of reformer and hardliner politicians of Iran in that matter. He didn't show signs of being in rush anymore. I was now driving in the 635 highway, trying to push the accelerator as much as I could. But it was rush hour and too many cars didn't allow a high speed.
He had been in the US since 1978 and could remember the days of hostage crisis.
"During the hostage crisis these Americans told me 'you fukin Iranian go back home'. I told them 'I am not Iranian, I am Syrian. They said 'We don't care. You fukin Middle Easter, go back home'. I told them 'fuck you! you go back to Europe.' This country does not belong to anyone, you know. This country belongs to God."

After finishing the test drive, we talked a little bit about the price but I didn't waste much time on it. The body of the car had shaken while diving in the highway. I decided not to buy it.

My uncle got stuck in America after the 1979 revolution for political reasons. His two brothers (my other two uncles) returned but he stayed because his friends convinced him that his life would be in jeopardy in Iran for being a communist activist. He was affiliated with the American underground branch of a very extremist Iranian communist party. His job was to gather supporters among the Iranian students in the states. A graduate of mechanical engineering, he worked as a printing factory laborer, ice cream seller and similar small jobs until the 1987 general amnesty made him an American citizen. He married his Iranian girlfriend and established a decent life in South California. He has worked for the Orange county post office ever since. Today, he laughs at his communist past and is very happy that he stayed, when he compares his good economical situation with his two brothers who lived in Iran all these years. His elder son is a wild 15 years old teenager. When I go to South California to visit, he never gets tired making fun of me. I am his weird cousin.
"How did you manage to come to America? Crossed the border with a bag-pack? What will you tell the cops if they catch you? hehehe."
After September 11, as my uncle told me, he and all his teenage friends were very frustrated. They wanted revenge, or they wanted to feel powerful again. They wanted to feel safe again, or maybe they just didn't know what they really wanted. All you could say was that they were very frustrated, according to my uncle. One evening he finally started talking. He said many things. Among all he said my uncle could remember this:
"Those people are all terrorists. That region is all trash. We've got to nuke them. We've got to get rid of them all at once."
I kind of like this cousin. He is very verbal. He can make good poems and songs on the fly. He is a kind that could become a successful hip-hop singer. His own ambition though is to become rich by becoming a lawyer.

What to tell our children as to where do we come from?
For our own rights we beg, behind the closed doors of exile.

My free translation of a line of a song by Dariush, the exiled Iranian singer who has spent the past 25 years in Los Angeles.

Sunday, June 22, 2003


I just found out that the building in the University of Tehran Dormitory that was attacked and destryed by the vigilantes is the bulding number 70. I happened to live in a room in that building in 1995. It was my last semester and the building was only a few months old. Compared to the other buildings of the dormitory, it was very new and fancy. I wonder what has happened to my room. Together with few other buildings, it is located above a hill, isolated and far away from the main dormitory premisses. If the protesting crowd were in the Amirabad (Kargar) street, What the hell vigilantes were doing a few miles away in building 70?

I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope I will never come back.

I am just back from the movie theatre. Watched the movie Frida at last.
How do I feel about it? I feel an urge to review her paintings before I put myself to sleep tonight. Here is a good Internet source for Frida's paintings. Here is another.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

If you can read Farsi then I'd recomment the last couple of posts on this persian humor blog called Navar Behdashti, 1 , 2 (Caution: vulgar language). The first one is reiterates some of funniest Khomeini's fatwa's. The second one about the recent student protests.

Iran's American Martyr: Howard Baskerville

Courtesy of The Iranian

Many thanks to CharlesWT for providing the link.
A couple of mistakes in the previous post: Baskerville was not an orientalist per se. Also, the year was 1909, not 1904. I need to improve my history :-)

Thursday, June 19, 2003

The American martyr in Persia

A few months ago, an Iranian newspaper had it that Jafari Jozani, the Iranian film maker, had a plan to make a movie about the young American guy who died fighting for democracy in Iran. The story, as given in that newspaper, is that around 1904 this American who was a young orientalist with special interest in Middle East cultures, arrived at Tabriz (the Iranian city at North West corner of the country, near the borders of Turkey). His aim apparently was to gain first hand experience of the Persian cultures. To his amazement, he found Tabriz fighting a civil war. There was bloody gun fight between a group of armed rebellions and the king's soldiers. The rebels, backed by the public, asked for the establishment of parliament and constitution. I bet the last thing this American guy expected in the land of one thousand and one nights stories, was a revolution for democracy. Looks like he got very excited over what he saw because he joined the rebels and sadly died for the cause. That revolution prevailed in 1905 and Iran (then called Persia) got its first parliament and first ever constitution. According to the newspaper, the people of Tabriz put the man in rest in a nice grave and gave him a lot of respect. Since then, they have managed to keep the grave clean and they put flowers on it all the time. Even during the worst years of atrocities between Iran and the USA, they did not reduce their respect for him.

I believe the newspaper was Aftab-e Yazd, though I am not sure. It was sometime in the winter, probably late February. I have also forgotten the name of the brave American man. If anybody nows more about this story please let me know. I tried searching on the Internet but didn't get anything. Looks like Jafari Jozani does not have a website for his company Jozan Film.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I used to be nobody. Then I bought a Nissan Maxima.

What do you think? I am freaking reach? I bought it for only 3000 bucks. It is a 1993 model. Now I am left with no more than $134 in my student checking account till the end of the month. Good thing there is credit card x-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Iraqi monarchists
I really liked this one from Salam Pax. It's so funny and right to the point.

Advanced math problem
Somebody's wife will arrive within the next two months. If we have
1290 - (510 + 70 + 170 + 300 + 100 + 120 + 150 + 80) = 1290 - 1500 = -210
1. The number of tables he will have to wait a weekend.
2. The possibility that INS will expel him for violating the terms of his I-20 status by ilegally working off campus.
3. Some motivational words to give him the courage that he needs the most.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Reacting to the current student unrest and hunted by the fears of a possible popular uprising, Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei last week asked his loyal forces to confront the 'traitors' with sheer 'mercilessness'. Using a cruel word such as 'mercilessness' was new of him. He didn't use to be so cruel in his language before. Is that a signal? I guess the first thing we can understand from his last speech is how scared he is from the present situation. Besides, he knows that oppressive regimes do not fall while they hold the society under strong pressure but often when they start loosening up. Usually these kind of regimes accept changes when it is too late and even then they allow so little of it. When the public asks for gradual reforms they they show iron fist. Finally, when the public thinks of nothing less than subversion they decide to allow some reforms. Consequently, the society which is then like a huge volume of water behind a dam finds a small hole and breaks through a destroys the whole dam. Shah's regime and the former Soviet Union are examples of this phenomenon. Khamenei realizes this and he knows Iran is probably in such an stage right now. He and all people behind him know that allowing reforms at this time means loosing their ass. They know it for sure, the only way to rule for some more time is to oppress. And oppress they do.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Spending evenings, the old style
Last year I took a class on the history of modern art, just for fun and enrichment, you know. Once in the class the teacher, a very well known art historian, mentioned that he used to wonder for a long time how a painter like Degas could produce such a huge volume of art works in a life time. Then, as he said, he had realized that in Dega’s time there was no TV.
To me it is TV and Internet that prevents me from doing anything useful. Especially the Internet, and the worst of Internet? WEBLOGS. Last night the Internet was disconnected and in the beginning I was really missing something. Then after wandering around the apartment for sometime while the thunderstorm was creating scary movie scenes outside, I gradually went back to my old style, more fruitful ways of spending a night. First I browsed through a technical paper that I had in my priority list for quite some time (finally!). Then I grabbed Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird. This guy is such a great novelist. I love his "Slaughterhouse Number 5". That is probably my best favorite novel. I have read it twice in Farsi and once in English. Jailbird is a little boring though. So, I grabbed Jailbird from the bookshelf and continued reading from where I had left a very long time ago. I am telling you it felt much better than reading on the computer screen. From the book:

[Dr. di Sanza's Ponzi scheme was] offering fools enormous rates of interest for the use of their money. ... he would use most of the money to buy himself mansions and ... but returning part of it as the interest he had promised. More and more people would come to him, having heard of him from gloatingly satisfied recipients of his interest checks, and he would use their money to write more checks - and on and on.
I am now convinced that Dr. di Sanza's greatest strength was his stupidity. He was such a successful swindler because he himself could not, even after two convictions, understand what was inevitably catastrophic about a Ponzi scheme.
"I have made many people happy and rich" he said. "Have you done that?"
"No, sir -not yet," I said. "But it's never too late to try."
I am now moved to suppose, with my primitive understanding of economics, that every successful government is of necessity a Ponzi scheme. It accepts enormous loans that can never be repaid ...

Delacorte Press, 1979, ppg. 50, 51

I just hope the student demonstrations in Tehran will not become more violant. This is probably not the right way, or at least, this is not the right time. My thoughts and feelings go to all of those 'emotional young countryman students' (as Hoder put it) who are shouting their frustration in Amirabad street these nights.

P.S Frankly, my head says one thing but my heart cannot accept that what they are doing is wrong.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

What is the difference at all?


Chalabi vs. US
It was so sad and funny at the same time to hear Chalabi critisize the US policies in Iraq in his interview with Charlie Rose last night. He was desperately trying to distant himself from the way things are coordinated there. The man is certainly disappointed. What was he thinking 3 months ago? That he would have an easy walk to power like Karzai of Afghanistan?
I like one thing about him tough. He and his Iraqi National Congress support a federal system and they are inclusive.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Perfect patriotism

This ad appeared on the Satarday June 7 issue of Dallas Morning News. In case the text on the picture is not readable, part of it says: "... stand with the Prestige Ford owner ... as they hold an American flag that was flown by the 26th Marine Recon Unit over Kandahar International Airport during the recent war in Iraq. The flag was raised by the 26th Marine Recon Unit and flew two days and two nights while the airport was under siege by Iraqi forces." !!!

Just in case you have not followed the prime time news during the past two years, Kandahar is not an Iraqi airport but a city in Afghanestan.

I am not even going to touch the issue of taking advantage of patriotic feelings to advertise stuff. It is probably non of my business. Only, it reminds me of an ad, widely broadcasted on several TV channels shortly after 9/11. The ad used D-day (probably the best thing American military has ever done) to advertise, guess what? Jeep Liberty.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

An adventure of a different kind

It was two in the morning. Our bus was driving northward on the Firooz-Kooh road, a narrow and crooked road that connects Tehran to the northern provinces through the rugged Elborz mountains. Iran's roads are very insecure. In average 50 people die in car accidents each day. That is 18000 people a year. First or second in the world. Some of the accidents are due to the quality of the roads, some due to aggressive driving. Many families have lost a loved one to the unsafe roads and streets. My own grandfather died of being hit by a car 8 years before I was born. Then in 1978 his daughter, my lovely aunt, died in a highway accident leaving a 3 years old son behind to be raised by stepmother. Firooz-Kooh road is one of the most dangerous roads of the country.

It was two after midnight, a very bright night. The moon was so beautiful that night. All the mountains and valleys as far as I could see were covered by silver moonlight. Our target? Golestan forest. We were going to camp there for a couple of days. We were actually an amateur climbing group of roughly 16 boys and girls. This time we had decided to treat ourselves to a fun camping in one of the most beautiful forests of the country. Since it was going to be a fun program we called other friends and gathered 38 people. Every seat on the bus was occupied. I was sitting on the first seat with Maziar, talking. Everybody else was asleep except for four pals who were quietly playing cards at the rear of the bus. Every time we traveled overnight, we used to take turns to sit close to the driver, awaken, to make sure he does not fall asleep. One or two persons for two hours. Then we switched. So here we were, Maziar and I, talking together and to the old driver, having a good time. It was such a new and fancy bus. Other times, Maziar or I used to take the duty of renting a bus. We usually found an old bus. Rental companies do not easily agree to send new buses for such country side trips. A few months before, the bus that Maziar had rented broke in the middle of the way and caused a 3 hour delay, a delay that cost us dearly. This time, however, Babak rented the bus. You cannot imagine how much he bragged about the white fancy new bus that he had managed to rent. We were driving downhill. The driver was pushing the brake paddle too often. At one point we could smell the burnt brake shoes that made us worried. But soon we buried all worries deep under the exciting talks about camping. Abir, the one in charge of the program, had promised we would see a lot of wild life. Maybe even bears. It was going to be a lot of fun, if we had gotten there.

It was two after midnight. Maziar an I were quietly talking, trying not to awake others. Suddenly we heard the driver whispering something. Looked at him at once. He was praying desperately "Ya Abalfazl, Ya Abalfazl!" He was panicking. Meanwhile, he was repeatedly hammering his right foot on the brake, firmly but uselessly. The bus was not running too fast at that time. Suddenly there was a flat field at the side of the road. I saw it. The driver saw it too. Maziar yale at him: "Off the road! to the field!" Had he done that, I thought, the bus might have gotten damaged a little bit but we would be saved. But he didn't do it. His bus was so new and fancy, he didn't dare to do it. Maziar jumped to the middle of the isle shouting, trying to wake people up. He thought they would have more chances to protect themselves if they were awaken in the final seconds. The driver tried to change the gear to one.That is the last chance to control the speed when the brake is not working in a manual car. The gear moved to neutral but he couldn't put it in one! The clutch was also malfunctioning. There was a chaos inside the bus of the people who were just awaken. Our speed was constantly increasing. My eyes was locked on the driver. His right foot hammering the brake, his left foot holding the clutch down, his right hand fighting the gear shift, and his left hand controlling the wheel in the crooked, slopy road. The bus was speeding up rapidly. There was no hope, I thought, these were the last seconds of my life. I was supposed to be frightened at those seconds but you know what? I wasn't. I felt surprisingly calm. Believing that I was about to die within few seconds was not scary at all. It just felt like "Damn it. Is this how I'm going to die?" That simple.

The wrecked bus. Picture was taken the next morning by Maziar, who could still walk.

We didn't die. The driver suddenly rotated the wheel and lead the bus off the road to the valley. Surprisingly, it wasn't a deep valley, it was a dry river bank only about 25 feet below the road level. All the tires broke when we hit the ground. The bus slipped on its stomach for about 300 feet, broke a telephone post and stopped just before hiting the high voltage electricity post. By some miracle the bus did not roll over. By some miracle no one died in that wrecked bus. A lot of fractured bones but no death.

For about a minute or so, I was looking the death in the eyes that night and I am telling you: I am not a fearless man but it wasn't scary.

Friday, June 06, 2003

The vivid difference
Here is a big difference between the Iranian society before the islamic revolution of 1979 and the societry after the revolution:
Before the revolution people used to party and drink outdoors, and pray indoors. After the revolution they drink indoors and pray outdoors :-))

It is three days I am trying to write something. It is a memory. It is quite longer than my other posts. I cannot finish it. Why? because my english sucks. I lack a lot of the vocabulary that I need. What is the best way to describe when a car's brick starts to smell bad as a result of pushing the brick paddle too much? Do we say "I smelled the brick shoe burning"? I have quite a few questions like this. Two and a half years in America and I still have so many problem with my english. I hate myself. What else can I expect? I do not hang out with any Americans, I am not a TV fan, I spend the whole day either at a computer or in the corner of my office, alone, thinking and writing. Sometimes daydreaming and doodling, of course. What else can I expect from myself with this way of life? Well, maybe I finally give up and post that writing the way it is. Who cares.

Why do couples still make babies? Aren't there enough people in this world? Why don't they just go to a orphanage, pick a cute baby and adopt it? Isn't that wiser? Do we enjoy life that much to want to force a new human being to experience it? Why do we usually think that we will not love an adopted child like a natural child? Why can't we?
When young couples talk about having baby, they usually talk about a cute little baby that is going to bring joy to their life and give it some meaning! and direction. They often forget that this little cute baby will someday be a grown up. A real individual with all the same challenges and pains as themselves. If they realized that, then they might think more seriously about adopting an already born baby rather than creating one.
Albert Camus said there is but one serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. I think the question of giving birth to a new human being is the second very important philosophical problem.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Today was the aniversary of Khomeini's death, the demagogue who fooled my fathers generation. Was he useful for Iran's history? What about his heirs? Well, on the bright side, even the European history needed the dark ages.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Just before starting this weblog, when I was thinking about a good title, I came up with this idea: "potential Mohammad Atta". It was a reaction to that senator who branded this title to all the Middle Easter students in the States. Very soon I dismissed the idea thinking it might offend some visitors (specially Americans) who did not share my Iranian sense of humor.
A couple of weeks ago I came across this weird persian weblog called Terrorist. This one is not sarcastic at all. The title of the weblog goes like this (all text in the parenthesis is by Jafar):

"Some day they (Arab invaders of 13 centuries ago) called us Ajam. We felt humiliated so, we put on turban to look like Arabs.
They called us Rafezi, so we hid our love for our lord ( Imam Ali ) for many years.
Yesterday the blond people with a hallow civilization based on modern ignorance, put hat on our head to make us western from tip to toe. If someone refused, they called him backward.
For so many years, others attacked and we only defended.
Today they call the moslem who sacrifices his life to fight the cruel and the oppressor, terrorist.
Now I respond all their attack not by defense, but by a counterattack. I shout: I am Ajam , I am Rafezi, I am backward, and I am terrorist"

Tonight when I visited his blog, there was a farewell message there. He will not continue blogging anymore. Looks like his verbal counterattack did not work for him. He is a fundamentalist Shia moslem with a noticeable sense of humor who praised Hamas and Hezbollah but is ambivalent about Al-Qaeda.

Monday, June 02, 2003

She got the damn visa :-) She called me to break the good news one and a half hour ago. She will be with me soon and I will be able to finish my Ph.D.
I have had a couple of things in my mind to write about but I didn't feel like writing a long post during this weekend. I will do it tomorrow.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Naive Columnists
"The ayatollahs are most likely trying to integrate surviving al-Qaeda resources with those of Hezbollah, their own main horse in terror international." Source National Post.
This is one of the stupidest things I have read in the past 2 years. The only other equally naive and stupid thing that I can think of was the Washington's rhetorics about installing democracy in Afghanistan, when they invaded that country.

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