Iranian author Iraj Pezeshkzad, who wrote ‘My Uncle Napoleon,’ dies

 Iraj Pezeshkzad. (Supplied)
Iraj Pezeshkzad. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 January 2022

Iranian author Iraj Pezeshkzad, who wrote ‘My Uncle Napoleon,’ dies

 Iraj Pezeshkzad. (Supplied)
  • Iranian state media did not report on Pezeshkzad’s death, though the British ambassador to Iran offered his sympathy

TEHRAN: Iraj Pezeshkzad, an Iranian author whose bestselling comic novel, “My Uncle Napoleon,” lampooned Persian culture’s self-aggrandizing and paranoid behavior as the country entered the modern era, has died. He was 94.
The travails of Uncle Napoleon, whose delusions have him seeing Britain’s hand in the troubles plaguing the waning days of his aristocratic family during World War II, became one of the most-beloved television serials ever in Iran when it aired in 1976.
The fervor of the 1979 Islamic Revolution saw the book banned and the series never aired again on Iranian state television. Pezeshkzad himself would ultimately land in Los Angeles, part of an emigre society of Iranians still there that see the California city jokingly referred to as “Tehrangeles” even today.
Pezeshkzad’s words and turns of phrase from the novel still litter Iranian culture today, including raunchy references to “San Francisco” as an innuendo for sexual liaisons. The same goes for passages about the power of love, as described in one scene by Uncle Napoleon’s long-suffering servant, Mash Ghasem.
“When you don’t see her, it’s like your heart is frozen,” says the servant, portrayed in a softly lit basement scene in the series by famed actor Parviz Fannizadeh. “When you see her, it’s like a bakery oven is lit in your heart.”
Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Davood Mosaei, who published Pezeshkzad’s books, as confirming his death on Wednesday. No cause of death was immediately offered. Foreign-based Farsi-language television channels also reported his death.
Iranian state media did not report on his death, though the British ambassador to Iran offered his sympathy. “My sincere condolences and sadness at the passing of one of Iran’s great literary figures — Iraj Pezeshkzad — whose subtle yet powerful satire is an enduring window onto Iranian culture,” Simon Shercliff wrote on Twitter.
Born in Tehran in the late 1920s, Pezeshkzad came of age at the start of Iran’s Pahlavi dynasty. In “My Uncle Napoleon,” he focuses on an aristocratic family from the Qajar dynasty, which had ruled Persia for over 100 years. Several live in a compound with a vast garden, where the story takes place.
The late essayist Christopher Hitchens once referred to the novel as “a love story unfolded in a bildungsroman and wrapped in a conspiracy theory” — using a $10 word for a coming-of-age tale. The narrator loves Uncle Napoleon’s daughter, his cousin, but ultimately never marries her.
But the story does more to explain the mindset of Iranians, who in a generation found themselves dragged from a nearly feudal, rural lifestyle into the modern era of cityscapes. As Persia formally became Iran, it became the target of world powers.
First, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran in 1941 and deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi, worried about his overtures to Adolf Hitler in Germany. His young son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, took the throne. In 1953, a CIA- and British-backed coup cemented the shah’s power and overthrew the country’s elected prime minister.
But even before the modern era, weaker Persian dynasties found themselves subsumed by powerful foreign powers. That paranoia bleeds into modern Iran, where its theocracy now finds itself targeted in attacks over its accelerating nuclear program but also has the tendency to blame all its woes on conspirators abroad.
“Although the book is not political, it is politically subversive, targeting a certain mentality and attitude,” wrote author Azar Nafisi in 2006.
“Its protagonist is a small-minded and incompetent personality who blames his failures and his own insignificance on an all-powerful entity, thereby making himself significant and indispensable. “In Iran, for example, as Pezeshkzad has mentioned elsewhere, this attitude is not limited to ‘common’ people but is in fact more prevalent among the so-called political and intellectual elite.”
That’s something Pezeshkzad said came even from birth in his family.
“When I was learning to talk, the words that I heard after bread, water, meat and so on were, ‘Yes. it’s the work of the British,” he once told a 2009 BBC documentary.
The publication of “My Uncle Napoleon” came in the early 1970s, as literacy rates raced upward along with global oil prices, fueling the shah’s modernization efforts in the country. The book sold millions of copies and brought about the televised serial of the same name three years later. Iranians remember streets clearing in Tehran as it aired.
Pezeshkzad himself served as a cultural official in the Foreign Ministry under the shah. But soon, he would flee Tehran forever with the arrival of the Islamic Revolution, joining Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris and his National Resistance Movement of Iran. Even the shah would blame the Soviets and British for having a hand in being ultimately pushed from power.
“By the time I wrote this novel, everyone had pretty much realized that British imperialism with all its power and greatness had withered away,” he told the BBC. “However, I had underestimated this phobia and especially after the revolution, I realized it was — and still is — extremely strong.”
He described having people praise him for seeing the British hand everything — the exact opposite of what he tried to say in his novel.
“I felt as if a bucket of cold water had been poured over me,” he added.
He later moved to Los Angeles, where he occasionally lectured at universities. In March 2020, he gave an interview to the tabloid Chelcheragh marking the Persian New Year, in which he described being unable to read or write any longer due to macular degeneration.
He said those he once knew in Tehran all had died with age, but he longed to return home one last time.
“I wish I could come to Iran. Visit my city, my own Tehran,” he said. “How can a person not miss his city?”


Yemeni troops launch campaign against Al-Qaeda

Yemeni troops managed to push Al-qaeda from key cities. (AFP)
Yemeni troops managed to push Al-qaeda from key cities. (AFP)
Updated 03 July 2022

Yemeni troops launch campaign against Al-Qaeda

Yemeni troops managed to push Al-qaeda from key cities. (AFP)
  • Offensive in Abyan governorate aimed at preventing resurgence by terror group

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni special forces have launched an offensive against Al-Qaeda in the southern governorate of Abyan, amid reports that the terrorist group is attempting a comeback.
Elite counterterrorism troops have been deployed in mountains and valleys in Abyan to prevent Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, its branch in Yemen, from turning those areas into safe havens or launch pads for strikes against government troops in the south.
Abdul Rahman Al-Shonini, commander of counterterrorism forces in Abyan, said the campaign was launched after receiving information that AQAP was gathering in remote valleys and mountains to launch attacks against government troops in the south. He vowed to thwart its attempts to resurge in Abyan.

SPEEDREAD

• Elite counterterrorism troops have been deployed in mountains and valleys in Abyan to prevent Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, its branch in Yemen, from turning those areas into safe havens or launch pads for strikes against government troops in the south.

• Last month, local media and residents said masked AQAP terrorists appeared in some valleys and areas in Abyan, ambushing troops and kidnapping residents.

His forces have not encountered any resistance as AQAP terrorists have reportedly fled to their hideouts in mountains between Abyan and Al-Bayda governorate.
Last month, local media and residents said masked AQAP terrorists appeared in some valleys and areas in Abyan, ambushing troops and kidnapping residents.
Local security officials accuse AQAP of orchestrating a string of attacks that killed at least 10 soldiers in Abyan and Shabwa governorate last month.
In 2015, AQAP exploited instability stemming from the war in Yemen to seize large swaths of land in southern governorates, including Hadramout, Abyan and Lahj.
Thanks to military support from the Arab coalition, Yemeni troops managed to push AQAP from key cities, killing and capturing hundreds of terrorists.
Last month, various armed forces in Abyan, including government troops and the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council — which had fought each other in 2019 and 2020 — agreed to form a joint command room to confront AQAP.

 


Lebanon-Israel maritime border dispute returns to the fore

An Israeli navy vessel is pictured off the coast of rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon
An Israeli navy vessel is pictured off the coast of rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon
Updated 03 July 2022

Lebanon-Israel maritime border dispute returns to the fore

An Israeli navy vessel is pictured off the coast of rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon
  • US mediator Amos Hochstein sent a proposal to Lebanon in March on the demarcation starting from Line 23, which was drawn in a zigzag form

BEIRUT: A maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel has returned to the fore following a security development on Saturday night.

Israel’s army spokesman Avichay Adraee said warplanes and an Israeli missile ship had intercepted three drones that approached from Lebanon’s side toward the airspace over Israel’s economic waters.

Hezbollah’s military wing, the Islamic Resistance, confirmed the incident in a statement: “A group affiliated with martyrs Jamil Skaff and Mahdi Yaghi launched three drones of different sizes toward the disputed area, over the Karish gas field, to carry out reconnaissance missions. The mission was accomplished and the message was conveyed.”

Lebanon mostly stayed silent on the development, although caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said there was a possibility of reaching an agreement on the border issue in September and that information from the US and UN showed there was progress in the negotiations.

FASTFACT

Israel’s army spokesman Avichay Adraee said warplanes and an Israeli missile ship had intercepted three drones that approached from Lebanon’s side toward the airspace over Israel’s economic waters.

US mediator Amos Hochstein sent a proposal to Lebanon in March on the demarcation starting from Line 23, which was drawn in a zigzag form.

Lebanon handed him an oral response, which he did not reveal, pending the Israeli response.

Lebanon has been unable to confirm that Line 29 — which includes the Karish gas field — is the maritime border of Lebanon due to the failure of President Michel Aoun to sign a draft amendment to Decree 6433.

It was issued in 2011 and specified that Line 23 was the point for negotiations with Israel to demarcate the maritime borders. However, Aoun considers Line 29 to be the point for negotiations.

Line 29 gives Lebanon an additional area estimated at 1,430 square km while, according to the decree deposited with the UN, Lebanon only gets 860 square km of the disputed area.

Mohammed Yazbeck, Ayatollah Khamenei’s legal representative in Lebanon, said on Sunday: “Lebanon’s preservation of its wealth can only be achieved by informing the enemy that we are strong. The message was delivered by drones. This message is not only for the Israeli enemy but also for the American mediator, to understand that Lebanon’s rights cannot be underestimated or ridiculed.”

Former MP Fares Souaid said: “Hezbollah’s drones over Karish are aimed at reminding all parties that Iran is present in the ongoing negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over border demarcation under American auspices and at the expense of the Lebanese interest.

“The incident confirmed by Hezbollah may take place once again, and more serious incidents may occur. Therefore, we call on the nation’s representatives to raise the issue of Iran’s occupation within Parliament.”

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that Hezbollah constituted an “obstacle” to an agreement between Lebanon and Israel.

“The party continues to walk the path of terrorism and undermines Lebanon’s ability to reach an agreement on the maritime borders.”

He said Israel would continue to protect itself, its citizens, and its interests.

Israel’s army said Hezbollah was trying to undermine the country’s sovereignty on the ground, in the air, and at sea. “The economic waters are part of Israel and are not a conflict zone. No discussion is necessary,” it added.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the drones were flown near the Karish gas field. One was downed by a fighter jet, and the other two were taken out by Barak 8 missiles launched from a missile ship.

It said Hezbollah had sent out different types of drones that flew at low altitudes. They were monitored and intercepted through coordination between the naval and air forces.

The newspaper quoted the Israeli army as saying: “Initial assessments indicated that the drones were not armed and did not pose any threat. This is an attempt to undermine negotiations with Lebanon regarding the maritime border, and Hezbollah wants to destroy Lebanon.”

The report said Hezbollah had previously sent out drones to Israeli territory, but Saturday night’s development was the first time that such an operation had been carried out on the floating gas platform in Karish, where no gas had yet been extracted.

“The incident is a message to Israel that Hezbollah can carry out the threats made by its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in recent weeks. By launching these drones, Hezbollah acted against the Lebanese interest, despite the progress made in the file of demarcating the maritime borders through the efforts of American mediator Amos Hochstein," it said. "What happened not only violates the negotiations but also indicates that Hezbollah violated its position regarding not taking any action without a Lebanese national agreement or consensus.”


Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces
Updated 04 July 2022

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces
  • Protesters are demanding a restoration of civilian rule that was launched after the 2019 which the coup derailed

KHARTOUM: Hundreds of Sudanese protesters demanding an end to military rule took to the streets of the capital Khartoum and its suburbs for a fourth straight day Sunday, witnesses said.
A violent crackdown by security forces during mass rallies on Thursday killed nine people, according to medics, the deadliest day for several months in the long-running protests against a coup last October led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
Recent protests have seen crowds burn tires and barricade roads with bricks, while security forces have used live bullets, fired barrages of tear gas canisters and deployed powerful water cannons, according to medics and the United Nations.
Demonstrators are demanding a restoration of the transition to civilian rule that was launched after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir and which the coup derailed.
“We will continue this sit-in until the coup is overturned, and we have a fully civilian government,” demonstrator Muayyad Mohamed told AFP in central Khartoum.
The death toll from protest-related violence has reached 114 since last year’s coup. The latest fatality came on Saturday when a demonstrator died from wounds sustained at a June 16 rally, according to pro-democracy medics.

“We will not compromise until the goals of our revolution are realized,” said Soha, 25, another protester, who only gave her first name.
“We are here in the street demanding freedom, peace, justice, a civil state and the return of the military to the barracks.”
Last year’s coup plunged Sudan further into political and economic turmoil that has sent consumer prices spiralling and resulted in life-threatening food shortages.
On Sunday, witnesses reported a heavy deployment of security forces on the streets of Khartoum, including army vehicles and those of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a feared paramilitary unit commanded by Burhan’s deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
The RSF incorporated members of the Janjaweed militia, which was accused by rights groups of atrocities during the conflict that erupted in 2003 in the western region of Darfur.
More recently, the RSF has been accused of taking part in crackdowns on protesters marching against military rule.
The international community has condemned the recent bloodshed, with the UN rights chief urging an independent probe into Thursday’s violence.

The UN, African Union and regional bloc IGAD have tried to facilitate dialogue between the generals and civilians, but the main civilian factions have boycotted.
On Friday, the three bodies jointly condemned the violence and “the use of excessive force by security forces and lack of accountability for such actions, despite repeated commitments by authorities.”
Yasser Arman from Sudan’s main civilian bloc the Forces for Freedom and Change on Sunday again expressed opposition to a return to negotiations with the military and its allies.
“The bullets that have cut down protesters have cut down the political process,” he told a press conference, adding, “It’s not us who broke it off.”
In the restive Darfur region, which has seen a recent resurgence in violence, General Daglo — known as Hemeti — on Sunday called “on all political forces, especially the youth,” to come to the table.
“Dialogue is the only way to guarantee stability in our country,” he said at a ceremony where 2,000 ex-rebels completed their training to join Sudanese security forces.
The integration of former fighters into the Sudanese army and police was part of a 2020 peace deal with rebel groups involved in decades of civil conflict, including in Darfur.
The first of its kind, the cohort “will confront the chaos in Darfur,” Daglo said.
Hundreds have been killed in recent months in Darfur, in a renewed spike of violence triggered by disputes mainly over land, livestock and access to water and grazing.


Jordan government blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan government blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
Updated 04 July 2022

Jordan government blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan government blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
  • The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported

AMMAN: The Jordanian government on Sunday blamed a lack of safety measures for the deadly gas leak in Aqaba last week.


A total of 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.

The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported.

Announcing the results of the investigation into the gas leak tragedy, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya said that the reason behind the accident was the incompatibility of the metal wire that carried the gas tank with its weight.

During a press conference on Sunday, Al-Faraya said that the weight of the tank was “three times more than the cable load capacity.”

Al-Faraya also said that the required safety procedures in dealing with such hazardous material were not in place while loading the gas tank on the truck.

The minister said that the safety attendant was not present on the ship to check the loading and unloading protocols and procedures.

Al-Faraya said that the report into the Aqaba gas leak would be referred to the prosecutor-general for further investigation.

Faisal Shboul, minister of state for media affairs, said that the state institutions’ response to the incident was “professional and immediate,” which resulted in the gas leak being contained and the situation being brought under control.

He also commended the “high efficiency” of the health care system in Aqaba, saying that only eight injured in the accident were currently receiving treatment.

Prime Minister Bishr Al-Khasawneh said that, as per the recommendations of the investigation team, the Cabinet had approved the termination of the services of the directors of the Jordan Maritime Commission and the Aqaba Company for Port Operation and Management and other officials.

Chairing a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Khasawneh also blamed the absence of the required safety measures for the gas leak.

In a statement to Arab News, the premier said that the “government’s professional and rapid response to the incident has greatly helped mitigate the disaster and its consequences on the port city and its residents.”

He said that the government had implemented the king’s directives to embark on a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called for those responsible for the deadly gas leak to be held accountable.

Chairing a meeting last Tuesday at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, the king “stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law.”

Following the gas leak tragedy, employees at the port of Aqaba have been staging a sit-in, demanding better safety measures at their work sites and better living conditions.


Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
Updated 03 July 2022

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
  • British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling is on a visit to Manama
  • Bahrain’s minister of finance and national economy affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations

RIYADH: Bahrain’s finance minister has stressed the importance of continuing to develop the partnership between his country and the UK in order to create more ambitious investment opportunities, Bahrain News Agency reported on Sunday.

Minister of Finance and National Economy, Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, also affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations which has strengthened economic cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

The minister also highlighted the importance of building on fruitful cooperation between the two countries and opening up new horizons so as to achieve common aspirations and goals.

The comments were made during the British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling’s visit to Manama.

Milling said she was delighted to visit Bahrain and pleased to meet with British embassy officials to learn more about the “on-going work with the Bahrain government.”