An interesting article for Asheyan …
The Star Students of the Islamic Republic
Forget Harvard—one of the world’s best undergraduate colleges is in Iran.
By Afshin Molavi | NEWSWEEK
Stanford University‘s Electrical Engineering Department were startled when a group of foreign students aced the notoriously difficult Ph.D. entrance exam, getting some of the highest scores ever. That the whiz kids weren’t American wasn’t odd; students from Asia and elsewhere excel in U.S. programs. The surprising thing, say Stanford administrators, is that the majority came from one country and one school: Sharif University of Science and Technology in Iran.
Stanford has become a favorite destination of Sharif grads. Bruce A. Wooley, a former chair of the Electrical Engineering Department, has said that’s because Sharif now has one of the best undergraduate electrical-engineering programs in the world. That’s no small praise given its competition: MIT, Caltech and Stanford in the United States, Tsinghua in China and Cambridge in Britain.
Sharif’s reputation highlights how while Iran makes headlines for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s incendiary remarks and its nuclear showdown with the United States, Iranian students are developing an international reputation as science superstars. Stanford’s administrators aren’t the only ones to notice. Universities across Canada and Australia, where visa restrictions are lower, report a big boom in the Iranian recruits; Canada has seen its total number of Iranian students grow 240 percent since 1985, while Australian press reports point to a fivefold increase over the past five years, to nearly 1,500.
Iranian students from Sharif and other top schools, such as the University of Tehran and the Isfahan University of Technology, have also become major players in the international Science Olympics, taking home trophies in physics, mathematics, chemistry and robotics. As a testament to this newfound success, the Iranian city of Isfahan recently hosted the International Physics Olympiad—an honor no other Middle Eastern country has enjoyed. That’s because none of Iran’s neighbors can match the quality of its scholars…
To view the full article: click here
My aunt sent me this letter to share with our blog readers. It is about hope and change and has a strong message for all of us, whether you are from New York City, Tehran, Tokyo, Cairo, London, or Los Angeles, even though the topic is on the existing situation in the United States. Enjoy reading it and send us your own thoughts and experiences:
On the 28th of June 2008 I made all the possible arrangements to attend a party in Berkeley for Obama. I wanted to participate in that party to unite with the community I felt a part of. Being with the people who are seeking change; who are promoting dignity for mankind irrespective of their race and ethnic back ground. The thought of this understanding coming from American people really excited me for the wonderful world my children and their generation are going to have ahead of them. This all had come at the time when they had lost hope for the future. People of this country were about to have compassion for themselves and for the people of the world. How incredible.
The people at the party were obviously mostly the elite group from Berkeley, fit, outspoken, and open minded of all ages. The refreshments were generously presented along with very efficient display of stickers, pamphlets, T-shirts, etc.
It was a wonderful feeling to be sitting with this group under the same roof. The speakers informed us of all that was happening and all that is needed to be done in the few months to come (just a few months). The questions and answers followed the introduction and it gave way to comments about international affairs.
As one of the speakers started commenting and joking about Iran, I found myself feeling very confused. What is going on here? As the jokes about my country continued, I felt as if the walls of the room were closing in on me. I felt even dizzier when I looked around and saw these well intentioned people, or so they seemed in the beginning, as the same prejudiced people they are trying to oppose.
My confusion continued to the point of absolute disappointment not because I was being insulted as an Iranian and not because once more I was witnessing a great civilization like Iran was being mocked by ignorance, but mostly because I was loosing hope.
I sit here writing tonight from a friend’s apartment in the north of Tehran, Iran. For a moment, I almost feel as if I’m in the States. I get to watch Oprah talking to Dr. Oz on TV. The AC is blasting. A can of coca-cola is waiting for me in the fridge. How strange it is to be in a completely different coutry in the so-called “developing world”, but feel as if you’re sitting in your own living room in northern California. How globalized our world has become.
I’ve been putting off writing a post for quite some time now, mainly because I’ve been waiting for a noteworthy event to happen that would be interesting to everyone. However, Riad’s beautiful comment on my last post touched me and triggered some thoughts that I thought I would share with all of you tonight.
A friend sent me this clip from a performance by Kuoban ensemble (formerly 40-daf) in Tehran. It is a combination of Kurdish and Luri music. We recently had a trip to Sanandaj in Kurdestan. The nature, people, music, and costumes are breath-taking and fascinating. Delightful yet traditional, proud, and strong. Enjoy:
On the way to a conference last week, I was faced with a more or less challenging situation: an intense dialogue among a few colleagues about the significance of different cultures in world history and development. This is a complex topic and it’s hard to make simple conclusions on the matter. I want to write about this experience though, not because I am after advertising or defending a particular nation or want to offend others. This is simply my way of alleviating pain after hearing highly ignorant and uneducated remarks by supposedly educated individuals in the United States.
I was faced with the question of “who contributed the most to our history” or “whose work we should look for when studying the history of art, philosophy, poetry, architecture, literature, and so on.”
I have often noticed that Europe stands out in the American version of history in many different fields. For example, I happened to take introductory courses to political philosophy and architecture history at Cornell University as an undergraduate student. I can confidently say that the majority of topics covered were related to Rome and Greece and some times Great Britain. I, like many other students, left our class thinking that these concepts were first introduced by these nations only and others were mostly followers. Plato’s Republic was introduced to us as a book that marked the beginning of philosophy and political dialogue and such ideas seemed to begin in a society where thinking and logic were encouraged for the first time. Democracy was shown to be the most mesmerizing concept in a world of chaos. We were introduced to every famous architectural piece in Europe and briefly reviewed a few others (i.e. Ancient Egypt, Japan, and India) in the last couple weeks of the class. Even specialized courses tend to be biased and negative towards eastern nations, following the language used in ancient Greek historical records.
I was faced with the same dilemma in the car last week.
Cyrus’ Cylinder: Considered as History’s First Declaration of Human Rights
in Ancient Times is today displayed at the British Museum.
©British Museum, London
Filed under Africa, America, art, culture, development, India, Iran, lessons, literature, poetry, popular culture, sociology, traditions, War
I came across the following article in the Winter 2008 issue of the Middle Eastern arts and cultural magazine, Bidoun. More and more these days, it seems that many of the great artists of this world are becoming hidden and forgotten behind layers of bias and political rhetoric. How much do we really know of our global neighborhoods and the fascinating people and cultural artifacts that lay waiting for us in them?
On July 31 , Iran unveiled the world’s largest hand-made carpet, ordered by the United Arab Emirates for the central prayer hall of Abu Dhabi’s enormous Sheikh Zayed mosque. The carpet was designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi and produced by Iran’s state carpet company, whose director, Jalaleddin Bassam, made the following remarks:
As we all know, the weaving of Persian carpets is a timeless art form. Qasr al-Alam, the carpet you are observing beneath your feet today, is the greatest example of that art, and a testament to the enduring artistry of Iran’s villager-weavers, whose skills have been honed for generations. And yet, for the first time in nearly 3000 years, our industry is in decline. It is we who must take the initiative to remind the world of the superiority of our products and traditional artisans. I was recently saddened to learn that 59 percent of Germans have never heard of a Persian carpet. Fifty-nine percent of Germans! In what work are our diplomatic missions engaged? It seems we would be remiss not to inquire about the carpeting needs of the populations where they are stationed, and also identify the latest design preferences, find out which colors are in vogue, so that we can increase orders and the visibility of Iran.
Last week, on Sunday morning while the streets of New York City showed small signs of spring but cold winter winds could still freeze my bones early in the morning, we got on the bus to go to Manhattan for a special event. The Iranian community in New York (and many other parts of the world) had organized a parade in the city for celebrating the Persian New Year, Norooz of 1387. I was a part of one of the dance groups representing a nomadic tribe in Iran, the Qashgai’s. We got ready on the bus and by the time we got to our destination, the sun began to shine to some how help us through. The wind in Manhattan gets blinding sometimes, especially when you are used to the California weather. When our bus approached the location of the Parade, we saw little kids with the Iranian flag painted on their cheeks, young people holding the Iranian and American flags together, yelling “Norooz Mobarak” meaning Happy New Year. When they saw us, the color of our costumes made their smiles wider and voices louder, they waved at us showing their excitement and support. A huge crowd of Iranians and non-Iranians were gathered on the two sides of the street, holding multi-national flags, cheering us on. When we started dancing, I was cold in the beginning and my eyes were watery due to the wind. After a few seconds, I forgot all about myself and immediately melted with the energy of the crowd and what was going on around me. It was like a slow motion experience, when I was watching the crowd from above. I looked around me to see my friends dancing with me or the people yelling “dametoon garm, thank you, beautiful” and saw many different faces. In our group of Qashqai dancers, there was only one Iranian and one half-Iranian, the rest were from all over the world. There I was among a group of dancers from the U.S., Italy, Japan, Mexico, Israel, Tajikistan, and Iran, dressed in traditional Qashgai costumes, dancing like the nomadic women of the mountains in Iran. I bet the Qashgai women have no idea that such an international group was trying to be like them in the streets of Manhattan on the other side of the planet. Next time I go to Iran, if I go to the mountains and stay with the Qashgai’s for a few days, would they believe me when I tell them about my experience in America? How would they feel about it?
We are living in a magical age, experiencing so much unity and having access to much information is bringing us closer to each other. Despite the current direction of the governments that try to advocate separation while demonizing others, we are moving toward unity at a fast pace, in my opinion. I felt this when I was in the middle of the Parade dancing and I feel it today as I see people with many nationalities here in the streets of Berkeley, protesting against the Chinese invasion of Tibet. I felt it when an Indian taxi driver in New York asked me what this event was about and when I told him it’s for the Persian New Year, he said: “oh yes, Happy Norooz to you and to all Iranians.” Becoming global does not mean to forget about our backgrounds, cultures, costumes, histories, and traditions. In my opinion, unity and globalization is about being aware of what a girl my age is going through in Baghdad, what a mother needs to do to survive in Darfur, how a young boy struggles to earn money for his family and study at the same time in southern Tehran, what games children play and what they learn in school in Kabul, how many people spend their youth in prisons in China, and how Qashgai women dance in the mountains of Iran. We don’t need to travel to all these places to know how; we only need to care and once we sit behind the magical screen and type the name, hundreds of links show up to take us to the places we like. We only need to care and it is my responsibility to get to know you on a deeper level and go beyond our surficial differences, so that we can together prevent hatred and war in the future and among our children and grand children.
Filed under Africa, America, Communication, culture, India, Iran, lessons, life, traditions, War, youth, youth voices