Tehran March 2010

March 30, 2010 :: Tags: , :: 7 Comments

Isn’t this amazing? I avoided going to Iran for over 32 years, and now within six or seven months, have visited Iran twice. All I can say is the hospitality you see in Iran, is second to none. Pictures below are a mix of family pictures, parties, and celebration of the Iranian new year among my family in Iran.

Happy Iranian New Year

March 20, 2010 :: Tags: , , :: 1 Comment

First day of spring. In fact the very first second of spring is the start of new year in Iran.

Last time I celebrated the Iranian new year in Iran was around 34 years ago. As a family (parents, my sister, brother and I) have not all been together for 34 years. So, given that I now have less fear of going to Iran (maybe not so smart), and that my sister who lives in Dallas, Texas also decided to go to Iran after about 20 years, I decide we go too.

My parents are naturally filled with joy and were anticipating our trip for a while.

I want SORA to experience Iranian new year. I really want SORA to be a global/ culturally aware person, respecting and enjoying the diversity of our world. So, we are in Tehran for a quick visit, and then Istanbul for a short stay. I have been to Istanbul a few times but this will be the first time for Nami and SORA. I will be posting many pictures soon.

I continue to be proud of President Obama for his message to the Iranian people on this day. Unfortunately the message is blocked on most sites, but as always information have a way of getting around in an open society, or one aspiring to be.

As some of you have already found out, I am only an email or a phone call away. I check my voice mail regularly and return calls.

Happy Iranian new year. Let us each pray in our own way for peace, freedom, and justice across the world. Wishing you and your families happiness and health.

“What is Poetry That Cannot Save Nations or a People?”

January 11, 2010 :: Tags: , , , :: Comments Off on “What is Poetry That Cannot Save Nations or a People?”

I forwarded Hila Sedighi’s poem for oppressed students of Iran, to my friend Garrett Hongo, poet, audiophile and Distinguished Professor of The College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oregon. In response, Garrett wrote to me about the Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz who once said “what is poetry that cannot save nations or a people.”

“Ferocious political oppression spawns outcry and plants a strength of resolve and resentment at the instant it punishes and strikes for fear. Yet, economic and cultural oppression do too, though the cries take longer to develop and be heard, sometimes silenced so long the result is a counter-violence some call revolutionary. Yet, violence is itself tyrannous, reigning over all redress and hope in turn. Poetry is a peaceful plaint to register our grief and outrage, yet I hope it might move millions to revive justice–in their hearts and in the world.” — Garrett Hongo


by Czeslaw Milosz

You whom I could not save
Listen to me.
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.

What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,
Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty;
Blind force with accomplished shape.

Here is a valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge
Going into white fog. Here is a broken city;
And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave
When I am talking with you.

What is poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation.

They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed thee dead who would come disguised as birds.
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.

Warsaw, 1945

hila sedighi — poem for oppressed students of iran

December 14, 2009 :: Tags: :: Comments Off on hila sedighi — poem for oppressed students of iran

in general, i have avoided iranian politics all my life. partly, because it is the safest thing to do; and partly because as a child i learned it is best to shut my mouth for the fear of retaliation against myself and/or my family. to be honest, i am even a bit hesitant writing some of my thoughts here. one thing my recent trip to iran (after 32 years) taught me is that plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. in iran of today, as iran of 32 years ago, your voice is veiled.

but the voice of hila sedighi, through her poems and the voice of the iranian youth through their marches, leading to the green movement are not so veiled. in fact, they help amplify the hushed voice of others like me. hence, this posting.

the green movement in iran is impressive. whether mir hussein moussavi is the right person or not, is a separate story (the little i know of him, i am not impressed). the green movement also showed us the helplessness of the iranian youth, facing a regime not reluctant to use force against them. president obama’s response to the iranian student movement was lame at best.

anyways, i shut up before i get others in trouble, while i am in the comfort of my chicago home. i let hila’s poem does the talking and do the feeling. the english translation helps, but does absolutely no justice to the beauty of hila’s poem. she is an intelligent, daring young woman with mesmerizing beauty. enjoy hila sedighi’s poem.

jan. 13, 2010 addition: i just found the transcription of the poem in a blog called persian2english, as well as its translation, credited to “tour irani.” i do not particularly die for the word “persian” but alas….thanks to

The Class is Empty without Your Presence
By: Hila Sedighi

It is a rainy autumn day.
The sky is about to burst
into tears
as if a cloud
is kneeling to pray
to the summer’s heat.

The school smells of the alphabet
The bells ring loud to declare our first recess

Our unsanctioned laughter and our naive joy
was met with constant rage and slander
These were our youth days!

It is autumn and the school re-opens.
I am filled with moments and memories in this classroom where you are no more.
I sit there at your desk that is topped with perished flower petals.

It is autumn and I am so full of rain
It is autumn and I am so full of rain
I am imprisoned by my own rage.

What a beautiful tomorrow we dreamed of
It is all in vain now.

What great times and what dreams we passed
searching for a re-awakening.

Me and you!
We were the generation that was not allowed to fly.

Me and you!
We were the generation that could not fly!

Enslaved in the claws of the vulture-
the same falcon who shot you in front of my eyes, with its sharp claws!
The same falcon who shot you in front of my eyes with its sharp claws!

All our dreams died,
and separated our hands of friendship.

You drank the poison of death,
and you left me suddenly.

I now swear to to the tears that roll down a mother’s face
And I swear to our eternal ideas
And I swear to each drop of blood of love
And I swear to the burning hearts in chains
My heart shattered in a hundred pieces that fell to the ground
The sorrow cut my heart into a hundred pieces.

Tell me
Tell me if you are happy where you are.

Are you free in the other world?
Do yo still remember our younger years?
Do you still love your country?


Tell me, are there no perverts where you are?
Is the fate of trees indebted to axes?
Do they not steal your conscious over there?
Do they not rape your pride over there?


Are there signs of unknown graves where you are?
Do you hear the cries of the mothers?

Recite with me, recite with me
We shared our pains, our generation, and our way
Recite my poem with sorrow and sigh

it is the beginning of autumn
The sky is about to burst into tears

I am left with an empty chair where you used to sit
I am left with an empty chair where you used to sit
And the perished flowers on your desk.

Thanks a million to Tour Irani for translation

here is the text in farsi. would love to hear nami sing it.

شعری زیبا و پرشور از هیلا صدیقی تقدیم به تمامی شهدای سبز به خصوص دانشجویان شهید راه آزادی … ما بیشماریم…
هوا بارانی است و فصل پاییز/ گلوی آسمان از بغض لبریز//
به سجده آمده ابری که انگار/ شد ه از داغ تابستانه سر ریز//
هوای مدرسه بوی الفبا/ صدای زنگ اول محکم و تیز//
جزای خنده های بی مجوز/ و شادیها و تفریحات ناچیز//
برای نوجوانی ها ی ما بود / فرود خشم و تهمت های یکریز//
رسیده اول مهر و درونم / پر است از لحظه های خاطرانگیز//
کلاس درس خالی مانده از تو / من و گلهای پزمرده سرمیز//
هوا پاییزی و بارانی ام من / درون خشم خود زندانی ام من //
چه فردای خوشی را خواب دیدیم / تمام نقشه ها بر آب دیدیم //
چه دورانی چه رویای عبوری / چه جستن ها به دنبال ظهوری //
من و تو نسل بی پرواز بودیم / اسیر پنجه های باز بودیم //
همان بازی که با تیغ سر انگشت/ به پیش چشمهای من تو را کشت //
تمام آرزو ها را فنا کرد / دو دست دوستیمان را جدا کرد //
تو جام شوکران را سر کشیدی / به ناگه از کنارم پر کشیدی//
به دانه دانه اشک مادرانه / به آن اندیشه های جاودانه //
به قطره قطره خون عشق سوگند / به سوز سینه های مانده در بند//
دلم صد پاره شد بر خاک افتاد / به قلیم از غمت صد چاک افتاد //
بگو ـ بگو آنچا که رفتی شاد هستی / در آن سوی حیاط آزاد هستی //
هوای نوجوانی خاطرت هست / هنوزم عشق میهن در سرت هست //
بگو آنجا که رفتی هرزه ای نیست / تبر تقدیر سرو و سبزه ای نیست //
کسی دزد شعورت نیست آنجا / تجاوز به غرورت نیست آنجا//
خبر از گورهای بی نشان هست / صدای زجه های مادران هست//
بخوا ن همدرد من هم نسل و همراه / بخوان شعر مرا با حسرت و آه //
دوباره اول مهر است و پاییز / گلوی آسمان از بغض لبریز//
من و میزی که خالی مانده از تو / و گلهایی که پزمرده سر میز //

tehran – final report

October 22, 2009 :: Tags: , , :: Comments Off on tehran – final report

sweet trip. sweet people. bitter sweet memories. best thing happened to me in 2009.

iran death to dictatori needed it. no secret to my audiophile friends and close friends/associates that 2009 has been a shitty year for me, mainly thanks to the worst betrayal i have ever experienced in my life (from a couple of business associates). i needed to look back at 2009 by thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) and mention a couple of good things about 2009. my trip to iran is one.

this, combined with the fact that i just got my iranian passport and waiver not to be drafted, gave me the peace of mind i needed to embark on this trip.

most places in iran, even shopping malls have “no-photo” signs. a baker and a street vendor asked me not to take pictures of their set up. no idea why. perhaps a mis-trust thing.  security guard at a shopping mall came to me inside a shop and very politely asked me not to take any pictures and delete what i have already taken. to his surprise, i asked him if i could take a picture of him. then i told him i joked but i wish i did take a picture of him. point: he was incredibly polite and professional. i think in most other places, my camera would have been confiscated.

back to the mis-trust thing. i think this, as pertained to the governments, is ingrained in the iranian culture. at the time of shah, people did not have the courage to talk politics (unless they sucked up to the shah) in the cabs or public places. at times, not even among closest friends or family for the fear of retaliation by shah’s secret police, savak. well, it ain’t any different now.

i am in particular grateful nami and sora got to meet the rest of my family and my birthplace. traditional japanese families, although highly caring, do not show their affection much. no hugging, no touching. with my iranian family this is just the opposite. sora and nami were the centers of attention with everyone wanting to hold, play with, hug and kiss sora. everyone made sure they felt part of the family and were comfortable. they are now considering going back to iran for a couple of months, and study farsi.

my stay in tehran is ending. a great place to visit. great people. what i had always heard and suspected myself proved to be correct again: iranian people are some of the nicest, most welcoming people you will ever come across. they care about westerners and there is a sense of envy when they meet people from other countries or an iranian living abroad. like all people, they are proud of their country and heritage. in many social events, they sing a “national anthem” that has nothing to do with religion or the government. only talks about their beautiful country and heritage.

as for me, i continue to be proud to call myself “iranian born american” and hope my american friends get to visit iran, and make their own interpretations of its culture and society.