The 1979 Iranian Revolution: A Personal Story

13 06 2009

We were all set to move to Tehran, Iran in 1978. My (then) husband was a software engineer with Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and we had the opportunity of a lifetime to move there (and him to work there) with our one-year-old baby girl.

Shah Pahlavi and Queen Farah 1977

Shah Pahlavi and Queen Farah 1977

Iran seemed stable then.  Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was the leader and had been since he came to power in 1941. He had put in place a lot of positive reforms, called the White Revolution, in Iran such as giving women the right to vote, advancing the country technologically and economically, guaranteeing children the right to go to school, allowing share croppers to own land, etc.

There was no Internet then, but I researched Iran the best I could. EDS gave us a packet of information on what to expect about living there and I learned more at the library. I knew it would be really different from living in the U.S. Things like celery and iceburg lettuce and other foods were hard to get and expensive when you could find them. I wouldn’t be driving there, but would have some freedom of movement. There was no email so contact with my family would be mostly through letters and the rare (and expensive) phone call. Still, I was ready for the adventure.

Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Khomeini

Things happened to change all that. Previously the Shah had Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was critical of his regime, imprisoned for 18 months and then deported in 1964 after Khomeini’s release and criticism of the U.S. government. Khomeini continued to speak out against the Pahlavi regime from exile. The Iranian (also called the Islamic) Revolution began in January 1978. A few months later, EDS asked if we would consider going to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia instead of Tehran. We didn’t really understand why, but they explained it would be safer. We changed course and agreed…and my research began anew. I became pregnant with our second child and had to hold back on going to Jeddah. Their father went around the beginning of November 1978. I, and our two children, didn’t go over until July 1979.

Amidst the backdrop of our changing personal saga, chaos had broken out in Iran and the Shah and his family had to flee the country in January 1979. His regime collapsed two weeks later. EDS employees fled the U.S.-friendly regime with the clothes on their back. Many of them came later to Jeddah and we were regaled with harrowing and heroic stories.

Khomeini returned from 15 years of exile and on 4/1/79, the people of Iran voted to become an Islamic Republic. In December of 1979, the people approved a theocratic (where God is considered the supreme civil ruler) constitution and Khomeini became the Supreme Leader, the highest ranking political and religious figure in the country. He has authority even over the president of Iran. Tens of thousands of loyalists to the previous regime were executed after Khomeini took office.

At this point, the U.S./Iran relationship deteriorated. On 11/4/79 Iranian students seized U.S. embassy personnel, accusing them of being CIA agents plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.  Khomeini supported them. Most of the women and African-American hostages were released after a few months, but the remaining 52 hostages were held captive for 444 days. They were set free in January 1981 in exchange for promises that included the U.S. removing a freeze on Iranian assets and not interfering with Iranian affairs.

While my family and I were spared the drama, tension, and danger in Iran, we were living in Jeddah when the Grand Mosque was seized and held for two weeks by Islamic terrorists on 11/20/79.  I wrote about this in a post entitled “Pilgrims to a Deadly Hajj.” I witnessed on the streets what an area under siege in a Middle Eastern country looks like.

Once again we seemed to escape potential danger unwittingly. We returned to the United States around mid-September of 1980. On 9/22/80 Saddam Hussein and Iraq invaded a weakend (from the revolution) Iran and thus began the Iran-Iraq War. It lasted until 1988 when Khomeini begrudgingly accepted a truce negotiated by the United Nations. 500,000 – 1 million Iranians died in this war; 100,000 of them from Iraqi chemical weapons.

Ali KhameneiKhomeini reigned as Supreme Leader until he died on 6/3/89. Ali Khamenei became Supreme Leader in 1989 and remains so in 2009. Iran had two additional presidents before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

I was a 25-year-old, wide-eyed, ready-for-anything young woman when my family was going to move to Iran. Things were pretty peaceful then. It seemed really exciting.

Today, in the aftermath of what looks like a rigged election, there is rioting in the streets of Iran. The people are crying out for freedom and representation and being heard. It’s a dangerous place to be. I could’ve walked amongst these people 30 years ago, but it would’ve been a different Iran, an Iran that was making progress and restoring rights to women and children and peasants.

Today, and the last 30 years, seem to have been a setback for the Iranians. I wonder when their country will be restored to peace and to being a place where another wide-eyed, brave young U.S. mother would dare to go undaunted with her family to have the adventure of a lifetime.

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LGBT (Gay) in Iraq: A Horrible Way to Die

28 04 2009

Captured, mutilated with a glue applied to seal the buttocks and then fed a powerful laxative. The result: a horrible way to die.

Credit: CNN

Credit: CNN

That’s the way an article starts about what is being done by Iraqi militias to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people in Iraq after a fatweh was issued against them there.

Several LGBT people have been found dead in Iraq and it is reported that there is a movement to wipe out LGBT people in Iraq altogether. I wrote about the danger for them there in my post entitled LGBT (Gay) in America…LGBT in Iraq.

Read the whole article about this horrific sexual cleansing and torture.

I hope you’ll take the time to sign online the Protect Iraqi LGBT petition to ask President Obama to get involved to stem the killing and torture of LGBT people in Iraq.

This is horrendous. Spread the word. Sign the petition or go to www.whitehouse.gov and ask the White House to speak out about this. It’s bad enough how gay people are treated in the United States. This is worse.





LGBT (Gay) in America…LGBT in Iraq

13 04 2009

gays-holding-hands1As gay marriage, gays in the military, gay teachers, gay friends, etc. become mainstream, we must not forget that LGBT people still suffer. A gay couple was thrown out of the beautiful Four Seasons hotel downtown in Austin (a very gay-friendly town) recently because one guy sat on the other’s lap in the lobby. Students are still harrassed in school.

To bring attention to this, the Day of Silence is being celebrated throughout the U.S. on Friday, April 17. According to the website:

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Students who participate in this stay silent the entire day to bring attention to the silence faced by LGBT students in the face of name calling, bullying, etc. According to the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), 61% of students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

If you’d like to encourage Congress to support the National Day of Silence, go to this Gay Rights page on the Change.org website and sign the petition.  The resolution was introduced to the House of Representatives on April 2nd.

The White House and President Obama support several LGBT initiatives, which can be found by going to this whitehouse.gov civil rights page. On June 1, 2007, candidate Barack Obama said the following:

While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.

We are making great strides in treating LGBT people with respect, but there are still hate crimes and murders here. And while our government is struggling with how to treat LGBT equally, police here are at least not hunting down LGBT people as they are in Iraq.

Is there anyone to help me before it is too late? That’s the urgent plea in a handwritten note released last weekend from a member of the Iraqi-LGBT who is being held for execution because he is gay. In an April 7, 2009 article, the New York Times reports:

In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word “pervert” in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.

The police have been working to “clean up the streets” of beggars and homosexuals lately. A gay subculture has sprung up with the increased freedom in Iraq, but homosexuality is still against the law. The Times speaks of the fatwa that was issued against homosexuals in Iraq:

In 2005, the country’s most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a religious decree that said gay men and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed.” He added, “The people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.” The language has since been removed from his Web site.

Below is a disturbing report from CNN about gays being targeted in Iraq. One young man interviewed says he would rather commit suicide rather than admit to his family that he is gay. So when you walk down the street and think of the freedom that you have to love who you want and hug your partner, remember that if you were lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered, it could put you in danger in an American school or get you killed in Iraq.

 





Life as an Iraqi Refugee

24 02 2009

Imagine what life would be like as an Iraqi refugee. I did some research on what refugees are experiencing. Here is a realistic story you could hear from one of them.

I am one of 5.5 million Iraqi refugees. I watched as my husband was killed by a suicide bomber in a revenge killing. A Sunni insurgent leader forced me and my children from our home at gunpoint.

Iraqi woman and child in refugee camp

Iraqi woman and child in refugee camp

We fled on foot to the holy Iraq Shiite city of Najaf and live in a camp with 200 other people. It is one of many camps in Iraq. 1.2 to 1.5 million of us fled to Syria and hundreds of thousands to Jordan after our homes were destroyed, our lives were threatened, and our family members were killed. One in five Iraqis are refugees…ONE in FIVE.

The water we drink is polluted. I fear being attacked if I go outside our tent and so my children and I urinate and defecate inside…in the place where we eat and sleep and live. Every time I venture out to collect firewood or to get some of the polluted water, I risk being raped.

My children had to drop out of school and there is no school in our camp. Sometimes we get meager rations of food to eat. Other times, I must prostitute myself to get money to buy bread and water for my children and me. Every day I pray that God will send us food and clean water. I pray that my children and I will not fall ill to cholera or typhoid, which is rampant in many of the camps.

I also pray that the United States will rescue us from this living hell. I have always heard that the United States was a very powerful and rich country and that they help people in other countries. They helped create the violence in my country by attacking us. Now they need to help those of us who were forced from our homes due to their aggression.

President Obama has pledged to create an international working group to address the crisis that we refugees face. He has pledged $2 billion in aid to expand services and help provide a decent place to live to refugees in Iraq and in neighboring countries. Every day is a struggle to stay alive physically and emotionally. Please hurry. We are dying.

Those who fled to Syria hope that President Obama will appoint an ambassador to Syria to help with their situation. They are not allowed to work and many of them are forced to allow their young daughters to dance in clubs and even serve as prostitutes to make money to feed their families.

I am barely holding on to hope and to the physical and emotional well being of myself and my children. I fear they will not develop properly because of lack of food and pure drinking water. I wonder if I will ever be able to have my own home again, hold a job, and find a man who would take me as his wife. I want a normal life. I want out of this camp. I am a refugee in my own country. I cry to God and ask for help for my family and my fellow Iraqis from someone…anyone. Please help us.

This post is written to recognize and give voice to those 5.5 million Iraqi refugees who want and need to be heard. Refugees International wants you to be aware of this situation and sign a petition to urge President Obama to take swift action to help Iraqi refugees. Here is a short clip from their website about Iraqi refugees in Syria:





Female Suicide Bombers in Iraq: Raped, Shamed, and Looking for a Way Out

5 02 2009

Vulnerable. Recruited. Raped. Disgraced. Become suicide bomber. A way out. 80 women in Iraq. Recruited by Samira Ahmed Jassim, a 50-year-old mother of four daughters and two sons . Nicknamed the “mother of believers,” Samira is now in jail, and is the mastermind behind 28 suicide bombings in Iraq. Insurgents organized the rapes and then she tried to convince the raped and shamed women to become suicide bombers. The insurgents threatened to blow up Samira’s house if she did not cooperate.

Samira Ahmed Jassim, Recruiter of Female Suicide Bombers in Iraw
Samira Ahmed Jassim, Recruiter of Female Suicide Bombers in Iraq

 

 

 

 

 

Under Sharia, the Islamic religious law, sex with someone you are not married to is strictly forbidden. When a woman is raped, religious zealots say she had unlawful sex and must be punished…often by whip lashes, being cast out from the family and community, by stoning, or by other forms of death. This is what happened to Somalian 13-year-old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, who was stoned to death after being raped by 3 men. I wrote about this tragedy in this post.

So after these women in Iraq are targeted and raped, they are then subject to at least being ostracized by their families. They are looking for a way to restore honor to their families and for some, being a suicide bomber is their way out. Islamic fathers have been known to do things like drown a daughter in a swimming pool, stab, shoot, or behead her for having sex with someone she was not married to or for even falling in love with someone not approved by her family. So these raped women may realize they have no future at all…literally.

Rape does not usually have anything to do with the woman who is raped…she is merely an unfortunate pawn in the game of war or is used to satisfy the ego of a narcissistic, self-centered man who attempts to assert power.

It is particularly disgusting that this woman Samira would participate in luring other women to their death by pretending to counsel them after being raped. If it is true that her house would have been bombed had she refused to cooperate with the insurgents, then she too is a pawn in this very sick, disturbing, and dehumanizing war game.

This is not what Islam…or any religion…is about. For people to so devalue their fellow Muslim brethern like this is where the real shame lies…not in the women who are raped.





Iraq War: The Cost of Bush Lies and His Influence of Not Being Accountable

1 02 2009

UPDATED 3/15/2013

From a Reuters report on a Watson Institute study:

NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said.

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/iraq-war-cost-more-than-2-trillion_n_2875493.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009.

ORIGINAL POST I WROTE

George W. Bush reasons for the Iraq War: WMDs, Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda, and liberate Iraqis from Saddam Hussein and create a democratic government. His refusal to accept or admit any accountability for the results of his misleading the American people have had tremendous cost to Iraq and to the U.S.

I just finished reading the riveting “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq” by Richard Engel, NBC News Middle East Correspondent. Richard says none of those reasons for starting the war are true, and that the war in Iraq “…has always been more about geography, religion, and power than democracy. If you see where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds live, it’s easy to understand their struggles for dominance.” Bush never understood that…and frankly didn’t care. He did what he wanted to do and what he wanted to do has been…and continues to be…extremely costly.

Here are some statistics on what the Iraq war (taken from think tanks such as the Brookings Institute and from the media) has cost the U.S. as of 1/21/09 due to Bush’s folly of inserting us in the middle of a civil and religious war:

  • 4,231 U.S. soldiers killed; 30% of them younger than 22 years old
  • 30,984 U.S. soldiers injured, with 20% of them having serious brain or spinal injuries
  • 30% of U.S. soldiers develop serious mental health problems within 3-4 months of returning home and suicide rates in the U.S. Army hitting an all-time high in 2008
  • One TRILLION DOLLARS (that’s $1000 billion) through  October 2009 in U.S. taxpayer money (this figure was updated 10/25/09)
    • $390,000 per year to deploy just ONE U.S. soldier
  • 142,000 – 148,000 (depending on whose statistics you use) troops in Iraq currently
  • 513,000 U.S. troops deployed since 2003; 197,000 of those more than once and 53,000 more than 3 times
  • According to February, 2007 Congressional hearings (and that was two years ago so the number is probably much higher now) an estimated $10 billion wasted and mismanaged in Iraq

Now add to those staggering numbers the impact on the Iraqi people:

  • An estimated more than one MILLION Iraqi citizens killed as of August, 2007 (according to the Opinion Business Research survey); the official documented number around 100,000
  • 2.25 million Iraqis displaced inside Iraq and 2.25 million Iraqis who are now refugees in Syria or Jordan as of May 2007; an additional 840,000 people displaced since May 2007 – a total of well over 5 MILLION Iraqis displaced
    • A note: Syria has refused to allow the 1.5 million who came there to work so many of the refugees have been forced to send their daughters – even as young as 5 or 6 – to clubs to dance to get money unofficially, becoming the family breadwinners. The girls make usually $20 to 30 per day in the clubs and the fathers of these girls act as pimps for work outside the club. These girls and their families are casualties of the U.S. War on Iraq.

Bush used the fear that the Iraq War would disintegrate into chaos to get re-elected in 2004. The cost to the American people of having four more years of Bush as president has been immense. He used fear again to continue to justify the now $12 billion per month the U.S. spends to keep our troops there. This is triple the burn rate of what we spent in the early years of the war. John McCain used fear about the war to try and get elected president and said he would never take our troops out until we had won. Only Barack Obama seems to understand that we are in a war we should never have started and that we cannot win.

The fear the Republican warmongers have perpetuated is that Iraq would descend into civil war if we leave. It has been happening for years now. Richard Engel cites countless atrocities that Iraqis have committed against other Iraqis during the Iraq War, continuing the torture and violence of Saddam Hussein:

  • A father’s beautiful 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped. The father talks to the kidnappers and convinces them to let him speak to his daughter. He asks her if she has been violated and she says yes. He tells the kidnappers to keep her…that he doesn’t want her back in that condition. The kidnappers execute the girl.
  • A family refuses an order to move from their home and their two-year-old boy is kidnapped, split open, stuffed with rice, roasted, and delivered to their doorstep.
  • People are executed and thrown in the streets as a warning to others to not cross the executioners.
  • Body parts are everywhere, bombings are commonplace, and women in particular hide in their homes in fear.

Some infrastructure improvements have been made since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Phone subscribers have increased from 800,000 to over 14 million. Internet users have increased from 4,500 to around 850,000. Those improvements do not negate the fact that the cost of the Iraq war has been very high…for the U.S., other countries, and especially for Iraqis.

Bush’s lies have caused unbelievable destruction, death, injury, harm to the U.S. reputation around the world, increase in terrorists and terrorism, U.S.-sanctioned use of torture, and money. And we wonder why our country is in the place it is now. We had an immoral, destructionist, lying, and above-the-law president who felt he was accountable to no one. The American people followed suit…we felt we could do anything and not pay a price. We are paying now…both as a country and individually.





Bush Ducks as an Iraqi Takes Aim

15 12 2008

Disrespectful? Yes. Understandable? Also yes. Bush had two shoes thrown at him today by Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi during a press conference in Iraq. Showing the soles of shoes is a sign of contempt in Arab culture.

When the first one was thrown, the Iraqi journalist throwing it said: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.”

When he threw the second shoe, he said: “This is from the widows, the orphans and those killed in Iraq.”

Zeidi knew first-hand about the violence in Iraq: he was kidnapped last year by Shiite militiamen, tortured, and later released. He has also had relatives killed in fighting in Iraq.

Reports vary wildly of how many Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invaded in 2003. The website http://www.IraqBodyCount.org lists 89,878 – 98,139 documented civilian Iraqi deaths in that time period. Other counts are much higher. On October 10, 2006, the New York Times reported that the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study said that over 600,000 Iraqi deaths had occurred…and that was over two years ago.

With so many innocent Iraqi citizens killed, it’s understandable that they would feel hatred toward Bush. Saddam Hussein was responsible for over 2 million people being killed (many of these Iranians). Bush’s decision to take the U.S. into war in Iraq on false pretenses has not had the reign of terror that Saddam Hussein had, but to the Iraqis, it may feel like it…and the numbers are startling.

Bush seems to have no remorse or any feeling at all over the havoc he has created in the world and the many many lives that have been lost, destroyed, or forever changed because of his actions. Throwing shoes at him, while disrespectful, is mild considering the damage he’s done. When he’s out of office, will there be repercussions for his having authorized torture? For lying repeatedly to the American public? Will people be standing in line to “throw shoes” at him?

 





U.S. Torture Has Caused As Many U.S. Soldier Deaths as 9/11

3 12 2008

They got it all wrong. Bush, Cheney, Addington, Rumsfield, and Gonzales authorized torture to “keep us safe” after 9/11. I wrote about this in a 11/16/08 blog.

Today Keith Olbermann interviewed “Matthew Alexander” on torture. “Matthew” (not his real name) served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force and is still in the Reserves (thus the assumed name). He has written a book called “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.”

Alexander went to Iraq in March, 2006 for a 5-month stint as a senior interrogator. He witnessed the U.S. using torture to try and elicit information from terrorist suspects. He conducted 300 interrogations and supervised 1,000 interrogations, and refused to use those methods. Instead, he built a rapport with the suspects, showed an understanding of their culture, and used criminal investigation techqniues to elicit the information he sought. His interrogation methods gathered information that led to the bombing and killing of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

“Matthew” says that torture is “extremely ineffective and is counter-productive to what we are trying to accomplish.” He says that you get unreliable information from torture and that al-Qaeda uses the fact that we torture people to recruit new members. He says we need to outlaw torture immediately when Obama takes office.

In a 11/30/08 Washington Post article he wrote, which was entitled “I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq,” Alexander says that:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners.

He also makes this startling declaration:

The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

LET THAT SINK IN FOR A SECOND. We have lost as many soldiers due to torture as we did in 9/11. We are supposedly FIGHTING a war on terror. Instead, we have CREATED terror with our torture policies…terror for our own soldiers and terror produced by new recruits who came to fight directly because of our torturing suspected terrorists.

Here’s Keith Olbermann interviewing “Matthew Alexander” on “Countdown” today:

Alexander is hopeful since Obama has said he will outlaw torture. Obama’s top legal advisors met today with 12 retired generals to talk about banning torture. Torture is just so unnecessary…and IT HAS TO STOP.