A generation, from reality to pictures

Women and the Middle East are controversial enough key words to make a piece of art interesting for westerns. This time, there is a new representation of this by an Iranian female artist, Melika Shafahi born in 1984, Tehran.  Grown up there and studied photography at the university of Tehran and now is living in France continuing her art career.

Against many other pictures shown to represent Iranian women or in a wider range Middle Eastern women, in Hijab, under veil and dark clothing, what can be seen in Melika’s photography is not that homogenized voiceless images and 8th of March, Women’s day, was a motivating reason to have an interview with Melika Shafahi, to reflect a part of her words and art works.

What I am trying to depict is whatever we, my generation and I is in reality in Iran, Melika says. It differs from those stereotyped pictures often are shown, she believes: Neither fundamentalist nor religious, a generation is who born after the Islamic revolution.

Studying visual arts in France brought her the chance to better communicate with non-Iranians who sometimes are in struggle with uncommon and non stereotyped pictures of Iranian youth, especially women. New images of them showing how different is the real picture of a generation of Iranians born in 1980s upwards, not just women but also men, with the same way of clothing and styles like the youth in Europe, Melika states.

“Snow White” is one of her collections which brought different interpretations of her art work. This fairy tale which is known from many countries in Europe but reminds me of my childhood in Iran, not just this but many other non-Iranian stories that we grown up with. Melika states: I am trying to show what we are in reality and surprisingly my works are still sometimes interoperated in a way they want to just because I am from Iran.

She had faced some limitations for public exhibiting her collections in Iran, though she had several private exhibitions, the last one on September 2011, Melika continues: I am eager on knowing different points of views from different groups of people.

She is not stuck in usual eastern elements to differentiate her photographs though when looking at her collections there is something different which reminds you of her origins whether it is a Persian cat in one picture or Persian calligraphic on the bodies of her models on the other one, she was successful to express her thoughts and in delivering her message, changing identity in the today’s world.

March 8, 2012 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Art and Culture, Women

A “Separation” which brought united admirable critics

As per critics, in The Sun-Herald, Sydney Newspaper by Andrew L.Urban it is a rare achievement for a foreign language film to be nominated for a best original screenplay Oscar but it’s not hard to see why a Separation has that distinction, as well as numerous other nominations and awards not limited to Golden globe 2012 and recently Cesar Award.

Family, culture, religion and daily survival are the ingredients of the story, which seems at first to be a family drama, a conflict about the future of a couple’s 11 year old child, Terme ( Farhadi). Simin ( Leila Hatami) the mother is desperate to give her the opportunities offered “ abroad” – where abroad is not specified. Nor does filmmaker Asghar Farhadi provide her with an answer when Simin is asked by an official why her daughter is disadvantaged growing up in Iran. He doesn’t have to; we know as do Iranians. Emigration and women are the two main themes that form this brilliant movie which has made a very touching story for Iranians and caused admiration of non-Iranian audiences.

A Separation is a film that provides a non-judgmental insight into the kind of everyday scenario that can ignite fires of mistrust and hatred between neighbors- whether they are families or nations, Andrew Urban says. No body really sets out to do bad things but they happen and they are made worse by lies and omissions, fear, prejudice and contempt. Keeping all these in mind, the story starts in the court where Simin wants to justify her reasons to get divorce.

In one hand, it is showing how women’s decision are being affected by husbands in a male dominant society and due to Shari’a rules where women need the permission of husband to leave the country, and having justifying reason, as Shari’a rules defines, to get divorce . It does not matter whether she is educated and is financially independent or not.

It points out women and their issues, their inequalities they are in struggle with, and Islamic rules which  let them do not leave the country without permission of husband, nor having the right to fostering their child.

On the other hand, migration and leaving Iran is also main apprehension in Iranian society these days. Queue of visa applicant in front of embassies like Canada, Australia, and Sweden not limited to developed countries but even new trend of migration to Tajikistan to aim better job opportunities and studying in higher degrees witnesses the high tendency between Iranians to leave the country.

Dr.Nader Wahabi believes that there have been 10 migration waves during the last 30 years, the first wave was political migrants, second wave consisted of Socio-Cultural migrations, third one was mainly because of financial and economic situation and the fourth and fifth migration wave was among those Iranians in religiously minor community like Christian, Jewish , Kurds, Baluchs and … . The sixth wave which is increasing daily is due to pursue higher education in other countries. Limited business opportunities were the reason for the seventh migration wave when businessmen did not find Iran a good place for investments. Artists have been the second migrant community who are significant number in Iranian immigrant. The ninth migration, as Dr. Wahabi says : belongs to governors who had political or governmental positions back to 1980s but are now being  rejected and driven away from government. The tenth migration reason was due to natural disasters like Bam earthquake. Now we have almost 3.5 to 4.5 million Iranian migrants who are scattered in 5 continents all over the world.

February 26, 2012 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Art and Culture, Social Life, Women

Migrant Bird

Sheikh Zayed Road, DubaiArnold van Gennep  defines Liminal in The Rites of Passage as transitional time or condition in which one is not what it was and not what it will become, but something in between, something marginal, vague and flexible … One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation, but also possibility of new perspectives. Indeed, it can be seen as potentially a period of scrutiny for central values and axioms of the culture in which it occurs, one where normal limits to thought, self-understanding and behavior are undone.

The last time that I slept was my little room in United Arab Emirates, the city of skyscrapers .it was winter, sandstorm and hot weather.

Now, I find myself in a cosy room with a window to trees and cool breeze inside. Late in the summer in Wollongong, Australia morning after a whole rainy night. And I am wondering: what am I doing here? Thousands miles away from home, in another home. I called it home, because the last time I entered here, Karen smiled me and told: welcome home.

And it has been a long time, which I feel my country is not my home anymore, though when people ask I have to introduce my ‘home’ country: Iran

Then I slightly remember the last three days, how tiring was the 25 hour flight with stop in Hong Kong and then heading to Wollongong from Sydney after a very long day. Then on the way, when I was told the place that I was arranging to stay is not ready to move in. it reminds me of the night, back to 2005 when my family and I went to Damascus and that 33 day war between Lebanon and Israel was started one day before our arrival and we witnessed many Lebanese refugees to Syrian borders looking for some where to shelter. We had planned to stay in Hotel de Meridiene , sitting in the lobby to check in when we met a pregnant woman asking for a room but all was occupied, even the churches and schools and motels. My father let her stay in our added room and she told us touching stories about what had happened to her during those days.

I just remembered this story, when Karen told me about Karma. Karen and Stuart hosted me when I was totally disappointed where to stay temporarily. A very nice Australian family and this is my first impression of Wollongong, supportive people.

Migrant BirdYesterday when Karen took me to look around and we saw immigrant birds, those who we have in Esfahan in winter on Zayande Rood River, for the first time in my life I felt how well I can understand them.

Leaving your country is not easy, I might better to say: it is the most difficult decision I have ever made.

Home, is where you feel you belong to. I am in luminal these days, somewhere in between. Like a migrant bird whose home is on the river, always in move, in transition.

PS: Watch and Listen to this Persian music, by Dariush.

February 18, 2012 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Social Life

Bandage; a sense of relief

Live Performance in Prague Cafe, TehranIt was a cold winter evening, In a basement with a small fireplace on the corner in Tehran, the capital of the country where sounds of objections were heard in June 2009 and now in that dark basement you can see the sparkles of a generation born after Islamic revolution, you can listen to the music of rock players for hours and hours, composing their new piece of music. . This is where I first met “Bandage” group members. Payman, 30 years old, used to study law but he did not find the atmosphere in the university to fulfill his expectations and desires so he quit studying law and followed his passion in  music and continued to his insight inspirations. Back to 5 years ago, Hami and Payman started their cooperation and in 2010 they launched “Bandage”.

The music which is called underground but keeps the pulse of the city life,  voicing out social issues and what they see around and want to re-word in their own language which is music.

Bandage Group Till now, they have had popular performances in some cafes in Tehran, though they are not given permission to have concert or release their albums Bandage Face book page has got almost 500 fans and has got much more among art fans and friends who found their lyrics the voice of the youth.

Payman, introduces “Bandage” : We named our music band “ Bandage” because we felt we are injured, if music is not like a treatment but it can release it, can be a Bandage and make us feel relief.

To us, playing music is not having fun, we express our feelings and voice out our concerns and our thoughts, especially when it come with lyrics, Payman says. When we get deep in to it and we improvise. This is how our music gives birth to our minds and whatever is going on in our thoughts, he adds. Before forming Bandage, we launched a group named Falsh, where we started doing researches about psychological functions of music. Now Bandage is where music acts as healing our spiritual wounds and social ills.

Bandage is consisted of four artists, Payman who plays Vocal Guitar, Hami who plays Vocal Guitar Harmonica, Ape who plays Guitar bass and Shabgard, our drummer.

Bandage live in Iran India friendship AssociationBandage, has released more than 15 music tracks, one of them called September 11 though its lyrics might not be understood by non Farsi speakers, the video which is made with basic studio equipments, was successful to narrate their peace loving mindset.

Lyrics are usually written by group members and what impressed me one night at their live performance in that underground place was a back vocal  by Samereh, a young poet woman whom her voice is used as back vocal in some of played music tracks. Her back vocal role reminds me of many other situations in the society where women are

Samereh has not published her touching poems yet but her strong feeling can be seen both in her poems and her voice.

Bandage, is one of tens of underground music players in Iran. Some of them find the chance to get out of the country and let the world hear them. some others continue in the basements but still voice out their concerns.

February 17, 2012 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Art and Culture, Social Life, Women

Call for PEACE

I was born after Islamic revolution in Iran and during the Iran-Iraq war. Going to school with girls who their fathers or mothers were martyred gave me the experience of living on the edge of peace and war. Those classmates of mine who were lucky to have their parent back home alive, were most probably having them physically handicapped or psychologically disordered. This was a very small touch of human being catastrophic consequence of war. Our childhood was full of sad memories while scrambling with consequences of war. Movies narrating the stories about the war between Iran and Iraq used to be played on TV every Friday evening, such gloomy Fridays. It was not limited to that, 8 year war ruined the border cities and caused many people to leave the country or lose their houses. I am sure that my Iranian friends, those who were born in 1980s or before have more touching stories and memories about war between Iran and Iraq. We do not want our next generation experience the same.

If it is the war in Afghanistan, in Iraq or in Iran it threatens the life of thousands of men and women, children, their future and natural resources. Remembering the Gulf War, Iraq-Kuwait war, this was one of the most environmentally devastating wars ever fought. Iraq dumped approximately one million tons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, thereby causing the largest oil spill in history. Approximately 25,000 migratory birds were killed. The impact on marine life was not as severe as expected, because warm water sped up the natural breakdown of oil. Local prawn fisheries did experience problems after the war. Crude oil was also spilled into the desert, forming oil lakes covering 50 square kilometers. In due time the oil percolated into groundwater aquifers. The application of weapons, the destruction of structures and oil fields, fires, military transport movements and chemical spraying are all examples of the destroying impact war may have on the environment. Air, water and soil are polluted, man and animal are killed, and numerous health affects occur among those still living.   (Read More Here)

Now, here and in this blog we are voicing out a part of my generation’s concerns. We were born during the war; we grew up in all those devastating and irretrievable conditions.

Following lines are not political positions but just human being wants.  No further Sanctions or Wars against Iran.

We believe that war is not the solution; it is beyond retrieve in both human being and environmental aspects. We call for peace. All those friends who are blogger, by writing one sentence to support peace and say no to war and further sanctions against Iran.

If you are not blogger but you would like to share your opinion in the World Wide Web, You can either share your impression of war in one sentence here in this blog or you can simply change your face book profile picture on 4th February 2012 for 24 hours. You can also simply put a like on this page.

If you are concerned about the Earth, if you are and environmental fan or you care about the sustainable life and natural resources, consider the above mentioned environmental effects of war and please join us.

January 28, 2012 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Environment, Social Life

Teleworking could serve as a boost to Emiratisation

Teleworking, defined as working from home at least two days a week on a computer that is linked to the employer’s office, is not just being out the office and doing your job using your computer at home. Though it provides employees good work-life balance while reduces carbon foot print and is more environmentally friendly, it has it’s own barriers to be recognized by companies, employees and co workers. I was lucky while studying at the university of Wollongong to learn from the experiences and research results of my professor, Dr.Mona Mustafa in her area of research in Teleworking. Following report published in the Gulf News is about teleworking in the United Arab Emirates and its implementation in the UAE.

Research seeks to identify how Emirati women can be absorbed into the job market through remote employment. Teleworking could be a good option for women, especially of Eastern cultures, due to their responsibilities inside and outside the home.

Journalism and Communication Fair- Isfahan, Practicing Online Journalism and Teleworking

Mariam Khazaeli, 26, is readying for a master’s degree at the UOWD and used to telework as a software designer. She believes it to be a good option for students and mothers if a person is self-disciplined. “People work better when they can choose what to do because some people perform better at night, others in the morning,” she said. “I managed to telework and study by attending evening classes.”

“In this part of the world, the management style is managing by eyeballs as employers have to see the person in the office to believe they are working,” she said. So, besides the building of trust between employer and employee in the region, she also believes adequate training and discussion need to take place before the idea of teleworking pervades the UAE. Continue Reading Here …

January 15, 2012 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
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Namard; Story of Three Successful Afghan Women

“Namard” is the name of the 35 minute documentary movie directed by Mustafa Kia, depicting social life of three well known and successful Afghan women. Following is my interview with Mustafa Kia, the Afghan documentary film maker and blogger of Kabulistan. He is university student in Political Science in Afghanistan with passion in art, both in photography and film making.

Documentary of “Namard” is generally about Afghan women and challenges they face in their country, Afghanistan. Three successful Afghan women are chosen to narrate the story and depict their success and achievements while facing difficulties.

The Dari term “Namard” literally refers to a person who is not male. The connotation of the word “Namard” is quite different from its literal meaning; “Namard” means being weak and coward. In this sense, the term “Namard” and “woman” is synonymous.

The beginning seconds of the movie is impressive, when you see how two men and one woman describe the meaning of “Namard” saying : “Namard will do bad things that men do not do”. At the same time you can see the reaction of three women who are going to narrate their stories during this movie.

Ms.Sima Samar, head of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Ms.Suraia Dalil, Minister of public health and Ms.Shinkai Zahin Karoukhil, Member of Parliment .

ٌWatch its thriller here

Mustafa says: There are two main reasons to choose these three women; first: Dr.Sima Samar as one of the most prominent Human Right activists in Afghanistan was candidate for peace Nobel Prize in 2009 . Dr.Suraia Dalil who has finished her studies in Harvard University, USA and plays an important role in President Karzai government. Ms. Shinki Karoukhil has been elected as a member of Afghanistan Parliament for the second time this year and is well known in Afghanistan due to her significant efforts to administer women right.

He mentions: The second reason to select these three women was their ethnic bacjground, he says : these successful women are representatives of three main ethnics in Afghanistan. Dr.Sima Samar is from Hazara, Dr.Suraia Dalil is Uzbek and Ms. Shinkai Karoukhil is Pashtun.

In describing film theme, Mustafa says: the movie in general is having a optimistic approcach though Afghan women achievements reminding them about the previous eras in Afghanistan, bearing in mind Communism, Mujahedin and Taliban eras and all their challenges they have always ahead but they have always kept on for their social equality, and they are still campaigning for their rights, as a human being as a woman. Mustafa believes that: these three women, with their prominent role in the Afghanistan today are good examples of proving that they have achieved what they have achieved high positions in Afghanistan.

The message of the movie is to tell Young Afghan Ladies to struggle for their rights to achieve what they truly deserve.

Mustafa has had some difficulties while making this movie, he says: I wanted to show the personal life of them but this traditional society prevents these women to feel free in front of the camera to show the other aspect of their lives. He adds: all these shows cultural barriers that still exist in Afghanistan.

January 12, 2012 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Art and Culture, Social Life, Women

Spirit of Union

In the month December, when You can experience a nice cool weather in the UAE is full of events. Not just shopping festivals but social events and celebrating cultures. This year, UAE celebrated its 40th years of uniting during a three day weekend. 2nd December is called the National Day. This day is celebrated on the 2nd of December each year in the United Arab Emirates. It marks the UAE’s formal independence from the United Kingdom and the eventual unification of the seven emirates in 1971 which combined to form the modern-day country.

Walking in the Jumeirah Beach Residence, one of the most popular places in the new district of Dubai where hundreds of Emiraties and expatriates come and walk in the evenings, beside the beach along the restaurants. Several cultural events were held, National Emirati dancing, Emirati cookies, Falconry and … A board with lots of colored markers encourages any spectator to write their feelings of Dubai.

I was impressed while seeing all types of people young or old, regardless of being Middle Eastern or Western started writing on this board mostly expressing their personal affections about UAE.

Here in the UAE, with its unique diversified culture environment many expatriates feel belonged, after being united in 1971 it seemed that this is the second wave of spirit of union between expatriates and locals. Feeling belonging to the country which is not your home country makes this spirit.

This celebration was not limited inside the UAE but outside the borders, in Belgium for instance Sulaiman Almazroui, Ambassador of the UAE to the Kingdom of Belgium and the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, Head of Mission to the European Union, hosted a reception to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National day of the United Arab Emirates. Hundreds of participants gathered in the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels to celebrate the Spirit of the Union on the 2nd December.

More Pictures Click Here

December 4, 2011 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Art and Culture

The Heart of the Kavir

A crowd of many hundreds have gathered by the dried-up bed of the Zayanderud (life-giver river); the river has been dry for a long time due to an extended drought that has affected Iran in recent years. Now, despite the ongoing drought, the dam upriver has been opened for a few days so that the farmers in the Zayanderud basin can irrigate their crops. The crowd eagerly awaits the arrival of water, the very pulse of the city of Isfahan. Continued …

November 16, 2011 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Posted in: Art and Culture, Environment

Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan

Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan, is the title of a book foreword by Alice Walker. The title illustrates itself well, Meena is not just a brilliant student in the school, a kind sister at home and an impressive woman. She is a young woman who at the age of 20 started the first movement for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

To me reading this book was not just a biography of a woman founded the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan in 1977 as a twenty-year-old Kabul University student.

Since I was child I have been in close touch with Afghan people, who had immigrated to Iran mostly for work and safer life. I could hardly see Afghan families, but plenty of Afghan men who were working in Iran, being far away from their families for several years and sending their wages to Afghanistan regularly to support their families. Those who were living with their families in Iran were not that much luckier. Witnessing their social limitations, unfair situations that they were put into made their lives difficult in Iran. Though Persian and Pashtoo are similar languages and can be understood by both Afghans and Iranians it seemed that Iran government could not understand them as human beings who were seeking to refuge.

Reading Meena, for me was seeing the other scene of those memories of mine while seeing Afghan children at the same age as mine were not allowed to go to school, some of them were working as labor child while on the other hand they were strong women like Meena, with passion to make change. Being inspired by “two of her teachers who believed in the equality of women, Meena eventually became a heroine herself to countless Afghans, legendary even before her martyrdom at age 30″.

As mentioned in the first pages of the book : ” This book is for the young Meenas of this world who will grow up to fight against injustice and fundamentalism, and carry on the struggle for peace, freedom, democracy and women’s right”

There are still many Meenas, in Afghanistan, in Iran, in Morocco, in … whom their stories are not narrated yet but their passion and courage to make change has affected generations.

November 14, 2011 · Maryam Khazaeli · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Art and Culture, Social Life, Women