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Iranian Alert -- February 16, 2004 -- IRAN LIVE THREAD --Americans for Regime Change in Iran
The Iranian Student Movement Up To The Minute Reports ^ | 2.16.2004 | DoctorZin

Posted on 02/16/2004 12:00:25 AM PST by DoctorZIn

The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, “this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year.” But most American’s are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.

There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. Starting June 10th of this year, Iranians have begun taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy. Many even want the US to over throw their government.

The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.

In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.

This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.

I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.

If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.

If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: iaea; iran; iranianalert; iranquake; protests; southasia; studentmovement; studentprotest
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Reformists' Leader Fears Crackdown in Wake of Election

February 16, 2004
The Financial Times
Gareth Smyth

Mohammed Reza Khatami, general-secretary of Iran's largest reformist party and younger brother of president Mohammad Khatami, warned yesterday that a successful drive by conservatives to achieve high turnout in Friday's parliamentary elections could spark a crackdown on reformers.

Reformists are expected to lose control of the 290-seat national assembly, reflecting disenchantment among voters and the barring of 2,000 mostly reformist candidates by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog. Mohammed Reza Khatami's Mosharekate (Participation Front) is boycotting the poll.

"[With a high turnout] we can expect more pressure. For example the judiciary may ban Mosharekate," he told the Financial Times. "If the turnout is below 30-40 per cent, this would be impossible." Mr Khatami's remarks underlined the difficulties facing the conservatives to motivate a largely disillusioned electorate.

"They are using all their power to bring people to vote," he said. "Forty per cent would not be a victory for them."

Just four years ago, Mr Khatami, then aged 40, topped the poll in Tehran with 2.2m votes. This time he is one of 67 sitting deputies from Mosharekate who are barred. "People will notice if whoever tops the list this time has just 500,000 votes," he said.

Electoral fraud was a clear danger, said Mr Khatami, who said the reformist-controlled intelligence ministry had warned of 30,000 fake voting papers. "Some say there are 2m forged identity cards," he added. But Mr Khatami predicted conservatives would not achieve the parliament they expected.

Only 50 of the 290 deputies would be "hardliners" and the rest would be "a spectrum right across to some radical reformers".

"The conservatives cannot reproduce their forces - if you look at their candidates, you cannot find a famous name," he said. "The new generation of conservatives is modern, and more reformist than their parents. We have talked to many of them and know their views."

As to his own party's future, Mr Khatami said it planned to use its absence from parliament to focus on grassroots organisation.

In the meantime, there would be many opportunities for the government - which remains accountable to President Khatami until presidential elections next year - to "deepen the gap between hardliners and conservatives" and so realign Iranian politics.

"My feeling is that parliament will not be decisive. The combat between the hardliners and the institutions of civil society will become more important than the conflict in parliament."

Looking back over the four weeks since the Guardian Council announced the banning of candidates and prompted a protest parliamentary sit-in by 80 deputies, Mr Khatami was mildly critical of his brother and of Mahdi Karroubi, the parliamentary speaker.

"They were more optimistic than us," he said. "They thought only 10 deputies and 100-200 other well-known candidates would be disqualified . . . And also, because of their positions, they cannot say everything that we can."

Mr Khatami stressed the wide "improvements" in Iran after seven years of reform. "It is important not to lose all these achievements," he said.
21 posted on 02/16/2004 8:54:03 AM 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; ...
Iran Reformists' Leader Fears Crackdown in Wake of Election

February 16, 2004
The Financial Times
Gareth Smyth
22 posted on 02/16/2004 8:54:54 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: F14 Pilot
Thanks for the ping!
23 posted on 02/16/2004 9:20:59 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: F14 Pilot
Freedom ~ Now!
24 posted on 02/16/2004 10:22:40 AM PST by blackie (Be Well~Be Armed~Be Safe~Molon Labe!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Snubbing the regime. Good.
25 posted on 02/16/2004 11:53:58 AM PST by nuconvert ("Progress was all right. Only it went on too long.")
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To: DoctorZIn
Stop Iran's Nukes

February 15, 2004
The Jerusalem Post

The latest revelation from the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Iran proves what Western governments know well: Iran has neither stopped developing a bomb nor lying about its nuclear program. There is no real argument about the deceptions and intentions, only what to do about them.

Last week, the IAEA announced that it discovered plans for a P2 uranium enrichment facility. Iran had admitted last fall to having a much less sophisticated enrichment capability, and had agreed to suspend enrichment in exchange for European promises of closer civilian nuclear cooperation.

According to The Guardian, "The Americans, the Europeans, and officials at the Vienna agency are convinced that the Iranians have reneged on the deal." As US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage put it, "There is no doubt in our mind that Iran continues to pursue a nuclear weapons program."

On June 25, 2003, President George W. Bush and the presidents of the European Community and European Council issued a joint statement:

"We pledge to use all means available to avert WMD proliferation and the calamities that would follow." Unlike the case of Iraq, there seems to be a real meeting of the minds between the US and Europe that the prospect of Iranian nukes is unacceptable.

Also unlike Iraq, the Europeans have taken the diplomatic lead on the issue. With the stick of their joint statement with the US hanging in the air, France and Germany wrangled Teheran's agreement to a tighter inspection regime.

Last week's IAEA revelation shows, however, that if diplomacy is to work, it must be ratcheted up a few notches. Iran has so far reacted defiantly. "As a country that is capable of producing nuclear fuel," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told the state news agency IRNA, "the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to sell it on the international market." So have the Russians, who continue to refuse US requests not to supply Iran with nuclear fuel.

Part of the problem here is a loophole in the non-proliferation regime that Iran is playing to the hilt. That regime does not prohibit members from enriching uranium, so Iran is, according to IAEA chief Muhammad el-Baradei, claiming the right to build centrifuges.

Also last week, Bush proposed closing precisely this loophole as part of a comprehensive proposal to toughen the non-proliferation regime. Bush said the nuclear exporting countries should provide "reliable access" to fuel for civilian reactors in exchange for states renouncing enrichment and reprocessing, which are "not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

This standard should be employed in the case of Iran immediately, outside of any timetable for renegotiating the non-proliferation regime as a whole. Moreover, the Libyan model should be adopted, both in terms of the goal and the means.

Libya has renounced its nuclear ambitions and invited the international community in to verify compliance. This startling turnabout was achieved both by the sobering example of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and by years of punishing economic sanctions following Libya's downing of American and French civilian aircraft.

Sanctions against Libya took many years to bear fruit, and only after the capture of Saddam Hussein did Muammar Gaddafi decide it was time to capitulate. In Iran's case, the West cannot afford to wait so long. At the same time, however, Iran is much more susceptible to Western sanctions than was Libya.

Europe is Iran's major trading partner. Europe has tried valiantly to block Iran's nuclear program without harming its own trade relations, but this attempt has evidently run its course. There is no choice but to link specific and severe sanctions to Iran verifiably ending its nuclear enrichment and weapons programs.

Europeans realize that the non-proliferation regime, as flawed as it is, will cease to exist if Iran is allowed to exploit it and emerge with nuclear weapons.

Some respond by saying that for non-proliferation to work, the US (or Israel) should disarm as well.

Free nations, however, cannot disarm in a world in which rogue nations remain unshackled by ineffective agreements.

The test of the non-proliferation regime must always be whether it fetters rogue states, so that free and peaceful nations will be able safely to disarm.
26 posted on 02/16/2004 12:01:08 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Khatami Appeals to Iranians to Vote

February 16, 2004

TEHRAN -- President Mohammad Khatami has appealed to Iranians to vote in this week's parliamentary election to prevent a minority of hardliners seizing control of the country's future due to public apathy.

In a written address to the nation on Monday, Khatami said the disqualification of some 2,500 mainly reformist candidates by a hardline clerical council had been unjust but should not deter voters.

"Even though at one stage there was some unfairness against parliamentarians and other qualified candidates, if people don't turn out it will open the way for a minority to control the fate of the country," the president said in a statement published by the official IRNA news agency.

The unelected Guardian Council, a 12-member panel dominated by Islamic hardliners, barred nearly one in three contenders from entering Friday's poll, including some 80 sitting lawmakers, among them Khatami's younger brother, Mohammad Reza.

That prompted the biggest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, to boycott the vote.

But the president said people should not turn their backs on democracy out of disillusionment, but should use their ballots, if not to elect their favourite candidates, then at least to bar the way to those they most disliked.

"Surely there are many people who feel that in many constituencies, they don't have their favourite candidates, but they can choose the ones who have ideas which are closest to theirs," he said.

Many reformists say the mass disqualification was a blatant power grab by conservatives who lost control of parliament in 2000, when reformers won about 200 of the 290 seats.

Political scientists forecast a low turnout, especially in the big cities which were the reformers' bastions.

In a veiled reference to fears of fraud to inflate the turnout, Khatami urged election officials to "be very vigilant and careful to ensure a healthy election and safeguard people's votes".

DoctorZin Note: The Iranian people can now see with absolute clarity whose side Khatami is on. It is not the peoples side he supports but the ruling Mullahs.

He has even betrayed his own brother (a member of the Parliament and head of the "reformist" party).

Europe now has a serious problem. How do the leaders of Europe convince their people that they need to support the terror masters instead of the people of Iran?
27 posted on 02/16/2004 12:07:41 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
He takes the side of the reformers and even threatens to quit. Now he's doing exactly what the reformers don't want; urging people to vote.

He's Khamenei's puppet.
28 posted on 02/16/2004 12:29:39 PM PST by nuconvert ("Progress was all right. Only it went on too long.")
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To: JohnathanRGalt; piasa; Calpernia; All

29 posted on 02/16/2004 12:33:54 PM PST by Cindy
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To: All
Sorry guys... posted this on the wrong thread.
30 posted on 02/16/2004 12:39:34 PM PST by Cindy
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To: DoctorZIn
Vanstone Breaks with Iran Policy [Australia policy shift]

February 16, 2004
The Age
Russell Skelton

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone yesterday broke with the policy stand of her predecessor Philip Ruddock, declaring she was not prepared to deport failed Iranian asylum seekers.

Asked if she would continue to implement Mr Ruddock's policy of forcing Iranians with no further refugee claims back to Tehran, Senator Vanstone said: "We are not at that point yet."

Senator Vanstone said she had been too busy to go back to see what Mr Ruddock had done as immigration minister, but said she intended being "very, very careful with returns".

"We have had a number of voluntary returns to a number of countries recently, but no involuntary returns," she said.

Refugee Council of Australia president Margaret Piper welcomed Senator Vanstone's decision.

"Iran is a country with a poor human rights record and it is not appropriate to send asylum seekers back there," she said.

Ms Piper said the struggle between Iran's reform movement and the ruling clerics in the lead up to national elections had serious implications for the stability of the country and the safety of returnees.

"Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan are all countries that we have serious concerns about," she added.

Senator Vanstone's comments confirm a significant change of approach in the implementation of immigration policy since she took over the portfolio in October. Her decision not to deport Iranians effectively ends Mr Ruddock's controversial campaign to return failed Iranian asylum seekers - by force if necessary.

There are 160 Iraniansin immigration detention across Australia - 126 men, 18 women and 16 children.

The numbers include 40 followers of the Sabian Mandaean faith whose claims of persecution at the hands of Iran's ruling clerics have been acknowledged by the Refugee Review Tribunal and the Federal Court.

In the past year, only 26 detainees have returned to Iran voluntarily and two have been deported under a Memorandum of Understanding reached between Mr Ruddock and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

At Mr Ruddock's direction, immigration officials ran a campaign to pressure Iranian detainees to either return voluntarily with a repatriation package or be deported.

The campaign included constant reminding of their situation and visits to detention centres by Iranian embassy officials.

Speaking at a breakfast forum in Melbourne yesterday, Senator Vanstone defended the Government's tough stand on asylum seekers, saying it had curbed the activities of people smugglers and resulted in many more genuine refugees entering Australia.

But she said: "It is the Government's intention not to return anybody who needs continuing protection, not to return them to situations where their life was at risk."

The Age reported yesterday that Senator Vanstone had presided over a significant softening in the Government's tough approach to Iranian asylum seekers by granting discretionary visas to 43 Iranians. In contrast, Mr Ruddock issued just 10 visas to Iranians in his last 10 months as minister.
31 posted on 02/16/2004 1:33:15 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran's GC doubles inspectors for February polls

Monday, February 16, 2004 - ©2003

Tehran, February 16 (IranMania) – Reliable sources in Iran’s electoral headquarters announced that in an unprecedented move, the hardline Guardian Council doubled the number of its supervisors of ballot- boxes. Incoming reports indicate that in Tehran alone, 3200 supervisors have been appointed for 3400 ballot-boxes.

Experts consider the huge number of supervisors as abnormal and unnecessary. They believe that too many supervisors only create more tension and chaos.

A few days ago, Iran’s Minister of Interior said: “My main concern presently is that in view of the recent rifts, some may intend to interfere in the legal process of the February parliamentary elections. Thus, we have emphatically called on the governors and the inspectors to try their best to hold healthy elections.”

32 posted on 02/16/2004 2:17:07 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran levels attack on US-funded TV network

Monday, February 16, 2004 - ©2003

TEHRAN, Feb 15 (AFP) -- Iran's official news agency ran a scathing reaction to the US-funded Arabic-language television network Alhurra's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its first day of broadcasting.

In a report datelined the West Bank city of Hebron, IRNA described Alhurra's coverage of the bitter 40-month-old conflict as "scanty" and complained it was biased against the Palestinians.

It also said the Palestinians were facing a "holocaust" and said the new station would lose its avowed fight against anti-Americanism in the Middle East which it said was a result of America's "embrace of Jewish Nazism."

"On its first day, Alhurra devoted only a few soundbites" of its broadcasts to the conflict, "including the ongoing construction by Israel of the gigantic apartheid wall," the IRNA report said, referring to a controversial separation barrier Israel is building along the West Bank.

"Moreover, next to nothing was said about the wall's devastating effects on Palestinians and the fact that it managed to reduce Palestinian population centers to virtual detention camps," it said.

Israel insists it needs the barrier to protect itself against Palestinian militant groups which launch deadly suicide attacks, but the Palestinians argue it is a "land grab" to pre-empt the borders of their promised future state.

Alhurra, which means "The Free One," started broadcasting across the Middle East on Saturday to compete with widely watched Arabic networks like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya which Washington accuses of inflaming tensions in the region.

Its parent company, the US government's Broadcasting Board of Governors also said in launching the network, based outside Washington, that it was aiming to improve the image of the United States.

Alhurra launched its service with a program on efforts to calm the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including interviews with young people from both sides and former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
33 posted on 02/16/2004 2:26:12 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran's "unfree" elections get underway
16/02/2004 - 04:00

Campaigning started yesterday for Iran's parliamentary elections, despite calls for a postponement after 2,300 'liberal' candidates were banned from participating by the ruling Guardian Council.

About 5,000 candidates will vie for 290 seats in the Majlis, or Parliament. They have until midnight on Wednesday to make their pitch to Iran's 46.3 million voters.

Elections will be held on February 20th.

Some 80 sitting MPs are on the 'black list' of rejected candidates. The Interior Ministry says 607 approved candidates decided not to stand as of Saturday.

The main reformist coalition - Reformist Coalition for Iran (RCI) - was decidedly despondent yesterday after many of its candidates were disqualified.

Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour of the RCI said his party would be a 'minority' in parliament.

A leading Iranian dissident - imprisoned academic Hashem Aghajari - has launched a scathing attack on the country's right-wing clerical establishment.

In an open letter, Mr Aghajari said reform was at an end and urged Iranians to passively resist hard line clerics.

Mr Aghajari said the election was 'unfree'.

He rebuked reformist president Mohammad Khatami for lacking the political 'will and courage' to foster lasting change in the country.

And the student organisation Office to Consolidate Unity has issued a statement criticising the president and urging voters to boycott the election.
34 posted on 02/16/2004 2:28:59 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn

Iranian women look for Valentine's day gifts in Tehran, February 14, 2004. Iranian youths are becoming increasingly attracted to Valentines day celebrations, to the dismay of Iran's conservative leadership. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl
35 posted on 02/16/2004 2:43:01 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn; nuconvert

Terminator 3 showing at a Tehran cinema.
36 posted on 02/16/2004 2:44:26 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn
The slogan of the people
The time has come for change

By Niloofar Nafici
February 10, 2004

I am stunned and in disbelief of what I see before my eyes. It's amazing to see what has happened to my people, the Iranian people. We have so much pride, love, and respect for our amazing "Iranian" background. Yet every day we continue to quarrel amongst ourselves. Why do we fight amongst ourselves?

Ignorance is the reason my friend; that profound dirty eight letter word that so many of us love to hold on to. Unfortunately our ignorance hinders us and like our favorite side-dish, maast-toh-kheyar (yogurt & cucumber), too many of us continue to observe, sitting on the sideline, watching our ancient and noble Iran be raped daily.

How is it that we, as Iranians, are now able to negotiate our moral responsibility to our countrymen, brave Iranian men and women that suffer at the hands of so-called "religious" men daily? These are the very clerics that enjoy lavish lifestyles, while the very souls that they claim to "save" (by force), deteriorate and struggle or endure unimaginable agonies in their notorious prisons.

While abroad, we sit and discuss Iran's future; should there be reform? Should there be this or that? Should I have a latte? Why don't we focus our energies on supporting the very capable albeit extremely repressed Iranians inside Iran itself. They are the ones who feel the bitterness and brutality of this regime, and they alone are capable of toppling it. But they need our support, morally, if not more, at the very least.

If one person dies in the cause of freedom, in my eyes it is clear enough and merits our support and attention; if over 30,000 Iranians are imprisoned that DEMANDS our attention. Sorry, but that's very clear to me, when we hear about heroine being cheaper than milk and eggs, when we hear that Iran is number two in the world for prostitution, this is the country where some of the smartest and most educated people in the world are left jobless and have no choice but to struggle to make ends meet alone. All this occurs while the 47th richest man (Rafsanjani) in the world is a "humble" mullah from Iran.

Well, I'll be damned. Once again, you would think that's reason enough to stand up for those brave freedom-loving Iranians. Our countrymen stand in the face of oppression and tyranny on a daily basis; unfortunately some of us indirectly support this regime through our own ignorance or preoccupation with our lives.

Others of us attempt to fight the oppression in ways that are feasible abroad but end up giving up because our struggle is not manifested in tangible means. The end result is too many strong voices each with an exact idea that is the "only" possible solution to our oppression. Well guess what, this isn't burger king, and you can't have it your way, all day.

Democracy is a process of individuals arguing and expressing DIFFERENCES in opinions and beliefs. When will we learn to LISTEN to each other instead of demanding to be listened to all the time? I hope that we can learn to accomplish this important step to cooperate together; so that we can build the strong national unity that we so dearly need.

Let us remember the passion we have inherited from our forefathers? The same drive, the same enlightened thinking, the same amazing spirit of our ancestors that are rooted as far back as 2500 years ago. Let us not forget our own great ancestor, Cyrus the Great, declared the first declaration of Human rights in the history of the world in 538 BC. Isn't that a shame?

This is such a profound fact, from an even more profound culture, but we are now suffering immensely at the hands of a self-righteous group of terrorists that continue to terrorize our land. All in their scheme to make a profit, to fill their pockets as much as possible, they take money (qoms) from the people who struggle daily, in the place of scholars and holy men.

These people are leaches, they live only to suck our noble land dry until its dead and then they can move on to their next pray. Such parasitic organisms must be cut out like cancer and shall be through the will of the people. But again, they need our help, and our support.

Our dear women in Iran wish only to progress their lives and pursue their dreams, but end up pursuing men in the streets of Arab countries instead. They sell their bodies, like common a common commodity, what a shame that our noble Iran has fallen so.

Ignorance and inaction are the greatest weapons of our oppressors. Mr. Albert Einstein said it well "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing". We need to truly educate ourselves, and manifest those core beliefs of humanity, love and life that are so strongly part of our ancient heritage.

We must make it a priority to fight and to constantly challenge the ignorance we come across daily within our own community. From religious centers, to organizations that say they help "progress" and "spread" Iranian culture; we have to carefully analyze and pay attention to where our help and financial support really goes. Ironic isn't it? They supposedly try to preserve our history, but what's the point when there's no future for the Iranian people?

I'd rather salute the students, the true scholars from past to present, from Ferdowsi to Amir Taheri and many others. They are truly the heroes of our land, the soldiers of truth, fighting a terrorist totalitarian regime that defines what brutal oppression is. We must support our countrymen that go out in the streets, risking their own lives, crying out for a referendum, for change, for freedom, for a TRUE democracy in Iran.

The time has come for change. Change brought forth by those who have suffered long enough. This is where the cycles of oppression and the history of terror ends. This is where we realize what being an Iranian is about: our people, our future, our true Iran.

I end with the clear, powerful and simple words of those brave Iranians in the streets, risking their lives: "Referendum, Referendum, Een ast shoaare mardom" (Referendum, Referendum, This is the slogan of the people).
37 posted on 02/16/2004 2:47:49 PM PST by freedom44
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran, Syria Open Talks On Economic Cooperation

February 16, 2004
Dow Jones Newswires
The Associated Press

DAMASCUS -- Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref said Monday that he hoped two days of joint Syrian-Iranian Higher Committee meetings would improve economic ties between the countries.

Aref, who arrived in Damascus earlier in the day, co-chaired the committee's first meeting with Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otari.

"We came to Damascus to discuss ways of raising the level of (economic) relations to the level of the political ones over the next two years," Aref told reporters on his arrival.

He said he would also discuss with Syrian officials the situation in the Palestinian territories and other regional issues. He did not elaborate.

Otari said the meetings were aimed at developing Syrian-Iranian relations in the economic, cultural and social fields.

The two sides are expected to discuss the signing of a memo of understanding for cooperation in building roads and bridges, as well as cooperation agreements in construction and science and technology fields.
38 posted on 02/16/2004 4:43:02 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iranian Ideas to Open Iraqi Borders Not Based on Good Intentions

February 16, 2004
BBC Monitoring
BBC Monitoring Middle East

A high-ranking Iranian official urged cancelling the use of passports for travel between Iraq and Iran in order to show the improvement of relations between the two countries.

The Iranian deputy minister of interior, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, said: "We want to create conditions in future that allow Iranians and Iraqis to visit both countries without a passport."

About 10,000 Iranians visit the holy sites in Najaf and Karbala, every day [as published]. The Iranian official hoped that the people of the two countries would have the opportunity to travel freely, with only an ID card, between the two countries.

This Iranian demand does, certainly, not seem to be motivated by good intentions; but it has a political aim, hoping that their borders will always be open to be able to enter Iraqi and, particularly, Kurdistan territories.

Source: Hawlati, Al-Sulaymaniyah, in Sorani Kurdish 14 Feb 04

Text of report entitled "Tehran proposes travel without passports between Iraq and Iran" published by independent Iraqi Kurdish newspaper Hawlati on 14 February
39 posted on 02/16/2004 4:44:11 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

By Safa Haeri
PARIS, 16 Feb. (IPS)

With only two more days left to the end of electoral campaigning, thousands of candidates, most of them unknown to the public, are in full gear to attract voters in the Majles elections due on 20 February.

The campaign started amidst one of Iran’s most dramatic electoral crisis triggered by the decision of the Council of the Guardians to disqualify the majority of candidates belonging to the reformist wing of the leadership, including a hundred of reformist Members of the present Majles in the one hand and a widespread apathy of the public.

Though Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic and all senior clerics have called on the voters to come to the polls, presenting the elections as a "religious duty", but latest survey carried by the Interior Ministry shows that the majority of the voters would abstain, as some of the 18 different parties, groups and organizations that make the coalition that support President Mohammad Khatami.

The disqualifications resulted in the split of the Second Khordad Coalition, with some formations saying they would take part in the polls, like the Association of Combatant Clergymen to which belong Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami.

According to the latest figures, some 5,000 candidates are competing for the 290 seats in the Majles, or parliament. Despite officials urging candidates to avoid American-type campaign, but eyewitnesses reported that walls in major cities as well as in small towns and villages are filled with large posters of hopefuls, most of them independent figures closer to the conservatives than the reformists.

There are 46.3 million eligible voters.

"The campaign is largely being waged through posters, in the form of advertisements in newspapers and on the Internet rather than in public meetings or on the conservative-controlled radio and televisions", one analyst pointed out.

The Interior Ministry in charge of running the vote had put the initial candidate list at 5,600, but announced Saturday that a further 550 approved candidates had decided not to stand. No reason for their decision was given.

Eight reformist parties announced they had set up a "Coalition for Iran" to contest the poll.

But Missing from the campaign are the hundreds of reformist candidates, among them some of Iran's best-known politicians, including Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the embattled President who is the leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran’s largest political formation.

Mr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, the Chairman of the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee of the present Majles, himself among the barred candidates, had described the massif disqualification as "a political coup".

Reformists lawyers and the Interior Minister, Hojjatoleslam Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari had called for the elections to be postponed, but Mr. Khatami opposed the idea immediately, causing the crushing defeat of the reformist deputies who had hoped and counted on the firm support of the President.

In total, more than 1,200 candidates will be seeking election in the sprawling capital and its environs -- a list that may prove bemusing to many voters. In addition, some candidates belong to more than one group.

Despite an order from the authorities to the press not to report possible unrests in connection to the elections, but some Iranian websites reported Sunday heavy fighting in the Kurdish city of Marivan, in northwestern Iran near the Iraqi border.

According to the information, mobs attacked campaign locations belonging to the conservative candidates, clashed with Law and Order Forces and set fire on public buildings.

According to widespread rumours in the Iranian capital, in order to claim that the majority of voters had fulfilled their political and religious duty, the conservatives are hoarding and fabricating identity cards. "Right now, more than 3 million falsified ID or belonging to dead people are in the hands of conservatives", one source insisted.

40 posted on 02/16/2004 5:51:25 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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