Monday, March 31, 2008

Stoning Must Take Place in Public

Qom Friday Prayer Leader

While less than two months have passed since the head of Iran’s judiciary issued orders ‎for the suspension of “public executions”, the Friday prayer leader of religious town of ‎Qom, ayatollah Amini, said at a public prayer on Friday, “Stoning must take place in ‎public.”‎

In Iran stoning is used as a method of execution on singles who engage in sex with ‎another person other than their own spouse. This form of punishment is executed in Iran ‎following the testimony of four witnesses in a court of law which must rule on the ‎fairness of the individuals. If a suspect himself confesses to the act four times, the court ‎too may consider the confession to constitute testimony.‎

Ayatollah Amini also said that some judgments were in line with implementing God’s ‎orders and whose implementation should not be hesitated. “A woman who has committed ‎fornication has to be punished in public,” he said, adding “Just because our enemies may ‎view Islam to be violent should not be a reason not to implement Sharia punishment. ‎Foreigners do not desire Islam and we cannot execute divine laws according to their ‎wishes. If Islamic laws are implemented accurately we will not have the fornication ‎problems we face today.”‎

Observers have interpreted the words of this cleric in a town that is recognized as the ‎center that trains clerics in their religious beliefs and matters to be a response to the ‎recent release of a woman who had been sentenced to be stoned eleven years ago. This ‎woman, Mokarameh Ebrahimi, was charged with having inappropriate relations and was ‎sentenced to stoning and spent the last eleven years in prison was released last week. ‎

The issue of stoning and its codification into Iranian criminal law is a controversial ‎subject in the country. On November 21st 2006 the spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary ‎publicly announced that “while stoning was part of the Iranian penal code, it would not ‎be implemented any more.” But despite that announcement, stoning was implemented ‎after the date. The best known case involved Jaafar Kiani in Takistan. He was sentenced ‎to stoning along with Mokarameh Ebrahimi with who he had been charged to have ‎engaged in sexual activity. When the court sentenced these two individuals, Mokarameh ‎had left her family and husband 10 years earlier and had lived with Jaafar for a few years ‎with whom she had given birth to a child.‎

In this regard, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Human Rights in the Iranian ‎judiciary had earlier said that the stoning of a man in Takistan was due to a “mistake by ‎the judge” while adding that “we are not ashamed to implement this form of ‎punishment.” In an interview with ISNA student news agency, Larijani has said, “Some ‎think that we are ashamed to implement these judgments because the West curses us for ‎them. This is not the case because the principles of Shiite jurisprudence and law, and ‎those following Mohammad, are not things to be ashamed of.”‎

Friday, March 28, 2008

Larijani or Haddad Adel?

New Groupings in the Eighth Majlis

‎With the completion of the elections for the eight Majlis (Iranian Parliament), and with ‎the results of many precincts yet to be determined in run-off races, the groups affiliated ‎with the Principalist camp, who have achieved a numerical majority in the Majlis, are ‎reportedly divided over various issues. ‎
The Broad Principalist Coalition, in Persian known as the Etelaafe Faragire Osoolgarayan ‎‎(composed of candidates critical of the administration), has already begun opposing the ‎United Principalist Front, known as the Jebhe Motahed Osoolgaran (composed of ‎candidates supporting the administration). The former group has begun speaking of a ‎different choice to head the Majlis, one other than Haddad Adel (United Principalist ‎Front’s leading candidate). ‎
Amir Ali Amiri, the campaign manager of the Broad Principalist Coalition noted in his ‎first press conference following the eight Majlis elections that 45 percent of the ‎Coalition’s candidates had been elected to the Majlis, warning the administration, “The ‎eight Majlis is going to be one in which those critical of the administration will have a ‎majority. However, these critical principalists are united and if the administration ‎continues to implement policies opposed to by principalists, the majority in the eights ‎Majlis will be opposed to it.” ‎
Amiri's remarks are a response to the remarks of Ali Asghar Zarei, the spokesperson for ‎the rival United Principalist Front. Earlier, Zarei had told ISNA student news agency, ‎‎"The results that have been finalized are in fact considered a victory," adding, "We hope ‎that the eight Majlis will be supportive and cooperative with the administration." ‎
The Broad Principalist Coalition's campaign manager also commented on the position of ‎the speaker of the Majlis: "Our candidate to preside over the Majlis is Ali Larijani, and ‎just as we were opposed to the presence of Mohammad Reza Bahonar [a staunch ‎supporter of administration] as deputy speaker in seventh Majlis, we will be opposed to ‎his service as such in the eight Majlis as well." ‎
Amiri commented on the empowerment of the faction critical of the administration: "The ‎Broad Coalition has sent 45 percent of its candidates across the country to the Majlis. ‎We have announced in our coalition that we support Rezaei, Ghalibad, and Larijani, and ‎the candidates that were listed on our slates were people who, while being principlists, ‎were critical of the administration." ‎
The spokesperson for the Broad Coalition concluded that "The results of this election do ‎not constitute a victory for the administration" and added, "Not even all of the candidates ‎listed on the United Front's slate are completely supportive of the administration, and we ‎were frankly amazed by the presence of some of them on the United Front's slate." ‎
Amiri also referred to election violations by supporters of the administration: "We ask the ‎Guardian Council to confront possible violations. A sad development that took place ‎during these elections was violations committed by the United Front, including illegal ‎campaigning by some of their candidates on election day, which was against the law." ‎

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Clergy Must Not Accept Posts in Government ‎

Another Warning from Ayatollah Montazeri

Ayatollah Montazeri, a dissident grand ayatollah residing in holy Shia city of Qom, has ‎once again warned that the clergy must not accept posts in the government and not ‎become involved in the day to day affairs of governance if they want to preserve their ‎privileged role as the public’s spiritual guides. ‎
Ahmad Rafat from the Italian AKI news agency conducted a written interview with ‎ayatollah Montazeri in which he asked the grand ayatollah about issues ranging from ‎Iran’s nuclear case and people’s economic problems to the role of clergy in governance ‎and the eight Majlis elections.
‎ Responding to a question about the disagreement of ayatollah Sistani with the ‎participation of clergy in governance, ayatollah Montazeri said, “My own opinion is the ‎same; the clergy must not accept, as much as possible, any posts in the government and ‎become involved in the day to day affairs of governance if they want to preserve their ‎privileged position as the public’s spiritual guides. I gave ayatollah Khomeini my ‎opinion on this matter as well.” ‎

Ayatollah Montazeri responded to a question about Iran’s nuclear case: “In that having ‎access to nuclear technology should not be monopolized by any government and all ‎governments and peoples must have the right to this energy and technology, there is no ‎doubt. The problem is that our government has voiced controversial and uncalculated ‎rhetoric, which have made a lot of governments suspicious of Iran and brought about an ‎international cohesion that has been manifested in sanctions against Iran with worrying ‎consequences for the nation. This is very worrisome and I hope that the relevant officials ‎can manage the situation by controlling their emotions and being more reasonable, and ‎not isolate the country more than this and subject the public to more economic and ‎political pressures.” ‎

Ayatollah Montazeri also commented on the people’s economic woes and the eight ‎Majlis elections: “Radical measures and unnecessary hardships that were imposed on ‎students, journalists and other activities, coupled with the disqualification of a lot of ‎experienced and expert individuals, have no consequence other than increasing the ‎distance between people and the government. At a time when the country is facing ‎international pressure, I don’t know why officials refuse to think twice about the ‎consequences of their actions, and create new problems for the people, in addition to ‎rampant inflation and countless other economic problems.” ‎

The grand ayatollah also had a word to say about the disqualifications of candidates in ‎the eight Majlis elections: “With the disqualification of many experienced and expert ‎individuals, there is no room for true competition and we expect to have a one-voiced ‎Majlis. Such a Majlis cannot represent the majority of the people and will be obedient to ‎the wishes of a minority. As a result, it will not be able to fulfill its main important ‎duties.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Norooz behind Prison Walls

Students Remain Behind Bars

As the Islamic Republic of Iran refrained from releasing several political prisoners to ‎spend time with their families for Norooz [the annual Persian New Year that falls on the ‎fist day of Spring], the families of detained students spent their new year near the walls of ‎the Evin prison, and began the new year “at the place closest to their children.” ‎

Several political and student activists joined in with the families of imprisoned students I ‎solidarity for their detained peers. ‎

Previously, the website of Amir Kabir University had reported that mothers of eight ‎detained students by the names of Ehsan Mansouri, Ahmad Ghassaban, Majid Tavakkoli, ‎Sabah Nasri, Hedayat Ghazali, Saeed Feizollah, Abolfazl Jahandar, and Saeed ‎Derakhshandi, published an open letter announcing their intention to “celebrate the ‎advent of the new year near the walls of the Evin prison.” ‎

During the last few days of the calendar year, the families of three detained Amir Kabir ‎University students sent an open letter to the head of the country’s judiciary asking for ‎the observance of law and release of their sons. The families of Majid Tavakkoli, Ehsan ‎Mansouri, and Ahmad Ghassaban wrote in their letter to Ayatollah Shahroudi, “While ‎you do release drug traffickers and dangerous criminals on bail from prisons for the ‎Norooz, we find it difficult to come to terms with your decision not to release our student ‎sons even after they posted their bails.” ‎

Meanwhile, the Committee of Student Reporters of Human Rights warned of the ‎‎“worrisome” condition of a political activist. According to the Committee's report, a ‎Kurdish political activist, Farhad Haj Mirzaei, is still held in Evin’s notorious Ward 209, ‎even though more than two months have passed since his arrest. Haj Mirzaei was ‎arrested on 22 Esfand [March 12] in the Kurdish town of Sanandaj during the crackdown ‎on leftist student activists. After spending a night at the Ministry of Intelligence’s ‎detention facility in Sanandaj, he was transferred to Evin’s Ward 209 and was subjected ‎to severe physical and psychological torture. ‎

The protests over the arrests in the country have continued and last week, a number of ‎political, cultural, student and labor activists and journalists sent an open letter to the ‎head of the judiciary, ayatollah Shahroudi, protesting the “rogue arrests” of political and ‎ideological prisoners. ‎

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reactions to Elections in Iran

Contradictory Numbers

In the process of counting ballots from last Friday's parliamentary elections and while ‎results of many pecincts are still not determined, the Interior Ministry, in an ‎unprecedented move, announced, “More than seventy percent of candidates elected to the ‎eight Majlis of the Islamic Republic belong to the Principalist camp.” [Principalists or ‎Osoolagarans are the government loyal forces.]‎

Until that the final hours of last night, only Majid Ansari, from the reformist E’temad ‎Melli party, was among the top thirty candidates, at number thirty; an event that has been ‎regarded with amazement and bewilderment by reformists and analysts alike. Adding to ‎worries are contradictory numbers announced by different election officials. ‎

The figures released in the last 24 hours point to conflicting results in Tehran’s race. In ‎the final hours of yesterday, Shahab News reported, “Obvious contradictory figures from ‎the district of Tehran and the absolute silence of the Interior Ministry has bewildered the ‎people of Tehran and analysts.” ‎

Meanwhile, while news agencies sympathetic to moderates reported that “close ‎competition is taking place between prominent conservative and reformist candidates in ‎Tehran,” according to a state Fars News Agency report at 7:07pm, “Based on results from ‎‎1100 ballot boxes, mostly located in Northern Tehran, 30 candidates from the various ‎conservative groups are leading in votes.” ‎

Fars News Agency, which is close to military and security organizations, announced ‎these results while the Reformist Coalition's official website quoted the Coalition’s ‎president, Hossein Marashi, as having said, “Based on reports that we have received so ‎far, 17 reformist candidates are leading in Tehran and 17 reformist candidates from ‎Tehran will win seats in the Majlis.” ‎

The confusion over who is winning seats reached its climax when the Interior Ministry, ‎in an unprecedented move, announced that it will refrain from publishing any figures in ‎Tehran until after all the votes were counted. ‎

Baharestan website, a reformist website to which access was denied this week, reported, ‎‎“Reformist candidates are fighting with election officials to preserve the integrity of ‎people's votes. Reports indicate that in large cities efforts are under way to deprive ‎reformist candidates of spots in the Majlis. Due to such efforts, reformist candidates in ‎Shiraz and Mashhad were not able to win seats in the first round.” ‎

The Interior Ministry’s disregard for the reformists’ protests enticed the latter to ‎demonstrate at the ministry's main building in Tehran. According to Norooz website, “In ‎light of the Interior Ministry’s hesitance to announce Tehran's results and allegations of ‎fraud and vote rigging in favor of one particular faction, dozens of reformist candidates ‎gathered at the Ministry's main building and asked to be informed of the true election ‎results.” ‎

Raja News, a website close to the Ahmadinejad camp, reacted to this gathering and ‎accused reformists of “politicking for more than their share.” ‎

A reformist candidate, Javad Eta’at, noted yesterday, “Our representatives, who were ‎present when votes were being counted in 400 ballot centers, reported that 17 to 18 ‎reformists have received enough votes to win seats. We are amazed to see conservative ‎news agencies publish Tehran's results when the Interior Ministry claims not to have ‎released such results."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Violations In Favor of Ahmadinejad

Unprecedented Elections

‎Last Friday’s Majlis elections were, according to unofficial sources, the most ‎controversial and rigged elections in the Islamic Republic’s history. ‎

Prior to Friday’s elections, some political figures had warned about the election’s ‎integrity due to ideological affiliations between election administrators and oversight ‎committees. The earliest news reports on Friday morning indicated that soldiers ‎stationed in garrisons in Northern Tehran were “forced to vote for hardliner candidates.” ‎

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who shortened his trip to Africa to return for the elections ‎appeared at the “Lorzadeh” mosque in Tehran and cast his vote. Reporting from the ‎same mosque, the reformist news website Baharestan-e Hashtom wrote, “In a move that ‎clearly violated election rules, administrative and oversight voting officers handed out ‎flyers belonging to the United Front [the hardliner group associated with President ‎Ahmadinejad].” ‎

At the headquarters of the Reformist Coalition group news broke out that administration ‎supporters were setting up campaign placards belonging to hardliners candidates across ‎Tehran in a move to tempt voters to vote for candidates affiliated with the administration. ‎Electioneering must legally stop 24 hours prior to election day.‎

But in a blatant violation of election rules, officers from the Guardian Council barred ‎representatives appointed by the Reformist Coalition group from overseeing the counting ‎of ballots in several of Tehran's precincts. ‎

A news source in Tehran told Rooz that last Friday, workers working at state-owned ‎factories were forced to vote for candidates affiliated with the administration. According ‎to this source, laborers working at Saipa, Iran Khodro, and Pars Khodro auto assembly ‎plants, who were for the first time, working three shifts last Friday, were given campaign ‎material belonging to United Front candidates and asked to vote for them. More than 40 ‎thousand laborers were allegedly involved in the event. ‎

Other than Tehran, reports of rampant violations came from across the country as well. ‎Rooz received a report indicating that in some villages, members of the Basij were ‎recruited to brief the public regarding the “supreme leader’s wishes.” This report added ‎that among the supreme leader's wishes was a "religious order" to vote for candidates ‎affiliated with the administration. ‎
Hardliners Complain Against Hardliners ‎

Aftab website published a letter authored by several candidates from the Broad Coalition ‎group (Etelafe Faragire Osoolgaran), a hardliner group rivaling the administration-backed ‎United Front (Jebhe Motahed). The letter revealed that the scope of vote-riggings and ‎violations were not limited to reformist candidates. In their letter, which was addressed ‎to the Guardian Council, the Broad Coalition candidates lamented frequent violations and ‎voter fraud. In the words of one analyst, in this election, “Ahamdinejad’s supporters ‎targeted not just the reformists, but also critical hardliners.”‎

The Broad Coalition candidates complained in their letter, “In light of frequent violations ‎perpetrated by the ‘United Front’ [affiliated with the president], including placement of ‎campaign placards and display of names of candidates in the three non-campaign days, ‎and given eye-witness accounts and reports from the public regarding frequent violations ‎in ballot centers in favor of United Front’s candidates in Tehran, Rey, Islamshahr and ‎Shemiranat, while condemning such actions and calling for their immediate ‎investiagation, we warn of the consequences of such violations.” ‎

Meanwhile, on Saturday evening, the minister of interior, Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, ‎announced that “Of those elected to the Majlis, 71 percent are principlists and support the ‎country’s current policies.” The minister's announcement angered the reformists. ‎

In connection with the minister's announcement, the spokesperson for the reformist ‎coalition, Abdollah Naseri, said, “We did not expect the interior minister to reduce the ‎position of himself and his office to the level of the hardliner camp’s spokesperson.” ‎

Soroush awaiting Salman Rushdie’s Fate?

‎Following the recent remarks of reformist intellectual Abdolkarim Soroush on the effects ‎of the prophet’s personal characteristics on development of the Koran, Ayatollah Hossein ‎Nouri Hamedani, a grand ayatollah residing in Ghom, said that “Soroush’s writings are ‎worse than Salman Rushdie’s.” Ayatollah Hamedani added, “Abdolkarim Soroush’s ‎religious theories have undermined the roots of prophecy, the Koran and holy ‎revelations.” ‎

According to the religious website “Hoza News,” which is run by the “Ghom Seminary ‎School’s Management Center,” the grand ayatollah told his students, “The Salman ‎Rushdie debacle was limited to insulting the prophet, but Mr. Soroush has undermined ‎the roots of prophecy, the Koran, and holy revelations. If this was intentional, we have to ‎fulfill our duty.” ‎

Ayatollah Hamedani’s reference to “duty” was the religious duty of fundamentalist ‎Muslims to murder those who intentionally deny the Koran or the prophet of Islam. ‎

Though debates are ongoing between Soroush and Shia intellectuals, Ayatollah ‎Hamedani’s remark that “If this was intentional, we have to fulfill our duty,” has ‎effectively paved the way to confront Soroush. ‎

In connection to this story, the Fars News Agency reported, “A number of Ghom’s ‎residents marched in protest to Soroush’s remarks following the Friday prayers. ‎Chanting slogans such as, “Today is the day of mourning, Saheb al-Zaman [last Shia ‎Imam] leads the mourners today,” the protestors asked for the prosecution of Soroush.

Reza Khatami and Pirmoazen Attacked

Officials Slam Reformist Leaders

After a recent session of the cabinet, a number of senior government officials accused ‎Mohammad Reza Khatami, deputy secretary general of the Mosharekat Party, and ‎Nouradin Pirmoazen, spokesperson for the minority reformist faction in the Majlis, of ‎treason for speaking with foreign diplomats and media. Khatami had met and spoken ‎with the German ambassador in Tehran recently.‎

In the past few days, following the publication of Ardebil representative in the Majlis ‎Noradddin Pirmoazen’s interview with Voice of America’s Persian Service, he was ‎accused of “treason against the parliament and the government.” The spokesperson for ‎the minority reformist faction in the Majlis defended himself by insisting that he had not ‎crossed any “red lines,” denied rumors that he has applied for refugee status in the United ‎States and said that he intended to return to Tehran. ‎

Yesterday, the minister of intelligence told reporters after attending the cabinet meeting, ‎‎“This action is really an act of treason and distasteful. Not only is it not consistent with ‎the representative’s senior position of responsibility, as even regular individuals would ‎not speak with foreigners in this manner. Contacting foreigners has certain norms and ‎not everyone is allowed to speak with foreigners about everything. This issue must be ‎investigated and the ministry of intelligence will not overlook it.” ‎

Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei also commented on the meeting of Mohammad Reza ‎Khatami with the German ambassador. While noting that “punishing Reza Khatami is ‎the responsibility of the judiciary and not the legislative,” he added, “In these meetings, ‎issues about the regime’s internal policies should not be discussed and abused, and ‎whatever person, party or group does such a thing harms the nation and is an act of ‎treason. If prominent individuals participate in such meetings, then the action is more ‎despicable.” ‎

Meanwhile, Minister of the Interior Pour Mohammadi called Pirmoazen’s interview with ‎the VOA and Reza Khatami’s meeting with the German ambassador “an act of treason,” ‎adding, “People will respond accordingly to this treacherous action.” ‎

In addition to the ministers of intelligence and interior, Ahmadinejad’s advisor Samareh ‎Hashemi and speaker of Majlis Haddad Adel condemned the actions as well of the ‎reformists. ‎

Reza Khatami, who has been the subject of the hardliners’ destructive campaigns in the ‎past few days, defended his casual meeting with the German ambassador and openly ‎announced that he has met with other ambassadors such as the British ambassador. ‎

The hardliner Raja News website, affiliated with the president’s office, wrote in this ‎connection, “Samareh Hashemi, one of the President’s special advisors, said yesterday ‎following the cabinet’s meeting that Khatami must disclose what he had said in the ‎meeting (with the German ambassador), and what his goals were from holding this ‎meeting.”‎

Ahmadinejad’s intelligence advisor, Rohallah Hosseinian, told official Fars news agency, ‎‎“The meeting with the German ambassador was not very surprising to me, because Reza ‎Khatami has held such meetings with British diplomats in the past, so much so that the ‎British ambassador has written a report documenting his euphoria from these meetings. I ‎have enough evidence to prove my claims.” ‎

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ahmadinejad’s Era Is a “Minor Occultation”

Cabinet Secretary

In his most recent statement, cabinet secretary Majid Doostali said, “Ahmadinejad’s era ‎is the prelude to Imam Zaman’s return” [Imam Zaman is the 12th Shiite Imam who is ‎viewed to be in occultation but who will return one day].‎

Kargozaran newspaper yesterday published new comments by Doostali in which he is ‎quoted to have said, “The Cabinet Secretary pointed out that just as Imam Zaman’s ‎occultation had a prelude and a main period, his return too has a prelude and a main ‎period, and that Ahmadinejad’s administration was the prelude to the return.”‎

Majid Doostali is close to President Ahmadinejad and after Zaribafan, became the ‎Cabinet Secretary last June. He was with Ahmadinejad during the Iran-Iraq war and prior ‎to that was a judge in the serial murder cases in the province of Kerman who reduced the ‎capital punishment sentences of the criminal murderers, who were Basij members, to ‎mere prison terms. He was also the deputy district attorney of Kerman. ‎Recently, Hassan Rowhani, Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator, had said that such ‎claims by the administration were attempts to “fool the masses”.
“What kind of a game is ‎this in which we assume the public to be fools? We will reveal everything to the public if ‎it becomes necessary. Some people nowadays place an empty prayer carpet in the front ‎row when they perform congregational prayers and declare that the carpet is for Imam ‎Zaman. Others put a plate for the Imam at their table when they eat. Still others schedule ‎their important meetings on Fridays, the weekly national holiday in Iran, so that they can ‎make their decision with the Imam amongst them, as they claim. Someone [a reference to ‎the President himself] even claimed one time that the Imam would appear in two years. A ‎few years have passed since that claim so it is clear that the person is nothing but a liar,” ‎he said.‎

Rowhani raised these issues after Ahmadinejad - who after his return from the US - had ‎called those who did not believe his claims that the gathering at Columbia University in ‎New York where Ahmadinejad gave a talk was under the “control” of Imam Zaman, ‎‎“shortsighted.”‎

‎“I know that short sighted people cannot digest these beliefs but I [at Columbia ‎University] was certain that our lord would come and run the show. I said ‘Imam Zaman! ‎I want to see your artistry,’” he had said. (Ahmadinejad’s speech at the Elm-o-Sanaat ‎University, Raja News.)‎

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ayatollah Behjat’s Accounts Are Frozen

News reports from the holy city of Qom indicate that the accounts of ayatollah Behjat, a ‎leading ayatollah with a following, have been frozen and the reasons for this are said to ‎be the ayatollah’s implicit opposition to the views of the leader of the Islamic regime ‎regarding violent self-flogging [traditionally carried out during the commemoration of the ‎Shiite third Imam through which his followers strike their backs with sharp objects, ‎including knives, to blood).‎

Sobh News news agency directly quoted this and wrote, “Following the opposition of ‎ayatollah Behjat with ayatollah Khamenei over the issue of self-flogging, the banking ‎accounts of the grand ayatollah have been frozen.” Alborz news website too wrote on this ‎that the freezing of the bank accounts was because of the “views he had over self-‎flogging and his visits with certain relevant officials.” ‎

According to a person close to ayatollah Behjat, after he had launched a discussion over ‎the merits and objections to the issue of self-flogging, security agents contacted the ‎ayatollah. During the meeting, these officials strongly criticized the ayatollah’s approval ‎of self-flogging (while the leader of the Islamic regime had banned it) so that after the ‎ayatollah refrained from rescinding his view, he was threatened with a freeze of his ‎banking accounts.‎

This student of ayatollah Behjat told a reporter from Sobh in Qom, “This threat has been ‎implemented for a while now but has also been ineffective because prior to it, the ‎ayatollah had instructed that all the funds in his accounts be paid to his students as the ‎payment of their tuition so that the accounts would be all empty.”‎

The difference of opinion between ayatollah Behjat who is an elder cleric in Qom with ‎ayatollah Khamenei has a history. The height of this difference appeared during a Fitr ‎celebration (which takes place at the end of the fasting month of Ramazan). During ‎recent years when ayatollah Khamenei has attempted to have the last word on when the ‎month of Ramazan ends, he has ended up with differences over this with some higher ‎clerics so that the followers of ayatollah Behjat engaged in the Fitr prayers on a day that ‎was different from what ayatollah Khamenei has announced to be observed nationally. ‎

It should be noted that after the death of ayatollah Khomeini, ayatollah Behjat is among ‎those ayatollah’s that the regime formally announced who could be the source of ‎emulation for the public.‎

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Four Journalists Sentenced to Prison

Four journalists from the Iranian northern province of Gilan were sentenced to prison and ‎other fines by the provincial judiciary. Their names have reported as, Arash Bahmani, ‎Babak Mehdizadeh, Koohzad Esmaili and Ali Anjamrooz. Bahmani received 16 months, ‎Mehdizadeh and Esmaili received 4 months each plus a fine.‎

The 11th branch of the Gilan Province Appellate court heard the appeal of Arash ‎Bahmani, Babak Mehdizadeh and Koohzad Esmaili, and upheld the sentence of the ‎provincial court which provided that based on the ruling of branch 106 of the criminal ‎court of Rasht on Aban 22nd, the three defendants were sentenced to 4 months of prison ‎for “publishing lies with the aim of creating anxiety in the public mind.” In addition to ‎this, Arash Bahmani was also sentenced to 1 year of prison on charges of “insulting ‎Imam Zaman” (the 12th Shiite Imam considered in occultation).‎

Lat year coinciding with President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Gilan province, Arash ‎Bahmani, Babak Mehdizadeh and Koohzad Esmaili, all members of the Advar Tahkim ‎Vahdat student organization in Gilan were arrested. Mehdizadeh and Esmaili were ‎released after 5 days but Bahmani stayed for another seven days. While the suspects were ‎released, a court last November sentenced Bahmani to 16 months of prison and the other ‎two to 4 months each.‎

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ahmadinejad is the Cause

The Right is Split over Elections
Jebhe Motahed Osoolgaran (The United Front of Idealogues) which has viewed itself as ‎the winner of the massive disqualification of reformist candidates prior to the March 14 ‎elections, is now busy preventing the publication of multiple lists within its ranks using ‎any method it can. So it is employing heavy tactics to prevent some ideologue candidates ‎so that only one list remains for the public.‎

In connection with this issue, Shahab News announced through a report titled, “Neck ‎breaking pressure on the Etelafe Faragir Osoolgaran (Comprehensive Coalition of ‎Idealogues) for its withdrawal in favor of the United Front”, that “the heavy political ‎pressures on the candidates belonging to a group known as the Comprehensive Coalition ‎of Idealogues to resign in favor of the United Front of Idealogues entered a new phase ‎when a senior executive authority joined them as a mediator and made unprecedented ‎remarks last Sunday.” ‎

The Comprehensive Coalition of Idealogues which basically comprises of right-wing ‎personalities critical of Mahmud Ahmadinejad has been welcomed extensively. This ‎group published its list of candidates to the forthcoming parliamentary elections on ‎March 4th, whose outstanding feature is that it does not contain the name of even a single ‎candidate belonging to Raihe Khosh Khedmat (the official coalition that supports ‎Ahmadinejad) in the Tehran list. So with the publication of this list, the right in Iran how ‎has two official lists, United Front and Comprehensive Coalition, presented to the public: ‎the first belongs to those supporting president Ahmadinejad while the latter comprises his ‎opponents on the right.‎

According to Shahab News, with this list, the pressure on the candidates of those ‎opposing Ahmadinejad has been mounting. Apart from the attacks on Ahmadinejad’s ‎opponents that have been appearing at pro-government websites, the commitment of the ‎United Front candidates [5+6] and their official pledge not to appear on the elections list ‎of the Comprehensive Coalition is one of the measures that was undertaken to weaken the ‎latter list and a way to control the dissident idealogues and persuade them to withdraw ‎from elections altogether. ‎

In recent days he United Front has used every means at its disposal to encourage “the ‎extra candidates” to resign. The official Fars news agency reports that 1- candidates for ‎the eight Majlis have already withdrawn in favor of the United Front. Despite this, reports ‎indicate that some of the candidates aligned with the Comprehensive Coalition are ‎fighting back and resisting withdrawal.‎

Shahab News has also reported that a senior administration official on Sunday held talks ‎with two prominent members of the Comprehensive Coalition in Tehran and asked them ‎to stop the activities of the coalition in any possible way. According to an informed ‎source, this senior administration official angrily called the coalition “a joke” and its ‎members a “bunch of rejected individuals” who were trying to weaken the position of the ‎idealogues and the government. It is reported that while this senior official had held talks ‎with members of the Comprehensive Coalition to stop them from issuing their own ‎independent list of candidates, these recent discussion on Sunday were very different in ‎tone from the past.‎

Friday, March 7, 2008

Reports of Khatami’s Request of Leader Refuted

Spokesman for Reformist Coalition:
‎“Mr. Khatami has till this moment not asked any senior state official to confirm the ‎qualifications of any individual,” according to the spokesman for the pro-reform ‎coalition. Abdullah Nasseri’s use of the term “senior state official” is in Iran’s political ‎nomenclature a reference to the leader of the Islamic Republic. It is interpreted to mean ‎that former President Khatami has not made a request from ayatollah Khamenei ‎regarding the approval of the qualifications of reformist candidates to the March 14 ‎parliamentary elections.‎

Last year during the first seminar of Iran’s governor-generals under the current ‎administration, the secretary of the Guardians Council (which vets election candidates ‎and supervises all national elections) ayatollah Ahmad Janati made remarks that were not ‎given prominence by the news agencies. On the eve of the elections to the powerful ‎Experts Assembly to Leadership he said, “I will not accept any recommendations except ‎those coming from the Leader.” In other words he said that only the Leader could make a ‎judgment over the views of the Guardians Council regarding candidates.‎

This is the reason when more than 3,000 candidates – mostly pro-reformists - were ‎disqualified by the Guardians Council the first recourse for the leading clerics was to ‎approach the Leader for intervention and assistance. At that time, Etemad newspaper ‎‎(belonging to the reformists) presented three options for breaking through the ‎disqualifications crises: “Seyed Mohammad Khatami, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and ‎Mehdi Karubi shall separately meet the Leader to resolve the issue of the candidate ‎disqualifications. This decision was taken at a special meeting the three held together for ‎the purpose of breaking through the impasse.”‎

Despite those events, the spokesman of the reformists now announces that Khatami has ‎not approached the Leader for intervention. “After a meeting with Mr. Karubi and Mr. ‎Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mr. Khatami met with the leader at the end of his presidential term ‎but this was not a special meeting over the elections,” he said.‎

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Rumor That Was Not Denied

Internet to be Blocked on Elections Day?

The rumor in Tehran these days is that on March 14, 2008 when Iranians go to polling ‎stations to cast their vote for the eight Majlis (Parliament), the Internet will be blocked ‎and thus not accessible in Tehran and other major cities across the country. But even ‎though this possibility still remains at the level of a rumor, the recent comments by the ‎Minister of the Interior, and the Political Deputy of Tehran Province, throw weight ‎behind the chitchat. Pour Mohammadi not only did not deny the rumors, he in fact ‎relegated the decision on this to the Telecommunications Company of Iran.‎

At a women’s seminar in Tehran, a reporter recently asked Pour Mohammadi whether the ‎rumor was right and that the “Ministry of the Interior had requested the Ministry of ‎Communications and Technology to block access to the Internet on March 14th. Without ‎denying the rumor or addressing the issue whether the Internet will be blocked or ‎otherwise, Mohammadi said, “Whether the Internet will be blocked on elections day ‎depends on the security plans of the Ministry of Communications and Technology.”‎

And while claiming ignorance as to how such news spread out he said, “Precautionary ‎measures will be implemented, as good ones have already been implemented and the ‎Ministry of Communications shall continue to be minutely monitoring the security of the ‎elections.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pass Resolutions, It's Not Important!

Ahmadinejad's Reaction to Passage of Third Resolution:

Despite massive propaganda by the Islamic Republic of Iran's officials to mark the "end of Iran's ‎nuclear case" and in lieu of holding nuclear victory parades in mosques by Basijis, the United ‎Nations Security Council passed a third resolution against Iran with an absolute majority of ‎votes.‎‏

In reaction to the news, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose photograph of holding up the victory ‎sign is still circulating in many websites and state-run news agencies, told a state-run television ‎network reporter: "If they think they can lift a hammer and say, hurry up, sit down and negotiate ‎with us - there is no such thing like that. [It's better for them not to] deceive themselves. If they ‎think this will pressure the Iranian nation, it won’t happen.

After all, pressure has always been ‎there, it's been there in the past two years too. Resolution after resolution. If they pass ‎resolutions like this, it's not important." ‎

Government spokesperson Gholam-Hossein Elham told reporters at his weekly press conference, ‎‎"The passage of a new resolution against Iran is illegal. It is like beating the air. Reviewing ‎Iran's case in the Security Council is baseless. It goes against the United Nations Charter and ‎lacks legal and proper foundations." ‎

Fars news agency was the sole domestic news group that reported the passage of the third UN ‎Security Council resolution against Iran on Friday. Quoting the AFP (Agence-France Presse), ‎Fars added, "The fourteen members of the UN Security Council voted for this anti-Iranian ‎measure even though Iran has repeatedly insisted on the peacefulness of its nuclear program and ‎its goal of producing nuclear energy for non-military use." ‎

‎"The International Atomic and Energy Agency has also confirmed in various reports that Iran ‎has not deviated from its peaceful nuclear program," insisted Fars. ‎
Coinciding with the UN Security Council meeting, the International Atomic and the Governing ‎Board of the IAEA in Vienna too held a session on the issue. And while most international news ‎agencies covered the events at the meeting, some Iranian news agencies, including Mehr, ‎published false reports regarding the event. ‎

On Monday international news agencies reported from the Vienna meeting: Mohammad ‎ElBaradei, the Agency's president, has asked Iran to respond to the allegation that it is ‎conducting research towards the development of nuclear weapons. In his speech at the Vienna ‎meeting, ElBaradei noted that "Although Iran had responded to many questions regarding its ‎nuclear program, this serious question remains to be answered." ‎
However, Mehr news agency which is affiliated with the cultural division of Sazman-e ‎Tablighat-e Eslami (Islamic Propaganda Organization), reported ElBaradei's speech in the ‎following manner: "ElBaradei: Allegations raised against Iran are baseless and not backed by ‎evidence."

Monday, March 3, 2008

God Created Iranians to Conquer the World!

Leader of ‎‏"‏Iran's Hezbollah‏"
Seyyed Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi, the secretary general of Iran’s Hezbollah group, ‎announced in his latest remarks that his organization is pursuing "national unity," reminding that ‎‎"the goal of every Hezbollahi Iranian must be to unite Muslim nations to conquer the whole ‎world, because God has created Iranians to conquer the whole world." ‎
In another part of his speech, this firebrand cleric identified "human development" as one of ‎Hezbollah's goals. He described this to mean the "the creation of a force that can withstand the ‎return of Imam Zaman [the Shiite 12th Imam considered to be in occultation now but who is ‎promised to return]." While condemning the clergy’s performance in this regard, Kharrazi said, ‎‎"Imam Zaman's problem is not the world…The problem is that there are no pious people to ‎conquer the world and other planets. Unfortunately, the clergy hasn't done anything in this ‎respect and for this reason our intellectuals have gone astray as well." Kharrazi added, "so long ‎as people and Hezbollah are not pious, that Messiah [Imam Zaman] will not return." ‎
Return After 14 Years
Kharrazi is a political figure close to Iranian president Ahmadinejad's camp who officially began ‎his political career two years ago after the coming to power of Ahmadinejad. In a well-known ‎speech delivered in the religious city of Qom following Ahmadinejad's victory, Kharrazi ‎claimed, "the Iranian Hezbollah has returned to the scene after 14 years of silence." ‎
In that speech, Kharrazi boasted about his and his colleagues' efforts: "During these 14 years, we ‎were busy with scientific activities and now we are experts in all fields such as Islamic law, ‎rhetoric, philosophy, politics, and history, and have our own material to teach." ‎
Soon after Kharrazi's talk in the winter of 2005, Sharif News reported the imminent publication ‎of "Hezbollah" daily. ‎

Space Warfare and Atomic Bomb
The remarks of Hezbollah's secretary general have always been attractive to the Iranian press. In ‎a speech in the summer of 2005 and coinciding with the election of Ahmadinejad to presidency, ‎Kharrazi had called on Iranians to "prepare ourselves for space warfare." ‎
In that speech, Kharrazi said, "We can build an atomic bomb, which we must have. We have to ‎prepare ourselves for space warfare. Stay assured that if a war breaks out, we will set the whole ‎world on fire and mobilize our troops all over the world to attack America. We will even attack ‎America on its own soil. We will throw grenades into their mouths and bedrooms and will make ‎sure that no American feels secure." ‎
He also threatened certain countries, "I count the seconds for the day that an idiot decides to ‎attack Iran. Our enemies still don't know what a Shia guerilla fighter means! Anyone who helps ‎America will be targeted by us as well." ‎
Kharrazi also issued warnings to some Iranian officials: "Who is behind foreign contracts? ‎During these years of silence, we have compiled information on all these gentlemen and if they ‎try to stop Hezbollah, we will reveal this information. If they still try to stop us we will go ‎underground. Very soon, after holding our first national Hezbollah gathering in Qom, we will ‎hold a million-man Hezbollah gathering on the streets of Tehran." ‎