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Shiva Balaghi

Jadaliyya Contributor

Sadegh Tirafkan: All That Remains Is His Art

[Sadegh Tirafkan self-portrait from his Ashura Series, 1997 - 2008.]

The last time I saw Iranian artist Sadegh Tirafkan was in the fall of 2011 at Art Abu Dhabi. Sadegh was there to soak it all in and to attend an opening of his art at Etemad Gallery in Dubai. As I stood in line to board a bus to dinner for invited participants, he enveloped me in a hug and said, “Eh, Shiva jan, I have a project I want to talk with you about.” We sat together on the bus, chatting and watching Abu Dhabi pass by. Sadegh wanted us to travel to Iran together. We ...

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Will the Presidential Elections “Cure the Pain” of the Iranian People?

[Screenshot from Iranian TV showing a young Rouhani with Ayatollah Khomeini.]

Do not just look at the pictures of Iranians celebrating late into the night in Tehran’s streets. Listen, they are singing Yar-e Dabestani-ye Man [My Grade School Friend]. This old Iranian protest song has become the unofficial anthem of the student movement. Tyranny’s welt on our flesh Has not faded with time The fields of our culture Have grown wild with neglect... Who but you and I Has power to cure our pain?  Unlike the highly contentious presidential ...

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Covering Iran's Ninjas

[Ninjutsu. Image from Wiki Commons]

On the evening of 29 March, a line in my twitter feed read, “You don’t want to mess with Iran’s lady ninjas.” Cara Park’s snarky comment had been retweeted by someone I follow in Cairo. I clicked her link to find she’s a deputy managing editor of Foreign Policy, blogging on the suspensions of Reuters’ accreditation in Iran over their reporting on women training in ninjutsu: In case it wasn’t obvious, you don’t want to offend a highly-trained cadre of Iranian ninjas. Anger ...

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Our Friend Anthony Shadid's Stories

[Anthony Shadid. Image from the author.]

I feel like I need to write the stories, he would say, or the stories will not get told. And so often Anthony Shadid did write the stories no one else would—the stories from Iraq, from Lebanon, from Libya, from Syria. In the end, he died on a dirt road in Syria, carried by a fellow journalist across the border to Turkey, like a fallen hero. To many, he was a hero, but he was also a beloved friend, a son who adored his parents, a father who lived for his children, a husband ...

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War Talk: The Obama Administration and Iran

[President Obama delivers 2012 State of the Union address. Image from unknown archive.]

“Let there be no doubt,” President Obama declared in his 2012 State of the Union address. “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” The comment drew a rousing and sustained standing ovation from the US Congress. “But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible,” the President continued to a smattering of applause that tumbled awkwardly across the silent chamber. The ...

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Murdoch's Homeland

[Image from Showtime,]

Terrorists have backstories, and American politicians play dirty in the “war on terror”. These revelations are what propel the Showtime’s hit series, Homeland, seemingly setting it apart from other pop culture representations of post-9/11 America. “How do you tell a thriller in the post-9/11, post-Abu Ghraib, and post-Guantanamo world?” asks Howard Gordon, one of the show’s creators. “Homeland will challenge people’s notions of what a hero and a villain are. The show lives ...

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Greek Translation of "Tragic Day for Norway; Shameful Day for Journalism"

[Image from unknown archive]

[This article was written in English by Shiva Balaghi and translated/published in Greek by the popular blog Parapolitik.] Μέρα τραγωδίας για τη Νορβηγία, μέρα ντροπής για τη Δημοσιογραφία To ...

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Tragic Day for Norway; Shameful Day for Journalism

[Image from unknown archive]

A friend’s status update on Facebook alerted me that something horrible had happened in Oslo. Horrible things tend not to happen in Oslo, so I immediately turned to the news to learn what was going on. I read a story in the New York Times that squarely pointed to jihadi groups angered at the war in Afghanistan. The expert the Times cited was Will McCants. I checked in on his twitter feed throughout the day, as he allegedly translated an alleged website by the alleged ...

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Running on Empty: International Education Funding Gets Deep Cuts

[President Barack Obama in Cairo, 2009]

Although education reform is a hallmark of the Obama presidency, we have just witnessed the largest cuts ever to the US Department of Education’s international education programs. In 2009, Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced Race to the Top. A $4.3 billion program, it is one of the largest and most expensive education programs in US history. A central goal of Race to the Top is to “prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to ...

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NYT Reporter Anthony Shadid Missing in Libya

Shadid at Brown University, April 2010 [photo credit: AP]

[UPDATED March 21: The NYT announced that the Libyan government has released all four reporters, who are reportedly on their way home. Reports indicate the Turkish government played a key role in negotiating their freedom.] [UPDATED March 18: In an interview with Christiane Amanpour for ABC, Saif Qadaffi said that the NYT reporters had been detained and were in Tripoli. The NYT announced that they believed the reporters would be released on Friday. We still await official ...

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Focus on Freedom: In Solidarity with Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi

In December 2010, a court in the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced filmmaker Jafar Panahi to six years in prison for collusion against the government. Even after his body is released from prison, the government wants to control his thoughts, his dreams, his words and prevent him from expressing them in cinematic form. The court also banned him from writing scripts, making films, traveling abroad, and speaking with any media for twenty years. “It’s depressing,” said director ...

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Why Tahrir Infuriates the Neo-Cons

[Niall Ferguson. Image from CNReview]

Everywhere you turn, Niall Ferguson is berating Obama’s “muddling” of Egypt. He’s blogging on The Daily Beast, spewing angrily on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and inaugurating his new column in Newsweek with a cover story blasting Obama. Tahrir Square is the neo-cons’ worst nightmare… And Ferguson is one of the scribes who helped globalize and legitimize the neo-cons’ ideas. Since 9/11, Ferguson’s books on empire have become airport bestsellers, and he’s gone from Oxford to ...

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Preparing Tomorrow's History Lessons

Election Posters in Old Cairo, Photo Shiva Balaghi

Last night, my husband Michael Kennedy and I wrote an essay for Jadaliyya suggesting that the Polish Round Tables of 1989 might present a model for those hoping to move the Tahrir protest movements forward. He is an academic who works on Central and Eastern Europe, I on the Middle East. The difference in our world regions, I often tell him, is in your part of the world, the US supports protest movements; in my part of the world, the US stands in their way. I’d hoped Egypt’s ...

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How Can Egypt Get From Tahrir Square to Democracy? Lessons from Poland in 1989

[Polish Round Table 1989; Image from Wiki Commons]

This article is co-written by Michael Kennedy and Shiva Balaghi “To Husni Mubarak: leave already. Arabs around the world are trying to sleep,” read a tweet. “Leave already, my hand hurts,” read a sign held up by a man on Cairo’s streets. From Tahrir Square, we hear that protesters are facing a new pressure possibly more strong than the pro-Mubarak thugs set lose on them in recent days. Family members, neighbors and merchants in the Tahrir area are pleading with them to go ...

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Shiva Balaghi


Shiva Balaghi is a cultural historian of the Middle East, who teaches Art History and History at Brown University as the Laya Khadjavi Visiting Professor of Iranian Studies. Balaghi is a Contributing Editor of Jadaliyya, Associate Editor of Review of Middle East Studies, and a Trustee of the American Institute of Iranian Studies. Her books include Saddam Hussein: A Biography (2005, Chinese translation 2006); Picturing Iran: Art, Society, and Revolution (co-edited, 2002); and Reconstructing Gender in the Middle East (Co-edited, 1994). She tweets at @sbalaghi.