Friday, December 23, 2005

Rushdie on Multiculturalism

I'm very late with this one, but Salman Rushdie offered up these thoughts on multiculturalism for Human Rights Day.
This is the question of our time: how does a fractured community of multiple cultures decide what values it must share in order to cohere, and how can it insist on those values even when they clash with some citizens’ traditions and beliefs?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

Catching up on Pamuk

While I was busy blogging Persepolis, the Pamuk trial started, then adjourned. Here are a few links to catch up: Pamuk himself offers up this New Yorker piece. Amnesty has this statement on Article 301, the law in question and the other less famous writers and journalists caught up in it. And here we find that the trial has adjourned until February and charges may be dropped!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Some Iranian Blogs

In the spirit of We are Iran, here are a couple of Iranian visual blogs: Irangraffiti and photoessays and a slideshow from the blog of photographer Noushin Najafi.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

We are Iran

Many, many years ago, when I lived in Taiwan as it was beginning to democratize, a new technology, video cameras, came into use in creating an alternative to state-controlled media in documenting what really happened at anti-government protests. Now we have blogs creating an even more rich alternative narrative for many individuals in countries where freedom of expression is challenging. Iranian blogs have been pioneers in this regard. Now there is a book, We are Iran which tells the story of these bloggers. Here's a brief review at Words without Borders . The author, Nasrin Alavi, guest blogs at The Elegant Variation offering a few samples of bloggers reflecting on such topics as wearing the veil.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Miscellaneous Marjane Satrapi Links

Here's Satrapi on wearing hijab, a question she also addresses in this AsiaSource Interview. Here's another interesting tidbit from that interview about an unpublished (in English) work:
Have any of your books been translated into Persian?

My children's book. It has not been published in America, but it is called The Dragon Ajdar, because ajdar in Persian means dragon. So this is a story, a fairy tale about a big earthquake, and a king who sends a little girl to the center of the earth to find out why the earthquake happens, and the girl finds out that it is a dragon who is the guardian of the earth. The dragon says that people, by making holes that are too big have broken his back, and he just moved to try to make himself more comfortable - the book has ecological themes - and this made an earthquake. But the little girl learns a lot and has many different experiences on her way to find the dragon. So this one has been translated [into Farsi], because there is no political or sexual message in it.

She also indicates that she is working on an animated version of the two volumes of Persepolis.

And finally here's an amusing cartoon account of a Satrapi Book-Signing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More Iranian Art

All about the original Persepolis, capital of the Persian-Achaemenid-Empire. Be sure to visit page 2 and the slideshow at the bottom of the page.

Explore more Iranian visual arts here I especially like the Murals of Tehran Metro Stations and Contemporary Graphic Design slideshows. (Does No. 06 look like an Amnesty write-a-letter-save-a-life poster gone wrong?)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Posters from the Islamic Revolution

More interesting background and visual source material for Satrapi:

A collection of Posters from the Islamic Revolution including this "Black Friday" poster, this Warholization of the Shah, a Revolutionary stamp, and this co-opting of the Solidarity logo. My favorite is the final selection, a child's painting of women and children visiting a cemetery. The detailed colorful garden-like environment (the visitors look like butterflies) brings us back to the the world of Persian miniatures.

Here is some photo documentation (Warning! Graphic!) of the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War (slideshows at bottom of the page).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Death Penalty Vigil

We were saddened last night by the decision of Gov. Schwarzenegger not to grant clemency to Stanley Williams. AIUSA Executive Director's statement can be found here. Group 22 members hosted the busy action table at last night's death penalty vigil at All Saints Church in Pasadena. We had an unexpectedly large turnout, creating a little healthy chaos, but it was great to reconnect with activists of campaigns past and gain strength for our future work. At the service, member Stevi Carroll shared her experiences using Tookie's story in the classroom. As usual, I had a hand in putting the program together and managed to slip in a Rights Readers favorite, a poem (scroll down the page to the poem by 'Elias' --its broken up into three parts) from Edward Humes' No Matter How Loud I Shout. Pictures from the Westside vigil can be found here. Taking a deep breath today, but its back to work on future executions and the moratorium tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ali Ashraf Darvishian, the Dickens of Iran

Sellol 18 (سلول ۱۸)In my dedication to chasing down obscure literary references, I present my readers with Ali Ashraf Darvishian, the "Charles Dickens of Iran," as characterised by Marjane Satrapi, an author who Little Marji reads voraciously in Persepolis. Here is a short poignant short story titled "Paper Wishes" in which a man in a jail cell, with child-like enthusiasm, creates the map of a utopian city-- only to be put in his place. "Bafrine" tells us of a perfect spring day in Kurdistan, shattered by war. A brief biography of Darvishian can be found at the end of the story. At least in these two stories the theme of a child-like innocence destroyed is very prominent, just as it is in Persepolis.

My quest lead me to a fantastic resource, the International Children's Digital Library. Not only does the ICDL offer up more Darvishian-- if your Farsi is up to speed-- (Bread Season and Our School Wall Newspaper), but children's books in various exotic languages. The language-geek contingent of Rights Readers will find hours of fun here. And those just interested in illustration can still immerse themselves in some amazing illustrations, like Abraham and Ciconia Ciconia.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Write-a-thon Success!

Our first letter-writing marathon at Cafe Culture was a great success! We wrote 123 letters and cards! Group 22 members Lucas Kamp and new recruit Christen Martin are pictured here hard at work. Mostly, we sent greetings to Prisoners of Conscience and solidarity groups around the globe.

Last year, we sent cards to the courageous women of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). Here's what they did this year for human rights day. Stay strong! Take action here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Persian Miniatures

Time to explore Marjane Satrapi's artistic inspirations. How about a visit to the Tehran Museum of Contempary Art (though these paintings don't really qualify as contemporary). Hmm, panels, stories... could these be... comic books? Here is a simple introduction to Persian miniatures.

Last but not least, because I love children's art, check out these galleries of Persian miniature-inspired jewels by the students of Greenhill School in Texas.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Global Write-a-thon

For International Human Rights Day (December 10) this year, our chapter is participating in Amnesty International's Global Write-a-thon for the first time. Activists around the world will be writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, torture victims, and other Amnesty cases. They will also be sending holiday postcards to prisoners of conscience, to encourage them and keep their spirits up. The success of this year's

If you're in Pasdena, Join us at Cafe Culture. Members of our group will be present at a table from 8 am to 2 pm, and will host a continuous writing session. Please visit us there for a cup of coffee, conversation, and writing a letter or postcard to defend human rights.

Location: Cafe' Culture
1359 North Altadena Drive
(626) 398-8654
(just north of the intersection of Altadena Drive & Washington Boulevard)

If you can't join us, you can download your very own Write-a-thon by visiting Amnesty's Write-a-thon site. You can download actions for kids too! Drop us a line if you work up a stack and we will include you in our letter count!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Magic Carpet Ride

Feeling a little inspiration from Satrapi's drawings, I found a little art activity for you all, Magic Carpet. Hey what did you expect, I do teach art! Have fun with the other art games, very math-geeky art games I would add, at the Protozone Interactives site. Maybe it's the homesick Midwesterner in me, but I'm partial to Snowflaker.

(More educational resources here on the art-math nexus and oriental rugs at Math Forum.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Arnold at War with Himself

The hot topic now is trying to predict which way Arnold will go with Stanley "Tookie" William's clemency petition. In keeping with our comic book/pop culture theme for the month, here is a cartoon parody from Books not Bars, "Action Heroes in Office", which, while not precisely on the clemency issue, nevertheless shows our governor's competing superhero images at war with themselves. Let's hope Kindergarten Cop wins.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another Cartoon... and a Human Rights Video Game!

More pop genres with human rights-themed subjects:

Here's a slick little cartoon that aims to explain the recent Paris riots: The French Democracy

Even more intriguing is this description of a soon to be released video game, A Force More Powerful which "teaches nonviolent strategies and tactics that have been used successfully all over the world by individuals and groups struggling to win freedom or secure human rights." Creator of the game, Ivan Marovic describes it as "a game where a player will be able to organize a mass movement against a dictatorship. It's going to be violent game with prosecutions, with arrests, with kidnapping. The only person that will not be allowed to be violent is the player." More on how Marovic's creative thinking aided Serbian and Ukrainian democracy advocates here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Human Rights Superheroes

Last month at our discussion of Ken Saro-Wiwa we talked about our need for human rights heroes to embody our concerns and motivate our activism and this month our protagonist is a little girl in quest of heroes who embody truth and justice. Naturally, reading a comic book this month ones mind drifts to other pop culture heroes and their crusades for justice. I have a vague recollection that during the 40th anniversary campaign for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some Amnesty section was planning to produce a comic book with a human rights superhero. Now I find the United Nations University of Peace (in Costa Rica) describes a 2004 Human Rights Day lecture, "Human Rights - The Language of Superheroes: Transforming the Foundations of Human Rights from Universalism to Superheroism," where a faculty member, Hassan El Menyawi, made the following observations,

Professor El Menyawi exposed the major problematic of human rights: that it depends on the compliance of the nation-state, and more fundamentally, by relying on the nation-state to comply, it effectively produces complacency on the part of individuals who do not see human rights as something they should be applying, or attempting to establish on their own. After all, the state should be the one doing the complying. It is the state that decided to become a signatory?.
Professor El Menyawi describes this construction of the state as the single source of human rights compliance as problematic. Such state-centrism is difficult to understand. It is often argued that human rights are too individualistic, but maybe human rights are not individualistic enough? How could we depend on a state to actualize human rights, and totally forget about everyday individuals?.
Indeed, it is the individual which interests Professor El Menyawi, who uses the example of the superhero to draw insights about the role of activism and its importance in human rights theory and practice. He claims that scholarly literature has not yet integrated the role of activism into the theory human rights, but that there is plenty of discussion about how the state is the center of human rights agreement and compliance.
He reminds us of the superhero, superheroes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Spider-Man, and Angel, and Batman, and Daredevil. They all rely on their will, on their reputation, and on their courage to create a world based on human rights. It is these superheroes who become the very vehicles of human rights compliance, says El Menyawi.
He wonders if the focus on the nation-state might have made us forget about the obvious: that if we want it [i.e., human rights], let s go out there and get it, construct it, make it happen. El Menyawi continues, saying that superheroes deploy their courage, sense of sacrifice to establish human rights. This is an important source of international law, and international human rights compliance. It is the source of the great accomplishment of Wangari Maathai, who, with her courage and self-determination, re-constructed the world, transforming it, once without forests, now with forests.
Wangari is a superhero, with qualities no different from Buffy, Spider-Man, Batman, or Daredevil.
We should study the psychology, the identity of superheroes, to come closer to understanding activism. We should study the superhero to launch and develop a theory of activism in the human rights scholarship.

This is exactly the kind of peptalk we activists could all use going into this year's Human Rights Day Global Write-a-thon. We are all superheroes, capable of amazing letter-writing feats of daring-do!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Taking Comics Seriously

Here are two articles for those (and we know exactly who you are!) who had trouble taking this month's assignment seriously-- from the NYT: Not Funnies and from the LAT: Serious about Comics.
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