Date: Apr 24, 2000 [ 13: 34: 6]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 23 Apr 2000 to 24 Apr 2000 - Special issue

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There are 14 messages totalling 1379 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

1. Saudi says pact with Iran to focus on crime, drugs
2. Iran Court Closes Reformist Papers
3. Justice department closes down 8 dailies, 3 weeklies and one monthly
4. UPDATE 3-Iran bans 12 reformist publications
5. Final editions of two of the banned dailies
6. Iranian Regime Resorts to Diversion and Subterfuge
7. Iran's president says army will not crack down
8. U.S. Harmed Iranians in Real Terms
9. UPDATE 5-Iran bans 14 pro-reform publications
10. U.S. condemns pro-reform media closings in Iran
11. Ashkevari and Sahabi justify their attendance at Berlin conference
12. Iran Hardliners Close Many Reformist Newspapers
13. Mobarakeh steel mill exceeds production target
14. Iran : lifting the veil / Women use creativity to exercise freedom

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 05:34:59 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Saudi says pact with Iran to focus on crime, drugs

Saudi says pact with Iran to focus on crime, drugs


DUBAI, April 24 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Nayef
said a security cooperation pact the kingdom plans to discuss with its
non-Arab neighbour Iran would focus on fighting crime and drug trafficking.

``The security agreement was authorised by the cabinet last week...and God
willing will be signed soon after coordination with the brothers in Iran,''
he said, in comments carried by Saudi newspapers on Monday.

Prince Nayef said the pact would focus on fighting ``all kinds of crime'' and
drug trafficking.

Iran is a key route for drug trafficking from Pakistan and neighbouring
Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer, to the oil-rich Gulf Arab
states and Europe.

Prince Nayef did not say if the proposed pact would be discussed during a
visit later on Monday by Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani to the
kingdom.

Shamkhani will become the first Iranian defence minister to visit Saudi
Arabia since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Saudi Defence Minister Prince
Sultan visited Iran last year.

The Saudi cabinet last week gave Prince Nayef the go ahead to discuss and
sign the pact with Iran, but gave no details.

Gulf officials said this month that recent security pacts between Gulf Arab
states and Iran focus on fighting crime and are unlikely to lead to defence
accords.

Oman recently came to a similar arrangement with Iran and Kuwait is due to
follow suit soon, officials said.

Iran and some of its Gulf Arab neighbours have been pursuing a rapprochement
after years of mutual suspicion that followed the revolution in Iran.
Regional tensions have eased since Iran's reformist President Mohammad
Khatami took office in 1997.

Khatami made a landmark visit to Saudi Arabia last year.

But the Gulf Arab states and Iran 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 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 states,
which look to the West for military support, have declined Iran's offer.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 05:34:16 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran Court Closes Reformist Papers

Iran Court Closes Reformist Papers

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
.c The Associated Press


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A dozen pro-democracy newspapers and magazines were
missing from newsstands Monday following a ban by Iranian hard-liners who
have openly challenged presidential reforms widely backed by the liberal
press.

Eight major daily newspapers and four weekly or biweekly magazines were among
the publications closed down by order of the hard-line judiciary in Tehran
late Sunday, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

A judiciary statement quoted by IRNA said the publications were closed for
``printing material against the lofty Islamic principles and commands.''

The closures intensified a media crackdown that has included the imprisonment
of two leading reformist journalists over the past two days.

The latest developments came three days after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the
hard-line supreme leader whose powers supersede those of the elected
president, said there were 10 to 15 reformist papers undermining Islamic and
revolutionary principles, insulting constitutional bodies and creating
tension and discord in society. His comments were widely seen as a warning to
all reformist newspapers and journalists.

Only four reformist newspapers - Akhbar-e-Eqtesad, Sobh-e-Emrooz, Mosharekat
and Bayan - were in print Monday. It was not clear why they were not included
in the ban.

On Sunday, police seized Latif Safari, director of the banned Neshat daily,
and took him to Tehran's Evin prison, his son, Amir-Hossein, told The
Associated Press. Safari, whose arrest comes a day after authorities detained
the nation's top investigative reporter, is the third journalist to be
imprisoned this month.

Safari was sentenced in September to 27 months in jail for insulting Islam,
police and lawmakers, and provoking riots with articles about an attack on a
Tehran University dormitory by police and hard-line vigilantes, his son said.
The raid last July, in which one student was killed, ignited riots in several
large cities, the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

An arrest warrant against Safari was issued last Wednesday after his appeal
was denied, said his son, who is a journalist at the liberal Asr-e-Azadegan
daily.

Before Safari's sentencing last year, the hard-line judiciary had closed down
Neshat, the nation's top reformist newspaper, on charges that included
insulting Islam.

Safari's arrest comes amid efforts by hard-line opponents of President
Mohammad Khatami to limit press freedoms and crack down on a liberal media
that has widely backed presidential reforms. Nearly every leading reformist
journalist has been summoned for questioning by the judiciary, which is
controlled by the hard-liners.

On Saturday, Akbar Ganji, the nation's top investigative journalist, was
summoned to court and arrested on the spot for violations of the press law.

Ganji, whose articles in several reformist newspapers had suggested a shadowy
group of hard-line officials were behind the murders of five dissidents in
the fall of 1998, is something of a national hero. His books about the
killings are best sellers.

Earlier this month, the judiciary upheld the conviction of Mahmoud Shams,
editor in chief of Asr-e-Azadegan, giving him a 2 1/2-year jail term on
charges of ``insulting religious sanctities.'' Shams has been a leading voice
for press freedom.

In March, Saeed Hajjarian, another leading journalist, was shot in the face
and gravely wounded. Reformist newspapers and officials have blamed the
attack on hard-liners.

The campaign against the liberal media could intensify if the strongly
conservative Guardian Council approves legislation passed Tuesday by
hard-liners who dominate the outgoing Parliament to give the judiciary more
teeth in curbing outspoken newspapers.

Khatami hit back at his opponents Saturday, saying the hard-liners were
pushing the country toward ruin and despotism by claiming that reforms
threatened both Islam and Iran's revolutionary ideology.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 05:48:53 EDT
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Justice department closes down 8 dailies, 3 weeklies and one monthly

04/24/2000
Justice department closes down 8 dailies, 3 weeklies and one monthly

Tehran, April 24, IRNA -- The justice department of Tehran province said in a
communique here Sunday night that it had ordered the closure of eight
dailies, three weeklies and one monthly in Iran for having consistently
ignored the previous warnings of Iranian courts to discontinue printing
material that, it said, disparaged Islam and the religious elements of the
Islamic revolution.
It said those papers, weeklies and the one monthly among them had
persistently printed laically abusive material against the religious
principles of the Islamic revolution which scheme, it said, was part of the
cultural assault of the foreign enemies of Iran which, it added, they had
undertaken with the aid of their agents who had infiltrated into the ranks of
Iranian journalists.

The justice department of Tehran said what those papers had persistently
published had been against the constitution of the Islamic Republic, the
press law and other relevant laws, the good of the Iranian society and
national unity and security.

It said the order for closure of those papers had been issued by Tehran
justice department as the result of suits filed against them by individuals.

The justice department said the tone of materials in those papers had brought
smiles on the faces of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and hurt the
feelings of devout muslims at home and even the leader of the Islamic
revolution.

The 13 Persian dailies and periodicals that were ordered to close down Sunday
evening are:

1. Gozaresh-e Rouz (today's report)
2. Bamdad-No (the new morning)
3. Aftab-e Emrouz (today's sun)
4. Payam-e Azadi (the message of freedom)
5. Fath (victory)
6. Arya
7. Assr-e Azadegan (the era of free thinkers)
8. Azad (free)

The weeklies:

1. Payam-e Hajar (message of hajar)
2. Aban
3. Arzesh (value)

And the monthly 'Iran-Farda' (Iran tomorrow)

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 05:39:24 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: UPDATE 3-Iran bans 12 reformist publications

UPDATE 3-Iran bans 12 reformist publications

By Jonathan Lyons


TEHRAN, April 24 (Reuters) - Iran's hardline judiciary has suspended 12
pro-reform newspapers and journals, the official IRNA news agency said on
Monday, in the biggest blow yet aimed at reforms of President Mohammad
Khatami.

IRNA said eight dailies were among those banned by order of the Tehran
justice department for ignoring previous warnings to stop publishing material
that ``disparaged Islam and the religious elements of the Islamic
revolution.''

``The justice department said the tone of material in those papers had
brought smiles to the faces of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and hurt
the feelings of devout Moslems at home and even the leader of the Islamic
revolution,'' IRNA reported.

A copy of the order to one newspapers, made available to journalists, said
the ban was in effect ``until further notice.'' But editors said they did not
expect to be back in business anytime soon.

Last week, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said some reformist
newspapers had been turned into ``bases of the enemy,'' remarks widely seen
here as signalling a campaign against press freedoms fostered by the
president.

Among those closed were the mass-circulation Fath and Asr-e Azadegan, both at
the forefront of Iran's press revolution. Also banned were the intellectual
weekly Aban and the pro-reform dailies Arya and Aftab-e Emrouz.

However, Azad, also on the list published by IRNA, managed to appear on
Monday morning. Press officials and the newspaper's editor were not
immediately available for comment.

APPEAL FOR CALM

Behzad Nabavi, spokesman for the reform coalition close to the president,
called on the public to remain calm. ``The (reformist) Front is opposed to
any kind of irrational action which may free the hands of the
violence-mongers,'' he said.

Disappointed readers heard the news of the ban as they queued at normally
busy Tehran kiosks.

``The conservatives have signed their own death warrant by closing down
newspapers. They don't know this is the beginning of the end for them,'' said
one elderly man, angry that his daily Asr-e Azadegan was no longer for sale.

President Khatami, himself a former newspaperman, has encouraged an
independent press as a key part of his campaign for a civil society within
Iran's Islamic system. On Saturday he reaffirmed his support for reform.

But the clerical establishment, which controls the judiciary and most other
levers of power, has fought him at every turn.

One reformist analyst said the press crackdown, first signalled late on
Sunday, was likely to be accompanied by other tough measures against
Khatami's cultural liberalisation.

These could include tightened security on the streets of the capital, as well
as tighter enforcement of Iran's strict rules on modest dress and segregation
of the sexes. Under Khatami, public life has become much more relaxed than in
earlier years.

So far there have been no reports of any protests of the kind that greeted
the sudden closing last July of Salam, then the leading reformist voice. That
produced the worst civil unrest since the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.

ADVANCE WARNING

Although the scale of the press bans appeared to catch the reform movement by
surprise, there were plenty of warnings in recent days that trouble was
brewing.

In two speeches in less than a week, Ayatollah Khamenei took aim at what he
called ``un-Islamic'' elements in the reform movement, particularly in the
press.

Prosecutions of pro-reform editors and journalists immediately picked up
speed.

The dean of the reform press, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, was jailed for 30
months after his last appeal against charges of insulting Islamic values was
rejected.

On Saturday, maverick editor and author Akbar Ganji was jailed before trial
on charges he defamed the security forces in publishing allegations that
senior intelligence officials were linked to the serial murders of
dissidents.

A number of reformist politicians and journalists, meanwhile, have been
summoned before the Revolutionary Court after a seminar they attended in
Berlin was deemed to have insulted revolutionary and Islamic values.

In addition to Khatami's defence of reform, his minister of culture and
Islamic guidance, Ataollah Mohajerani, vowed he would not stand by as
newspapers were closed.

``If the Ministry of Islamic Guidance becomes a tool for closing newspapers,
I will not stay in this job,'' he said.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 05:51:30 EDT
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Final editions of two of the banned dailies

The authorities in Iran have stepped up their campaign against the pro-reform
press, jailing two more prominent liberal journalists and closing down 12
newspapers and magazines for allegedly insulting Islam.
The Tehran justice department told the editors to suspend publication
immediately.


Final editions of two of the banned dailies


The BBC's correspondent in Iran says this is the latest and most drastic in a
series of recent reprisals against reformist publications and journalists.

The justice department said the banned publications had consistently ignored
warnings to stop publishing material which "denigrated Islam and the
religious elements of the Islamic revolution".

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reported the department as saying that,
"the tone of material in those papers had brought smiles to the faces of the
enemies of the Islamic Republic and hurt the feelings of devout Moslems at
home and even the leader the Islamic revolution."

On Thursday Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused the
reformist press of acting as a "forward base" for Iran's foreign enemies.

The independent dailies Asr-e Azadegan and Fath received letters from the
court on Sunday, ordering executives to cease publication immediately.

The bi-weekly Iran-e Farda, published by figures close to the liberal
opposition Iran Freedom Movement, was also banned.

Editors immediately denounced the order as unlawful but said they had little
choice but to comply.

The closures leave the reformist press with just three major titles still on
the streets.

Journalist jailed

On Sunday, the court sentenced Latif Safari, a prominent reformist
journalist, to two-and-a-half years in prison for publishing articles deemed
offensive to Islam.




The court told Latif Safari that his appeal had failed

Mr Safari, publisher of the banned newspaper Neshat, had printed an article
questioning capital punishment - challenging the Islamic principle of
retribution.

He had first been sentenced late last year, but had been at liberty while
appeals were heard.

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, senior editor on the same newspaper, was jailed
earlier this month on a similar sentence.

And on Saturday, leading campaign journalist Akbar Ganji was arrested
following complaints brought by right-wing institutions.

Many other reformist figures have either been imprisoned, or face actions in
the courts that are generally seen as operating in favour of the
conservatives.

The reformists, who won a sweeping victory in a general election in February,
plan to change the way the laws work when the new parliament sits at the end
of May.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 05:52:35 EDT
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Iranian Regime Resorts to Diversion and Subterfuge

4/23/00
Iranian Regime Resorts to Diversion and Subterfuge

By Dr. H. Izadpanah
After their tremendous defeat in the polls, the fundamentalists’ only hope
was clutching, all the more tenaciously, to their remaining instrument of
power and wielding these instruments with an increased cunning and sleight.
The triumvirate councils—Guardian, Experts and Expediency—with the Guardian
Council on the lead, and the other two acting more or less behind the scene,
are but the three facades of the one and the same monolithic structure of
theocratic repression reared upon the foundations of “the Supremacy of the
Theologian”, which itself is nothing but a fustian mask upon the face of
“the dictatorship of the top clergy. Thanks to this tactical formation,
Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, could assume a position of
seeming-detachment and even impartiality, from which he could serenely issue
popular decrees, never meant to be carried out, and condemnation of
atrocities, carried out by the forces under his own direct supervision.

The Guardian Council, as the most aggressive and belligerent arm of the
triad, has shifted its machinations into a remarkably higher gear after the
assassination attempt on Hajjarian, a former hardliner who repudiated his
previous allegiance and joined the ranks of the reformists. The
fundamentalists resented him venomously, not only for his apostasy, but
because he was privy to a great deal of secrets, the revelation of which
could have stirred further public indignation toward the hardliners. When the
assassin was identified and arrested, and his accomplices were rounded up,
the suspicion all along, that the whole attempt had been engineered by the
hardliners, was corroborated, as the gunman himself and a few other key
accomplices were found to be members of Revolutionary Guards corps, the main
military force of the regime, operating under direct command of the Leader.

Now, it was up to the wisdom of the triad Councils to summon up ploys,
designed to divert people’s attention from this latest fiasco. Soon, the
Guardian Council, as the active branch of the three, announced that it had
rescinded the election of the candidate from Khalkhal. The Council knew that
this move would touch a most sensitive nerve, and provoke the people, whose
right to choose was so cynically flouted; and their votes, cast to elect
their representative of choice, were now being cast to the winds. This was a
deliberate insult, calculated to provoke some sort of violent reaction. To
add more venom to its sting, the Council also declared that it wouldn’t give
reason for its decision. As the Council had counted on it, the revocation of
Khalkhal election and the resulting unrest took all headlines the next day;
and for the first time in weeks, the news revolving around the hardliners’
assassination conspiracy was pushed to the sidelines. The Council had
succeeded in one of its objectives: diverting the public scrutiny from the
sources of the conspiracy within the government. There was, however, a second
objective, and that was using the episode as a sounding board to gauge both
the limits of the people’s patience and the extent of regime’s capacity to
contain unrest and mass protests. Soon, other experiments followed; within a
few days, other small pockets of disturbance were created by the Council
overturning the election of Damavand, then of Gachsaran, Darab, Urmia… Not to
stretch the containment measures of the Regime, the revocations were
announced one at a time, and in locations geographically far apart, to deter
their convergence and turning into a widespread riot. These pockets of
deliberately-stirred agitation had to be renewed an kept up first, to keep
public focus occupied with these controlled and controllable fires; second,
by this strategy, the hardliners could nibble small bits and pieces off the
reformists’ gain in the elections. The hardliners couldn’t have risked a
direct assault, and overturn the entire outcome of the elections for fear of
an explosive, nationwide protest. But these isolated, sporadic inroads were a
lot more manageable, because the security forces at these pre-determined
spots could be put on the alert far in advance, and also, if the situation
got out of hand, the regime could stop the process at that point, and allege
some error in calculation, or mistaken identity of the disqualified
representative elect—a pretence so much employed by the regime that wouldn’t
surprise the people.

It is no surprise that President Khatami has been notably silent in the face
of these arrogant and outrageous assaults on the dignity and consciousness of
an entire nation. For while Mr. Khatami has often been very voluble and
eloquent, holding forth in praise of abstract notions of law and reason,
depicting nebulous castles, in the air of freedom and civil society, he has
fallen sadly silent in the face of the flagrant and atrocious violations of
the people’s rights by the hardliners. At times, he had deplored, wrung his
hands over the violence committed by the agents of terror or the ghostly
unknown violators; but even these empty gestures were absent from his
repertoire of rhetoric when the goons were unleashed under the nose of the
police, and attacking dormitories, threw the students out of the windows, or
assassinated the outspoken writers and intellectuals. Altogether, he has been
either non-committal and evasive or outright silent, whenever the
circumstances demanded taking a firm and unequivocal position with regard to
anti-democratic violations by the hardliners, of the rights of people.

The Guardian Council—as the Regime’s acting arm—couldn’t have dared to
embark upon this latest ploy of arbitrarily abolishing the elected status of
the reformist representatives, hadn’t it counted on the President’s passive
and neutral stance regarding these illegal and unconstitutional
transgressions. Had President Khatami spoken against these blatant
violations, with the unitary might of an entire nation behind his words, the
Council, or to be more exact, the Regime, would have had to either withdraw
or risk a nationwide protest, which would not be to its advantage—except as
the very last resort. Counting on Mr. Khatami’s inaction, while elected
representatives are being wantonly unseated around the country, more
importantly, the Regime also counts on the President’s appeasing and
pacifying role, when things might get out of hand. When the regime is pushing
the people as far as they could be pushed, and stepping over their democratic
rights as far as it could, there is always a possibility that a wave of
unrest may overflow the security barriers and touch off even larger tides of
protestation and anger. In case of such a contingency, President Khatami
could always step in, appear on national TV, censuring the extravagances of
the Council—not the Regime, ordering the arrest of a few scapegoats (who were
doubtlessly acting on their own initiative.); and while smiling congenially,
call for restraint, patience and expatiate on the beauties of the civil
society Shangri-La. People, who love and respect the President, will
certainly be pacified, the powder keg will be defused. Whether Mr. Khatami
accommodates the Regime by his own consent, or the Regime is exploiting his
over-conservatism and impotence, it wouldn’t make much difference to the
people; in either case they have been let down, and their sacred trust has
been betrayed. Thus, emboldened by the President’s weakness, or assured of
his inaction, the theocratic regime is riding roughshod over the people,
trampling over their dignity and freedom. It flouts the genuine results of a
democratic and much-celebrated election; supplants, at will, the elected
reformist representatives by the unelected hardliners. There is also a marked
change in the tone and tenor of the pronouncements by the authorities with
the keynotes turn falling on violence and aggression. Mesbah Yazdi has called
for exercising a form of violence that he defines as “good” violence, by
which he actually means legislated or state-sanctioned hooliganism. Even
Ayatollah Khamenei, in his Friday prayers speech in Tehran University,
harping on the same string, noted that not all forms of violence should be
altogether repudiated, as some legal violence seemed necessary. It seems
that, according the Islamic theocracy, violence too, like cholesterol, has
bad and good types. This also shows how historically blind and self-absorbed
a totalitarian regime, facing adversity, could get. It forgets that all
genocides, all pograms and massacres of history, wars aside, were
state-sanctioned and legislated. A Japanese soldier chopping off the head of
a Chinese farmer, with a samurai sword; a communist guard beating a dissident
writer to death in Kulag; an SS officer cracking the skull of a Jew with a
rifle butt; a Serb soldier raping a Moslem woman; Taliban, killing five
adolescent girls, who wouldn’t be coerced to marry their soldiers—these were
all acting precisely within their respective states’ much idealized legal
framework. A fundamentalist will certainly object: “but our law is divinely
sanctioned”, and “ the only true law.” Words exactly to this effect were
uttered by the Japanese soldiers butchering innocent civilians, and by the
inquisitors in Spain who burned heretics at the stake. In fact, the problem
with all totalitarian governments and religions is that each believes only
itself holding the keys for the kingdom of heaven and in possession of the
absolute Truth, while the rest of the world wallows in dire depravity and
mortal error. Look at Dante who deigns to relegate eminent pagans and
non-Christians like Aristotle and Avicenna to the eternal anguish of his
Purgatory, even the prophets of other religions are given no better quarters.
And Dante is primarily a poet, and then a Catholic. Had he been a pure
Catholic, he would have placed them at still lower depths.

In the theocratic regime of Iran—which is the defacto ruling power, as
opposed to a more diluted and tolerant theocracy represented by Khatami—the
religious fervor of a Medieval Inquisition and the partisan zeal of the
secular totalitarianism are homogenously combined. This melding of
religiosity and militarism is nowhere more evident than the statement
recently issued by the Revolutionary guards’ Corps. Ominously redolent of
fascism, the vainglorious and hectoring statement harps on the Guards’
military prowess and its formidable strength which could “crack the skulls”
of the unarmed citizenry, who happen to think differently. The Guards, whose
academic training seems sadly deficient in Modern Geopolitics, would be
surprised to learn that since the fall of the British colonial dominance,
land-marked by Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience; no military power in the world
has succeeded for long in maintaining the rule of an unpopular government,
over an unwilling people. Although the fall of the Soviet Union was brought
about by a complex aggregate of causes and inherent contradictions, the
paramount cause of this crumbling was that an overwhelming majority of
ordinary citizens detested the iron fist of communism, which had squeezed
them for decades. If ever a military force could have sustained a
totalitarian rule—against an unhappy populace—there was no might mightier
than that of the Red Army on the face of the earth. But once the forces of
inherent contradiction, economic pressures and internal malaise reached the
critical point, like a sand castle buffeted by the surf, the formidable
colossus crumbled to dust.

Almost a quarter of a century ago, the Shah of Iran made a fatal mistake. He
tried to turn the tide of dissidence and unrest by military force. The Shah’s
military forces were stronger than today’s Revolutionary Guards, and he had a
lot more friends around the world than Iran’s present rulers. But once the
first shots, fired by his security forces, found their marks among the
demonstrators, the entire world heard those shots, and the blood of the
victims spattered across the headlines and colored the TV screens in millions
of the living rooms around the world. Now, after a quarter of century, the
world is more globalized, the ever shrinking computer chips have daily
miniaturized the world, and no country is an island any more. Once I said
that snowfall in June and theocracy in 21st century are both quirks—the
former of the climate, and the latter of history. Neither history, nor nature
has shown much tolerance to oddities. They are foredoomed, and still born.
Here, I have to add that, paradoxically, the Islamic theocracy in Iran will
hasten its own end by its own violence. The day its security forces or
militia fires into a crowd of protestors, the very bullets will turn into
nails, clamping the coffin of the Regime. The world is watching, so is
history.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 05:42:43 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran's president says army will not crack down

Iran's president says army will not crack down


TEHRAN, April 24 (Reuters) - Iran's President Mohammad Khatami, pushing
reforms in the face of opposition from hardliners, said on Monday that the
military would not crack down on the people.

Khatami's message, delivered at a parade marking Armed Forces Day, comes days
after the elite Revolutionary Guards denied attempting a coup to reverse
reforms.

It coincides with the hardline judiciary's suspension of 12 pro-reform
newspapers and journals.

``The military forces are today the sons of the nation... They are not
standing against the nation or out to suppress them,'' Khatami told .

Khatami took the salute as thousands of army, navy and air force troops
snapped into a goose-step as they passed the flower-covered reviewing stand
in Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square.

Large portraits commemorated Iranian commanders killed in the devastating war
against Iraq.

War veterans in wheelchairs and a phalanx of women marched past wearing black
chadors, the all-enveloping dress worn by traditional Moslem women in the
Islamic republic.

Military hardware on display included no new weapons systems, but an upgraded
version of the Babr tank carrier took part.

The annual parade to mark Army Day was delayed one week so as not to coincide
with the Muharram mourning period, an important period for Iran's Shi'ite
Moslem majority.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 06:20:32 EDT
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: U.S. Harmed Iranians in Real Terms

DR. MOJTAHED-ZADEH:
U.S. Harmed Iranians in Real Terms


TEHRAN - In a closed symposium on Iran-U.S. relations, organized by Arab
Research Centre of London on Thursday, April 20 , 2000, the London-based
Iranian academic researcher, Dr. Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh stated that contrary
to the existing perception in the West and in the Arab world, the issue of
Iran-U.S. relations is very much in the public domain in Iran largely because
of two factors. First, expansion
of popular political participation in Iran, and secon because of recent
public statements on the subject by the U.S. political leaders.
Chairman of Urosevic Research and Study Foundation of London, Dr.
Mojtahed-Zadeh said that this issue has a bilateral dimension with a complex
regional implication.
He told IRAN NEWS that on the bilateral dimension what the Iranians did to
the United States did not go beyond political slogans, but the United States,
in retaliation, harmed the people of Iran in real terms.
He said, in the course of the past two decades the United States put Iran
under severe economic and strategic siege. Economically by:
A- Freezing billions of dollars of Iranian assets in that country.
B- Suspending bilateral trade.
C- Imposing trade sanction against Iran
D- Preventing others from economic investment in Iran by imposing its
domestic legislation of the so-called D'amato Law on countries and companies
wishing to invest in Iran
Strategically by:
A- Arming and encouraging Iraq to impose the shameful eight-year war on Iran.
B- Encouraging creation of Taleban in Afghanistan in order to destabilise
Iran's eastern flank.
C- Preventing Caspian-Central Asian oil and gas pipelines from running
through Iran which happens to be the shortest, the safest and the cheapest
route, thus, not only taking the bread from the mouths of the Iranians and
giving it to the Turks, but also depriving the Arabs of the Persian Gulf from
having a direct access to Caspian-Central Asian oil and gas activities. After
all the Caspian Sea is going to be a region competing with the Persian Gulf
and the Persian Gulf Arabs may wish to have direct involvement in that region
in anticipation 
of such a competition.
D- Arming and encouraging the United Arab Emirates in its territorial
ambitions against Iran, which has now become the main source of tension and
insecurity in the Persian Gulf. While Madam Albright admits publicly that
U.S. policy of arming and encouraging Iraq against Iran in early 1980s was a
"short-sighted" policy, she ought to recognize the fact that activities of
her colleagues, including Defense Secretary William Cohen and undersecretary
of state, Martin Indyke, in arming and encouraging U.A.E against Iran and her
islands in the Persian Gulf is but a repeat
of the same "short-sighted" U.S. policy against Iran, specially when
realizing the fact that the claim on Iranian islands has now become
the main source of tension and insecurity in the Persian Gulf threatening
the growth of Arab-Iranian cooperation for peace in that region.
E- Encouraging and actively supporting the Turkish-Israeli-Azerbaijan
Republic axis in the region of Caspian-Central Asia in spite of the fact that
this axis has brought Israeli air-force planes to Iran's border areas; It has
caused a serious threat to the Iranian Azarbaijans with major implications in
respect of Iran's national unity and it's territorial integrity; and that it
has given rise to Turkey's "Pan-Turkic" activities in Caspian-Central Asia
with all its ultranationalist posturing, which can destabilise the region.
On the reasons for U.S. political leaders' change of tone in respect of
relations with Iran, Professor of geopolitics of Iranian universities, Dr.
Mojtahed-Zadeh outlined the following factors;
A-Iran's geographical situation between the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea, the
two main energy-supplying regions of the 21st century, a situation the United
States can hardly afford to ignore for ever, specially considering the fact
that in spite of all attempts in neutralizing this geography by trying to
divert oil and gas routes away from Iran has made little success.
B- Iran's process of democratization and its increasing popular participation
which cannot escape the attention of the United States, which is bringing
home the message, that no longer is the United States dealing with the
Ayatollahs alone in Iran, but they are increasingly facing the people of Iran
in this relation.
C- Political pressures exerted upon U.S. administration by domestic and
international elements. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain are
active in encouraging Washington to repair its relations with Iran, because
they see Arab-Iranian cooperation in the Persian Gulf as the main factor of
stability and security in the region. European Union sees major economic
benefit in assisting the settlement of U.S. -Iranian relations. On the
domestic front, oil companies and other industrial establishments as well as
political personalities like Cyrus Vance and Richard Murphy, have activly
criticized Washington for delaying the settlement of differences with Iran.
On the issue of restoration of relations between the two countries, Dr
Mojtahed-Zadeh said that ordinarily normalization of relations between two
countries must go through three phases:
1- declaration of detente which has been done by the Iranians in their
foreign relations together with President Khatami's suggestion of "the
dialogue of civilizations" but the United States still continues with
accusations of various kinds against Iran.
2- implementation of confidence building measures, in which respect, again
Iran has changed some of its regional politics disliked by the United States,
specially in respect of Arab-Israeli peace process, but the United States has
not taken any real step that would help building confidence between the two
nations.
3- establishment of diplomatic relations.
On the issue of confidence building measures, Dr. Mojtahed-Zadeh said the
people of Iran would like to see the United States consider the following
real measures to build confidence among the people of Iran:
A-Abandoning the anti-Iranian geopolitics of diverting Caspian and Central
Asian oil and gas pipelines away from Iran and to let the forces of economic
imperatives to take their course.
B- Freeing Iran's frozen assets in the United States, and agreeing to a
serious and fundamental review of the one-sided and arbitrary use of these
assets in favor of its own citizens and companies.
C- Abandoning the so-called D'Amato Law in respect of Iran.
D- Lifting all economic sanctions and embargoes against Iran.
Mojtahed-Zadeh mailtained that should the United States fail to implement
these measures, there will be only one conclusion left for the Iranians and
others in the world, and that is, the United States wants to restore
relations with Iran on its own terms with no respect for Iran's independence
and its rights, and with no regard for the principle of mutual respect which
is to prevail such a circumstance. The Iranians most certainly do not wish to
become subservient to any other country, he said.
On the regional implications of improved U.S.-Iranian relations,
Dr.Mojtahed-Zadeh believes most Arabs stand to benefit from it. Most Arabs of
the Persian Gulf are in fact active in this field and use their good offices
between Iran and the United States. However, he added that Syria, Iraq and
the United Arab Emirates may stand to lose, mainly because Iraq will lose its
co-sufferer in the U.S. dual containment. Syria may lose an important
supporter and benefactor in its struggle against Israel, and the United Arab
Emirates may lose its American supporters in its claims to the Iranian
islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa, Mojtahed-Zadeh stated.
He maintained that more than these Arab states, Turkey stands to lose a great
deal, mainly because in its rivalries with Iran in the region of the
Caspian-Central Asia, Turkey has been taking free rides on the shoulders of
the United States, and it is the latter who paves the way for Turkey's
political and economic advances in the said region at the expense of
depriving Iranians from the rights of benefiting from what the nature has
granted them in the form of a unique geographical ituation between the
Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
"Israel, on the other hand, seems to lose much from restored Iran-U.S.
relations, mainly because Israel still seems to be concerned with the
continuation of the strategy of having Iran as a 'big threat' in the
situation that completion of Arab-Israeli peace process may deprive Israel of
a foreign threat. This factor is in fact the main stumbling block in the way
of restoration of Iran-U.S. relations. While removing some of the most
fundamental obstacles in the way of upgrading relations with the United
Kingdom, Iran has proved whenever it finds restoration of relations with a
country is to the benefit of its national interests, it will act accordingly.
The United States, on the other hand, seems to be still a hostage to its
domestic lobbies, especially the pro-Israeli Congress that does not approve
of restoration of U.S. relations with Iran. It is against this background
that I would say the issue of U.S.-Iranian relations is not an Iranian
problem; it is essentially an American problem," Mojtahed-Zadeh concluded.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 16:11:34 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: UPDATE 5-Iran bans 14 pro-reform publications

UPDATE 5-Iran bans 14 pro-reform publications

By Jonathan Lyons


TEHRAN, April 24 (Reuters) - Iran's hardline judiciary has suspended 14
pro-reform publications in the biggest blow yet to press freedoms championed
by President Mohammad Khatami.

The state news agency IRNA said early on Monday eight dailies were among 12
publications banned without trial by the Tehran justice department for
printing material that ``disparaged Islam and the religious elements of the
Islamic revolution.''

``The justice department said the tone of material in those papers had
brought smiles to the faces of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and hurt
the feelings of devout Moslems at home and even the leader of the Islamic
revolution,'' IRNA reported.

Journalists said later the ban was extended to include two other newspapers,
including the outspoken Sobh-e Emrouz.

A copy of the order, made available to journalists, said the ban was in
effect ``until further notice.'' But editors said they did not expect to be
back in business anytime soon.

Last week, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said some reformist
newspapers had been turned into ``bases of the enemy,'' remarks widely seen
here as heralding a campaign against the independent press.

Among publications closed were the mass-circulation Fath and Asr-e Azadegan,
both at the forefront of Iran's press revolution. Also banned were the
intellectual weekly Aban and the pro-reform dailies Arya and Aftab-e Emrouz.

The daily Azad appeared on Monday despite inclusion in the ban. But its
publisher said the order came too late to stop printing and it would not
appear on Tuesday.

REFORMISTS APPEAL FOR CALM

``The extremists want to change rules of the game, they want to make the game
an abnormal one,'' said Hamid Reza Jalaiepour, a member of the editorial
board of the banned Azadegan. ``They hope to take this into the streets.

``But the reformists are not after this, we are not revolutionaries...
Whatever response we show to the closure of the daily will be through legal
channels,'' he said.

The main coalition backing Khatami called for calm and there were no
immediate reports of protests like those that greeted the sudden closure last
July of Salam, then the leading reformist voice. That produced the worst
civil unrest since the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.

Disappointed readers first heard the news of the ban latest ban as they
queued at normally busy Tehran kiosks.

``The conservatives have signed their own death warrant by closing down
newspapers. They don't know this is the beginning of the end for them,'' said
one elderly man, angry that his daily Asr-e Azadegan was no longer for sale.

President Khatami, himself a former newspaperman, has encouraged a free press
as a key part of his campaign for a civil society within Iran's Islamic
system. On Saturday he reaffirmed his support for reform.

But the clerical establishment, which controls the judiciary and other levers
of power, has fought him at every turn. They have singled out the press,
which many blame for the reformers' solid showing in parliamentary polls in
February.

One reformist analyst said the press bans were likely to be accompanied by
other tough measures against reform.

That could mean heightened security measures and tighter enforcement of
strict rules on modest dress and segregation of the sexes. Since Khatami took
office in August 1997, public life has become much more relaxed than in
earlier years.

ADVANCE WARNING

Although the scale of the bans appeared to catch the reform movement by
surprise, there were plenty of warnings.

In two speeches in less than a week, Ayatollah Khamenei took aim at what he
called ``un-Islamic'' elements in the press and castigated ``American-style''
reforms.

Prosecutions of pro-reform editors and journalists immediately picked up
speed.

The dean of the reform press, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, began a 30-month
prison sentence after his last appeal against charges of insulting Islamic
values was rejected.

On Saturday, maverick editor and author Akbar Ganji was jailed before trial
on charges he defamed the security forces in publishing allegations that
senior intelligence officials were linked to the serial murders of
dissidents.

A number of reformist politicians and journalists, meanwhile, have been
summoned before the Revolutionary Court after a seminar they attended in
Berlin was deemed to have insulted revolutionary and Islamic values.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 16:12:59 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: U.S. condemns pro-reform media closings in Iran

U.S. condemns pro-reform media closings in Iran


WASHINGTON, April 24 (Reuters) - The United States on Monday condemned Iran's
hardline judiciary for closing 14 pro-reform publications, saying the move
was a ``blow to the Iranian people.''

State Department spokesman James Rubin told a regular news briefing: ``These
actions are a blow to the people of Iran, which have clearly expressed their
desire for openness and this kind of freedom in successive elections.''

He said: ``We call upon the authorities in Iran to respect and safeguard the
right of the people of Iran to exercise their right to a free and independent
media.''

The state news agency IRNA said eight daily newspapers were among the
publications banned without trial by the Tehran justice department for
printing material that ``disparaged Islam and the religious elements of the
Islamic revolution.''

The United States has sought to improve relations with the Islamic state
since the election of moderate President Mohammad Khatami in 1997, but the
president has been engaged in a fierce power struggle with hardline Islamic
leaders.

Rubin said Washington had watched ``with interest and encouragement'' in
recent years as Iran ``embarked on a path towards greater freedom and
democracy,'' although he said the scope and pace of change was up to the
Iranian people.

President Khatami, himself a former newspaperman, has encouraged a free press
as a key part of his campaign for a civil society within Iran's Islamic
system.

``We do believe the press has played an important role in political
developments and has contributed to a lively political culture in Iran,''
Rubin said.

``From our standpoint, any time a free press is challenged anywhere in the
world or statements are made that question the right of free expression, we
in the United States are concerned,'' he added.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 16:18:58 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Ashkevari and Sahabi justify their attendance at Berlin conference

04/23/2000
Ashkevari and Sahabi justify their attendance at Berlin conference


Tehran, April 23, IRNA - in a joint statement faxed to IRNA on Sunday, two
participants of the Berlin conference rejected any bid from their side to
harm Iran's national interests.

"Firstly, the lecturers in this conference did not say anything they had not
previously been said in Iran; secondly, contrary to what rabble-rousers say,
these lecturers abstained from declaring their true ideas fearing they would
be abused by opportunists; and thirdly, the Iranian delegation had already
raised and defended Iran's interests in their private meetings with
authorities from the German press ministry, the spokesperson of German
government, foreign ministry, and parties' representatives , as well as the
Greens, the S.P.O. party in the German parliament," stressing that 'now is
not the right time to present a comprehensive report of the conference and
its results, Sahabi and Ashkevari in their statement have indicated to some
breakthroughs achieved in this conference.

"The Hienrich Boell foundation hold this event to transfer the thoughts of
Iranian reformers and introduce different dimensions of the reform movement
in Iran to outsiders, and finally to improve ties between the German and the
Iranian governments...what looked to us as positive and beneficial,"
continued the statement.

The statement adds that despite the struggles put forth by a minor
zionist-affiliated group of anarchists to disrupt the event, most of the
objectives at the Berlin conference were achieved.

Later in the statement, they said the undisciplined people who had tried to
mess up the conference by inapposite applauds or by obscene language or
behavior had in fact betrayed their own intentions.

The facsimile said the results of the 'Iran after elections conference' were
all to the benefit of Iran's national interests and have paid to strengthen
the reform movement in Iran.

"Lecturers' raising their transparent viewpoints as per Iran's different
affairs, even though some opposed each other, manifested the existing
democracy in Iran and on the other hand, made Germans and Iranians residing
abroad more familiar with the problems of Iran.. ..this was a great
opportunity for Iran at the international level," went on the statement.

Signatories of this statement further call 'the purpose of the recent ado
about the Berlin conference' as 'to confront president Khatami's reforms',
adding that for the last three years such moves have always been made to make
a mountain out of every mole to attack intellectuals, reformers and the
press.

In conclusion, they have said that innocent speakers of the conference should
not be taken to task and held responsible for the hooligansim of a small
group of riff-raff who, they said, were only trying to lead the conference
into a mere chaotic confusion.

The Berlin conference entitled 'Iran after the elections' was held April
7th-9th at the invitation of the German Heinrich Boell foundation. 17 Iranian
personalities with ideological convictions of varying degrees of dissent from
the established Islamic ideology or with somewhat different political
leanings were speakers at the conference that was marked by violent words,
and indecent language and conduct of a number of the audience who, the fax
said, were only about 100 of an audience of 1,500.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 16:21:30 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran Hardliners Close Many Reformist Newspapers

04/24/2000 Dow Jones International News
Iran Hardliners Close Many Reformist Newspapers
Mon Apr 24 02:28:32 2000


Iran Hardliners Close Many Reformist Newspapers

04/24/2000 Dow Jones International News
(Copyright (c) 2000, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)



TEHRAN (AP)--Only five out of a dozen pro-democracy publications were in
print in Iran on Monday, surviving a hard-line crackdown that also saw the
imprisonment of two prominent journalists in the past three days.

The campaign appears to be part of a bigger plan by the hard-liners to weaken
reformist President Mohammad Khatami and choke his liberal reforms. It is
also a blatant display of the immense power the hard-liners still hold
despite their crushing defeat in recent legislative elections.

The hard-liners control key institutions like the judiciary, the military and
the broadcast network.

"The power struggle in Iran is entering dire straits," said Saeed Leylaz, an
analyst and writer for several reformist newspapers. "The press has been the
main instrument for Khatami to speak to the people, and if that is taken away
from him he is in serious trouble," Leylaz told The Associated Press.

In a speech Monday marking Armed Forces Day, Khatami made no mention of the
closures or the future of his reforms.

Eight major daily newspapers and four weekly or biweekly magazines were
closed down by order of the hard-line judiciary in Tehran late Sunday, the
official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

A judiciary statement quoted by IRNA said the publications were closed for
"printing material against the lofty Islamic principles and commands."

Only four reformist newspapers - Akhbar-e-Eqtesad, Sobh-e-Emrooz, Mosharekat
and Bayan - escaped the ban. It was not clear why they were not included.
Azad, which was banned, also was on sale Monday, because the daily already
had gone to print before the ban. It is unlikely to appear Tuesday.

Newspaper vendors said they had to order extra copies of the popular
Sobh-e-Emrouz daily because readers were snapping it up. The mood among
Iranians heading to work was normal. There was no added security in the
streets of the capital, Tehran.

On Monday, religious schools around the country were ordered to close by
hard-liners to protest a recent conference in Berlin, Germany, that was
attended by several reformist journalists.

Hard-liners were outraged after selected footage from the conference was
aired last week on television, showing Iranian exiles criticizing Iran 's
religious government and a woman dancing in a skimpy outfit. In Iran , women
must adhere to a strict Islamic dress code.

The hard-liners want to roll back Khatami's social and political reforms to
preserve their heavy-handed grip on power. They have ruled by decree since
the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Khatami has stressed that the people have the right to determine how they
want to be governed.

The newspaper closures came three days after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the
hard-line supreme leader whose powers supersede those of the elected
president, said there were 10 to 15 reformist papers undermining Islamic and
revolutionary principles, insulting constitutional bodies and creating
tension and discord in society.

On Sunday, police seized Latif Safari, director of the banned Neshat daily,
and took him to Tehran's Evin prison, a day after detaining Akbar Ganji, the
nation's top investigative reporter.

Earlier this month, the judiciary upheld the conviction of Mahmoud Shams,
editor in chief of Asr-e-Azadegan, giving him a 2 1/2-year jail term on
charges of "insulting religious sanctities." Shams has been a leading voice
for press freedom.

In March, Saeed Hajjarian, another leading journalist, was shot in the face
and gravely wounded. Reformist newspapers and officials have blamed the
attack on hard-liners.

Nearly every leading reformist journalist has been summoned for questioning
by the judiciary, which is controlled by the hard-liners.

Last week, the outgoing Parliament that is dominated by hard-liners tightened
an existing press law, granting greater powers of prosecution against both
writers and publishers. The changes have to be endorsed by the hard-line
Guardian Council, but that is likely a formality.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 16:22:16 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Mobarakeh steel mill exceeds production target

04/23/2000 BBC Monitoring
Mobarakeh steel mill exceeds production target
Sun Apr 23 20:01:27 2000


Mobarakeh steel mill exceeds production target

04/23/2000 BBC Monitoring
Source: IRNA news agency, Tehran, in English 0922 gmt 23 Apr 00/BBC
Monitoring/(c) BBC


Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA

Esfahan, 23rd April: Iron-making, direct reduction, steel- manufacturing,
solid foundry as well as hot and cold rolling at Mobarakeh steel mill have
exceeded production targets for the Iranian month of Farvardin (20th March -
19th April).

During the said period, the steel mill's iron-making, direct reduction and
hot rolling units showed an increase of 11 per cent, 7 per cent and 13 per
cent, respectively, compared with production targets previously planned,
reported the public relations office of the steel mill Sunday [23rd April].

Other units also made significant progress, the same source said.

------------------------------

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 16:23:29 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran : lifting the veil / Women use creativity to exercise freedom

04/23/2000 Houston Chronicle
Iran : lifting the veil / Women use creativity to exercise f
Sun Apr 23 19:52:31 2000


Iran : lifting the veil / Women use creativity to exercise freedom
DEBORAH HORAN

04/23/2000 Houston Chronicle
2 STAR
Page 27
(Copyright 2000)


TEHRAN, Iran - With the adroitness of a seasoned flier, Azar Farahani hoists
a heavy pack on her back and snaps a helmet on her head. Slowly, she spreads
a pink and yellow wind sail on the ground.

She wants to run against the wind, feel the giant sail fill with air, then
glide down the barren mountain toward the high-rises of Tehran.

It's not an easy task in a black head scarf and ankle-length cloak.

But Farahani has devised a clever way to paraglide in the cumbersome costume
that all Iranian women must wear according to a fatwa, or edict, of the
country's religious rulers.

She has cut holes on both sides of her gown for the straps of the wind sail's
harness. Under her long black outfit, called a hijab, Farahani has pulled on
a pair of jeans.

"See!" says the muscular 34-year-old, breaking into a mischievous smile as
she pulls a strap of the harness through one of the holes and fastens the
binding around her left thigh. "I tie this around my leg, and it holds the
harness in place.

"When I showed them this, we convinced them we could fly with the hijab,"
Farahani adds, referring to government officials in charge of women's sports.

Like Farahani, many women in Iran are testing the limits of their country's
strict Islamic system and finding ways to loosen the restraints.

After the 1979 Islamic revolution, women were sidelined from politics, barred
from sitting as judges in courts of law and forced to obtain their husbands'
permission before leaving the country. They covered themselves in mournful
black and diligently hid every wisp of hair. They were discouraged from
wearing makeup and strictly segregated from men.

With the surprise 1997 election of President Mohammed Khatami, a reformist
openly opposed by Iran 's religious Old Guard, the restrictions imposed on
women began to ease amid a new atmosphere of freedom.

Now, many women dare to allow their veils to fall back slightly to show some
of their hair. Some wear lipstick and paint their nails, then rush to wipe
their lips and put on gloves if the authorities known as the "morals police"
arrive.

Many say that on the slopes north of Tehran where people go to ski and to
paraglide, authorities often turn a blind eye to the absence of the hijab, as
long as women cover their hair and wear jackets that reach their knees. Some
simply tuck their hair inside knitted ski caps.

The new climate of openness, many women say, has encouraged government
officials to accommodate their requests for small new freedoms. Particularly
in the ministry of culture, a stronghold of Khatami supporters, they say they
are finding receptive ears.

When Farahani showed ministry officials last spring that she could paraglide
while wearing the hijab, for instance, she and a few dozen other female
fliers got permission to form the Tehran Flying Women's Committee. Already,
the group has 40 members.

Malihe Saidi, one of Iran 's best-known singers, used a similar strategy to
get her music back on the market. Barred from performing for years because of
a religious edict that prohibits women from singing in public, Saidi last
year discovered the existence of another fatwa that worked in her favor.

Women can sing in public, the edict said, as long as they are part of a
choir. Saidi, who teaches music at a girl's school in Tehran, showed the
ruling to the cultural minister.

"He said, OK, I could sell my tapes in the market," Saidi recalls. On the
recording, her strong voice is clearly audible above the background voices of
the choir.

Legislators, too, have taken steps to aid women.

The outgoing Parliament, for instance, enacted a law that increased the
minimum amount of money that a man must pay his wife for living expenses.
Lawmakers also passed legislation allowing divorced mothers to retain custody
of young children a few years before giving them up to their former husbands.

Massoumeh Ebtekar, a woman who serves as one of Iran 's vice presidents as
well as minister for the environment, points to the measures as proof that
the country is moving in the right direction. "A lot of practical steps have
been taken to improve the condition and the status of women," she says.

Iranian women overwhelmingly supported Khatami's bid for the presidency, and
their vote was key to his upset victory. He showed his gratitude by
appointing two female ministers to his Cabinet, a move that, many say, helped
encourage other women to enter politics. In municipal elections last year,
more than 300 women won seats on local and regional councils.

Still, many Iranian women say that they have a long way to go.

Merengeez Karr, an attorney who was barred from practicing law for five years
after the revolution and now concentrates on family and criminal cases,
remains pessimistic about women's ability to change a system that, she says,
fundamentally discriminates against them.

"Our constitution doesn't allow secular reformers to run in elections. Only
the religious can run," she says from behind a desk cluttered with child
custody and divorce cases. "And religious people don't believe in equality
between men and women."

A woman, Karr notes, still cannot initiate divorce, except if she can prove
that her husband consistently beats her, abuses drugs or commits a short list
of other offenses. Under the custody laws softened by Parliament, divorced
women can keep their children only until their sons turn 2 and their
daughters become 7.

A wife inherits one-eighth of her husband's cash estate and cannot inherit
his land, Karr says. Women can serve as judicial assistants, but not judges.
The legal age for female marriage is 9.

In fact, says Karr, the previous Parliament passed legislation that set
women's rights back. One such measure prohibited newspapers from publishing
articles about female rights, if, according to the law's vague wording, the
report would create conflict between men and women.

"Women's rights are very complicated and involved with religion here," Karr
says. "Even the reformers don't want to take on traditional clerics on this
issue."

Ironically, many Iranian women say that the mandate to wear the hijab in some
ways became liberating in the early days of the revolution. Conservative
Muslim families who otherwise might have kept their daughters at home felt
comfortable allowing them to work and to study in the head-to-toe gown.

"I can walk on the street, and no one can touch me," says Zahara
Gambari-Nejat, a 20-year-old draped in an especially concealing version of
the hijab. "In other countries, they don't cover, but they can't walk down
the street."

After the revolution, university enrollment of women soared. Today, more than
50 percent of the students attending college in Iran are female.

Covered by the hijab and segregated from men, women were allowed to play
sports. Female rowing teams, weight lifters and basketball stars emerged.
Hundreds of women became coaches and referees. Since the revolution, Iran has
hosted two all-female Olympics for women from Muslim countries.

Now, liberal women such as Karr, whose own dark brown curls are dutifully
tucked under a loose scarf, see the mandatory hijab as a symbol of the
restrictions placed on their lives.

"We're all dressed in black," she says. "Even color is considered political
in Iran ."

But up in the mountains north of Tehran, Neda Jahashani, a 25- year-old
wearing a bright yellow ski suit and a flowered green head scarf, says the
morals police don't always enforce the rules these days. Once, she recalls, a
policeman took a picture of her and her boyfriend standing in the snow.

"I go out with him," Jahashani boasts. "We go dancing. We go to parties.

"After Khatami was elected, I could walk like this" in the mountains, she
says, pointing to her yellow clothes. But back in the city, Jahashani adds,
she wears a long black hijab over her jeans.

Sitting at a table in the ski lounge, Bita Khachegar, a 24-year- old female
bodybuilder wearing mascara and silver-painted nails, says she would be too
afraid to go out with a guy her age.

"I'm not brave enough to walk in the street with my brother unless I have
documents with me proving he is my brother," she says.

"You may walk with a boy in a busy place, and nothing will happen. But you
may walk with a boy on your little street and be arrested. You don't know."

Such ambiguity, say some women, creates a sense of unease, because it keeps
them guessing at what is prohibited and what is allowed.

At the same time, it gives them the chance to discover new freedoms.

On a barren slope north of Tehran, Farahani and a few other female fliers
prepare to paraglide down the mountain. On this particular morning, however,
there is not enough wind to lift them. Their sails billow, then crumple back
down to the ground.

Slowly, as raindrops start to fall, Farahani packs up her gear and heads
toward the car. Such momentary setbacks won't stop her, she says.

Now that paragliding has been approved, she is trying to persuade government
officials to allow women to sky-dive.

One way or another, Farahani says with a smile, she'll be back to fly on a
sunnier day.

Photos: 1-2 Left: Azar Farahani, right, dons paragliding gear along with
another member of the Tehran Flying Women's Committee. The group, which
already has 40 members, was formed after Farahani convinced government
officials that women could paraglide in a long black gown known as a hijab.
Farahani wears jeans under her hijab. Right: Two women dressed in the garb
mandated by the mullahs chat in Imam Square in the city of Esfahan.

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End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 23 Apr 2000 to 24 Apr 2000 - Special issue
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