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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 11 Dec 1998 to 12 Dec 1998
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There are 15 messages totalling 882 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Khatami urged to order search for missing Iranian writer
2. Khatami says government "investigating" opposition murders
3. Annan denies mediation offer on disputed Gulf Islands
4. Bani Sadr, ex Iran president, given extra French police protection
5. Talbott raises Iranian issue in Russia
6. Iran rebuts U.S. arms charge
7. US can no longer block Iran's missile program: Rafsanjani
8. Iran slams PLO central council for voting to amend charter
9. Rights activists condemn death of Iranian writer
10. US, Russia differ on Iranian program
11. SOCCER NEWS - Iran into quarter-finals, Thais scrape in
12. Suspicious murders provoke wave of concern in Iran
13. Iran torn between reform, revolution on eve of anniversaries
14. INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
15. CULTURAL RELATIVISM - THIS ERA'S FASCISM

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:49:02 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Khatami urged to order search for missing Iranian writer

TEHRAN, Dec 12 (AFP) - The wife of missing Iranian writer and
human rights activist Mohammad-Jafar Pouyandeh has appealed to
President Mohammad Khatami to help find her husband, newspapers
reported Saturday.
"We ask you as the head of the government and promoter of
culture to use all your resources to find my husband and do
everything to help save his life," Sedigheh Sahebi said in a letter
to the president, excerpts of which were published by newspapers.
Sahebi also faxed a letter to several Iranian newspapers voicing
"deep concern" over the fate of her husband, an art critic and
translator who belongs to the Association of Iranian Writers.
Pouyandeh, who recently translated a book on human rights, is
the third Iranian writers to go missing in the past few weeks.
Two of them -- Majid Sharif and Mohammad Mokhtari -- have
already been found dead and suspected to have been murdered.
In addition, secular nationalist opposition leader Darioush
Foruhar and his wife, Parvaneh, were recently stabbed to death in
their home by unidentified assailants.
Sahebi said her husband went missing on Wednesday on his way to
settle a legal dispute with a publisher.
According to Zan (Woman) newspaper, both Pouyandeh and Mokhtari
had recently called along with several other authors for setting up
a writer's association general assembly.
But the writers suspended the idea after they were summoned by
the judiciary and informed that their venture was illegal, the paper
said.
Sahebi, quoted by Jahan-e-Islam newspaper, said her husband has
not been engaged in political activities and only translated books
from French to Farsi.
Zan newspaper said the disapperances and murders had sparked a
"wave of anxiety" in the intellectual community.
Khatami said Thursday that the recent events were "an effort to
show the society is unsafe" and vowed to pursue the cases.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:49:11 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Khatami says government "investigating" opposition murders

TEHRAN, Dec 12 (AFP) - The Iranian government is investigating
the recent rash of murders and suspicious disappearances of
opponents and writers in Iran, President Mohammad Khatami said in
remarks published Saturday.
"We are investigating to find out who is trying to say there is
no security in our society. The enemies of the regime want to say
there is no security and we must resist this," the newspapers quoted
Khatami as telling visiting clerics from the city of Qom on
Thursday.
Reformist Khatami has come under pressure to put a stop to the
recent murders or suspicious deaths of dissidents and writers.
These include the stabbing murder last month of nationalist
opponent Dariush Foruhar and his wife, Parvaneh, followed by the
suspicious deaths of two writers, Majid Sharif and Mohammad
Mokhtari, and the disappearance of a third writer, Mohammad
Pouyandeh, this month.
Khatami called on the conservative dominated judiciary and
parliament to help the government in maintaining security.
"The judiciary must establish the necessary security. The
legislature must adopt the necessary laws. We must all work to
ensure security in the country, so people will come and invest," he
said.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:49:22 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Annan denies mediation offer on disputed Gulf Islands

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11 (AFP) - UN chief Kofi Annan on Friday
denied that he had offered to mediate in the dispute between Iran
and the United Arab Emirates over three strategic Gulf islands.
In a statement issued here, Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said
that "the secretary-general wishes to clarify that he has not
offered mediation."
The statement added that at a meeting with President Sheikh
Zayed ibn Sultan al-Nahayan on Monday, Annan "encouraged the
government of the UAE to find a mutually acceptable solution to the
issue of Abu Musa" with Iran.
A diplomat close to the United Nations had said on Monday that
Annan proposed mediating between the UAE and Iran if bilateral
negotiations failed.
At the meeting on Monday, before he attended a summit of the
six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Annan hoped that the UAE
government would resume bilateral talks with Iran on the dispute,
the statement said.
"In view of the positive reactions to his suggestion, the
secretary-general hopes that both Iran and the UAE will make a
renewed bilateral effort on this issue."
Annan's statement came after Iran on Thursday reiterated that
the three islands -- Abu Mussa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs --
were part of Iranian territory, and ruled out outside mediation.
The islands occupy a commanding position at the entrance of the
Straits of Hormuz, controlling the world's main oil supply route.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:49:30 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Bani Sadr, ex Iran president, given extra French police protection

PARIS, Dec 11 (AFP) - Exiled former Iranian president Abolhassan
Bani Sadr has been given added French police protection following a
wave of kidnaps and assassinations in Iran, he said Friday.
"Protection has been reinforced around my home" since
mid-November, following the killing of nationalist opposition leader
Daryush Foryhar and his wife, he said.
Bani Sadr, who lives in the Paris suburbs, said he was at threat
and claimed that Iranian hardliners had drawn up a list of 60 to 70
murder targets at home and abroad.
This week the body of Iranian writer Mohammad Mokhtari was found
outside the capital.
In a statement Friday, UNESCO chief Federico Mayor slammed
Mokhtari's "odious assassinaton" as a crime against those fighting
"for a more just and freer world."
Mokhtari's death followed that of Magid Sharif, an Iranian
writer, journalist and translator close to liberal opposition
circles, in November.
Thursday, the Paris-based Iranian Committee against Repression
and State Terrorism said another writer and human rights activist,
Mohammad Pouyandeh, had gone missing on Wednesday.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:49:49 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Talbott raises Iranian issue in Russia

MOSCOW, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott
told Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov (``yehv-GAY-nee pree-muh-
KAWF'') Russia must do everything it can to prevent a transfer of
sensitive technology to Iran.
Talbott, who was warmly greeted by Primakov before today's round of
talks, used the opportunity to once again drive home Washington's
concern that Tehran is trying to update its missile and nuclear programs
and may gain access to sensitive technologies and equipment as a result
of the increased cooperation between Russia and Iran.
Primakov tried to underline the importance Moscow attaches to
maintaining good relations with Washington.
He said, ``A priority line in Russian politics is relations with the
United States.''
Primakov added he felt it was vital for the United States to ``be
aware of our positions and intentions.''
Earlier today, Talbott raised the touchy issue of Russian-Iranian
cooperation during talks with Russian Security Council chief and chief
of staff to President Boris Yeltsin Nikolai Bordyuzha (``nee-kah-LYE
board-YOU-zhah'') and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov (``EE-gore ee-vah-
NAWF'').
Talbott, who is leading a U.S. delegation that includes Deputy
Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, also argued his case Thursday
during talks with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov
(``YOU-ree mass-loo-KAWF'').
Talbott told Maslyukov the United States believes Russian firms are
passing sensitive technology to Iran, but the Russian official retorted
that Talbott did not have ``concrete facts'' of such activity, saying
the allegations were unsubstantiated.
However, Maslyukov said Russia would tighten control over the export
of technology and equipment to Iran, and Russian officials left the door
open to possible monitoring of factories accused of wrongdoing if
allegations are verified.
The United States is particularly concerned about Russian
participation in the construction of a nuclear power plant at Bushehr
(``boo-SHARE''), which Washington suspects is a front for Iranian plans
to update their nuclear and missile programs.
Russia insists the project is a strictly commercial deal and that all
precautions are being taken to prevent the transfer of sensitive
technology.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin (``vlah-DEE-
meer rah-MAH-neen'') reiterated Moscow's position that Russia is ``not
interested in anybody acquiring biological, chemical or nuclear weapons
or missiles for their delivery, and this applies to all countries in the
Middle East.''
Earlier, another Russian official said Moscow was not interested in
acquiring a nuclear neighbor on its southern flank.
In a separate development, the Iranian Embassy in Moscow officially
denied that Tehran was trying to recruit Russian scientists into working
for Iranian weapons development programs, including any programs
involving weapons of mass destruction.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:50:02 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran rebuts U.S. arms charge

TEHRAN, Iran, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Iran is rebutting charges by the United
States that it is developing biological weapons and recruiting Russian
scientists to help develop the germ warfare program.
Speaking during today's prayers at Tehran University, former
President Hashemi Rafsanjani said, ``Accusing Iran of cooperating with
Russian scientists to develop its capabilities for producing biological
weapons is a serious charge.''
Rafsanjani said ``the goal behind directing such charges against Iran
aims at depriving Tehran of the right to achieve development in the
biological field.''
He said his country proved it ``is not one of those states which deal
with such kinds of arms and has refrained from using chemical weapons
during its (1980-88) war with Iraq.''
Although he didn't explicitly admit cooperation with Russian
scientists, Rafsanjani said, ``We attempt to promote our knowledge in
the biological field through developing this scientific branch in our
universities since several years.''
Iran, through its embassy in Moscow, officially denied Western and
Russian reports that it was trying to involve and recruit Russian
scientists in the development of certain weapons of mass destruction.
The charge was made this week by the Clinton administration, which
insisted again today that intelligence information revealed that Iran
was pursuing a germ warfare program.
``We believe they do have an intention to develop a biologic weapons
program,'' State Department spokesman James Foley, who declined to
reveal any evidence to corroborate the claim, said in Washington.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:50:11 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: US can no longer block Iran's missile program: Rafsanjani

TEHRAN, Dec 11 (AFP) - Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani said Friday that his country's missile technology was far
enough advanced that any further US efforts to block its development
would be futile.
"The pressure they are applying on this issue is useless. Thank
God, it has got out of their (US) control. We have reached the point
we should have reached," Rafsanjani said, referring to US pressure
on Russia to stop the transfer of missile know-how and equipment to
Iran.
"Iran is self-sufficient in missile technology. Iran now really
knows how to manufacture missiles and has no need for help from any
countries -- be it Russia, China or any other country," he said at
weekly Friday prayers at Tehran University.
A delegation of US officials is currently in Moscow to try to
persuade Russia to stop weapons cooperation with the Islamic
republic.
The United States accuses Iran of pursuing secret nuclear and
mass destruction weapons programmes, charges Iran has repeatedly
denied.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Wednesday threatened
to end America's scientific cooperation with Moscow if Russia did
not keep its promise to stop providing technology for Iran's missile
and nuclear programmes.
"In the absence of real enforcement of the Russian government's
stated position opposing cooperation with Iran, these programmes
will be difficult to sustain," a US official quoted her as saying.
In July, Iran announced it had successfully tested a medium
range missile known as Shahab-3 able to reach most countries in the
region including Israel and two months later it pledged to develop
its program with the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5.
And on Friday, the official news agency IRNA said that the
Iranian army had successfully tested the Fajr-4 ballistic missile
during wargames in the Gulf.
Rafsanjani said Iran started its missile program from scratch
during the 1980-1988 war against Iraq, after Iraqi forces launched
missile attacks against Iranian cities.
"The Americans exert pressure so that we will not have missiles.
But the war showed that this is out natural right. It showed that we
have enemies and have to get strong to defend ourselves," said
Rafsanjani, who remains a powerful figure in Iran as head of the
Expediency Council, the top advisory body to supreme leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He also rejected claims by the US State Department and the New
York Times Iran is developing biological weapons with the help of
Russian scientists, while defending his country's nuclear program.
"If a country is not equipped with the nuclear science it can't
keep up with the pace of civilization. Nuclear science is not just
about making weapons. It also helps scientific progress in medicine
and other fields," he said.
"The Americans are seriously and unfairly seeking to deprive us
of our divine rights," Rafsanjani charged.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:50:19 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran slams PLO central council for voting to amend charter

TEHRAN, dec 11 (AFP) - Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani berated the PLO central council on Friday for voting to
confirm the cancellation of anti-Israel clauses in the PLO charter,
calling it a "humiliating" move.
"The Americans are pushing the Palestinians back step by step.
They got the latest concession yesterday when the Palestinians
cancelled the clauses," Rafsanjani said at weekly Moslem prayers at
Tehran University.
"They were humiliated into accepting the condition of the US
president and want to reaffirm it in his presence." said Rafsanjani,
who is now a top adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
US President Bill Clinton is due to attend a meeting of the the
full Palestinian National Council, the PLO's parliament-in-exile, in
Gaza City on Monday.
The PLO's second most senior body voted Thursday to confirm the
cancellation of anti-Israel clauses in the charter, fulfilling
another obligation under peace accords with Israel ahead of
Clinton's arrival in Gaza.
The Wye agreement signed in October under Clinton's sponsorship
stipulates that the central council confirm a decision already taken
by the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in April 1996 cancelling
references in the charter which Israel says deny the Jewish state's
right to exist.
Iran considers Israel an illegitimate state and is vehemently
opposed to the Middle East peace process.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:50:36 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Rights activists condemn death of Iranian writer

BERLIN, Dec 11 (AFP) - Human rights activists Thursday condemned
the death of Iranian writer Mohammad Mokhtari, whose body was found
outside the capital this week.
"This barbarous act on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights shows to what extent those
rights are violated daily, violently and unscrupulously," the
International Human Rights League said.
"In just a few weeks, three more opposition figures have been
executed, the Bahai'i minority has been badly persecuted and
striking workers have been brutally arrested," the League's German
section said.
It called for the international isolation of "criminal regimes"
and the trial of Iranian leaders by an international court.
Mokhtari, 57, was a former national secretary of the Association
of Iranian Writers which has campaigned in defence of freedom of
expression and of the press for 20 years.
His death follows that of Magid Sharif, an Iranian writer,
journalist and translator close to liberal opposition circles, in
November, in what associates said were suspicious circumstances.
The Paris-based Iranian Committee against Repression and State
Terrorism said earlier Thursday that another Iranian writer and
human rights activist, Mohammad Pouyandeh, had gone missing on
Wednesday.
Pouyandeh, an art critic and translator, is a member of the
banned Association of Iranian Writers and part of a group involved
in organising a general assembly of the association "to revive its
public activity", the Committee statement said.
It said that on September 9, Pouyandeh, along with Mokhtari, Ali
Ashraf Darvishyan, Kazem Kardavani, Mansour Koushan, Houshang
Golshiri and Mahmoud Dolatabadi, had written a statement calling for
freedom of thought and expression, the end of censorship and the
respect for the dignity of individuals.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 01:50:47 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: US, Russia differ on Iranian program

MOSCOW, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The United States and Russia have disagreed
on Russia's continuing involvement in an Iranian nuclear project, with
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott accusing Moscow of passing
sensitive technology to Iran.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov (``YOU-ree mas-
loo-KAWF'') told reporters after a round of talks in Moscow that Russia
would tighten control over the export of technology and equipment to
Iran, but he scolded Washington for failing to back up its accusations
with solid proof.
Maslyukov said Talbott had expressed concern at the continuing
Russian-Iranian cooperation, including the construction of the nuclear
power plant at Bushehr (``boo-SHARE''), which the U.S. suspects is a
front for Iranian plans to update their nuclear and missile programs.
The Russian official said Talbott failed to back his accusations that
Russian firms were supplying Iran with missile know-how with hard
evidence.
Maslyukov said the U.S. must present ``concrete facts,''
substantiating the allegations.
However, despite the rhetoric, the Russian official said ``control of
export should be tightened (by Moscow) ... to improve trust between both
sides.''
Russian officials indicated after today's talks ended that Moscow may
be willing to allow some form of monitoring of factories allegedly
guilty of supplying sensitive defense technologies and equipment to Iran
if the U.S. allegations were verified.
Russia continues to insist its cooperation with Iran is of a purely
peaceful and commerical nature, noting that the Bushehr project is a
lucrative commercial deal providing thousands of Russians with jobs.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 02:52:56 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: SOCCER NEWS - Iran into quarter-finals, Thais scrape in

Michael Battye BANGKOK, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Favourites Iran stormed back from
a humiliating defeat to win a place in the quarter-finals of the Asian Games
soccer tournament on Saturday while hosts Thailand squeaked through despite
losing.
A shock 3-0 victory by previously pointless Lebanon over Kazakhstan,
apparent certainties to go through after a win and a draw in their second
round Group 4 games, meant Thailand's passionate fans in the end were able
to celebrate the home side's 2-1 defeat by Qatar.
Thailand, 60,000 fans urging them on in the stadium, thousands more watching
on a big screen outside and much off the rest of the country crowded around
television sets, scraped through thanks to a just superior goal difference
over Kazakhstan.
The Thais now have to play the powerful South Koreans in Monday's knockout
quarter-finals.
Qatar's win put them top of the group and they face Gulf champions Kuwait,
an early tournament favourite who stuttered in the second round.
Iran's World Cup squad, beaten 4-2 by tiny Oman in an earlier second round
group match, had to beat China on Saturday to have a serious hope of going
through to the knockout stage.
They did so, 2-1, in the best match of the tournament so far and Oman, who
had the near impossible task of beating Tajikistan 7-0 to edge the Iranians
out, could only draw 3-3.
China still ended top of Group 3 wiht a superior goal difference and face
Turkmenistan on Monday while Iran meet defending champions Uzbekistan.
On current form, both Iran and China should win and set up a semi-final
showdown between what China's English coach Bob Houghton described as the
two best teams in the tournament.
The Iranian determination not to bow out of contention for a gold medal was
obvious from the start against China.
"We were overconfident against Oman.
Today all our players concentrated very well," said Iranian coach Mansour
Pourhadari.
The normally patient Iranians came out playing at a much higher tempo and
Bayern Munich striker Ali Daei rose above Fan Zhiyi of English First
Division side Crystal Palace in only the second minute to force giant
Chinese goalkeeper Jang Jin into a good save.
Against the run of play, it was China, seeking revenge for two defeats by
Iran in the qualifying rounds for the 1998 World Cup in France, who took the
lead in the ninth minute.
Yao Xia fired in a fierce low shot from 25 yards (metres) which Iranian
goalkeeper Bezhad Gholampur let slip from his grasp and Li Jinyu raced in to
touch the ball home.
The Iranians raised the pace yet further and worried the Chinese defence
several times before Karim Bagheri of German second division side Arminia
Bielefeld, who had already brought a superb save out of Jin Jang with a 25
yard effort, equalised.
Bagheri, the dominant force in the midfield, raced on to a superb
defence-splitting pass from Ali Daei in the 28th minute and blasted home a
shot that gave the Chinese goalkeeper no chance.
The celebrations of the small, but noisy, band of Iranian fans had not died
down when Iran took the lead a minute later as Ali Daei headed home a free
kick from five yards.
Houghton, who brought several young players to Bangkok, was far from upset
by his side's first defeat in 11 games.
"This was the best match of the tournament between the two best teams here,"
he said.
"We finished top of the group, so we've had a good week.
There's no shame in losing a match like that against such a good side." Nor
did he fear meeting Iran again.
"You make a big error if you think that because we lost today we will lose
the next one.
Football's not like that," he said.
"We could play Iran in the semifinals and I'm really looking forward to
that."

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 02:52:25 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Suspicious murders provoke wave of concern in Iran

TEHRAN, Dec 12 (AFP) - Iranian officials and newspapers voiced
deep disquiet on Saturday over a spate of murders and mysterious
disappearances of intellectuals and political dissidents in the
Islamic republic.
"Concern and disgust in Iran over the recent wave of murders and
insecurity," said a front-page headline in Zan (Woman) newspaper.
The country's popular moderate President Mohammad Khatami has
pledged to investigate the incidents.
"We are investigating to find out who is trying to say there is
no security in our society," he said. "The enemies of the regime
want to show there is no security here and we must resist this."
Two writers who disappeared in the past two weeks, Majid Sharif
and Mohammad Mokhtari, have been found dead and are suspected to
have been murdered, while a third, Mohammad-Jafar Pouyandeh is still
missing.
And last month secular nationalist opposition leader Darioush
Foruhar and his wife Parvaneh were stabbed to death in their Tehran
home by unidentified assailants.
Moderate newspapers on Saturday demanded more action from the
authorities to put an end to the "unsafe" atmosphere.
"If the security and judicial authorities are not able to deal
with the threat to the national security, why aren't their leaders
interrogated?" journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi told Zan.
Senior left-wing cleric Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali branded the
murders "inhuman acts done for the sake of power and money."
Conservative officials and press also condemned the murders, but
blamed them on the enemies of the Islamic regime.
"There are clearly some hands at work to tarnish the image of
the government," said the English-language Tehran Times.
Intelligence Minister Ghorban-Ali Dorrie-Najafabadi accused
"American and Israeli spies of seeking to show Iran is unsafe to
make people pessimistic."
Khatami himself has come under immense pressure from Iran's
intellectual community and human rights organisations abroad to
produce results from the investigations into the murders, some of
which follow similar patterns.
And he called on the conservative-dominated judiciary and
parliament to help the government maintain security.
"The judiciary must establish the necessary security. The
legislature must adopt the necessary laws. We must all work to
ensure security in the country, so people will come and invest," he
said.
Pouyandeh's wife, Sedigheh Sahebi, has appealed to Khatami to
help find her husband, who she went missing on Wednesday on his way
to settle a legal dispute with a publisher.
"We ask you as the head of the government and promoter of
culture to use all your resources to find my husband and do
everything to help save his life," she said in a letter to the
president reported by the media.
Sahebi also sent a letter to several Iranian newspapers voicing
"deep concern" over the fate of her husband, an art critic and
translator belonging to the Association of Iranian Writers.
According to Zan, both Pouyandeh and Mokhtari and several other
authors had recently called for the creation of a writer's
association general assembly.
But they suspended the idea after being summoned to the
judiciary and informed that their venture was illegal, the paper
said.

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

Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 02:57:07 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran torn between reform, revolution on eve of anniversaries

Iran torn between reform, revolution on eve of anniversaries by Christophe de
Roquefeuil

12/08/98
Agence France-Presse
(Copyright 1998)


TEHRAN , Dec 8 (AFP) - Austere portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini watch over
Tehran streets as a reminder that his legacy lives on, but schoolgirls cover
their notebooks with pictures of "Titanic" heart- throb Leonardo DiCaprio.


On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran is a
country of seeming contradictions and one torn between loyalty to the ideals
of the revolution and a profound desire for reform.

The year 1999 is shaping up to be full of events to remind the public of the
principles -- or restrictions -- shaping their lives, and many believe it
could also turn out to be a year of unpredictable change.

In February, the Islamic Republic will mark the 20th anniversary of the
Islamic Revolution and the toppling of the Shah.

Revolution loyalists will also commemorate the 10th anniversary of the June
4, 1989 death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic,
and the 10th anniversary of his fatwa condemning the British author Salman
Rushdie to death for alleged blasphemy in his novel "The Satanic Verses."

Embodying the paradoxes in present day Iran is the man who symbolizes moves
towards moderation, President Mohammad Khatami, elected in a landslide in May
1997 on a reformist platform.

Khatami, who still pledges allegiance to Imam Khomeini, has presented a
wholly different and peaceful interpretation of the revolution, one
seemingly at odds with the late leader's desire to export his radical
vision of Islam and his animosity towards the Western world.

As it gears up for the three anniversaries, " Iran is being plunged into a
violent internal crisis, unprecedented since Khomeini's death," said a
Western diplomat in Tehran .

The ongoing tug of war between reformers and religious conservatives is
reported daily by the press, which has been enjoying unprecedented freedom
since Khatami's election despite mounting pressure from hardliners.

Parliament and the judiciary, two bastions of the orthodox, are continuously
trying to apply the brakes to the pace of reform, and have struck a number of
heavy blows on circles close to the president.

But like in a game of chess, which was invented in ancient Persia , the
players do not directly aim at the king. Instead they seek to paralyze him by
neutralizing and eliminating the pieces that defend him.

In June, interior minister Abdollah Nuri fell victim to a parliamentary
censure motion, and a month later, another ally of Khatami, Tehran 's
powerful mayor Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, was removed from the board: he was
suspended from his post over corruption charges, which many described as
political.

Khomeini's successor, the all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
is present on the political scene more than ever, tirelessly defending
orthodox forces against moderate challengers and liberal critics.

Khatami, whose powers are dwarfed by those of the leader, continues to play
the role of the "president of the people," refusing to give up his promises
of reform despite mounting pressure.

The president has promised to create a civil society marked by the rule of
law and greater freedom and has sought to ease tensions with other
countries. But his opponents argue that his vision is at odds with Islamic
teachings and more in tune with Western liberal democracies.

Khatami benefits from cautious Western support, at least in words, but that
is unlikely to do him any good at home.

"Caution still prevails because open support makes him more vulnerable to his
conservative opponents," a diplomat said.

The United States has made several goodwill gestures to Iran since Khatami's
election and Britain has shown more flexibility by accepting a half-hearted
promise from Tehran not to carry out Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie.

Independent of the quarrels taking place at the top, Iranian society is
gradually undergoing changes of its own.

The police have not stopped raiding "decadent" parties where young people
dance to popular Western music, but they have cut down on harassing couples
in public.

Teenagers wearing T-shirts adorned with the American flag or baseball caps
are less likely to be detained than before, but they could still be stopped
at police roadblocks and have their pop music cassettes seized.

Boys and girls are still uncomfortable holding hands in public and veils are
mandatory, but many young women go so far as to wear sandals without
stockings underneath to cover their feet.

The Islamic regime is proud to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the
revolution, but 1999 could also prove a troubling year for Iranians, who are
growing ever more discontented with economic hardship.

The price of oil, the country's main source of income, has dropped to its
lowest level in a decade, prompting the government to take a series of
austerity measures.

Indeed, talk of inflation, unemployment and recession is all one hears in
collective taxis in Tehran on the eve of the anniversaries.

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

Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 20:36:42 EST
From: CHAIRNGO@AOL.COM
Subject: INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

On International Human Rights Day:
A Call for Action Against Reaction and Repression

The world today has reach unprecedented barbarity.
From Rwanda to Kosovo to Bosnia, millions have been
killed and mutilated. In the United States, political
prisoners, such as Mumia Abu Jamal, are on death row,
and one in four child sleeps hungry. Close to the twenty-
first century, in a period of unparalleled technological
and scientific gains, millions face misery and poverty
and are beaten and killed even for what they wear and
who they love.

One of the most dangerous criminals in this era is Islamic
and Islamist governments and groups which commit genocide
and untold crimes against humanity in Iran, Afghanistan,
Algeria, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan… Islam,
though reactionary as all other religions, has now
dangerously become the mass murderer of countless
human beings. In Islamist societies, women and men
are stoned to death for love, women are denied access
to male physicians, gender-apartheid rules, strikes
are considered haram (religiously prohibited), and girls
of nine are legally raped.

Though professing universal human rights, Western
governments have effectively maintained and aided
such brutality. They have used cultural relativism to
promote the fascism of this era - racism based on
culture and religion rather than biology and race. Using
this theory, Western governments and the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have forcibly
returned asylum seekers to awaiting holocausts, just as
Jews were forcibly returned to Nazi Germany. Meanwhile,
representatives of these governments, like the Islamic
Republic of Iran, walk the halls of the United Nations and
open embassies and Islamic centers outside Iran, while
smirking at their victims and at all humanity.

On International Human Rights Day, the Committee for
Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR)
and the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR)
declare that:

* the Islamic Republic of Iran and other Islamist reactionary
groups and governments have no right to be present in
any international forum, or have embassies or centers in
any country,
* that everyone fleeing that Islamic regime of Iran and other
Islamist societies and groups must be granted asylum, and
that,
* human rights, including the right to asylum, are fundamental
and universal.

We call on everyone who believes in humanity to condemn
and struggle against such reaction until the regimes and
Islamic movement of this era’s holocausts are relegated to
where they belong - out of people’s lives and the twenty-first
century.

Maryam Namazie and Keyvan Javid
December 10, 1998

For more information, contact CHAIR/IFIR at GPO, PO Box 7051,
New York, NY 10116. Tel: 212-747-1046. Fax: 212-425-7240.
E-mail: chairngo@aol.com.

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

Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 20:39:09 EST
From: CHAIRNGO@AOL.COM
Subject: CULTURAL RELATIVISM - THIS ERA'S FASCISM

The following is Maryam Namazie’s speech on cultural
relativism given at a forum on women’s rights in Iran. The
forum, organized by the International Campaign in Defense
of Women’s Rights in Iran (ICDWRI), was held in Toronto,
Canada on November 28, 1998. Other speakers included
representatives of the ICDWRI, Amnesty International and
the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

CULTURAL RELATIVISM – THIS ERA'S FACISM

* In Germany, in August 1997, an 18 year old woman was
burnt to death by her father for refusing to marry the man
he had chosen. A German court gave him a reduced
sentence, saying he was practicing his culture and religion.

* In Iran, women and girls are forcibly veiled under threat
of imprisonment and lashes, and cultural relativists say
that it is their religion and must be respected.

* In Holland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Iran’s
prisons are "satisfactory for third world standards," allowing
the forcible return of asylum seekers.

Cultural relativism serves these crimes. It legitimizes and
maintains savagery. It says that people’s rights are dependent
on their nationality, religion, and culture. It says that the
human rights of someone born in Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan
are different from those of someone born in the United
States, Canada or Sweden.

Cultural relativists say Iranian society is Muslim, implying
that people choose to live the way they are forced to. It's
as if there are no differences in beliefs in Iran, no struggles,
no communists, no socialists, and no freedom-lovers.
If so, why have 150,000 people been executed for opposing
the Islamic Republic of Iran? If it’s the entire society's
culture and religion, why does the Islamic regime need
such extensive tools for repression? If it’s people’s beliefs,
why does the regime control their private lives - from their
sexual activities, to what video they watch, to what music
they listen to? If the entire society is Muslim, why did
Zoleykhah Kadkhoda enter a voluntary sexual relationship
for which she was buried in a ditch and stoned? If it is
people's culture, why did the residents of Bukan revolt
against the stoning and save her life? Why are thousands
of women rounded up in the streets for "improper" veiling
if its their culture and religion? How come, after two
decades of terror and brutality, the universities are
still not Islamic, according to an official of the regime?
Though it's untrue, even if every person living in Iran
had reactionary beliefs, it still wouldn’t be acceptable.
If everyone believes in the superiority of their race,
does that make it okay?

Cultural relativists say that we must respect people's
culture and religion, however despicable. This is absurd
and calls for the respect of savagery. Yes, human beings
are worthy of respect but not all beliefs must be respected.
If culture allows a woman to be mutilated and killed to
save the family "honor," it cannot be excused. In the
Islamic Republic of Iran, religion rules and has become
the mass murderer of people. If religion says that women
who disobey should be beaten, that flogging is acceptable,
and that women are deficient, it must be condemned
and opposed.

The struggle against misogynist and reactionary governments
is inseparable from the struggle against reactionary and
misogynist beliefs. Of course individuals have the right to
their own beliefs, however offensive, but freedom-lovers are
duty bound to expose and condemn reactionary beliefs and
relegate them to the garbage cans of history.

Cultural relativists go further to say that universal human rights
are a western concept. How come when it comes to using the
telephone or a car, the mullah does not say it is western and
incompatible with an Islamist society? How come when it
comes to better exploiting the working class and making
profits, technological gains are universal? But when it
comes to universal human rights, they become western.
Even if rights are western, it is absurd to say that others'
are not worthy of them. In fact, though, rights are gains
forcibly taken by the working class and progressive
social movements. Therefore, any gain or right obtained
anywhere is a gain and a right for all humanity.

Some, even among the "left" say that exposing reactionary
beliefs serves racism. Opposing the rape of a nine year old
girl who is forcibly married does not serve racism. Opposing
the sexual abuse of a child even though the Islamic Republic
of Iran's court says the father was forced to abuse the child
because his wife did not satisfy him, does not serve racism -
just like opposing anti-Semitism doesn't make one a Zionist.
Culture for the sake of culture is not sacred. Racism and
fascism also have their own cultures. A culture that cannot
defend human beings to live a better life is worthless.

Struggling for universal human rights means condemning
and disrespecting reactionary beliefs. The struggle against
dominant reactionary ideas is a struggle against the ideas
of the ruling class. After all, the ruling class must justify
the barbarism of capitalism. It must make the intolerable
seem tolerable and natural. It must create differences to
facilitate profit.

Cultural relativism serves that purpose. The idea of difference
has always been the fundamental principle of a racist agenda.
The defeat of Nazism and its biological theory of difference
largely discredited racial superiority. The racism behind it,
however, found another more acceptable form of expression
for this era. Instead of expression in racial terms, difference
is now portrayed in cultural terms. Cultural relativism is
this era’s fascism. Cultural relativists are defenders of this
era's holocausts.

In an era of unprecedented barbarity we must defend
the universal rights of human beings who daily hope for
freedom and equality. Though a better life is only possible
when this world is turned right side up, anyone who
respects humanity must immediately struggle for the
abolition of all backward and reactionary beliefs which
are incompatible with human freedom and progress
and a secular and modern society for all.

For more information, contact CHAIR/IFIR at GPO, PO
Box 7051, New York, NY 10116. Tel: 212-747-1046.
Fax: 212-425-7240. E-mail: chairngo@aol.com.

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

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 11 Dec 1998 to 12 Dec 1998
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