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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 29 Apr 1998 to 30 Apr 1998
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There are 6 messages totalling 547 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Problems facing a womens movement in Islamic countries
2. Facing a stormy unstable and brittle future
3. HAMAS spiritual guide meets Iranian FM
4. British foreign secretary "applauds" changes in Iran
5. Iranian speaker accuses US of plotting against Islamic republic
6. Iran told US it would back Israeli pullout from Lebanon: Beilin


Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 18:00:23 +0200
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad.abdolian@RSA.ERICSSON.SE>
Subject: Problems facing a womens movement in Islamic countries


Problems facing a women’s movement in Islamic countries

Interview with Nawal El Saadawi

Women’s Voice: What is your opinion on Islamic feminism? Is there any
meaning to this phenomenon?

Nawal El Saadawi: Yes there is meaning to Islamic feminism (and
Christian feminism) if those religions are interpreted in a progressive
way so that God means justice, freedom and love and not a text.

WV: There are women believers of Islam in Iran who also believe women
should be equal to men in social rights. What do you think of this?

El Saadawi : Why not. You can believe in Islam (or any other religion)
and interpret it to mean equality and social justice.

WV: Is the equality between men and women achievable under a religious
state? For instance the Iranian Islamic state formally, and on paper,
accepts this equality. Yet the philosophy of the Islamic Republic is
based on Islamic sharia’. Do you think that Islamic sharia’ and equality
of men and women are compatible?

El Saadawi: I do not think any religious state is able to be just and
fair. Religion is a political ideology based on class oppression and
male domination. The sharia’ is different from faith or belief. Sharia’
is made by people and changes all the time. The faith also changes, but
could be a personal private matter not connected with politics or the
state or land or anything else, as in the case of sharia’.

WV: is it possible, without going into religious arguments, to create a
women’s movement based upon specific demands of women such as the right
to divorce, equal inheritance, guardianship of children etc.?

El Saadawi: Yes it is possible

WV: Independent women’s movement in Islamic countries are usually seen
as dependent to foreigners and to the West. How can these movements
overcome such a suspicion and how can they prove that the defence of
equality between men and women has nothing to do with dependency to the
West, and that a feminist movement can also stand up to dependency and

El Saadawi: Women can prove that they are independent of the West or
East by their work, activities, writings, etc.,.... You can fight
against negative rumour by your work and activities and thoughts.

WV: The development of feminist movements in Western countries was in a
convergence with the workers’ movement, or at least, they have never
been in opposition to each other. On the other hand in Islamic
countries, women’s movements appear to be imprisoned in the circle of
the middle and upper classes (of course this does not apply to Iran
because of the presence of a religious state).

In Islamic countries, the more we move to the bottom of society, the
movement of the poor gets more masculine. That is to say in Islamic
countries there is a gap between the feminist and workers’ movements.
How do you explain this phenomenon and what can be done about it?

El Saadawi: There is also a gap between the feminist movement in the
West and the workers. The same as in other countries. But the women’s
liberation movement can attract women from all classes, but each class
can produce their leaders. Nobody is going to liberate the peasants
except peasants. We liberate ourselves. Nobody can liberate the other.
Begin with yourself is a principle that is genuine and real.

WV: The experience of Iran taught us that the women’s movement should be
independent of men in order to become more dynamic and energetic.
Independent of men means that the activity and movement should not be
slowed down by the men’s movement. It has to be expanded by its own
potential energy. Also independence from men does not mean being in
opposition and antagonism to men. Do you think such a movement in
Islamic counties has a chance to become a mass movement?

El Saadawi: In our experience in our countries, we have 30% men in our
associations. Men and women can work together if they unveil their
brains and acquire knowledge in a new light. But this depends on place
and time. Sometimes independent women’s organisations are a must.

Yes women organisations in our countries have the chance to be a mass
movement if women connect and organise across class barriers.

WV: Given the lack of democracy, bigotry and fanaticism in Islamic
countries, is the women’s movement able to become an active movement
with discipline, organisation and strong political muscle throughout
these countries. Do you see the women movement coming out of its present
position of small cells? If this is probable, in your view what
conditions, techniques, demands and possibilities is needed?

El Saadawi: Democracy is lacking all over the world. Women organise in
spite of all that. There are women organisations in Islamic countries
that are fighting but we do not hear about them. It is lack of
communication. Of course under dictatorships all organisations (women
and men) are handicapped but they work underground. Men are more
experienced in underground work than women. But women are learning to
organise in spite of prisons and oppression. It is human nature to fight
for freedom, nobody can stop you.

This interview was conducted by Shiva, from Avaye Zan (Women’s Voice)
London, November 1997.

# Farhad Abdolian, #
# HW Design Engineer @ Ericsson Radio Access AB #
# Dept. B/UF, Box 11, S-164 93 Stockholm, Sweden #
# Phone +46-8-404 82 91 Fax: +46-8-764 18 58 #


Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 18:02:12 +0200
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad.abdolian@RSA.ERICSSON.SE>
Subject: Facing a stormy unstable and brittle future

Facing a stormy unstable and brittle future

While Khatami's allies try to find a united voice to keep promises the
ruling faction hits out

The overwhelming defeat of the ruling faction in the presidential
elections last May unexpectedly upset the balance of power. This
faction, led by the supreme clerical ruler (velayate faghih) Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei, is now doing everything to direct the stream back into its
previous path. A new phase has opened up in the power relations within
the governing bloc of the Islamic Republic of Iran which is best
described as brittle and unstable. We will briefly touch on events and
processes that illustrate this point.

Khamenei's faction employes two sets of tactics to repair the damage:
one designed to wear down Khatami's support base, and the other to break
up the coalition which the election process drew round him.

Wearing down

In order to erode Khatami's support base there is a concerted effort to
dampen all hopes that his administration can effect any reforms. This is
combined with a tactic to stoke a climate of fear and repression. A
number of levers have come in handy.

The most important was to weaken the constitutional powers of the
presidency and the administration. The power structure was refashioned
by fashioning parallel institutions. The most substantial of these was
the revival of the Assembly for Expediency1 with greatly expanded
powers, and placing at its head a man of the stature of ex-president

Almost as significant was the move to emasculate the Ministry of
Interior by denying that post-holder - Hojjatoleslam Nouri - the command
of the internal security forces (Revolutionary Komitees, Police,
Gendarmerie). This had been normal practice in every single cabinet
since the revolution, and until the recent elections both Ayatolah
Khomeini and his replacement Khamenei' had handed over command over
domestic security forces to the Interior Minister. Without such powers
the minister is like a knife without a blade.

Moreover, there are rumours that the Information (security) Ministry is
to be taken out of the hands of the president and placed directly under
the control of Khamenei'. The powers of the "supreme clerical
rulership"2 is being redefined and extended. The Majles (parliament) too
is being brought in as yet another way to paralyse the administration.
Ministers are constantly being questioned. The most important in this
line was the savage questioning of the Interior Minister, Nouri, who was
accused of giving permission for the Student Supporters of the Imam-line
3 to hold public meetings and demonstrations, to "create disturbances"
and conduct "moves against the [Islamic] order". It should be recalled
that the new president had been overwhelmingly voted in on the promise
that he would open the political and cultural climate, and install
"civil society".


A wave of repression has been launched from several angles. The dominant
faction controls virtually the whole of the state repressive apparatus:
the judiciary, the revolutionary courts, the Pasdaran Corps
(revolutionary guards), the Komitees,4 other armed forces and security
organs, and the secret and security services. They have unleashed a
noisy, and well publicised, wave of arrests and allegations.

Prominent among their victims, have been a number of municipal mayors,
appointees of Teheran's mayor Karbaschi, himself a supporter of Khatami.
These have been arrested and charged with corruption. Karbaschi himself
was called in for interrogation and released on bail. He has been
ordered not to leave the country. More recently the head of the Freedom
Movement, Dr Ebrahim Yazdi was arrested, and later released, accused of
plotting against the security of the country.

Alongside these judicial arrests have been extra-judicial acts. Groups
of thugs have been mobilised under the guise of the "hezbollahi people"
(who are only doing their duty of religious guidance ) to attack and
violently disrupt meetings and gatherings of Khatami's supporters.

Gangs of thugs attacked the office of the student paper Payam-e Danshju,
savagely beat up and hospitalised Tabarzani, one of the leaders of the
Office of Unity,5 disrupted the student meeting in Teheran University
where Ebrahim Yazdi, Dr Peiman and a number of prominent critiques and
opponents of the dominant faction were invited speakers, and smashed up
of the house of Ayatollah Montazeri [see article this issue]. This last
was so brazen as to provoke the protest of even some in the dominant

All this is happening within a backdrop of an ever increasingly
difficult daily life and little hope for an immediate improvement in
living standards. In this atmosphere the dominant ultra-conservative
faction hopes that the combination of Khatami's unfulfilled promises,
police pressure and judicial insecurity will cause people to lose heart
and become passive. The ultimate aim is to erode the president's ability
to manoeuvre on the back of popular support.

Crack the alliance

The second front opened up by the Khamenei' faction is to split the
coalition which gathered round Khatami during the lead up to the
election. A key move was to humour Hashemi Rafsanjani (by making him
head of the Assembly for Expediency), and some of those around him in an
effort to break up the so called "Agents of Construction" faction. 6

Secondly they used the open criticisms of the supreme religious
leadership (velayate faghih), voiced by of Khatami's allies, to create a
rift between the more conservative supporters among Khatami's circle and
those inclined to reform. For example the recent moves by the Student
Supporters of the Imam-line, in dialogue with Islamic political currents
outside the circle of power (such as the Freedom Movement), 7 or even
Ayatollah Montazeri's criticism of the current interpretations of the
system of velayate faghih, and in particular, its embodiment in the
person of Ali Khamenei' was used to create rift among the pro-Khatami

Khatami's team: not with one voice

The opposing camp, which gathered round the candidacy of Khatami has
reacted to these hostile and obstructive tactics. But these reactions do
not add up to a coherent and co-ordinated policy.

The president himself and some in his circle rely on the weapon of "law"
and "legality". They hope to use this to curb and overcome the gangs of
thugs organised by the security organisations. Moreover, they hope to
limit the illegal interference by numerous recently concocted
institutions. Above all they hope to limit the supreme clerical ruler to
act within his constitutional powers, which, in reality, he has far out

Others in Khatami's coalition go further. They see a need for
constitutional change which limits the powers and jurisdiction of the
supreme clerical rulership (velayate faghih). They have expressed these
views in speeches, articles, open debates, demonstrations and
resolutions. A demonstration 3,000 Student Followers of the Imam-line
outside Teheran University openly demanded a revision of the
Constitution. In their view the current system of power, and the
absolute power held by Khamenei', wherein he has taken on himself the
right to be answerable to no one and no organ yet retains the right to
intervene in any situation and have the final say, leaves no room for
policies different to the opinions of the dominant faction and of the
person of Khamenei'.

There is, however, something new in the air. Despite the savage rebukes
these groups have had to face, the actual principle of the velayate
faghih and its current embodiment Khamenei', has become a subject for
serious debate. This has not happened since the early days of the
Islamic Republic. On this point the ruling faction has been manoeuvred
into an uncomfortably diffensive position. The credit for this
development must go not just to groups within the ruling bloc, but
undoubtedly to the efforts of many tendencies outside the circle of
power - people like the philosopher Surush, Ayatollah Montazeri and

How to keep the base

There is a third aspect to the policies of the Khatami coalition around
which there is no broad agreement. Not only do they disagree as to
whether they should be incisive and aggressive or passive and defensive
in beating back the ruling faction's obstructive policies, but they also
disagree on how to maintain their links with the millions who voted
Khatami into the presidency, or the extent to which people should be
involved and informed of current developments.

The president, in practice at least, shows that he favours positive and
constructive criticisms, ones not openly critical of the leadership. In
his reports to the people he highlights in a positive way his stress on
the operation of the law and legality. The same policy is more or less
being pursued by the pro-Khatami clerical organisation, the Majma'
Ruhaniun Mobarez. 8

On the other hand, the Mujahedin Enghelabe Eslami, 9 another group in
the pro-Khatami alliance, prefers to frankly expose the obstructive
tactics of the organs of power and influence, and indirectly criticise
those around the supreme clerical ruler and his apparatus. In a series
of articles and leaflets MEE has denounced the intrigues of the
opponents of the president and his promised reforms.

In this way some of Khatami's allies are criticising him indirectly for
his caution and excessive flexibility. They remind him that time works
against him and he is in danger of losing his present momentum.

Consensus on foreign policy

Yet criticisms for domestic policies aside, there appears to be broad
agreement and support for Khatami's more aggressive foreign policy
initiatives. Even those, within his coalition who, one might expect
would have problems with overtures to the West and particularly to the
USA, have apparently for the time being shelved their overt misgivings.

The president's clever use of the possibilities presented by the
Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in December in Teheran is
noteworthy. The OIC delegates decisively supported Khatami in his two
speeches where he expressed his different, and in essence totally
opposite, stance to Khamenei' in public without any concealment or

He presented an essentially reformist and modern understanding of Islam,
as a culture which despite differences with Western culture and
modernism, is not in conflict with it. Instead he proposed dialogue and
a symbiotic relationship between the two cultures. He thus openly
distanced himself from Khamenei' who, in a speech to the conference,
attacked the West and the USA and proposed an Islamic alliance (from its
Afghani to Lebanese and Sudanese varieties) to oppose the "West" which
he painted as a uniform entity.

Moreover in the same conference, Khatami took the opportunity to frankly
expound a large part of his domestic programme: the rule of law, respect
for the legitimate rights of people in the framework of law and shari'a,
and the acceptance of a civil society and cultural pluralism to a
national and international audience. He even had much of it enter the
final Conference communiqué. In other words he made foreign policy a
weapon to isolate the ruling faction internationally and he used it

The relationships and clashes among the ruling factions, varied as they
are, may lose some of its momentum under the heavy pressure of
compromise and wheeling and dealing. Yet any lull, as happened in the
run up to the OIC is unlikely to last for long. The contradictions which
fuel this crisis are too deep to allow a pause to be a lengthy or

There is a great deal of evidence that a lull - even if a lull can
happen - will be followed by greater and more savage friction. The gap
between the "republic" and the "caliphate" 10 is so great that its
reconciliation can only be a pipe dream. Some, like Rafsanjani, try to
plug the gap by arguing that instead of trying to give greater power to
the velayate faghih, it is might be better to substitute the single
leader with a leadership council. Even if this were possible, it is
probably an antidote too late to save the patient.


Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 20:37:11 +0200
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: HAMAS spiritual guide meets Iranian FM

TEHRAN, April 30 (AFP) - The spiritual guide of the hardline
Shiite fundamentalist Palestinian group HAMAS, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin,
held talks here on Wednesday with the Iranian foreign minister, the
official IRNA news agency reported.
Sheikh Yassin told Kamal Kharazi that HAMAS would "not cede a
single inch of Palestinian land to the enemy" - a reference to
Israel, IRNA said.
"The main purpose of HAMAS is to fight Israel until all the
occupied Palestinian lands are liberated," he was quoted as saying,
adding that this task called for "patience, perseverance and
He said the current deadlock in the Middle East peace process
"has helped Palestinians to realise that fighting against the
Zionist regime's occupation and oppression is the only way to
liberate Jerusalem".
Sheikh Yassin praised what he called the "exceptional stand
taken by Iran and its spiritual support for the struggle of the
Palestinian people".
Sheikh Yassin is currently on a tour of Gulf states, which has
already taken him to Qatar. He is due to go on to Kuwait.
HAMAS rejects the Israeli-Palestinian autonomy accords and has
carried out several bomb attacks in Israel.


Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 20:35:56 +0200
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: British foreign secretary "applauds" changes in Iran

CAIRO, April 29 (AFP) - British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
heaped praise on the "pragmatic approach" of Iranian foreign policy
under President Mohammad Khatami, in an interview published on
"We applaud the Iranian government's efforts to develop a civil
society and institutionalise respect for the rule of law," Cook told
the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, which is also published in
Cairo and other Arab capitals.
"We also welcome the more pragmatic direction of Iran's foreign
policy," Cook said, according to the English text of the interview.
The foreign secretary praised Khatami, a moderate cleric elected
in May last year, for showing "interest in developing understanding
between civilisations."
He also described recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by
former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as "signs that the
Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran are starting to develop a closer
understanding on security and other matters."
Cook said these "positive steps" convinced the European Union in
February to resume dialogue with Iran after a ten-month break
prompted by a German court verdict implicating Tehran's regime in
the assassination of Kurdish opposition leaders in Berlin in 1992.
Britain, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, is
"liaising with the Iranian government over arrangements for a first
meeting. I hope this will take place soon," Cook said.
But he expressed concern over Iran's record of "support to
terrorism and its support for groups who use violence to subvert the
Middle East peace process" and arms proliferation.
The British foreign secretary angered the Iranian leadership
earlier this month with charges that it had attempted to buy British
nuclear technology.
In a break with the secrecy traditionally surrounding Britain's
security services, Cook said that the foreign intelligence service
MI6 and the GCHQ communications monitoring agency had "tracked
Iran's nuclear weapons programme and have enabled us to disrupt
Iranian attempts to procure British technology."
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mahmud Mohammadi described
the charges as "baseless" and said they were an attempt to cover up
a row in Britian over the delivery of a consignment of Georgian
nuclear waste.
Relations between Britain and Iran have been severely strained
since the Islamic Republic issued a death sentence against British
author Salman Rushdie in 1989 over his book "The Satanic Verses,"
saying it was an insult to Islam.
Britain is represented in Iran by a charge d'affaires and not an
ambassador, as is the case for all other members of the European
Cook spoke to Al-Hayat on the eve of a meeting between officials
from the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting, expected to take place in Brussels on Wednesday, is
aimed at bolstering ties between the two regional bodies as well as
discussing Iran, Iraq and the Middle East peace process, Cook said.


Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 20:36:51 +0200
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iranian speaker accuses US of plotting against Islamic republic

KUWAIT, April 29 (AFP) - Iran's visiting parliamentary speaker
Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri accused the United States on Wednesday of
continuing to plot against the Islamic republic and warned of a
crisis of confidence between the two countries.
"The United States is continuing to plot against Iran and Tehran
has no confidence in Washington," Nateq-Nuri said at a press
conference here.
"There is a great wall and a lack of trust preventing any
normalisation," said Nateq-Nuri, the leader of the powerful
conservative faction in Iran who has been in Kuwait since Monday.
"Those who have built this wall must knock it down themselves to
be able to improve their relations with Iran."
Tehran and Washington broke diplomatic ties in 1980, shortly
after the Islamic revolution which toppled the pro-American shah,
and they have been enemies ever since.
In January, however, President Mohammad Khatami, who defeated
Nateq-Nuri in the May presidential election, made a televised
address to the American people, calling for cultural exchanges,
though not official dialogue, to "crack the wall of mistrust."
But Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said Monday that his
country felt "no need" for official talks with the United States as
long as Washington pursued its hostile policies towards Tehran.
Asked about ties with Iraq, Nateq-Nuri said: "There are no
relations with the Iraqi side.
"Our relations are simply based on UN Security Council
Resolution 598 and we have not gone beyond that," he said, referring
to the resolution that brought an end to the 1980-88 war with Iraq.
On Iran's decades-old dispute with the United Arab Emirates over
three strategic islands in the southern Gulf, Nateq-Nuri said Tehran
was trying to find "common ground."
Tehran and Abu Dhabi both claim sovereignty over the islands,
which were occupied by Iran in 1971 shortly before the UAE was
created. Iran has since had total control over Greater and Lesser
Tunb, but administered Abu Mussa jointly with the the UAE emirate of
The UAE has repeated called for arbitration by the International
Court of Justice but the proposal has been rejected outright by
"My country is opposed to the Emirates taking recourse to
arbitration by the international court," the speaker said.


Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 20:36:33 +0200
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran told US it would back Israeli pullout from Lebanon: Beilin

JERUSALEM, April 29 (AFP) - Iran has discreetly told the United
States it was ready to back Israel's proposal to withdraw its forces
from the buffer zone they occupy in south Lebanon, an Israeli
opposition leader said Wednesday.
Yossi Beilin, a former minister from the Labor Party, told
Israel radio of the purported Iranian stance after meeting in
Washington and New York with US Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
He provided no further details.
The Israeli government this month adopted a 20-year-old UN
resolution, number 425, calling for it to withdraw its forces from
But it conditioned the pullout on Lebanon agreeing to guarantee
the security of Israel's northern border from attack by Islamic and
other guerrillas who have been battling Israeli occupation forces.
Lebanon and its Syrian patron have rejected the proposal, saying
resolution 425 requires an immediate and unconditional withdrawal.
But Lebanese President Elias Hrawi said last week that he would
be willing to negotiate security arrangements for south Lebanon with
the United Nations, though not directly with Israel.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to discuss the
Lebanon issue with Annan on May 15 in London.
Beilin, who has spearheaded calls in Israel for a unilateral
withdrawal from south Lebanon, also said the United States had
expressed a willingness to contribute troops to an eventual
international peacekeeping force in areas evacuated by Israel.
Public pressure for a withdrawal from Lebanon has grown sharply
over the past few months in Israel due to rising toop losses in the
buffer zone.
Last year 39 troops died fighting in the zone -- the highest
toll since 1985 -- and 73 more died when two helicopters taking them
to the war zone collided.


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 29 Apr 1998 to 30 Apr 1998