Date: Apr 22, 2000 [ 19: 12: 49]
Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Apr 2000 to 22 Apr 2000 - Special issue
From: Automatic digest processor
Received: (qmail 4702 invoked from network); 23 Apr 2000 04:13:02 +0200
Received: from arol.gpg.com (220.127.116.11)
by tung.algonet.se with SMTP; 23 Apr 2000 04:13:02 +0200
Received: from arol (arol [18.104.22.168])
by arol.gpg.com (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id TAA19059;
Sat, 22 Apr 2000 19:12:49 -0700 (PDT)
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 19:12:49 -0700
Sender: DNI news list <DNI-NEWS@D-N-I.ORG>
From: Automatic digest processor <D-N-I@D-N-I.ORG>
Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Apr 2000 to 22 Apr 2000 - Special issue
To: Recipients of DNI-NEWS digests <DNI-NEWS@D-N-I.ORG>
There are 14 messages totalling 1273 lines in this issue.
Topics in this special issue:
1. Journalist Arrested in Iran
2. Iran's Khatami defends reforms against backlash
3. UPDATE 1-Reformist editor detained in Iran
4. More unrest in aftermath of Iran's polls
5. Iran's defence minister to visit Saudi Arabia
6. Iran raps U.S. ``interference'' over press rights
7. Ex-police chief defends role in last year's unrest
8. Will the Majlis amend the Constitution?
11. Commentary: Start reforms from the press
12. Observation: The Guardian Council & Further Invalidations
13. Foreign Companies Agree To Study Gas In Iran
14. Peeking under the veil Alison Wearing,
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:41:22 EDT
Subject: Journalist Arrested in Iran
Journalist Arrested in Iran
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
.c The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A journalist probing the 1998 killings of five dissidents
by intelligence agents was arrested Saturday, the latest attempt by Islamic
hard-liners to curb Iran's liberal press.
Akbar Ganji's arrest came as newspaper editors and publishers complained to
the culture minister Saturday after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, condemned the reformist press as ``enemies'' of the 1979 Islamic
Islamic hard-liners, who control the judiciary, have been cracking down on
the liberal press that has flourished since the 1997 election of reformist
President Mohammad Khatami.
Khatami, who rarely speaks out directly on the power struggle with
hard-liners, made one of his strongest condemnations yet against opponents of
``Those who say that reforms are against the principles of the revolution are
pushing society toward ruin and creating the grounds for dictatorship,''
Khatami told a meeting of education officials Saturday.
Nearly every leading reformist journalist has been summoned to court for
questioning in recent weeks, with conservatives in the clerical regime
feeling hard-pressed after reformists' overwhelming victory in February
Ganji was arrested in court, where he had been summoned to answer charges
that his articles violated Iran's press laws, said his lawyer, Gholam-Ali
Court sources said Ganji was taken to the Tehran's Evin prison.
``This is the price I have to pay to pursue the case of the murders,'' Ganji
told reporters as he headed into court. ``But the future is bright. No one
created the reforms and nobody can stop them.''
Ganji, who wrote for several dailies including Fath and Sobh-e-Emrooz, had
been reporting on the killings of five pro-reform dissidents, which the
Intelligence Ministry later blamed on ``rogue agents.''
His articles suggested the killings were ordered by senior hard-liners in the
ruling Islamic establishment. He also repeatedly called on those behind the
murders to come forward or be exposed.
The two judges who ordered Ganji arrested also cited his attendance at a
controversial conference about Iran held in Berlin, Riyahi said. That
conference, attended by several pro-reform last week, provoked outrage in
conservative circles after state-run television broadcast footage of an
Iranian woman dancing and other participants chanting slogans against Iran.
Culture Minister Mohajerani told a news conference that editors and
publishers from 22 papers had came to him Saturday to complain about
Khamenei's use of the word ``enemy'' referring to the press.
Khamenei, a hard-liner who holds the final say in the government, told a
large crowd in a Tehran mosque Thursday that 15 to 20 newspapers were ``bases
of the enemy'' and were undermining the principles of the Islamic revolution.
Mohajerani said he would try to arrange a meeting between Khamenei and the
journalists. ``I know and I am sure that none of them are enemies and they
see the leader as a kind father,'' he said.
Earlier this month the judiciary upheld the conviction of editor Mahmoud
Shams on charges of ``insulting religious sanctities.'' Shams, of the
reformist Asr-e-Azadegan daily, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.
Last month, Saeed Hajjarian, a close aide of Khatami and a friend of Ganji,
was shot in the face and badly wounded. Reformist newspapers and officials
have blamed the assassination attempt on hard-liners.
Khatami wants to ease the political, cultural and social restrictions imposed
by the clergy's rule, but the hard-liners say that would dilute the ideals of
the Islamic revolution. The reformists have little power to stop the
conservative clergy, which control the judiciary, the military and the
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:42:57 EDT
Subject: Iran's Khatami defends reforms against backlash
Iran's Khatami defends reforms against backlash
By Mehrdad Balali
TEHRAN, April 22 (Reuters) - President Mohammad Khatami defended on Saturday
greater freedoms and pluralism for Iran in the face of a ruthless campaign by
hardliners to reverse his reform programme.
``Our revolution is for a (political system) based on the wishes of the
people and recognises popular supervision on institutions of power,'' the
official IRNA news agency quoted Khatami as saying.
``We should not fail to recognise the people's rights and freedoms in the
name of safeguarding religious and revolutionary values,'' he said in a
Khatami's programme for political and social liberalisation is under
increasing attack from religious conservatives who see it as a threat to the
clerical system in power since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
His remarks came in the face of a new push by hardliners to stifle the
independent press, the most obvious achievement of Khatami's liberal reforms,
and silence pro-democracy activists.
Iran's hardline press court on Saturday jailed leading reformist editor Akbar
Ganji, in the latest of a series of actions taken against journalists.
Reformist newspapers have taken the brunt of the conservative backlash since
they helped Khatami's allies win a landslide victory in parliamentary
elections in February.
The president denied on Saturday that his campaign for greater freedom was
taking its toll on traditional values, saying the two were inseparable.
``To (say) that reforms are incongruous with revolutionary principles is to
drive the society towards anarchy and negativism...and despotic rule,'' he
``We seek to strengthen spirituality and institutionalise pluralism. No one
has a right to lay a claim on these values for factional interests,'' Khatami
TV FOOTAGE OUTRAGES HARDLINERS
Hardliners are enraged by the recent broadcast on conservative-run television
of footage from a seminar in Germany, attended by a group of Iranian
reformist activists and liberal intellectuals.
The footage shows Iranian dissident women dancing in violation of Islamic
mores and activists condemning alleged human rights violations in the Islamic
Hardliners have staged protest rallies throughout the country and theological
schools have been ordered closed in Qom, a Shi'ite Moslem stronghold in
central Iran, on Monday.
A revolutionary court in Tehran has summoned a number of the participants at
the seminar to answer charges of defamation.
Khatami criticised the state television for showing the footage of the Berlin
``I do not approve of it...presenting it in a way to whip up (religious)
sentiments and cause worry among the pious section of the population,'' he
The president appealed for an end to the media war to pave the way for a
``We need to move towards tolerance and calm...(My) government should not be
facing crisis all the time,'' he said. ``We should show we have the capacity
for a pluralistic system.''
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:43:28 EDT
Subject: UPDATE 1-Reformist editor detained in Iran
UPDATE 1-Reformist editor detained in Iran
By Jonathan Lyons
TEHRAN, April 22 (Reuters) - Akbar Ganji, a maverick newspaper editor who has
angered Iran's conservative establishment, was detained on Saturday after
interrogation by the hardline press court, the official IRNA news agency
It said Ganji was held after being informed of charges filed by 10
plaintiffs, including the elite Revolutionary Guards and the police
Earlier, Ganji told reporters as he entered the closed-door court session
that he was prepared to face prison for allegations he made in print that top
intelligence officials were behind the serial murders of secular dissidents.
``There is the possibility of (my) arrest,'' Ganji said. ``This is the price
we pay for exposures in connection with the serial murders.''
There was no immediate word on whether the court would set bail, common
practice in many high-profile press cases.
But associates of Ganji, an editor at the reformist Fath newspaper and the
author of an expose on the ``mystery murders,'' said he had received a
telephone call shortly before the court session suggesting he bid farewell to
family and friends.
A former ideological official in the Revolutionary Guards, Ganji has outraged
the establishment with his detailed allegations of high-level complicity in
the murders of dissident figures dating back many years.
OTHER JOURNALISTS SUMMONED
He is the latest in a string of journalists to go before the court, which has
closed several dailies and imprisoned newspaper executives.
Earlier this month, the same court sent Mashallah Shamosolvezin, the dean of
Iran's independent press, to prison for 30 months for insulting Islamic
Another journalist, Emadeddin Baqi, preceded Ganji into the courthouse to
answer similar allegations.
The conservative majority in the out-going parliament has also taken aim at
the press, which it holds responsible for its defeat in parliamentary polls
last February. It passed a series of amendments subjecting editors and
journalists to new restrictions and greater legal liability.
Ganji, whose work appears in a number of publications, said any set-backs for
the reform platform of President Mohammad Khatami, which has emphasised press
freedom, were only temporary.
``I may go to jail instead of the masterminds (of the murders), but I am not
concerned. There are fundamental changes taking place in our country.
``There's no choice but to meet the people's legitimate demands. We are not
going to get anywhere by closing newspapers and arresting people,'' Ganji
Last week, he was branded an apostate by hardline clerics after speaking in
Berlin at a recent seminar on Iran's reforms. If the accusations are proved,
he could face death.
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:44:02 EDT
Subject: More unrest in aftermath of Iran's polls
More unrest in aftermath of Iran's polls
TEHRAN, April 22 (Reuters) - Iranian authorities have banned all gatherings
of more than three people in the southern city of Sarvestan after fresh
violent protests at the scrapping of election results, the Fath newspaper
said on Saturday.
Protesters set a local asphalt plant ablaze and then burned a police car,
injuring one of the officers inside, the paper said. Police arrested more
than 150 people in unrest that flared late on Thursday and early on Friday.
The paper said the security forces had taken control of the streets.
Disturbances first flared earlier this week after the Guardian Council,
dominated by hardline clerics opposed to political and social reforms,
replaced the initial winner in recent parliamentary elections with the
Similar moves have occurred in at least nine other constituencies.
Reformers allied with moderate President Mohammad Khatami made strong
showings against their rival conservatives in the February elections.
The Guardian Council's decisions, seen by many as heavy-handed partisanship
toward the conservatives, have led to violence in several towns, including
riots in the northwestern town of Khalkhal last week.
It was not immediately clear how the wave of annulments by the Guardian
Council would affect the balance of power in the next parliament, which is to
convene on May 28.
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:44:30 EDT
Subject: Iran's defence minister to visit Saudi Arabia
Iran's defence minister to visit Saudi Arabia
TEHRAN, April 22 (Reuters) - Iran's defence minister is due in Saudi Arabia
later this week in the first such visit by a senior Iranian official since
the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the official IRNA news agency said on Saturday.
It said Ali Shamkhani would head a high-level military and political
delegation to the kingdom in the next few days. No exact date for the visit,
announced earlier this month, was given.
The agency said the trip was in response to a visit by Saudi Defence Minister
Prince Sultan to Iran last year.
``World political and military experts term the visit as a turning point in
Tehran-Riyadh relations,'' IRNA said.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been pursuing a rapprochement after years of
mutual suspicion that followed the 1979 revolution. Tension between the two
states eased after Iran's reformist President Mohammed Khatami took office in
Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours remain divided over the U.S. military
presence in the Gulf and over a territorial dispute between the United Arab
Emirates and Iran over three strategic Gulf islands held by Tehran but also
claimed by the UAE.
Iran opposes the deployment of U.S. and Western forces in the Gulf and is
keen to sign joint defence pacts with its neighbours. But Gulf Arab nations,
which look to the West for military support, have declined Iran's offer.
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:45:01 EDT
Subject: Iran raps U.S. ``interference'' over press rights
Iran raps U.S. ``interference'' over press rights
TEHRAN, 22 April (Reuters) - Iran has criticised the United States for
expressing concern over press restrictions in the Islamic republic, saying it
was blatant interference in Iranian internal affairs.
``The recent remarks by the spokesman of the U.S. foreign ministry (James
Rubin) is a blatant example of interference in our internal affairs,'' State
television on Saturday quoted Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza
Asefi as saying.
``The Islamic Republic of Iran gives great importance to the freedom of
expression and newspapers on the basis of Islamic teachings and its
constitution,'' he said.
``Preserving and strengthening the rights of the people of Iran, including
the freedom of speech, is one of the government's fundamental policies, and
it will not be swayed by other people's comments.''
Rubin voiced concern on Thursday over threats to press freedom in Iran after
the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused reformist
newspapers of serving ``enemy interests,'' in reference to the United States.
Washington is seeking an end to 20 years of estrangement between the former
allies. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered regret last month for
past U.S. policy on Iran. She also waived imported bans on Iranian luxury
Iranian officials have promised a comprehensive response but so far the U.S.
initiative has done little more than exacerbate tensions between the
conservative establishment and reformers grouped around President Mohammad
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:47:45 EDT
Subject: Ex-police chief defends role in last year's unrest
TEHRAN, April 22 (AFP) - The former Tehran police chief on trial over his
role in last year's attack on student demonstrators that set off six days of
riots rejected all charges against him and his officers in court on Saturday.
Farhad Nazari, in his seventh appearance before a Tehran military court,
again defended the police intervention which sparked the deadly unrest, the
worst here since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
He blamed the pro-reform press for heightening tension in the build-up to the
student protest, which came after a conservative court closed down a popular
newspaper supporting President Mohamad Khatami.
Nazari singled out journalist Akbar Ganji, who himself was summoned last week
to a hardline revolutionary court for his participation at a controversial
conference in Germany earlier this month.
Nazari, who was sacked following the disturbances, said his forces had
arrested students who were chanting slogans hostile to the nation's supreme
religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He accused the Office for Consolidation and Unity, a student group, of having
instigated the troubles last July.
He also denied charges that he had personally ordered the attack on the
student dormitory which set off the troubles despite a direct command from
Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Mussavi-Lari not to intervene or use tear gas.
"The interior minister gave no such order," he told the court.
Nazari is on trial along with 19 other officers. The next hearing has been
set for Wednesday.
According to official figures, three people died in the unrest last year
sparked by the police crackdown on the demonstration at Tehran university.
The reform press said that five people were killed and dozens wounded, many
of whom they said were later abducted from Tehran hospitals by the secret
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:50:49 EDT
Subject: Will the Majlis amend the Constitution?
Will the Majlis amend the Constitution?
For a long time foreign observers have patiently awaited the results of
Iranian parliamentary elections that took place last February. The final
results are not in but it is clear that the reformists have won yet another
landslide victory. Still, for investors interested in Iran, the key question
is not who is in Majlis, but what it is going to do to make Iran more
business friendly. The key issue is the amendment of two articles in the
Constitution, articles 44 and 81, which respectively deal with the scope of
the private sector and foreign investment. In this article, legal expert
Farshid Farzin evaluates prospects for amendments.
The constitution and foreign investment
At the end of May, the sixth Majlis will start its work. Among the important
issues it will have to face up to are legal problems associated with
attracting foreign investment and instituting privatisation plans.
In respect to foreign investment, the main constitutional
block is Article 81, which states: “The granting of concessions to foreigners
for the formation of companies or institutions dealing with commerce,
industry, agriculture, services or mineral extraction, is absolutely
Although there is some room for manoeuvre through an
interpretation of what exactly constitutes a “concession”, most legal
experts agree that this article is a serious obstacle to bringing in the
levels of investment Iran currently seeks.
Article 44 identifies room for three sectors in the Iranian
economy as “state”, “private” and “co-operative”. Though this article has
never been implemented in full, a strict interpretation of it leaves little
room for private sector economic activity. The state is to take the lion’s
share: “The state sector is to include all large-scale and mother industries,
foreign trade, major minerals, banking, insurance, power generation, dams and
large-scale irrigation networks, radio and television, post, telegraph and
telephone services, aviation, shipping, roads, railroads and the like; all
these will be publicly owned and administered by the state.”
This is the same constitutional clause that resulted in the
recent ruling by the Guardian Council that certain parts of the Khatami
administration’s Third Development Plan relating to privatisation were
contrary to the law.
The sixth Majlis and constitutional amendments
Article 177 of the constitution defines ways in which the Constitution can be
amended. According to this article, it is the Supreme Leader who is
responsible for suggesting the need for revising the constitution. The
Supreme Leader cannot act alone; he is required by law to first consult with
the Expediency Council. After doing so, the Leader then issues an edict to
the President stipulating the amendments or additions to be made. The same
article also identifies a Council for the Revision of the Constitution,
- members of the Guardian Council;
- heads of the three branches of the government;
- permanent members of the Expediency Council;
- five members from among the Assembly of Experts;
- 10 representatives selected by the Leader;
- three representatives from the Council of Ministers;
- three representatives from the judiciary branch;
- 10 representatives from among the members of the Islamic Consultative
- Three representatives from among university professors.
The decision of the Council for the Revision of the
Constitution will require the confirmation and signature of the Supreme
Leader. Even then, the revisions are not valid until approved by an absolute
majority vote in a national referendum. Certain articles cannot be altered.
These include those “articles related to the Islamic character of the
political system; the basis of all the rules and regulations according to
Islamic criteria; the religious footing; the objectives of the Islamic
Republic of Iran; the democratic character of the government” and some others
– but these do not pertain to our current discussion.
The Majlis does not have a direct role in suggesting constitutional
amendments. That responsibility is the Supreme Leader’s. So the sixth Majlis
will not have the powers to make any changes to Articles 44 and 81; at least
not without the Leader’s cooperation.
Although the sixth Majlis is not empowered to bring about a constitutional
amendment, it does have legal recourse to change the laws on privatisation
and foreign investment, even if the Guardian Council rejects these laws.
Although the Guardian Council is legally charged with blocking the passage of
laws that contradict the Constitution or Islam, there is an escape route.
What the Majlis needs in order to by-pass the objections of the Guardian
Council is the political will to instigate such a change and, more important,
cooperation with the Expediency Council.
The Expediency Council was set up originally as a mediating
body between the Majlis and the Guardian Council. Should there be a
deadlock, whereby the Majlis refuses to adhere to the changes suggested by
the Guardian Council and to change its proposed bill accordingly, the Iranian
Constitution allows for the Expediency Council to have the last word. In
fact, the Expediency Council even has the power to pass laws that are
contrary to the Constitution, provided it is in the greater interest of the
nation and the regime that it does so. There is plenty of precedent. The most
recent example was last year in the case of a Majlis bill allowing private
(including foreign) banking and insurance in the Free Trade Zones. Since
constant recourse to this method would undermine the constitution, the Majlis
generally prefers to engage in this path only when absolutely necessary.
The sixth Majlis alone does not have the authority to bring about drastic
changes in the constitutional laws limiting foreign investment and the role
of the private sector in the Iranian economy, even if the new
parliamentarians get past their own differences and muster the political will
to do so. For an amendment, the Majlis needs the backing of the Supreme
Leader, the Expediency Council, the Council for the Revision of the
Constitution, and of course, the Iranian people. If it tries the “loophole”
route, it will still need the full cooperation of the Expediency Council.
Thus, the real issue in respect to prospects for the alteration of the legal
regime for foreign investment and the private sector is whether or not Iran
decides that such changes are needed and “expedient”–- or not just yet.
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:52:58 EDT
Iran’s reactions to Washington’s new policy
On 17 March US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a historic address
announcing a change in US policy towards Iran during a conference organised
by the American-Iranian Council in Washington, DC. The contents of that
speech – which included a partial lifting of US sanctions and an expression
of regret about some past policies towards Iran, and raising the possibility
of resolving the issue of Iran’s frozen assets – has received ample analysis
from foreign policy experts. What is less clear is the meaning of the
subsequent cacophony of voices from Iranian officials. This article attempts
to decipher the noise and to shed some light on how the Iranian government is
expected to deal with the new shift in Washington’s policy towards Iran.
The reply from Tehran
It took only hours to confirm that Tehran was going to move slowly in
responding to the many gestures extended to it during US Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright’s speech on 17 March, which outlined a new US approach
towards Iran. Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian,
read his cautiously positive comments during the same conference, but made a
point of emphasising that his statement was not a reply to Albright’s speech.
That response would come from Tehran in due course. It was fairly apparent
that the Iranians were not prepared for responding to more than a partial
lifting of sanctions at that time
and that the rest of the gestures were an unexpected surprise.
Nejad-Hosseinian’s comments were rather similar to most of
the replies from Tehran that could be labelled as “positive”. He accused
Albright of employing some “old allegations” but made it clear that the
initiative was a “positive step” that would be “reciprocated by Iran with a
positive and proportionate measure”. The Iranian ambassador also stated that
the “reassessment of American past policies towards Iran and acknowledgment
of its shortcomings would certainly contribute to lowering the wall of
After that, things got considerably murkier. An abundance of
comments, some positive, some negative, started trickling in from Iran,
coming from figures with a background ranging from the Revolutionary Guards,
the Supreme National Security Council, members of the outgoing and incoming
Majlis, influential journalists, and others. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
himself replied to Albright’s speech on 25 March in an unequivocally negative
and hostile manner, labelling Albright’s words as “deceiving”. That led to
foreign observers growing pessimistic, thinking that the ultimate decision
lies in his hands, and that the debate has been closed.
That hypothesis proved to be a mistake. Even after Khamenei’s
anti-American tirade, the Iranian press and various other officials and
commentators continued their debate. President Mohammad Khatami, however, has
remained notably silent on the matter, concentrating his efforts on pressing
domestic issues instead. His foreign minister did finally give some
“official” statement of response on 5 April. Kamal Kharazi said that the
move was “welcome” but stressed that there is need for “practical signs of
goodwill and removal of any baseless accusations”.
Of course, beyond all the official and unofficial statement,
and the various editorials in the Iranian press, analysts fished for clues in
Iranian actions. Kharazi himself confirmed that Iran was responding to the
lifting of sanctions on Iranian exports by purchasing American wheat. Some
naively sought a positive gesture from Iran in the recent Opec meeting.
Others have concluded that Iran’s positive gesture has been stopping 10 ships
in the Persian Gulf that were illegally smuggling Iraqi oil.
Be that as it may, we need to understand which voice of the
hundreds we are hearing is the closest to President Khatami and has the most
say in this particular issue.
Who will Khatami listen to?
President Khatami has proven a wise politician and a patient man. He listens
and lobbies before taking action, and also waits for the appropriate time to
make bold gestures. Though he is certainly keeping in mind the concerns of
the various camps in the Iranian political spectrum, he is going to be more
attentive to the advice of some groups and can be expected to act – when the
time is right – along that line.
The Participation Front of Islamic Iran (PFII) is definitely
the political grouping closest to the president. His brother, Mohammad Reza
Khatami, is even the head of that party. While the statements from PFII fall
into the “cautiously positive” category, we also know that in foreign
policy, this group’s main slogan is moderation, detente, and the application
of national interest in decision-making. Nonetheless, in this
particular instance, it is much more important to monitor the comments of the
Organisation for Mujahedin of the Islamic Republic (OMIR). As an informed
source close to the reformist government told Iran Focus: “The Participation
Front does not carry the same weight as OMIR when it comes to such a
decision. It will be OMIR who leads the reformists in respect to Iran-US
For background purposes, OMIR is part of the new left in
Iranian politics: a group known for their revolutionary zeal that reformed
after they tasted being marginalised from power in the late 1980s. Key
figures of the faction include former minister of heavy industries Behzad
Nabavi, and former minister of agriculture Mohammad Salamati. In foreign
policies, OMIR used to hold a strict anti-Western imperialism view until
before the Khatami administration took office. It was initially against the
imperialistic policies of the British internationally and in particular in
the Persian Gulf region. It was also anti-American and in favour of
improvement of ties with such countries as Iraq, Cuba, Syria, North Korea and
Sudan. Today, it marches to a different tune.
OMIR and the new American policy on Iran
OMIR published a statement on what it believes the appropriate response to
the US Secretary of State should be. Examining the statement will certainly
shed light on the direction that the Khatami administration is most tempted
to follow. It is also significant that these comments were published in the
Iranian newspapers on 5 April, shortly after the fairly negative speech of
former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the powerful
Expediency Council – and of course after the Supreme Leader’s address.
The statement by OMIR started out by asserting: “Should the
US government expand the horizon on its realistic approaches and takes other
acceptable steps, it could be hopeful that the Islamic Republic of Iran,
assured of the change in policy and behaviour of
the US, will take some first steps for re-evaluating
its position towards that country.”
OMIR was extremely critical of those who have turned the US
into the symbol of all that is wrong in Iran. It said: “Unrealistic and
illogical responses and relating all domestic problems and opposition to the
Americans and the enemy’s conspiracy, or turning a sports match into an
ideological and political issue and the battlefield between Islam and the
Revolution with the heresy and oppression,” is not helpful. Such an act will
not only fail to unify the society to battle against the US out of hatred,
but could deter it from gaining a realistic perspective. The group rejected
the concept of creating an outside enemy to maintain national unity.
Also of interest was OMIR’s sagacious stand on the idea of
resolving the establishment’s differences on a Iran–US rapprochement up for
referendum. It explained that should Iran sit at the negotiations table with
the US after a referendum, it would be in a terrible bargaining position.
Since the issue is already resolved via a public vote, the negotiators would
be forced to bow to most demands. They would lose their
ability to bargain if the outcome of the discussions is predetermined.
The statement also lays emphasis on “the importance of the
retreat and confessions of the US Secretary of State,” by recalling the
results of hidden negotiations between the two countries prior to Khatami’s
presidency. It uses Iran’s position during the Second Persian Gulf War and
also its role in freeing American hostages in Beirut as examples of the
concessions given to the US at that time. “Not only did the American
government not show any softening and change in position in respect to Iran,
but it actually increased its pressure and hardline approach towards Iran.”
OMIR strongly condemned what is sees as factional behaviour
and “turning national interest as a weapon to settle intra-factional
vendettas”. This included those who try to change things too fast and
“ignore the present realities of Iran and the world, taking myopic and
malicious stands out of animosity
towards the reformist (Second of Khordad) camp and Khatami, claiming that
they have reached their product expiry date.”
Bringing the subject back to Iran–US relations, the statement
read: “It is clear that at this point we should not expect Ms Albright and
the American policymakers to confess to all realities and to refrain from
reiterating old claims from their past.” It then went on the offensive
stressing that: “Those who aggrandize the dark and negative aspects of
Albright’s comments and try to cover up the positive aspects and the
flexibility and retreat which has appeared in the American position towards
Iran are, knowingly or ignorantly, sacrificing the nation’s interest over
their ignorance or their personal or factional objections.” It is interesting
to note that the state-run television only aired the negative comments of
Albright’s speech, though the full text of it was published in one of the
Choice number two
Realising that the government in Tehran would face serious challenges in
opening up to the US, Albright made it clear that the US is prepared to take
either the fast track, via the start of direct negotiations, or slowly and
step by step. There should be little doubt which route Iran will embark on.
The Khatami administration is currently feeling out the various currents in
Iran and deciding on a strategy. In this particular process, it appears as if
OMIR harbours the most influence among the reformist forces.
Since the OMIR statement came well after Leader Khamenei’s
speech, it is clear that the subject of rapprochement is by no means closed
It should be no surprise that various groups in Iran are
bound to continue to stand opposed to better Iran– US relations, while others
will be over-enthusiastic in trying to achieve it. But the debates and
discussions are by no means closed and the last word has not been said. This
is best seen in the fact that OMIR’s statements came after Leader Khamenei’s
strong words against the latest American overture. Albright’s
speech managed to spark a new era of debates regarding Iran-US relations in
the Islamic Republic. It may take some time for the spark to create a fire
big enough to burn down the “wall of mistrust,” but the prospects for that
occurrence are not at all dim.
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:54:47 EDT
Payvand's Iran News ...
The leader’s concerns
Editorial to Sobh-e Emrooz daily
22 April 2000
...The concerns the leader expressed about the press are certainly beyond the
daily political struggles, and they should be sympathetically and expertly
investigated. We have no doubt that this concern has been expressed in order
to rectify shortcomings and promote healthy dissemination of information in
society. We, as a member of the family of the new press, consider ourselves
as addressees of the leader...
The majority of those who run the 2nd of Khordad press are the activists of
the years of the revolution and the war and the formation of institutions of
the Islamic republic. Most of these people have been brought up in the
environment of religious thought, and consider themselves loyal to the ideals
of the revolution, i.e. independence, freedom and the dominance of religious
values. Their belief in reforms originates from their 20-year experience and
the idea that some past methods of adjusting relations between the state and
the people brings the system face to face with deep crises. We believe that
having past the periods of establishment and war, the Islamic system is
confronting new problems which are characteristic of the developing times,
and the dynamics of population, economic and social structures at national
and international levels. In fact, the new press has been born to address
these problems and help solve these crises through providing forums for
critical, healthy discussion and dialogue. There is no doubt that the
performance of the press has not been free of errors...
The directors of these newspapers, some of whom participated at the Berlin
conference, consider themselves committed to the dignity of the system, the
constitution and legal reforms to augment the state's capacity in dealing
with social crises and problems. Incidentally, they were the main target of
pressures by subversive groups during the conference. When one of the
reformists, relying on legal and peaceful reforms, said that democracy could
not be achieved by weapons and mortars, he was answering one of the agitators
who had introduced the system as “unemployable”, stressing on the need for
“another revolution”. (Unfortunately, the television broadcast in such a way
that was contrary to the purpose of the speaker.)
The reformist press want reforms to guarantee the survival of the system and
furthering its capacities and abilities. Just like the supreme leader, we are
concerned about the existence of the “enemy’s infiltrated agents”, and
believe that by intensifying domestic political clashes and competition, the
enemies of Iran’s dignity and power intend to destroy power bases and impose
turmoil. Therefore, we firmly ask the relative security and intelligence
bodies to introduce such elements to the people wherever they might be, and
hand them over to legal courts of justice. If our performance is such that
endangers national unity and security, the continuation of this activity does
not serve reforms and the consolidation of democratic process, and therefore
we are ready to serve the people through other means.
But the press have their own concerns. One is the organized efforts to
distort realities and the marring of the image of the press through deficient
information dissemination and continuous making of bulletins and files...What
the press publish is either a press offence or crime defined in the country's
laws, or viewpoints the publication of which is not banned by the law...Our
concern is that a certain group believes that a good press is one which only
publishes the viewpoints of the statesmen and official stances. We believe
that such an attitude destroys the system from within, shortcomings and
weaknesses becoming so chronic that it would become impossible to heal them.
We have tried to prevent such a condition...The new press has been an outlet
for these demands and complaints. Some of these demands and complaints may
not be realistic or fair, but the alternative is that the accumulation of
unexpressed demands and complaints which may lead to hostile, revengeful
attitudes replacing criticism and healthy discharge of excitements. The new
press have been formed on these foundations, but the leader’s concerns are
such that a revision of their performance has become an inevitable necessity.
A realistic solution based on national expediency is the opening of a
critical debate about this performance at the level of parties, factions,
expert centers and policy making centers. We are ready to take part in this
national debate and rectify the course of information dissemination in such a
way that the country’s dignity and power and the interests of the Iranian
Translated for payvand.com by Kaveh Basmenji
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:55:53 EDT
Subject: Commentary: Start reforms from the press
Payvand's Iran News ...
Commentary: Start reforms from the press
Commentary to Resalat daily
22 April 2000
In the great gathering of the youth, His Highness the leader warned that
“parts of the press are bases for the enemy. They should be stopped.” He
also said that the president “is also dissatisfied with these papers just as
I am. What is the model for these papers? Even the Western press are not like
this. This is press charlatanism.”
Previously, the judiciary chief had warned about the pollution of the press
environment. But apparently the resistance increases whenever warnings are
issued about the danger of the infiltration of the enemy in the press. In
reaction to recent remarks by the supreme leader, the spokesman of the U.S.
secretary of state expressed concern about the survival of the press
affiliated to it! It is likely that they will show resistance in this respect
Today the managers of the press are supposed to gather at the Ershad ministry
to discuss the press policies and the remarks of the supreme leader.
Three meetings have already been held at the Ershad ministry on the excuse of
the assassination of Saeed Hajjarian and the issue of national security, in
none of which any practical agreement was reached to preserve national unity
In those meetings, some papers explicitly stressed on division and
separation. Unfortunately none of the meetings were attended by the Ershad
minister...The Ershad minister has still not come down from the podium of
sermons and teaching tolerance to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. He is still not
willing to speak for one single minute against the papers that are the
centers of the enemy’s thoughts.
We do not know how the minister wants to eradicate the worries of the supreme
leader of the Islamic revolution and the president, but we will try to take
part in this meeting with optimism. Anyway, if the issue of reforms is
serious, we should start from the newspapers.
Translated for payvand.com by Kaveh Basmenji
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 21:58:54 EDT
Subject: Observation: The Guardian Council & Further Invalidations
Observation: The Guardian Council & Further Invalidations
Event: The Guardian Council (GC) found the trend of the elections in a number
of constituencies in contradiction with the Constitution and inaccurate.
Hence, it cancelled the results therein, rejecting a number of the MPs who
had been elected upon popular vote. This itself brought about tension and
unrest in most of the cities that suffered from the cancellations, such as
Khalkhal and Damavand. The pro-reformist press interpreted the GC’s measure
as targeted at disturbing the balance in the 6th Parliament, which is now
dominated by the reformists. According to the same, in addition to
invalidating the election results, the conservatives seek to leave out many
of the elected journalists and clerics by suing them in the Special Courts,
and sending them to prison.
Reactions: In reaction to the unrest in Khalkhal, conservative papers
contributed lengthy columns to the issue. The conservative Jomhouri-e Eslami
criticized the reformist papers on 9 April of having undermined the broad
extent of violent acts in Khalkhal, and rebuked them for calling such a gross
violence against the social order simply an act in complaint to the GC’s
decision. Also, the archconservative Keyhan maintained on 9 April that there
was no room for any complaint when it was obvious for the GC that the elected
candidates had acted against the law and cheated. It further considered the
GC’s measure righteous–but late. The right of center Entekhab also posed the
question to the protesters on 9 April, “Why shouldn’t the protesters follow
up their demands through legal channels to hinder any tension in society?” It
finally concluded by saying that some cannot stand peace in the society.
Comment: The reactions aforementioned to the events in Khalkhal and many
other constituencies indicate a number of facts. First, the conservative
press typically approved of the GC’s decision entirely. Thus, it left no room
for any objections regarding the directed measure in ignoring the public
choice. However, the second point to be considered here is that the
conservative camp is changing its literature regarding what could hitherto be
considered gross violence against the institutions of power and Islamic
values. Some years ago, no individual or political body dared to criticize
any decisions made by the high ranked power institutions like the GC. For,
once such a thing happened, the same conservative press would gush harsh
criticism against the objection, and considered it to be insulting the
revolutionary values. This is while today the same conservatives seek to
alternate their diction regarding events and expressions that criticizes the
state, although not necessarily out of conviction. This is positive in the
sense of further observation of law and avoiding violence. However, it seems
that in contrast to the obstacles the GC puts ahead the reformist MPs of the
6th Parliament, the internal regulations of the Parliament will allow the MPs
to discredit the deputies who can not meet any of the prerequisites for the
membership in the reformist Majles. In other words, should the invalidations
of the GC continue to the benefit of the conservatives, the reform camp can
still hope to secure a majority.
[back to top]
Observation: Who Will Promote the 3rd Development Plan?
The pro-reformist daily Mosharekat published on 11 April a column tackling
the issue of the 3rd Developmental Plan. Hassan Moqimi, head of the economic
desk at the said paper, and the author reflected the concern among a number
of governmental officials that the 6th Parliament might not fully act in
accordance with the 3rd Development Plan. The reason is said to be the strong
tendencies among the new MPs in favor of state run economy vs. privatization.
He quoted the statements made by Mohammadreza Bahonar, the conservative
deputy in the 5th Parliament. According to the same, some of the reformist
government’s officials have been urging the 5th Majles (off the record) to
accomplish the procedures concerning the 3rd Plan before the 6th Parliament
will convene. A day after Bahonar’s statements, Mohammadali Najafi, head of
the Plan and Budget Organization (PBO) mentioned in a press conference that
it is not certain whether the next Parliament will act in full accordance
with the 3rd Plan. Moqimi, then questions the head of the PBO critically,
whether he was positive that the PBO will be able to fulfill his commitments
to the economy under the 3rd Plan. He finalized that Najafi’s precise
explanations in this regard, can rescue the 6th Majles and the PBO from
falling into a premature conflict over implementing economic reforms. Then
the reform camp will be able to enjoy the recent advantageous status in the
Legislative branch in favor of reinforcing participatory economic foundations
in the country.
Now that the reformists supporting President Khatami have achieved the
majority in the Parliament, the public expectation in accomplishing the
economic commitments by his government will certainly rise. This is while, in
the last days of its life, the 5th Majles approved the 3rd Development Plan
although it affected a number of alternations in it. It seems that a number
of the members of the future Parliament have an inclination towards state run
economy. This is while the main point of focus in the 3rd Plan is further
privatization. What Moqimi stated is indicative of an economic controversy
within the reform camp. In general, it seems that many of Khatami’s economic
policies are closer to the conservatives than to the reformist camp. In any
case, the 3rd Plan is a challenge ahead the 6th Majles. Thus, the upcoming
Parliament should be able to act responsively towards the economic demands of
the people. This certainly marks the most serious obstacle to the Khatami
Administration, as it will also generate conflicts between the Administration
and the legislative house.
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 22:00:55 EDT
Subject: Foreign Companies Agree To Study Gas In Iran
04/22/2000 Financial Times
Foreign Companies Agree To Study Gas In Iran
Sat Apr 22 18:44:26 2000
Foreign Companies Agree To Study Gas In Iran
Guy Dinmore in Tehran
04/22/2000 Financial Times
Copyright (c) 2000 Dow Jones Reuters Business Interactive Ltd., trading as
Nine of the world's top oil and gas companies have agreed to carry out a
long-term study of gas utilization for Iran , which is believed to have the
second largest gas reserves in the world. Despite the supposed richness of
this resource, Iran exports no gas and even imports supplies from
Turkmenistan. The study reportedly will include the proposed construction of
a pipeline from Iran 's offshore gas fields through Pakistan to India and the
production of liquefied natural gas for export. The companies involved in the
joint project are Italy's Agip SpA, BHP Petroleum of Australia, BP Amoco PLC,
Shell, TotalFina Elf SA, Gaz de France, BG and Lasmo PLC of the UK, and
Malaysia's Petronas Bhd.
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 22:02:14 EDT
Subject: Peeking under the veil Alison Wearing,
04/22/2000 The Globe and Mail
Peeking under the veil Alison Wearing,
Sat Apr 22 18:26:26 2000
Peeking under the veil Alison Wearing, outfitted in a chador, found real
people behind the demonized images of religious zealots. But to write about
her travels in Iran , she had to do some artful disguising: She reinvented
her boyfriend as her husband, then as her gay roommate.
04/22/2000 The Globe and Mail
All material copyright Thomson Canada Limited or its licensors. All rights
Alison Wearing blows in with a wide, infectious smile, a breezy manner and
that itchy distracted quality of an inveterate traveller. She seems to hover
rather than to settle across the table at Rhodes Restaurant in mid-town
Toronto, where she has suggested we meet to talk about her first book,
Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian Adventure.
Wearing likes to go places by herself -- and the more unbeaten the track the
better. She has found her spontaneous and solitary way through much of
Europe, the Middle East, China, the former Soviet Union and the Amazonian
regions of Ecuador and Peru. Sometimes she stops long enough to earn money by
teaching English or to write journalistic despatches from foreign climes. She
tried recasting her earlier travels in Peru and China into a book, but
nothing publishable came out.
"I was too inexperienced as a writer," she explains disarmingly. "I didn't
take the right kinds of notes, I didn't listen for the right voices and
All of that changed when she went to Iran in 1995. Why Iran ?
It was almost arbitrary, she says. Iran presented itself as an opportunity
rather than as a challenge. She was looking for a subject and for a place
that had been demonized so she could tell the stories that were not being
told. Then there was the personal factor. She was romantically involved with
the writer Yann Martel. So instead of travelling alone, as was her
preference, she decided as a compromise that they should go together to a
country where it was impossible for a woman to travel alone.
They needed proof of marriage so that they could share rooms in hostels, so
they borrowed a marriage licence from Martel's brother and photocopied it.
Wearing whited out the names and substituted their own and then
absentmindedly wrote in that day's date as their "wedding" day. Out of such
mistakes, inspiration blossoms. They weren't just on a trip, they were on
their honeymoon, a ruse that endeared them to Iranians everywhere they went.
" Iran is the bleakest, most arid country I've ever been to," she says. The
women move in herds of black so everything seemed monochromatic and soulless.
Once she got behind the veils and the chadors, she discovered a vivid range
of personalities. "The colour in Iran didn't come visually," she says. "It
came literally in people's voices and stories."
She kept a journal, a tiny notebook in which she recorded impressionistic
sketches in minuscule print. "If I could paint, I would," she says. "Since I
can't, I write."
As a writer, Wearing is all luscious texture and running narrative. If she
fails to become a novelist, I will eat my tape recorder. She is the companion
on the bus with the endless supply of traveller's tales, each one tripping
into the next. And like most raconteurs, she has embroidered the fabric of
her reportage to "lend artistry to a scene," and to paint portraits that are
true in spirit, if not in detail.
Her technique is to create a verbal frame in which she describes a person
that she remembers visually. "I changed what needed to be changed," she says.
"Sometimes I collapsed two characters into one and took dialogue from one
person and gave it to another."
The trip destroyed her relationship with Martel -- he was too cerebral, she
was too spontaneous. "I didn't care about what The Economist had to say," she
explains. "I cared about what the man on the bus next to me had to say." That
interest in foreground rather than analysis or geopolitical context runs
throughout Honeymoon in Purdah and also dominates our conversation.
Wearing grew up in an ordinary nuclear family in the small city of
Peterborough, Ont., until she was 12 (she recently returned to live in the
area). That was just about the time when her father announced he was gay and
her parents decided to get a divorce. The shock and all the "attendant shame"
shook up her view of family life, she says with classic understatement. She
dealt with it by "telling stories and learning to lie," all of which is
excellent training for a novelist, of course.
She is still extremely close to both parents -- Honeymoon is dedicated to her
mother; her father attempts to babysit Wearing's infant son Noah (by her new
partner) during our interview. The baby, who does a whole body squirm of
delight when his proud grandfather wheels him into the restaurant after the
shortest walk around the block in family history, is a magnetic addition to
what began as a conversation between two women and expands organically to
include Wearing's father and son and the photographer. As waiters arrive with
yet more chairs and extra menus, I imagine that collecting people like pieces
of baggage is probably the way Wearing moves through life.
The one person she would like to leave behind like a suitcase conveniently
forgotten in a "left luggage" locker is Martel; but life is not a travelogue
and every question summons him like Banquo's ghost.
In writing her book about Iran , Wearing got bogged down in the minutiae of
their disintegrating romance -- "it was even less interesting in print than
it had been in life" -- until she hit upon the idea of turning Martel into a
fictional character. She couldn't cut him out because nobody would believe a
woman travelling alone in Iran , but he was dominating the manuscript and
getting in the way of the story she wanted to tell. So she transformed her
heterosexual lover Yann into a gay travelling companion named Ian. That
literary device allowed her to use him "as a tool for telling stories" and a
vehicle for her Iranian adventures -- another novelistic technique.
Does he mind? She doesn't know. He is thanked in the acknowledgments, but she
hasn't sent him a copy of the book.
As for Wearing, she is adjusting to a new and permanent change in her life:
motherhood. She and Noah, still a voracious nurser, are one, but she is
already feeling the pull of wanderlust against the tug of society's
expectations around parenting. The days of solitary travelling are over -- at
least for a while.
End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 21 Apr 2000 to 22 Apr 2000 - Special issue