people’s candidate or regime’s candidate?

 
 
Anatomy of the candidates in the Iranian presidential election 2021

by Alireza Mohebbi

Iran’s thirteenth presidential election will be held on June 18, as the country grapples with several complex and challenging problems at home and abroad.

There is no shortage of challenges for the incoming president to tackle. These include the COVID 19 crisis and vaccination roll out, with official figures reporting infections numbering 2,902,094 cases and 79,939 deaths by May 30th, 2021. The unprecedented nature of COVID 19 is tragedy enough, but when it’s set against a backdrop of rising livelihood dissatisfaction over high rates of unemployment, rising prices, 39 percent inflation, and the devaluation of the national currency, the demands on a new government are overwhelming. While many nations can turn to wealthier countries for support, a series of international incidents has left Iran as an outcast to much of the world. These include the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 by two missiles of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as the development of a nuclear program that has resulted in international sanctions and the US withdrawal from the IAEA. Iran’s support for Palestinian resistance groups and Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen, as well as Iran’s military presence in Syria, have all affected foreign policy engagement with neighbouring countries. With so many life and death issues to manage, the next president’s reign will be critical for the future of Iran.

So how will this election play out and what will the role of the president be? Iran is a theocratic country with a population of about 84 million Muslims (about 98 percent) who, according to Article 113 of the country’s Constitution, holds the president as the highest official after the Supreme Leader. The president is responsible for enforcing the Constitution and chairing the executive branch, except in matters directly related to the Leadership.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the “Vali-ye Faqih –  ولی فقیه, or ‘guardianship of the jurist,” has the highest political and religious position in Iran – a position which can annul all decisions made by the president or other institutions of power under his government.

The process for the presidential election is not wholly transparent in Iran. The election ends with the president receiving approval from Iran`s Supreme Leader, after gaining an absolute majority of the votes cast (more than 50 percent of the vote) and approval of the election results by the Guardian Council. The approval of the Iranian President by Ali Khamenei as the Vali-ye Faqih, or ‘guardianship of the jurist’ is one of the powers of the Iran`s Supreme Leader in the Constitution, and the four-year term of the presidency in Iran begins on the date of “ratification of the credentials” by the Supreme Leader.

But let’s take a look at the process leading up to the final appointment.

 

What is the registration process for the Iranian presidential election?

According to Article 99 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council is responsible for overseeing the President’s election. The Guardian Council, one of the important supervisory bodies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has 12 members; six of them are Faqihs (experts in Islamic Law) who are dismissed and appointed by the Iranian Supreme Leader. The other six members are lawyers selected by the judiciary chief and nominated to the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) for a vote of confidence. In Iran, the judiciary chief is appointed by the Supreme Leader by direct decree for a five-year term.

Controversially, according to the Guardian Council, candidates must meet the following conditions to register for this presidential election.

The candidate must:

  • be between 40 and 75 years old.
  • have a minimum master’s degree or equivalent approved by the Ministries of Science, Research and Technology and Health, Treatment and Medical Education, or the Seminary Management Center.
  • have a four-year history of ministries, governorates, or municipalities in cities with more than two million population.
  • be one of the directors of seminaries or of Islamic Azad University (private university in Iran).
  • be a member of the Expediency Discernment Council or the Supreme National Security Council.
  • be the deputy head of one of the three branches (executive branch, legislature, judiciary).
  • be from the heads of governmental organizations, institutions, and public non-governmental institutions at the national level.
  • And, if they are in the military, they should be high-ranking commanders of the armed forces with general and higher ranks.

During this period of the presidential election, 592 people registered with the Ministry of Interior, and finally, the Guardian Council approved the eligibility of seven of them as final candidates to participate in the Iranian presidential election.

 

 

Who are the final candidates?

 

people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Masoud Shahrestani

Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi

The 50-year-old Doctor, the fundamentalist politician, is the first vice-president in the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. He is the youngest candidate in this period of the Iranian presidential election.

He was also a member of parliament in the eighth, ninth, and tenth terms. He is a member of the Central Council of the Sustainability Front and was its spokesman in 2013 and 2014.

The Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution, known as the Stability Front, is an Iranian fundamentalist political group made up of conservative

fundamentalist extremists. The core of this group is formed by some former ministers of the ninth and tenth governments (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet).

His long serving high ranking career in parliament positions him as a willing parrot of the Supreme Leader. This is evident through the anti-Israel rhetoric which is aimed to demonstrate that he is loyal to the regime.

Following recent tensions and clashes between Israel and Palestine, Ghazizadeh Hashemi said in a statement: “We will soon see the collapse of the Zionist regime.”

This recent statement by Ghazizadeh Hashemi as the Iran’s presidential candidate, refers to Ali Khamenei’s remarks during a challenging speech on September 9, 2015.

The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran said in his speech to Israel: “You will not exist for another 25 years.”

 

 

people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Mahmoud Rahimi (MEHRNEWS Agency)

Abdolnaser Hemmati

The 64-year-old is a moderate politician and former governor of the Central Bank of Iran.

He has a doctorate in economics. From 1980 to 1993, he was active in the Iranian state radio and television and held important positions such as the political deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (September 1980 – August 1988), he was in charge of the war propaganda staff. From 1994 to 2006, he was the General Director of the Central Insurance of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Chairman of the Supreme Insurance Council.

Before he was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he headed Sina Bank (seven years) and Melli Bank (three years) for a total of ten years.

Also, during his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the US Treasury Department on October 8, 2020, sanctioned eighteen Iranian banks for supporting terrorist activities and Iran’s nuclear program.

Rising inflation and liquidity, the devaluation of the national currency, and the turmoil in the Iranian stock market are main economic problems during Hemmati’s presidency of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to many criticisms of his performance which heavily impacts his chances winning this election.

 

people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Hossein Zohrevand

Saeed Jalili

The 55-year-old is a fundamentalist politician, a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, and a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader in the Supreme National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He lost his right leg during an eight-year Iran-Iraq war in a military operation.

In October 2007, he was elected Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran in the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Former Iranian President). He attended the nuclear negotiations between Iran and P5+1 group (United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France plus Germany).

A trusted figure in the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he was selected as Iran’s nuclear negotiator based on his background in Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, during Saeed Jalili’s tenure in the Iranian nuclear case, Unprecedented sanctions were imposed on Iran by the United Nations Security Council, the United States, and the European Union, which negatively affected foreign exchange earnings, oil sales, and banking sanctions.

Jalili ran in the eleventh presidential election in 2013 but failed to win, eventually coming in third with about 4.6 million votes.

He ran in that presidential election under the slogan “A Pleasant Life – Hayat Tayyeba – حیات طیبه,” which is inspired by Islamic thought, and his campaign staff included members of extremist groups such as Ansar Hezbollah (close to the Basij and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

 

people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Majid Khani

Mohsen Mehralizadeh

The 64-year-old reformist politician, vice president, and head of the Physical Education Organization was in the cabinet of Mohammad Khatami (the eighth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran) from November 2001 to September 2005.

He was previously the governor of Khorasan for four years, from 1997 to 2001.

Mohsen Mehralizadeh entered the ninth presidential election campaign in 2005 as a candidate of the reformist faction. He was initially disqualified by the Guardian Council but was re-approved on appeal by the decree of Iran`s Supreme Leader.

Mehralizadeh came in fourth in the 2005 presidential election with 1.29 million votes.

After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Mehralizadeh formed the Islamic Revolution Committees in the city of Maragheh (in the province of East Azerbaijan). The committee was responsible for enforcing Islamic rules and ethical standards of social behavior in Iran.

He also participated in forming the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Maragheh city) and held its command from 1979 to 1981.

He is currently the President of the International Zurkhaneh Sports Federation. His presence on the third day of the registration of candidates for the thirteenth presidential election on May 13, 2021, with his two grandchildren (one of whom wore the uniform of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) caught the attention of news photographers.

According to experts, his presence and confirmation in this period of the presidential election is only as an excuse to increase the turnout among voters who still believe in reform for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although he will have no place in power and has no hope of winning the election, the regime is using every means to get people to the polls, even in exchange for the approval of a second- or third-class reformist candidate.

 

people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Mohammad Reza Abbasi

Ebrahim Raisi

The 60-year-old is an Islamic fundamentalist cleric and the current Chief of the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His presence in the Iranian judiciary dates back to 1980.

Raisi has been a high-ranking Iranian judicial official since the 1980s, and his presence on a “four-member execution board” known as the “Death Commission” is one of the dark spots in his case.

In August and September 1988, thousands of political and ideological prisoners were tried without the presence of a lawyer and often within minutes, by order of Ruhollah Khomeini, the former Iranian Supreme Leader, and were executed en masse and secretly.

Ebrahim Raisi, as a deputy prosecutor of Tehran, was a member of the death commission that, after asking a few questions about the prisoners’ political and religious beliefs, decided whether to execute or keep them alive.

With the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and the beginning of the leadership of Ali Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi was not only not questioned for the executions in the summer of 1988 but also continued to be promoted in the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran and held positions such as Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, Head of the National Inspection Organization and the first deputy head of the judiciary.

His performance in the Iranian judiciary led to the US Treasury Department’s taking action on November 4, 2019, against nine individuals close to Ali Khamenei, including Ebrahim Raisi, for human rights abuses and internal repression.

His close relationship with the Iran`s Supreme Leader and his trust in Ebrahim Raisi led to his appointment to the post of Astan Quds Razavi on March 7, 2016, with the ruling of Ali Khamenei.

Astan Quds Razavi is a religious-economic institution responsible for managing the shrine of the Eighth Shiite Imam, collecting vows, and managing the property and economic enterprises affiliated with it. This institution is one of the largest economic enterprises in Iran, which has been exempted from paying taxes by order of Ayatollah Khomeini (the First Supreme Leader of Iran).

Ebrahim Raisi ran for the twelfth presidential election in 2017 but lost the race to incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.

About a year and a half later, on March 7, 2019, Ali Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi as the Chief of the Iranian judiciary. Four years after losing the previous presidential election, Ebrahim Raisi has re-emerged to try his luck again.

The Conservative-backed candidate, a close ally of the Iranian leader, has high hopes of being elected Iran’s eighth president in an election in which the Guardian Council has disqualified countless candidates.

 

people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Maryam Kamyab

Mohsen Reza’i

The 66-year-old is a military commander and secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council.

In 1980, with the ruling of Ruhollah Khomeini (First Iranian Supreme Leader), he was appointed as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander and worked in this position for sixteen years until 1997.

The IRGC’s conflicts with the Islamic Republic of Iran Army and its performance in commanding various operations during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) when he was as commander of the Revolutionary Guards were widely criticized.

Mohsen Reza’i entered the world of politics after 1997 and was appointed secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council by the ruling of the Iran`s Supreme Leader. Mohsen Reza’i holds the record for running in the most presidential elections.

He ran in the ninth presidential election in 2005 but resigned before the election. He ran in the tenth and eleventh presidential elections in 2009 and 2013 and lost.

Reza’i was absent from the twelfth election but is running again in the thirteenth presidential election, seeking his presidential dream. However, it seems unlikely that he will have a chance to become president.

Ahmad Reza`i, his eldest son, fled to the United States in 1998 and criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was assassinated on November 13, 2011, at the Gloria Hotel in Dubai.

Mohsen Reza`i was placed on the US Treasury Department’s sanctions list on January 10, 2020, following the US government’s announcement of involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community in Argentina, resulting in the deaths of 85 people.

Mohsen Reza`i was listed as wanted by Interpol (International Police) on March 2007 at the request of the Argentine government on charges of involvement in the explosion of the Jewish Aid Center (bombing of AMIA as the then commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

His remarks in July 2013 on the issue of military aggression and conflict with the United States were highly controversial. Reza’i said: “If the Americans want to have a bad eye on Iran and think of a military strike, they can be sure that we will capture at least 1,000 Americans in the first week, and then they will have to pay billions of dollars to free each of them and we will solve the economic problem of the country.”

 

people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: M.Hossein Movahedinejad

Alireza Zakani

The 55-year-old fundamentalist politician represents Qom (Iran’s religious capital) in the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) and heads the Islamic Parliament Research Center of The Islamic Republic of Iran.

With the start of the Iran-Iraq War, Zakani went to the battlefields and participated in the Irregular Warfare Headquarters. He was wounded in battle.

Alireza Zakani was in charge of the Student Basij Organisation of the University of Tehran, the mosque administration of the University of Tehran (for four years), the Student Basij Organisation of the universities of Tehran province, and was in charge of the Student Basij Organisation of Iran.

The Student Basij Organisation -سازمان بسیج دانشجویی  was founded based on the decree of the first Iran`s Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini on 23 November 1988. This organization is a subset of the Basij Organization (one of the paramilitary organizations and a subset of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

Zakani represented the people of Tehran in the seventh, eighth, and ninth terms of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

Alireza Zakani registered for the eleventh (2013) and twelfth (2017) presidential elections in Iran but was disqualified by the Guardian Council in both.

According to many critical experts, this rejection and approval of credentials in different periods is a tool of pressure done by the Guardian Council (by order of Iran`s Supreme Leader).

Some experts believe that before the election, Alireza Zakani may withdraw from the election in favour of the main representative of the Conservative Party, Ebrahim Raisi, as a close pro-government observer. If Ebrahim Raisi wins the Presidential election, Zakani will likely be elected as one of his cabinet ministers.

 

What next?

One of the important events of the thirteenth Iranian presidential election so far is the disqualifications of the Guardian Council regarding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (former President of Iran from August 2005 to August 2013), Ali Larijani (Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly from 2008 to 2020) and Eshaq Jahangiri (First Vice President since 2013).

The seven qualified candidates will have 20 days from May 28 to June 16, 2021, to carry out their activities and election campaigns throughout Iran. The thirteenth presidential election in Iran will be held on Friday, June 18, 2021.

Experts believe that due to the complexities and problems in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy – including increasing public dissatisfaction with the government, severe economic and livelihood problems, the COVID 19 crisis, and the ambiguous status of Iran’s nuclear program – turnout will be at an all-time low compared to previous elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Some polls in Iran, including the Student Opinion Polling Centre (ISPA), put the current turnout at 36 percent.

During the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) on February 21, 2020, only 42.57 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, with the lowest turnout (after the second round of municipal council elections in February 2003) in the post-revolutionary history of the Islamic Revolution since 1979.

Whether some consider the Iranian election a premeditated and engineered election or others see it as a blind hope for choosing between bad and worse, on June 18, 2021, the Islamic Republic of Iran will recognize its eighth president. The President could be considered the most outward facing showcase figure of the regime which is approved by the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic of Iran at this time.

 

 

Alireza Mohebbi

HDR Candidate

Schools of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities

Swinburne University of Technology

Twitter: @alirezambb

 

Feature image source: Borna Ghasemi

in the fight against sexual assault, validating women’s voices is vital

 

by Jessica Norris

Content note:
This article contains mentions of sexual harassment, assault and gender-based violence.

 

On a particularly sunny, blue-skied day in February 2010, I was riding the number 16 tram to St Kilda beach with a group of my high-school friends. I wore a red floral tank top and some cute denim shorts, with a Cotton On tote bag loosely flung over one shoulder. The smell of sunscreen and freshly painted pink nail polish hung in the air just as starkly as the sound of scratching tram tracks.

While holding on to the safety handles above with sweaty hands, I noticed one of the boys in our group looking at me. My stomach flickered a little and I stared at my feet, embarrassed. Was he definitely looking at me? Do my thighs look too big in these shorts? Will he still look at me when I’m wearing my bikini? Maybe I imagined it. The tram doors flung open and I turned to get out of the carriage, relieved to have a break in the awkward-teenager tension building in my head.

The relief didn’t last long. Somewhere between the gap from the tram and the platform outside, I felt two hot, firm hands grab my butt cheeks from behind. Trying to regain my balance in a crowd of people getting on and off, I stared up at this boy with my mouth a little open and cheeks rapidly reddening. He looked back at me and was chuckling along with the other guys, and even a few of my friends. There I stood, a fourteen-year-old girl, inescapably on display for all to see. I hardly spoke for the rest of that day.

The other night, I found myself at a party standing with a group of girls, some of whom I had never met. We started discussing the sexual assault allegations that had surfaced in the media and shared various experiences of our own.

“You don’t get hurt or feel frightened at a safe venue,” said one girl, “it’s the travelling there and home that scares me.” She told us about a time she had left Yah Yah’s on a Thursday night to find a crowd of drunk men waiting outside. “They yelled, ‘Kiss!’ at my girlfriend and I when they saw we were holding hands. Like, we’re not a fetish.”

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been groped in a club,” said another. “One time, I rejected a guy and he got so mad that he told the bouncer I was drunk.”

At this party more than ten years later, that day on the tram flashed into my mind from a vault of random memories that make me cringe as hard as the day they happened. As I stood in this circle of young women swapping their stories, I was reminded that mine needed no complex explanation or justification for telling it. These women understood exactly what happened that day on the tram, and I knew they would, because all of our experiences a part of one narrative: the story of a society where women are sexualised, and sexual assault is normalised.

There has been a spotlight in the media on allegations of sexual assault and rape, spilling down from our Federal Government to high schools across the nation and beyond. I cannot help but wonder, Do the headlines circling around Australia at the moment surprise me? Or does it feel like the rest of the country is just starting to catch up on the conversations girls are having at parties? The tired, old, misconceived narrative that women are raped in dark alleyways by Really Bad Men is finally being challenged on a larger scale. Our society is sitting with the reality that sexual assault is so prevalent, that it’s happening every day to our little sisters on social media, to our female colleagues in our workplaces, to our grandmothers in their nursing homes and to our friends on their first dates, most often by men they know personally.

The pressing problem of sexual and other gender-based violence being experienced by women at overwhelming rates in Australia and globally is undeniable. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that one in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence, with one in six women experiencing this abuse before the age of fifteen. According to a recent survey for the UN Women UK, 86 per cent of British women aged 18 to 24 stated they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, with only 3 per cent saying they had not.

Unfortunately, these statistics only worsen for women belonging to minority communities across multiple areas of gender-based violence. First Nations women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence when compared to non-Indigenous women. Approximately one in three women with a disability have experienced emotional abuse from an intimate partner compared to one in five non-disabled women. Transgender women are more likely to experience sexual assault at the hands of strangers than cisgender women, and their experiences are often excluded from sexual violence data. These statistics are disheartening, but they only begin to illustrate the violence that the vast majority of women in Australia face throughout their lifetimes, as many testimonies remain unreported.

The recent testimony of Brittany Higgins has been a hollowing reminder to women across Australia that if a rape can happen to a politician inside Parliament House, it can truly happen anywhere. Chanel Contos’ petition for “sexual consent education”, in schools has stressed the saddening reality that teenage girls face sexual assault at an overwhelming rate in their developing years. The Morrison government’s “Milkshake” ad in response (attempting to educate teenagers on consent) has only illustrated just how out of touch our leadership is, with both the seriousness and basic principles of sexual consent. Marie Barbaric’s story of institutional sexual abuse following her removal from her family under government policy ­­– now known as the Stolen Generations – has reminded us of the double-edged sword of sexism and racism Indigenous women have been battling for two hundred years.

Women across Australia are deeply hurt and angered by this injustice, and the March protests across major cities have highlighted that they are ready and willing to use their voices to make that clear.

How we react to the testimonies of women, and their voices in society, will be the key to our battle against the patriarchal cultures in which these stories of sexual assault are born. Women like Brittany Higgins, Marie Barbaric and the many that have gone before them, are demonstrating that speaking up about sexual assault is an incredibly powerful weapon in revealing truth, engaging public discussion and paving the way for others to go next. Women who come forward to share their stories are breaking the stigma of shame and silence that has followed these experiences for decades.

However, with every story that makes its way into the public sphere, there seems to remain an inevitability of dismissal, criticism, or even blatant disbelief lurking behind women like a shadow. Recently, a journalist for The Courier Mail wrote, “since when does being Australian of the Year give you licence to personally attack our Prime Minister?” in response to Grace Tame’s public critique of the Prime Minister’s handling of the rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter. While Defence Minister Linda Reynolds needed to be forced to apologise to Brittany Higgins, after calling her a “lying cow” following her report of rape in Parliament.

Our response to women speaking their truth in the public sphere mirrors how we value women in society. Every dismissal of one woman’s story diminishes the right of all women to speak and exercise their value as people that are allowed to do so. If society has truly moved beyond the days where women are silent accessories in a man’s world, then female voices need to hold as much space and power as their male counterparts. For those that are quick to shelve, dismiss, zone out on, talk over, critique or cheapen the voice of the women in your life, we must dare to check in with ourselves and ask, Are we valuing the testimonies of women in our society to the same extent as we do those of men?

What is perhaps an even more important power behind the stories of women is their ability to connect us to each other and help us to understand our own experiences. While each experience is unique, every voice comes together to form the next chapter in the narrative of a women’s movement. Yet, a voice only resonates if someone is there to hear it. And if you are not hearing them, then you are not paying attention. Women are speaking up more frequently than ever before, which makes now the time to hold fast in uplifting and validating their voices until the fight against sexual assault and gender-based violence is won.

 

Photo courtesy of Swinburne Journalism: 

Lilly Williamson, Milllicent Spencer, Kiara Ariza Stellato Pledger.

a year gone by

 

By Syed Saif Uddin

A year where norms were left in tatters, of selfish delights and our worst traits on full display
Scarcity and misery unleashed like a hell hound, our demons did come out to play
The year humanity cowered in a silent collective, forgoing their divine rectitude
Kindness extinguished, families bereft of kin, and politicians even more so of their moral fortitude

A year with that endless soup kitchen line and millions of souls having to live off the welfare dime
Going through a year without breaking; the year human connection was deemed a crime
Walking the desolate streets in a city teeming with millions, not a soul to be found
Families hunkered down and front-line warriors having to steel their hearts, with so many corpses around

Even washed with grief with a mind going hollow, there was hope, a sliver still
Hope of human ingenuity and spark that could mount up and climb this steep hill
A year of solitary confinement, where keeping your distance was the primary refrain
A year of loss, a year of pain, and a thousand sorrows my heart couldn’t contain

Our nature of being social creatures oft-cited in the columns of opinion pieces far and wide
Oh the calamity that befell us when from the wretched disease, there was no corner left to hide
With invisible fences going up, tearing apart familial connections was hard to swallow
Technology did alleviate disconnection, but to tell a child to socialise online did seem a bit shallow

Hope is resilient and there is light at the end of this proverbial tunnel, no matter how dark
If legends are to be believed, humanity did survive a planetary flood in a wooden ark
Myths need not come into play for our hopes and heads to be held high
We have gotten through trying times, good has always prevailed, even when the end was nigh

A year of hellish misery, solitary suffering; when men cried and the nightingales forgot how to sing
Oft-forgotten is our innate resilience; we shall fight, from the streets of Morocco to Beijing
A year of pain; what was lost shall be found, and we shall clear this dark mist
Like tendrils we shall climb; here’s to a new year of growth, we must still persist

One can imagine what the world will look like when we can re-join as one, once again
If we only realise what can be achieved through cooperation, what we can attain

 

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

boy/wolf/finch

 

Author: Eli Thomas

 

 

‘A Basic Guide to Vemia’s Zodiac’

 

The librarian held out a dark blue book with white lettering. ‘Here you go, young lady. Enjoy.’

Finch smiled tightly at ‘lady’ but took the book with a nod, wishing his voice were deep enough to correct her without any confusion. He made his way to an empty table in the library and opened the book. He flicked past the author’s note and introduction, wanting to read the interesting stuff first.

 

Ictu Canum (Askar 10th – Askar 28th)

Creature: Blink Dog

Sorting: Arcana

 

Originally referred to as Nymphacanis (meaning fey or faerie dog), the name of this constellation was changed in 572AW, when research was conducted on the Blink Dog and it became better understood amongst scholars. The Blink Dog is a creature from the Fey Wilds, with teleportation abilities over short distances on our material plane, though scholars believe these limitations are not present on its home plane. Its short and rapid jumps through space are what earned the creature its name: Blink Dog.

Finch didn’t know that a constellation’s name could change. He had just assumed it was something that was stuck that way forever. Finch smiled as he moved to the next paragraph. If something as big and important as the constellations could change names, and the whole world learned to adjust, then a human changing their name should be no problem.

Those born under Ictu Canum are said to be energetic and fast-paced, and their attention can be split between many things at once. Because of this, some can struggle with staying committed to one task for a long period of time and can get bored easily when new ideas and challenges are not constantly presented. However, Ictu Canums can find desires and passions that they do not lose focus on, especially when they are surrounded by people and environments that make them feel at their most comfortable and creative. This untapped potential mimics the Blink Dog’s unlimited abilities within its home plane.

Like Blink Dogs, those born under this sign are very loyal and make amazing friends and partners once their trust has been earned. They give themselves wholeheartedly to those they love, sometimes to a fault, forgetting to care about themselves and their personal needs. Although a very sociable sign, it is important that Ictu Canums find worth in themselves and their own company. Practicing self-care and understanding their own needs (and not just the needs of others), is something Ictu Canums need to be vigilant in.

Finch’s friend, Alix was an Ictu Canum, and he figured the information was pretty accurate when he thought about it. Alix really struggled to stay focused at the academy, but when she was in her art studio, she could stay for hours making amazing paintings. They were masterpieces! Finch wished he had something like that he was as passionate about. He was definitely interested in astronomy and astrology, but he figured there wasn’t really anything he could do. He felt like so much had already been discovered. He would always be behind.

 

Draco (Jiharon 18th – Amori 2nd)

Creature: Dragon

Sorting: Beast

 

Astronomer Tallis Luxer sorted this Dragon sign into the Beast category, accounting for its size and power as a giant reptile. However, some modern astronomers believe that Draco would be better suited in the Arcana category, due to a Dragon’s magical prowess and the diversity of elemental abilities amongst different dragon colours and species. Luxer’s sorting remains the most universally accepted, at the stage of this book’s publication.

Draco has the longest solar transit time (totalling 41 days) that one can be born under this sign. It is the only sign, except Gigavespa, that solely fills a month (in this case Eitrias) and is also the biggest constellation within the zodiac, with the longest celestial longitude.

Common traits within Dracos are hard to agree upon, with so many variations of dragon colours, and each having unique characteristics. Immense studies have been conducted on further categorising Dracos into their most suited colours, with the influence of the weather, year of birth and planetary positioning being taken into consideration. For detailed dissection of each of these elements, refer to Celyn Nordika’s book: ‘Draco: Ten Colours, One Constellation’.

Finch groaned quietly. Why couldn’t this book just include the information? He really didn’t want to ask that librarian if he could have it. Maybe another day, when a different person was working, and when he felt better about his face and voice, and maybe with a better shirt too.

He decided to skip to his own sign for something that could interest him more. He’d read it before, but it had been a while and he’d been told that horoscope interpretations change with age and circumstance and unlock more meaning and significance.

 

(Luna) Pentium (Alladus 19th – Wyne 10th)

Creature: Werewolf

Sorting: Fusion

 

Officially called Luna Pentium, the name is commonly shortened to Pentium, meaning duality and representing the two forms of human and wolf.

Those born under this sign are easily influenced by their environment and the people around them, and the way they present may change depending on their circumstances and social circles. This allows Pentiums to fit in with many groups and make friends easily, as an unobtrusive presence. It can be especially beneficial in business and people-driven work, and many well-known Pentiums are leaders of their community.

Finch didn’t know if that fit him. He more felt that he was hiding who he was to not offend or anger anyone. Maybe in that way he was being ‘unobtrusive’, but it didn’t feel good. He wanted to be himself unapologetically, but he was scared.

Pentiums can also manifest their duality through the repression of self-deemed ‘unsatisfactory’ aspects of themselves, creating a self that they keep hidden and harbour guilt or shame for.

Oh.

That fit Finch well. He had only recently accepted that he was not a ‘lady’, and that it wasn’t the life he wanted to live. For years he thought it would be easier to convince himself that he could live how others saw him. He didn’t want to be different.

Finch sighed. Maybe the werewolf was the perfect sign for him. He knew how werewolves were treated in society, how they were outcast, and people looked at them differently as soon as they found out they weren’t normal. He was so scared of that happening to him if he corrected people.

Open communication with one’s self is vital for a Pentium to understand what they are hiding and why. It is important to remember that it is normally one’s self who exacerbates issues and problems until they feel unbearable or unsolvable, while this is not always the case in reality.

Pentiums are heavily influenced by the lunar cycle and should use the waning moon as a time for reflection and clarity. They can draw confidence in this shift of power to make their ‘wolf’ known to trusted friends and family and create an environment of open conversation.

Maybe he should do that. The time with the moon was right too, so maybe it was meant to be. Alix was going to drop by the library after her catch-up history class so they could walk home together. And if it went wrong Finch could just run away. But it wouldn’t go wrong, he told himself. Alix would understand and be supportive, she had to be. Otherwise what was Finch going to do?

Finch kept reading until he heard a voice call out a name that was no longer his. He looked up anyway and saw Alix walking over to him, bag on her back and hair down, against academy uniform policy.

‘You ready to go?’

‘Yeah, um,’ Finch looked around the table as if something to put away would be there, but his bag was packed, and he could leave the book in one of the collection trays. ‘Yes, I’m ready.’

The two left the library and Alix started her spiel about how boring history was, and the stupid things the professor went on and on about, but Finch wasn’t really listening. He didn’t think he could do this. What if she thought he was weird? Or that it was all in his head? What if she outright rejected him? He didn’t know what he would do if she refused to adjust; it would hurt so much to hear her use the wrong name on purpose.

‘Hey, you okay? You’re quiet.’ Finch could tell she was looking at him but kept looking forward. He could do it, he had to do it. Otherwise he would never be himself.

‘Actually, there’s something really important I have to tell you. My name is Finch…’

 

Header image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

david

Author: Dominica Ryan

Mum shoved the phone in front of David’s face, blocking his view of the last cornflake as it floated on shallow milk.

David clenched his teeth in annoyance. It was bad enough Mum had yanked the bedcovers off him, depriving him of discovering whether the alien princess would run him through with her photon-sword.

Mum always woke him ridiculously early. Today she’d pulled him out of bed at 10.59am. Now she wouldn’t let him finish his cereal in peace.

‘Kyla messaged,’ Mum said. ‘She wants to meet you. She’s suggesting coffee Saturday morning at Subway on St. George’s Road, Thornbury.’ The old refrigerator in the corner of the kitchen struggled to reluctant life. ‘I think you should say yes.’

‘I can’t,’ David said, not wondering or caring who this Kyla might be. ‘I have an early shift at the car wash.’ He banged the spoon off the side of his favourite bowl, knocking out another ceramic chip.

Mum’s thin shoulders dropped. ‘You could meet her after. For a drink. Take her someplace nice on Brunswick Street. Or maybe into the city.’

David thought fast: ‘Sanjay might need me to do extra shifts if some of the other guys don’t show up.’

Mum drew the phone screen close to her face, scrolled for a few seconds, bit down on her lip. ‘I just have a good feeling about Kyla. She seems nice. Genuine. It would be great to see you with a lovely girl, David. Someone who loves you for all your qualities.’

David knew that if he looked at his Mum, he’d notice new lines on her forehead, cheeks sunken further than last time, the grey reaching across the top of her head which would meet in the middle soon.

‘Rent’s due next week,’ she conceded. ‘We could do with the cash you make Saturday.’

‘What happened to the extra I made last week?’ he asked. ‘You said that covered us.’

Mum’s narrow lips blew out air. ‘Oh, you know how it is. One thing led to another and…’ her voice trailed off, leaving David’s query hanging. David lifted the bowl to his face, slurping down the milk and the solitary limp cornflake. He knew all his mum’s expressions. Some of them made his pasty skin crawl – like “one thing led to another”. Hearing that particular phrase triggered an avalanche of questions which, over the years, his mum had always outpaced, ducked or skirted like a skier in a slalom. She rolled out ready-made, empty phrases, appearing to answer his questions while leaving them unanswered. Questions like: why did David’s father leave when he was five years old? Why did she jump every time she heard a door slam? Why did they move every few years? David thought it utterly preposterous that “one thing would lead to another” would ever apply to him. His life wasn’t that neat. It should be, but it wasn’t.

Then, one thing did lead to another. It all happened at internet speed, just as he was moving the bowl from his lips to the table. Kyla sent a message meant for one of her friends to David’s phone. It mentioned a dream, which his mum now read.
‘Strange dream Kyla has had about an alien,’ Mum mused aloud as she read the message.

David grabbed the phone. Stared. Thought deeply. It must be a sign. An alien dream. Aliens with photon-swords. Kyla could be the one he’d been waiting for. Someone who would understand. Someone he could talk to. Finally.
‘OK,’ David said.

Mum smiled.

*

The dark faux-wood table in Subway that Saturday morning was wet. David massaged his

coffee cup, dumbstruck.

Kyla was talking.

‘I knew from your very first message that you were honest.’ She pulled at the faded blue and white scarf around her short neck, tightening then loosening it, shifting her rounded frame on the chair. She leaned across the table, still damp from the cloth used by the waiter who cleared the table. A coffee machine hissed in the background, while a young mum called out to a grubby-faced toddler to stay away from the front door. Kyla’s brown, deep-set eyes drank David in. ‘I memorised all your messages.’

‘I memorised all the dialogue in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis,’ said David.

Her right hand landed gently on his left forearm. ‘Some of your messages made me cry,  like, when you wrote that being in groups of people is hard for you.’

‘It is.’
‘How the things you want to say always come out the wrong way.’
‘Mum tells me that constantly.’
‘How people judge you,’ Kyla said, ‘but if they took the time to get to know you

they’d see you were a nice person.’

‘Mum says that too.’

‘You seem very close to your Mum, David.’
He nodded. ‘I live with her. In Preston. But we’ve lived all over the country.’

A slow, unsure smile crept across Kyla’s face. She straightened up in her chair,

released his forearm. ‘I dated my last boyfriend for 15 months. He stayed over at my place a lot. If we went out, went to the footy, I always paid. He said child support was killing him. When he stayed over, he got up with me in the morning, had breakfast, we’d get ready, leave for work together.’ She traced a figure eight on the still-wet table with her index finger. ‘I found out he didn’t have a job. Or a kid. He was living with his folks in Essendon.’ She paused. ‘I’m not used to guys being honest about themselves.’ A blush spread across her cheeks, a deepening pink stain. ‘People should be honest with each other. They should be radical about it. Do you know what I mean?’

‘No,’ David said.
Kyla shot him a quizzical glance, then a joyous smile burst across her face.
‘See, that’s what I’m talking about. You practice radical honesty David. That’s why I

suggested we meet.’

David smiled back at her.

‘I want people in my life who tell me the truth no matter how uncomfortable that makes me. I’ll do the same in return.’ Kyla cleared her throat. ‘So, ask me anything David. Anything at all.’

A flutter of excitement awakened like a caged bird in David’s chest. ‘Tell me about the alien.’

Kyla furrowed her brow.

‘The alien you mentioned in the message that you sent to me. The message you meant to send to someone else.’

‘Why do you want to know about that?’ she asked.
‘I dream about aliens every night.’
‘Well, you’re really into sci-fi movies, so I guess that’s to be expected.’
‘Mum said not to ask you. She said you’d find me talking about aliens weird. But you

said people should be honest with each other.’

‘For sure.’

David reached across the narrow table, placing his hand on hers. He lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘Kyla, what if your dream about the alien wasn’t a dream. What if the dream is the reality and all this,’ with his forehead David indicated the café, the universe, everything. ‘What if this world is the made up one, the fiction?’

 

Their coffee date ended at 10.39am, leaving David 21 minutes to walk to the carwash for his 11am shift. He messaged Kyla six times, telling her secrets of the universe he hadn’t had the time to share earlier. In the first hour of his shift, Sanjay, his boss, yelled at him twice for messaging when he was supposed to be wiping vehicles. ‘You’re holding up the line. I catch you checking your phone again, you’re out of here, mate.’

‘Sorry,’ David pushed the phone into the front pocket of his damp jeans. ‘I was checking if I got a message.’

‘From your girlfriend?’ Sanjay’s scrawny arm made sudsy circles on the driver’s door of a black sedan.

‘She’s not my girlfriend.’
‘You getting married when she gets out of the insane asylum?’ Sanjay grinned.

‘She’s not in an asylum. She works in Myer. In the homewares section. In

Northland.’
Sanjay shook excess soap from the oversized sponge. ‘Just do what I’m paying you

for.’
When David arrived home after his double shift, Mum was asleep on the broken

couch, exhausted from vacuuming kilometres of grey-carpeted offices in the city. Still no reply from Kyla, despite sending her a total of forty-six messages since their date.

David sloped off to his room to re-watch a couple of old Star Trek movies, falling asleep on the bed covers with his clothes on.

The following morning, Mum was perched on the end of his single bed. As David slowly woke and stretched, she was tapping furiously on his phone.

‘Is there a message from Kyla?’ he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
‘Forget about her, David,’ her tiny fingers danced nimbly across the screen.

‘Why?’ He pushed himself up to sitting. ‘Kyla said listening to me telling her about

aliens was really something.’
‘Well, one thing led to another and now I know she’s not right for you.’
‘Did she message?’
‘I deleted it.’
‘What did Kyla say?’
‘It’s not important.’
‘Mum!’
‘Oh, I don’t remember David. Something about not being that interested in alien life

forms. Something about your messages yesterday triggering anxiety.’

‘What…’

‘You don’t want to go out with a girl with an anxiety issue David! You don’t know what she’d do.’ Mum thrust the phone towards him. Smiled. ‘But look, a girl called Sophie sent you a love heart just now. Her profile says she only watches sci-fi. Her friends think she’s a bit weird and she says she’s OK with that.’

David dropped his face into his hands.

‘Sophie has kind eyes,’ Mum said, putting her hand on David’s thigh. ‘She seems nice. Genuine. I have a really good feeling about her.’

Header image by Daniela Reape, courtesy of Pixabay

federal jobs plan another blow to full-time students

Author: Sam Roberts

On Thursday, the Morrison Government’s Job-Ready Graduate Package passed the senate with the support of One Nation and Centre Alliance. This new university funding model provides places for an additional 30,000 students by cutting government funding in many key disciplines, including for ‘job-ready’ degrees such as engineering. Centre Alliance’s price for supporting this bill – triple the funding for universities in their home state of South Australia, and over $250 million in pork-barrelling infrastructure spending – paints a stark picture of the harm of this legislation on the rest of the country.

The future for higher education funding under this model is dire, and worse still are the fee hikes for students studying degrees deemed less job ready by the Liberal Party and their bureaucratic central planning.

This bill alone is a terrible blow for low SES students, Indigenous students, and students who simply wish to study the degree of their dreams. But following the release of the Federal Budget last Tuesday, it is clear that we will soon face an even greater threat to the accessibility of our university system.

Enter the JobMaker Hiring Credit. This $4Bn measure is aimed at getting 16-35 year olds back to work, and off their JobSeeker payments. Under this measure, employers will receive up to $10,400 over 12 months for hiring an eligible young person. The catch is, only welfare recipients not studying full-time will be eligible. So while this program may help 450,000 young people find work, employers will be heavily disincentivised from hiring anybody not covered by the subsidy – including more than 250,000 students receiving income support payments. An employer would now have to forego the thousands of dollars they would receive hiring a JobSeeker recipient, in order to hire a full-time student.

The vast majority of students receiving income support, in fact, are currently covered by AusStudy, ABStudy, and Youth Allowance (Students). Years of neglect by successive governments has seen the rates of these payments stagnate. To cover the cost of living, most recipients are forced to supplement their income through work.

With student income support set well below the poverty line, hundreds of thousands of students now face a choice between attending university in poverty, or abandoning their dream of full-time study altogether. Following the Morrison recession, the perverse consequences of JobMaker, which will make it virtually impossible for students to enter full-time study and gain new employment, expose the fundamental flaw of our student welfare system.

Without a serious overhaul of existing student welfare payments, Australia is headed for a return to a university system built purely for the rich.

A system where only kids whose families can afford to support them through years of study have access to the full university experience, and the many opportunities it affords. A system where those who aren’t as fortunate are at best forced into 6 or more years of part time study, and at worst locked out of university altogether.

We can build a fairer and more accessible higher education system for the future.  A future where full-time study is viewed with the same level of dignity as full-time work. But for this future to become a reality for all, study, like work, should be fairly remunerated, not with welfare payments, but with a full living wage.

Sam Roberts is the current National Secretary of the National Union of Students, and the former President (2018-2019) of the Swinburne Student Union.

Header image courtesy of ABC News