(Teheran, 1966) in 1983 fled Iran and the regime of Ayatolla Khomeiny. After six years in Kabul, where he studied medicine, he was invited to come to the Netherlands in 1989. He studied criminal law, international law and philosophy at the Catholic University in Tilburg. In June 2003 he obtained his doctorate with research and a thesis on the Truth- and Reconciliation committee in South Africa. He has published two collections of poems: Mensenherfst (Human autumn), in which he illustrates aspects of a culture in exile, and Verrijzenis van woorden (Resurrection of words). He is a columnist for the NRC Handelsblad en regularly writes articles for several newspapers. Since June 1st 2005 he has become professor of Social cohesion, citizenship and multi culture at the faculty of Jurisprudence at the University of Leiden. Alongside his scientific work he is often found at the forefront of the debate about the multi cultural society. This year he published Hoe nog verder? 42 visies over de toekomst, (Where do we go from here? 42 visions of the future), Dialoog met Mohammed (Dialogue with Mohammed) and Brieven van een Pers (Letters from a Persian).(WIN 2004)
Archive available for: Afshin Ellian
Freedom of speech is under pressure in the Netherlands. Almost every artist or journalist who has appeared in the news as a result of receiving threats, has capitulated. From theatre director Johan Doesburg (Fassbinder's The dirt, the city and death) to Hasna el Maroudi (columnist for the newspaper NRC Handelsblad, 2005).
Each time two aspects came under threat: the person in question, who as a result sought shelter, and the freedom of speech, which after a wave of public indignation is abandoned until the next incident. Afshin Ellian, lawyer, poet and columnist of NRC Handelsblad, opens the program with an introductory essay. Followed by a debate with Sybrand van Haersma Buma (spokesman for the ministry of justice of the Christian democratic party, lower chamber), Bas Heijne (writer) and Marjolijn Februari (philosopher, lawyer and writer). The situation in the Netherlands is given an international perspective by the presence of South African poet and former anti-apartheid activist Breyten Breytenbach. Joesoef Isak, publisher, journalist and champion of the free word in Indonesia, was announced to take part in this discussion, but he had to cancel. Because of ill health he cannot make the trip to the Netherlands. Michaël Zeeman chairs the debate.
The Iranian poet and lawyer Afshin Ellian comments on the connection between eroticism and utopia, and hatred and hope, using fragments of films by Bergmann, the Russian cinema and the Iranian film Kandahar by the director Makhmalbaffs. His slogan is taken from Nietszche, which is: 'Those who fight against monsters must take care that they do not become a monster themselves. If you stare too long inside the abyss, then the abyss becomes part of you'.
The South-African writer and jounalist Antjie Krog opened Winternachten with the first in a series of six Delphic sayings. Afterwards she talks with the Iranian/Dutch poet and scientist Afshin Ellian on the South-African Truth- and Reconciliation committee. Ellian recently obtained his doctorate on this very subject. Recovery, accommodate, adaptaton, reconciliaton and forgiveness. According to Krog reconciliation is part of a long African tradition. 'A thing like this could never happen in a muslim-country', states Ellian.