Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

The other green movement

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I was born in New York City—to an American mother and Iranian father—on January 15th, 1979, the same day the Shah fled Iran and what, in a more just world, might have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 50th birthday.

Growing up amidst the nostalgia of Iranian exiles and American progressives, I was taught from the earliest age that my birthday held special significance and that celebrating this significance required something deeper than a cupcake.  Consequently, the days leading up to it each year are accompanied by a tingling sense of urgency, as though something important is about to happen.

This year, watching protests in the streets of Iran via online video and getting updates from family members via phone and email, that sense is stronger than ever. And though I love writing and thinking about trash, lately it has felt strange to be doing so while so much is happening in that far away land so many people I love call home.

I know the struggles are related—environmental justice is linked to civil rights—but the linkages can at times appear tangential.

So, rather than abandon garblogging during this tense time, I thought today I’d occupy my pre-birthday anxiety by listing out the connections between trash and the slow march toward a democratic Iran. Thanks for bearing with me. I am aware that today’s post is a bit navalgazey.

These are connections I have stumbled upon solely because of, reason 1001 it’s lovely to have a trash blog.

Connection #1: Burning trash makes a dramatic political statement.

Getty Images

Connection #2: Iranian sanitation workers were at the forefront of post-election protests (a fact pointed out to me by trash-minded artist Douglas Brodoff).

Connection #3: Iranian-Americans have an affinity for trash. Through the blog I have discovered the trash-related work of artist Kuros Zahedi, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, and food justice activist Andy Sarjahani. [Note, I think Bahrani is actually Iranian-Canadian, but since Robert Ebert named him the next great American director today, I think it’s fair to lump him.]

Kuros and his piece "Finding Away," photo by Lele Barnett

Connection #4: As a nomadic people prone to political upheaval and averse to waste, Persians make things meant to last forever, never to be thrown away.

Persian carpet

Here’s hoping 2010 brings success to both the green movement to protect the environment and the green movement for political evolution in Iran. Happy New Year, trashies.



Generation cassette

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

As part of their supercool series on music, uncomsuption posted a link today to the site cassette tape culture, a clearinghouse of upcyling ideas for old tapes. As it happens, I’ve been thinking a lot about cassettes lately—in the context of what is happening now in Iran.

tapes. tapes, tapes

tapes. tapes, tapes

I saw a great documentary once—on TV of course so I have no idea what it was called or how to track it down again—about new technologies and human rights. It ended on this very upbeat note saying that little camcorders were going to put an end to human rights violations because anyone could sneak one into a scuffle or stoning, turning every citizen into a potential reporter.

Behind every modern uprising, the documentary postured, lay a technological advancement. Leading up to the ’79 revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini built his following by recording propaganda speeches on cassettes that were smuggled into Iran and passed around from person to person. Tienanmen Square was the fax revolution. And since then we have seen the text message and cell phone camera equivalents around the world. And here we are, 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, learning the true value of new media.

“So you know what Twitter is, now, right?” I asked my father on the phone this morning.  He lives in Tehran.

“Of course,” he said. “Hillary used it to send us a message.”

“And you know how it works?”

“BBC and Voice of America have been telling us how it works.”

So there you have it. Last week, he needed help to open his webmail account. This week, my dad understands the political implications of Twitter. And more importantly, my generation understands how to use it. And how YouTube and Facebook and camera phones and text messages all work.

Like everyone else I know, with or without family on the front lines, I am glued to the internet: hungry for any scrap of information or better yet context to the post-election melee and awed by the bravery of those on the streets.

Browsing these nostalgic reimaginings of cassettes makes me want to channel this nervous energy into an art project: a giant sculpture of the Ayatollah made of old cassettes with tangled strands of tape to represent his imposing eyebrows. It would have a sound element, this multimedia work of mine, a warbly cassette recording of Khomeini’s speech to the women who participated in the revolution (thanking them kindly for their participation and asking them politely to resume their places as subservient members of society). And I would call the piece “Be careful what you wish for.”

Trashmen of Tehran

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

As an Iranian-American and a journalist, it’s been hard to tear my mind away from what’s happening in Tehran right now. I worried the garblogging might suffer as a result, but Douglas Brodoff, whom you may remember from his paintings of “les petits hommes verts” in France, just sent me a link to his blog and this incredible YouTube video of Tehran’s garbage collectors calling for the removal of President Ahmadinejad. THANK YOU, Douglas.

They are chanting: “Take Mahmoud away! Take the garbage away!”

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