The Winds of Freedom are Blowing. Iran

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‘Women. Life. Freedom!’ cry the protesters in cities across Iran.
‘Mullahs, get lost!’
‘This is the year of the blood, Seyed Ali’ referring to the ‘supreme leader’ Ali Khamenei.
Women have led the movement, sparked by the death of one of their own, 22 year old Mahsa Amini, who died while in custody for violating the Islamic dress code – not wearing or incorrectly wearing the hijab or headscarf.
Among the many dead protesters, there are 23 children. High school age girls have joined in the demonstrations. University students, oil workers, teachers, shop owners, doctors have stepped forward to show support. The effort has yet to reach critical mass but it’s getting there.
The winds of freedom are blowing. They are blowing from Ukraine.
For over 8 months now the world has witnessed an enormous display of heroism by the Ukrainian people, pushing back against the brutality of Putin.
The winds of freedom have reached Iran.
Women have awakened, fed up with the restrictions they’ve lived under, fed up with men controlling their bodies and minds in the name of Allah. Fed up with the clerics, fed up with a government that now is selling drones to Putin so he can better kill Ukrainians.
In their cries, women are saying ‘You are inept, Mullahs! Consumed with your thirst for power you abuse your own people in the name of god. Enough!’
The clerics blame foreign interference for stoking the unrest as if the protesters were mere instruments of foreign forces.
But no. This movement is home grown and will stay as such.
What should the West do to show support?
I believe steps have been taken to facilitate internet communication, helping bypass the restrictions imposed by the clerics.
We should cancel talks with Iran to reactivate the nuclear pact that president Obama had signed onto and Trump had terminated. Trump was right on this one. Iran’s government will do anything to cheat and still build their nuclear weapons. Anyway, to reactivate the plan will require for us to pay them a large (undisclosed) sum of money. How much, I do not know. The US has not been transparent on the amount.
So it will be up to Iranians themselves, to bring their courageous movement to the point that it will depose the present government. That day is fast approaching.
Meanwhile, the more we assist Ukraine to help them push the invading Russians out of their territory, the less likely that Russia will answer the mullahs’ call for assistance in repressing their people, as desperate clerics are likely to do. Assistance as in money, equipment, advice.
I can envision a call from Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi to Vladimir Putin.
‘Yes, Ebrahim.’
‘I’m getting anxious. This has not happened before.’
‘Be patient, my friend, you have the guns… fire them,’ says Putin.
‘I understand… and I see your example in Ukraine… the thousands and thousands you have sent to the grave…’
‘For a good cause,’ replies Putin. ‘I have my hands full at this moment, but as soon as I push back the Ukrainians, I can send you experts in suppression of protest movements. I can send you the team we used in Belarus, they did an excellent job. But you can talk to them on the phone, so they can give you some tips.’
‘Great, thank you,’ says Raisi. ‘But you don’t have problems with Russian women…’
‘Ebrahim, it’s a different culture…’
‘You think if I just cancelled the dress code, let women dress as they wish, they will stop protesting?’
‘Will Iranian men be able to handle that?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘I think you’re past that,’ says Putin. ‘That could’ve worked before, but you didn’t think ahead… like I didn’t think ahead to invade Ukraine while Trump was president. He wouldn’t have objected. So I’m paying for my mistake.’
‘I see. But I may have to try it… the cancelling the dress code. Otherwise, it’s killing and killing more people. And our prisons are already full. I’m afraid we’ll end up killing the children of government officials…’
‘Ebrahim… absolute power carries risks… you have to choose. If I end up having to recruit the children of government officials to go fight in Ukraine, I may face resistance here at home. But I’ll take my chances. It may not come to that. I don’t think the unity of the West will hold. Particularly as winter approaches. And then, if Republicans win both houses in the American mid term elections, chances are they will give less support to Ukraine. So it will be easier for me to push back. Plus there are western leaders afraid to commit to the war. Take for instance Olaf Scholz in Germany. He is opposed to sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine. If he did, that would be harder on us. I made a note to send him a card when his birthday comes around, thanking him.
One for Christmas, too.’
‘You keep your sense of humor, Vladimir. I’m afraid of losing power.’
‘Ebrahim… don’t let go of that feeling… and keep up the repression. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless. You can do it. I’ll ask the specialists who ended the revolt in Belarus to give your people a call. I have to go now. Oh, thank you for the drones. They’re making a difference.’
‘You’re welcome, Vladimir.’

The winds of freedom are blowing.

Quotes at the start of this piece, taken from an article in the NYT dated 10/26/22

Oscar Valdes is the author of several self published books. Available on Amazon

Battle Over the Hijab

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They sit across a table in the interrogation room of the detention center.
She is Nasrin, a beautiful woman, 31, with expressive eyes and lustrous, shoulder length black hair.
She is not wearing her headscarf.
She was apprehended earlier in the day as she walked in a business section of Teheran without her hijab.
The policeman who had detained her had written a short note which lay on the table along with her identifying information.
The security officer, a wiry man in his mid thirties, nodded to himself as he read the note. Then, aloud to Nasrin…

Officer – ‘Woman ignored my call for her to stop and instead walked faster. Another policeman that was ahead of us saw me chasing her and he blocked her path and we both detained her. Arrogant. Stubborn.’

The officer looks at Nasrin directly.

Officer – Why?
Nasrin – Because it’s my body and it belongs to me and no one else.
Officer – But you are Muslim…
Nasrin – So far.
Officer – You want to change your religion?
Nasrin – Ha! I’m well aware that if I tried that I would be guilty of apostasy, punishable by life imprisonment or death.
Officer – Yes… we are who we are… and our rules come from the prophet who heard them from Allah. So… how is Islam making you unhappy?
Nasrin – Those rules were made by men, at a time when women were subservient. The world has changed and Islam should change with it.
Officer – Have you read the Qur’an?
Nasrin – It needs to be updated.
Officer (irritated) – Nasrin… please… I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
Have you been to the West?
Nasrin – I haven’t. Not yet. But I plan to.
Officer – I see. What do you think the purpose of wearing hijab is?
Nasrin – To keep women down.
Officer – You are stubborn. I’m trying to help you but you’re not letting me. All you have to do is agree with the law and you can walk out. Why make life difficult for you?
Do you want me to send you to a tribunal of clerics so they can decide what punishment to give you?
Nasrin – Do you know what the real purpose of the hijab is?
Officer – Please be careful with your words because I don’t want to send you to detention.
Nasrin – The hijab is meant to protect men from their insecurities.
Officer – What?
Nasrin – A beautiful woman will attract other men’s attention and you can’t handle that…

Annoyed, the officer sits back.

Nasrin – … So you cover us up… but it’s up to us if we want to stay with the men in our lives… or go elsewhere… or simply be with no man… or woman. Our sexuality is ours… ours to share it with whom we want. That’s why this theocracy we live under is obsolete.
And the protests you’re seeing are about that. About the freedom of our bodies and the freedom of our minds.
We own our bodies and minds, not the clerics, not the ayatollahs, not the police, not you.
We give birth to men and women… if we stopped giving birth… if we refused to have you in our bodies… there would be no more Iran… that is our power. Now our work is to claim it, to affirm it.
Officer – Have you ever been married?
Nasrin – Not yet. Maybe I never will.
Officer – You don’t want to have children?
Nasrin – I don’t have to be married for that. My freedom is more important than anything else. And we, Persian women, are learning that. And it appears incompatible with living under this regime.
Officer – I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
Nasrin – Do you have daughters?
Officer – Yes, I do.
Nasrin – Don’t you want them to be free?

The officer leans forward, looks down at the ground.

Nasrin – When we get our freedom, which we will, men will discover freedoms of their own that they didn’t know were possible.
Officer – What?
Nasrin – Your keeping us so controlled, keep you from becoming better men.

The officer looks straight at Nasrin, the expression stern. But then, to her surprise, he breaks into a chuckle as his eyes soften.

Officer – You’re going to put your hijab back on and you’re going to walk with me out of this place. We will walk two blocks, with you wearing your hijab. Then you will go your own way.
And if I ever see you again… I will ask you to share a meal with me.
Now, put your hijab back on and let’s walk out.

Nasrin does so, and the two walk out of the detention center. The guards at the entrance bow respectfully to the officer as he and Nasrin go by.

Hijabs and Fertility

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On September 16th, Mahsa Amini, a 22 y/o woman of Kurdish origin, was detained in Tehran by the Morality Police, an outfit dedicated to enforcing strict adherence to the religious mandate of wearing head scarves and robes. She was visiting the city with her family. She died later that day while in custody. Physical abuse while in detention is suspected.
Long repressed resentment has led to protests and many dead across Iran.
Women have seized the moment to go on the offensive and reject the religious strictures aimed at suppressing their femininity. They have taken to publicly burning their hijabs or head scarves. Many have been incarcerated.
Yesterday, a NYT article reported that Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech at a police academy graduation, blamed foreign interference for the disturbances. He cited the US and Israel, along with paid Iranian traitors as the main culprits. Videos on Twitter show scenes of people shot and of protesters at Sharif university, a technology center in Tehran.
But he never mentioned the effect the battle for freedom in Ukraine is having on Iranian women. Never mentioned the drones that Iran is selling Russia so they can more effectively kill Ukrainians.
Iranian women, long fed up with the regime’s repression, want freedom too.
They want their freedom to be women. Why should the gifts that nature gave them be covered up?
Why? To suppress their sexuality? Yes. To hide their looks and the power they have over men? Yes.
Women have reason to be angry that they are denied the option of showing their bodies. Apparently, the regime believes that would be too unsettling for Iranian men.
Allowing women to show their bodies is seen as too disruptive by the theocracy in power.
What will they want next? Political power? NO!
They must be kept in their places, under the control of men. Doing what religion says they ought to do. Bear children and be quiet.
And in a city square somewhere in Iran, I can hear the cry of a proud Iranian woman addressing a crowd of supporters, both women and men, as a bonfire sparkles and crackles before her.
‘It is up to us to change the rules that govern us, up to us women, because we are the most oppressed.’
She has her hijab in one hand as she steps forward and throws it into the bonfire.
Cheers rise from the audience. Some of the women in the audience step up to the bonfire and toss their hijabs into it also.
‘This fight is just starting… so what can we do to make our statement and improve our condition?’ continues the speaker.
And all the women raise their fists and start chanting, ‘Free Iranian women!’
And the speaker says, ‘We need to do something radical to gain our freedom… so let us all stop having sex!’
People in the audience laugh, at first incredulous, asking themselves, is she serious?
‘Yes’, resumes the speaker, ‘Let us stop having sex, even if you’re married. Stop. In the name of freedom. Stop. All women should say, we will not have sex and will not bear children until we are free to be who we are!’
‘Woman power!’ resume the chant from the audience, now more vigorous.
Some of the men in attendance laugh at first, but then slowly start joining in.
‘It has come to that point…’ restarts the speaker, ‘that we have to deny our nation a new generation… until such time as all of us women are granted our freedom.
To control us is unacceptable. The profound disregard for us have shown the ayatollahs to be inept. They should go back to their temples, get on their knees and ask god where was it that they went wrong.
So as difficult as it may seem, I ask that all Iranian women choose chastity… and deny our nation the option of fertility… for it is not a given.
For a woman to be fertile she must be respected… and we are not respected in our land.’
‘Woman power!’ resumes the chant from the audience. ‘Woman power!’
‘Long live Iran!’ cries the speaker, ‘and long live Ukraine… blessed nation and inspirer of people all over the world.’
Then a gun shot rings in the night.

Afghanistan is Lost

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Recently, in the wake of the surging Taliban offensive which soon will lead to the final assault on Kabul, the capital, an Afghan man was quoted as saying, ‘You didn’t fix the problem.’

He was angry that America was leaving his land. 

America had come and stayed for 20 years but now was leaving and the Taliban would take over again.

Women would once again be forced to marry and wear the all-enveloping burqas, their possibilities for personal development deeply curtailed.

‘You didn’t fix the problem,’ said the man. 

There is passivity in those words. The expectation that others are to fix the problem. The problem, of course, is the Taliban. The brutally rigid group of Afghans who wish to return to rule the country in the name of Islam. 

Did America fail? 

Yes, we did. Failed to fire up in Afghans who are open to change, the will and power needed to fight off the repressive Taliban and rebuild the nation.

But Afghans knew all along that America and their NATO allies would not stay forever. We had gone there to root out the terrorist group Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks and then stayed to boost the country’s modernization.

Afghans had to know that the foreigners would not stay forever – it was not their land – but failed to use that opportunity to summon up their own courage and work steadily to overcome their national differences and be prepared to fight the enemy.

‘You didn’t fix the problem’ is the lament of a frustrated man who, having seen how much different life can be, now will have to abide by whatever the Taliban says.

If he has a daughter over 15, then she is ready for marriage to a Taliban fighter if they so wish. Her choice is irrelevant. And truncated are her possibilities as a full human being.  

‘You didn’t fix the problem,’ is the cry of Afghans who didn’t band together to stop the forces of darkness they knew were just waiting for the foreigners to leave.

But can Afghans still rise in defense of their land? I don’t think so. Of course, miracles can happen. But the likelihood is that the world has to prepare itself to read report after report of people executed because they were enemies of the Taliban. 

And as soon as the dust and smoke settles after fighters on the ground capture Kabul and take over the entire country, the Taliban’s supreme leaders, now in comfortable settings in Qatar and under that government’s protection, will make their triumphant return.

The number of the executed will keep growing and we will be reminded of Myanmar’s tragedy.

Yes, America had to leave. It was time. We had to leave because we have to rebuild our nation. 

Rebuild because we are not united and if we remain so we will lose our land.

But we should ask ourselves, how hard did we try to get Afghans to say, ‘We must fix our problem. It is our problem. Others can help us and we will be most grateful, but it is our problem to fix.’

Oscar Valdes.

The President’s Regrets

Alone in the Oval Office, the TV off because the count in Georgia and Pennsylvania now has Biden in the lead, while both Arizona and Nevada continue to lean democratic, the President sits and lowers his head. The long dreaded defeat has finally arrived.

‘I tweeted too much. Which meant I didn’t take time to reflect. Presidents shouldn’t tweet so much. Joe doesn’t tweet like I do but I’ll pass it along anyway, just before the transfer of power.’

‘I should have let the scientists lead the effort on the coronavirus from the very beginning. This is a big one. If I had done that, then if the virus would have spread, I could’ve blamed them. But no, I chose to be the man in charge, even though I didn’t know a thing about the virus.’

‘I identified too much with the Right, as if this country was not a huge place filled with people who have lots of different points of view.’

‘I should have worked more with my supporters, to tell them that to make America Great Again it will take the work of all Americans. I cringe when I hear Joe Biden talk about how he’s going to be a president for everyone, and that during his term there will be no red and blue states. Damn. That should’ve been my line.’

‘I should’ve danced more with Melania, sang her a song, just be with her. Relax with her. And spent more time with my son Barron, too, see what he had to say. The young can always teach us something if we care to listen. I didn’t.’

‘That’s a problem I have, listening. A huge problem. If I had listened, I wouldn’t have fired good generals like Mattis and Kelly.’

‘If I had listened, I would’ve kept some of my early economic advisers who told me to go easy on the tariffs on China. Sure, there is an issue with their theft of intellectual property and their push to world dominance, but I ought to have been more gradual.’

‘I should have brought more women into the cabinet, lots of them. My cabinet should’ve been at least half women. And I could’ve even appointed a woman to be secretary of state. Hell, I would’ve been reelected if I had done that. But I didn’t.’

‘And why did I go bananas on overturning environmental regulations? The climate issue is real. Everybody thinks that. How come I was so blind and deaf about it?’

‘And the George Floyd incident, that was a missed opportunity. I could’ve jumped in and said, “This is horrible. Ghastly. There are great cops in our nation, but this is not permissible. This is murder, and I will make sure that justice is done” But I didn’t do it.’

‘I pissed off a lot of European allies. There was no need for that. There were other ways I could’ve got them to pay more for the costs of defense.’

‘I am feeling depressed. And have no one to blame but me.’

Good luck, Mr President.

Oscar Valdes wrote extensively in an effort to get the President to reflect. And sent him his books.   oscarvaldes@widehumr