Hafez meets ZZ Top at Asia Society

The press release I received referred to Mosehn Namjoo as the "Iranian Bob Dylan." Part of me reacted with "huh?" but after a bit of consideration, I read on, and decided to check him out. A few weeks later I found myself at the Asia Society concert space amongst an audience generously peppered with Iranian Americans of every stripe. Mr. Namjoo (who in profile almost does look like the iconic 1966 Milton Glaser poster of Dylan) introduced the songs in English, but most of the lyrics were in Farsi.

 

Hafez meets ZZ Top at Asia Society from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.



So what did they mean by the "Iranian Bob Dylan?" Did it apply in any way? The answer is a qualified "yes." While Mr. Namjoo, as far as I know has not written the equivalent of "The Ballad of Medgar Evers" or "Masters of War" he has ventured into an eclecticism and irreverence that have landed him in hot waters in his homeland.

It is this eclecticism and his dogged demand for artistic freedom that relates to Dylan. While he is considered a respected renegade with a cult following here, the powers that be in Iran are less charitable. He was sentenced to five years in jail for a recording in which he set the words of the Koran to rock music. He was out of the country when he was sentenced; he has not returned to his native land since. Was his "transgression" an intentional blasphemy? I personally think not; to me it was a plainly risky decision, and an artistic venture; not disrespect.

Of the two songs I have chosen to present, the first demonstrates his vocal range, and his mastery of traditional forms. Namjoo has an impressive voice, and easily negotiates the ornamental ululations and heroic tenor tones of classic Iranian, Central Asian and in this case, Azeri, singing. He also has a strong lower register, making for very range-y interpretations of material. The second song demonstrates his unorthodox approach to orthodox material. In Iran, poetry, and particularly the poetry of Hafez is held in extremely high esteem. Settings of his poems to music abound, but are classical, and therefor to be performed strictly within a set of specific parameters. In my video, Mr. Namjoo has set the words of Hafez to a boogie beat (He references ZZ Top, but it could just as easily have been Wang Dang Doodle).

For more of my world music videos, visit inter-muse.com.

 
 

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Syrian Opposition Unites, Rohingya Groups Speak Out, and More Top News This Week

REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout


US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.

World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence

Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.

Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai

 

BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.

Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter

 

Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.

 

Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout

 
 

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Iranian Rial's Plunge, Turkey's Syria Strike, and More of This Week's Top News

REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

 

Iranian rial falls to all-time low as Western sanctions take hold

The rial has hit an all-time low against the American dollar, trading at 37,000 to the dollar this week, Future TV reported. And as objections against his government have risen, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the presence of a shortage of hard currencies in the Iranian market, and clarified that the Iranian rial was devalued because of international sanctions on Iran. He also said that he sees a psychological war accompanying this external international pressure, which led to the devaluation of the currency.

Tunisian woman accused of indecency after being raped by security forces

Dubai TV reported that the Tunisian judiciary charged a girl with public indecency on Wednesday, after police said they had arrested her in a car under what they described as "suspicious circumstances" this past September. The girl had accused security agents of raping her. After a number of protests worldwide, Tunisian President Moncef al-Marzouki offered a state apology to the girl, and viewed the security flaw as not being within the security institution, but rather in the mindset of some of its members.

Turkey strikes Syrian targets in retaliation for deadly shelling

Press TV reported that tensions simmered between neighbors Turkey and Syria, as Turkey hit targets on Syrian soil in retaliation for mortar shelling from Syrian territories that hit Akcakale in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa on Wednesday. At least five people were killed and over a dozen others injured.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera reported that Turkey's parliament agreed to allow the government to wage a military operation outside the border if found necessary. Following the decision, anti-war protestors gathered around parliament and clashed with riot police there. Turkey's shelling eventually stopped, but New TV reported that at an AKP gathering on Friday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a new warning to Syria of the consequences of another shelling in Turkish territory.

Jailed Bahraini activist Mohammed Mushaima dies in custody

On Tuesday, 24-year-old Bahraini activist Mohammed Mushaima died of an illness while in custody. Press TV reported that he was in jail serving a prison term of seven years for taking part in anti-regime protests. Manama officials said that he was suffering from a hereditary disease. Lawyers said that they asked the court to release Mushaima because of his health, but their request had been denied.

Al-Alam reported that Bahraini regime forces launched a crackdown on his funeral procession in Manama on Wednesday, which was attended by "tens of thousands" of protestors. Al-Wefaq Society accused the Bahraini regime of being behind Mushaima's death, through depriving him of medical treatment and fabricating accusations against him.

 

Thousands of Jordanians take part in Friday protests despite king's dissolution of parliament


On Thursday, Jordan's King Abdullah II decided to dissolve parliament and call for early parliamentary elections in his country, reported Dubai TV. This was likely a preemptive move to head off the massive protests being called for by opposition groups on Friday. However, BBC Arabic reported that thousands still gathered in Amman on Friday for a day of protests dubbed "Friday to Save the Homeland," as called for by the opposition parties, most notably the Islamic Action Front.

 

Image: Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against charges of indecency filed against a woman raped by two police officers, in front of the court in Tunis October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

 
 

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The Second Coming, Cartoon Bombs, and Angry New York Mobs: Mosaic's UNGA Roundup

 Press TV / United Nations

 

The UN General Assembly's yearly get-together is a time for high-flying international diplomacy between world leaders. The General Debate, in particular, allows all world leaders who participate in the United Nations to deliver a public address to the General Assembly. As such, it has been used as a highly-visible platform by many countries' representatives to push their views.

This year's debate theme was "Adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means," which seems a little tongue-in-cheek given the current situation in parts of the Middle East and Africa.

As BBC Arabic reported that Somali and African forces were closing in on the final al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali gave his remarks at the Assembly, saying that there was no place in Somalia for the "few ideological extremists" in the Islamist group's ranks.

Barack Obama's appearance at the UN was brief, which some say was to avoid tough discussions with other world leaders on Iran and Syria. He honored Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in an attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, and condemned the American-made film that criticized Islam's Prophet Muhammad and sparked anti-US riots across the Muslim world. Meanwhile, Libya's new president, Mohamed Yousek al-Magariaf, apologized for the attacks, and apologized to the world on behalf of Libya for Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule.

With regard to Syria, world leaders condemned the violence across the board, but their approaches to end the conflict varied greatly. According to IBA News, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Jordan's King Abdullah II both called for Bashar al-Assad to step down, saying that the Syrian president's ouster is vital to the success of peace efforts.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supported the Syrian regime, and criticized the efforts by the Western world to interfere in what he sees as an internal conflict. Ahmadinejad, in his last speech to the Assembly as a world leader, also spoke of his belief in the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ and the twelfth imam, Imam al-Mahdi, whom Shiites believe will come at the end times with the prophet Jesus to help humanity. The United States and Israel were both absent from the General Assembly Hall when he gave his remarks.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also addressed the United Nations with a long-anticipated bid to join the UN General Assembly as an observer. The Palestinian Authority previously asked the UN for full member status last year, but had been rejected by the Security Council, which has the Israel ally, the United States, as a permanent member with veto power. Press TV reports that Abbas also lambasted Israel for its "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians, as well as the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. A UN report that came at the beginning of the week and before the General Assembly meeting echoed similar statements-- that Israel must do more to halt the abuse of Palestinian rights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stole the show by using a prop, which has not been done in the General Assembly since the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi pulled out a copy of the UN Charter and threw it in the air in 2009. Netanyahu used a picture of a cartoon bomb and drew a red line through it to illustrate how far Iran has come in enriching uranium, and how the United Nations must draw a red line for the country before it acquires enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Press TV analysts expressed concern over Netanyahu's mental health following this incident.

Outside of the Assembly Hall, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Rahmin Mehmanparast captured the attention of the American channel Fox News after he was attacked by a group of "about 100" Iranian dissident protestors on a New York City sidewalk. He managed to flag down an NYPD police car, but according to Dubai TV, the cops appeared "uninterested."

 

Image: Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line on a bomb illustration at the UN General Assembly, September 27, 2012. Press TV / United Nations

 
 

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The Not-So-Innocent Film that Sparked Rage Across the Muslim World, and More

American film offensive to Islam sparks anti-US protests across Muslim world

REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Adding to the death of the American ambassador to Libya and members of his staff in Benghazi on September 11, demonstrations condemning a film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad have spread to Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, and Mauritania, leading to four deaths in Yemen. Other Western embassies have also been attacked in Sudan.

IBA reported that the film that was released on the Internet and sparked the protests is called "Innocence of Muslims," and was produced by a California-based Jewish writer and producer. Most of Mosaic's broadcasters have reported that he is an Israeli American, leading to further anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment among Muslims.

 

Israel quickly denounced the film, with New TV reporting on Wednesday that the Israeli Foreign Ministry called it "unbearable extremism." Press TV noted that US President Barack Obama condemned the killings, but stopped short of condemning the film.

 

In addition to depicting the prophet Muhammad, which is strictly taboo in many interpretations of Islam, the film struck a nerve in the Muslim and Arab worlds for being American-made. Al Jazeera English discusses the nature of the protests, touching on the deep-seated anger of some citizens in the region regarding US foreign policy, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Syrians come out for another round of Friday protests after a week of heavy shelling

As the new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi visits Damascus for the first time since his appointment, cities and villages across Syria have continued to endure heavy army shelling, especially in and around Aleppo and Damascus. Algerie TV reported that the most recent statistics from the UNHCR indicate the number of Syrian refugees has surpassed 250,000, with 85,000 currently in Jordan.

Despite the daily attacks, BBC Arabic reported that on Friday, anti-regime demonstrations took place across Daraa, Idlib, the countryside of Damascus-- which the Syrian government says still harbors "terrorists" that they are trying to pursue-- and al-Hasaka Province, which has a Kurdish majority.

Newly-elected Somali president escapes assassination attempt

Hassan Sheikh Mahmud, who hails from the same tribe as departing president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is the first Somali president to be elected within the country in more than two decades. However, BBC Arabic reported that just days after his election, he escaped two bombings that targeted the Mogadishu hotel in which he was residing. He was was meeting with Kenyan Foreign Minister Samson Ongeri at the time of the attack, which came as a surprise given the number of Somali and African Union forces protecting his hotel and convoy.

 

Image: Tunisian protesters burn the U.S. flag during a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Tunis September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

 
 

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Trouble Brews in Yemen, Words Fly at NAM Summit, and More Top Stories This Week

REUTERS/Mehr News Agency

 

Words fly at Non-Aligned Movement summit

On Wednesday, Al-Alam reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tehran to take part in the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, despite outcry from the United States and from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran taking over NAM leadership. However, Ban went on later in the week to sharply condemn Iran's denial of the Holocaust during WWII, as well as Israel's right to exist, in a speech at the summit.

Ban's comments were part of a number of verbal attacks at the meeting, which was heavily covered by Mosaic's broadcasters. BBC Arabic reported that the Syrian delegation left the summit's conference hall when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi criticized the Syrian government during his speech, in which he affirmed his country's "full solidarity" with those seeking freedom and justice in Syria. Additionally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western countries of fabricating crises around the world, and of monopolizing the UN Security Council.


Trouble brews for a shaky Yemen in transition

New protests have broken out in the Yemeni capital Sanaa to denounce the deteriorating security situation in the country, and to demand the dismissal of relatives of deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh from their military positions. Al Jazeera reported that this comes after an assassination attempt targeted Yassin Saeed Noman, the most prominent leader of the Joint Meeting Parties opposition coalition.

In addition, Press TV reported another US drone strike in Yemen killed at least eight people in Hadhramaut Province, the second such attack in the region this week. Dubai TV reported the killing of three al-Qaeda members in an air raid in the Khashamir area of the Qatan district, but the source did not specify the origin of the plane that carried out the raid.

Yemen has been experiencing difficulty in restructuring the country's government after the fall of former president Saleh. Earlier this week, members of the Southern Movement in Yemen refused to participate in the national dialogue conference scheduled for the end of the year. They demand the south's secession from the north, which would mean a return to the country's pre-unification division.

More leaders express stance on Syrian Civil War

As the Syrian army's shelling intensified all across Syria this week, Press TV reported that President Bashar al-Assad sat down for an interview with Syrian channel Al-Dunya, saying more time is needed to end the insurgency in his country and that a buffer zone, the idea being championed by "hostile countries" and "Syria's enemies," is unrealistic.

Meanwhile, some leaders expressed their stance on the Syrian war during the NAM summit, most notably Egypt's President Morsi, Iran's President Ahmadinejad, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who opposed any kind of military intervention, as well as criticized the ongoing flow of weapons to insurgents. The head of Russia's army also rejected media reports this week that Moscow was winding down its military presence in Syria, saying that it is not in the process of evacuating its naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus, which it has leased since Soviet times.

 

Image: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks to Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (R) after his speech during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Majid Asgaripour/Mehr News Agency

 
 

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At a Fork in the Road: The Iran Nuclear Talks post-Istanbul

 
 

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Protests Break Out in Sudan and More

Al Jazeera


Anti-regime protests sweep Khartoum


Dubai TV - A wave of popular rage is sweeping the Sudanese capital following calls to launch protests from local mosques in condemnation of the deteriorating economic conditions and to demand change. Yesterday, fierce confrontations broke out between Sudanese police and al-Khartoum University students. Anti-riot police used batons and fired tear gas and rubber bullets, in a new development described by the Sudanese opposition as 'the first step towards change.'

Kuwait court dissolves parliament, declares polls illegal

Al Jazeera - Al Jazeera correspondent in Kuwait reported that opposition representatives resigned from the former National Assembly that was reinstated today by the Constitutional Court. This comes after the Constitutional Court issued a ruling voiding the parliamentary elections that were conducted earlier this year. According to the court, since the parliamentary elections are invalid, the current assembly must be dissolved, and the former assembly, whose majority supports the government, is to be restored.

Delayed poll results keep Egyptians on edge and on the streets

Al-Alam - In Egypt, Secretary-General of the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission Hatem Bagato said the presidential election results will be announced on Saturday or Sunday. Bagato said that looking into the appeals presented by both candidates, Mohamed Morsy and Ahmed Shafiq, requires some time. Protests and sit-ins are continuing in Cairo and other Egyptian cities over the military council's decisions and especially the constitutional declaration that limits the powers of the next president. Protestors expressed fear of fraud in the presidential election results after the Supreme Elections Commission decided to postpone announcing the results.

Iran, P5+1 powers fail to settle another dispute

Dubai TV - The talks between the West and Iran over the latter's nuclear program have failed in Moscow. The two-day talks ended with the two sides agreeing to meet again next month in Istanbul. Both sides confirmed they have started to tackle critical issues, but warned that significant gaps still exist between them. With this, the Russians have failed to achieve political gains on the international front.

Syrian pilot defects after landing in Jordan

BBC Arabic - Jordan granted political asylum to the defected Syrian pilot Hassan Mari, after his MiG-21 fighter jet landed in Mafraq Airport this morning. Syrian TV had announced contact was lost with the warplane during a training mission in Daraa. Activists said this is the first defection of an air force pilot with his plane since the uprising began.

Dire humanitarian conditions loom in southern Yemen

Al-Forat - Widespread disease, destruction, and a lack of food and medicine, is the status of Yemen's southern provinces, after having been afflicted by war and armed conflicts. This state of the security and humanitarian conditions in Yemen's southern provinces are the result of heated battles between the Yemeni army and armed elements of al-Qaeda. It is a humanitarian crisis that threatens the life of over half a million refugees, who were displaced by battles that caused widespread destruction to the southern regions' infrastructure.

 

Image: Al Jazeera

 
 

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From Baghdad to Moscow: Assessing the Iran Nuclear Talks

 
 

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Egypt Witnesses First Presidential Elections After the Revolution and More

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Millions of Egyptians vote in historic presidential elections

Al Jazeera - After decades or even centuries of single rule, Egyptians are on the verge of a new period of their history, voting for a new president for the country on a democratic basis. After counting 90 percent of the votes the Muslim Brotherhood group said that the candidate for the Freedom and Justice Party obtained 25 percent of the votes, as opposed to candidate Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister in Mubarak’s era, who obtained 23 percent. The group said  Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh ranked third place, with 20 percent and Hamdeen Sabahy came in fourth with about 19 percent.

Iran's nuclear talks moved to Moscow after reaching a stalemate

Dubai - Amid 'significant differences' between the P5+1 group and Iran, over the latter's nuclear program, the talks were moved to Moscow. This news comes after two days of intensive negotiations in Baghdad failed to bring about a solution to the nuclear crisis. Iran has agreed in principle, to discuss the issue of uranium enrichment at 20 percent, only if the UN recognizes its right to enrich uranium. The two sides agreed to hold a new round of talks in Moscow next month.

After suicide bombing, Yemen marks National Unity Day

Al Jazeera - It was the first time that a military parade was held to mark the unification of Yemen without Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was toppled by a popular revolution. President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi attended the parade that was held at the Institute of Aviation instead of the al-Sabeen area, which was subjected to a bombing that led to the deaths of dozens of soldiers, and injured hundreds, during the preparatory exercises for the parade. While the investigation into the al-Sabeen Street bombing continues, the head of the National Security Council confirmed that the al-Qaeda organization was behind the attack.

Bahrainis continue to protest against US arms shipment to al-Manama regime

Al Alam - Bahrain's revolutionaries called for demonstrations on the Friday of ‘rejecting the U.S. arming of the regime’, which crushed protests in numerous regions. The revolutionaries called for taking to the streets to express loyalty to political prisoners. The revolutionaries shut down some of the vital roads to protest the continuing arrest of women by the regime. The marches were soon confronted by the regime with gunfire and teargas, wounding a number of protesters and many others were arrested, mostly women. Bahraini cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, asserted that the crisis will not end until authorities submit to the people's demands. 

Israeli protesters attack African migrants in Tel-Aviv

 

Al Jazeera - Hundreds of Israelis demonstrated in central Tel Aviv, against the increasing numbers of illegal African immigrants in the country, and called for deporting them immediately. These protests came several days after the Interior Minister Eli Yishai called for arresting all African immigrants, and deporting them from Israel. Israeli sources estimate the number of Africans in Israel at 60,000 ranging from various countries. The scene was not free of aggression against Africans and local shops that employ them. The recent crimes and rapes committed by Africans instigated the Israelis to come out in protest.

 

Image: An Egyptian man folds his ballot paper before casting his vote in a school used as a polling station in Cairo May 24, 2012. Egyptians, choosing their leader freely for the first time in history, voted for a second day on Thursday in an election that is a fruit of last year's popular revolt against Hosni Mubarak. The words on the Al Ahly club jersey read, "Glory to the martyrs". REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

 
 

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