A heartening short video about an Iranian advocate for protecting the Caspian Sea, Hamid Amirebrahimi, talks about the efforts which lead to the Caspian Sea Programme.I've purchased the DVD, it arrived, and I've watched it.
The video was produced by Marcia Franklin, the producer of the hour-length Idaho Public TV documentary From Idaho to Iran, which can be purchased on DVD.
The video is well-worth the purchase, and it should be of interest to students of international development, environment, Iran, women and international relations.
At this time, August 2008, I say the reason people in the United States should see this video is that the United States is considering military action in Iran. In my review of a book by Shirin Ebadi, I conveyed to the blog's readers that she opposed foreign military intervention in Iran, despite her principled and consistent opposition to the Iranian government. More recently, the famous Iranian dissident Ahmad Batebi expressed similar sentiments when asked about U.S. military attack on Iran. Although Ms. Franklin does not explicitly address this issue (the video footage is from 2003), she does advise viewers not to squander the good will many Iranians hold towards Americans. I think this video implicitly endorses the anti-military intervention and covert operations stance of prominent Iranian social activists.
The video interviews and follows people building an active civil society. They face social and legal opposition, and they face the more powerful forces of demographic changes and world economic trends. But the fact that they exist, in my opinion, makes Iran closer to genuine human rights and civil society than U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Ms. Franklin primarily focuses on environmental activists. In addition to the story of Professor Amirebrahimi which first attracted me to the video, there is a wonderful story of a former government minister who has quit his post to be an ecological tour guide. There is another story of an ecologist who lives in an island in the Persian Gulf, patiently documenting the species he observes and encouraging villagers to improve their environment. There is another story of women in Mashhad organizing a recycling program. (I'm guessing this is the correct link. Please correct me if this is not the same organization.)
A U.S. citizen who has lived in Iran and worked as a teacher for over 30 years has attracted scores of devoted students by emphasizing explorations of personal identity and expressions of personal creativity. Another Finnish expatriate lives along the Caspian Sea, swimming in its cold waters every morning. She has organized local duck hunters to watch for an endangered bird species.
These stories should make Americans realize that cooperative engagement would bring about reform in Iran more effectively than "regime change."
As an addendum, I recommend people read "Read and Blue in Iran" by Jonathan Brown, an article which appeared in Islamica magazine. I think that the military interventionists tend to rely too heavily on the informants with whom they are comfortable, and they thus get an incomplete picture of Iran.