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posted on 08/20/2003 12:01:40 AM PDT
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posted on 08/20/2003 12:02:30 AM PDT
Another article by one of my favorite Middle-East journalists. -- DoctorZin
"International Flap Over Islamist Headgear Is Political, Not Religious"
August 19, 2003
France's Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has just appointed a committee to draft a law to ban the Islamist hijab (headgear) in state-owned establishments, including schools and hospitals. The decision has drawn fire from the French ''church'' of Islam, an organization created by Raffarin's government last spring.
Germany is facing its hijab problem with a number of Islamist organizations suing federal and state authorities for ''religious discrimination'' because of bans imposed on the controversial headgear.
In the United States several Muslim women are suing airport security firms for having violated their first amendment rights by asking them to take off their hijab during routine searches of passengers.
All these and other cases are based on the claim that the controversial headgear is an essential part of the Muslim faith and that attempts at banning it constitute an attack on Islam.
That claim is totally false. The headgear in question has nothing to do with Islam as a religion. It is not sanctioned anywhere in the Koran, the fundamental text of Islam, or the hadith (traditions) attributed to the Prophet. This headgear was invented in the early 1970s by Mussa Sadr, an Iranian mullah who had won the leadership of the Lebanese Shiite community.
In an interview in 1975 in Beirut, Sadr told this writer that the hijab he had invented was inspired by the headgear of Lebanese Catholic nuns, itself inspired by that of Christian women in classical Western paintings. (A casual visit to the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, or the Louvres in Paris, would reveal the original of the neo-Islamist hijab in numerous paintings depicting Virgin Mary and other female figures from the Old and New Testament.)
Sadr's idea was that, by wearing the headgear, Shiite women would be clearly marked out, and thus spared sexual harassment, and rape, by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian gunmen who at the time controlled southern Lebanon. Sadr's neo-hijab made its first appearance in Iran in 1977 as a symbol of Islamist-Marxist opposition to the Shah's regime. When the mullahs seized power in Tehran in 1979, the number of women wearing the hijab exploded into tens of thousands.
In 1981, Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic, announced that ''scientific research had shown that women's hair emitted rays that drove men insane'' (sic). To protect the public, the new Islamist regime passed a law in 1982 making the hijab mandatory for females aged above six, regardless of religious faith. Violating the hijab code was made punishable by 100 lashes of the cane and six months imprisonment.
By the mid-1980s a form of hijab never seen in Islam before the 1970s had become standard gear for millions of women all over the world, including Europe and America.
Some younger Muslims women, especially Western converts, were duped into believing that the neo-hijab was an essential part of the faith. (Katherine Bullock, a Canadian, so loved the idea of covering her hair that she converted to Islam while studying the hijab.)
The garb is designed to promote gender Apartheid. It covers the woman's ears so that she does not hear things properly. Styled like a hood, it prevents the woman from having full vision of her surroundings. It also underlines the concept of woman as object, all wrapped up and marked out.
Muslim women, like women in all societies, had covered their head with a variety of gears over the centuries. These had such names as lachak, chador, rusari, rubandeh, chaqchur, maqne'a, and picheh among others. All had tribal, ethnic, and generally folkloric origins and were never associated with religion. (In Senegal, Muslim women wear a colourful headgear against the sun, while working in the fields, but go topless.)
Muslim women could easily check the fraudulent nature of the neo-Islamist hijab by leafing through their family albums. They will not find the picture of a single female ancestor of theirs who wore the cursed headgear now marketed as an absolute ''must'' of Islam.
This fake Islamic hijab is nothing but a political prop, a weapon of visual terrorism. It is the symbol of a totalitarian ideology inspired more by Nazism and Communism than by Islam. It is as symbolic of Islam as the Mao uniform was of Chinese civilization. It is used as a means of exerting pressure on Muslim women who do not wear it because they do not share the sick ideology behind it. It is a sign of support for extremists who wish to impose their creed, first on Muslims, and then on the entire world through psychological pressure, violence, terror, and, ultimately, war. The tragedy is that many of those who wear it are not aware of its implications. They do so because they have been brainwashed into believing that a woman cannot be a ''good Muslim'' without covering her head with the Sadr-designed hijab.
Even today, less than one per cent of Muslim women wear the hijab that has bewitched some Western liberals as a symbol of multicultural diversity. The hijab debate in Europe and the U.S. comes at a time that the controversial headgear is seriously questioned in Iran, the only country to impose it by law. Last year the Islamist regime authorized a number of girl colleges in Tehran to allow students to discard the hijab while inside school buildings. The experiment was launched after a government study identified the hijab as the cause of ''widespread depression and falling academic standards'' and even suicide among teen-age girls.
The Ministry of Education in Tehran has just announced that the experiment will be extended to other girls schools next month when the new academic year begins. Schools where the hijab was discarded have shown ''real improvements'' in academic standards reflected in a 30 per cent rise in the number of students obtaining the highest grades.
Meanwhile, several woman members of the Iranian Islamic Majlis (parliament) are preparing a draft to raise the legal age for wearing the hijab from six to 12, thus sparing millions of children the trauma of having their heads covered. Another sign that the Islamic Republic may be softening its position on hijab is a recent decision to allow the employees of state-owned companies outside Iran to discard the hijab. (The new rule has enabled hundreds of women, working for Iran-owned companies in Paris, London, and other European capitals, for example, to go to work without the cursed hijab.)
The delicious irony of militant Islamists asking ''Zionist-Crusader'' courts in France, Germany, and the United States to decide what is ''Islamic'' and what is not, will not be missed. The judges and the juries who will be asked to decide the cases should know that they are dealing not with Islam, which is a religious faith, but with Islamism, which is a political doctrine. The hijab-wearing militants have a right to promote their political ideology. But they have no right to speak in the name of Islam.
Amir Taheri is an Iranian author of 10 books on the Middle East and Islam. Mr. Taheri is reachable through www.benadorassociates.com. http://www.chronwatch.com/featured/contentDisplay.asp?aid=3927
posted on 08/20/2003 1:13:13 AM PDT
Chaos as an Anti-U.S. Strategy
August 20, 2003
The New York Times
WASHINGTON -- The bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad provided grisly evidence of a new strategy by anti-American forces to depict the United States as unable to guarantee public order, as well as to frighten away relief organizations rebuilding Iraq.
Military officers and experts on terrorism said the bombing fit a pattern of recent strikes on water and oil pipelines and the Jordanian Embassy, although they emphasized that it was too early to uncover any connections among the attacks.
In recent weeks terrorists have conducted almost daily attacks on the American military. But after the bombing [Tuesday] there is a growing belief that anti-American fighters, whatever their origin and inspiration, have adopted a coherent strategy not only to kill members of allied forces when possible, but also to spread fear by destroying public offices and utilities.
President Bush was defiant. He said: "Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam's brutal regime. The civilized world will not be intimidated, and these killers will not determine the future of Iraq."
Speaking at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, he added that the assailants were "the enemies of every nation that seeks to help the Iraqi people."
But the problem now posed for American forces in Iraq is an acute one. Put simply, if Iraqis are afraid and unconvinced that their situation is improving, their hostility to the United States may grow.
The attacks on foreign embassies and the headquarters of international organizations, as well as water and oil pipelines, appear specifically devised to halt improvements in the quality of life for average Iraqis.
"The goal is to deny the American occupation force the ability to pacify Iraq, to prevent the Americans from winning the hearts and minds of the people," said Loren Thompson, a military affairs analyst with the Lexington Institute. "If Iraq is in constant chaos, the United States can never move on to the next stage."
It is unclear whether the fighters are remnants of the former government or foreign Islamic zealots who have crossed into Iraq to kill Americans.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But it seems clear that any improvement in the standard of living of Iraqis is viewed by opponents of the occupation as a victory for the United States and its efforts to create a stable, democratic Iraq.
Across the government today, officials said the tactics and procedures used by the bombers were highly proficient but so standard as to offer no technical "fingerprint" to immediately identify those behind the attack.
Car and truck bombings are a signature tactic of religious-based Middle Eastern terrorism. The technique was used by Hezbollah in its fight against Israel and spread around the world over the last two decades, including the attacks against two American embassies in East Africa that intelligence agencies attribute to al Qaeda.
But one Pentagon official said that Saddam Hussein's secret service had trained in those methods, and that the Baghdad government was accused of planning a car-bomb attack to assassinate former President George Bush in Kuwait in 1993.
"You can't arbitrarily eliminate regime elements as involved in this attack," one official said. "They're well versed in these techniques."
Military officers and American administrators in Iraq have warned that fighters from Ansar al-Islam, a murky organization whose bases in northeastern Iraq were destroyed during the war, escaped to Iran but were returning.
Ansar is a small fundamentalist group accused of having links to al Qaeda, and it acts as an underground network for handfuls of disaffected Iraqis and many foreigners who want to take part in missions against the American military and its interests in Iraq.
About 150 fighters with ties to Ansar are now believed to be inside Iraq, and American intelligence had warned they were preparing to attack allied military forces or the administrative offices of those involved in reconstruction.
Ansar fighters may have carried out the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad on August 7 that killed at least 17 people, Pentagon and military officials say, but there is still no final determination.
American officials said today that their military and intelligence agencies had gathered no specific information about an attack being planned on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
Last spring, even before the war began, the Central Intelligence Agency warned that terrorists operating in Iraq would carry out attacks against American and allied forces there after any invasion, government counterterrorism officials said.
"Inherent in a terrorist's strategy, through the ages, is to embarrass the ruling power and depict the ruling power as inept and incompetent and unable to maintain even a modicum of authority," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist at the Rand Corporation.
One military affairs expert said the attack could backfire on those who had planned it.
"The attacks on the oil pipelines and the water are in some ways stupid, because if the United States plays it right, the government can run that back against these elements pretty effectively as hurting the average person," said Richard H. Shultz, director of the international security studies program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
He said the bombing might also quiet some critics of American policy.
"In hitting the United Nations, it could put into a rather tough position those in the U.N. who might have opposed what the United States is doing in Iraq, and even opposed our entry into the war to begin with," Mr. Shultz said.
In other words, by attacking the United Nations the bombers may have made it easier for President Bush to convince European and Arab nations that they have a stake in a peaceful, stable Iraq.
"This will be a loud call to them to get involved," said Rachel Bronson, director of Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/08/20/nyt.shanker/
Judiciary Chief Orders Probe of Semirom Unrest
Aug 20, 2003
Tehran -- Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi here on Tuesday ordered setting up a committee to probe the recent unrest in Semirom that left eight killed and tens wounded.
Shahroudi, speaking at a meeting with Judiciary ranking officials, voiced regret over the Semirom developments, and called on the State Inspection Organization and the State Prosecutor's Office to form a special committee and prepare a report on the unrest, IRNA reported.
He said the people must be encouraged to raise their demands through constitutional means to prevent tensions in the society.
The unrest started on Saturday night after a decision by the Isfahan Governor General's Office to incorporate Vardasht district in Semirom within the municipality of Dehaqan provoked the ire of the people of Vardasht.
The people staged a demonstration to protest against the decision but the protests later turned violent. Eight people were reportedly killed in the violence, including two police officers, and some 150 were injured. http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1836.shtml
DoctorZin Note: Who are they trying to fool?
"Only 4 or 5 university students still in jail "
Wednesday, August 20, 2003 - ©2003 IranMania.com
Tehran, Aug 20, IRNA -- Member of the committee appointed by Majlis Speaker to follow up the case of detained university students said that only 4 or 5 students are still in jail.
Mohammad Hassan Abu Torabi said here Tuesday that upon the order of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to the effect that the detained students should be released, the judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has stressed the speeding up of the process.
He explained that these students are still in jail because their indictments are being considered in the Revolutionary Court while those released had no such files in court, he added.
The parliament member also remarked that in a letter to the Supreme Leader, while depicting the overall situation in universities, it was suggested that those who have done no damage to the life and properties of people and were not involved in the unrests should be treated in a different manner.
This was immediately approved by the Supreme Leader," he noted, "because the ayatollah is of the opinion that the students who have committed offenses should be dealt with within the universities rather than referring them to the courts." http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=17549&NewsKind=Current%20Affairs
DoctorZin Note: More dis-information from the regime.
Iran's Khatami says UN bombing to give "excuse to occupiers"
Reuters - World News
Aug 20, 2003
TEHRAN - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami condemned on Wednesday the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad as an "evil act" that would only give occupying forces an excuse to stay longer in Iraq.
Khatami said Tuesday's truck bomb attack, which killed at least 20 people, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, was "an evil act which has sown the seeds of further violence".
"Such terrorist acts will give the occupiers an excuse to stay longer in Iraq," Khatami said in a speech broadcast on state television.
Iran, while officially neutral in the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein, welcomed the fall of the Iraqi leader, hated for ordering his forces to use chemical weapons against Iranian troops during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
But the Islamic Republic, branded a member of the "axis of evil" by Washington, has denounced the occupation of Iraq by the U.S.-led forces as an attack on Islam.
"The West should be held accountable for...the losses inflicted on the Iraqi people," Khatami said.... http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1843.shtml
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Funeral of some of the killed Semirom demonstrators lead to more unrest
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Aug 20, 2003
The funeral ceremonies of 4 of the killed Semirom demonstrators lead, today, to more unrest and clashes in this city.
Thousands of residents came into the streets to pay a mass tribute to some of theirs who have been killed by the Islamic republic regime forces.
Slogans shouted against the regime and its leaders lead again to sporadic clashes and chase and run which took place between young freedom fighters and the regime special forces and plainclothes men.
It's to note that the bodies of more than 22 other demonstrators are still kept by the regime and the official number of injured, anounced first as 60 and then as 150, is in constant rise. This number has been anounced, today, at over 250 by some of the circles affiliated to the so-called "reformists".
The official figure of deaths was anounced firstly as 6, then as 8 and now as 5, while the real number of deaths is more than 28 including at least 2 militiamen.
The situation in the city is very tense and is under military watch. But despite this unprecedented deployment of militiamen, sporadic shootings are heard during late nights and many Semiromis are using the darkness of nights in order to write, on the walls, or shout slogans against the regime.... http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1848.shtml
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Who bombed the UN?
By Roger Hardy
Aug 20, 2003
Experts are debating whether the attack on the UN building in Baghdad was the work of remnants of the former regime of Saddam Hussein or Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda - or even an unholy alliance of the two.
Post-war Iraq has certainly become a magnet for Islamists looking for a new arena in which to wage a jihad, or holy war, against America.
It is relatively easy for militants to enter the country.
They have reportedly included Saudi Islamists escaping the crackdown in their own country following suicide bombings in the capital, Riyadh, in May.
Only last week, Kurdish officials in northern Iraq reported the capture of 50 Islamists returning to the area from neighbouring Iran. http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1846.shtml
They were members of Ansar al-Islam, a group thought to have links to al-Qaeda.
US officials regard Ansar al-Islam as a possible suspect in the bomb attack against the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad two weeks ago.
Radical Islamists are fiercely hostile to the UN, which they see as giving a false legitimacy to US foreign policy.
But some Iraqi nationalists may have a similar view of the world body.
Iraqis deeply resented the stringent UN sanctions they suffered throughout the 1990s.
Many also saw the work of UN weapons inspectors as an infringement of their country's sovereignty.
So the attack could have had a nationalist or an Islamist motivation.
Although the immediate target was the UN, the attack's stark message was directed principally at the United States.
Whoever the perpetrator, the aim was to show that the country is ungovernable, and that the Americans are unable to protect themselves or anyone working with them.
In Iran, it pays to be a religious leader
By Nicholas Birch
Aug 20, 2003
TEHRAN Two years ago, Hossein Yazdi was looking forward to a quiet retirement. Now he's back at work as one of Tehran's countless unofficial taxi drivers, trying to supplement a monthly pension of $65.
"Two pounds of meat costs $5 these days; most weeks my wife and I go without," he says. "If things carry on like this, people like us will soon be dying of starvation."
Daily conversation here turns with alarming speed to the daily struggle to make ends meet. Yet most economists consider the country to be relatively well managed.
"Iran has huge resources of oil and gas, and the rise in oil prices since 1999 from $10 a barrel to over $26 today has given the economy an immense boost," says Yves Cadilhon, head of the French economic mission in Tehran.
So what are many Iranians complaining about? A powerful group of clerics and merchants who, critics say, have a stranglehold on the economy.
Among the main bastions of clerical control are the bonyad, immense foundations built up after 1979 from wealth confiscated from Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Iran's last shah. Ostensibly "charitable" organizations, they frequently use their wealth up to 35 percent of the economy, according to analysts for questionable purposes. In 1997, for instance, one senior cleric and bonyad boss announced his institution was offering $2.5 million for the assassination of novelist Salman Rushdie.
Another bonyad based in the holy city of Mashhad, in northeastern Iran, has used donations from as many as 8 million pilgrims a year to buy up 90 percent of the arable land in the surrounding region. Controlled since 1979 by arch-conservative Ayatollah Abbas Vaez-Tabazi, the foundation also owns universities and a Coca-Cola factory.
Backed by President Mohammed Khatami, Iran's reform-minded parliament recently scrapped laws exempting the foundations from paying tax. Most observers doubt anything will change. Bonyad bosses, they say, can always fall back on privileged relations with Iran's banks, almost all state owned.
"Credit is rationed," explains Jahangir Amuzegar, who was Iran's finance minister in the 1970s, "and it's rarely private business that gets it."
For now, cash-starved businessmen like Ataollah Khazali, owner of a small smelting works outside Tehran, are obliged to turn for credit to members of the country's bazaari class, strongly pro-regime merchants who double as money lenders.
"Iran lacks liquidity; we do our best to remedy that," one bazaari says. One method, he explains, is the systematic backdating of checks.
The current head of the influential pro-bazaari Coalition of Islamic Associations, Habibollah Asgar-Ouladi, was commerce minister in the 1980s, a position he used to procure lucrative foreign-trade contracts for his brother. The family is now estimated to be worth $400 million.
"These bazaari are like a mafia, obeying no laws," says one clothes manufacturer, who buys all his fabric from them. "If one of them decides to boycott a company, they all do."
With Iran's chronic unemployment officially 12.5 percent but probably closer to 20 percent exacerbated by the arrival on the job market of 1980s baby boomers, analysts insist only a radical reworking of Iran's crony capitalism can stave off a crisis.
"The regime knows it has no choice but to liberalize," argues Saeed Laylaz, an assistant manager at Iran's largest car manufacturer.
But Amuzegar is more pessimistic. "It's not Islamic ideology that's holding the system up; it's the clerics' and bazaaris' hold on the economy," he says. "As long as they survive, so will the system." .... http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1850.shtml
The spectre of Operation Ajax
Britain and the US crushed Iran's first democratic government. They didn't learn from that mistake
Dan De Luce, Tehran
Wednesday August 20, 2003
Ignoring international law, Britain and the US opted for the high-risk strategy of regime change in order to pre-empt a volatile enemy in the Middle East. It was not Iraq, however, that was in the firing line but Iran, and the aftershocks are still being felt.
Fifty years ago this week, the CIA and the British SIS orchestrated a coup d'etat that toppled the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. The prime minister and his nationalist supporters in parliament roused Britain's ire when they nationalised the oil industry in 1951, which had previously been exclusively controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Mossadegh argued that Iran should begin profiting from its vast oil reserves.
Britain accused him of violating the company's legal rights and orchestrated a worldwide boycott of Iran's oil that plunged the country into financial crisis. The British government tried to enlist the Americans in planning a coup, an idea originally rebuffed by President Truman. But when Dwight Eisenhower took over the White House, cold war ideologues - determined to prevent the possibility of a Soviet takeover - ordered the CIA to embark on its first covert operation against a foreign government.
A new book about the coup, All the Shah's Men, which is based on recently released CIA documents, describes how the CIA - with British assistance - undermined Mossadegh's government by bribing influential figures, planting false reports in newspapers and provoking street violence. Led by an agent named Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, the CIA leaned on a young, insecure Shah to issue a decree dismissing Mossadegh as prime minister. By the end of Operation Ajax, some 300 people had died in firefights in the streets of Tehran.
The crushing of Iran's first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms. The anti-American backlash that toppled the Shah in 1979 shook the whole region and helped spread Islamic militancy, with Iran's new hardline theocracy declaring undying hostility to the US.
The author of All the Shah's Men, New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, argues that the coup planted the seeds of resentment against the US in the Middle East, ultimately leading to the events of September 11.
While it may be reaching too far to link Mossadegh's overthrow with al-Qaida's terrorism, it certainly helped unleash a wave of Islamic extremism and assisted to power the anti-American clerical leadership that still rules Iran. It is difficult to imagine a worse outcome to an expedient action.
The coup and the culture of covert interference it created forever changed how the world viewed the US, especially in poor, oppressive countries. For many Iranians, the coup was a tragedy from which their country has never recovered. Perhaps because Mossadegh represents a future denied, his memory has approached myth.
On yesterday's anniversary, there was no official government ceremony honouring Mossadegh's legacy. Deemed too secular for the Islamic Republic, the conservative clergy never mention him. But at a time when the Bush administration expresses impatience with diplomacy and promotes "regime change" as a means of reshaping the Middle East, the anniversary recalls some unwelcome parallels.
The mindset that produced the coup is not so different from the premises that underpin the current doctrine of "pre-emption" or the belief that the war on terror can justify ignoring the Geneva convention, diplomacy and the sentiments of a country's population.
Veterans of the cold war in President Bush's administration are cultivating relations with Iranian monarchists in exile while Congressmen are calling for a campaign to undermine Iran's clerical leadership. Washington's tough rhetoric and flirtation with the Shah's son are a kind of nightmarish deja vu for the embattled reformists and students struggling to push for democratic change in Iran.
"Now it seems that the Americans are pushing towards the same direction again," says Ibrahim Yazdi, who served briefly as foreign minister after the Shah fell. "That shows they have not learned anything from history."
The reformists allied with President Khatami believe their country now faces another choice between despotism and democracy, and they worry that the combination of outside interference and internal squabbling within their own ranks could once again defer their dream. The more neo-conservatives attempt to pile pressure on Iran, the more ammunition they provide for the most hardline elements of the regime.
Beyond Iran, America remains deeply resented for siding with authoritarian rule in the region. It would be comforting to think "reshaping the Middle East" means promoting democratic rule. But if it merely allows for the ends to justify the means, then the spectre of Operation Ajax will continue to haunt the region.
· Dan De Luce is the Guardian's correspondent in Tehran http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1022065,00.html
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