Yes we can, yes they did.

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"U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.", came the chants from the audience on big screen as the so called Ayatollah swung an Iranian flag. The weary, washed-up wrestler, seemingly on his last legs and on his last match, stumbled around. "Randy, you OK?", asked the Ayatollah mid-grapple, having noticed that his opponent was reaching at his chest, no doubt in pain and close to another heart attacked. Randy, regardless, fought on, leaping over the ropes and catching the Ayatollah's head between his thighs and spinning him down to the canvas, "come on Randy, pin me, let's finish this", the Ayatollah then quietly shouts.

Randy's doctor told him that another match would be his last, but as his life crumbled away around him, he chose to continue doing what he does best; to continue fighting and go on with the show. The show was a rematch with his rival from twenty-years ago (the peak of his career), the Ayatollah; a plump African-American looking man sporting a handle-bar mustache and an Iranian spandex-flag hugging him tightly. Of all the nations; of all the flags I thought. In shock at how explicit the film makers had presented the demon, I leaned across to my friend, "you said... but... Oh my god, that's the 'Allah' symbol on his belly!".

I was informed before the film that, "Iran was officially offended by it", yet I thought nothing of it; figuring that it was just another matter by which the powers-that-be were being oversensitive. But of all the nations; of all the flags I thought. In some way of relief I was later told that character was based upon 'The Iron Sheik': known "for being the man Hulk Hogan defeated for his first WWF Championship, setting off the "Golden Age" of professional wrestling. He was also a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran and his family for several years while they still lived in Iran". Not a fabrication I suppose.

Lifting the Iranian flag, Randy finds his last wind, snaps the pole in two, arousing cheers from the crowd. The referee approaches Randy who is stumbling with his hand on his chest, "you OK? you good to go on?", he asks with genuine, un-staged concern. Randy edges the referee to the side as he climbs the corner-ropes ready for his signature finish; the elbow-drop-to-grip. Silhouetted in a crucifix stance the cheers from the crowd fade to a muffled tone as Randy leaps over the camera leading us into to the credits. Finished.

do you expect me to believe that both America and Iran are collaborating in a staged show?

As we left the theatre I aired my suspicions to my fellow viewing friends; yet it seemed as if I was looking too deeply into it. Were we simply having a nice day out, watching an emotive film for leisure; a tool by which to reflect upon our place in the world and the meaning of it all? "Of all the nations. Of all the flags!", I stated, wide-eyed as we exited the cinema. "Ah, come on!", responded my friends, between their vocal concern for Mickey Rourke's physical condition. I continued; venting my suspicions with my tongue somehow lodged in my cheek "Ah come on, do you expect me to believe that both America and Iran are collaborating in a staged show; playing off one another to convince the masses of bi-national tensions. Also that Iran – although down for the count – will ultimately endure as America fades away?". No, I wasn't buying it.

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Censorship from one nation to the next.

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"So, do you know the different types of Muslims out there?", he asked me, seemingly having rehearsed the question in his head; I guess it was an inevitable question to follow with considering he'd told me he was from Jeddah and I'd said I was living in Iran. In anticipation of this question I'd considered the array of potential responses; I'd concluded that he must be Sunni and figured he'd know that my being from Iran, invariably and unwittingly makes me Shia. "We have two main types of Muslim: Sunni and Shia", he added, not entirely sure if I knew the difference what with my muddled background I'd informed him of between the questions. "Yes, I'm aware there are four – potentially a fifth – and I guess you must be Sunni?", I asked. "Yes, and you must be Shia?", he responded, to which I eeked out some kind of vague answer.

Prior to this, we'd sat beside one another in silence for seven hours before he settled my curiosity as to whether he was Indian. He'd put his in-flight sandwich to the side and waited till I'd eaten mine, "is this a ham sandwich?", he then asked, and to my embarrassment, I wasn't entirely sure. "Turkey, I think" – it was a Muslim question and how I wished to be correct, fully aware of the ensuing conversation. I asked the air steward, who confirmed that it was indeed Turkey, and so we got started.

"Are you learning Arabic?", he asked after I remarked upon the Islamicness of his question. "No, the dictionary I was fingering through was a Farsi to English one", I told him, "but so much of the language uses Arabic". He seemed to think that Iranians spoke Arabic, yet he wasn't so incorrect, I explained my frustrations of trying to learn Farsi and being confronted with so much Arabic thrown without foundations. We flicked through the dictionary and I pointed out the compound verbs, "see, Arabic word, Farsi verb", I said pointing to the word 'utter' - 'to utter'. "But you're not pronouncing it correctly", he exclaimed, repeating the word with a throaty flex. I flicked through to the pages containing Arabic characters, "all the words in this section are Arabic", I told him; he looked at me with a pause; leaned back as if to check if a punch-line was up my sleeve, then laughed. I pointed to several compound verbs and proceeded to read them out with a tongue flex; he laughed again, asking me why I'm bothering to learn.

He restrained to make a comments regarding Sunni-Shia differences and was nearly clever in holding his true opinion back. "It clearly says in the Koran that there are no further prophets after Mohammad", for which wasn't precisely the issue I thought. "Well, as you know, the distinction comes from recognising the leadership after Mohammad", I precariously interjected before he came back at me, "so, which holds more power, an Imam (leader) or a prophet?", he asked, as if he was holding a trump card. I had to concede that in such ranking he would be correct, but I felt the need to explain some background.

Iran struggles to keep some semblance of identity through three main theatres: culture, ideology and rule

"Our language, Farsi, has so much Arabic in it due to an Arab invasion", I cautiously started, managing to find some continuation from our previous discussion. I explained that before this time, Islam – as far as I knew – was not the dominant ideology of Persia. I explained what little I knew of the Zoroastrian faith and referred to Iran's two and a half thousand years of monarchic rule. I ventured far into matters I knew little about, mentioning variations of Islam though various dynasties within Persia. I dropped in my patchy history of England's not too dissimilar predicament with Henry VIII; "to me, it seems like Iran struggles to keep some semblance of identity through three main theatres: culture, ideology and rule", I boldly stated, attempting to explain that these elements are inseparable. It seemed that from my fellow passenger's point of view, Iran was making a mess of things.

We arrived in America and repeated that awkward moment whereby one says goodbye only to meet again in queues. I joined the visitors queue hoping to not have to revisit the second-interview room and explain why 'Iran' appeared on my visa-waiver form again. "So what language do they speak there in Iran?", the upbeat immigration officers asked me as I added various biometric details in, "Farsi is the national language, but it's interesting you ask...". I summarised the conversation I'd just had with my new found Arab friend, flinching after I said the words 'Arab invasion'. He took a look around him and hushed his voice, "invasion are just a sad fact of life". He explained that we're all one side of it at one time or another. I stood feeling very uncomfortable as he vaguely mentioned how the native Americans know this only too well. I left, having been given the all-clear, feeling slightly glad that Iran and America, thus far, were not on either side of this sad fact of life.

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Gathered among friends

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This is a slightly adapted email sent out recently…

So, this weekend; the final of the three-nights-one-location party stint ended on a good note. The first of these nights deserves a write up in itself, having been spent with English Farsi students and being reminded of how much I’ve adapted to this place. It was weird to have my Englishness trumped.

So, as mentioned, the regular and rotating Peace Delegation from America came once again to [my friend’s] house for a soirée of sorts. Before they arrived I joined the group of cosmopolitan Tehran folk amassed and discussing the variety of guests due. Our friend linked to this Delegation informed us that the Delegation’s organisers had exceeded the annual quota of visits and that there was talk about increasing what was seen as a successful program.

[The host] was freaking out [with joy] about having a black woman, a Jewish Rabbi and some dude high-up in some church be guests at his house. Oddly enough, the Rabbi turned out to be a young Jewish author and the Christian dude ended up being a former band manager of various greats (having toured and worked with The Dead, The Who and a few others that escape me now). It was only the black woman who failed to fit the description; she turned out to be a well decorated Native American from a reservation in Arizona.

As we met them at the door they needed each name to be repeated until they comfortably got their tongues around the strange new sounds. “And you are?”, they asked one-by-one, “David”, I responded, reaching out my hand. “David?”, they repeated, “yes David” … “David?”, they asked again, awaiting a reassuring punchline that never came. As the weather was pleasant we guided them through the house to sit out on the balcony whereby they, like many before, commented about the great view [of the Alborz Mountains] – even though little could be seen in the dark condition.

"I think Israel has only 10-years left", I was somehow surprised to hear this and responded jokingly with, "you've been listening to the words of our president too much"

It turned out that the touring Christian (of some peculiar strand) was from the [San Francisco] Bay area like [the host], to which streets and notaries were reeled out one after another; the native Indian answered questions related to her cluster of clothing and I made inquiries with the Jewish east coast gent about his book that was short-listed just that day for a prize. He talked about this book, informing us that it was entitled ‘Children in War’, which was - if I remember rightly - a collection of non-fictional accounts, as the title would suggest. During his explanation he came back on somebody’s comment with, "I think Israel has only 10-years left", I was somehow surprised to hear this and responded jokingly with, "you've been listening to the words of our president too much". I asked him why he thought like that, to which he went into detail as to how there are apparently a large volume of Jews who fit a schizophrenic profile, Jews who simply can't deal with both the Israel issue and their conscience. He then went on to talk about some kind of lobby thing called J Street that is there to confront or compete with K Steet - or was it the other way around? By this I gathered that he meant there was a lobby group(s) that has strong support for the plight of the Palestinians.

Similarly, I was talking of American politics with the Christian dude, but not before I answered his list of questions about Iran. Every other sentence I had to remind him that what he sees before him and over the balcony – if anything at all – is far from the reality of Iran. He mentioned that he was about to begin a PhD in Sexology, to which it took a few minutes for the group to move beyond the resulting jokes. I both volunteered information I'd learned about sex in Islam to which he brought further inquiries. He said that they were heading to the holy city of Qom the following day to which I mentioned that he could be in for a treat and could also stock up on literature for his future studies. I spoke about the sex calendar devised by the mullahs, indicating the best times for a Muslim to have sex within the week/month/year. He perked up on that one. I also mentioned a few of the related Islamic laws and also of one in particular concerning falling through floors during earthquakes and impregnating things below - that and matters concerning anal sex. He'd asked about gay folk in Iran - to which I had to amusingly remind him that we didn't have any here. I followed on this by adding the oddity that is gayness in Iran; that the men pretty much do all but penetrate in display of their affection with other men. I talked of a book I'd read entitled, ‘Sex Morals and Marriage in Islam’ saying that he might be able to get one of the clerics to run around for him to gather this and many more.

With that I felt it best to educate him on how he should behave before the people he was about to meet in Qom; educating him on how better to shake hands and how best to phrase his requests. By coincidence he was already wearing a ring very similar to those worn by mullahs; that, coupled with the beard he’d been especially growing for the visit, assured me he’d do just fine.

He asked for my forgiveness as he became, “a little spiritual”, telling about how deeply moved he was by visiting the tomb

My conversation with the Christian dude pretty much carried on until they left - for which I was a little worried that I consumed all his time when there was so many other interesting people that he could have spoken with. He mentioned at one point about having visited [the Iranian poet] Hafez's tomb, following with complimentary words about the nation and its history. He asked for my forgiveness as he became, “a little spiritual”, telling about how deeply moved he was by visiting the tomb. He welled up in his explanation; nearly enough to drop a tear. Seeing his red bulbing eyes partly avoiding me seemed to trigger me off too, yet for wholly different reasons.

I was engrossed with his perspective on America and its politics; he was deeply critical and deeply angered. He was sickened by paying tax and knowing that the official figures of how much of that got spent on the military is about 35%; we agreed that this is more than likely lower than is the case when noting how these things are publicly presented. He spoke of the big players such as Haliburton, KBR and the Carlyle Group and how the American people are at the whim of these corporations in many respects. Obama he was looking forward to, suggesting that it might be a break from the current elite - I contended that this result would make little difference should it actually transpire.

"I give it a year and the dollar is done", he awkwardly asserted.

On that, we spoke of possibilities that might swing it another way: Iran was his suggestion. I suggested that something would surly be brought out of the bag for the voting occasion to inspire a specific choice, sadly I had to admit that Iran could indeed be that. He was disillusioned with the system and felt maybe it needed taking back, yet had no confidence in this coming about. With that he spoke of his concern for his children, suggesting at one point that he feels bad for bringing them into the world with what he felt was looming: "I give it a year and the dollar is done", he awkwardly asserted. He followed this with talk of fuel prices, limitation on food, decreasing employment figures and a disgusting health care situation.

We brought the conversation back to Iran, whereby he asked about the political situation both now and previously here. It seemed he’d done his research and there was little for me to add. We spoke of the '53 coup, the Shah and the current regime which led to talk of the current developments in the nation with regards to sanctions and how Iran is dealing with business internationally. I brought it back home with the big topic of these days that is inflation. He was worried about the dollar for next year and I was worried about how over 90% of Iranians would be able to afford anything next year if the events of this year repeat themselves. It all seemed rather odd to discuss all this from the balcony of one of the more fancy high rises of Tehran.

Details were exchanged and goodbyes were said before we wished them well for their pending Qom trip. The Christian dude went to shake my hand and frightened me by doing so in the mullah like way - it took a moment to remember where he'd learned it from.

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During this week we saw the 29th anniversary of the revolution, for which I went along once again

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"David...?", she asked, slowing toward the end with the intent of me following up with a surname. "Just David; he'll know who it is", I added before casually turning once again to her husband – the Nicaraguan ambassador to be – "so how long till you open then?", I enquired, nearly diverting his gaze from our female company. We were provided with a vague schedule for which seemed to hinge on the Iranian president's approval; maybe a month he guessed. The reminder prompted a sigh from his wife, who had apparently just exhausted the Hotel's Thai and Italian menus and wasn't enjoying being prisoned by the unfamiliar snow.

"I don't suppose there's any tension with America for opening an embassy here in Iran?", I enquired, attempting to sympathise with some blurted rehash of Chomsky's Nicaraguan/World Court pièce de résistance. Since I was in deep, I threw in the name Chavez a couple times before retreating back in wait of a damage assessment. Impact was made regarding the torturous 80s; it also seemed that Chavez was maybe helping things (if only for new flight routes) and lastly, no problems were perceived in developing diplomatic relations with the Nicaraguans. "And what about you girls; have you not got husbands?", he suddenly popped, the ticker was now fully operational, "such beautiful girls; why not?", he tocked as the south American charm offensive could been seen visibly melting Tehran's month old snow.

Our loitering around the hotel entrance had run its course and in an effort to spare the girls of the simmering Latin blood (and myself from an inevitable diplomatic slip-up) we concluded our chance meeting. "So I'll be telling the president that David said hello?", remembered the wife, "yes, and wish him luck too", I added as my friends stood confused as to whether they should maintain a straight face.

"If anyone asks, you're a diplomat from the American Embassy*", I told my Americanised compatriot

Coincidentally, that evening I was invited to the leaving do for the Swedish Embassy's Cultural Attaché. Last I heard he was due a promotion, so the preceding hours to what was sure to be a proper knees-up were over-shadowed by a curiosity for what lay behind. "If anyone asks, you're a diplomat from the American Embassy*", I told my Americanised compatriot as we arrived at the uptown apartment, yet my ice-breaker took a tumble: "Oh, you're with the Swiss* Embassy!", a European diplomat later responded, knowingly playing it back at us with a wink.

I pointed out a mutual friend's urban art – traditionally framed and scattered among the apartment – as we found the room to dump our coats. Turning the light on revealed that two of the four walls were top-to-bottom with books, "how are they getting back?", I gasped before heading off to correct these mounting questions. "Here's some pistachios", I explained to our departing friend, thrusting forward a box of the most expensive ones I could find, "you can't leave Iran without pistachios; we've just saved you the shopping time".

"So what the fuck?", I exclaimed in unison with my compatriot, "why are you leaving us?". As he was explaining, I surveyed the room, making playful assumptions with the mixture of skin tones, accents and hip movements. Among the English speaking; young and old, yet another wall revealed itself to me, leaving me once again gasping; this one was filled with a generous offering of international catalysts, positively dripping with availability.

"So how many people work at the Argentinean Embassy?", I asked the coincidentally Iranian looking guy, "two", he responded; "I'm the deputy", he added with mixed frustration and pride. I was distracted as he effortlessly jumped between Persian and English, amused at how his Spanish tongue wrapped around the local dialect better than with English. He went on to inform me of their meager existence, for which seemed to sustain itself out of some stalemate, "there was some incident with a bomb a few years back", he partially explained, before finding a polite moment to exit in the direction of the hubble bubble pipe where he sat for the rest of the night, connected in solitude.

"So where are you from", I asked the very English looking chap waiting in turn for the hubble bubble pipe, "Dublin", he responded. My slip-up came, reflexively I asked him which embassy he worked for, and while I failed resolve the capitals of the republic and the north he came back, "what do you think?". I answered wrongly, "these British don't know there geography for shite!", he gasped ! I bowed my head in shame to him and the all the twenty other Republic of Ireland folk that were apparently also in the country someplace. He offered the hubble bubble pipe to me and I offered to wrap it around my neck before slipping off to seek exile among the few compatriots.

*There ain't one.
**What little diplomatic relations there are is conducted via the Swiss Embassy.

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This shot was not taken in California.

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"Ahh man! That dumb ass Bush!", piped up on of the more lubricated girls, dropping her conversation in favour of the table talk going on behind. She leaned in with one hand supporting her swaying body and the other waving around with a barrage of insults. This spectacle caught my attention beyond the spillings of an oddly pretty thing; she'd effortlessly adopted an American twang with the English she'd brought to the table and amazingly gifted those sat around with a similar ability. I was distracted from the conversation with the gentleman to my left; the English being spoken was of native quality, yet in all the time I'd sat there this convenient ability had not been displayed. I turned back to my left and made some comment about this gentleman also hiding such ability, "yeah, I grew up in Orange County, California", he responded, later adding, "hey man, you're Persian's not too bad considering how long you've been here".

I guess this begun with an interview that never happened. A fellow dual national friend of mine invited me to contribute to a piece for Al Jazeera News; simply to give an Iranian perspective on their news service. I'd arrived late, for which I was to be the last to comment. "Yeah, Al Jazeera, that's the one on channel 6 yeah?", I responded to the off-air question, "no it's on satellite only", they came back at me, leaving me confused as to what that Arabic news channel on 6 was all about. "Oh, well I don't have satellite and the TV is only on for football", I added, embarrassingly bringing a conclusion to interviews.

Iran is a sanctuary of sorts; to enjoy an elevated status maybe; to bum around and sponge from the parents

Following this non-event we gathered at my friend's office to which I found myself surrounded by dual nationals of the American kind, "ah, another refugee", I teased with each as they stated the volume of time spent here and there. We shared our reasons for being in Iran – when given the choice not to be – and found that the was a lot of overlap; we were all 20-somethings, educated in the west, curious with regards to heritage, with much family still in Iran and non-plussed about which borders surround us. I get the impression that there is also a hidden story with each person, it seems that Iran is a sanctuary of sorts; a place to escape to; to enjoy an elevated status maybe; to bum around and sponge from the parents, as is common with many Iranians at that social level and age.

For a few weeks now I've been meeting these new found friends, for which our mutual associations have expanded to a community of sorts, bringing me a very different feeling towards living in Iran. Its been great to share the oddities that only we see, the jokes that only we could know and the advice that only relates to us. I'm reminded of my father's expat friends in my hometown and all those moments where he fast finds an affinity with those other first generations whom found themselves on British soil for whatever reason. Yet in my case the affinity is drawn through language and a similarity in culture more than nationality for I've found far less British dual nationals.

As I sat at that table in the uptown penthouse apartment and listened to the crowd of perfectly bilingual guests I was surprised at how un-Iranian everything seemed. The football that was silently playing in the background on the television had switched to still of the supreme leader's face for which I was amused by the juxtapose as I scanned across the room. The moment came as oddly settling as I felt I'd found a liberating scene; for a moment I was distanced from the concept of borders and reveled in the cosmopolitan atmosphere I'd stumbled upon, both then and since.

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Scenes from Palastine, edited between scenes of demonstrations in Tehran in support of the Palastinians.

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"Oh my f...", yelped a friend having just switched over from a Manchester United game to an interview with our president by a CBS reporter. The ensuing gasps and the shrieks were more appropriately related to the football and certainly the excited leaping from the chairs and fruitless flicking of Vs. "What the... shut up, just shut... you liar!", came the reactions to what was an all together different match. Such emotive responses surrounded me with every touch of the ball by our president, but I couldn't see the fowl play they repeatedly protested about. Yeah, there were dives and excessive rolls, but it's part of the game, and in this game and that room, it appeared I was rooting for the underdog.

I'm an odd supporter of the home team, going so far as to carrying a photographed keyring of our star player. Yet, how I'm scorned at for this, regardless of how far my tongue is wedged in my cheek. I get a similar responses when pushed to vocalise my thoughts; it's not that I'm fashionably backing the outsider, but more that, at times I hold a view that the games can have as much relevance as an actual football tournament.

"This is a terrible translation", both my friends simultaneously remarked as I strained to keep up with the pace; the only errors I noticed being the additional, "Mr. President", and other courteous terms padding the translated questions for the home team. I was enthralled; lost between needing clarification from my friends and not wanting to interrupt. This match was perversely important however; a long running tournament seems to be reaching its final stages, with a great many heated fans hungry for a slip-up; an excuse to vent anger and transcend the event; offering their own interpretation of a red card, regardless of a referee's decision.

For me, these vigilantes who seemingly shroud themselves in their own comfortable understanding of events, have at best, historical amnesia and certainly a gross immunity to self-awareness. This became prevalent with the media circus surrounding a recent visit by our president to the, "Lion's Den", which could be marked as the away-game to the previous week's interview.

"The Evil Has Landed", we read in the morning papers as the cogs of the corporate media shifted a gear. Various tactics had been considered by the home team; or even stolen, with 11/9 victims once again not left to rest in peace. Predictably, the media performed its tacit role of 'amplifier' well, with the volume turned down for this and also for the main reason of the visit: the fact that our president was a guest to the United Nations. Where the volume was increased however, was with our president also being a guest at Columbia University. Here he was made equally as welcome, being introduced as a, "petty dictator". Such flattery! And I'm serious.

no amount of witty uppercase-play can invite the situation whereby he will hover his finger over a phantom red-button

Such flattery that can only exist with tiring ignorance of our system, and this man's role; this democratically elected man I should add. He is arguably less influential than his international equivalents – simply a face, some stock-words and a nice beard, but one should be careful not to over-estimate him. One should know that he does not preside over the military, unlike the much loved former shah who was not democratically elected, did preside over the military and was not shy in using it against his own people (with a blind eye from the west). So one should be aware that no amount of witty uppercase-play ("AhMADinejad") can invite the situation whereby he will hover his finger over a phantom red-button.

The madness could be attributed to the provocative words on the holocaust; clumsy at best, but broaching this taboo in its current way of, "let's allow more research", invites an interesting response. These little pokes at western hypocrisy seem to be chipping away at the roots of a regional issue and – depending on who does your indoctrination – it resonates in great volume, yet in different ways. I might be so bold at this point and suggest that the surrounding rhetoric is awkwardly refreshing; so rare to hear a representative at such a level to stand up against the status quo and even represent his people. Today, for example, is an international day of recognition for the plight of the Palestinians, with a national televised demonstration running through most cities – yes, it reminds me of when in Britain we had national days of recognition for the struggle against the Apartheid. Remember? I put it to you, this guy is not mad; he is a mirror, one that is highly susceptible to smearing.

I heard that the airport flooded with admirers upon the return of our man, with crowds no doubt thankful for his safe return. I couldn't help but also feel thankful for this, as it was with each day that I gritted my teeth and begged that he not slip-up. But how silly of me; this has been proven to not be necessary; the age-old "wiped-off the map" – dusty rhetoric for the Islamic Republic – had recently gotten a fresh mistranslation and amplified by the corporate cohorts.

It is exactly that which we in-turn fear, the cyclical repetition of, "bringing democracy to the middle east", as this for us is like being wiped-off the map

But when these words are not being hideously mistranslated, they are not all that outrageous; in fact, much the opposite in my mind and no doubt the minds of a great many others in the region. I should add, I'm under no illusion that these words are said with as much sincerity as, "bringing democracy to the middle east", but they resonate with the same effect to a different audience. Yet, it is exactly that which we in-turn fear, the cyclical repetition of, "bringing democracy to the middle east", as this for us is like being wiped-off the map.

The tournament is racing to its final stages, and with this, my greatest fear is of the resulting hooligans; for you [my readers] are the one who allows the transcending of the game. Be cautious, your anger or fear might be measured by your ignorance. So I feel we should be vigilant, so as not be seduced for want of our vigilante behavior, for it does us no credit and we far from benefit. I might then end by provocatively suggesting that, if you want democracy, respect it, and respect ours.

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Keep banging on the walls of Fortress Europe.

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"No, it's not that they aren't allowed to leave, the government aren't keeping them here", my father corrected me, as we filled the commute with the usual analysis on Iranian life, "it's just that nowhere else will have them!". It was over a year ago that I'd had this realisation, it came as such a surprise that I remember the exact square metre of road he said this. This sad reality shouldn't have came as a shock to me, but I don't hide it – I'm incredibly ignorant of immigration and VISA issues – and to all those that find me, call me or email me it comes as a shock too.

"Daveed, I want to buy a house in Cyprus, maybe we'll go live there", my uncle perks up, something on the TV must have prompted him, "can I get a VISA?", he gets there, "do you think they'll give us a VISA? Can you find out?". This is the latest idea, Cypress, the latest country and his latest expectation of me. I look up inquisitively when he gets to these questions, maybe I look like I'm thinking about it, I hope so. If he could tune into my mind he might hear this between the distortion – "what dear uncle gives you the impression that I – dressed in my jim-jams, sipping tea while trying to block out Turkish soaps – have the foggiest about immigration and VISAs". I probably give a 'hmmm' at this point, then I sip, "never dear uncle have I ever personally* applied for a VISA or immigration, I've never even seen the form(s) and never made an inquiry about such things". These things are not aired, partly through politeness and partly because he and all the others that come with their questions don't want to hear the second reason why: that I mostly never need these things while traveling.

I did some maths, "at the current rate dear uncle you'll hear news in five years, so – don't make any plans"

Maybe I'm tetchy due to help I gave in what became an unsuccessful application for a visitation VISA to Great Britain and the ongoing help in the – as yet – four year process of immigration to America, both of which seem to appear more like a sick joke. I'll begin with the America gig, I'm still unsure with this one whether it's legit – the papers and stamps seem official enough, provisionally it's a green light, it's just the, "your application is being processed, do not make any plans..." bit that baffles me, maybe it's just the way the Americans put it, everything seems like a scam. "Can you call them", my uncle asks, "can you check online", he repeats. They've given him a handy user name and password, "your application is being processed", do not make any plans...", it says when I login with nearly a word-for-word copy of the letter, but it looks neat and makes my uncle feel that things are moving along. Just to confirm, I called, guided my way through the labyrinth of options, tapped in enormous strings of digits and finally got it, "your application number is 'x', we are now dealing with 'y', do not make any plans...". I did some maths, "at the current rate dear uncle you'll hear news in five years, so – don't make any plans".

The Brit gig was simply obscene and insulting as well as very expensive, remember, this is just for a two week holiday. I was drafted in for translation - not that my uncle can't read English - more that, even by lawyer's standards the paperwork contained an extra special weave of verbosity. My uncle had failed the initial application, having stumbled on the interrogation process, the poor feller mislocated a small town among other things, how silly of him to say north-west, it was clearly south-east. But the British aren't too harsh, they give you the option to appeal, and at only twice the price of the initial process, roughly two month's average wage. But it was failure again, this time my uncle couldn't prove that all the land and property he owed around Iran had any value, deeds don't mean dollars, oh how they wriggled out of that one. The re-appeal was available but the game could have gone on with the embassy raising the bar, inventing more English and taking further money. Unless the family were to leave a deposit, like my uncle himself, the embassy expected it would end up being an asylum case at the other end.

A colleague was rejected a visitation VISA for Canada the other day and another for America. In the Canadian case I was told that six people were successful in just over a hundred applications for that day, this is good business and psychological torture. I hear chants of freedom coming Eastwards, but they seem self-serving - as my father once enlightened me, the jail is imposed by those who chant the loudest.

*I have had two VISAs, one work related for America, but it was all taken care of for me and another for Lebanon, which was never used and also arranged for me, yet not entirely necessary due to me having a British passport, it was simply a time issue.

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How I see the world.

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"Are they coming? Are the Americans coming?", is a question I'm being increasingly asked - yet the answers to my family's anxious questions change with each day. "Can I go back with you to England - in your suitcase?", asks a distant relative - she's a big girl, but I tell her what she needs to hear.

The increasingly obsessive reading on Iran's near future – or lack of – has led to me being an alternative news source among my relatives. 6-months ago I might have entered their homes dressed in a dooms-day A-board, bringing silence to those that dared inquire, yet shortly after I'd abandoned the opinions in favour of history and facts – thinking it better to distinguish words from events.

I've abandoned this distinction for now though as it appears that the words are the preparation for damaging events.

The '2nd Holocaust' I've heard is a popular mix

Take a few selected moments – possibly true but not essential – frame them in the right way, chuck in some "officials" – whack the blender on [loud whiring noise] and in a remarkably quick time we have a stinky, mucky pulp. These concoctions are tasteless yet easy to digest with many exciting and emotive names - the '2nd Holocaust' I've heard is a popular mix.

For the everyday folk of Iran the noise is disconcerting and rather familiar, yet although we are not the ones swallowing this stuff, we're the ones that suffer from it – even before any bomb has landed.

But we don't recall being asked what power source we'd like and also don't recall anyone suggesting countries be wiped off maps, but we expect to be held responsible for it. We are simply observers, sitting in the stands, able to root for the home-team – to shout, to comment even, but the games goes on despite us. It's the Supreme PR Machine playing at home to the Empire's Noise Engineers, yet worryingly the referee and commentators seem more involved in the game than maybe they should be.

"Two military ships are on their way to the Persian Gulf from the US, – one with anti-missile capability", I inform my family, leaving out any speculation. They are coming, they are here, we are surrounded – I imagine the game will commence once the supporters appear to be sitting comfortably.

RELATED LINKS - These guys say it better than I:
Lost in Translation – Wiped off the map?
Ahmadinejad's interview with SPIEGEL
Iran and impending war
Oil business and war
Wikipedia on Campaign Again Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran
Scott Ritter: Sleep walking into disaster in Iran
Stephen Zunes: Analysis - possible attack on Iran

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