Portrait of a year in Bonn

Crazy to believe. Our one-year anniversary of arriving in Bonn was on Friday. I’m trying to run through a mental list of all of the things that we’ve done, seen, eaten, traveled to, and people we’ve met since we first set foot in Bonn on March 25, 2010. (Reviewing my Twitter posts helps too.)

Departed Oakland. Arrived, bags in hand. First stayed: Hotel Ibis. First dinner: Mediterraneo. Bonn puns. First apartment (danke, Thomas and Couchsurfing!) in the Bonn Altstadt. Cherry blossoms on Heerstrasse. First outdoor beer of the spring. I start jamming with the Rheinbläser. Eislabor. A weekend in Hamburg. Bonn Capitals baseball games. Rheinaue Flohmarkt. Made American, German (and heck, Danish!) friends. Funnybone Club im Kellar.

Started a German “intensivekurs” at IFS. Global Voices in Santiago. World Cup in Bonn (‘Schland!). Spargelzeit. Our first wedding anniversary! Spent a day biking to Koblenz. Started hosting Spectrum!

Biked into the Netherlands just to watch a World Cup game. Fettes Brot show in Cologne. House-sat in Niederdollendorf. Hiking in the Ahrtal. A weekend in Mainz. Road trip to Luxembourg. Said goodbye to some Bonn friends who left for the US, but made new ones.

New (and totally sweet!) Bad Godesberg apartment. Baking bread. Spiel (we met Klaus!) Berlin. Snow. Maastricht. Liège. Brussels. December in France (and more snow). New Year’s in the UK. Flooded Rhine. Bonn Tweetup. Two weeks back in the 510! Karneval! (Alaaf!) Budapest.

What’s next for the rest of 2011?

Bike trip into Belgium with Nate to check out Val-Dieu. Re:publica in Berlin. Alex visits? My book drops! Readings in NYC. Paris, Geneva, Lyon. Rebecca’s book drops! Nena visits! Amsterdam. Croatia via Kosovo to Greece! Brussels, London. Copenhagen? Xmas back in the 510.

Fmr. US State Dept. official in Tehran Henry Precht on WikiLeaks

The following message was sent to the Gulf2000 email list on December 19, 2010 and is re-printed here below with his permission. Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service officer who was country director for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and subsequent hostage crisis. -CF

As I understand it, Wikileaks has captured a huge half of State Department cable reports — the less interesting half. As Frank Rettenberg has written, the really good stuff is sent under captions (EXDIS, NODIS, etc.) that restrict distribution. Each Department principal (assistant secretary and above) will have a flunky whose job it is to winnow the traffic that arrives hourly. Into the burn bag go much of the reporting that Wikileaks is publishing; into it also goes lots of the restricted traffic that provides no special insights. What is left are the relatively few messages that are read by policy-making eyes. The Wikileaks material is destined mainly for desk officers whose knowledge is supposed to be encyclopedic and must constantly be affirmed.

The Wikileaks stuff is generated by political officers whose words are designed to give the flavor and context of life abroad, frequently, but not always, in support of established US positions. (The Department has difficulty coming up with nominees for its dissent awards.) Thus, I imagine an Iran listening post will report on the complaints of dissatisfied Iranians while not considering it news when a regime supporter praises A/N. Not unusually, the reporter may also try to elaborate on the news described and published by journalists, i.e., the accepted wisdom. The most useful reporting is when Washington is taken by surprise by a conversation or observation.

So how did the views of various Gulf royals about Iran slip into the Wikileaks collection? Perhaps a mistake in classification. (That will surely not again be repeated.) Perhaps, the reporting officer did not consider the views as news, having been frequently expressed in cables. Similarly, the unflattering descriptions of various European leaders were probably considered part of the commonly accepted truths appearing in the press — and thus not requiring special (EXDIS) protection.

In my distant day, a certain etiquette was observed in references to favored foreign leaders. I don’t recall ever reading a rude word about the leadership of Israel, or Sadat or the early Mubarak, or the Shah. Fear of leaks? Or the bended knee syndrome? Whatever the reason there was every inclination to protect friends and to avoid open discussion of our differences with them. Once an economic officer in Embassy Tehran, completing a four-year tour, wrote a detailed memo describing corruption in high places. Only two copies were made and they were closely guarded. Perhaps the occupiers of the Embassy have published it. Generally, speaking they did a much more comprehensive job a (if selective on certain subjects) of exposing official communications to the daylight.

Unhappily, the sheer volume of Wikileaks material will weigh heavily on US diplomacy for years to come. Foreigners will be less forthcoming with our officers; the reports produced by those officers will be more restricted in circulation. It will be harder to conduct our business under those conditions.

Henry Precht
Bethesda, Maryland

Iranian blogging pioneer temporarily released from prison

I just filed this latest update to the ongoing Hoder saga.

Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan was temporarily released from a Tehran prison, after having been incarcerated for 26 months, according to a report Thursday on Mashregh News, a conservative Iranian news website.

The site was among the first to report Derakhshan’s conviction at the end of September on charges of “conspiring with hostile governments, disseminating anti-Islamic propaganda, disseminating anti-revolutionary propaganda, blasphemy, and operating and managing obscene pornography websites.”

The account was confirmed by a source close to the Derakhshan family, who wished to remain anonymous and said Derakhshan was “happy to be out,” adding “we have been pushing for this for months, especially after his trial, but it has always been refused.”

The same source also told Deutsche Welle that Derakhshan “will be out for a couple of days only,” and that the family had put up $1.5 million (1.3 million euros) worth of bail to ensure Derakhshan returns to prison when demanded by authorities.

More here.

Joint French-Canadian statement in support of Hossein Derakhshan

Joint Declaration by Canada and France

(No. 341 – October 20, 2010 – 1:15 p.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, and Bernard Kouchner (pictured), Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France, made the following statement today concerning Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who is detained in Iran. Mr. Derakhshan is a Canadian citizen and his companion is a French national.

“We are jointly requesting that the Iranian authorities release Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who may have been condemned by a lower court to 19.5 years in prison.

“The governments of Canada and France are very concerned that Hossein Derakhshan continues to be detained in solitary confinement in Iran, in violation of fundamental rights. His case, which constitutes an affront to freedom of expression and information, is a priority for both our governments.

“We are also asking Iran to recognize Mr. Derakhshan’s dual citizenship, in particular by guaranteeing consular access, in accordance with the Vienna conventions.”

Canadian FM Lawrence Cannon on Hossein Derakhshan’s jail sentence

I emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa and received this statement back from Melissa Lantsman, on behalf of Canada’s Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon.

“We are deeply concerned about the news of this severe sentence. Our officials continue to seek confirmation of these reports from Tehran.

If true, this is completely unacceptable and unjustifiable. Canada believes that no one should be punished anywhere for simply exercising one’s inherent right to freedom of expression.

His situation is complicated by his dual nationality which is not recognized by the Iranian authorities. Iran must release him and other dual-nationals who have been unjustly detained.

Since learning of Hossein Derakhshan’s arrest in November 2008, Canadian government officials have been in contact with Iranian authorities, including by diplomatic note and through high level meetings, to seek consular access.

We will continue to press the Iranian authorities on Mr. Derakhshan’s behalf and urge Iran to fully respect all of its human rights obligations, both in law and in practice”.

Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Hossein Derakhshan sentenced to 19.5 years in prison

A conservative Persian news website, Mashregh News, is reporting that Iranian-Canadian blogging pioneer Hossein Derakhshan has been found guilty of “conspiring with hostile governments, disseminating anti-Islamic propaganda, disseminating anti-revolutionary propaganda, blasphemy, annd operating and managing obscene pornography websites.”

He is ordered to serve 19.5 years in prison, is banned for five years from joining any Iranian political party and is required to pay €30,750, $2,900 and 200 British pounds. The article also states that the sentence can be appealed.

Upon seeing this link, I sent it over to my Derakhshan family contact, who confirmed this information.

More info coming soon as this story develops. I will contact the Canadian authorities to see if they have any further information.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë speaks out for Hossein Derakhshan

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, released a statement (in French) today in support of Hossein Derakhshan. I have translated it below to the best of my ability.


I have learned with dismay and the utmost concern that the death penalty was requested, Wednesday, September 22, by the prosecutor of Tehran, at the trial of the young blogger, Hossein Derakhshan.

He is a high cultural figure and is a figure for freedom of expression in an also-threatened Iran. Hossein Derakhshan’s blog, written in both Persian and English, is one of the world’s most visited sites that express the voice of a free Iran.

Hossein Derakhshan is a man of peace, which was especially shown during his two trips to Israel, and because of his texts “contributing to a rapprochement between Tel-Aviv and Tehran,” — this is why today he is in danger.

He is also a man of great culture, openness and dialogue. And he is a friend of France and Paris. As someone fascinated by the philosophical works of Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze, he is linked to our city and its new generation of entrepeneurs and creators.

In the name of Paris, I solemnly call upon the judicial authorities of Tehran to not condemn Hossein Derakhshan to death. And I invite the mobilization of all of our energies to save this honorable, courageous and dignified life.


نامه شهردار پاریس، برتران دولانوه، در حمایت از آزادی حسین درخشان

من با بهت وحیرت و نگرانی فراوان دریافتم که در تاریخ چهارشنبه ۲۲ سپتامبر از سوی دادستان تهران مجازات اعدام برای وبلاگ نویس جوان، حسین درخشان درخواست شده است

با این عمل چهرهٔ والای فرهنگ و آزادی بیان در ایران است که تهدید شده است. وبلاگ حسین درخشان، نوشته شده به زبان فارسی و انگلیسی، یکی ازپرخواننده ترین سایت های جهان است که به بیان نوای ایران آزاد می پردازد حسین درخشان انسانی طالب صلح است. او اکنون به خصوص به خاطر دو سفرش به اسراییل و نوشته هایش “برای کمک به ایجاد روابط حسنه میان تهران و تل آویو”، دربند میباشد

او همچنین ، انسانی با فرهنگ، دارای اندیشه ای باز و طالب گفتگوست. از دوستان فرانسه و پاریس محسوب میشود، شیفتهُ کارهای فلاسفه ای چون فوکو، دریدا و دلوز، و با شهر ما و نسل جدید کارآفرینان و طراحانش بسیار مأنوس میباشد

من از طرف شهر پاریس از مقامات قضایی تهران درخواست دارم که از حسین درخشان رفع اتهام کنند و از همه دعوت میکنم که برای نجات این زندگی پر افتخار، شجاع و پرعزت به تلاش در آیند

Translation/Copyright: Forgani.com