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talk iran

Author: Saman Askari

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This is an independent, non-partisan podcast for discussing Iran-related topics, hosted by Saman Askari, an Iranian-American professional from the San Francisco Bay Area.
25 Episodes
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In this episode, I speak again with a previous guest, Dr. Amir Afkhami, a health policy expert, historian and trained physician. This episode is all about COVID-19! Early in the episode, we discuss the nature of this coronavirus and how it affects the body. Then, we get into the subject of Iran and how the country became one of the epicenters of the disease, its government’s response, the historical parallels with Iran’s past health crises, why the city of Qom was where the virus got its foothold in Iran, the role of religion, reported versus actual numbers of infections, testing failures, the role of US sanctions in Iran’s ability to fight the pandemic, if the curve has flattened in Iran, the effect of the pandemic on geopolitics and Iran’s internal politics, the balancing act between the economic and health impacts of the crisis, achieving herd immunity quickly versus flattening the curve, the psychological impact of being quarantined and many other topics. 
In this episode, I speak with Afshon Ostovar, a historian, author and a foremost expert on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Afshon and I cover a lot of ground. We start by talking about the historical context around the IRGC, when and how it was started, its role in the Iran-Iraq war, how the organization evolved through the years, how it is different than Iran’s regular military, its Quds Force and the Islamic Republic’s foreign involvements, where Qasem Soleimani fit into the picture, his relationships with various Shia militia groups and other groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the mythology surrounding Soleimani and his role in ISIS’s rise and fall. We also discuss the recent events surrounding Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, the legality of and the logic behind the killing, the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner and its implications on the survival of the Islamic Republic as a system, whether the system would have been strengthened as a result of Soleimani’s killing if the downing of the jetliner hadn’t happened, protests in Iran and their frequency, the possibility of an all-out collapse of the Islamic Republic and other topics. 
In this episode, I speak with Naz Deravian, a cookbook author and Persian food expert. Naz and I discuss her background, her transition into the culinary world, the magic of tahdig and Iranian rice, regional varieties and diversity of Iranian cuisine, spiciness of Persian food or rather the lack thereof and of course kabab! As a warning, you’re going to get really really hungry if you already aren’t!
In this episode, I speak with Amir Akhami, a psychiatrist and a historian of medicine, about the history of cholera in Iran. We talk about his multi-disciplinary career and how his various areas of knowledge converge in his work. We discuss what Cholera is, its history starting in the 19th century and its role in the history of Iran in particular, from a medical, social and political perspective. He takes us through a historical journey all the way from the Qajar era to today’s Iran and its current public health challenges. We touch a lot of different subjects such the role of global trade, imperialism, the role of religion, history of medicine and many other topics. 
In this episode, I speak with Narges Bajoghli, an award-winning anthropologist, filmmaker, writer and an Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. We mostly talk about the topics in her upcoming book titled 'Iran Reframed,' which is about the state-controlled media in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We discuss what it means to be pro-regime in Iran and the debates around the future of the Islamic Republic taking place in that country. We also discuss the prospects of war between Iran and the US and many other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, a historian and a Senior Lecturer at King's College London. We talk about what he calls 'dislocative nationalism', a sort of Iranian nationalism that was deliberately devised and disseminated, starting in the 19th century. He outlines the founding of dislocative nationalism and how it aimed to cast Iran’s pre-Islamic period as the nation’s golden age, interpreting Islam as an alien religion. He explains the otherization of Arabs in Iran and how the country was dislodged from its empirical reality and tied to Europe and the Aryan race by transforming and using European racial ideas of the time. 
End of Season 1 Update

End of Season 1 Update

2019-03-0901:17

I'm ending Season 1 of talk iran with this short update episode. Stay tuned for Season 2 starting in April!
In this episode, I speak with Lior Sternfeld, a social historian of the modern Middle East with a particular interest in the histories of the Jewish populations of the region. Lior and I talk about the 2,700-year history of the Iranian Jewish population focusing mostly on the 20th century and the misperceptions of the lives of Jews in Iran. We further talk about how Iranian Jews became a prominent community within Iran during the course of the 20th century, whether Iranian Jews identify primarily as Jewish or Iranian, the difference between the Jewish communities of Iran and of other Middle Eastern countries, the status of Jews under the Islamic Republic, the Iranian Jewish community in Israel and the United States and other related topics.
In this episode, I speak with Bahman Kalbasi, the New York and United Nations Correspondent for BBC Persian. He and I talk about the recent US sanctions against Iran and the reports of related shortages in food and medicine coming out of that country, how the tension between the US and Iran may unfold, the various Iranian opposition movements in exile and whether they have mobilizing potential, the Jamal Khashoggi murder and its implications on the geopolitics of the Middle East, the US midterm elections and how the Democrats’ newfound power affects US foreign and domestic policies, the various Persian-language channels based in the UK and their sources of funding, the recent high-profile departures at BBC Persian, his interviews with high-profile American politicians and other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Florida State Representative Anna V. Eskamani, the first ever Iranian-American to be elected to the Florida legislature and one of only a handful of Iranian-Americans to ever be elected to public office in the US. She and I talk about her historic win, her family background and why she decided to run, why Iranian-Americans have shied away from running for public office in the US, national politics and President Trump, her platform and how she plans to achieve her objectives as a State Representative, her future plans and other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Yara Elmjouie, an Iranian-American video producer and presenter at AJ+. He and I talk about his time in Iran as a freelance journalist, his background and how he became a video producer, the video making process, Iranian politics and the sanctions, the Iranian-American identity and whether to identify as Persian or Iranian and many other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Armin Navabi, an Iranian-Canadian ex-Muslim atheist, secular activist, author and podcaster. Armin and I talk about his experience as a child growing up in Iran and becoming indoctrinated in the Shia Muslim faith, a fateful suicide attempt, how he left religion and started the Atheist Republic online community, the operations of Atheist Republic, atheism and anti-Islamic sentiment in Iran, the government of Iran, the various Iranian opposition groups, what would happen to Islamists in a democratic Iran, his book, the difference between his criticism of Islam and the right-wing xenophobic criticisms, the need for spirituality and a sense of community in people’s lives and other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Dr. Eskandar Sadeghi, a political and intellectual historian of modern Iran and the Middle East. My conversation with him mostly revolves around Iran’s post-revolutionary reform movement. We further discuss the ascent of Ayatollah Khamenei to become Iran’s Supreme Leader after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the obstacles to reform within the Iranian system, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the 2009 Green Movement, current events and Donald Trump’s maximum pressure policy towards Iran, the various opposition groups in exile and other topics. 
In this episode, I speak with Maral Karimi, the author of the book 'The Iranian Green Movement of 2009' and a PhD student at the University of Toronto. Besides the green movement and the concepts in her book, Maral and I discuss the overall state of the reform movement in Iran, the alternatives to reform, how the recent protests in that country compare to the 2009 protests, the various opposition groups in exile and other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Neda Maghbouleh, the author of the 2017 book 'The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race' and an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. She and I talk about her background, race within the Iranian and the Iranian-American contexts, the Aryan myth as it exists among Iranians, the history of racial classification in the US, the importance of racial classification or lack thereof, the definition of whiteness, the research that’s currently being done on these subjects and other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Ervand Abrahamian, a world-renowned author and historian of Iran. We start our conversation talking about the reasons for the success of the clerical establishment in bringing about the Islamic revolution of 1979, and we also talk about the Persian identity versus the Shia identity, the similarities between Zoroastrianism and Shiism, the failure of democracy in Iran, foreign interference in Iranian affairs, the perseverance of the Islamic Republic in the face of various challenges, and finally current events and the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy towards Iran.
In this episode, I speak with Trita Parsi, an award-winning author and the founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Trita and I talk about the founding of NIAC, his and NIAC’s involvement in the the Iran Nuclear Deal, the various pitfalls of the Deal and Trump’s withdrawal, whether the only alternative to diplomacy is war, the current challenges facing Iranian society, his thoughts on the Iranian reform movement, Reza Pahlavi, the geopolitics of the Middle East and potential future scenarios for Iran and the region, and finally why he recently left NIAC as its president and what lies ahead for him.
In this episode, I speak with Anousheh Ansari, the first ever person of Iranian descent to travel to space and the first female self-funded space traveler of any nationality. Anousheh and I talk about her spaceflight experience, her background and how her Iranian identity has affected her life, the controversy around having an Iranian flag on her spacesuit, the overview effect and the epiphanies she had looking down on planet earth from space, the future of space travel, her take on the current political situation in Iran and other topics.
In this episode, I speak with Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American journalist and author. Hooman and I talk about the current level of support the Islamic Republic has inside Iran, the Iranian revolution and the current struggles of the Iranian people, democracy and secularism within the Iranian context, the role of the US and the Iranian diaspora in regards to Iran, the criticism he has received because of his connections to the Islamic Republic and other topics. 
In this episode, I speak with Vahid Yücesoy, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Montreal. Vahid and I talk about his background, how he became disillusioned with the Iranian reform movement, the intentions and the role of the US in regards to Iran, Reza Pahlavi, the validity and the results of various polls conducted in Iran, the divisions amongst Iranians on social media and other topics.
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