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Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

1 posted on 12/10/2003 12:03:03 AM PST by DoctorZIn
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

2 posted on 12/10/2003 12:05:37 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
What bothers me is the fact we have three 24 hour cable news services and they can't find enough time in the day to even give us a heads up to what's going on over there without focusing continuously on car chases in LA, 2 inches of snow in Washington DC, Scott Peterson, and Wacko Jacko ad nauseum.
4 posted on 12/10/2003 12:15:25 AM PST by BigSkyFreeper
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran's Nobel Winner Hits Out at U.S. Foreign Policy

Tue December 9, 2003 11:44 PM ET

By Inger Sethov
OSLO (Reuters) - The first Muslim woman to win the Nobel peace prize took a swipe at U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East Tuesday in the run up to the ceremony where she will collect her $1.4 million award.

Iranian reformist lawyer Shirin Ebadi, in Oslo to receive the 2003 award for her work to promote the rights of children and women, rebuked Washington for the U.S.-led war in Iraq and reluctance to give the United Nations a meaningful role in Iraq's postwar resurrection.

"Democracy should not be used as a pretext to attack other countries," Ebadi told a news conference at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo where she will collect her prize Wednesday.

"But what is important is the support of international public opinion and the United Nations."

President Bush's administration who labeled North Korea, Iran and pre-war Iraq an "Axis of Evil" initially said it launched the Iraq war in March to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, but none have been found. It now says Iraq is better off without president Saddam Hussein.

Pro-reform activists in Iran hope that Ebadi's prize will help reinvigorate reformists in Iran, who under President Mohammad Khatami have struggled to overcome stiff resistance to change from powerful hard-line clerics.

Dressed in a pale pink suit and flaunting Iran's dress code for women by appearing without a headscarf, Ebadi warned reformists the award was a platform to call for change and not a magical event that would transform the political landscape.

"If only the Nobel Peace Prize they have given me was a golden key which could open the prison doors," she said. "All I can do is voice my demands and hope to get a response."

In the background to the press conference a group of about 50 Iranians outside the Nobel institute were chanting: "Islamic Republic -- Down, down, down."

Some women demonstrators dressed in ankle-length black veils with chains twined around them held up signs saying: "Iran is Auschwitz for women."

The decision to award the peace prize to Iran's first female judge, before the 1979 Islamic revolution forced her to step aside in favor of men, will do little to dissuade conservatives in Iran who say she is a political stooge of the West.

It is also a news story about a Muslim which will stand in sharp relief to the steady diet of reports of militant Islamic suicide bombers, who have filled the pages of Western newspapers since Saudi born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda suicide hijackers killed 3,000 people in the United States on September 11, 2001.

Ebadi has said she will return to Iran despite security concerns and use her prize money to continue that work.

"My place is in Iran. I have to go back."
5 posted on 12/10/2003 12:16:08 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn; McGavin999; freedom44; nuconvert; Eala; AdmSmith; dixiechick2000; onyx; Pro-Bush; ...
Iran hails Iraq decision to expel armed opposition

Middle East Online

Iran's intelligence minister denies any link between handover of al-Qaeda fugitives and extradition of People's Mujahedden.

TEHRAN - Iran on Wednesday hailed a decision by Iraq's US-backed interim leaders to expel the Iranian armed opposition People's Mujahedeen, but denied suggestions of a secret deal involving the extradition of detained al-Qaeda members from the Islamic republic.

"The decision taken by the (Iraqi) Governing Council is very positive. We have been saying to the fighters not to be stubborn and to surrender, in which case we will show leniency," Intelligence Minister Ali Yunessi told reporters.

When asked if Iran could now hand over top members of al-Qaeda it says are in its custody, Yunessi said "there is no link".

"When it comes to terrorists, we do not do deals," added government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh.

"The judiciary will decide on what to do with them if they have not committed crimes against Iranians and if there are no Iranian complaints against them," he added, repeating statements that some detained al-Qaeda members here could be tried in Iranian courts.

Several Western diplomats have said Iran has been resisting handing over top-ranking al-Qaeda fugitives, complaining that the United States had failed to deal with the People's Mujahedeen after the invasion of Iraq.

"We have very good relations with the Governing Council, and we have had discussions (on the People's Mujahedeen) and this decision is the result," added Vice President Mohammed Ali Abtahi.

Iraq's interim Governing Council decided unanimously Tuesday to expel several thousand members of the People's Mujahedeen, branding the Iranian opposition force a "terrorist organisation".

The statement did not say where the people would be sent when they are expelled, but that its offices would be closed and its arms and financial resources confiscated.

The money would "be given to the compensation fund for victims of the former fascist regime" of Saddam Hussein.

The People's Mujahedeen, or Mujahedeen-e Khalq Organization (MKO) set up base in Iraq in 1986 and carried out regular cross-border raids in Iran, with which Iraq fought a bloody war between 1980 and 1988.

Several thousand Mujahedeen militiamen were disarmed by US forces following the fall of Baghdad in April and barred from undertaking military operations.

Around 4,000-5,000 people were grouped in Camp Ashraf, the main Mujahedeen base in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, where they were screened for terror activities.

The US army announced in September that it had detained 3,856 members of the Mujahedeen.

The group kept out of the US-led war, although its bases were bombed by US warplanes. After lengthy negotiations, it struck a deal with the US-led coalition and withdrew to Camp Ashraf.
7 posted on 12/10/2003 4:01:35 AM PST by F14 Pilot
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To: DoctorZIn
Egypt, Iran Presidents to Hold Landmark Meeting

December 10, 2003

CAIRO -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will meet Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in Geneva on Wednesday, the first time presidents from the two countries have met since the Iranian revolution in 1979, officials said.

Iran broke relations with Egypt after the 1979 Islamic revolution and denounced it for its peace moves with Israel, but ties are slowly on the mend. Egypt and Iran do not have full diplomatic links, but maintain representative offices in Tehran and Cairo.

''I can confirm the president will meet with Khatami in Geneva,'' said an Egyptian official who declined to be named. Mubarak and Khatami have never met, he added.

An Iranian official in Cairo said: ''This will be the first time since the revolution (in Iran) that the presidents of Iran and Egypt will have met face to face.''

Both presidents are in Geneva to attend the World Summit on the Information Society, which opens on Wednesday in the Swiss city. Mubarak will also meet Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

The Iranian official said the closest contact between Khatami and Mubarak of Egypt had been a telephone conversation two years ago.

The naming of a Tehran street after Islambouli, an Islamic radical who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, has hampered Iran's efforts to mend fences with Egypt. Cairo has said if the street were renamed it would remove a major obstacle to better relations.
12 posted on 12/10/2003 8:31:31 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Ebadi Vows to Continue Struggle

December 10, 2003
The Billings Gazette
The Associated Press

OSLO, Norway - Iranian democracy activist Shirin Ebadi received the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday, saying it would inspire Iranians and women around the Muslim world to seek their rights and denouncing leaders who use Islam as a pretext for dictatorship.

Ebadi, the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the Peace Prize, appeared at the award ceremony without the headscarf that Iran requires women to wear in public, in what many viewed as a silent expression of her battle for freedom.

An audience of hundreds, including members of the Norwegian royal family, rose to give the laureate a standing ovation after she was given the coveted Nobel gold medal and diploma.

The award "inspires me and millions of Iranians and nationals of Islamic states with the hope that our efforts, endeavors and struggles toward the realization of human rights and the establishment of democracy … enjoy the support, backing and solidarity of international civil society," Ebadi said a speech after receiving the $1.4 million award.

"Undoubtedly, my selection will be an inspiration to the masses of women striving to realize their rights, not only in Iran but throughout the region," she said, speaking in Farsi.

Ebadi also criticized the United States for using the war on terror as a pretext for violating human rights, pointing to the detention of hundreds of Muslim men at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without access to lawyers.

The 56-year-old lawyer, author and activist, Iran's first female judge, was named the 2003 Nobel peace laureate for her work in fighting for democracy and the rights of women and children. In 2000, she was jailed for three weeks on charges of slandering government officials and banned from working as a lawyer after riling her nation's theocratic rulers.

Since winning the Nobel, Iranian reformers have looked to Ebadi to rally opposition to unelected hard-liners who oppose any change to the conservative Islamic system of running the country. Hard-liners have denounced her as a "Western mercenary" and she recently was given police bodyguards after receiving numerous death threats.

Last week, about 60 female hard-liners prevented Ebadi from making a speech at a women's university in Tehran.

Ahead of the ceremony outside Oslo City Hall, thousands of children sang for the laureate, with snow surrounding the building.

Ebadi, wearing a light-colored skirt and blouse, spoke during a solemn one-hour ceremony before an audience that included members of Ebadi's own family and Academy Award winning actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The ceremony also featured music performed live by an Iranian-Kurd folk music group.

"If the 21st Century wishes to free itself from the cycle of violence, acts of terror and war … there is no other way except by understanding and putting into practice every human right for all mankind regardless of race, gender, faith, nationality or social status," she said, according to an English translation of her speech.

The other 10 Nobel winners, including six Americans, were to receive the awards for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics in Stockholm, Sweden. J.M. Coetzee, 63, was to receive the literature prize, the second South African to pick up the award after Nadine Gordimer in 1991.

In her acceptance speech, Ebadi said despotism was incompatible with Iranian and Islamic traditions.

"Some Muslims, under the pretext that democracy and human rights are not compatible with Islamic teachings and the traditional structure of Islamic societies, have justified despotic governments and continue to do so," Ebadi said.

She said the plight of women in Islamic states and the lack of freedom and democracy is caused by "the patriarchal and male dominated culture prevailing in these societies, not in Islam."

Ebadi also took the United States to task for its human rights record.

She warned that threats to human rights also come from countries who have used the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as pretexts for limiting freedoms.

"Regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms … have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism," she said. She also criticized the world's failure to enforce U.S. resolutions calling for an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Nobel Prizes, first awarded in 1901, were created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in his will and are always presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of his death in 1896.
13 posted on 12/10/2003 8:32:50 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Laurels for an Iranian Revolutionary

December 10, 2003
The Washington Post
Mehrangiz Kar

Today my friend of more than 25 years, Iranian human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi, is to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Predictably enough, when the honor for this remarkable woman was announced in October, forces that control her country's most powerful state organs were infuriated. "Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a defender of human rights in Iran is a political act that aims to interfere in Iran's internal affairs," they said.

Indeed, it is. For Iranians, especially women, who for 24 years have experienced the bitter consequences of the 1979 revolution, it is a welcome political message. It is a political act aimed at improving human rights in Iran, and one that many Iranians hope can help to bring about much-needed change.

How did Shirin Ebadi become the carrier of this message? It began, perhaps, when she and the country's other female judges were removed from the bench following the revolution. And for what offense? For the offense of being women.

Attacks on the lives, wealth and dignity of women as well as on non-Muslims and on the political opposition have been a continuing feature of the Iranian revolution, a revolution that supposedly was to bring democratic and accountable government.

When it began, Shirin was a revolutionary woman. She never imagined that human rights would be trampled in the name of Islam. She is a Muslim, one who places special importance on worship and who performs her religious duties. Among friends, I have never heard her criticize Islam as being in conflict with human rights. Nor did she believe that religious law could deprive women of the right to serve as judges.

I will never forget her angry, distraught look when she was removed from the bench. A deep depression threatened her. But before long, she became a mother, and soon she began her new work as a tireless defender of children's rights. She wrote a book on the subject and laid the foundation for establishment of the Association for the Support of Children's Rights. After receiving her license to practice law, she became active in the political arena. She fought violations of human rights by the prevailing judicial and political powers, and she took on the defense of political prisoners under the most dangerous political conditions.

When political disaster struck me and my family, Shirin put herself in danger to help us. She accepted my case when I was imprisoned for participating in the Berlin conference on Iran in 2000. When the judge insulted her and refused to admit her in court, she resigned in protest, later explaining her reasons in world tribunals. For a year in 2001, while my husband endured confinement in illegal jails, Shirin worked to learn of his condition. She sought to save us from the awful fear that comes from not knowing.

For years Shirin has worked for reform -- carefully but steadily. Over time, the movement of which she is a part has become an undeniable force in the political and social construct of the country. Today its political power has been recognized by the world's most important watchdog organizations, which have determined that Iran's fundamentalists are slowly losing the strength to confront this measured political force.

Today's award to Shirin is a signal that Iranians working for human rights will have the support of the world. It is indeed a type of political interference -- but it is without bombs, missiles or military occupation, and it is supported by the Iranian people.

Shirin's prize will help give Iranians the confidence to change the human rights situation in their country. She represents all those who have nonviolently strived and sacrificed over the years for human rights. Shirin's prize confirms that those who suffer for her cause in Iran are not alone -- even those in solitary confinement.

Moreover, it draws attention to the laws of Iran, under which even an accomplished woman such as Shirin Ebadi has little more than the rights of a slave. Women have little legal control over children. (With regard to custody, mothers can have custody of boys up to 2 years of age, and girls up to age 7.) They must have the written official permission of their husbands to leave the country. They must wear Islamic covering or risk jail. They live in danger of floggings, stonings and other violent punishments.

People such as Shirin Ebadi can be condemned to death in secret courts resembling Europe's Inquisition. Lawyers are not permitted to be present with their clients at the first interrogation, which is usually accompanied by torture. In many cases, lawyers cannot have access to the complete files of cases that are considered political.

I pray that Shirin Ebadi, as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, can move forward to instill in Iranian girls the spirit of hope and the energy and drive to act against this assault on human rights. I hope the Iranian people will take courage from this prize and organize to build a powerful movement in Iran for human rights. We have no time to waste.

Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer and writer, was imprisoned in Iran. She now lives in the United States. This article was translated by Dokhi Fassihian.
14 posted on 12/10/2003 8:33:45 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Voices From Inside Iran - Can the United States Aid the Iranian Opposition?

American Enterprise Institute
Dec 10, 2003

Iran remains the most influential religious and political laboratory in the Middle East. A coherent U.S. strategy toward Iran is increasingly necessary as dissent among the Iranian populace grows and evidence of both an aggressive nuclear weapons program and terrorist ties mounts. With international support, the Iranian opposition could bring about the end of the theocracy, but much of what we know about these opposition groups comes filtered through the media or intelligence analysts. Can the tyranny of the mullahs be ended, can the internal Iranian opposition take on the task, and should the United States assist opponents of the regime in any way?

On December 3, AEI hosted an unprecedented Iranian-American town hall meeting with leaders of the opposition inside Iran. A panel of experts and activists at AEI joined a panel of opposition leaders in Iran to discuss the future of Iranian leadership, possible paths of reform, and the potential American role in this process. Audience members at AEI will have the rare opportunity to ask opposition leaders direct questions. This meeting will be live and simultaneously broadcast via KRSI radio (Los Angeles) into Iran. This event was conducted almost entirely in Farsi, with simultaneous translation available for our Washington audience.

Danielle Pletka

Although Washington decision makers frequently speak about the strategic threat posed by the Iranian regime to the rest of the world, it is easy to overlook the situation inside Iran, where human rights and the most basic freedoms are denied. The Iranian dissidents have accomplished an enormous amount, but the question remains: What can the United States do to aid their cause? This event will provide an unprecedented opportunity for the Iranians to explain for themselves what they want from the United States. It is intended as an opportunity for everyone involved in this debate to explain and discuss their differing viewpoints; there has been no attempt to exclude anyone.

The American Enterprise Institute and KRSI radio have put forward a list of very specific questions for the Iranian participants-both those in Iran and those at AEI. They are:

What do Iranian oppositionists expect the United States to do, both for them and against the regime of the mullahs?

Should gradual or intermediate reform be pursued in Iran? If an intermediate path is chosen, how should it be implemented?

If theocracy is unacceptable, what form of government will best serve the future of Iran?

Regarding the notion of Islamic democracy: what is the relationship between Islam and democracy in Iran, and what does "Islamic democracy" mean to you?

Who presents the best potential for post-mullah leadership in Iran?

Will the Iran Diaspora play a role in the future of Iran or on the question of a transition from the mullahs?


Taghi Hamidi
Ms. Hamidi described herself as a housewife living in Iran.

The present regime in Iran cannot be reformed. President Khatami has had more than six years, but the situation has not improved. Consequently, the democracy activists do not trust him anymore. The Iranian people want a government that is free of religion-a democracy in which the people have the opportunity to choose their future for themselves. For this reason, it is not productive to look for a new "leader," since this will only lead to another dictatorship; instead, the Iranian people must learn to lead themselves. Activists expect the United States not to support the Islamic government of Iran and pay greater consideration to human rights in formulating policy. Every time President Bush expresses his support for the Iranian activists, it energizes us.

"Ms. Nargess"
Ms. Nargess addressed AEI from Iran.

The reform project in Iran has died. As Europe has learned, theocracy is incompatible with freedom or democracy. Religion is the connection between an individual and his or her God. If religion has a hand in the government, it will only damage both. It is especially important for Iranian women that the country adopts a secular government. The absence of leadership, however, has hurt the dissident movement. Reza Pahlavi can play an important role in this regard. The U.S. government can assist us by supporting opposition media, as well as coordinating groups working within the United States so that there is a single unified policy among them.

With regard to the question of Iran's nuclear program, there are more pressing priorities facing the activist movement. Before nuclear energy, the people of Iran need a safe, secure society without a government that is part of the axis of evil. It is possible to create such a government through civil resistance and without bloodshed.

"Professor in Tehran"
A professor at a university in Tehran addressed AEI.

The Iranian people have witnessed eight years of so-called "reforms." They could go on for eighty years, and it would not change the fundamental character of this regime, which has prevented freedom of expression for the past quarter-century. The form of the future Iranian government should be decided in a referendum. It does not matter, then, if it is ruled by a Pahlavi or Khomenei; what matters is that the people themselves will have control. The United States should spend some of its extraordinary wealth to help the activists in Iran. At present, the students do not even have cab fare to go back to their homes. The Iranian Diaspora should also lend financial support. In addition, the opposition radio should provide better programming-not just rants about "down with Iran," but rather, programs that are interesting and educational.

Shahrum Rahnema
Shahrum Rahnema fought in the Iran-Iraq war and was crippled during it.

It is by now clear that there is no more potential for reform in this regime. Religion is a personal affair that has nothing to do with politics. The opposition should synchronize its activities both inside and outside of Iran. Any attempt to choose a single leader will only fracture these groups, so it is better not to bother. The United States government should support Iranians emotionally and push the rest of the world to recognize and support us.

"Mr. Mohammed"
Mr. Mohammed described himself as a poet living in Iran.

Most people in Iran are still surprised by the death of the reform process, but the reality is that the ideological framework of the regime prevents reform. The only person who can lead is Reza Pahlavi. The United States should put pressure on the Iranian regime, including sanctions. After all, the people of Iran are already suffering under the "sanctions" on life imposed by the regime itself.

"Mr. Koorosh"
Mr. Koorosh described himself as an activist who had been in jail and only recently freed.

The biggest success of the activist movement so far has been to make people in Iran-regardless of background and class-realize that they can take part in the fight for a free society. Even a baker can participate in this movement.


Ramin Parham
Iran Institute for Democracy

Iran is the center of a civilization and the middle of a region of vital importance in world affairs. The instability in Iran, however, affects not only the Middle East, but also Europe and the United States. Likewise, if Iran can be fixed, it will help improve the political climate in the rest of the region. Iran has been systematically ravaged for twenty-five years: its culture, its monuments, and its museums have been destroyed. Despite billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue, this regime has done nothing to help the Iranian people; instead, they have used that wealth to impose a theocracy.

There is no one better than the people living inside Iran to prove that the present regime cannot be reformed. The mullahs believe that whatever they say and do is the will of God; how, then, is it possible to "reform" God? The United States should recognize that the people of Iran are trapped inside a dictatorship, much like the people of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia once were. The Yugoslavs were not capable of liberating themselves without the help of the United States. The Bush administration should apply a "Milosevic" policy toward Teheran.

Aryo Pirouznia
Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran

There is no "dialogue of civilizations" inside Iran, but rather, a monologue against civilization. The voice of the Iranian people demonstrates that they are no longer afraid of the government. Having rightly branded the Iranian regime as part of the axis of evil, the U.S. government must now help the people in Iran achieve democracy and a secular state.

Throughout history, religion has proven incompatible with democracy. Religion cannot interfere with government, and ideological governments cannot be reformed. How can such a regime accept the rights of its own people, when some of those people are Christian and other faiths? The women of Iran, no matter how educated or intelligent, cannot become leaders under this regime.

Corruption is a problem among both hardliners and reformers in the Iranian government. While a prominent theocratic judge is caught selling girls to other Middle Eastern countries and then promoted, a prominent reformer is found creating shell companies on Mediterranean islands. In both cases, an oligarchic mafia plagues Iran.

With regard to the question of Iran's nuclear program, nuclear power is the right of every country, even if Iran has a great deal of oil and gas. Nuclear power provides an opportunity for Iran to join the modern world and engage with other countries in peaceful scientific exchange.

Roozbeh Farahanipour
Marze Por Gohar Party

The overwhelming majority of people living in Iran do not want the government they have. Even the bodyguards of President Khatami go out into the street to protest. Mr. Khatami has repeatedly said that the Iranian regime must respect the rule of law, but the problem isn't respect for the law-it's the law itself. The problem is an Islamic constitution. Iran must find unity not in ideology or religion, but in its nationality. Nothing else can be representative of all the diverse peoples living in Iran.

Manda Ervin
International Alliance of Iranian Women

In Iran today, there are fifty million young people who, due to the Islamic republic, who do not have a future in front of them. The European countries, which have spoken constantly about the importance of human rights, have only followed their own financial interests in Iran. The regime in Tehran has signed agreements with the Europeans that would never be tolerated in a democracy. Consequently, European governments have done their best to keep the mullahs in power. The Iranian government is a dictatorship that has less to do with ideology than the pursuit of profit. The most effective course for the United States is to support the people of Iran and human rights there.

AEI Research Assistant Vance Serchuk prepared this summary.
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15 posted on 12/10/2003 8:37:19 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
I just received this from our friends at re: the recent demonstrations is Iran.

Dear Compatriot:

Following is a brief list of many of the slogans and chanting which occurred at the Anti-Regime protests over the past few days. Also, if you would like to join this thread in message board you can click here:

Original in farsi found at:

Deektator haya kon mamlekat ra raha kon= Have Shame you dictators and leave the nation alone

Death to dictator

Khamenei Pinoche, Iran will not be another Chille

Students are awake and they are sick of Sad Ali

Amel har jenayat e een regime Velayate= The cause of all crimes of position are the Velayat (Supreme Leader)

Jomhooreeye Eslami degar asr nadarad, rahbar bejoz khodkoshee rahe degar nadarad= The Islamic Republic has no more effect, the leader has no way out exept for suicide

This is your last chance/final warning, the students are ready for the uprising

Posters and tracts that were distributed had many slogans in favor of US intereference in Iran. A poster read "Establish democracy with American boots", another one read "foreign oppression is preferable to domestic oppression" . The cover of a student magazine carried by everyone stated "Establishing democracy and freedom has the highest value even if its through occupation and foreign interference".

A tract read: "Our main enemy is not the US, our main enemy is inside of our house".

Some students called out these slogans to the chagrin of other students who felt sad that the situation had become so desperate as a result of 25 years of dictatorship that some would prefer a foreign invasion.These slogans included: "Amercia is Victorious the Dictators will be destroyed"

Other slogans urged non-participation in the next elections and demanded Referendum
17 posted on 12/10/2003 8:48:08 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran tourists to be freed soon

10 December 2003

TEHERAN - The students' news agency ISNA reported late Tuesday that three European tourists and their Iranian guide soon will be freed after being kidnapped in southeastern Iran.

ISNA, whose news coverage of the incident has so far been reliable, quoted informed sources in the border province Sistan- Baluchistan as saying that the abducted tourists will be released within two or three days.

Deputy Interior Minister Ali-Asqar Ahmadi told the news agency IRNA earlier Tuesday that Iran will not make any compromise with the kidnappers.

"We will try to solve the case without payment of any ransom and without giving in to any compromise," Ahmadi said.

"We have mobilized all our forces to solve the case at the earliest term and send the tourists to their families back home in good health," he said, adding that Iran will not allow bandits to jeopardize the lives of foreigners who are guests in Iran.

Ahmadi called the kidnapping an act of retaliation by criminal gangs against the Iranian government's decisive combating of drug trafficking.

"This is the price we have to pay for the task," he said, adding that the amount of the ransom – EUR five million euro - is approximately the street value of narcotics confiscated from the gangs by police in recent months.

Police have yet to find any trace of the three tourists and the guide, who were kidnapped last week on a bicycle tour in southeast Iran, a government official said Tuesday.

The general director of the Sistan-Baluchistan governor's office, Gholam-Reza Javdan, told the news service Kar that the one Irish and two German tourists and the Iranian guide were abducted by a drug- trafficking ring.

He could give no details but said that police had seized 40 tons of drugs from traffickers within the last eight months, and that the ransom money might be an effort to compensate for that loss.

He added that police and security forces will continue their extensive search for the kidnapped persons in the border province which is notorious as transit route for drug trafficking from Afghanistan and Pakistan to European markets.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi confirmed the abductions and accused the tourists themselves of acting "irresponsibly" by ignoring local police while planning a bicycle tour in a well-known insecure area.

"We have, however, mobilized police and security forces to trace the kidnappers and bring the case to a swift end," Kharrazi told the news network Khabar.

The head of Iranian tourism, Mohammad Abd-Khodaie, told the student news agency ISNA Tuesday that Iran is still a very safe place for tourists, except for the border areas to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the tourists were abducted.

The government hopes to grow tourism into a major, new income source for Iran, and reports on security problems could harm efforts to attract foreign travellers.

Informed sources said Tuesday in Zahedan that though police and secret service have kept the operations quite secret for security reasons, news has leaked out that all four hostages are men.

The tour guide was blamed by police for not sufficiently warning the three tourists of the risks in the area, sources said, adding that a swap of jailed members of the notorious Shahbakhsh gang, suspected in the abductions, could be possible in return for the hostages.
18 posted on 12/10/2003 8:50:13 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Is the Empire Striking Back?
By Glenn Harlan Reynolds

There's a summit on Internet governance going on in Geneva this week. Reader Micael O'Ronain is worried, and emails:

Control of the Internet is going to become an extremely critical issue over the next few years. The tyrants and bureaucrats are losing the control over the information dissemination channels they once enjoyed and they want it back. If the EUreaucrats and UN take over the web, control will be exercised under the guise of political correctness. Questioning the honesty of public officials will be classified as hate speech.

I'd like to dismiss this as paranoia, but I can't. (Though I should note that some European nations have actually been fighting the Internet-censorship effort.) The stakes here are very real. As this Reuters story notes, it's a "fight for control of the net," in which governments -- threatened by their steady loss of control over what their citizens read, say, and buy -- are trying to claw back some of the power that they've lost:

We are seeing a clear shift from the mid-90s when governments were told to stay away," said Michael Geist, a law professor at University of Ottawawho specialises in Internet governance issues. "Governments have shown they are very interested in getting involved on a domestic level and now they are looking at the international level."

One might think that this would be an obvious violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Though it hasn't been entirely silent, the human rights community has been less critical, so far, of efforts to censor the Internet than one might expect. Presumably, it has been kept too busy by criticism of the United States' activities in Guantanamoto address something as trivial as the empowerment of worldwide censorship. It's true, of course, that -- despite its plain language -- Article 19 has never been treated as truly binding. Like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, the position has been "Actually, it's more of a guideline than a rule..." But there's something rather suspiciously convenient about that attitude.

The Geneva summit has already demonstrated its commitment to free expression by excluding Reporters Without Borders because of its criticism of the UN's hypocrisy on human rights:

Reporters Without Borders was told it was being banned from the 10-12 December summit in Genevain a letter from WSIS executive director Pierre Gagné on 3 September. This grotesque decision followed the organisation's suspension for a year from the UN Commission on human rights at the request of regimes that are the worst press freedom violators because it energetically condemned the absurd choice of a Libyan representative as the commission's chairperson.

National and transnational bureaucrats don't, as a rule, like free speech -- or, as the choice of Libyaindicates, human rights in general. And they don't like it that you can read Reporters Without Borders' criticism of them on the web, without needing permission from some government official. That's because free and open international communication is an enormous threat to bureaucracies, both national and transnational, that owe much of their power to their ability to keep people in the dark about what they're doing, and to pretend that voices criticizing their policies don't exist. The Internet, as I've written here before, has become a huge threat to the power of these folks, and it's expecting too much to think that they won't fight back. They are, and they will.

What's more, it's doubtful that we'll see this issue get the attention it deserves from Big Media. I hope I'm wrong about that, but given that the Internet is as big a threat to the power (and self-importance) of Big Media folks as it is to the power and self-importance of bureaucrats, I'm inclined to doubt that they'll be much help.

So what should we do? To begin with, we should use the power of the Internet to expose this sort of thing, and we should pressure Big Media to report on it, and pressure national governments, in democracies, to support free speech on the Internet. It's clear that they're afraid of us. Let's give them reason.

UPDATE: Hey, maybe it's already having an effect! After this column was written, but before it appeared, the current proposal for a U.N. takeover was setaside. But don't expect this to be more than a temporary retreat, and don't take your eye off of them. Eternal vigilance, and all that.
19 posted on 12/10/2003 10:24:09 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Amir Taheri: Delving into the depths of an extremist's mind


How to fight extremism? This is a question that a number of Muslim theologians will be debating in Makkah, later this month. The debate is long overdue. For, in its various modern shapes, extremism has been responsible for many tragedies in the Muslim world and beyond over the past decades.

In the 1980s over a million people died in the Iran-Iraq war, which was provoked by the clash of two extremes. Since 1992 an estimated 120,000 Algerians have died as a result of a war unleashed by extremist groups. The clash of extremist groups in Afghanistan claimed over 100,000 lives between 1992 and 2002.

In the final decades of the last century no fewer than 30 Muslim nations, notably Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt, suffered from terrorism unleashed by extremist groups. Today there is hardly a Muslim country that is not threatened by extremist violence.

The high cost of extremism in terms of human lives should not hide its other devastating effects. By creating a climate of intellectual terror, extremism tries to impose atrophy on creative thought in the Muslim world.

It hampers economic development, and provides an excuse for despots to refuse social and political reform. Like a whirlwind it tries to destroy all cultural, literary and artistic endeavours by Muslims, seeking a tabula rasa on which to draw its retroactive Utopia.

The history of the Muslim world is ridden with the rise and fall of extremist movements, often of a cabalistic nature, that have tried to seize control of mainstream Islam. Many disappeared, while some have survived in the form of esoteric sects.

Islam, of course, is not the only religion to face extremism. Christianity and Judaism, the other two Abrahamic faiths, have also been haunted by extremism in one form or another for centuries.

Extremism is like a shadow that always follows the development of theo-political thought in any religion. So what should Muslim theologians do when they discuss extremism? The first thing is to expose its political nature. For extremism has always been, and remains, a political animal in a theological skin.

While faith is concerned with the transcendental, politics is the realm of the temporal. Man changes, but the text does not, although it could be read differently at different times. Any attempt at projecting an eternity into our limited human time is bound to lead to distortion. A transcendence that tries to define itself through the temporal cannot but lead to violence and tragedy.

Timeless time

The Islamic time is not serial; it consists of instances of varying lengths, significance and quality. It is no accident that the word "zaman" (temporal time) is not mentioned in the Holy Quran. Instead we have a number of other terms: dahr, which one could translate as timeless time, hayn, which is a segment of dahr, asr, which is a brief or compressed period in time, and massir which denotes becoming as opposed to being.

Finally, there is also the word taur, meaning a phase, which is mentioned only once in the Holy Quran.

A robotic reading of the text is always aimed at twisting it to do what it is not intended for, which is providing answers to temporal political questions.

The Holy Quran is capable of different readings: Suyuti cites up to 17 for some key words. And then we must take into account the incidents of the revelation (asbab nuzul) that run into hundreds. (Bukhari counts up to 618.) Finally, we also have the ambiguities (mubhamat) which, according to Suyuti amount to 250 instances.

Thus any attempt at imposing a single, arbitrary reading as the final and definitive one is a political move designed to secure for an individual or group the authority that is ultimately incumbent only on the text itself.

Next, theologians would have to ask why it is that political movements, which are ultimately interested in achieving power, seek religious expression? One answer may be the refusal of Muslim societies to allocate a distinct space within which individuals and groups can compete for power in political, and not theological, terms.

In the absence of institutions such as parliaments and parties, the mosque becomes the only space where citizens can form and exchange political views. This leads to a theologisation of politics which, in turn, ends up by politicising theology.

Wherever extremism appears in violent forms, including terrorism, it has to be combated through effective policing and, when necessary, repression. It is foolish to believe that a man who is prepared to kill and die for what he imagines to be the only truth could be persuaded to change his mind through theological debate. A tiger does not become vegetarian because we feed it carrots.

In the longer run, however, the most effective means of combating extremism is the opening of a proper political space that is subject to clear rules accepted by a majority of citizens. In such a space it would be possible for people to hold opposed views on political matters without waving the finger of anathema (takfir) at one another.

Extremism has always been based on a theology of fear. It uses the fear of hell and damnation to impose its exclusive reading of the text. But the truth is that it is frightened by its own doubts. We would not think of murdering a man who might deny that the Sun will rise again tomorrow.

This is because we have no doubt that it will and that the man's error would become apparent. We might be tempted into killing, and dying, only when we are not quite sure of the truth of what we are killing and dying for.

Politics is the domain of doubt, of changing of mind, and of making and correcting mistakes only to make more mistakes later. It has its own grammar. To apply that grammar to religion harms both.

Finally, the theologians would remember that extremism is not something that strikes out of the blue. It is the product of societies in which religion is used as a means of controlling, obscuring, or even excluding other aspects of human existence, specially culture and politics.

Societies that mistake monism for monotheism will always breed extremism.

Amir Taheri is an Iranian author of 10 books on the Middle East and Islam. He's reachable through E-mail:
26 posted on 12/10/2003 3:13:34 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iranian Extremists Ridicule Nobel Peace Prize Winner

December 10, 2003
The Jerusalem Post
Joseph Nasr

Iranian extremist factions warned authorities in Tehran of the "provocations" that Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, can generate, reported the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat on Wednesday.

The Iranian Islamic militia, al-Basidge, issued a statement condemning Ebadi, whom they labeled "Sharon Ebadi", for appearing without a 'hijab (Muslim headscarf), shaking hands with men, and campaigning in Iranian universities.

The statement described Ehabi's behavior as challenging and insulting to Islam's principles and values, reported al-Hayat.

On December 3rd members of al-Basidge, including religious female students, violently protested in al-Zahra' University in Tehran in order to prevent Ebadi from delivering a speech there.

Ms. Ebadi, who delivered an acceptance speech in Oslo on Wednesday, was caricatured in the conservative Kihan newspaper as "Sharon Ebadi" – referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Ebadi said she hoped her award would bring faith to other activists in Islamic countries who are striving for freedom and human rights.

Reformist activists in Iran openly criticized the campaign that Ebadi was subjected to. In a commentary published in the Tehran-based "Yas-Ai-Nou", MP Ihali Koulay wondered, "Why is Ebadi being attacked at home and abroad?" MP Koulay is a leading reformer who strongly supported the reforms introduced recently by President Muhammad Khatami in Iran.
28 posted on 12/10/2003 4:57:13 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iranian, North Korean Nuclear Crises Remain Open Issues

December 10, 2003
Radio Free Europe
Charles Recknagel

Prague -- In 2003, the nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea independently tested the world's ability to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Iranian nuclear crisis was most in the news -- thanks largely to a year-long showdown between Tehran and the UN's nuclear inspections agency. The dispute saw the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demand that Tehran answer numerous questions about its nuclear activities and give inspectors unfettered access to nuclear sites. Both demands were in response to U.S.-led pressure to ensure Iran was not pursuing programs that could lead to the development of a nuclear bomb.

By year's end, Iran dropped its initial reluctance to cooperate and met both demands. In return, the IAEA adopted a resolution that praised Iran's "offer of active cooperation and openness" in the future. At the same time, however, it "strongly" deplored Iran's past secret pursuit of nuclear activities and implicitly threatened to refer any "further serious failures" to the UN Security Council.

IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei called the resolution a victory for nonproliferation:

"I am very pleased with today's resolution. It clearly strengthens my hand in fulfilling our tasks in ensuring that Iran's program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. It again, as I mentioned, strengthens the case of nonproliferation by deploring the breaches, by setting out a marker for what needs to be done in the future," El-Baradei said.

But analysts say the resolution leaves several matters unaddressed, meaning the Iranian nuclear weapons issue will almost certainly be back in the news in the coming year. The most important of these issues is Iran's refusal so far to do more than suspend for an "interim" period its previously secret uranium enrichment activities. Iran's efforts to master the uranium enrichment process worry nonproliferation experts because the technology can equally be applied to producing commercial reactor fuel or creating fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Gary Samore of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London calls Iran's interim suspension an open question that concerned states will have to address: "It seems to me the more significant open question is whether or not Iran proceeds with its [uranium] enrichment and reprocessing facility, or whether an agreement can be negotiated under which Iran agrees to permanently suspend or abandon those enrichment and reprocessing capabilities."

Iran says it needs a uranium enrichment capability in order to produce its own fuel as it plans to build up to six commercial reactors to generate electricity. A first reactor is currently under construction with Moscow's assistance near the Gulf port of Bushehr but will operate with Russian-supplied fuel.

Samore says Britain, Germany, and France -- which successfully pressed Iran to cooperate with the IAEA this year -- are now also trying to convince Tehran to permanently give up its uranium enrichment efforts in an offer that could spark prolonged negotiations in the coming months. The three European states have said that if Tehran abandons its uranium enrichment program, they could help guarantee Tehran access to Western nuclear power technology. Tehran has yet to respond to that offer.

As Iran's nuclear crisis grabbed headlines throughout the year, so, too, did the nuclear weapons threat from North Korea, although to a lesser extent.

Pyongyang began 2003 by making formal its expulsion just weeks earlier of all international nuclear inspectors from the country. The North Korean government -- already the most politically isolated in the world -- said it was withdrawing from the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that provides for IAEA monitors to keep track of nuclear facilities and detect their misuse for weapons programs.

The reaction of Washington and many other countries was one of anger and dismay. Ari Fleischer, the spokesman at the time for U.S. President George W. Bush, said Pyongyang was deliberately provoking the international community.

"I think it is fair to say that North Korea has decided that it wants to stick its finger in the eye of the world. This [withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-ProliferationTreaty] is not an action North Korea has taken vis-a-vis the United States. This is an action North Korea has taken vis-a-vis the world. The world stands united. North Korea stands isolated," Fleischer said.

The North Korean action caused alarm because it came shortly after the U.S. discovered Pyongyang was secretly pursuing a uranium enrichment program for bomb-making. Then, further heightening tensions, Pyongyang announced it was restarting a nuclear reactor previously suspected of being misused to produce plutonium, another route to building a nuclear bomb. That reactor had been closed since a 1994 agreement in which the U.S. and other states agreed to provide North Korea with alternate sources of energy.

The U.S. has long tried to solve the North Korean crisis by exerting regional pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. Those efforts saw the launch this year of so-called Six-Party talks between the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan. But the talks have so far failed to make progress, largely because China -- North Korea's main trading partner -- remains reluctant to threaten Pyongyang with economic sanctions if it does not cooperate.

Still, analysts predict the Six-Party talks will continue in the coming months to represent the main hope for resolving the crisis. Many say it remains unclear whether North Korea -- whose economy is on the verge of collapse -- is seeking nuclear weapons for security reasons or mostly as a bargaining chip to be traded away for greater international security guarantees and financial assistance.

Samore says he expects a continued stalemate in negotiations in 2004: "The Six-Party talks are likely to continue next year because the alternative to talks are not in anybody's interest. For tactical and strategic reasons, I don't think any of the parties want to see a breakdown in the negotiations, which is very likely to lead to greater tensions on the Korean peninsula. So, I would expect that the diplomacy would continue, but I doubt that we will see either a breakdown or a breakthrough next year."

For now, Washington appears to have ruled out military solutions, such as bombing North Korean nuclear facilities, because that could lead to war on the Korean peninsula. But the crisis remains a top international concern.

Pyongyang -- which the U.S. says has previously produced enough plutonium for at least one, possibly two, nuclear weapons -- is widely suspected of using the current stalemate to make further progress in producing fissile material.

And that means that the U.S. and other nations are keenly aware that, unless Pyongyang is stopped, it will only grow more dangerous with time.
29 posted on 12/10/2003 4:58:03 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Media and Information: The Case of Iran

December 10, 2003
New School for Social Research
Geneive Abdo

The election of Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran in May 1997 launched what many of his supporters hoped would be the most ambitious attempt in the Islamic world to bridge the divide between the public and private spheres.

In the years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the conservative clerical establishment had systematically eliminated almost all traces of the democratic pluralist currents that had helped feed the original rebellion against the U.S.-backed shah. What is more, they fortified Iran's traditional political despotism with an equally despotic reading of the Shiite Muslim faith, forcing dissent, debate, and differences of opinion to take refuge behind closed doors. Now the progressive movement that first began to take shape in the early 1990s and which later chose Khatami as its leader aimed to break the conservative clerical establishment's monopoly on public discourse.

The slogans and themes that emerged from the Khatami election campaign-and came to dominate his presidency-reflected many years of discreet discussion in reading circles, on the boards of small specialty journals, and in the halls of the religious seminaries. Their debut on the public stage, in the run-up to the election, was the opening shot in a struggle to reshape society and the state. At first, they decided to run only as a way of introducing their ideas to the public at large. Among their most prominent slogans were promises to introduce the "rule of law," to foster "tolerance" for competing ideas and to create a true "civil society" within the Islamic system.

These goals were extremely ambitious considering Iran's history of some 2,500 years of autocratic rule. Whether it was clerics in charge of the state, or the elites under the Pahlavi dynasty and its predecessors, public opinion had no role to play in influencing state affairs. Different elements of society did indeed create an otherwise unlikely alliance around Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to bring about the 1979 revolution. But this coalition of nationalists, liberal Islamists, secularists, and leftists was soon sidelined as the clerics began to rule the state.

The Khatami experiment was designed to address the imbalance between two competing visions of Islamic Iran that emerged in aftermath of the revolution. Was it an Islamic state ruled by the clerics, or a religious republic ruled by the people? In other words, the 1997 election was a resounding vote for enlarging the public sphere at the expense of what had become the private preserve of the ruling conservative clergy. Even in mundane ways, society expressed its desire to come out of hiding. Young men and women began socializing together in restaurants, cafes and parks- which was illegal. Rather than the chador, women began to opt for a more modern form of veiling-a long overcoat and headscarf-and the headscarves began slipping farther and farther from the forehead, revealing more and more hair. But despite society's readiness to embrace a reform movement, the Khatami effort to establish republican rule was short-lived.

Among the many myths about Iran in the United States is the notion that the level of public discourse that occurs-generally criticism of the Islamic state-could never be achieved in an Arab country. The lively debate in Iran, often on display in the press, gives the misleading impression that the potential for a free society is far greater than in most Arab societies. For example, there have always been opposition voices to varying degrees in the Iranian press since the revolution. And there were never official state newspapers such as Soviet Russia's Pravda. But the roots of ultimate clerical control over the press date back to the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911, when the senior clergy secured for itself final say over freedom of expression in the name of religion. In fact, public discourse in Iran today has vast limitations and in no way compares to the kind of discussion we now see on al-Jazeera television and on other independent Arab networks and web sites.

One reason is that it is easy to circumvent state censorship through satellite channels and the Internet in the Arab world. These types of news channels do not exist in Iran. But the main reason for this difference is that Islam in Iran is used to stifle free expression. By contrast, no Arab government would invoke religious reasoning for censorship. In Egypt, for example, it is a crime to insult President Hosni Mubarak or his family in the press, and journalists have been jailed for doing so. But whether Islamic principles are trampled upon is a far more ambiguous charge to make and is used as a weapon only among the Islamists themselves-not by the secular state.

So why did the experiment carried out by Iran's reform movement-one that would expand public discourse-fail to bridge the gap between the private and public spheres? The earliest and most enthusiastic supporters of the Khatami movement were largely drawn from the ranks of revolutionary propagandists, journalists, and other intellectuals. Khatami himself was a former newspaper publisher who had been recalled from Hamburg, Germany, by Ayatollah Khomeini to run the large Kayhan publishing house that was nationalized by the revolution. Many of these activists came to realize that loosening the restrictions on the media was an effective means of stimulating public discourse-not to mobilize support for state policy but as an end unto itself. For the first time in Iranian history, they argued, there would be no predetermined outcome; society itself should be left to its own devices. In what later proved to be a fatal miscalculation, the reformists ignored virtually all other building blocks of their proposed civil society, such as the creation of true political parties or the building up of grassroots networks. Instead, they relied almost exclusively on this "media strategy" to challenge authoritarian rule. This was their critical mistake because the levers of power controlled by the clerics could easily shut down the newspapers - -and this is precisely what happened.

But not before the reformist press enjoyed some very real successes. The first real free newspaper, Jameah, began publishing in 1998. The founders of Jameah were intellectuals who were involved for many years in a Tehran discussion group that was in large part the basis for Khatami's future rise to power. It is worth noting that some of these same intellectuals had originally favored creation of a political party or front, to be called, appropriately enough, the Coalition of Religious Intellectuals. But legal and political obstacles put up by jealous and fearful state functionaries barred the way, and so they devoted their energies to founding a mass-circulation newspaper.

Jameah was created to change all that: it would appeal to the millions who had elected Khatami as a first step toward a civil society. It would bring out what appeared to be a strong public calling for change by introducing the power of public opinion onto the political stage. The first edition of Jameah made this clear: "Greetings to Society" read the banner headline. The second edition went further, proclaiming directly: "We hope, God willing, we will perform our duties in order to create a civil society in Iran. This model (for civil society) for the first time has been transformed from the limited circle of Iran's intelligentsia into a national issue by the reform movement."

The other aim of Jameah was to take charge of public discourse and unleash public discussion from clerical control. Instead of publishing the supreme leader's latest utterances on the front page- the way the other newspapers did-Jameah played the stories according to the editors' own sense of news value. The leader's comments, in fact, were often pushed to the inside pages. On the front page were photographs of beautiful women-definitely the kind of "news" that readers preferred. Others featured scenes of real life: restless youth huddled in city parks, lonely nomads with their flocks, even a woman violinist. According to Mohsen Sazegara, one of Jameah's three founders and a former student aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, the newspaper sought to recapture some of the joy and beauty of life that had been lost to years of revolution and the war with Iraq. Jameah set out to win the hearts and minds of the Iran's enormous youth population, a segment too young to remember the revolution or share many of its initial goals. It sought to launch what Sazegara calls a "renaissance by happiness."

On February 5, 1998, Jameah exploded onto the Iranian scene. Within just a few weeks the newspaper hit its break-even point of 100,000 in daily sales-a considerable figure in a country with little tradition of newspaper readership. By March 20, the end of the Iranian solar year, circulation reached 140,000, and it soon went as high as 300,000 copies per day. Jameah opened up a hidden world to a reading public thirsting for something more than official pronouncements, clerical sermons, and scripted rallies in support of the establishment's domestic and foreign policies. It broke taboos and challenged the notion of the so-called red lines, the vague no-go areas comprising the fundamental political, religious, and social spheres of the hard-line clerics who dominated the system. "One can criticize the decisions of an Islamic government" and still remain a good Muslim, a lengthy interview with a leading intellectual cleric assured readers. Jameah launched regular coverage of foreign films, including Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown-officially banned in Iran but widely available on the ubiquitous black market.

For the first time, readers could find the latest news of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a prominent theologian who was barred from publicizing his views and from teaching his popular seminary classes. On April 29, Jameah shocked the nation when it quoted the head of the Revolutionary Guards as telling his troops the "necks and tongues" of political opponents should be severed and that the scores of new publications unleashed by the Khatami administration threatened Iran's national security. Previously, such addresses to the elite guardsmen would have gone unnoted and unreported to the public at large, which could only guess how deeply polarized Iran's ruling institutions had become.

The rise of such a potent independent voice alarmed the clerical establishment, which was accustomed to dictating the public debate. And it did not take long for the ruling clerics to exercise their power to reclaim public discourse. First, Jameah was banned. Then, the same editors created a second newspaper under a different name- Tous. In Iran at that time, it was possible to borrow or to buy a newspaper license from another publication to start publishing again. But a harsher response came from the establishment. "In the name of freedom, newspapers and magazines of today are committing all sorts of wrongs," proclaimed Mohammad Yazdi, then the head of the judiciary. "This is an Islamic country. I expect the minister to act before someone has to step in and act on his behalf." The next day, the Tehran justice department closed Tous, citing violations in the press law. Some of the editors were hauled off to prison but later released.

In all, it took the conservatives about 18 months after the shock of Khatami's election to realize that they could stop the rapid rise of the reform movement simply by shutting down several dozen leading independent newspapers and hauling their editors and publishers before the courts. The newspapers had become so popular that government surveys in 1999 found that 86.2 percent of respondents in Tehran followed the newspapers, with more than half the group describing themselves as daily readers. More than one- third read at least two newspapers a day, and more than one-fifth read three or more. The average reader devoted 38.2 minutes a day to the daily press. Readers told researchers they were looking for truthful and comprehensive content-qualities they had never found in the domestic press.

Inspired by the positive response from the public for Jameah, Tous, and others, independent newspapers and journals mushroomed. Encouraged by the Khatami government, which was determined not to overlook the more remote provinces, the newspapers were able to link readers in the countryside with those in the city, expanding the public sphere in an unprecedented fashion. Generally, Iranians living outside urban centers had few clues of the politics and the turmoil sweeping the state; but now, the visitor to the provinces found local readers avidly debating many of the same issues and personalities that dominated budding public life in the capital Tehran.

Soon, the newspapers were revealing the dark secrets of the regime. The biggest scandal the newspapers unveiled was the grisly murders of secular intellectuals, presumably carried out by hard-line agents in the Intelligence Ministry. It had all the elements of a spy thriller, including rumors that clerics had given secret religious sanction to the murders. One of the architects of the murders, who was believed to be ready to tell all, was reported to have committed suicide in prison by swallowing hair removal cream. Few believed the story.

Editorials each day demanded the resignations of high-ranking officials in the Intelligence Ministry, one of the most feared institutions in the country. Finally, the newspapers put so much pressure on the state that the intelligence service had to admit that rogue agents within its own ranks were responsible for the murders. This gave President Khatami the green light to launch a private investigation into the ministry -an act that exceeded his limited formal powers as chief executive. Emboldened, the press even forced the resignation of the hard-line cleric who headed the ministry.

The newspapers achieved their greatest success in February 2000, when candidates endorsed by the reformist press won a majority of the 30 seats from Tehran in the Iranian parliament. The newspaper list, as the slate was called, swept to victory, proving that in a short time the clerical establishment had lost control of public opinion.

The election results were too much for the establishment to bear. In April 2000, a few weeks after the parliamentary election, supreme leader Khamanei announced that the reformist newspapers had become what he called "bases of the enemy." He said he was not against a free press, but warned that some newspapers had created mistrust between the people and the system. Three days later, the judiciary answered the leader's call and closed 14 of what would in the end be a total of some 50 reformist newspapers and journals eventually banned. The parliament, now dominated by reformers, tried to save the press movement by attempting in August of that year to liberalize the press law and to roll back new restrictions imposed by the outgoing legislature controlled by conservatives. But Ayatollah Khamenei, as the supreme leader, took an unprecedented step and killed the bill, saying it was religiously illegitimate and had to be stopped. Even though the bill would never have received approval from the Guardian Council, a body of conservative clerics who scrutinize all legislation, the leader wanted to put his personal mark on ending the press movement. Khamenei's intervention revealed the fundamental weakness of the Iranian press and its inability to serve as the basis of a new, civil society within the Islamic system. Nonetheless, the press movement should be credited with a lasting expansion of public debate that has become more apparent over time.

The newspapers made public what was private by pushing back and even crossing the unstated but widely understood "red lines" the clerics had imposed on public discourse. Evidence of this extension of public debate was visible among university students. The newspapers mobilized students who had been silent in their criticism of the regime or who followed the mainstream reform movement's credo that activism should stay within the confines of the red lines. But once criticism of the regime entered the public realm, students began protesting and expressing their complaints with the state. When one progressive newspaper, Salam, was ordered closed in July 1999, students staged the bloodiest protests since the aftermath of the Islamic revolution. They took to the streets for six days in Tehran and across the country, calling out for freedom of expression. The state deployed its security forces, including the Islamic basij militia and shadowy security thugs to stop the protests. But by expanding the public debate, radical students within the mainstream university movement that supported Khatami's agenda for gradual reform went their separate way and formed a more radical faction within the student movement.

The student protests that occurred in Iran in November 2002 were, in fact, evidence that public debate has been expanded in Iran for the long term. Even though predictions that the protests would lead to a final clash between the reformers and conservatives turned out to be wishful thinking on the part of some, the student demonstrations no doubt proved that the long, slow process toward a civil society has taken root. And more important, the students demonstrating this time made clear that they had lost faith in Khatami's ability to fundamentally change the system. They also broke taboos by openly expressing their dislike for the supreme leader. These sentiments went beyond the demonstrations in 1999 and showed that the public debate has widened.

Another profound and even more important legacy of the press movement was its effect on the clergy. The newspapers brought issues rooted in theology out of the seminaries and into the public sphere-issues that have remained part of public debate even after the closure of many of the leading newspapers. The case brought against Mohsen Kadivar, the theologian who gave the opening address to the New School conference at which this paper was delivered, is a good example. Hojjatoleslam Kadivar wrote a series of essay in a reform newspaper called Khordad in which he declared that the conservative clerics running the state employed the same authoritarian tactics as the deposed shah. Specifically, Kadivar challenged the absolute powers of the supreme leader to prevail over decisions made by the clergy and all branches of the state. These powers, set in motion by Khomeini, were expanded by Ayatollah Khamenei once Khomeini died. Kadivar argued that absolute obedience to the supreme leader was in contradiction to the entire history of Shiite theology, which had relied upon learned theologians, called marja, or sources of emulation, to make religious decrees by consensus. Although this general topic-that the ruling clerical system had distorted the true nature of Shiiite theology-was discussed within the confines of the seminary, it was not part of the public critique of the system. The issue is at the essence of the Islamic republic and is considered absolutely taboo. After Kadivar's essays were published, he was charged before a clerical court with violating Islamic principles and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

A public discussion of how Khameini's interpretation of the role of the supreme leader violated Shiiite tradition was expanded further by a cleric named Abdollah Nouri. Nouri was the editor of Khordad and used the newspaper to expand public discussion about religion. When Nouri was charged before the clerical court for violating religious principles, he used the courtroom to put the regime on trial. He charged the supreme leader with violating the spirit of the Islamic revolution by putting himself above the people, the state, and the clerical establishment. Nouri was sentenced to five years in prison but was given an early release.

Iran has historically been a country where what takes place in private is very different from what occurs in public. It is not a coincidence that Iranian houses, especially in major cities, are hidden behind high walls. Inside the walls are often massive gardens. And family and social life is often a great departure from the traditional and repressive behavior on display in the streets. The clerical establishment has fought to ensure that life in private never becomes public.

One way the regime tries to contain what becomes public is through its rhetoric and imagery, based on ideology. To express any opinion outside official state ideology is condemned as un-Islamic. Today in Iran, diverse newspapers are still publishing, representing different points of view. But none is as radical as those that were shut down in the late 1990s. More than two decades after the Islamic revolution, Iran is at a stalemate: the flow of information is stymied by state censors, and severe restrictions have been placed on information entering the country. The most blatant attempts by the clerical establishment to limit what is in the public sphere are the routine closings of Internet cafes and the periodic crackdowns on satellite dishes, which are officially banned. The clerics know all too well that opening Iran up to the information age could destabilize the regime. Thus, in the case of Iran, making public what has traditionally been private is not a matter of moving toward modernity but a threat to the regime's very existence.

New School for Social Research, Graduate Faculty Fall 2003

Geneive Abdo Social Research (New York) Fall 2003. Vol. 70, Iss. 3; pg. 877
30 posted on 12/10/2003 5:18:48 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
A Troubling Influence: A Must Read (Islamist influence on the US military and political arenas) ^ | December 9, 2003 | Frank J Gaffney Jr.
Posted on 12/10/2003 7:20:53 PM PST by DoctorZIn

Plus a discussion of this article on Hugh Hewitt's broadcast:

34 posted on 12/10/2003 7:25:07 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
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35 posted on 12/11/2003 12:08:31 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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