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Iranian Alert -- February 23, 2004 -- IRAN LIVE THREAD --Americans for Regime Change in Iran
The Iranian Student Movement Up To The Minute Reports ^ | 2.23.2004 | DoctorZin

Posted on 02/23/2004 12:00:35 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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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 02/23/2004 12:00:35 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 02/23/2004 12:03:35 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Deadly clashes rock several other southern cities

SMCCDI (Information Service)
Feb 22, 2004

Violent clashes, often deadly, between demonstrators exercising their legal right to protest and security forces rocked the provincial cities of Khorram-Abad, Firoozabad and Dehdasht located in Southern Iran. The clashes in Southern Iran have reportedly resulted in several deaths and tens of injured protestors and government security forces.

Portions of the Amir Momenin special brigade, composed mainly of Iraqi expatriates and hardcore Iranian elements were called on to support local regime authorities in subduing the violent demonstrations. Rubber bullets and tear gas were used on the peaceful demonstrators causing the protestors to react violently to the heavy-handed tactics of the regime's security forces.

Buildings, patrol cars and houses of selected official candidates declared as winners of the sham election held on Friday were torched or damaged during the clashes following the brutal attack on the demonstrators.

The situation is very tense in and around the cities experiencing the violent reactions to the regime's security forces brutality. Roads have been blocked to prevent the unrest from spreading to other cities in Iran.
3 posted on 02/23/2004 12:05:05 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Sporadic clashes rock cities in northeastern Iranian cities

SMCCDI (Information Service)
Feb 22, 2004

Sporadic clashes, often very violent, rocked several northeastern provincial Iranian cities. Reports from the cities of Mashad, Sabze-war, Neishaboor and Tchenaran indicate that security forces comprising of staunch regime enforcers and Afghani members attacked the demonstrators with excessive force. The brutal attacks on the peaceful demonstrators led to subsequent violence that resulted in damage being sustained to government buildings and patrol cars.

The demonstrations were triggered when it was discovered that officials misrepresented the actual number of voters participating and winners in the boycotted sham elections on Friday. Shouting protests against the corrupt and brutal regime and it's leaders, security forces attacked the demonstrators with clubs and tear gas.

Peaceful demonstrations in Southern Iran turned deadly when special Iranian and Iraqi security forces attacked a legal demonstration that led to the deaths of several protestors and injury to many security forces and demonstrators.
4 posted on 02/23/2004 12:06:13 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
EU to Condemn Iran Election, Keep Options Open

February 22, 2004

BRUSSELS -- The European Union is set to condemn Iran's parliamentary election as unfair on Monday but keep its options open on stalled trade talks pending a report on Tehran's nuclear compliance, diplomats said on Sunday.

EU foreign ministers will discuss policy towards the Islamic Republic at their monthly meeting in the wake of a poll from which an unelected hardline clerical watchdog barred some 2,500 reformist candidates.

Those banned included 80 sitting lawmakers, some of whom had been key interlocutors of the EU in its dialogue with Iran.

"It will be very difficult for the EU to qualify these parliamentary elections as free and fair because the process leading up to them was neither free nor fair," a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Reuters.

Islamic conservatives scored an easy victory over the shackled reformists on a record low turnout in Friday's poll, which pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami had branded unfair.

"We will certainly focus on the mass disqualification and say how this was an unfair election," another EU official said.

"But I suspect some ministers will want to wait and see what comes out of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report before drawing policy conclusions," he said.

The EU has linked a resumption of negotiations on a first trade and cooperation agreement to Iran's compliance with pledges to accept intrusive spot inspections of its nuclear program and halt uranium enrichment.

But it also seeks progress on human rights, the fight against terrorism and Iran's stance on the Arab-Israeli peace process before concluding the trade deal.

Some reformists suspect the Europeans of seeking to cut a deal with the Islamic conservatives, regardless of what they see as the muzzling of democracy, provided the hardliners deliver results on the nuclear and terrorism issues.

Recent visits by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Britain's Prince Charles after the mass disqualification of reformists were seen as signalling "business as usual".

But the EU ministers also have to take account of public opinion and human rights groups in Europe, which will subject any "realpolitik" towards Iran to critical scrutiny.

Under the headline "Winter again in Tehran", Germany's Tagesspiegel newspaper said the election result showed the "clocks are being turned back" in the Islamic Republic.

"The conservatives are officially taking back control of the levers of power they never really relinquished. That at least is what the failure of the short Tehran spring shows. Anyone who thought the system installed by (Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini 25 years ago was reformable knows better now," it wrote.

The United States accuses Tehran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is purely for civilian energy purposes.

IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei is due to issue a new report on Iran this week, but diplomats said it would not be circulated in time for the EU ministers to discuss it on Monday.

The ministers of Britain, France and Germany negotiated a key agreement with Iran last October under which it agreed to sign an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing tough spot checks, and to halt enrichment.

But EU diplomats said Tehran was still haggling over the scope of that unilateral suspension, which the Europeans insisted must be a complete stop to any work towards enriching uranium, which could be used to make a bomb.
5 posted on 02/23/2004 12:07:05 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iranians Love New Proxy Voting System

February 22, 2004

The new, more efficient, proxy election system in Iran allowed about 20 million citizens to cast ballots for hard-line conservative candidates yesterday without actually going to the polls or marking a ballot of any kind.

Under the proxy system, President Mohammad Khatami determines which candidates the electorate supports by consulting with a small group of leading Muslim clerics. The president then delivers a proxy ballot, on behalf of the voters, to an election official.

"It saves time, money and hassle," said Mr. Khatami. "The free people of Iran enjoy the proxy system because it allows us to have huge voter turnout, without the inconvenience of actually voting. We tallied 20 million votes, with no traffic jams, no long lines, no pesky decision making to trouble our people."

Election Day Excitement: President Mohammad Khatami (second from rt.) presents a precinct official with proxy votes for 20 million Iranians as another voter awaits his turn in "virtual line around the block" to cast a ballot the old fashioned way.
6 posted on 02/23/2004 12:08:24 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
What the BBC Didn't Report from Iran Elections

February 23, 2004
Iran va Jahan
Iran va Jahan Network

Following the election sham in the Islamic Republic, several towns and cities in Iran have become unstable and widespread clashes are reported from them.

In Dehdasht (old name Belad-Shapoor) between 2 to 9 people are reported to have been killed in the clashes. People started protesting after the cheating just became too brazen.

In Firoozabad, Fars, people clashed with the Law Enforcement Forces when a cleric by the name of Yunesi-Sarcheshmeyi was declared the winner. One conscript soldier is reported killed. It is not certain whether he was on the side of the people or against them. The people have set fire to banks and all shops are shut.

In Miando-ab, West Azerbijan, some of the cheaters have publicly confessed how they were taught by a cleric to remove the voting stamp from their ID cards and vote again.

Marivan is still reported to be tense after several days. People have beaten up one of the candidates by the name of Ali Karimi, after he was seen in public.

In Izeh, the outgoing MP who clashed with the bodyguards of a judiciary official after pointing out the cheatings, is said to have died after going into a coma as a result of his injuries.

In Bam, the quake victims have protested at their ongoing conditions by gathering in Sardaran-shahid Square.

Today in Isfahan, more than 25000 people in three locations, Nikbakht Court, AhmadAbad Square, and in front of the provincial government building have gathered after a saving account was declared bankrupt one day after the elections. Even though the authorities knew about the bankruptcy before the elections. Several banks have been attacked and had their windows broken.

In Malekan in East Azerbijan, people were told that 45000 are eligible to vote, yet the number of declared votes for candidates totalled 50000! Everyone including children and old people have poured into the streets of Malekan and there is non-stop running battles with the Law Enforcement Forces.

Today Mehdi Karubi, the outgoing speaker was asked why he is in the 31St position in Tehran election results. His reply was "Because people boycotted the elections".

For those of you who can read Persian, see Jamshid Barzegar's analysis for BBC world service. He seems to have accepted the official figures of 40-50% turnout without questioning the credibility: and ignored what the people from Iran have reported to the website:
7 posted on 02/23/2004 12:10:20 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran's Tarnished Vote

February 22, 2004
The Jerusalem Post

If it had been up to Iran's clerics, today's big story would be the results of the parliamentary "election" they held Friday.

As it turned out, the focus has shifted to the manipulation of what had anyhow been only a mock-democratic process, and to the governmental decay that evidently lurks behind it.

In a Muslim Middle East dominated by Arab non-democracy, the presence in non-Arab Iran of a popularly elected and free-to-talk parliament has often been celebrated as a breath of fresh air.

Compared with regional norms it was indeed a rare manifestation of power sharing, albeit one bluntly obstructed by a lack of administrative clout, as well as harsh restrictions on candidacy eligibility.

The election last decade of the outgoing and savvy Muhammad Khatami in what seemed to be a defeat for arch-conservatives, was presented as proof that Iran was changing, and that people power was finally having its day. It wasn't.

As it turned out, Khatami proved helpless in the face of the country's real ruler, the ultra-fanatic Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. Moreover, Khatami's own much-hailed moderation has failed to emerge as more than merely part of an effort focused on improving Iran's image abroad.

Clearly, Iran has had a severe image problem since its violent takeover a generation ago by its current regime. Bettering that image should have been a fine goal for the regime, though also quite a professional challenge for any Western PR firm, some of whom are indeed believed to have been consulted on the matter. The much-heralded appearance two weeks ago of a visibly affable, warm and smiling Khatami in a Teheran synagogue for a Tu Bishvat celebration was apparently part of a shrewd, if cumbersome, effort to portray Iran and its leaders as more benign than they are ordinarily perceived.

Yet Iran's problem has not been one of appearance, but one of substance. To what extent its political system has come to be split between "reformists" and "hard-liners," as simplistic Western media have been presenting the Iranian power struggle, is no longer the issue. Rather, the question is how much more damage will the Ayatollahs inflict both within and beyond their pivotal country before they finally arrive in history's dustbin?

Ironically, just as they were busy subverting the electoral process – in the hope that the new Majlis will prove less unpredictable than its predecessor – the mullahs ineptitude was exposed in broad daylight: First, in the aftermath of an earthquake that has killed tens of thousands of poor villagers whose only sin was having lived in a country led by people who have not the faintest idea about setting and imposing construction standards. And second, with last week's transportation disaster, which killed at least 320 people and injured 460, after an evidently poorly supervised cargo of chemicals was derailed.

Evidently, with all their high talk of reinventing their country, Iran's self-appointed rulers are failing to rule. With their imposed cultural asceticism increasingly defied by a young generation thirsting for life; with their diplomatic bravado suddenly clouded by America's effective conquest of its neighbors to the east and west, Afghanistan and Iraq, and with their economy visibly stagnating, Iran's leaders are living on borrowed time.

The lengthy decades in which Iran's leaders have fashioned their country as a furnace for international terrorism and a bulwark of theological fascism have taken their toll, and made Westerners reflexively perceive it as such. Yet the thousands of years in which Iran has been a relatively integral state and cohesive civilization have been far from one-dimensionally fanatic.

The Jewish nation certainly remembers Cyrus, the emperor who restored the Jews to their ancestral land and fashioned ancient Persia as a model of political tolerance and cultural pluralism. In subsequent generations, Iran was alternately tolerant and intolerant.

It now seems the country's latest period of fanaticism may be drawing to a close, and that opportunity is fast beckoning for its industrious middle class and worldly intelligentsia to succeed the mullahs and herald an era of restoration. And when their moment finally arrives, a newly liberal Iran will no longer have to grapple with its "image problem."
8 posted on 02/23/2004 12:11:25 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
This just in from a student inside of Iran...

"in the last election in the year 2000, the number one winner of city of Tehran got more than 1,700,000 votes but now, the first winner of Tehran could not get more than 107,000 votes.

According the sources in ministry of interior, the whole turnout in Iran was 37%
9 posted on 02/23/2004 12:14:16 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Clergy kill hope of reform in Iran

Hardliners emerge triumphant in parliamentary elections ending President Khatami's project of combining democracy and clerical rule

Dan De Luce in Tehran
Monday February 23, 2004
The Guardian

Iran's seven-year experiment with reform effectively died yesterday when hardline conservatives, including former members of the revolutionary guard, took back control of parliament.
Conservatives aligned with the theocratic leadership won 133 seats out of the first 192 declared in the 290-member parliament, according to figures released by the interior ministry.

Only half of the eligible electorate turned out to vote.

The conservative victory had been virtually guaranteed after more than 2,000 reformists were barred from standing in the election on the grounds that they lacked loyalty to Islam and the theocracy.

Leading reformists had boycotted the election in protest, and appeared resigned to a period in the political wilderness. They said their movement was facing a period of reflection and "stagnation".

Turnout was estimated at around 50%. Conservatives hailed it as "massive", but it was a record low for the period since the 1979 revolution which toppled the Shah. A majority of voters stayed away from the polls in the main cities, but turnout was higher in rural districts.

The conservative bloc known as the Builders of Islamic Iran had the most votes. It was backed by powerful hardliners, who portrayed reformists as incompetent and treacherous.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who presides over the theocracy with near-absolute authority, had condemned the reformist boycott as a foreign plot.

"The losers in this election are the United States, Israeli Zionists and the country's enemies," he said.

The victorious conservative bloc is led by Gholamali Haddadedel, whose daughter is married to Mr Khamenei's son.

The conservative move back to parliament marks the end of a reformist project which had raised hopes of a more democratic and tolerant era in Iran.

Since his election in 1997, President Khatami has embodied the reformist vision and advocated a gradual loosening of restrictions on press freedom and personal liberty.

But the appointed conserva tives who dominate the theocracy vetoed his initiatives and his supporters were put on trial and imprisoned.

Reformist MPs said they now expected the conservatives to pile pressure on Mr Khatami's cabinet in his final year in office.

"If the conservatives feel any potential danger, they will take it into account and handle it forcefully," one reformist told the Guardian.

The hardline judiciary was expected to make an example of the more outspoken voices in the reformist faction.

Last week, the judiciary closed the two most prominent reformist newspapers, Sharq and Yas-e-nou. Sharq's editors subsequently issued an apology at the weekend for publishing excerpts of a letter castigating Mr Khamenei.

Many reformists have concluded that the electoral blacklist has buried Mr Khatami's idea that democratic principles could coexist with clerical rule.

Among those expected to fill the next parliament are former members of the hardline Revolutionary Guard and the former police chief of Tehran, who was implicated in a brutal clampdown on student demonstrators in 1999.

Also expected to secure a seat was a cleric known for his anti-US rhetoric, Mohammad Reza Faaker.

Some optimists among the reformists camp predicted that the more pragmatic conservatives would prevail and would keep hard-core ideologues in check. In the 1990s, pragmatists tried and failed to open up the country's economy. Vested interests in the conservative establishment - of those who profit from state-owned enterprises and well-connected foundations - resisted changes to the status quo.

Violence threatened to overshadow the election result as riots broke out in two towns in southern provinces. It remained unclear to what degree the political conflict between reformists and conservatives had played a role in the incidents, in which early reports said several people had died.

In Fars province, in the south, a conservative candidate won by a narrow margin with an unusually high voter turnout, prompting accusations of fraud and clashes that injured several people, local officials said. More people were injured in the south-western province of Khuzestan, where a crowd tried to storm the governor's office, the Isna student news agency reported.,12858,1154029,00.html
10 posted on 02/23/2004 12:15:32 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
The Mullah$ like to pretend they can pull it off, and
their idiot pathetic European backers blinded by greed,
are also banking on the Mullah$ being like the Chinese.
But they ain't. Why?


1. The Mullah$ do not have the efficient and functional central government command of the Chinese. They have the brute force in sqaushing rebellions and thats about it, but not the efficient infrastructure of control that Peking wields. Every European looting Iran can tell you that the Mullah infrastructure is an extremely corrupt, dysfunctional, inefficient infrastructure where loyalties can be bought and traded for peanuts! That is simply not the case with the Chinese. Look, the Mullah$ haven't even been able to ban the Internet with the efficiency of the Chinese despite their hollow rhetoric and threats for the last year. Plus nowadays most well connected Chinese have full Internet access using the new satellite services, which just goes to show you, that even the Chinese Worm has its limits, in case the Mullah$ think that paying the Chinese billions for it is going to work. Laughing

2. The average Chinese has a higher standard of living than the average Iranian. They had a higher standard of living circa Tianneman sqaure, and they have a hell of a lot higher standard of living today! Iranians are amongst the poorest people in the world today! That is not the case with the Chinese. Remember the French didn't pour out because they didn't have freedom to form political parties during their revolution, they did it for bread, same with the Boston tea party ( taxes) and also the Russian revolution. The Chinese have bread, the Iranians don't!

3. The majority (93%) of the Chinese do not hate their government the way the Iranians do, nor believe that their government is stealing everything that isn't nailed down the way 99% of all Iranians do, including the Mullah$ own security guards!! The Chinese do not see their rulers as greedy and corrupt thieves the way Iranians do, and this is the golden pre-requisite of all revolutions which the Mullah$ have beautifully fullfilled!

4. Morale and loyalty is considerably lower in the government, military and oppression apparatus of the Mullah$ than it is amongst the same in China.

5. The Chinese supply many basic social services to their people that the Mullah$ don't.

6. The Chinese don't live in the shadow of the excesses of wealth and decadence by their leaders the way starving Iranians do watching zillionaire Mullah$ and their children live it up in a grotesque display of wealth and power not seen since the 'let them eat cake' pre-revolutionary heydays everywhere else! The Mullah$ and their families are putting on quite a display of capitalist decadence of a kind very few in China do. China simply does not have the divisions between the haves and have nots of Iran, and their workers don't waste away in the shadows of decadent wealth.

7. The Chinese have many basic freedoms that Iranians don't have. I said this before, I'll say it again atleast in the Soviet Union the oppressed people could drink their vodka and have their song and dance, and in Cuba they get to drink their beer and dance on the beach. But not in Iran where political oppression is compounded by religious oppression, social oppression, and personal limitations too severe to maintain idefinately while nobody gets to drink, dance, sing, play music without constant fear of severe persecution for committing a major offense/crime!! The Mullah$ will not hold power for long, because unlike the Chinese they do not allow the people the few freedoms that the Chinese people have! If the EU wasn't as blinded by its own greed, it would see the sheer idiocy of investing in the Titanic of the Mullah$!

8. There is no way the Mullah$ can imrpove the economy or the condition of the people to even bring it close to what the Chinese have because: they are too greedy to give anything to the people; most of the rank & file in Iran is stealing as much as they can before escaping the sinking ship (thus the sudden epidemic of bank/business closures throughout the country); the cost of maintaining the internal oppression and external bribes in the billions to government officials in the west has bankrupted the government and the even higher bribes needed now will break the bank even more; none of those loyal to the regime ideologically have any knowledge or ability to deal with economic issues or any other issues requiring an education level higher than high school, corruption and nepotism has so crippled the system that no progress of any kind is possible and the Mullah$ are not about to cart off their own relatives to jail for fraud. Therefore the economic reform will not happen, and any EU country pouring money into Iran, is only pouring it into the pockets of the greedy Mullahs and their 'gedda' relatives, they ain't saving the economy.

So in conclusion:

The Mullah$ lack the Chinese's eficiency of control, the Iranians have considerably lower standards of living than the Chinese, the Iranians watch the elite live in lavish lifestyles that would put Marie Antoinette to shame while the Chinese workers never see such things since their society doesn't have the same harsh divisions between have's and have nots, the Iranians can't even deliver the most basic social services the Chinese do and thus effectively bribe the masses, the Chinese have many more personal freedoms and simple human joys the Iranians are denied, and there is no way the Mullah$ can turn the economy around because of the paralysing corruption and nepotisim caused by their own!

Posted at Message Forum
11 posted on 02/23/2004 12:19:49 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran theocrats' coup

Published: February 23 2004 4:00
Last Updated: February 23 2004 4:00
Financial Times

Very much as they expected and arranged, Iran's theocrats have wrenched back control of the Majlis or parliament from the reformists grouped around Mohammad Khatami, the president, ending what turned out to be a delusion that the Islamic Republic could be reformed from within.

The promiscuous clusters of hardline mullahs and vested commercial interests built up after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolution 25 years ago have asserted what they claim is a higher sovereignty that, because it purportedly derives from God, is fully entitled to trample the sovereignty of the people into the dust. Yet even they must know that winning a landslide as a result of a collapse in the popular vote is not an exercise that demonstrates credibility or legitimacy.

The result of Friday's elections was settled weeks ago, when the Guardian Council - an unelected body that constitutionally "interprets" Islamic orthodoxy - disqualified about 2,500 out of 8,200 candidates, including 87 MPs, from standing. Requested by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader under its Islamist revolutionary constitution, to review the bans, the council made minimal changes and warned any further challenge to its ruling would be "making war on God" - in principle a capital offence. Nearly 1,200 more candidates withdrew in protest. The reformist camp had been all but erased at the stroke of a pen.

Yet Mr Khatami had already capitulated over the previous 18 months. Elected president in 1997 and 2001 in what can only be described as electoral insurrections, he won decisive control of parliament in 2000. Blocked by the clerical establishment, the reformist Majlis voted to curb the powers of the Guardian Council and the hardline judiciary; Mr Khatami threatened to resign if these laws were vetoed. They were, and he stayed, forfeiting the last of his waning credibility. His project of making Iranian government accountable under the rule of law lay in ruins. This tolerant and cultured figure now looks rather pathetic - a man famous for translating Machiavelli, but seemingly without reading it.

His opponents were yesterday cruising to victory, on what looks an artificially inflated turnout of about 45 per cent. That is around half the turnout that elected Mr Khatami in 1997. Reformists say this reflects the success of their boycott; in reality, it reflects the disgust of Iranians who have given up on the system as a whole.

But if the banners of reform are folded, what will take their place? On the eve of the poll, more than 100 MPs wrote to Mr Khamenei blaming him because "the rights of the people are being trampled in the name of Islam". Two reformist newspapers that published this extraordinary cri de coeur were shut down. But that will not stop theocratic rule from being exposed in all its nakedness, now that the theocrats themselves have torn away the last remaining reformist veil.
12 posted on 02/23/2004 12:22:09 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Components bought from black market admits Iran

23 February 2004

TEHRAN: Iran acknowledged yesterday that it bought nuclear components on a shady black market amid mounting concern that the Islamic Republic may still be concealing sensitive nuclear research.

Disclosures by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, have in recent weeks lifted the lid on the global trade in nuclear technology that could be used to make atomic bombs.

"We have bought some things from some dealers but we don't know what the source was or what country they came from," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

"It happens that some of those (dealers) were from some sub-continent countries," Asefi added.

Meanwhile, confessed nuclear black marketeer Buhary Syed Abu Tahir is free to leave Malaysia, police said, as authorities abroad widened investigations into his role in a trafficking network that sold nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya.

A three-month police investigation found no evidence that Tahir - or a Malaysian company he contracted to make parts for Libya's nuclear programme - had broken Malaysian law, national police chief Mohamed Bakri Omar said.
13 posted on 02/23/2004 12:30:40 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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Comment #14 Removed by Moderator

To: DoctorZIn
Power Of One

Iran's elections deliver a big victory to hard-line leader Khamenei and dash hopes for reform

Sunday, Feb. 22, 2004

A reverential hush filled the heavily guarded Islamic community center in downtown Tehran when Iran's Supreme Leader arrived to cast his vote last week in the country's parliamentary elections. "Allah bless the Prophet and his descendants," cried some fellow mullahs and government officials, in a traditional invocation. With his flowing robe, clerical turban and solemn visage, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei seemed to radiate a sacred otherworldliness, at least in the eyes of his followers, even as he undertook the mundane task of placing a blue card listing his candidate preferences into the slot of a cloth-covered ballot box. "I am grateful to Allah for the blessing of being able to vote," he told assembled reporters. In a rebuke to Washington, which questioned the elections' fairness, Khamenei added, "No one can prevent our enthusiastic youth from taking part in the destiny of their country." As he turned to leave the voting station, Khamenei allowed himself a satisfied grin.

Khamenei, who smiles about as often as did his dour predecessor, Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, had appealed for a big turnout. It may be days before anyone knows the exact tallies from elections that Khamenei, despite his upbeat words, knows alienated many Iranians, young and old. But whatever the precise totals, the results are likely to hand Khamenei's conservative political allies a healthy majority in the 290-seat Majlis, dealing a devastating blow to reformists who swept into the assembly four years ago trumpeting an era of democratic change.

For now, the power struggle in Iran — mullah warfare, some Iranians call it — is over, and the conservatives have won. The big winner is Khamenei, 64, who played a decisive role in putting his conservative allies back in power. The main loser is reformist President Mohammed Khatami, who will serve the last year of his two terms of office facing a hostile parliament and the possibility that conservatives will win the presidency in 2005. It's a prospect that fills Khamenei's allies with glee. "A quarter of a century after the triumph of the Islamic revolution," boasts Mohammed Kazem Anbarlui, editor of the conservative daily Resalat, "we are at the height of power."

The reformists' defeat owes partly to the fact that most of them didn't even run. The Khamenei-appointed Guardian Council, a powerful oversight body consisting of six clerics and six Islamic jurists, barred hundreds of reformists, including 87 members of the Majlis, from standing as candidates on various grounds, such as undermining the authority of the Supreme Leader. Among them was Reza Khatami, deputy speaker and brother of Iran's President. Ten reformist parties, including Reza Khatami's Islamic Iran Participation Front, then pulled out of the balloting, saying they could not run in "illegal and unjust" polls. President Khatami politely asked Khamenei to review the disqualifications, but the Guardian Council still barred some 2,000 candidates.

Under the Islamic Republic's constitution, Khamenei is supposed to be above politics. But he has routinely supported conservative moves — many reformists charge that he has secretly directed them — to quash the pro-democracy movement. He has relied mostly on his legal powers as Supreme Leader, which are greater than Khatami's. He has full authority over the Iranian armed forces, Revolutionary Guards, intelligence services, TV and radio stations and charitable foundations, and he has access to revenues from Iran's $24 billion oil industry.

Besides the Guardian Council, Khamenei appoints other key bodies like the Expediency Council, a sort of Iranian House of Lords, and the Iranian judiciary. In the past four years, together they have shut down reformist newspapers, jailed outspoken journalists and overturned every major reform bill approved by the Majlis. Student demonstrations protesting the actions have been suppressed by the security forces, leaving among young people a trail of disillusionment with Khamenei — and with Khatami for not speaking out or resigning in protest.

Years ago, Khamenei was an underground revolutionary. He later served as the Islamic republic's second President, guiding the country through a long, bloody war after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. During that time, he was maimed by a bomb set off by Iranian terrorists that paralyzed his right arm. Khamenei these days is an enigma to many Iranians. His down-to-earth image clashes with his hard-line pronouncements against the U.S. and Israel. Before the balloting, he called on Iranians to give America a "punch in the mouth" by going to the polls.

But Khamenei is also a pragmatist. Although he has allowed pro-democracy politicians to be crushed, he has shied away from stifling reform urges altogether. Satellite TV, Internet access, expanded political debate, looser restrictions on women's dress and mixing of the sexes are reform-movement achievements that Khamenei has allowed to stand. He has presided over the most significant opening to the outside world since the revolution. In December, with Khamenei's approval, the government signed a protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency allowing inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities — a sea change from the republic's long standoff with the West.

Yet if the Supreme Leader is allowing himself to smile, he could soon have regrets if the election results so neutralize the opposition that the hard-liners lose the fig leaf of respectability the reformers have provided for Iranians wanting change and for wary Western governments.

Many reformists conclude that changing the system from within isn't possible. Some advocate pushing for a constitutional change to curb or even abolish Khamenei's powers. That appeals to militant students, who have chanted "Death to Khamenei!" in street protests. Reform strategists say they may turn next year's presidential election into a referendum on the Supreme Leader's powers by asking voters to cast blank votes to signify dissatisfaction. Former Khomeini aide Mohsen Sazegara was imprisoned for 114 days this year after penning an essay that challenged Khomeini's doctrine stipulating the right of an Islamic jurist — currently Khamenei — to absolute rule. "I was hopeful we could reform the regime," he told TIME. "But now I believe that with this constitution, we cannot achieve any reform."

Open criticism of the government last week reached a level not seen since the fall of Shah Reza Pahlavi. In a letter to Khamenei, angry reformist Majlis members denounced his repressive policies and compared him unflatteringly with his predecessor. "The popular revolution brought freedom and independence in the name of Islam," they wrote. "But now you lead a system in which legitimate freedoms and the rights of the people are being trampled in the name of Islam." Khamenei's allies responded immediately, with judicial officials shutting down Iran's two leading reformist dailies for daring to publish parts of the criticism.

With reporting by Nahid Siamdoust/Tehran,9171,1101040301-593571,00.html
15 posted on 02/23/2004 12:34:27 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
See Iran Run

Christian Science Monitor
from the February 23, 2004 edition -

With American troops now sitting on either side of Iran (in Afghanistan and Iraq), that nation's hard-line Muslim leaders are bolting the door - from both sides.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Council of Guardians can't afford to have their authority challenged from within while the US tries to rid the region of terrorist regimes. So they fiddled with Friday's elections by eliminating over 2,000 reformist candidates for parliament to ensure victory for conservative candidates. The conservatives can now put a halt to reform efforts by liberal parliamentarians.

The clerics also are besieged after being caught twice recently by foreign inspectors with equipment for making bomb-grade nuclear material. They now face the greater prospect of the United Nations imposing economic sanctions on Iran, which isn't what they need with so many jobless youth in open defiance of Islamic rule.

In one unusual act of defiance, two reformist parliamentarians last week openly criticized the antidemocratic actions of the ayatollah, whose position was supposed to be beyond criticism.

In the US effort to put pressure on Middle East regimes, is this what President Bush intended: That Iran's limited democracy get worse before it gets better?

Many authoritarian regimes implode after they crack down harder on dissent. Leaders like the ayatollah fail to understand that legitimacy lies with the people. No wonder voter turnout in Friday's election was the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
16 posted on 02/23/2004 12:38:32 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; ...
What the BBC Didn't Report from Iran Elections

February 23, 2004
Iran va Jahan
Iran va Jahan Network
17 posted on 02/23/2004 12:42:18 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Special Information Bulletin
        January 2004
Iran and its Proxies are Sponsoring and Encouraging Terrorism
in the Palestinian Authority Administered Territories

A photograph of Fatah terrorist operatives in Ramallah against the background of a picture of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah , the leader of Hezbollah. The operative on the left was identified as Nasser Muhammad Yusuf Naji Abu Hamid , a key figure in a Fatah Tanzim cell in Ramallah , who initiated and coordinated dozens of terrorist attacks against Israeli targets.
The arrest of three Nablus-based Fatah Tanzim operatives – all brothers – sheds light on the extensive financial assistance extended by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (hereinafter: “IRGC”) and Hezbollah to support Fatah terrorist infrastructures across the Northern West Bank. As part of this activity, apparently innocent funds ostensibly gathered for social activities were transferred through Jordan by these three brothers. The funds, totaling approximately NIS 1,000,000 (approx. $220,000) were used to finance terrorist activities. Among else, some of this money served as a direct source of funding for a terrorist attack at the Kfar-Saba railway station (April 2003), where one Israeli citizen was killed and fifteen more were wounded.

During the course of the current Palestinian Israeli violent conflict, Iran's funding of Fatah terrorist infrastructures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has become a commonplace phenomenon. Groups and organizations related to Iran (mainly Hezbollah and the IRGC stationed in Lebanon ) routinely transport arms and funds to Fatah terrorist organizations with the purpose of perpetrating terrorist attacks against Israel, including suicide bombing attacks. An obvious example of the above was the double suicide bombing attack in the neighborhood of Naveh Sha'anan in the vicinity of the Tel-Aviv old central bus station (January 5, 2003), perpetrated by a Fatah cell in Nablus, which was sponsored by the IRGC. The death toll in that suicide bombing attack reached 22; a number of foreign workers (many of whom residing in that area) were among the casualties.


During the last six months, Israel's General Security Service and the IDF have arrested three brothers residing in Nablus, all three of them Fatah Tanzim operatives. Fadi, Hamdi, and Shadi Abdu were arrested for their alleged involvement in transferring a sum of approximately NIS 1,000,000 that originated in Iran and Hezbollah. An investigation of the three brothers revealed some of the methods and techniques used by Iran and Hezbollah for sponsoring and encouraging terrorist activities in the Palestinian Authority administered territories.
Within this context, it is worth mentioning that during the ongoing Palestinian Israeli violent conflict, Iran has been involved in operating additional Fatah terrorist cells in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in an attempt to fan Palestinian terrorism and to extend its influence inside Israeli territory. Thus, for example, the double suicide bombing attack at the Tel-Aviv old central bus station (January 5, 2003, 22 dead) was perpetrated by a Nablus-based Fatah cell that was funded by the IRGC.
In its endeavors to step up Palestinian terrorist activities against Israel, Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization operating under the patronage of Iran and Syria, invests many resources in the Palestinians living in the Palestinian Authority administered territories. Hezbollah's assistance to terrorist cells in the Palestinian Authority administered territories is realized, for the most part, in transferring funds toward financing terrorist activities, training Palestinian operatives sent to Lebanon and smuggling arms and ammunition to the Palestinian Authority administered territories (the emphasis being on “quality” arms, “power boosters” for the Palestinian terrorism).
Among all terrorist organizations it sponsors, Hezbollah's chief beneficiary is Fatah. Hezbollah encourages operative terrorist cells of Fatah (known as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades) to perpetrate devastating terrorist attacks in order to inflict more damage upon Israelis and prevent security and political agreements. Such was the suicide bombing attack in Rosh-Ha'ayin, a city east of Tel-Aviv (August 12, 2003), perpetrated by a Fatah cell in Nablus and coordinated by Qays Obeid, a former Israeli Arab recruited by Hezbollah.
The methods used for transferring funds from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah
to the Fatah terrorist infrastructures in Nablus, as uncovered during Fadi Abdu's interrogation
On July 4, 2003, Fadi Nazmi Hamdi Abdu, a resident of Nablus and key Fatah Tanzim operative, was arrested. For several years, Fadi served as the general secretary of the Fatah students' movement (the Shabibah ) at Al-Najah University in Nablus . Under interrogation, Fadi admitted that since July 2002 he had received funds toward Fatah activities from Fouad Balbisi, a Fatah activist operating from the Jordan office of Farouq Qaddumi, head of the PLO political department. Fouad Balbisi coordinates Fatah groups from his office in Jordan and serves as a link between Fatah and Iran and Hezbollah. Fadi admitted that he had received sums of money totaling about NIS 160,000 (approximately $35,000) from Fouad Balbisi.

Under interrogation, Fadi Abdu admitted that as of October 2002, he had been receiving funds (totaling approximately $30,000) from Ali Hussein Saleh as well. According to foreign publications, Saleh was a key operative for the IRGC stationed in Lebanon, from where he used to coordinate terrorist cells in the Palestinian Authority administered territories until his death in August 2003. Ali Hussein Saleh was the former handler of Kamel Taha Ahmad Ghanem, head of a Fatah cell in Ramallah that operates from within the Muqata'ah , Arafat's compound (serving as his headquarters 1). In this context, Ghanem, sponsored by the Iranians, acted in coordination with operatives in Nablus to carry out suicide bombing attacks in Israel proper. As part of this activity, two female suicide bombers were supposed to travel from Nablus to Kamel Ghanem in Ramallah and, once there, depart to carry out suicide missions in Tel-Aviv's nightclubs.
1 On August 2, 2003, Kamel Ghanem granted an interview to the Al-Jazirah TV network. In that interview, it was reported that Ghanem was staying in the Muqata'ah (Yasser Arafat's compound) along with other wanted members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Fadi admitted to employing young women, mostly students, to transfer funds from Jordan to the Palestinian Authority administered territories. Through the use of those proxies, Fadi funneled funds that originated in Iran to the Fatah Tanzim terrorist infrastructures across the Northern West Bank. These funds were ostensibly transferred to sponsor social activities; in practice, however, they were used to finance terrorist attacks.
  Under interrogation, Fadi admitted to transferring a sum of about NIS 100,000 (approximately $22,000) to Amir Saber Sharif Sawalmeh, chief of Fatah / Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus (detained as of June 2003). Sawalmeh was involved in the coordination and perpetration of numerous terrorist attacks, the funding and coordination for most of which were provided by Iranian elements. During Sawalmeh's interrogation, it was discovered that the funds he had received from Fadi Abdu, originating in Iran and Hezbollah, were the direct source of funding for a suicide bombing attack at a train station in Kfar-Saba (April 24, 2003), where one Israeli citizen was killed and fifteen were wounded.
  Under interrogation, Fadi admitted to serving as a link between Fouad Balbisi and Husni Abd al-Ghaffar Zaloum, head of a Fatah Tanzim cell who was also involved in acts of murder and coordinating terrorist attacks (detained as of November 2002). Under interrogation, Zaloum admitted to maintaining contacts with Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon and with Jordan-based Balbisi, drawing upon their assistance to fund his activities. He admitted that he had used the funds received from Balbisi to acquire arms and finance regular expenses related to the terrorist activity.
  Fadi also served as a link between Fouad Balbisi and Nasser Na'im Muhammad Jum'ah, a senior Fatah Tanzim operative in the Nablus area who was involved in a series of terrorist attacks. Jum'ah also served in the military intelligence apparatus of the Palestinian Authority and was one of the key figures among the Fatah Hawks (Palestinian vigilantes) in Nablus.

Fadi Abdu
The key figure among the three brothers.
Through a Fatah activist in Jordan, he received funds originating in the IRGC stationed in Lebanon and Hezbollah.

Hamdi Abdu :

His bank account in the Arab Bank was used for the transfer of funds originating in Iran;
in addition, he received funds from an operative of the IRGC stationed in Lebanon.

Shadi Abdu :
Served as contact person with the IRGC. After Fadi Abdu's arrest, he was sent to Jordan to meet with
Lebanese operatives in order to procure equipment for operatives in the Palestinian Authority administered territories.
Transfer of funds from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to Nablus
through Fadi Abdu's two brothers
Fadi Abdu recruited his two brothers, Hamdi and Shadi , to the funds transfer activity. A reference to a forty-year-old Fatah operative residing in Nablus who helped transfer the funds came up during Fadi's interrogation. On October 27, 2003, Hamdi Abdu was arrested as well. Under interrogation, he admitted that Fadi had provided him access to his bank account in the Arab Bank for the purpose of transferring funds. He had knowledge of several transfers totaling tens of thousands of shekels carried out through his bank account. After Fadi's arrest, Hamdi continued receiving funds from Ali Hussein Saleh of the IRGC.
The other brother, Shadi Abdu, a thirty-year-old Fatah operative residing in Nablus as well, served as Fadi's second in command. When Fadi was arrested, Shadi took his role as contact person with Ali Hussein Saleh of the IRGC. On September 25, 2003, Fadi dispatched Shadi to Jordan to meet with Lebanese operatives from whom he was to procure equipment for operatives in the Palestinian Authority administered territories. Shadi, too, was arrested when he returned to the Palestinian Authority administered territories on October 7, 2003.
Displays of admiration for Hezbollah leader: Photograph of Fatah Tanzim operatives in Ramallah against the background of a picture of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah

A photograph of Fatah terrorist operatives in Ramallah against the background of a picture of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. The operative on the left was identified as Nasser Muhammad Yusuf Naji Abu Hamid, a key figure in a Fatah Tanzim cell in Ramallah, who initiated and coordinated dozens of terrorist attacks against Israeli targets including but not limited to Jerusalem (arrested on May 6, 2002). The photograph was found in a photo album seized by IDF forces during the course of Operation Defensive Shield; it probably belonged to Nasser Muhammad Abu Hamid.

A photograph of Fatah terrorist operatives in the Ramallah area. Nasser Muhammad Yusuf Naji Abu Hamid is in the center; pictures of Yasser Arafat are in the background to the right. Fatah terrorist operatives, while supported by Iran and Hezbollah, consider Yasser Arafat to be their leader. The full scale of the tripolar cooperation between Yasser Arafat, Iran, and Hezbollah was exposed in the Karine A incident.

Terrorist operatives, probably of a Ramallah Fatah cell, against the background of a picture of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. The photograph was found in a photo album that probably belonged to Nasser Muhammad Abu Hamid, a key figure among a Fatah Tanzim cell in the Ramallah area.

18 posted on 02/23/2004 12:53:49 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Reformist students: Iran reform movement 'dead'

23 Feb 2004
IranMania News

TEHRAN, Feb 22 (AFP) -- Iranian students, many of whom boycotted controversial parliamentary elections, appeared Sunday to agree that the Islamic republic's reform movement was dead and discredited.

"I did not participate as I did not know any of the candidates," said Shohreh, a 22-year-old female student of chemical engineering at Tehran University.

But while unwilling to sift through the long list of names of mostly conservative candidates who were approved to stand, the student -- wearing make-up, tight jeans and a long coat -- said she had little more time for reformists either.

"Even if the reformists were approved I would not have participated," she said bluntly.

Since winning the parliament in 2000, reformists legislation has been blocked at almost every turn by powerful hardliners who screen all laws.

And when student activists, one of the main driving forces for change and whose votes helped put President Mohammad Khatami and his allies into office, also have bitter memories of when in 1999, 2002 and last year they took to the streets to protest crackdowns on dissent by the courts and security forces.

Khatami was powerless to stop heavy handed police tactics, and reformists in parliament could only mutter some complaints.

"The reformists are dead. They were dead already, but now they are deader," said Reza, 23 and a medical student from the northeast of Iran.

"This was not an election where they could expect me or my family to participate in. They disqualified the reformists anyway," he added, instead looking ahead to a conservative-controlled assembly.

"I hope that they can do something about the economy and live up to their promises," he said.

Aside from failing to assert themselves, the reformists have also come under fire for failing to address pressing concerns over inflation and unemployment -- especially among the thousands of students who graduate from universities every year but have few job prospects.

"The reforms have been dead for years and they were finished by these kind of elections," said Saeed, a 23-year-old civil engineering student and a member of the pro-reform Student Islamic Association.

"For the next six to seven years political reforms will be out, but the economy will get better. Khatami did at least has managed to lay the foundations for more deals, more investment."

Few students were predicting a crackdown on their pro-democracy activities either, but did say their room to manoeuvre would be more limited.

"I don't think the conservatives will restrict us, since they do not want another June 1999 and another June 2003," said Saeed, referring to the dates when thousands demonstrated against the regime and bloody clashes ensued.

"On the surface things will become better: they would not stop us in the street for things like the way we dress, because they want to win the presidential elections" next year, said Shokofeh as she strolled across the campus in her figure-hugging clothes.

"But they will surely close down more newspapers," she said.

Abolfazl, 28 and a student of drama, was one of the few people on the campus who said he had voted -- he is a member of the Basij, a hardline volunteer militia attached to the Revolutionary Guards.

"I voted to raise the participation and show that the fundamentalists can do things in an orderly fashion and answer the US threats," he asserted.

But even he agreed that with even with the reformists gone, a puritanical crackdown would not follow.

"The reforms will continue and even the atmosphere will be more liberal, since the fundamentalists have learned how to deal with people over time. They have learned their lesson," he said.

"There will be less tension."
19 posted on 02/23/2004 4:09:53 AM PST by F14 Pilot
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To: DoctorZIn; McGavin999; freedom44; nuconvert; Eala; AdmSmith; dixiechick2000; onyx; Pro-Bush; ...
Iran reformers say parliament vote was a ``historical fiasco''

23 Feb 2004
The San Francisco Chronicle
Via ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

Reformers barred from last week's disputed parliamentary election said Monday that the conservative victory was a "historical fiasco" in which Iranians had no free choice.

Iran's liberals boycotted Friday's elections, in which the nation's conservatives nearly cemented their control of parliament. The bloc of Islamic hard-liners and those considered loyal to the ruling clerics hailed the win as "epic."

But reformers challenged that assessment.

"Victory in a competition without rivals is not epic but a historical fiasco," Rasoul Mehrparvar said during a session of parliament broadcast live on state-run radio.

Mehrparvar, one of the lawmakers barred from seeking re-election, said hard-liners must await God's punishment.

"I hope you will be questioned in the Judgment Day before God because you are not responsive to the people in this world," he said, addressing the head of the hard-line Guardian Council, which banned more than 2,400 prominent reformist candidates.

Interior Ministry figures show the conservative bloc has won at least 135 of the 290 seats, and even holds the lead in the pro-reform stronghold of Tehran. Reformers and self-described independents had about 65 seats.

The final tally on the remaining seats was not expected until at least Monday evening.

Record-low voter turnout was seen by reformists as public backing for their drive to weaken the almost limitless controls of the theocracy.

The nationwide turnout stood at 50 percent; in the capital, Tehran, turnout was recorded at about 30 percent, according to Interior Ministry. More than 67 percent of voters turned out in the last parliament elections in 2000 in a pro-reform landslide.

Despite the low numbers, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, welcomed the turnout as a "national and an Islamic epic in the true meaning."

But reformers pointed out that voters' rights had been violated because they could only vote for candidates that had already been chosen by the Guardian Council.

"Restricting people's choice and imposing certain candidates on them is contrary to the constitution," said Hossein Ansarirad, a cleric and reformist lawmaker. "Through disqualifying more than 2,000 well-known candidates, the Guardian Council prevented candidates from being chosen and the nation from choosing freely. This is a violation of people's sovereignty."

Meanwhile, Iran's parliament on Monday accepted the resignation of Fatemeh Haqiqatjou, a reformist lawmaker who fought for women rights.

Haqiqatjou is one of about 130 reformist lawmakers who resigned earlier this month to protest the mass disqualification of liberal candidates.

Resignations must be debated one by one in the parliament and need a majority vote to take effect. Haqiqatjou's is the first to be accepted.

The shift of control in parliament expands the influence of theocracy and denies liberals an important forum to challenge the non-elected clerical establishment that has final say in almost all affairs.

Election-related violence claimed at least eight lives and injured 38 others in towns in southern Iran, local officials said.
20 posted on 02/23/2004 4:13:18 AM PST by F14 Pilot
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