Is the US already at war with Iran?

Support to fractions at war in a country where a third country has a political, or economical interest is not new. We have seen it throughout the Cold War, we witnessed it in Afghanistan and Iraq throughout the past decennia. We have seen it in South and Central America. We still see it in Africa every day: support coming from Europe, China and more often than not, from the US makes its way through different channels and ends up with "proxies", military opposition fractions as if those were "fighting a war on behalf of"...

This video questions in how far the US is already engaging in a war with Iran, through its proxies, operating out of Iraq's Kurdish region, at the Iran/Iraq/Turkey border.

Video courtesy

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Getting started as an aid worker - A positive story

Stefano Sale, an aidworker in Colombia

I get A LOT of Emails from people who would like to start as an aid worker and find it difficult to get into the humanitarian world.
While I condensed my advice in this post, many ask for specific tips, or "what would you do if you were in my situation?"...

Back in January, I got this request from Stefano, via The Road's discussion forum:

(...)I have been an Italian expat for nearly 20 years. I moved to the UK with no English at all, ended up with a BA degree in European Studies. After 11 years in the UK I moved to Ireland in 2002. Between the UK, Italy and Ireland, I have been working primarily in the air transport sector and I was able to travel around the world extensively and learn many things.

Finally in 2005 I eventually decided to change career for something I was passionate about. Humanitarian Aid. So, I went to study for the Masters degree in Humanitarian Action at University College Dublin. With my own finances, I went to Fiji and Cook Islands and finished my research thesis in Disaster Risk Reduction, Preparedness and Mitigation in the Pacific.

Sadly, I found no jobs afterwards, so I decided to volunteer and managed to spend 6 months in remote areas between India and Nepal doing an evaluation on the development work of 21 educational institutions.

On my return to Ireland, I started doing some teaching in Development Studies in schools and a few sessions at Universities in International Development. But that was it. Soon afterwards, I was recruited by Irish Aid to be on the Rapid Response Team (Surge Capacity) register for UN OCHA and WFP as Humanitarian Affairs Officer and Logistics, respectively.

Got fully trained by the UN in policy and practice, field security, vehicle handling, GPS, Compass etc. After a year on the roster I was put forward for a few jobs with OCHA and WFP in various locations but I was not successful in either occasions. The UN and many agencies out there require a fair bit of experience, let's say a minimum of 5 years in the field. So, I fear I will be on stand-by for many more years..

Anyhow, all I wanted to say here is that my expectations were quite different. And It's not just a money issue, I thought that a professional qualification in the field would have made a slight difference, but it did not. It was great to acquire lots of skills and knowledge in the area but It's the experience that counts. And with no experience you will not get the chance to gain experience, Catch 22 situation ?

I gave my piece of advice, but then did not hear from Stefano until a few weeks back:
I am just writing a short note to say thank you for your advice.

I am pleased to say I made some good progress since we last heard from each other. In April I was taken on board with OCHA and posted to Colombia to run all field office ops in one of the most problematic regions at the very border with Venezuela. Since I am practically doing everything here, work is very challenging and rewarding. I work very closely with all other UN agencies, of course, especially WFP with whom I go joint missions as well.

I asked Stefano to sum up his experiences and advice for other people who would like to get started as an aidworker. Here is what he wrote:
The work of humanitarian assistance has changed its face over the last 20 years or so. The new global development agenda and an increased number of complex humanitarian emergencies have prompted the need to professionalize the aid sector. Over the last few years, there has been an increased demand for qualified people with the ability to manage humanitarian and development programmes. Many colleges and universities around the world are now offering postgraduate courses in humanitarian assistance and development studies. With agencies working globally and the increased diverse needs in humanitarian work means technical people are also sought from other sectors.

Skilled people like engineers, IT, logisticians, accountants, nutritionists and doctors are also in demand. With the advent of the private sector in development programmes, it also means that aid work can virtually be suitable for anyone coming from different walks of life.

However, there are certain issues one ought to take into account. Like any other sector or industry, it is often very difficult to get your foot in the door. To get your foot in the door requires good preparation, self-motivation and a lot of persistence. However, speaking from personal experience, even that sometimes it's not enough. As some people say, you also need to be at the right place, at the right time. Basically, you need a fair bit of luck as well. But luck does not come along by itself, you need to look for that. Just imagine aid work as a big family on a rollercoaster. Your aim must be joining the family on that rollercoaster.

How you do that?

For start ups, inexperienced or wannabes, voluntary work is the best start. Or an internship if you are at college. For those with some ground work done, the secret is networking. Attend meetings, conferences, seminars, make yourself known. Apply for jobs and follow up. Agencies receive tons of CV's and most of them end up in the bin. Only a few get an interview. Often only one gets the job.

Last but not least, aid work can be very rewarding but is hard work, too. You must be very passionate about it or can easily end up in misery. You must have natural interpersonal skills and the ability to adapt to intensely challenging situations and withstand emotional strain.

And passionate he is. I can hear that in what he wrote about his work in Colombia:
After just 2 months I have realised Colombia is one of the largest and most complicated humanitarian emergencies around the world but with no media coverage whatsoever. That's why I have recently decided to start a blog about it. It's about giving some kind of visibility on the long standing humanitarian situation, whereas Colombia only gets news on guerrilla and narcotraffic.
Also, the blog intends to give some ideas about life in Colombia which is very far away from what most people think around the world.

Coming from Ostia (just outside Rome) I was definitely surprised to see many places here are far more modern and organised than the place I come from. Life in urban areas is more normal than we think, living standards are quite high for many (yes, thanks to illicit dealings, too). Yet, life in rural areas is very different, indeed.

Briefly, the current scenario has seen a number of actors such as the Army, paramilitaries, guerrillas and politicians engulfed in a situation that has led to mass displacements, forced confinements and extra judicial killings, not to mention other socio-economic-environmental factors that are affecting the population. Alike us foreigners, even ordinary Colombians know very little about the real situation here since the Colombian government and national media also pretty much ignore whats going on.

Finally, I also believe Colombia does not get the headlines because there aren't any IDP or refugee camps like in Rwanda or DRC. People might have ended up everywhere but the number of people displaced, killed or disappeared are around 4 million!

And to top it off, he also started his own blog, Forgotten Colombia.

Hat off, Stefano, and keep on going. We wish you a safe stay in Colombia. One day, our roads will cross.

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Neda - the revolution has a face

Neda Agha Soltan - the face of the Iran protests

A young woman, Neda Agha Soltan, was shot dead during a protest in Tehran. She was not participating in the protests, but got stuck in a traffic jam close by. Many now see her as a symbol for people protesting against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president. (Full)

Neda's death was caught on a mobile phone camera, and published on YouTube. I include the link here, but do not want to embed the video, nor could I watch it all the way through. The reality and cruelty of this video is shocking and images are extreme, so beware...

The video was posted by the doctor who rushed in to assist her. This is what he wrote:

Basij shot to death a young woman in Tehran on Saturday June 20th protests at 19:05 June 20th
Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st.
A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim's chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me. Please let the world know.

Heavenly Yours published the transcript of an interview with Neda's fiancee, which gives some background on the incident and Neda as a person. Check also this extensively documented Wiki page about Neda.
Later on, Dr Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save her, gave this interview on BBC.

When I read this text, see the picture and the first seconds of the video, the only thing I can think of is my own two girls...

It pisses me off beyond belief that dirty politics result in people to die. People who just want to live their life, and smile. I have seen it first hand where I worked. Angola, Zimbabwe, DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, etc etc etc etc etc... It is always someone's daughter or son who dies.

How often rather than not, had those who died nothing to do with the conflict? How many civilians have died in Palestine? In Afghanistan? Kashmir? Darfur? Somalia? Be it killed by a stray bullet, a bomb from a plane 30,000 feet up, a machete or a guy who thinks it is a good idea to blow himself up, and taking out as many others as possible...

When will politics go beyond this and say: "This is not right." How can these people sleep at night? It is beyond me. It really is. And that is why it is important to stand up, even as individuals and say "This is not right!".

If you are a blogger, cease the opportunity to speak up, and say 'This is not right'. Join Bloggers Unite for a Free Iran, and publish a post on Monday June 29th about the situation in Iran.
Bloggers Unite for a Free Iran

More on The Road about Iran.

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A practical tool for humanitarian workers

All In Dairy, a resource for aidworkersAll In Dairy, an online resource for humanitarian field workers, aims at improving the quality and appropriateness of relief work. They cover sections on humanitarian principles, disaster preparedness and response, how to start projects, working with communities, managing people.

They just published a PDF version of their "manual", which looks like an excellent introduction to humanitarian work as a whole, and not just a reference guide for aid workers.

It reminds me of the fact that few humanitarian organisations offer induction courses for new aid and development workers. How often does it not happen people are recruited and after a two hours brief at HQ, are sent off to the field, without even the basic information? How far does that not lower the effectiveness of aid and development?

I think I was lucky. I started as an aidworker back in 1994 through the International Red Cross (IFRC to be exact). Before they even hired me, I had to follow a one week induction course with all other candidates for international missions (together with candidates from ICRC). The week covered the basic foundations of aid and humanitarian work, the principles of neutrality and impartiality, staff safety, how the organisation worked and an introduction into ALL aspects of the technical work: water and sanitation, working with refugees, organising a camp, finance and procurement rules, communications, press relations etc..
After that one week, candidates were re-interviewed and either accepted for missions, or rejected.

Since then I worked for several other humanitarian organisations, but never got another induction course.

In my opinion, induction courses are a must, and this manual should have a place in it.

I have updated my reference post How to become an aidworker? with this new find.

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Sea shells on the sea shore.

I can see the sun shining between the sea shells shuffling on the sea shore. (x20)

PS: can't wait until good quality pictures and video can be taken from a mobile phone... Nokia surely is not good at it.

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Burger King: Food or Sex?

Singapore Burger King ad sexually inspired

Seems everything is sold through sex these days. This Singapore Burger King ad promises "the Super Seven Incher" will "blow your mind away".

The smaller text reads:

Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled with the NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER. Yearn for more after you taste the mind-blowing burger that comes with a single beef patty, topped with American cheese, crispy onions and the A1 Thick and Hearty Steak Sauce.

Did they forget to add: "Don't squeeze it too hard or the mayo will run off your hands"?...

Discovered via Global Voices Online

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We just got our 300,000th visitor!

300,000th visitor on this blog

Bring out the champagne! We just got our 300,000th visitor on The Road. Who would have thought this, when I posted my first blogpost 30 months ago, on January 11, 2007!

The only thing I wanted to do was to post my short stories I had written in the previous years?!?!...

As time went by, our readers' flotilla grew to 15,000 visitors per month.

300,000th visitor on this blog

Thank you all for your support over the years. We'll keep on walking the road....

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A telephone call from Tehran

How long will the regime be able to keep this up?

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And yet more Iran election cartoons

The Iran elections seems to be a big hit in the world of cartoons.

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

More Iran election cartoons on The Road.

Cartoons courtesy Vic Harville, Toles, Taylor Jones (El Nuevo Dia), Steve Benson (Arizona Republic), Robert Ariail (The State), Peter Pismestrovic (Kleine Zeitung), Ole Johansson, Oliver Schopf (Der Standard), Nate Beeler (Washington Examiner), Morland (Times), Mike Luckovich (The Atlanta Journal), John Darkow (Columbia Daily Tribune), Jimmy Margulies (The Record), All Voices, Fritz-Simmons (Arizona Daily Star), The Times, Bob Englehart (The Hartfort Courant), Bill Day (The Commercial Appeal),

Some discovered via Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoonists Index

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More Iran election cartoons

Iran election cartoon

Iran election cartoon

Iran election cartoon

More Iran Election cartoons.
Check also Iran Twitter cartoons on The Road.

Cartoons courtesy Boston Global (Danziger) and Parool (Joep Bertrams)

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Twitter versus #iranelection - the cartoons

The buzz about the role of social media in Iran inspired a series of cartoons:

cartoon twitter Iran elections

cartoon twitter Iran elections

cartoon twitter Iran elections

cartoon twitter Iran elections

cartoon twitter Iran elections

cartoon twitter Iran elections

cartoon twitter Iran elections

Here is an other cartoon about Iran and social media.
View more Iran Election cartoons on The Road.

Cartoons courtesy Boston Globe (Mike Luckovich, Walt Handelsman, Wasserman, Matt Davies, Danzinger), John Cole, Alf Miron

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Google: the new Microsoft?

Wordpress versus Google

I am writing quite a bit for BlogTips, my new blog about "Blogging for Non-Profit", where I share some of my past 30 months of blogging experiences.

I am now working on a post helping non-profit organisations decide what blog software to choose.

When I started The Road over two years ago, I compared Wordpress and Blogger, and found them pretty equal in user interface, functionality, features. I choose for Blogger, because of its flexibility. But that was then...

I re-looked at both when starting BlogTips and was taken by the progress Wordpress made over the past two years. Blogger, on the contrary, just did not evolve. A few features were added, but that's it. Wordpress was overhauled several times, and a ton of new features, plug-ins and themes were added. Wordpress' user interface now stands head and shoulder above Blogger's clumsy stuff.

It made me think... I use Google affiliated software (Blogger, Google Apps, Picasa, Feedburner,...) a lot. They all have one thing in common: no technical support (all support is concentrated in user forums), and little effort is made to have the software evolve. (here is ProBlogger complaining about Feedburner)

It feels like "What you see is what you get", nothing more, nothing less. The only thing they are interested in, is content. Could not care less about their users.

Makes me wonder if Google has become the new Microsoft?

Picture courtesy HubPages

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Picture of the day: On the move

Funny China

Found on Oddee, who has loads of them.

More Pictures of the Day on The Road

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Quiz: 5 questions on the economic status of women

women in Bangladesh

How many of the following key questions can you answer?

1. Which country has the most professionally employed women?

Belarus, where of the whole work force, 56% are women. Followed by Ukraine (55.1%), Moldova (54.6%), Tajikistan (53.3%) and Latvia (53.2%). The UK comes on the 19th place (49.4%), the US on 27th place (48.5%).
At the bottom, we find Niger, Pakistan, Bahrain, Malawi, Chad, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Note: We only considered paid employment, and excluded the agricultural sector.

2. In which country do we find the most female legislators, senior officials and managers?
In the Philippines, where 58% of the professional 'cadre' are women. Followed by... Tanzania (49%), Ukraine (43%) and Latvia, Lithuania and the US, all at 42%. The UK stands at 24th place.
This means the Philippines is the only country in the world with more women as senior professionals than men.

3. Where do women earn the highest wages?
In Luxembourg, where female professionals in average earn US$45,938 per year. However, in Luxembourg men earn in average US$94,696 per year, more than double...

On #2 we find Norway (US$33,034), then the US (US$30,581), Iceland (US$27,496) and Denmark (US$27,048).
The UK comes on the 12th place (US$24,448).
At the bottom, we find Sierra Leone, Yemen, DRC, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi and Eritrea.

4. Which country has the smallest difference between the income for men and women?
There is not one single country where the average income of women is higher than for men.
The best balanced (or least of the worse) is Kenya, where women's income is 17% lower than men's. Runner-ups are Mozambique and Sweden (19% lower), Burundi (22%) and Norway (25%).
The UK is on the 29th place (35% lower).
You have to look way down to find the US, by the way: 46th place where the income of women is 38% less than for men.

5. In which country are women the largest workforce?
The figures we're looking at are "The share of the female population ages 15 and older who supply, or are available to supply, labour for the production of goods and services". This figure (in contrary to question number 1) includes non-paid labour, but EXcludes household work.
Are you ready? Here we go....

In Burundi 91.8% of the production workforce are women. Close runner ups are Tanzania (86%), Malawi (85.2%), Mozambique (84.7%) and Rwanda (80.4%).
In the US, 59.6% of the production work force are female, and in the UK 55%. Down at the bottom, you have OPT (Palestine) with 10.3%, Saudi Arabia (17.3%)and Egypt (20.1%). Again, that EXCLUDES household work... If we included it, the figures would have been worse!

So.. what's your score?

More on The Road about emancipation, discrimination,and women.

Source: OECD - organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, discovered via WikiGender - a site with a weath of information on gender issues.

Picture courtesy Shehzad Noorani (WFP)

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The story of Iran - Part III

In view of the recent happenings in Iran, here is the third series of BBC videos on the history of Iran's political relationship with the West.

This series of videos is a BBC documentary the marking the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Inside stories are told by two ex-presidents of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, by two founders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and by leading westerners including Secretaries of State George Shultz, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright..

Iran and the West - Part I:

Here is the rest of the documentary:
Iran and the West - Part II
Iran and the West - Part III
Iran and the West - Part IV
Iran and the West - Part V
Iran and the West - Part VI

The war in Afghanistan, the invastion of Iraq and the mixture of the Western press and politics. Enjoy...

Videos posted by Ali Sanaei

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The story of Iran - Part II

In view of the recent happenings in Iran, here is the second series of BBC videos on the history of Iran's political relationship with the West.

This series of videos is a BBC documentary showing how militant Islam enjoyed its first modern triumph through Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran in 1979.

The Man Who Changed the World - Part I:

Here is the rest of the documentary:
The Man Who Changed the World - Part II
The Man Who Changed the World - Part III
The Man Who Changed the World - Part IV
The Man Who Changed the World - Part V
The Man Who Changed the World - Part VI

Looking at these video, I am thinking how politics rule the world, with all the rest secondary to this game of chess.

Videos posted by Ali Sanaei

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The story of Iran - Part I

In view of the recent happenings in Iran, here is a series of BBC videos on the history of Iran's political relationship with the West.

The first series of videos is a BBC documentary in which writer and journalist Christopher de Bellaigue explores the history of Britain's relations with Iran. From the times where the Brits used Iran as a buffer state protecting "their" India up to the present.

Part I:

Here is the rest of the documentary:
Iran and Britain - Part II
Iran and Britain - Part III
Iran and Britain - Part IV
Iran and Britain - Part V
Iran and Britain - Part VI

I don't have to remind you that these videos are made by a Western broadcaster, giving the views from the West. But still interesting viewing.

Videos posted by Ali Sanaei, discovered via Global Dashboard

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Views from Tuscany

Let me tell you again. I LOVE to live in Italy. You drive for twenty minutes and discover a new treasure. This country has more sea shore than any other European country, it has mountains, hills, and flats. It has history, culture, excellent food and lovely people.

I just love to sit somewhere on a bench, a stone, or in the fields and breath it all in.

Just a little while ago, we drove two hours up north, into the south part of Tuscany. Just look at these treasures:

views from Tuscany

views from Tuscany

views from Tuscany

views from Tuscany

views from Tuscany

views from Tuscany

views from Tuscany

More on The Road about Italy and living in Italy

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Obama and Iran and Facebook: world peace at last

Obama makes friends with Iran via Facebook

More cartoons about Iran and the social media.
More cartoons the Iran elections.

Courtesy of International Herald Tribune, discovered via Social Entrepreneurship on

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#CNNfail: CNN versus Twitter on the Iran protests

CNN versus Twitter

Since the onset of the post-election violence in Teheran on Saturday, Iranian Twitter-ers have been using two main tags to identify their updates: #iranelection and #CNNfail.

The latter was to protest the lack of coverage of the protests by the mainstream traditional media, of which CNN took the brunt. The #CNNfail tag became so popular that US broadcaster found it necessary to take a defensive stand (or was it a justification?) on the air:

Did he just say 'we should be transparent'? He actually said this on CNN? Wooohahahaha. The words "transparent" and "CNN" should never be used within the same sentence.

I find it hilarious CNN is pushed into a corner and actually finds it useful to prove "we have covered this as of F-R-I-D-A-Y. And here is the video clip to prove it!"

By the way, Twitter scheduled a 90 minutes maintenance on Monday, which upset all the Twitter-ers in the Iran protests and beyond, making #nomaintenance the 3rd most used tag for a while...
It worked! Twitter has rescheduled its planned downtime for tonight.

Related posts:
Who is on Twitter from Iran?
Social media buzzing after elections in Iran

Video discovered via The Huffington Post

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Who is on Twitter from Iran?

Updated June 22 2009

Iran protests

Here is the updated list of Twitter-ers on the ground in Iran:

@gita (protected)
@jimsciuttoABC (left?)
@mahdi (protected)
@mohamadreza (protected)
@mtux (protected)
@ramezanpour (protected)
@SadeqEn (protected)

For a good real-time overview of the latest Twitter updates and news overview on the post-election protests, check Twazzup.

Update: June 19
There has been an active debate on other blogs and websites whether or not we should publish this list. See also the comments on this post.
Do we put people's lives in danger? I asked some of the Twitterers in Iran, but did not get an answer.
My view is: Nobody in Iran will come onto a public medium unless they consciously choose to do so. All of them hide their real identity, and actively request people to re-broadcast the information they are giving from the ground, especially as the traditional media have been put on restraint.
An interesting post on this subject, you find on the Traveller Within.

Update: June 20
On my own initiative, I deleted those who did not seem to take enough precautions in hiding their identity.

Update: June 22
On the same topic, this tweet came out today: "@shahrzadmo: State TV: Send your videos to Police so they recognise the "rioters" and arrest them!"... Does this also mean bloggers around the world should not republish YouTube videos from the protests, so people don't get identified?

For an overview of the role of social media in "post-election Iran", check this post.

Input thanks to,, Mohamed, Simon, Daily Dish and fellow twitter users.

Picture courtesy Madyar

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Iran election cartoon

Iran Election Cartoon

Courtesy of Iranian blogger and cartoonist Nikahang, discovered via Global Voices Online.

View more Iran Election cartoons.

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