Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who cares about Iran?

Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia this week. This week is the world leaders forum, when Columbia tries to net visiting dignitaries while they were in New York. They tried to get Ahmadinejad last year, but he confirmed too late and they couldn't set up the security. Well they got him this year. The whole event was a huge controversy as Ahmadinejad is fond of making comment, no international conferences dedicated to, thing like the holocaust not having happened (oh sorry, "needing more research"). Loads of protests (from both sides of the political spectrum). Anyway, after weeks of defending inviting Ahmadinejad and his right to free speech, Columbia's president introduced him as a "petty and cruel dictator." Ahmadinejad didn't quite agree and went on to make some choice remarks about their being no homosexuals in Iran (hint: there are).

The whole event got a lot of media coverage and Bollinger was mentioned on the cover of every paper I saw the next day. The whole event has also greatly boosted Bollinger's popularity, who to my knowledge has never been popular among either students or faculty. Eh. Not quite sure how I feel about the whole event. It certainly was not particularly nice to invite Ahmadinejad and then insult him before speaking. I think more than anything I don't really see the point. Ahmadinejad has some fairly cracked out views about Jews, homosexuals, women, well most topics really (my favorite involves his days as Mayor of Tehran when he had billboards of David Beckham shaving banned and encouraged/required people to grow beards), but there are also a lot of people in Iran that agree with his crazy positions. Perhaps it is worth challenging him on those positions, but it won't change his stances, it only makes the Americans who probably would not like any Iranian president feel like he got what he deserved. Also, and I am no expert on Iranian politics, it seems to me that the President of Iran does not have anywhere near as much power as we give him credit for. There is a whole conservative layer of government above the president (let us not forget the ayatollah). Still the more sensationalist American newspapers had a field day with the whole thing playing on some populist issues, which is rather ironic as Ahmadinejad has always been a pretty populist Iran.

Also the new president of Turkmenistan came to visit. Nobody asked him about what he will do with golden statues of Turkmenistan's last dictator or with all of things he renamed after family members an inanimate objects he was fond of (including his autobiography which I am pretty sure has its own month, but at the very least is what the test for university admission is based on).

Also he can't smile.

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