Monday, April 28, 2008

Conservatists Win Again

Iran’s Majlis Elections Finalized

With the run off elections held last Friday, the dossier of the run off elections for the ‎eight Majlis (Iran’s Parliament) is closed. According to the final results, Elias Naderan, ‎Laleh Eftekhari, Mehdi Kutchakzadeh, ALireza Zakani, Ali Asghar Zarei, Tabibeh ‎Safayi, Parviz Sarvari, Hamid Rasayi, Hossein Fadayi Ashtiani, Zohreh Elahian were ‎among the Principalists (as the ideologues supporting the President are called) in Tehran ‎who found their way to the legislative body. Alireza Mahjoob was the only reformist ‎candidate along with the 22 others from the first round of elections who won a seat in the ‎Majlis. According to Aftab news website of the 25 million potential voters in these ‎elections, less than 15 percent actually cast their ballots.‎

An analysis published on Raja news site which is close to President Ahmadinejad ‎claimed the results to be not just a victory of the conservatists over the reformers, but also ‎a victory of pro-government conservatists over critical conservatists who had supported ‎Rezayi, Qalibaf and Larijani in the first round of elections on March 14, 2008.‎

Yesterday Mostafa Pourmohammadi who lost his cabinet post because of the first round ‎of Majlis elections on March 14, 2008, spoke to reporters about his views on the ‎elections. “287 Majlis seats have been finalized of which about 69 percent belong to ‎those that known as the Principalists (conservatist ideologues), 16.38 percent belong to ‎the reformists and the remaining 14.29 percent are independents,” he said. ‎

While a number of sites wrote about the “absolute defeat” for the reformists, Seyed ‎Safdar Hosseini, the head of the provincial committee of the reformist’s coalition spoke ‎of a “categorical victory” of the reformists in the run off elections. Without providing any ‎statistics for Tehran, he said, “We succeeded in winning categorically in many provinces ‎and towns and sending Messer Ansari from Zanjan, Torabifrom Shahr Kord, Alipour ‎from Lordegan, Kaabi from Abadan, Nasiripour from Sarab and Shooshtari from ‎Ghoochan, among others, to the eight Majlis and the final results for these will be ‎announced subsequently. Of the remaining 28 seats for the reformers during the run off ‎elections of April 25, 2008, 15 candidates have so far won seats in the provinces and will ‎thus go to the Majlis.”‎

In a related news, Masood Soltanifar, an officer in the Etemad Melli (National Trust) ‎party elections campaign told ISNA student news agency, “Two thirds of the candidates ‎put forward by Etemad Melli which account for 16 individuals from amongst 24, have ‎found their way to the Majlis. They are from the election districts of Chaloos and ‎Nowshahr, Yazd, Zanjan, Lordegan, Bandar Torkaman and Kordkui, Kermanshah, ‎Zanjan, Sarab, Mianeh, Ghoochan, Abadeh, Gonbad Kawoos, Shiraz, Sanandaj, Tabriz ‎and Shahre Kord in which they won majority votes.”‎

The first round of elections was held on March 14 and was followed by serious ‎accusations and complaints of “extensive rigging” announced by reform candidates. Two ‎senior clerics in the Islamic Republic (khatami and karubi)even filed official complaints ‎to the head of the Guardians Council that oversees and supervises all national elections ‎and requested recounts. While their request was ignored, Mehdi Karubi requested that the ‎Ministry of the Interior take greater care should be taken in the counting of votes for the ‎run off elections that were held on April 25th, 2008. Mr. Pourmohammadi from the ‎ministry had responded that “Mr. Karubi can sleep tight” as he was certain the elections ‎would be held with full integrity. Still Aftab news website reported that during the ballot ‎counting the Reformers’ Elections Campaign had called the results “wary”.‎

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A More Intense Cultural Revolution

Universities under Fire by Ay Mesbah Yazdi

As the government’s pressure on university students takes new forms every day, ‎ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi who is considered by some to be the spiritual force behind the ‎current administration of president Ahmadinejad, in his most recent remarks said students ‎‎“are learning nothing other than how to bash the regime and at times Islam.”‎
In its report on the meeting between the central council of Imam Khomeini Aid ‎Committee (Komiteh Emdad Imam Khomeini) and ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the news ‎unit of Qom’s Theological Center quotes the head of the director of Imam Khomeini ‎Educational and Research center Mesbah Yazdi, “The future generation is under threat ‎because neither traditional and classical ethics nor Islamic values dominate their training. ‎They are being trained by Western culture, television and university classes in which they ‎are learning nothing other how to bash the regime and at times Islam.”‎
To correct the situation, the ayatollah recommends, “Authorities must acquire the ‎necessary skills and learn of better methods, … and analyze the cultural and international ‎position of the country scientifically (rationally).
We must strengthen this new generation ‎and have a role in their religious education. Islamic and modern teaching methods must ‎be used to train the young generation because if these two elements are not used there ‎would be conflict.”‎

In its report on Yazdi’s comments, Advar News website which is run by a group of ‎dissident students writes, “Mesbah’s comments come at a time when the current ninth ‎administration launched intense efforts to suppress universities from day one. Forced ‎retirement of university teachers, their firings, and efforts to keep students critical of ‎university policies outside the institution or imprisoning them are the examples of the ‎administration’s policies regarding universities and students.”‎

According to this news site, “the criticism over teaching content and what is said in the ‎classrooms is an indication of the displeasure of the spiritual leader of the current ‎administration, an issue that has been mentioned repeatedly by the press under the guise ‎of the second Cultural Revolution.”‎

Thursday, April 17, 2008

If Israel Attacks, It Will be Destroyed ‎

Iran's Deputy Army Chief

On the eve of the Islamic Republic's Army Day, Iran's deputy army chief said that an ‎Israeli assault on Iran would bring about the annihilation of Israel. Speaking to a group ‎of reporters, General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani boasted the army's high morale and ‎determination to carry out its missions in accordance with the policies of Ahmadinejad. ‎
General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani spent a majority of his speech commenting on Israel’s ‎recent military maneuver. In this respect, Ashtiani said, “If Israel wants to carry out any ‎kind of move against the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will annihilate it from the face of ‎the planet.” ‎
According to the deputy chief of Iran's army, “Israel lacks strategic boundaries and is ‎extremely vulnerable. It demonstrated that vulnerability in its 33-day war against ‎Lebanon.” ‎
Implicitly referring to the long range of newly-developed missiles in Iran, Ashtiani said, ‎‎“Even if other countries dare to attack us, the Israelis definitely know their place, which ‎is in our reach, and will be most harmed by an attack. The involvement of the Zionist ‎regime in an expedition will create an unbalanced regional atmosphere.” ‎
In its meeting with reporters, Ashtiani also revealed details about Iran’s military ‎capabilities, including the use of new weapons: “in our ground force units, given our ‎presence in border areas, we have used new, innovative weapons and implemented ‎diverse tactics in order to transition from the conduct of orderly warfare into asymmetric ‎warfare. In addition, our military and defensive capabilities are such that we are certain ‎no country will allow itself to engage us on the ground.” ‎
Deputy chief of the Iranian army noted, “In the air force, we have emphasized the ‎development, innovation and preparation of new airplanes, as well as the use of ‎innovative tactics, such as increasing the culture of martyrdom among air force pilots.” ‎Ashtiani added, “In air force, we are completely prepared and alert to defend the nation’s ‎air space. In the navy, our submarines are completely superior.” ‎
Deputy chief of the Iranian army said, “Among other important steps taken by the Iranian ‎army are the design and production of submarines in different tonnages, which is very ‎important for future military equations; design and production of various radar and ‎electronic systems; production of various kinds of unmanned planes; and putting especial ‎emphasis on the production of cheaper, lighter and smarter weapons.” ‎

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mehr: Investigations Are Over

Ahmadinejad Takes Charge of Shiraz Explosion Case

Though official and state-owned news agencies in Iran insist that Saturday night's explosion in ‎shiraz was "not a terrorist attack," an "informed official" said that a bomb was responsible for the ‎explosion and that the president was unhappy that his the mosque's officials (which are affiliated ‎with him) are blamed for the explosion. ‎

Yesterday, an informed official working at the Shiraz governor's office told the reporter of "news ‎website Iran" that "all experts have announced that the explosion was caused by a bomb and the ‎party responsible for this attack has been identified." This informed official added, "high ‎government officials in Shiraz are about to be removed from their posts" because "they had ‎blamed the mosque's officials for the explosion without consulting the president." ‎

In a different opinion about the source of the explosion, deputy security chief at the Ministry of ‎Interior noted, "So far no evidence has been found regarding a planned detonation or preplanned ‎attack in the Shiraz explosion." Yesterday, Fars news agency quoted an informed official that ‎‎"the incident was caused by the presence of a weapons cache at the location left over from the ‎Holy War exhibit," and therefore, it is pointless to speak of a terrorist attack. Similarly, the ‎deputy of operations of the police told Fars, "Expert examinations of the scene of the event ‎refutes the possibility of a premeditated or bombing attack." ‎

Mehr news agency also reported that investigations were completed: "The latest expert ‎examinations indicate that the Shiraz explosion was due to the presence of display military ‎material and any kind of terrorist attack originating inside or outside Iran is out of the question."

These opinions are expressed while officials from the Hosseiniyeh (religious center) insist that ‎the dead and wounded were victims of a terrorist attack. In an interview conducted at 11 p.m. ‎Saturday night, Anjavinejad, head of the mosque where the incident took place, insisted that the ‎attacked was a "terrorist" one and referred to the dead in the incident as "martyrs." ‎

On the other hand, whereas the Fars news agency refutes any possibility of a Wahhabi ‎involvement in the explosion, the website Farda referred to the Saudi Arabia-based Internet news ‎source Ilaf and reported, "A Wahhabi group was responsible for the explosion in Shiraz." ‎Shahab News has also reported that "Wahhabi's" were involved in the explosion in Shiraz. ‎

Ahmadinejad Entering the Forbidden Zone?

Khamenei Opposed to Replacing Interior Minister

‎Several conservative websites have reported that Ayatollah Khamenei does not favor ‎Ahmadinejad’s decision to replace the Interior Minister. ‎
In this connection the website “Fararoo” announced yesterday, “The supreme leader has ‎not yet approved of the president’s decision to remove the Interior Minister.” The ‎website, while noting that the appointment and removal of ministers of foreign relations, ‎intelligence, interior, and culture and Islamic guidance have always been impossible ‎‎“without the supreme leader’s consent,” reminded its readers that, if the supreme leader ‎continues to oppose the removal, “the President has no option but to reverse his ‎decision.”‎
In this connection, the website Asr-e Iran also speculated that Interior Minister ‎Pourmohammadi may remain at his post. Also, Farda news website speculated that “the ‎supreme leader may oppose the decision to remove the interior minister.” ‎
Meanwhile, the hardline Kayhan newspaper, headed by Hossein Shariatmadari, the ‎supreme leader’s direct appointee to the Kayhan Institute, criticized Ahmadinejad’s ‎decision to remove the ministers of finance and interior from their posts, asking the ‎president, “How can a minister who does not know how long his term of service is, and ‎expects to be removed every day, plan to ‘serve the nation?’” ‎
In his editorial, Shariamatdari particularly criticized the decision to remove the Interior ‎Minister as “requiring more thought,” writing, “In the current situation, the removal of ‎the Interior Minister who has recently held hugely successful and historic elections and is ‎preparing to hold the second round of the same elections, requires more thought. Is his ‎removal under the circumstances wise?” ‎
Regarding reasons behind Pourmohammadi’s removal, some sources cited ‎Pourmohammadi’s report to the supreme leader regarding election irregularities as the ‎main reason behind his hurried removal by Ahmadinejad before obtaining the supreme ‎leader’s consent. ‎
In this connection, the website Aftab quoted “an informed source” that “the Interior ‎Minister, following the conclusion of the first round of elections, sent a report regarding ‎observed election irregularities to one of the regime’s top officials [a term often used by ‎Iranian media to refer to the supreme leader]. The president became aware of the sending ‎of such a report a few days later and was extremely furious because of the Interior ‎Minister’s action.” ‎
According to Aftab, “Ahmadinejad was angry that the Interior Minister had not consulted ‎him prior to sending the report, and made the decision to remove him for this error.” ‎

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Two Ministers Removed to Create More Obedient Cabinet

Government Spokesperson Was Unaware!

A rumor that was denied by the government spokesperson last week and dismissed as the ‎physiological warfare of the “enemy” came true and two more prominent cabinet ministers, ‎Finance Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari and Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi were ‎removed from their cabinet posts. ‎

Although it has been reported that the two ex-ministers will be appointed to new government ‎jobs, what makes the news significant is their position. In effect, like Ali Larijani, who remains ‎on the National Security Council as the supreme leader's representative, and Farhad Rahbar and ‎Mostafa Pourmohammadi, former intelligence officers who worked at the office of the supreme ‎leader during Khatami's presidency, Danesh-Jafari also serves on the Expediency Council on the ‎direct orders of Iran’s supreme leader. ‎

Political analysts believe that, with the removal of the finance and interior ministers, only two ‎prominent figures remain in the Ahmadinejad’s administration: Minister of Intelligence ‎Mohseni-Ezhei and head of the Central Bank, Tahmasb Mazaheri. The other senior officials in ‎the administration are inexperienced and fully subservient to Ahmadinejad. ‎
Unaware Advisor ‎

Last week, government spokesperson Gholamhossein Elham, who is seen to be close to the ‎president, dismissed reports of the two ministers' removal as "April Fools' Day hoaxes" and ‎blamed administration's enemies for the “rumors”. But with a short piece posted on his weblog, ‎Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to cabinet-level changes thus implicitly confirming the rumors. ‎Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad's senior advisor Samareh Hashemi told reporters curious about the ‎news to wait a few days. ‎

Elham provided reporters with a thorough explanation about why he was unaware of the news: "I ‎was unaware of these changes until Sunday, even though rumors about possible changes were ‎published on some websites on Thursday. But in the long cabinet meeting on Thursday, which ‎lasted from morning till evening, the gentlemen who were the subject of the rumors were present ‎and very active… On Saturday morning I tried to briefly meet with Mr. President, like I usually ‎do before press conferences, but he was attending the meeting at the Expediency Council and we ‎were not able to converse on the phone either. In any case, the changes were not finalized by the ‎time of my press conference." ‎

The reaction of domestic publications to the news of the most recent cabinet changes was almost ‎identical. Tabnak website spun the most recent changes, implemented with fewer than 17 ‎months left from Ahmadinejad's term, as a move to "purify" the administration. ‎

Tabnak reported, "Though many described the ninth cabinet as the weakest cabinet in terms of ‎output, they viewed Danesh-Jafari and Pourmohammadi as more experienced; however, what the ‎two shared in common was their affiliation with one of the regime's centers [office of the ‎supreme leader], where they spent a lot of their time." ‎

Below is a list of some of the most prominent figures that have resigned or been removed by ‎Ahmadinejad:‎

Ali Larijani, top nuclear negotiator and head of the National Security Council;‎Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh, Minister of Oil;‎Mahmoud Farshidi, Minister of Education;‎Farhad Rahvar, head of the Planning and Management Organization;‎Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, deputy Minister of Interior in political affairs;‎Rahmani Fazli, deputy head of National Security Council;‎Ali Reza Tahmasebi, Minister of Industry;‎Ebrahim Sheibani, head of Central Bank;‎Mohammad Nazemi Ardakani, Minister of Cooperatives;‎Parviz Kazemi, Minister of Welfare; and ‎Jamal Karimirad, Minister of Justice (who died on the job). ‎

Ghabel Ends Up in Prison Too

A Judgment Calculated to be Implemented after Elections

Without any prior warning, Hadi Ghabel, a cleric member of the Central Council of Jebhe ‎Mosharekat reformist front (Participation Front) was arrested on Monday and sent to ‎Langarood prison in Qom.‎

This news was broken by Ghabel’s son, Ruhollah who said, “My father had been ‎summoned by Qom’s special Clerics Court on March 26th, 2008. He requested an ‎extension and went to the court yesterday (on Monday). Because the court had not ‎announced that it was going to implement the sentence against my father, he was not ‎ready for detention, but was nevertheless transferred to a prison in Qom.”‎

Jebhe Mosharekat front, on whose central council Ghabel had served in the past, issued a ‎statement regarding Ghabel’s arrest in which it protests against the ‘unfair” execution of ‎a sentence and reminds the public that the execution of the sentence had been suspended ‎by the judiciary officials based on the negotiations that had taken place.”‎

The statement also reads, “A review of the charges against Ghabel indicate that a case ‎was concocted against him based on the public speeches that he had made which included ‎his political, religious and Shiite views, as well as his criticisms since 1997. From ‎amongst his writings and speeches, selected sentences and paragraphs had been extracted ‎to serve as documents for the arrest.”‎

Last Wednesday, agents approached Ghabel’s house on the pretext of having religious ‎questions. When the cleric appeared at the front of his house, they pushed their way ‎inside and after searching the rooms confiscated his papers, writings and computer, and ‎took him to prison. The following Tuesday, Jebhe Mosharekat issued a statement in ‎which it condemned his detention, while his imprisonment lasted for 2 months.‎

Despite the express legal provisions that political crimes must be reviewed in the ‎presence of a jury and must be public, Hadi Ghabel was interrogated repeatedly taken to ‎the Clerics Court during his two month detention and was finally sentenced to 40 months ‎of imprisonment. He was also defrocked.‎

The details of the sentence issued by the Qom court also assert that he had committed ‎acts against national security for which he was sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment, 10 ‎months for engaging in propaganda against the state, 15 months for spreading lies and ‎rumors with the purpose of disrupting public peace, the payment of 500,000 Tomans ‎‎(each US Dollar is about 850 Toman in the market) for insulting state and religious ‎officials, and imprisonment of 100 days for insulting judiciary leadership, the general and ‎revolutionary prosecutor of Tehran, and other judiciary officials. ‎

His defense attorneys have protested against the sentence passed against Ghabel and filed ‎an appeal. The second district of the court of appeals for the Clerics court however, ‎upheld the judgment.‎
recommendatory note : I taken many photos of Washington DC , yeasterday. You can see here

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Basiji’s Protest across Dutch Embassy

Protests against Movie “Fitnah” in Tehran ‎

‎The gathering in front of the Dutch embassy in Tehran that was supposed to convey ‎protests to the Dutch film Fitnah turned up a mere 70 Basiji para-military personnel, ‎while the pro and semi government media gave it its full coverage. ‎

On Saturday prior to this, Salam Hamvatan daily appeared on newspaper kiosks in the ‎morning with this headline: Students from Tehran University Will Gather at 3pm on ‎Saturday in Front of the Dutch embassy in Tehran to Protest the Anti-Islamic Movie ‎made by the Right-wing Dutch Parliamentarian. But on Saturday morning there was no ‎sign of any Tehran University student presence across the Dutch embassy. There were ‎merely a few more diplomatic security police in the area. Around 12 noon, anti-riot ‎police and law-enforcement officers took up positions around the embassy and about 2 ‎hours later, protester began to show up. They carried banners indicating that they were ‎Basiji students, Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat (Shiraz branch) students, the Association of ‎Independent Islamic Societies (Etehadie Anjomanhaye Islami Mostaghele Daneshgaha), ‎the Association of Islamic Society Students (Etehadie Jame Islami Daneshjuyan), and ‎Jonbeshe Edalatkhah Daneshjuyi students. They were all Basiji students with their usual ‎ways. The gathering finally began after a 30 minute delay at three thirty pm. The ‎protestors carried written notes that were their slogans some of which read like this: ‎‎“The Light of Islam Would Not Remain Behind Clouds, (while) the Western World Shall ‎Remain Forever; The Love for Mohammad is Boiling, (while) the Heart of Europe is ‎Stunned; This is Our Request: Expel the Dutch Ambassador; Islam Shall Conquer the ‎Key Trenches of the World; The Zionist Ambassador Must be Expelled.”‎

Some of the protesters carried placards that had nothing to do with the movie and a ‎reporter quipped that they must have brought the sing by mistake. “Death to the Hired ‎Pen”. Among the protestors there were also some women fully covered in the official ‎Islamic attire who carried a placard with ayatollah Khomeini’s words: If not observing ‎the Islamic Hijab is a sign of modernity, then animals are the most modern.”‎

Towards the end of the gathering, the protestors requested that the Iranian president ‎provide the means for the expulsion of the Dutch ambassador from Tehran. Shahbazi, a ‎protestor from Tehran University Basij said, “To confront Holland, we shall first strike at ‎the Dutch business companies in Iran. We wish to expel the Zionist Shell oil company ‎from Iran, otherwise Iranian youth will have to experience what Nigerian youth went ‎through. Phillips is another Dutch company in Iran. We request from the security and ‎intelligence agencies to deal with these companies and request from the government to ‎make its decision over the fate of Shell and Phillips, whose connections to Zionism are ‎well known, while also deciding on the remaining business companies.”‎

Of significance is the explosion of sound bombs which interrupted the speakers at the ‎rally. Some of the participants threw eggs at the building of the Dutch embassy, while ‎chanting “Death to Israel”, and “Death to the US”. Law enforcement officers present at ‎the scene intervened to protest this behavior.‎

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Growing Inflation

Ahmadinejad’s “Great Economic Leap” ‎

President Ahmadinejad who had announced his new “Great Economic Leap” agenda ‎during the Iranian new year message on March 20th, 2008, issued a series of executive ‎orders and met a number of provincial Governors in which he called for wider efforts to ‎control the rising national inflation. These efforts came at a time when the Minister of ‎Economy Dawood Danesh Jaafari told Mehr news agency, “Despite wide efforts, the ‎government has not attained its goals regarding inflation last year in which there was a ‎rise of 4 to 5 percent in the rate of inflation compared to the previous year.”‎

Economists have openly charged the government’s policies to be the cause of the rise in ‎prices. Saeed Shirkund, for example, told Aftab, “The head of the cabinet and the head of ‎the Majlis, including a number of others within each branch, have each tried in recent ‎weeks to hold the other responsible for the spiral inflation, while the real cause of ‎inflation for last year and the year before rests with the government and the Majlis.” Dr ‎Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the head of the Center for Economic Studies belonging to ‎the research center under the State Expediency Council told ISNA student news agency, ‎‎“Not only will economic problems be lessened next year, but the economic growth too ‎will be about 6 percent less this year.”‎

Experts believe that the recent circulars by the administration will only complicate the ‎problems. In one specific government circular to its departments, President Ahmadinejad ‎has asked government departments to each forego 20 percent of their budget. ‎

The newspaper Asr-e Iran interprets the circular of the government requesting them to ‎reduce their budget to be in contradiction to measures passed by the Majlis. “While the ‎Majlis spent three months working on the budget for 2007 and finally passed the budget ‎bill by slightly increasing its initial amount, the administration - in amazing contrast - has ‎requested the operational divisions of the administration to only consider 80 percent of ‎the allocated budget for 2008 to be applicable.”‎

ISNA student news agency also reported that in the recent gathering of Iran’s Governors, ‎President Ahmadinejad linked the growing rate of inflation in the country to Western ‎countries and said, “While the rate of inflation was bitter, but its actual amount is less ‎than what they thought.” Looking into the future, the president said, “We shall be ‎celebrating the third decade of the revolution and every operational division and province ‎should complete and inaugurate its projects in thirties (i.e. 30, 60, 90, etc).”‎

In a related circular, at its most recent meeting, the cabinet passed an order according to ‎which the banking system should limit its monetary disbursements to the public to 5,000 ‎million Toman (which is about $1,000) per person per day. It should be noted that many ‎businesses in the country need more than that limit for their daily operations. Surgeons ‎for example need much more than that to perform their operations forcing patients to ‎collect the money they need to pay the surgeons during several days. The circular is very ‎specific in making sure that banks authenticate their customers with IDs such as the ‎nation l ID code and their zip codes. This circular also tasks banks to send their records ‎every two months to the national documents and land registry, including company ‎registrations organizations (Sazeman Sabt Ahval-e Keshvar and Sazeman Sabt Asnad va ‎Amlak Keshvar) for their review and confirmation, further providing that customers ‎whose records contravene these stipulations will have to make their transactions ‎compliant within a month. The Central Bank of Iran is the ultimate policeman in the ‎process which must enact punitive measures for violators.‎

Ahmadinejad's Apology!

April Fools' Day Hoaxes in Iran

April 1, which is accompanied in the foreign media with entertaining hoaxes, corresponds with ‎the 13th day of Nowruz [the Persian calendar year that began on March 20th, 2008] celebrations, ‎the time for "Nowruz lies." ‎

To commemorate this day, Farda website dedicated an entire page to April Fools' day jokes, for ‎instance, reporting "Ahmadinejad's special request from 50 economists critical of the ‎administration." Referencing last year's meeting of 50 protesting economists with Ahmadinejad, ‎Farda writes as an April Fools' day hoax: "Dr. Ahmadinejad has officially invited 50 economists ‎to assist him in reforming economic policies, which he promised to the people in his Nowruz ‎address." Another April Fools' day joke from Farda is the "Order from the Minister of Culture to ‎reverse the ban on publications." "In two separate orders," Farda writes," Saffar Harandi asked ‎for the reversal of the ban on two newspapers Shargh and Ham-Mihan, and the news websites ‎ILNA and Baztab." ‎

Shahab News, however, chose a false report of a coup d'etat for its April Fools' day hoax. ‎According to this website, "In the house of a prominent figure opposed to the administration, ‎large amounts of heavy artillery, which were gathered to weaken the government of Dr. ‎Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were found." According to this false report from Shahab News, "In ‎addition to the discovery of large amounts of Katyusha rockets and roadside bombs, one stealth ‎jet fighter was found in the basement of the house with a message that read, 'A Gift from the ‎U.S. Government to Ahmadinejad's Opponents.' A videocassette belonging to a singer from Los ‎Angeles, one bottle of an alcoholic beverage, mixed with orange juice to fool officers, and a cell ‎phone were also discovered in the house." Shahab News continued, "Some opponents of ‎Ahmadinejad’s administration planned to use these weapons to instigate a 'media coup' against ‎the ninth administration" [a joking reference to Iran’s minister of culture's accusation against ‎critical publications]. ‎

Kambiz Ghomri also pulled a few April Fools' day hoaxes on his blog, Kasper. He wrote, "Iran's ‎president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after apologizing for past mistakes from the Iranian nation at ‎a press conference, announced that he is embarrassed and remorseful of his past actions."

Kasper also reported the return of Dariush, a popular singer from Los Angeles, to Iran, noting, ‎‎"After arriving in Iran, while crying of joy, he was greeted by the Minister of Culture, Saffar ‎Harandi." This weblog had another report: "In an unprecedented and courageous move, the ‎Islamic Republic conducted a referendum on the type of regime to govern Iran." ‎

Another entertaining hoax, which could be interpreted as a desire to start relations with the US ‎was this: "George Bush, America's controversial president, was at the center of yet another ‎controversy. Yesterday, in an unprecedented event, he flew to the city of Qom and was greeted ‎by the people of the city. After a long speech, Bush appeared at the house of ayatollah ‎Montazeri and converted to Islam." ‎

April Fools' day hoaxes were plentiful in Iranian websites and blogs as werll. Reacting to Hugo ‎Chavez's multiple trips to Iran, Farda wrote, "It has been reported that Venezuelan President ‎Hugo Chavez has announced that he is tired of traveling to Iran and will not travel to Iran any ‎more."

Though April Fools' day hoaxes are used in Western societies to "surprise the audience" and ‎‎"entertain people," in Iran they serve an additional purpose: "voicing the Iranians' dreams and ‎unattainable desires." ‎

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Students and Teachers Die on the Road

High Number of Road Accidents in Iran

A bus carrying teachers from Shahr-e Kord to Ahwaz was overturned in an accident which ‎claimed the lives of twenty-seven people. This is the second accident in the past two weeks ‎affecting large numbers of travelers. Previously, on March 15, a bus carrying university students ‎from Mashhad's Khayyam University collided with a vehicle transporting fuel on the ‎Andimeshk-Khoramabad road. The bus caught on fire and twenty-four students were burnt to ‎death. ‎

Prior to these two accidents, similar accidents claimed the lives of students and teachers in the ‎past year. Last fall, in a collision between two busses carrying 80 university students from ‎Damghan, seven students were killed and more than 29 were injured. Similarly, last spring, a ‎truck collided with a bus carrying 37 geology students from Mashhad's Payam-e Nour ‎University. The students were returning from an educational tour in Sari. That accident claimed ‎the lives of 5 students and injured 15 others. ‎

The head of Iran's Transportation and Safety Department (Sazman-e Rahnamayee va Ranandegi-‎e Iran), Colonel Rooyanian, believes that road accidents have decreased in Iran by 16 percent. ‎However, the colonel's own deputy announced that 420 people have lost their lives only in the ‎first six days of the Persian new year. ‎

According to official figures, more than thirty thousand people die in road accidents in Iran every ‎year.

Boutimar Sentenced to Death for Second Time

\A New Sentence from the Revolutionary Court
The Revolutionary Court of the city of Marivan, in western Iran, sentenced Kurdish activist Hiva ‎‎(Abdolvahed) Boutimar to death for the second time. Although the written judgment has not yet ‎been served on Boutimar due to the Iranian New Year holidays that began on March 20th and ‎usually continue for about 2 weeks, a judge verbally notified Boutimar's attorney of the ‎judgment. ‎

Hiva (Abdolvahed) Boutimar used to publish a journal belonging to the "Sabz Chia" (literally ‎translated as Green Mountain) association, which is an active environmentalist organization in ‎Marivan. He was one of the association's founders and served on its board of directors.

Last summer, following his arrest by the Intelligence Ministry, the Revolutionary Court of the ‎city of Marivan sentenced Hiva Boutimar and a colleague, Adnan Hassanpour, to death on ‎charges of acting against national security and espionage. Hassanpour was a manging editor at ‎the Kurdish-Farsi journal "Asou." ‎

The death sentences of these two Kurdish activists sparked international protests. Following an ‎appeal filed by the attorneys of the two defendants, the appellate court rejected Adnan ‎Hassanpour's request and upheld the original sentence, but returned Hiva Boutimar's case to the ‎Revolutionary Court for a review. Hiva Boutimar appeared at the Revolutionary Court on 27 of ‎Bahman (March 17, 2008), and the court has once again issued the death sentence for Boutimar. ‎
While in prison, Hiva Boutimar and Adnan Hassanpour staged a hunger strike to protest their ‎inhumane treatment and for being kept in solitary confinement for more than 50 days. Currently, ‎Hiva Boutimar is kept at a detention facility in Marivan while Adnan Hassanpour is held at ‎Sanadaj's general prison ‎

Some sources had previously reported that the court sentenced these two activists to death based ‎on confessions extracted from them through torture and while under duress. These reports ‎indicate that prison and intelligence officers had subjected the two Kurdish activists to severe ‎mental and physical tortures to force them to make false confessions about their alleged charges ‎on tape and participate in a television program. Adnan Hassanpour's mother was also put under ‎pressure to convince her son to appear in front of the camera and confess to what was asked of ‎him. ‎

Officers from the Ministry of Intelligence have removed Hiva Boutimar several times from a ‎prison to an Intelligence Ministry facility in Sanandaj to force him to appear in front of cameras ‎and confess to charges against that incriminate him. These agents had promised Hassanpour that ‎they would arrange for his release if he agreed to confess to charges of espionage in a televised ‎program.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Majlis Elections Were Rigged

Khoramshahr Friday Prayer Leader Protests:

‎A week after the Majlis elections in the South-Western town of Khoramshahr, the ‎representative of ayatollah Khamenei in the town annulled the elections and announced ‎that “the elections involved all kinds of violations.”‎

As reported by Tabnak website, “Seyed Abolhassan Nouri, the Friday congregational ‎prayer leader of Khoramshahr mentioned 'Election rigging', 'coercion of voters' and the ‎‎'sale-purchase of votes' as the violations in the Majlis elections in the town.‎

‎“Elections in Khoramshahr were held in dirty waters and it is most unfortunate that there ‎was coercion, bullying and fraud involved,” he said. Nouri also revealed that some ‎government agencies possessed documents supporting the rigging, adding, ‎‎“Unfortunately residents of other election districts were moved to Khoramshahr in an ‎effort to have them vote for pre-identified candidates.” He also quoted some observers ‎who had charged that they had “seen with their own eyes that money had passed hands to ‎individuals who were told to vote for particular candidates.”‎

Nouri then turned his protests to the elected representative from Khoramshahr and said, ‎‎“If you were a courageous person you would have resigned under the circumstances. ‎These elections are infected.”‎

In his meeting with Passdaran Revolutionary Guard officials, Nouri told them that the ‎province of “Khuzestan was unhappy the way some of the elements in this force treated ‎the public.”

Baztab website reported this issue under the headline, “Khoramshahr’s ‎Friday Prayer Leader Meets Certain Officials,” and quoted him saying, “Khoramshahr is ‎a border town and so any event that takes place in it is immediately transferred to the ‎regional countries, including Iraq, Kuwait, etc.”‎

In his wide-ranging criticism, the cleric also pointed a finger at the Governor-General of ‎the province and said he had not performed his duties, adding, “The Governor-General ‎ignored our good-will notices regarding the violations that took place 24 hours before the ‎elections.” This criticism was leveled at Mostafa Motavarzadeh who according to Fars ‎news agency is supported by the group known as the Principalists (Osoolgaran, who are ‎right wing supporters of the President). He himself came to office after defeating his rival ‎by a mere 1,000 votes which some observers have said were bought through monetary ‎payments and rigging. In addition to the revelations of this cleric, some websites such as ‎Abadan News too mentioned and confirmed the purchase of votes in this voting district.‎

The chief elections inspector in the province of Khuzestan where Khoramshahr is located ‎and who is responsible for the integrity of the elections under his jurisdiction said, ‎‎“Following the investigations that have taken place by the provincial inspectors, the ‎degree of violations that took place in the campaigning and voting in the province was ‎very low which in any case did not impact the outcome of the elections.”