Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- July 14, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 07/13/2004 9:04:40 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media still largley 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. Most Americans 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. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
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.
Fear for life increases among pro-regime businessmen
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Jul 13, 2004
Despite strict official directives intending to keep secret, a hostile deadly commando style attack, in order to avoid panic, the fear for life is increasing among pro-regime businessmen and Bazaris. The fear has been generated following the killing attempt, made by a masked and unidentified assailant, against the life of the notorious Haj-Agha Akbar Karimi.
The latter's daughter was killed during the attack, made at his villa located near Tehran last week, and himself is fighting for his life at the Khatam-ol-Anbia Hospital managed by the regime's Pasdaran Corp.
Karimi and his brothers, all members of the repressive "Jamiat e Motalefe e Eslami", became rich Bazaris following the Islamic revolution and are notorious for their roles in repressing the regime's opponents and for the execution and torture of several political prisoners. The gang is known for managing a network specialized in the duty free export of Iranian rugs to UAE, Germany, Canada and the US and the duty free import of several types of consumer goods and medicines.
It's to note that the popular hate and sense of revenge is in constant raise against corrupted Bazaris known for their links with the Islamic regime. They're known for having amassed billions of dollars in detriment of the Iranian people due to their constant support of the Mullahcracy.
An increasing number of Iranians, especially among youth, are believing of the Armed Struggle as the only way to bring down the illegitimate and barbaric theocracy.
Jordanian Sailor Declared Dead Said To Be in Iran Prison [Excerpt]
July 13, 2004
Dow Jones Newswires
AMMAN -- A Jordanian sailor declared dead after his ship sank 28 years ago is believed to be in prison in Iran, his family and the Jordanian government said Tuesday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Ayed told the Associated Press that Jordan had contacted the Iranian authorities about the missing sailor, Youssef Waswas Masharqa, but the Iranians had replied "they still don't have information on this case."
Masharqa disappeared after his ship sank in Iranian waters in 1976, reportedly after being hit by Iranian missiles. His nephew, Montasser Masharqa, says he was declared dead after the Iranians reported no survivors.
But in 1996 the Masharqa family in the al-Zuhour district of Amman received an Iranian visitor who told them Youssef was "alive and being held on the ground floor of a central Tehran prison in cell number three along with three other Jordanians and a Yemeni," Montasser recalled.
"We immediately contacted the Jordanian government and human rights groups to help us determine the fate of my uncle," Montasser said.
The sailor's elder brother, Mohammed Masharqa, said the Iranian, whose name he withheld for fear of retribution by the Iranian government, "provided us with all the details that confirmed it really was Youssef that he was talking about." The details included specifics of Youssef's face, the color of his eyes and his mother's name.
"My uncle told us through this Iranian man that he survived the ship sinking, but that he was hospitalized for nine months and later taken to jail," Montasser added.
The plight of Youssef, who would now be 54, became public knowledge only on Tuesday when the Jordanian newspaper Alarab Alyawm published a story on his family's appeals to the government to secure his release. The paper reprinted a letter, dated May 27, 2004, from Montasser to the foreign minister.
PS We are looking for news stories, correspondents and blog advice.
Iran's detention of UK servicemen targeted Baghdad
By Mahan Abedin
Special to The Daily Star
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
The three-day detention last month of eight British Royal Marines and Royal Navy sailors by Iran sparked widespread speculation regarding the intentions behind the action and its possible ramifications. The most striking feature of the incident was that the levels of speculation exceeded the seriousness of the issue. Indeed the men were promptly released by Iran and the matter has now been resolved, save for the return of British equipment.
At one level speculation was understandable given that British and American forces have often strayed into Iranian territory during the past 15 months, without Iran batting an eyelid. Therefore, observers were right to question why the Iranians decided to make such an issue of the latest incursion into their territorial waters in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which Iran calls Arvand Rood. But those seeking to divine Iranian motivations also offered much that was unconvincing.
For example, a more implausible explanation for the decision to make an incident of the British incursion was that Iran sought to pressure coalition authorities into securing the release of would-be Iranian suicide bombers held in Iraq. The contention was a nonstarter: Iran is uninterested in engaging in such activities. Indeed, while fighting around the holy Shiite shrines in Najaf and Karbala led to calls by various Iranian organizations and charities for retaliation, these organizations, which have at times even called for suicide operations against coalition forces, have acted in a purely private capacity. In fact, recently the Iranian authorities warned them to desist from taking any action.
A more realistic motive for the outbreak of the incident was that Iran sought to humiliate Britain for recently taking position against Tehran in the ongoing dispute over Iran's attempts to develop a nuclear capability. But on closer inspection this contention is also faulty. The UK has in no way reversed its policy of positive engagement with the Islamic Republic. Even on the nuclear issue, while the UK has toughened its stance, its position remains distinct from that of the US. Moreover, in a recent interview with BBC Radio 4, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw maintained that positive engagement with Iran was yielding results "bit by bit" and that the detention of the servicemen was merely an "unfortunate" incident.
The statement discredited the belief that Iran had sought to deliberately humiliate Britain, but also that Iran and the UK have been going through a frosty patch in recent months.
Yet another explanation for the detention of the servicemen was that it was part of an Iranian strategy to intimidate the international community as a whole in the dispute over nuclear power. It was argued that Iran sought to impress upon key players in the dispute that it would not tolerate serious pressure. This kind of action would purportedly send a strong signal to the US and Israel that any strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure would be met with a strong response.
Should parents be allowed to force their girls to wear the hejab?
-- Yes 18.53 % (63)
-- No 77.06 % (262)
-- Not Sure 4.41 % (15)
Total Votes: 340
Little-known community has achieved great success in business and professional life while remaining mostly anonymous to those around them.
By Stan Brin
Arezou Bakhtjou considers herself typical of young Iranian-American professionals. She is university-educated, works as a licensed real estate broker and expects to enroll at Whittier law school next fall with an eye on becoming a patent attorney.
But Bakhtjou is not a typical immigrant: She has been living in the United States for only 18 months. While even most Iranian-Americans consider her story somewhat unusual, she illustrates the rapid success this new local community has experienced in the past 25 years. From the Moshayedi brothers, founders of SimpleTech, a $300-million public company included on Inc. Magazines list of the Fastest Growing Companies in America, to Paul Makarechian, owner of the St. Regis Resort and Spa in Dana Point, to Dr. Fardad Fateri, former president of DeVry University, Iranians have achieved prominence in every aspect of business and the professions, from high-tech to education and the arts.
Persian accents are heard everywhere in Orange County, especially in Irvine and the South County area, but most people dont know who Iranian-Americans are. In fact, nobody seems to know how many Iranian-Americans actually live in Orange County.
Worse, Iranian-Americans have had a difficult time being recognized as a distinct community by the public, the mass media, even the government, all of which tend to confuse them with Arab-Americans.
Were not Arabs!
But as any Iranian-American will tell you, Persians are not Arabs, any more than Koreans are Japanese.
Meaning no disrespect to Arab-Americans, they tell everyone who will listen. We are very proud of our own culture, our own language, cuisine and history.
In fact, relations between Iran, or Persia, as the country was traditionally called, and the Arab world have been tense for many centuries (see sidebar, The Tragic Pageant of Persian History). And nothing annoys Iranian-Americans more than being mistaken for Arabs their accent and appearance is very different.
Furthermore, most Iranian-Americans consider themselves to be secular refugees from theocratic tyranny. They have no connection, whatsoever, with the current government of Iran, which they contemptuously dismiss as the mullah regime. In fact, many Iranian-Americans are not Muslim at all, but Jews, Bahais, Christians and even followers of the Zoroastrian religion of the ancient Persian Empire.
No one knows how many Iranians and Iranian-Americans live in the United States. Census figures indicate a nationwide population of roughly 330,000, but the Washington-based National Iranian American Council estimates that the actual number is at least 3 times as high. According to an NIAC report, this undercount is due to the lack of an Iranian box on census forms. Anyone who wants to be counted as of Iranian descent must specifically write in his or her origin by hand.
One thing is clear: While there are many working-class Iranians who can be seen stocking shelves at local discount stores, the majority are well-educated, high-achievers.
NIAC Executive Director Dokhi Fassihian says, Iranians rank as having the highest percentage of masters degrees of any ethnic group in the United States. Iranian culture puts a great deal of value on education, more than on other aspects of life.
The cream of the crop
This trait may explain the success of Iranian-Americans in the professions: They see education as an asset that can last throughout their lifetimes. In general, they want stability and are not after the quick buck.
The Moshayedi brothers Manouch, Mike and Mark are examples of this class of educated Iranian-Americans. SimpleTech, the computer memory company they founded in 1990, is one of Orange Countys leading high-tech firms, employing 400 people. The company manufactures and markets a comprehensive line of more than 2,500 memory and storage products through a worldwide network of distributors. All 3 brothers are engineers, and Mark and Manouch hold MBAs, as well.
Makarechian, 30, is president and CEO of Makar Properties. Besides owning the $350 million St. Regis Resort and Spa, the UC Santa Barbara graduate is developing luxury hotels and communities from La Jolla to Palm Beach, including Pacific City in Huntington Beach, a high-end, oceanfront project that will include 516 condominiums; 191,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space; and a 400-room resort hotel. Born in Tehran, he grew up in the Untied States after his father, Hadi Makarechian, fled from post-revolutionary Iran.
The mullahs loss is Americas gain, adds attorney Babak Sotoodeh of Tustin, founder and president of the Alliance of Iranian- Americans. Imagine what has happened the cream of educated Iranian society has moved here, bringing all their skills with them.
Some attended Iranian universities and immigrated; more attended American graduate schools and stayed on after earning advanced degrees, often working at menial jobs as they worked to become established. According to the old joke, You could always tell which taxi driver is Persian hes the one with Ph.D. on his license.
In fact, the Persian community in the United States consisted mainly of students and former students until the Islamic Revolution of 1979 forced an entire educated class to emigrate. Many were loyal to a secular monarchy, others feared being sucked up by the meat grinder of the 8-year-long Iran-Iraq war, still others saw their businesses dry up as wealthy clerics gained a stranglehold on the national economy.
Dr. Fardad Fateri of Newport Coast was typical of the student-immigrants: He came to this country in 1981, when he was 16. He received a BA from UC Irvine, an MA in social sciences from Cal State Fullerton and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from U.S. International in San Diego now called Alliant International University. He later did post-doctoral work at Harvard.
Dr. Fateri maintains that Iranian-Americans high level of education has allowed them to slip into the American mainstream with unprecedented speed. The Iranian community has culturally assimilated faster than every other community that I have studied. Persians have been here in large numbers only since the 1980s, but we live among the general population rather than in isolated neighborhoods, and we intermarry.
Building a community
Dr. Fateri suspects that an important reason why Iranian-Americans have chosen to assimilate is the collapse of religious interest in their native country. Only non-Muslim Iranians, such as Bahais, Jews and Zoroastrians, are tied to their religious communities; the rest of us dont think that way. We are just Iranians.
In Iran, there is nothing left to believe in, which can make us cynics disappointed idealists.
Throughout American history, new immigrant communities organized around churches, synagogues and even Buddhist temples. They also tended to move into distinct, ethnic neighborhoods.
While there is a local Shiah mosque, few Iranian immigrants are religious. And while there is a concentration of immigrants in Irvine, they live everywhere, from Seal Beach to San Clemente. As a result, they dont yet have a network of social service organizations. There is, for example, no Iranian-American equivalent of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, a secular umbrella group whose constituent organizations provide everything from day care to lunches for seniors.
But they are trying, by using the one tool a community of sophisticated professionals knows very well: networking.
Our initial strategy is to connect the community through business and cultural networking, says Hossein Hosseini, president of the Network of Iranian-American Professionals of Orange County.
NIPOC sponsors social mixers, an annual trade show and the famous Mehregan Persian Harvest Festival, which attracts 20,000 people to the Orange County Fairgrounds every fall for a 2-day, 12-hour festival of food, live music, traditional costumes, games and more food.
Mehregan originated with the ancient Persian Zoroastrian religion followed by our ancestors, says Hosseini. The date is normally set by the ancient Persian calendar, but in America, Mehregan isnt a national holiday, so we have to schedule it on a weekend. This year it is on Oct. 2 and 3.
Hosseini hopes to see his organization become a seed for a more organized Iranian-American community. Eventually, we hope to be able to hire an executive director, and provide a broad array of educational and charitable services.
The shock of 9/11
Arab-Americans werent the only ones who felt the sting of the 9/11 backlash. Extremists assaulted turban-wearing Sikhs from India, and the FBI seemingly arrested just about anyone who had the misfortune of being born in a country with a government that supported terrorism.
Among those caught up in the chaos were thousands of immigrants from Iran.
Iranians were asked to report to the FBI, says attorney Sotoodeh. Thousands did just to be law-abiding and all of them were arrested. The FBI even harassed Iranian engineers at work, telling co-workers that they want to interview them about terrorism and they never found anything.
What shocked Sotoodeh even more was officials ignorance about Iranian culture and society. They thought that we spoke Arabic! They even arrested an Israeli because he was born in Iran. What does he have to do with al-Qaeda? But they refused to listen.
As a result of these struggles, Sotoodeh formed the Alliance of Iranian-Americans, a nonpartisan group active here and in Los Angeles. The AIA seeks to intervene in 9/11-related cases and to build public awareness. We want to inform other Americans and public officials about who we are, that we are not a threat. We also want to inform our own community about their rights and their role in society. We want them to get involved.
Sotoodeh adds, Many are afraid the government will put everyone in internment camps, like the Japanese-Americans.
Easing into politics
Politics, American-style, doesnt come easily to Iranian-Americans. They are, by custom, extremely formal and polite, even Old World. At mixers sponsored by NIPOC, every handshake is accompanied by a bow. One almost expects to see the members in top hats and monocles, as they cheer on the Lakers.
They also come from a country that has known the forms of democracy for nearly a century, but has never enjoyed the reality. And for that reason, they distrust politicians, and many are afraid that they could get into trouble if they take a stand on public issues. The result is a population that is not eager to join the rough-and-ready political life they see in this country.
We arent used to speaking up, even though we now have the numbers to be heard, says Hosseini. We may be educated and worldly, but we dont know how to be influential, how to work the political system. People dont know that you can write to a congressman about some problem and expect an answer. Instead, politicians of both parties tend to see us as ATM machines, and they forget about us after elections.
An Iranian-American who has entered the political fray is Irvine optometrist Dr. Mosen Alinaghian, a community pioneer who immigrated to California in 1968. A veteran of civic affairs in Fountain Valley and Irvine, Dr. Alinaghian is running for Irvines 4-seat city council. He is well-spoken about Irvine civic affairs and outspoken about its numerous problems, including sclerotic streets not built to handle the citys current daytime population.
More to come?
Among Iranian-Americans, opinions concerning the theocracy ruling their homeland range from mild disgust to visceral revulsion. Some want to see the regime left alone to slowly rot away; others want to see it overthrown by another shock and awe campaign.
All, however, expect the current regime to fall within a few years.
If that happens, Orange County can expect a sudden spike in immigration, as the country slowly reorders its society and economy. Then immigration will likely taper off, as have previous waves from Europe and Asia. And as U.S.-born Iranian-Americans join the American melting pot, the ubiquitous Persian accent may go the way of the Irish brogue.
But by the time, jars of fesenjan will sit next to marinara in every supermarket, possibly to be served with corn chips and no one will confuse Persians with Arabs, or the other way around.
Note: The local Bahai and Zoroastrian communities did not respond by press time. OCM
Stan Brin is a long-time Orange County journalist.
US, Israel behind Iraq kidnaps: Iran
TEHRAN (Agencies): Iran's supreme leader said on Tuesday he believed the United States and Israel, rather than Muslims, were behind the kidnapping and killing of foreign nationals in Iraq. "We seriously suspect the agents Americans and Israelis in conducting such horrendous terrorist moves," the official IRNA news agency quoted supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying in a meeting with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. "(We) cannot believe that the people who kidnap Philippine nationals, for instance, or beheaded US nationals are Muslims."
Radical Islamic groups opposed to the presence of US-led forces in Iraq have claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of foreign nationals there. A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq has demanded the withdrawal of Filipino troops from Iraq by July 20 in return for the freedom of kidnapped Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz. Iran frequently trades barbed rhetoric with its arch foes the United States and Israel, which accuse Tehran of sponsoring terrorist groups and developing nuclear arms.
But Khamenei said Iran was committed to fighting terrorism. "Terrorism is a loathsome, horrible phenomenon and the Islamic Republic of Iran has deeply felt its consequences ever since many years ago and that is the reason why we consider the campaign against terrorism not only essential but also of great importance," he said. The US-declared "war on terrorism," he added, was merely a pattern of hypocrisy.
"In the early 1980s, Iran suffered terrorist attacks in which 72 prominent personalities were martyred on one occasion and a president and a prime minister on another," he said, referring to anti-regime attacks by the People's Mujahedeen armed opposition group. Khamenei added that the group, which was granted a a base of operations in Iraq by then-president Saddam Hussein, were "now living freely under the protective umbrella of those Western countries that claim to be the standard bearers of the international campaign against terrorism."
He also pointed to the 1998 killing by the Taleban of a group of Iranian diplomats in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. "Even then neither the Americans nor the Europeans ... showed any reaction at all," he complained. The supreme leader said Western countries have double standards by claiming that "terrorists are now living freely under the supportive umbrella of those Western countries, which claim to be the standard bearers of the international campaign against terrorism." Iran says it has made a significant contribution to the war on terror by arresting agents of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.
BETTER ( the situation in Iraq)
July 7, 2004
"...The general impression of bulls being grasped by horns was confirmed in a breathtaking development on Monday. A joint Iraqi-U.S. special forces operation nabbed two known Iranian intelligence officers, right in Baghdad, in the act of handing over explosives for a local bombing. This, and most of the previous arrests and hits on terrorist targets, depended on information voluntarily brought in from the street by people previously content to be "innocent bystanders". (That there is no such thing as an innocent bystander is a philosophical point we will leave for another day.)
This will be a breakthrough, if the Iraqis or Americans can somehow get the truth out, over the objections of Arab and international media. Foreign sponsorship is crucial to, probably, all the new Iraqi government's present underground opponents. There is no sign whatever of mass public sedition, outside a tiny handful of neighborhoods which the foreign correspondents and their photographers exclusively watch, looking desperately for proof of a "colossal American failure".
More Photos of Dr. Aghajari in court
U.S. Sanctions UAE Firm for Help to Iran's Missiles
July 14, 2004
Middle East Newsline
WASHINGTON -- The United States has sanctioned a firm from the United Arab Emirates for providing help to Iran's cruise missile program.
It was the first time the United States has sanctioned a company from the UAE, regarded as an ally of Washington. Previously, U.S. sanctions regarding missile assistance to Iran included China, North Korea, Russia and former East Bloc states.
So far, 23 entities have come under U.S. sanctions since the legislation, [Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000] which bans any dealings by the U.S. government with these companies. In 2003, four entities were sanctioned.
Officials did not immediately identify the UAE firm. But they said the Bush administration has discussed with the UAE the need to tighten export controls to prevent the transfer of components and technology for missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
Mind your own business, Iran tells Canada ahead of Kazemi trial
AFP - World News (via Iranmania)
Jul 14, 2004
TEHRAN - Iran said Wednesday it was not obliged to allow Canadian diplomats to observe the trial of an intelligence agent accused of the killing in custody of Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi.
Hitting back at complaints from Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi insisted the case was a "domestic issue" but nevertheless promised a "fair trial".
"Iran does not feel at all obliged to accept the presence of Canadian observers in this trial," Asefi told the student news agency ISNA, branding Graham's complaints as "unacceptable" and "against all international principles and laws".
"The case is a domestic issue which is being taken care of by Islamic Republic of Iran's judiciary, and the government is seriously following the case to see a fair trial and justice done," he added.
But he did hint that Iran could yet back down on an apparent decision to bar Canadian diplomats from Saturday's hearing, saying "Iran will independently decide on this issue according to its law".
Iranian intelligence agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi faces the charge of "semi-intentional murder", a year after Kazemi died from injuries sustained while in the custody of authorities in Tehran.
According to an official report, the photographer was hit on the head by a blunt object -- reportedly a shoe -- while being interrogated. She had been arrested for taking pictures outside Tehran's notorious Evin prison.
In an interview with the Toronto Star newspaper carried Tuesday, Graham warned that "progress in the Kazemi case has an impact on relations between our two countries.
"We will regard the handling of the trial as a signal of the depth of the government of Iran's commitment to human rights," he also outlined in a letter to his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharazi.
But the case that has sparked a feud between the courts in Iran, which are controlled by hardliners, and the intelligence service which is closer to the reformist government.
When the accused allegedly began questioning Kazemi, the photographer was in good health, but following an interrogation she was admitted to hospital, the prosecution has alleged.
The intelligence service argues that Kazemi was fatally hurt while in the hands of the judiciary.The case, which caused an international uproar, has served to focus more attention on Iran's human rights record and has caused relations between Iran and Canada to nosedive.
Radio Free World
July 13, 2004
National Review Online
Nir Boms & Erick Stakelbeck
Liberty-starved countries see a boom in clandestine radio.
Although it often seems like a solitary outpost of democratic sanity, the U.S. is not alone in waging the war of ideas.
Since 9/11, over a dozen privately owned, pro-democracy radio stations have emerged in freedom-starved countries like North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Cuba.
From the earliest days of World War II to its peak during the Cold War, clandestine radio played a critical role in the fight for liberty. Today is no exception.
Iraq's Radio al-Mustaqbal figured prominently in the CIA's covert plans to topple Saddam Hussein throughout the past decade. Likewise, Voice of the People of Kurdistan played an integral part in the Pentagon's psychological war prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq last March, eventually helping to secure the surrender of 9,000 Iraqi soldiers at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Following the fall of Saddam, these clandestine outlets, now fully licensed, joined the rapidly growing Iraqi media market, which is comprised of over 50 fledgling radio and television stations. Among them is Radio Dijla, Baghdad's only private, commercial radio station. Operating out of a modest house in the Baghdad suburbs, Radio Dijla allows listeners a forum to freely express their views and concerns, a concept unheard of in Iraq just 15 months ago.
In Afghanistan, where an estimated 96 percent of all households own a radio unit, clandestine radio has also begun to blossom. After the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, a pair of successful Afghan-Australian businessmen, Zaid and Sadd Moshen, returned to Afghanistan and developed the first commercial FM radio station in the country's history.
Called "Arman" (the Afghan word for home), the station addresses issues such as human rights, women's rights, national reconciliation, and the importance of private-sector contribution and social responsibility.
Beginning in 1979, Iran saw a similar rise in pro-democracy broadcasting spurred by the ascension of Ayatollah Khomeini's tyrannical regime. Today, there are no fewer than 16 clandestine, anti-government radio stations operating over Iranian airwaves.
One of the most successful of these subversive outlets is KRSI radio, which began broadcasting into Iran from Los Angeles in 1999.
"Every time we hear of a political prisoner being arrested, we announce his name, write to the U.S., U.N., and the human-rights community, and start a campaign," says Ali Reza Morovati, one of the founders of KSRI. "Now the people in Iran have a voice, and I sense that even the ayatollahs are being more cautious."
An important newcomer to the clandestine-radio arena is Syria. Last week, the U.S.-based Syrian Reform party launched "Radio Free Syria" in order to "educate the Syrian public on issues of democracy, freedom and the cessation of violence." The station, which is available on shortwave frequency and the Internet, plans to air cynical and humorous programs criticizing Syria's ruling Baath party as well as on-air plays written by dissident Syrian playwrights.
"Radio Free Syria will help us unite and consolidate the reformers inside Syria with the reformers pressuring the regime from the outside," says Farid Ghadry, president of the Syrian Reform party and Syrian Democratic Coalition.
Elsewhere, a dissident station called Radio Free North Korea began operating out of Seoul this past April, thanks to the efforts of a small group of North Korean defectors. "Our program aims to help North Koreans know better about their actual situation and to let the rest of the world know about the reality of the North Korean government," says Kim Sung-Min, the station's president and chief writer. "(Our aim is also) to finally lead the nation to become a democratic nation like South Korea."
A precedent of sorts exists for the efforts of Sung-Min, Ghadry, and Morovati: It can be argued that the U.S.-backed Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty helped hasten the fall of the Iron Curtain and defeat Soviet Communism during the 1980s. Unlike these programs, however, the purveyors of clandestine radio operate without state funding.
"What we're seeing is a true grassroots effort to democratize these countries without the help of state dollars," says Nick Grace, Washington managing editor of Clandestine Radio.com, a monitoring project that tracks subversive media around the world. "Commercial opposition broadcast radio predates September 11. However, it is clear that the war of ideas awakened a number of pro-democratic groups around the world to the effectiveness of the media as a weapon to spark a change in their respective countries."
Over the last two years, the U.S has become much more engaged in its attempts to foster democracy around the world, particularly in the Middle East. Institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy and Voice of America, along with projects like the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), have almost quadrupled their funding over this period. MEPI, according to State Department statistics, received $29 million in 2002 and $100 million in 2003, while $145 million has been committed for 2004.
But only $3.2 million, or 3.3 percent, of MEPI's funds were directed to help indigenous NGOs, and none of this money was allocated to voices of opposition in countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Iran (which is currently ripe for change, in large part because of its burgeoning pro-democracy movement).
While U.S. policymakers have invested millions in radio and TV stations that aspire to deliver a "natural" voice aired out of Washington, they've bypassed opportunities to help genuine pro-democracy advocates that often struggle merely to stay on the airwaves. If the U.S. wishes to be truly effective in its efforts to spread democracy, it should reconsider this strategy.
Nir Boms is a senior fellow at the Council for Democracy and Tolerance. Erick Stakelbeck is senior writer for the Investigative Project.
Canadians Barred from Iran Trial
July 14, 2004
Iran has rejected Canadian demands that its diplomats observe the trial of an intelligence agent charged with beating a Canadian journalist to death.
Canada has withdrawn its ambassador to Tehran in protest, saying "justice will not be done behind closed doors".
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the case was a domestic issue, but pledged a fair trial.
Iranian-born journalist Zahra Kazemi died in 2003 after she was held for taking pictures outside a Tehran jail.
Iranian intelligence agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi pleaded not guilty to "semi-intentional murder" at the trial's first and only session last October.
The hearing was delayed to allow lawyers representing the Kazemi family to research the case, and is due to resume on Saturday.
"The request for the presence of Canadian observers is contrary to all international principles and regulations and is unacceptable," Mr Asefi said on state television.
But Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham decried Iran's "completely unacceptable behaviour", and said he was recalling the ambassador to Tehran.
He said Canada had been promised it could have three observers at the trial.
"It's a complete rejection of the rule of law... justice will not be done behind closed doors in Iran," he said.
Ms Kazemi, 54, was detained on 23 June 2003 for taking pictures of Tehran's Evin prison.
She died in hospital in Tehran on 10 July after falling into a coma having received head injuries during more than three days of interrogation.
The case has sparked a fierce debate between the hardline judiciary and the reformist intelligence ministry.
Both sides have accused one another of staging a cover-up to divert responsibility for Ms Kazemi's death.
On Wednesday the moderate President Mohammad Khatami backed the intelligence ministry, saying: "I believe the agent was not guilty. I hope the court will bravely be able to identify the guilty person."
Canada Recalls Ambassador to Iran
July 14, 2004
The Associated Press
The Globe and Mail
Ottawa A furious Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham recalled the ambassador to Iran on Wednesday after learning that Canadian observers will not be allowed at the Tehran trial of a man accused of killing a Canadian journalist.
An Iranian intelligence agent has been charged with semi-intentional murder in the death just over one year ago of Zahara Kazemi, a Montreal-based photographer of Iranian descent.
They had promised that we would have three observers, said Mr. Graham, who declared his extreme outrage at the development.
The trial is to start Saturday.
This is completely unacceptable behaviour on their part, Mr. Graham said. It's a complete rejection of the rule of law.
Under all human-rights codes, under all international-law standards, this should be a public trial with the right, certainly, of the family to be present to assure that justice is done.
Justice will not be done behind closed doors in Iran.
He learned of Iran's rejection of Canadian observers through media reports rather than directly from Tehran officials.
They are not co-operating with us, he said.
Mr. Graham is weighing a range of responses, from seeking a hearing at the International Court of Justice to slapping economic sanctions on Iran.
Ms. Kazemi died last year in Iranian custody after she was arrested outside a Tehran prison.
Iranian authorities at first said she died of a stroke after she was arrested photographing a protest outside a Tehran prison. They eventually charged an intelligence agent with her beating death.
The incident has strained diplomatic relations. Ottawa recalled its ambassador to Iran soon after the murder but returned the diplomat after co-operation was promised.
Think a light finally went on for Mr. Bill Graham ?
They had promised that we would have three observers."
(Lol...and you believed them?)
This is completely unacceptable behaviour on their part"
( So, what else is new?)
It's a complete rejection of the rule of law."
( Yeah? Since when did that matter?)
Justice will not be done behind closed doors in Iran"
(I think he's Got it !)