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Iranian Alert -- March 7, 2004 -- IRAN LIVE THREAD --Americans for Regime Change in Iran
The Iranian Student Movement Up To The Minute Reports ^ | 3.7.2004 | DoctorZin

Posted on 03/07/2004 12:01:16 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 03/07/2004 12:01:19 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 03/07/2004 12:04:58 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: DoctorZIn
Why George Bush? He fights

Posted: March 6, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Robert Spencer
© 2004

When Abraham Lincoln received complaints about the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking Gen. Grant, he responded: "I can't spare this man: He fights." That could be the last word on George W. Bush in 2004.

There are many things the president has said and done that I don't like. But at least he has some awareness of what's at stake in the war on terror. Since global jihadists want to destroy republican government and the secular societies of the West, anti-terror efforts should enjoy bipartisan support. But instead, they've become a political football.

In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations in December, John Kerry declared: "We have a president who has developed and exalted a strategy of war – unilateral, pre-emptive and, in my view, profoundly threatening to America's place in the world and to the safety and prosperity of our own society. Simply put, the Bush administration has pursued the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in modern history. ... The Bush administration should swallow its pride and reverse course."

Reverse course? What that might mean for the war on terror was demonstrated on Feb. 27 in the Philippines, when the Muslim terror group Abu Sayyaf bombed a ferryboat, killing as many as 134 people. Abu Sayyaf may have picked that day for the bombing because it was the day that two members of the group, including its leader's brother, were sentenced to life in prison for the 2000 kidnapping of an American, Jeffrey Schilling. Schilling was held for eight months by Abu Sayyaf, often in body chains, and was tortured.

Remember that kidnapping? No? You're in good company. But Abu Sayyaf has kidnapped and even killed other Americans in the Philippines as well. None of these incidents ever made much of an impression stateside. Before 9-11, Americans tended to slough off overseas terrorist attacks on Americans – and even on our soldiers, sailors and Marines. Such attacks were merely passing outrages somewhere out there beyond our borders. When Bill Clinton noted them at all, he treated them as criminal matters, to be dealt with by law-enforcement officials. Aside from a few cruise missiles here and there, this amounted to very little. And this indifference allowed our enemy to thrive and grow.

It was the Bush administration that recognized that we are in a war and began to fight. As part of a global network of al-Qaida affiliates and allies, Abu Sayyaf knows that it is one of the ultimate targets.

No doubt, therefore, the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in Mindanao are wearing Kerry buttons now – as are the Iranian mullahs. About Iran's recent sham elections, Bush said: "I join many in Iran and around the world in condemning the Iranian regime's efforts to stifle freedom of speech, including the closing of two leading reformist newspapers in the run-up to the election. Such measures undermine the rule of law and are clear attempts to deny the Iranian people's desire to freely choose their leaders. The United States supports the Iranian people's aspiration to live in freedom, enjoy their God-given rights and determine their own destiny."

Kerry? He made no statement. In fact, shortly before the Iranian election his campaign sent an e-mail to Iran's Mehr News Agency which was trumpeted by the Tehran Times as evidence that the Democratic front-runner would, as president, work with the hard-line Islamic regime that has trampled upon human rights in Iran since 1979. The e-mail stated that Kerry "believes that collaboration with other countries is crucial to efforts to win the war on terror and make America safer."

Kerry's campaign said they didn't know how this e-mail message got to Mehr, but by then the damage was done. The mullahs knew what Kerry meant by "collaboration with other countries." The Iranian Ayatollah Mehdi Haeri, who is at odds with the Iranian regime, told Insight magazine that the current Iranian leaders "fear President Bush." Bush's expressions of support for Iranian pro-democracy groups "have given these people the shivers. They think that if Bush is re-elected, they'll be gone. That's why they want to see Kerry elected."

With the war on terror slipping steadily in the polls as an important issue to voters, that's something to think about. When John Kerry says he wants to reverse course, he gives heart to the forces of international jihad that are bent on destroying America. That's why we may not be able to spare George W. Bush, for all his faults. He fights.
4 posted on 03/07/2004 12:08:10 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn


Iran’s huge community of teachers went on a week-long nation-wide strike to protest officials "indifference" towards their most basic and urgent demands, starting with payment of unpaid salaries and adjustment of their status with other government employees.

While the Iranian official news agency IRNA said the strike is limited to a few cities, teachers said the movement is "almost nation-wide".

"In protest to the difficult situation of the profession, some" teachers in some cities like Tehran, Esfahan, Ardabil or Genaveh gathered at National Education departments to insist for their demands", IRNA reported on Saturday.

But sources close to the Iranian Teacher’s Association said the protest movement is "general, with the majority of the teachers stopping teaching, going on strike everywhere, at schools, but also in front of National Education offices in all major cities and even villages".

"Not only the government has not paid any attention to the years-long complaints of the teachers, one of the poorest social classes in the Islamic Republic, but has not allocated any increase in the next general budget for teachers pay, who with less than 100 US Dollars a month, receives the lowest wages among the State’s employees", one teacher told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity.

He said most of the teachers have not received their salaries for months and faces considerable difficulties overcoming their families’ daily lives. "The more prices for basic food and necessities increases without any control from the government, the more our situation is dramatic", he said, warning the authorities that if they fail to meet teacher’s demands, they would launch an indefinite strike immediately after the start of the (Iranian) New Year that falls on 21 of March.

A spokeswoman for the Teachers Association said last year, President Mohammad Khatami formed a committee to look after the situation of the teachers, specially the burning question of the unpaid salaries, " but so far, the only thing we know is that government officials say there is nothing they can do to improve the situation of the teachers", she pointed out.

For their part, lawmakers at the outgoing reformists-controlled Majles, or parliament backed the teachers, warning that it would impeach the National Education Minister in case the government of the lamed and powerless Khatami fails to address "immediately" the teacher’s "legitimate demands".

In a statement published by some Iranian internet publications, the League of Combatant Teachers accused the "corrupt and inefficient" leaders of the Islamic Republic of "gross negligence" of the situation of the Iranian teachers and called on the community to go for a "total strike" until they get a positive answer from the government and also invited families of school children to back the teacher’s action.

"We ask Khatami to meet us, with the hope that he would hear our difficulties that he never took into consideration. If he continue with his adamant position, then he would be responsible, as we would go on an endless strike and protest demonstrations", the statement said.

Meanwhile as the authorities continue with their silence over the tragic dead of a young movie director, sources close to the family and friends confirmed Saturday that Mr. Ardeshir Afshin Zadeh was in fact killed in his apartment by the conservatives-controlled Islamic vigilante on the pretext that he and his guests were drinking alcohol and dancing on the eve of Ashoura, the commemoration of the death of imam Hoseyn, one of the Shi’a Muslim’s most revered saints.

"Ardeshir had thrown a party to celebrate ending his first film when his apartment was attacked by plainclothes men of the Ansar Hezbollah, who beat him to death. Alerted by friends, Police took him to a nearby hospital, but it was too late and in order to cover up the crime, they claimed that he was dead after jumping from the window. But this claim was denied by doctors who confirmed that the death was due to severe fractures of chest and other vital parts of the body due to serious beating", one friend reported.

Mr. Afshin Zadeh was killed on exactly the same night that hundred of young boys and girls, dressed in black and carrying candles in commemoration of Ashoura in a fashionable street in the centre of Tehran were attacked by Islamic thugs.

The street battle lasted for several hours, with the basiji volunteers charging the young ones with knives, chains, cables and other white arms in the one hand and mourners responding the Islamic vigilante with stones, an eyewitness reported.

"The thugs were retreating in defeat, but then came back as police and security forces in plainclothes arrived to their rescue in big motorcycles ", the source said, adding that as a result, the youngsters attacked administrative buildings, smashed telephone cabins and chanted nationalist songs and shouted slogans against the regime and its leaders, namely Khameneh’i and Khatami", he added.

Iranian political analysts say the controversial victory of the conservatives in the last legislative elections has encouraged the Islamic vigilante and pressure groups, increasing their pressures over the people, mostly the young generation thirsty of freedoms.

"What happened to Mr. Afshin Zadeh, bringing new charges against Mr. the outspoken writer and columnist Emameddin Baqi or extending detention period of nationalist-religious journalists and activists or denying urgently needed medical treatment to Mr. Ensafali Hedayat, the freelance journalist who is in jail on absolutely fabricated charges in the one hand and statements by some conservative candidate who have secured a seat in the next Majles that they would not tolerate the press crossing the so-called red lines on the other are all signs of adjusting the clocks back to the pre-reform time", one analyst told IPS.

"To show that the happy days of reform is definitively closed, Ayatollah Mahmood Hashemi Shahroodi, the Iraq-born Head of the Judiciary lately called for the special monkerat (Apply the Good and prohibit the Bad) units to be more vigilant against the young people that make away with Islamic code of social behaviour. As a result, one must expect more show down between the people and security forces. Time has arrived for the rulers to choose between keeping ideology or their survival", he added.

To confirm this view, the pro-reform daily "Sharq" said in a commentary on the Mirdamad Street fight between the youngsters and the vigilantes that "if the event is correctly reported, not only it confirms the trend of young generation’s approach to some of the people’s traditions and believes, a trend that is not new nor confined to a few young ones, but also highlights the opinion of some people who, because they have send their protégés to the Majles and are convinced or their coming control on the government, want also to display the political and social atmosphere of their liking for their citizen as well as international observers". ENDS IRAN TEACHERS STRIKE 6304
5 posted on 03/07/2004 12:09:26 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
German envoy in Iran to leave for interfering

TEHRAN: Germany’s ambassador in Iran should be expelled for talking to a dissident cleric and interfering in the affairs of the Islamic republic, a conservative newspaper said on Saturday.

But Paul von Maltzahn, who has headed Germany’s mission in Tehran since July 2003, will avoid the humiliation of expulsion, because Berlin will replace him shortly instead, said Kayhan.

The ambassador recently met Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri “illegally” and made a statement “interfering in domestic Iranian affairs,” said the newspaper, under the headline: “German ambassador on road to expulsion.”

Once touted as a successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny, Montazeri fell from grace shortly before the former supreme leader died in 1989 and was released after more than five years of house arrest in January 2003.

Von Maltzahn’s “expulsion has been postponed for various reasons, such as the (February 20 Iranian) parliamentary elections and for talks with German officials to replace their ambassador discreetly,” the daily quoted a source as saying. —AFP
6 posted on 03/07/2004 12:11:03 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Body of young killed demonstrator restituted to family

SMCCDI (information Service)
Mar 7, 2004

The body of a young demonstrator killed during the clashes which rocked the Capital at the occasion of the official religious ceremony of Ashoura has been restituted to his family. The victim aged 18 has been reported as to be "Massoud Kimi-yai" (not to be confused with the movie director).

Friends of the victim who were taking part in the demo at the Madar square have reported the news while the father of the family which has two other sons seems to be keeping silence on the issue by fear of reprisals and to avoid problems for the hospitalized mother who was subject to heart stroke by learning the death of her son.

It's to note that the brutal attacks of the regime's militiamen and plain clothes Bassij agents had lead to an undetermined number of deaths, such as the one of the young movie editor Ardeshir Afshin-Zadeh, and tens of wounded during the two nights of popular taboo breaking celebrations in the streets and at homes coinciding with the Islamic state's organized religious mourning of Ashoura.
7 posted on 03/07/2004 12:11:39 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Will Revise Cooperation With IAEA If Nuclear Issue is Not Resolved

VIENNA, March 6 (Mehr News Agency) ––

Iran has warned it will not wait forever, adding that if its nuclear issue is not resolved, it will restart uranium enrichment.

Iran has also said that from now on any cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog is dependent on the agency and the Europeans fulfilling their commitments toward Iran as elaborated in the October Tehran Declaration, a diplomatic source told the Mehr News Agency here.

The Iranian delegation to Vienna has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors that it would not tolerate discriminatory behavior toward the nuclear activities of the NPT members or the hindering of Iran’s legitimate right to use civilian nuclear energy and threatened that if the current atmosphere prevails, Tehran will stop its unilateral open-ended cooperation with the nuclear agency, the source added.

He said Iran also warned in November that it would not tolerate its nuclear issue remaining open in the frequent meetings of the IAEA Board of Governors and the continued use of ambiguous statements over the issue as a justification for increased inspections. Moreover, Tehran considers the IAEA inspectors’ repeated reports that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes give it a strong reason to resume uranium enrichment.

In order to allay international concerns, the source said, Iran fully opened its nuclear sites to IAEA inspections and it did more than its legal commitments in this regard. However, nobody has said this cooperation should continue indefinitely although Iran has stopped its legal activities. He says Iran has not received any positive response in regard to its decision to suspend uranium enrichment and any later cooperation will be dependent on the implementation of bilateral commitments.

He stated that Iran is entitled to resume its uranium enrichment program if its expectations are not fulfilled promptly and the other side (the IAEA) continues to pursue its illogical manner of dealing with Iran.

Confirming a probable revision of Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA, he pointed to its repeated breach of legal commitments, especially its failure to keep reports confidential, and the handing over of some transcripts of these reports to third parties, and the violation of clauses in the Tehran Declaration by the EU, adding that Iran will not wait forever to restore its national rights. He added there is a great possibility that if the Board of Governors continues its double-standard policy, keeps Iran’s nuclear dossier open and refuses to issue the license for resumption of the activities related to the nuclear cycle, Tehran will review the pursuance of those stages related to the Additional Protocol and even the agreed cooperation with the agency.

The senior diplomat said even if Iran decides to resume its uranium enrichment program any time in the future while maintaining its cooperation with the IAEA, and its inspections, it has not violated any international law or conventions or even the contents of the Tehran Declaration.

According to international law, Tehran is allowed to restart any work it has voluntarily suspended and shall never grant any permanent concessions.


8 posted on 03/07/2004 12:14:01 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
OK, so we read this story already.
9 posted on 03/07/2004 2:43:16 AM PST by garylmoore (The word "gay" means to be happy not abnormal!)
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To: AM2000; DoctorZIn; nuconvert; Pan_Yans Wife; freedom44; Grampa Dave; McGavin999; AdmSmith; ...
Neo-Cons Take Tehran

TIME Magazine
Friday, Mar. 05, 2004

The conservatives who won Iran's skewed elections claim to be a new breed. What to expect from them.

By NAHID SIAMDOUST/TEHRAN Two days after Iran's parliamentary elections, the country's first vice-president Ali Abtahi posted a surprise warning on his personal web site. The electorate, he said, required the victorious "collection of factions that were considered to be opposed to reforms (that) had taken part in the elections under the civil title of Abadgaran (or Developers)," whose "candidates spoke of freedom to own satellite dishes, promised freedom to young people, and even hinted at relations with the United States," to stick to their promises. Failure to do so, Abtahi warned, would "be a serious crime against the good people" who voted for them.

With their joyous yellow election campaign posters flashing daisy flowers with the slogan "Progress is not only our dream, it's our plan!" this new coalition including some old-time conservatives loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini won a landslide victory. Although some 58 of the 290 seats in the majlis (parliament) remain to be filled, the Abadgaran have already secured an unprecedented 25 of Tehran's 30 constituencies. Its upbeat campaign and a ticket listing little-known professionals, the Developers? promises to pursue social and economic improvements within the Islamic-Iranian framework appeared to have convinced a majority of those who turned out to vote.

The right wing may have been helped by the fact that the turnout was a record low — only 50.75 percent of eligible Iranians voted. More than half of majlis seats, estimated at about 160, were won by conservatives, with only about 40 going to reformists. This is in stark contrast to parliamentary elections four years ago, when the electorate gave an estimated 200 seats to reformists. Many of those candidates were precluded from standing, of course, as the conservative-controlled Guardian Council simply disqualified the reformist candidates in about half of the constituencies, leaving them no chance of prevailing.

The result may now shift the focus of Iran?s political dynamic from a contest between reformists and conservatives to a political struggle between pragmatists (represented by the Abadgaran) and hard-liners within the ranks of the conservatives. "This group of pragmatists works less with ideology and more with reality. They are professional experts and want to deliver on people's needs," says Dr. Amir Mohebbian, political editor of the conservative daily "Resalat." Others aren't as optimistic. "The Abadgaran are just the old wolves in new sheep's clothes," says a student leader at Tehran's Amir Kabir University. "They are the new hardline tactic to regain control over the political structures of the country."

So far, there hasn't been much sign of a struggle. The hard-line mouthpiece "Kayhan," edited by one of Ayatollah Khamenei's representatives, has been welcomed the success of Abadgaran, highlighting the Islamic aspect of its campaign. But powerful hard-liners such as Habibollah Asgarowladi and Asadollah Badamchian, who were asked by their own circles not to run lest their negative image taint the entire conservative slate, are expected to wield great influence over the new legislature.

Sensing popular support in the electorate for hard-won reforms, the face-lifted right wing distanced itself from familiar right-spectrum parties and themes, instead choosing an image of progress and "service to the people," signaled by their name, 'Developers.' Showcasing only two known figures — former minority leader Gholamali Haddad-Adel, and the twice-defeated presidential contender Ahmad Tavakoli — the Abadgaran responded to Iranians' disillusionment with politics by offering candidates with professional expertise rather than ideology.

"We are tired of politics in the majlis," says 42-year old electrician Hossein Tehrani, who lives in a conservative Tehran neighborhood. "The representatives are there to serve the people, not to drown in their political skirmishes. I am voting for the Abadgaran so that our majlis changes, but the essence of our republic remains."

Under the slogan "Us and You!" Abadgaran?s slate of doctors, engineers and economists — a number of them educated in Britain and the U.S. — presents a people's-party-image focused on addressing the everyday problems of Iranians. Still, there is no doubting the Abadgaran's revolutionary credentials, nor its conservative leaning.

The coalition pledges its allegiance to Islam and to the concept of the clerical Supreme Leader as the guide within Islamic governance. Its program promises job-creation and lower inflation, greater equality and economic justice for the working class, security for domestic and foreign investors, and greater privatization. These promises resonated with an electorate suffering unemployment levels higher than 25 percent, while many breadwinners are forced to hold down several jobs to make ends meet.

The Abadgaran's foreign policy maxim is, "Honor, Wisdom, Prudence," which may remain far from an interest-driven realpolitik. "Relations with the U.S. are not as important as our prayers, nor as sinful as alcohol," says coalition leader Tavakoli. "For more than half a century, the American government has been oppressing us, so, unless they change their attitude, there's no basis for rapprochement."

At the party headquarters, young basijis — the militant grassroots enforcers of clerical rule — campaigned on the streets and went from door-to-door to get out the vote. They even solicited votes through chain text messages on mobile telephones. Their work paid off, making the small Abadgaran candidate list ubiquitous in many of Tehran's election centers.

"What all the candidates on our list have in common is their economic expertise and their revolutionary experience," says Haddad-Adel's 30-year old son Farid, who has been active in the campaign. "Some of these people have been tortured in the Shah's prisons, or have been wounded in the holy Iran-Iraq war," he says, adding, "we are loyal to this regime and the leader," pointing to Ayatollah Khamenei's portrait on his mobile phone screen for emphasis.

Trying to distance themselves from a negative byword, the Abadgaran refuse to accept the "conservative" label. Although they differ fundamentally from reformists in that they do not question the vast constitutional power of unelected bodies, they still prefer to be called reformist. "We don't believe in the reforms of the so-called reformists. We will implement our own understanding of reforms in an Islamic Iran," says Haddad-Adel. "Real reforms," he says, "means a better standard of living within Islamic morals."

"We have to tend to economic problems, something the vast majority of Iran's population is suffering from," adds the economist, Tavakoli. "Khatami and the sixth majlis didn't understand people's votes," he continues. "They thought the vote was political but what people needed most was an improved economic situation and prospects for the future."

Appearing surprisingly jolly after having been washed away from Iranian parliamentary politics, Mohammad Reza Khatami, the head of Iran's biggest reformist party — the Participation Front (IIPF) — and brother of the reformist president, believes whoever is in power now, will have to continue reforms. "They might have temporarily paralyzed our movement by barring us from running," he says in the IIPF headquarters that were shut down by the hardline judiciary for a day before elections, "but the process of reform will continue in Iran. It can no longer be stopped."

The closure of two main reformist newspapers the day before Elections fueled fears among some reform activists of a new era of repression. Others believe the conservatives will want to win people's trust by not cracking down too hard. Most simply don't know what to expect.

"The main battle in the next majlis will be between the pragmatists and the hardliners among the right," said Tehran University political science professor, Sadegh Zibakalam, in a heated debate on American-sponsored Radio Farda. "If the hardliners squash the pragmatists with their isolationist and extremist policies, then I see dark clouds in the sky. But if the pragmatists are able to triumph over the hardliners and push through with their proclaimed plans of economic improvement, then I see light at the end of the tunnel.",8599,598263,00.html
10 posted on 03/07/2004 4:00:50 AM PST by F14 Pilot
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To: DoctorZIn
Reformist, Conservative Lawmakers Clash in Iran

Sun Mar 7, 2004
TEHRAN -Reuters

Conservative and reformist legislators scuffled in Iran's parliament Sunday after a reformist lawmaker called on a panel of clerics to examine the performance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The brief bout of pushing and shouting involving around a dozen deputies reflected simmering political tension following parliamentary elections last month which reformists allege were rigged in advance to ensure a conservative victory.

Conservative candidates secured a comfortable majority at the polls, reversing a reformist win in 2000 elections, after more than 2,000 mainly reformist aspirants were barred from standing for election by a watchdog run by religious hard-liners.
Outspoken reformist deputy Ali Akbar Mousavi-Khoeini, one of several dozen reformist legislators barred from standing for re-election, called on Iran's Assembly of Experts to decide whether Khamenei had acted properly over the election dispute.

Reformist allies of President Mohammad Khatami have questioned whether Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters, tacitly supported the hard-line Guardian Council's decision to ban hundreds of reformists from the election race.

"The assembly should examine if the leader and the council's moves were based on justice and expedience," he told a parliament session, broadcast live by state radio.

The Assembly of Experts, a body of around 86 senior clerics which began an annual meeting in Tehran Sunday, appoints Iran's supreme leader and is empowered to dismiss him if he is deemed to be performing badly or is unfit to hold the office.

But criticism of the supreme leader is considered anathema by conservatives.


As Mousavi-Khoeini addressed parliament several conservative deputies stormed the lectern and pulled away his microphone. A melee ensued during which deputies traded shoves, kicks and insults. There were no injuries, witnesses said.

Doomed to lose their tribune in parliament when the newly-elected assembly convenes in June, reformist lawmakers have spoken out more openly in recent weeks.

Criticism of the Guardian Council, an unelected 12 member body of hard-line clerics and jurists, has landed at least three reformist deputies in legal trouble, newspapers said Sunday.
The three outgoing legislators, Mohammad Reza Ali-Hosseini, Ali Mohammad Namazi and Elyas Hazrati, have been summoned to court to face charges such as spreading lies and speeches and articles criticizing the council and the conduct of the polls.

In a sign that the Assembly of Experts was very unlikely to take Khamenei to task, the secretary of the assembly Ayatollah Ali Meshkini hailed the parliamentary vote as a "glorious" event.

"The revolution and Islam would have been harmed if it were not for the leader's wise guidance, the people's devotion ... and the Guardian Council's resolve," he told the assembly meeting, according to the ISNA students news agency.
11 posted on 03/07/2004 7:00:34 AM PST by F14 Pilot
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To: DoctorZIn
Assessing Iran - maps showing location of nuclear sites and missle sites correlate very closely in some areas.(see Weapons catagory)
12 posted on 03/07/2004 8:03:02 AM PST by nuconvert (CAUTION: I'm an acquaintance of someone labelled :"an obstinate supporter of dangerous fantasies")
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To: F14 Pilot
Thanks for the ping!
13 posted on 03/07/2004 8:08:39 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: F14 Pilot
Freedom in Iran now ~ Bump!

We are winning ~ the bad guys are losing ~ trolls, terrorists, democrats and the mainstream media are sad ~ very sad!

~~ Bush/Cheney 2004 ~~

14 posted on 03/07/2004 8:09:47 AM PST by blackie (Be Well~Be Armed~Be Safe~Molon Labe!)
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To: DoctorZIn
More teachers join strike on 2nd day of protest action

SMCCDI (information Service)
Mar 7, 2004

Thousands more of Iranian teachers joined, today, the 2nd day of a one week intermittent, or roving, strike protesting empty official promises, and persistent repressive and discriminatory measures against them.

The strike has spread to several more of the capital's academic areas and to most provincial cities, such as, Sannandaj, Ahwaz, Rasht, Kashan, Babol, Dezfool, Zahedan, Bojnoord, Bandar Anzali (former Bandar Pahlavi), Esfahan, Mahabad, Shiraz, Hamadan, Kermanshah, Mashad, Amol, Marivan, Khorram-Abad and Oroomiah (former Rezai-e). While most of the active duty teachers have showed up at schools but are refusing to teach, hundreds of their retired colleagues made, in most cities, a morning gathering in front of the local official centers of Teachers funds in order to protest against the persistent degradation of their conditions and the non fulfillment of promises made to them.

In several cities, such as, Gorgan and Yazd, the docile and officially created Teacher associations had spreaded the rumor that all the teachers conditions are fulfilled in order to avoid the strike to go on but teachers have denounced such usual demagogy and are planning to join the strike following a last meeting with the regime's delegates dispatch to these areas.

In most schools, students shouted slogans in support of their "Spiritual Fathers and Mothers" which in many of them minor clashes and altercations have been reported between the students and the regime's agents.

The strike Teachers are seeking better classroom conditions, living wage salaries, release of their jailed colleagues, and the public trial of those involved in the deaths of two of their colleagues killed during the teachers demonstration of January 2002.

It's to note that the radicalization of their movement will present the regime with grave problems as millions of young Iranians will be sent out into streets in the current explosive situation. Millions of students stayed in school courtyards, despite official injunctions and demands, in a sign of solidarity and rejection of official orders. In the courtyards students made their plans for the religiously banned "Fire Fest," and the "celebration" that they'll make during this tabooed night of demonstrations. The banned "Fire Fest" will be celebrated this year on March 16th, despite coinciding with the religious month of Moharam. Iranians are planning for wide scale celebrations, and the rejection of the Islamic regime and its despotic ideology.
15 posted on 03/07/2004 9:14:45 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Tehran calls for nuclear file to be closed

By Gareth Smyth in Tehran and Roula Khalaf in London
Published: March 7 2004 16:22 | Last Updated: March 7 2004 16:47

Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, on Sunday called for the Iranian nuclear file to be closed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a day before the nuclear watchdog's governing board begins considering a new resolution on Tehran's nuclear controversy.

In a rebuff to American demands, Mr Rowhani, the top official handling nuclear negotiations, reiterated Iran's insistence that its suspension of uranium enrichment activities was only temporary.

The apparent Iranian pressure ahead of the IAEA meeting, however, is unlikely to have much influence this week. The high level of US and European concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions also ensure that the issue will continue to be closely watched and to feature high on the agenda of future IAEA board meetings.

A US official told the Financial Times last week that Washington would not seek to report Iran to the UN Security Council at this board meeting, a move which would have raised the stakes and stepped up the international pressure on Tehran.

But according to diplomats who follow developments at the IAEA, the board is considering a resolution that will criticise Iran for failing to declare all experiments and designs when it provided last year what it claimed was a comprehensive account of nuclear equipment and research. According to a report from Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, inspectors have discovered an undeclared centrifuge design and other experiments that have raised new questions about Tehran's credibility.

The expected resolution, however, will also recognise that Iran has expanded the scope of the suspension of uranium enrichment and permitted full access to inspectors, including to military facilities. Tehran has signed the additional protocol to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing for intrusive inspections of nuclear sites. "They [board members] are negotiating a text which will balance the bad with the good," said a western diplomat.

Mr Rowhani said Tehran had two goals. The first was for "Iran's dossier to be completely taken out of the IAEA board of governors' agenda" and the second for the country to be "recognised as a member of the nuclear club - that means Iran to be recognised as a country having the nuclear fuel cycle, and enriching uranium".

In an agreement reached last October, Tehran pledged to the UK, France and Germany that it would suspend uranium enrichment but, until last month, the two sides differed over the interpretation of the suspension.

The US wants Iran permanently to give up uranium enrichment, which is necessary to develop nuclear weapons. But it remains unclear what approach the three European governments will take to Tehran's uranium enrichment activities.
16 posted on 03/07/2004 9:19:20 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran's Parliament accepts resignation of Orumiyeh MP

Payvand's Iran News

The Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) here Sunday accepted the resignation of Mir Mahmoud Yeganli, the MP from Orumiyeh, IRNA reported from Tehran.

Yeganli's resignation was accepted by a vote of 113 in favor and 35 against with 6 abstentions from a total of 154 votes cast.

The Orumiyeh MP, along with 107 other MPs, tendered their resignations to Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi on February 1 in protest at the mass disqualification of candidates wanting to stand in the 7th Majlis election.

As per Article 92 of the Majlis by-laws, any Majlis deputy can resign from his/her post but the resignation becomes effective only after acceptance by Majlis.

However, Article 95 of the same by-laws provides that if the offer to resign of any MP results in the Majlis failing to reach a quorum, the offer cannot be passed upon by Majlis.
17 posted on 03/07/2004 9:21:10 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Tehran and Baghdad
Iranian truth exists out of the spotlight

Jonathan Curiel, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, March 7, 2004

Tehran -- It's a perfect day for a protest. The sun is out, temperatures are climbing into the high 40s, and there's a slight breeze, which will mitigate the pollution that frequently hangs over this capital city. Is that why the demonstrators I see are in such a good mood?

Revolution Day in Iran is a chance to experience a different side of the country, but appearances can be deceiving. This is the day when scores of Iranians converge on Azadi Square (in Farsi, Azadi means freedom) to commemorate the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. The Western media are all camped out near the epicenter of the protest, which features signs that say "Down with Bush" and "Death to America." CNN will estimate the crowd at 400, 000, and from the air, it looks impressive, but the real story this day can't be found in Azadi Square.

Instead, it's what's not here that speaks volumes about the Islamic Republic of Iran. Middle-class and secular Iranians are not in Azadi Square. The country's educated elite are nowhere near the square. Most people weren't wooed by the enticements (including free transportation) offered by Iran's authorities to guarantee a large turnout.

Where are the rest of Tehran's 12 million residents? Many have left the city for a long weekend away -- perhaps to the Caspian Sea or a quick trip to Dubai -- and many others have taken advantage of the weather to go the Alborz mountains that overlook Tehran. Darband, a beautiful, woodsy area at the base of the Alborz that's lined with outdoor restaurants, is full of smiling families and young Iranians eating kebab and rice dishes. These diners aren't thinking about religion or the 25th anniversary of events that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

"Do you know the Iranian actress who was nominated for an Oscar?" Mahmoud Saeedi, a clothing designer and tourist guide in his 20s, asks me as we sit eating lunch.

Saeedi is referring to Shohreh Aghdashloo, who fled Iran in the months before Khomeini's return and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where she got her big break with a role in "House of Sand and Fog." In Iran, Aghdashloo's nomination is almost as big as the Nobel Peace Prize that went to activist Shirin Ebadi. Iranians are obsessed with Western movies, but more than this, they're obsessed with Iranians who leave the country and experience success.

Googoosh, the singing diva who spent most of her life in Tehran but now lives in Toronto, is another source of inspiration for the average Iranian. By constantly deriding the "decadent" West, Iran's religious authorities may be sabotaging their own cause among the people.

"If the government tells us to hate America, we do the opposite," a salesman in his 20s tells me as we walk in a crowded street of the Tehran bazaar. "If the government tells us to love you, then we hate you."

Iranians love meeting Americans. Even a Tehran cleric. Case in point: Hossein Kamali, whom I meet at the former American Embassy. The building, which is now called the U.S. Den of Espionage, is where Iranian students once held hostage almost 100 Americans. The building's outside wall is covered with anti-U.S. rhetoric, including a diatribe (made famous by Khomeini) that's written in blood red: "We will make America face a severe defeat." Kamali reveres Khomeini, whose photo is prominently displayed in the religious book he carries. Yet when Kamali learns I am from the United States, he smiles, strengthens his grip on my hand, and says, "Welcome."

The military guard at the gate of the compound is also welcoming. On this day, Kamali is inside at an exhibit. This is no ordinary exhibit. The models on permanent display promote the government's engineering feats. Dams. Roadways. Electricity projects.

A military figure -- a man I take to be a member of the Revolutionary Guards -- beams with information about each display. Kamali is manning a religious booth. He's there to answer visitors' queries about Islam. The most forceful conversation he has is with Saeedi, who questions the way Iran's religious rulers impose their standards on the rest of the country. Saeedi is unapologetic, even rebellious, but Kamali responds with what can only be called compassion.

Their interchange is a revelation. At a one-to-one level, Khomeini's disciples seem to understand young people's impatience. Iran's youth wants reform, and they want it now. They don't want to wait like the previous generation had to.

This is the generation of Amir Saber and Asghar Shafiee, men in their 40s whom I meet at Tehran's biggest martyrs' cemetery, the Behest-e Zahra.

Saber and Shafiee are drinking tea behind a small stand stocked with cookies, chocolate bars and other snacks. They, too, are happy to meet an American, but unlike Saeedi, they're cynical about the possibility of change in Iran. Neither man intended to vote in the Feb. 20 elections, saying the contest for Parliament was a sham. Weeks earlier, the Guardian Council -- the religious body that oversees Parliament -- disqualified more than 2,000 candidates from seeking office. The maneuver guaranteed that conservatives would sweep to power. Though Iran's reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, had urged people like Saber and Shafiee (who are both veterans of the Iran-Iraq war) to cast their ballots, few people are listening to Khatami these days.

Back at the Revolution Day ceremony, droves of demonstrators leave the scene when Khatami takes the lectern. These Iranians, fundamentalist in outlook, bristle at Khatami's message, which preaches tolerance for democracy in Iran. These Iranians burn American and British flags during the protest. These Iranians chant "marg bar Amreeka" in Farsi (which means "death to America") and punch their fists into the air when other speakers voice the same line. These Iranians are the ones CNN focuses on.

The rest of Tehran is at peace, though. At Laleh Park in the capital's center, young lovers walk hand in hand, disobeying once-strict social rules that prohibit men and women from touching in public. At Internet cafes, teenage boys play the latest video games and shout when they hit a target. Iranians with satellite TV (who theoretically risk arrest, because satellite dishes are illegal in Iran) watch the latest news and entertainment from abroad. If they tune into CNN, they have good reason to laugh at the image of their hometown that's portrayed. They know the image outsiders have of Iran is far from reality.

Iran's reality includes the bookstores along Enqelab Avenue (directly across from Tehran University) that give prominent display to Hillary Clinton's memoir, "Living History," and Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." Kafka's masterpiece, which tells the story of a man who is turned into a cockroach, has been popular for many years in Iran. Clinton's tome is a new best-seller.

Tehran is a version of San Francisco or Berkeley. Except that all the women wear head scarves and clothing (usually dark) that covers up their bodies. And most men are also wearing darkish clothing. Look closely, though, and the younger women all have makeup on, and all wear jeans or other fashionable pants underneath. And men like Saeedi make a point to go out with at least one brightly colored item. On this day, Saeedi has on a red vest, trendy sunglasses and faded blue jeans. The only reason he attends Revolution Day is to escort a Swiss filmmaker and an American journalist.

"The people here are uneducated," he says as we walk closer to Azadi Square. "They don't represent Iran. This (turnout) is nothing."

Ordinary life in Tehran illustrates that. Iran is a country that defies stereotypes. It's a country many Americans would like. Most Iranians are friendly, and they want better relations with the United States. It's too bad the CNN cameras don't record these facets of reality outside Azadi Square.

E-mail Jonathan Curiel at
18 posted on 03/07/2004 9:24:28 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Freedom to Read is Taken for Granted

March 07, 2004
Knox County Public Library
Mary Ann Kirchoff

Azar Nafisi is the author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books." The meaning of the title chosen by the author is that how we read works of literature can depend as much on who we are and where we are as on the works themselves. Reading the book "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov in Tehran in the 1990's is not the same as reading Lolita in Washington D.C. in 2003.

The story of the nymphet Lolita and her guardian/rapist Humbert Humbert strikes different chords in different places. It reminds us of the limitless power of literature and art to reveal and transform. It also reminds us of the limitless and valid interpretations possible for great novels. For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read forbidden works of Western literature. If caught reading these books, they could be imprisoned. In her column dated Jan. 4, 2004, Linda Richards, the library's literacy coordinator, referred to this memoir by Nafisi. Richards commented that often in the U.S. we take our freedom to read for granted.

At first, the young women who gathered at Nafisi's home were shy and unaccustomed to being asked to voice opinions. Soon they began to freely discuss the novels and themselves. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading such as "Lolita," "Pride and Prejudice," "Washington Square" and "Daisy Miller."

Nafisi's account flashes back to the early days of the revolution. This is when she began teaching at the University of Tehran. In those frenetic days the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. One of her students, a radical Islamist, questioned her decision to teach "The Great Gatsby." He said that it was immoral and preached falsehoods of "The Great Satan." She decided to let the student put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.

"Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books" by Azar Nafisi is an inspiring account of an insatiable desire for intellectual freedom in Iran before, during and after the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. This was the beginning of a period of fervent anti-Americanism. The eight years of the Iran-Iraq war are vividly described.

This book is available at the Knox County Public Library, 502 N. Seventh St. The call number is 820.9 NA. I suggest that you read this memoir along with some of the classics the author examines including "Lolita," "The Great Gatsby" and "Pride and Prejudice."
19 posted on 03/07/2004 12:52:20 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani: The Real Face of Power in Iraq

March 06, 2004
Independent UK
Paul Vallely

He is seldom seen in public. He does not do TV interviews. He communicates only through written edicts or through lower-ranking members of the network of scholars who study the Koran and Islamic law in the provincial town of Najaf.

And yet the 75-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani is undoubtedly now the most powerful man in Iraq. Revealingly it has taken almost a year for George Bush to wake up to that fact.

The events of this week have underscored the importance of the venerable Shia cleric who in January called 100,000 demonstrators on to the streets of five key cities to protest against America's refusal to allow immediate direct elections in Iraq - and who, more significantly, was able to send them all back home, with the ease of a man turning off a tap, when he had secured the concession from the Americans he had been seeking.

This week, when 180 pilgrims were killed by bombs targeted at the Shia community, could have seen the start of a civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but the Ayatollah swiftly clamped down on talk of retaliation.

But he was happy to scupper the signing by Iraq's provisional Governing Council of an interim constitution yesterday to pave the way to the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraqis and the holding of full elections. At the behest of the Ayatollah five Shia members of the council refused to append their names .

What is becoming clear is that Ayatollah Sistani represents the most significant political challenge encountered so far by the US-led coalition. Twice already he has forced Washington to rewrite its political road map. At his behest the US has reversed its plan to write a constitution before elections: the elected assembly will now write the constitution. He has also successfully demanded that the United Nations be brought in to assess the feasibility of the elections.

None of this is what the US viceroy Paul Bremer III had expected. The elderly cleric, with long white beard and black turban - indicating that his family claims descent from the prophet Mohammed - may have looked reminiscent of the great American hate figure of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, who introduced theocracy to the modern Middle East, but he had not been expected to behave like him.

One of only five living grand ayatollahs in the world, Sistani was said to be of the "quietist" school of Islamic tradition. He had, after all, lived in uneasy stalemate with the Saddam regime, spending long periods under house arrest and largely staying out of politics. And in the early months of the US occupation he had seemed malleable enough. His initial response to the invasion was to advise "believers not to hinder the forces of liberation, and help bring this war against the tyrant to a successful end for the Iraqi people". What the Americans failed to note was that he added that Iraqis working with the occupiers should ask, at the end of every conversation with them, "when they were leaving".

Had they been more diligent they would have worked out Sistani's influence much earlier. They should have noticed that Sistani receives millions of dollars in donations and controls a network of schools, mosques, clinics and other social welfare institutions. They should have observed that when, in the early days of the occupation, Sistani spoke out against looting, it died down rapidly in Shia areas. And when he issued a fatwa against the black market in petrol, queues at petrol stations immediately shrank by 75 per cent.

They should have seen the significance of the fact that - though he gave private audiences to members of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and the UN Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who later died in a Baghdad bomb - he consistently refused to meet American officials. He was positioning himself for the long term.

Events have placed him well. One by one the other main clerical leaders have been killed. Ayatollah Muhammad al-Hakim, Saddam's principal Shia enemy, died in a car bomb in Najaf recently after returning from 24 years' exile in Iran. Abdul Majid Khoei, the son of Ayatollah Sistani's predecessor as the highest Shia religious authority in Iraq, was also assassinated in Najaf last spring when he returned after 12 years' exile in London. The leader of the other great clerical family, 30-year-old Muqtada al-Sadr, son of the great Ayatollah al-Sadr famed for preaching in a shroud, who was killed by Saddam in 1999, does not have the religious credentials to be a serious rival.

Ayatollah Sistani's prime influence comes from his status as Shi'ism's leading marjah al-taqlid, the title (literally object of emulation) given to a cleric whom Iraq's 15 million Shia Muslims regard as a guide in every aspect of their lives.

Born in Mashad, Iran, 75 years ago, the young Ali began studying the Koran as a youthful prodigy at the age of five. He has lived immersed in Islamic study ever since, first as a student in Qom and then for the past four decades in Najaf which has been the centre of Shia learning for 1,000 years. He has studied philosophy, rhetoric and law under the great scholars of his day and has developed a reputation for penetrating to the "real meaning" behind the words of key Islamic texts. His followers speak of his holiness, personal asceticism and intellectual rigour characterised by a keen interest in modern science, economics and international politics.

Most revealingly he is a specialist in ijtihad, the use of reason to apply Koranic values to contemporary situations - a discipline which only the most distinguished Shia clerics are allowed to practise. (The "gates of ijtihad" were closed to Sunni Muslims 1,000 years ago.) This allows Islam to be reinterpreted in light of changing circumstances.

Thus Sistani's website concerns itself with such contemporary obsessions as whether Muslims can use perfume which contains alcohol (yes), use interest-bearing investments (in some circumstances), gamble (on horses but not lotteries), masturbate (no), perform anal sex (yes, though it is "strongly undesirable") or oral sex (yes, so long as no fluid gets into the mouth). All of which is some distance from current Western values but which at least offers the possibility of engagement with the West in a way which is inconceivable with such Sunni fundamentalists the Taliban, al-Qa'ida or the Wahhabi puritans of Saudi Arabia.

There is another interesting strand in his thinking. One of Sistani's fellow students in his early days in Najaf was Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini who believed that, left to their own devices, most people would not live by Islam's precepts and so developed a doctrine of clerical dictatorship - velayet-e faqih (the Regency of the Jurist), which was the basis for the Iranian revolution. By contrast Sistani repeatedly stresses that religion has to be separated from government.

Where Khomeini in his 14 years in exile in Najaf argued that "only a good society can create good believers", Sistani insisted the opposite: "Only good men can create a good society." Today, about a third of Iraq's 15 million Shia follow the Khomeini line; the majority follows Sistani.

This is obviously of considerable political significance. It highlights Sistani's current dilemma. His theological position insists clerics should not interfere in government. "The clergy are the conscience of society," he has written. "The administrative aspects of society's life must be left to men of politics." Yet he believes that at present Iraqi Shia need some leadership, which can come only from their clerics, to develop the political framework in which religion and politics can have their distinct spaces.

There is clearly scope for much confusion here. Sistani has said that no law in Iraq should conflict with Islamic principles, and he wants Islam to be recognised in law as the religion of the majority of Iraqis. But he wants to secure a model which will mean that a future secular regime cannot pass laws that contradict Islam rather than establishing a state along the Iranian model.

The best way of ensuring this, he sees, is through the pure democracy of "one person, one vote". This is why he opposes the complex structure designed by the Americans to ensure that the Shia majority cannot ride roughshod over the educated Sunni elite and the autonomy-craving Kurds. It produces the peculiar irony of an unelected mullah pressuring the world's self-styled greatest democracy to implement the self-determination it ostensibly invaded Iraq to bring. Sistani summed that up in a recent letter to the US administrator which said: "Mr Bremer, you are American. I am Iranian. I suggest we leave it to the Iraqis to devise their constitution."

There are those who worry that once Sistani has had a taste of power his demands will grow rather than recede. The handful of people - including Sunnis, Kurds, secularists and women's rights campaigners - who have recently had audiences with the Ayatollah in his modest home off a crowded market street in Najaf are more sanguine.

"He didn't use any of the rhetoric clergymen usually wrap everything they say with. He was quite plain and direct, though he talked so softly, almost in whispers, in a heavy Persian accent," said one. "The man was secular! I have never heard a clergyman saying the things that we lot take to represent our secularism," said another.

"He talked about the ancient pillars of the Sunni doctrine and praised them in detail and said how the difference between the Shia and Sunni was far less significant than the danger facing the Iraqi nation at present," said a third. "They told me he wouldn't meet with a woman," said a female politician, "but I met him and discussed women's issues."

There are many people fervently hoping that Grand Ayatollah Sistani will prove true to his word. Not least among them George Bush in the coming election year. "He's Hobson's choice for the Americans," one commentator said, "but it could be a lot worse."

We might let the Ayatollah himself have the last word. He recently gave advice to a politician about to put someone forward for office. "Whoever you nominate, make sure he's not wearing a turban," Ayatollah Sistani said. The question is: will he apply that maxim to himself?

A life in brief

Born: 1929 near the Iranian city of Masshad, a site of Shia pilgrimage. Lives near the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.

Education: Began studying the Koran aged five, then philosophy aged 11. Apprenticed to a succession of eminent Muslim scholars.

In 1949 he joined the Islamic seminary in Qom, Iran, to study jurisprudence under Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Hussain Brojardi.

Career: 1952: moved to Najaf to study with some of the most important Shia clerics of the time, including Grand Ayatollah Imam Abul Qassim al-Khoei.

1992: selected by his peers to head the most important hawza, or network of schools, in Najaf. Has written many books on Islamic law and gained a reputation as one of the top Shia religious authorities in the world.

He says...: "Mr Bremer, you are American. I am Iranian. I suggest we leave it to the Iraqis to devise their constitution."

"The clergy are the conscience of society. The administrative aspects of society's life must be left to men of politics."

They say...: "Sistani represents the middle of the road in Iraq's political spectrum... We have to listen to and deal with what Sistani is saying." - Judith Yaphe, National Defense University, Washington DC
20 posted on 03/07/2004 12:53:30 PM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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