DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Jun 1998 to 17 Jun 1998

There are 14 messages totalling 741 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. GO IRNA, GO! 2. Montazeri's Ordeal Unconstitutional, says MP's Son 3. Daily says Jame'eh Ruling Unlawful 4. Khatami Next, After Karbaschi, Nouri, Mohajerani 5. Mohajerani Cites Khatami Support for Nouri 6. Iran to have first police academy for women 7. Iranian parliament changes mind on extra rice imports 8. Tehran mayor clashes with judge as trial resumes 9. Iranian authorities release director of moderate newspaper 10. Iranians hold POW talks in Iraq 11. Thousands killed and tortured in Middle East and North Africa - Amnesty 12. FYI: Shafi'i Kadkani, Zarrinkoub, and Eslami Nodushan in New York 13. Khazali U-Turn on Youth Clapping, Whistling in Moharram 14. "Iran Opens the Door"

GO IRNA, GO!

Excerpts:

"Its opponents are quick to cry that national security is being breached in the process. Nothing at all new in that charge. The sacred cow of national security is the first idol waved everywhere, be it communist, capitalist, Hindu, Jew or Muslim who feel traditional prerogatives being threatened."

"It is evident that Jameah has struck a deep chord within the society. To discover this and respond by trying to cut it off at the knees, is both short-sighted and indicative of the fact that the Islamic Republic is still displaying tendencies more appropriate to an absolute monarchy, than a social order committed to creating an Islamic civil society."

"Part of the problem is that some would have us believe that we have already reached that sacred goal. With this enormous challenge out of the way, clearly anything that rocks the boat should be thrown over-board."

"This thinking is a recipe for disaster. It is also a classic characteristic of a hidebound mind."

"Intolerance of every persuasion insists that its worldview encompasses the sum total of knowledge. Anything outside this manifestly restricted loop, is simply forbidden."

Full text follows:

Iran Daily (Journal of Islamic Republic News Agency) June 17, 1998

Dropping Jameah Down the Well

By Hassan Abdul Rahman

In less than two weeks, either the curtain will come ringing down for Jameah or this publication will be given a new lease on life. Others have already made the observation that the fate of this fledgling daily which has taken the country by storm, is a metaphor for the Khatami Administration and its avowed goal of strengthening and deepening the parameters of public discourse.

Obviously, Jameah has gotten under some peoples' skins. It has been all the more irritating to its detractors because the paper is breaking new ground in expanding the criticism of many areas of public life.

Its opponents are quick to cry that national security is being breached in the process. Nothing at all new in that charge. The sacred cow of national security is the first idol waved everywhere, be it communist, capitalist, Hindu, Jew or Muslim who feel traditional prerog-atives being threatened.

What is also clear is that the majority of the reading public has no complaint with the product. To the contrary, they can't seem to get enough. How is it that the youth fill the halls whenever Jameah's editor-in-chief is invited to speak? Does any other newspaper's top pen generate such a response?

It is evident that Jameah has struck a deep chord within the society. To discover this and respond by trying to cut it off at the knees, is both short-sighted and indicative of the fact that the Islamic Republic is still displaying tendencies more appropriate to an absolute monarchy, than a social order committed to creating an Islamic civil society.

Part of the problem is that some would have us believe that we have already reached that sacred goal. With this enormous challenge out of the way, clearly anything that rocks the boat should be thrown over-board.

This thinking is a recipe for disaster. It is also a classic characteristic of a hidebound mind.

Intolerance of every persuasion insists that its worldview encompasses the sum total of knowledge. Anything outside this manifestly restricted loop, is simply forbidden.

One high official has complained that Jameah always deals with questions of social hypocrisy, somehow related to the system. A partisan of the paper has rejoined that if hypocrisy is being written about, then it should be acknowledged that it actually exists.

Any national media at best is a mirror that reflects the reality of a society---warts and all. It is natural that some people will take offense. What is dangerous is keeping too tight a whip hand poised over the industry.

Yes, it is a relatively easy thing to close Jameah. However, to do so would mean to repeat the story of the village idiot who, with the slightest effort, dropped a huge rock down a well that 100 wisemen could not extract.


Montazeri's Ordeal Unconstitutional, says MP's Son

Iran Daily (Journal of Islamic Republic News Agency) June 17, 1998

Press Watch

Jameah quoted Mohammad Hassan Movahedi Savoji from a letter to the supervisory and review board of the constitution, in which he has termed the attack on Ayatollah Husseinali Montazeri's house and office, and the continuation of his house arrest, as well as detain-ing several of his followers, as violations of the constitution. Savoji is the son of Majlis MP Hojjatoleslam Movahedi Savoji. The daily quot-ed Savoji as saying that insulting Ayatollah Montazeri, besides disre-specting a person is also insulting millions of his adherents. He asked whether the shah's regime really dared to insult a religious jurisprudent as Montazeri is now being insulted. Referring to the vagueness of the accusations attributed to those arrested for supporting Montazeri, Savoji noted, "One of the charges brought against me was helping get the works of Montazeri published."


Daily says Jame'eh Ruling Unlawful

Iran Daily (Journal of Islamic Republic News Agency) June 17, 1998

Press Watch

Hamshahri in its 'Daily criticism' wrote that a special court on press offenses despite a jury request for reducing the charges brought against the Persian-daily Jameah, has revoked its license. It said that according to the law, the punishment should com-ply with the kind of offense committed. In press offenses, some exemptions are predicted in view of the degree of intensity of the offense. According to Hamshahri, the revocation of a license is the severest punishment that can be imposed on a paper. The press law says that revoking the license of a publication can only take place in case it insults Islamic sanctities, the religion of Islam itself or the leader of the Islamic Revolution.


Khatami Next, After Karbaschi, Nouri, Mohajerani

Iran Daily (Journal of Islamic Republic News Agency) June 17, 1998

Press Watch

Salam in its 'Allo, Salam' column published a question by a read-er who had asked, "Yesterday it was Gholamhussein Karbaschi, today it is Abdullah Nouri, tomorrow perhaps Ata'ollah Maohajerani, and maybe the people should wait for a day to see President Khatami in trouble?' The daily responded that, "Although most of the behavior by the defeated faction proves the reader's state-ments, but we warn our readers to avoid saying things which worries the people." It went on to say that this group (referring to the rightist faction) should be sure that people will not quit the way they have cho-sen. Our people have taken lessons from their mistakes during the last years and will not let the same thing happen to them again. They are tired of the exaggerations of these people and will not accept any more of this.


Mohajerani Cites Khatami Support for Nouri

mohajerani-impeachment-nouri

mohajerani: president unhappy with impeachment call

tehran, june 17, irna -- the minister of culture and islamic guidance, ataollah mohajerani, here on wednesday said that the president's reference to abdollah nouri as amongst the most successful cabinet ministers, was his way of expressing dissatisfaction with the call in majlis for the interior minister's impeachment.

speaking to reporters, mohajerani said that khatami's criticism of the timing of the impeachment call in last week's cabinet session is further evidence of the president's unhappiness about the motion in majlis.

dismissing statements by some architects of the impeachment call claiming that khatami would change his mind about the interior minister once he hears the report on his performance, mohajerani said ''nobody can pretend that khatami has been unaware of the performance by his most important cabinet minister.''

thirty one majlis deputies on june 10 called for impeachment of interior minister abdollah nouri.

the deputies cited creation of tension in the society, making provocative interviews and speeches and appointing inexperienced people to managerial positions at the interior ministry as amongst reasons for the impeachment call.

mohajerani said he had no knowledge whether the president himself would attend the majlis session on sunday to defend the interior minister. however, he added, ''hojatoleslam abdollah nouri is capable of defending his principled stands as well as matters relating to the interior ministry.''

the government spokesman further criticized the timing of the impeachment motion which coincided with the visit of the kuwaiti interior minister to iran.

meanwhile, the higher education minister, mostafa mo'in, told a student gathering in kurdestan province that it's within the rights of majlis to question and initiate impeachment motions.

''the interior minister can handle himself and should display strong reasoning,'' he said, adding ''its highly unlikely that changing a minister would change the policies of a government.''

::irna 17/06/98 18:46


Iran to have first police academy for women

TEHRAN, June 14 (AFP) - Iran's first police academy for women was inaugurated here on Sunday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Police chief General Hedayat Lotfian, who officially opened the facility, called on women to join the police force in the Islamic Republic.

Lotfian praised "the role of women" in the police and said they would now be able to receive "appropriate training."

He said some 100 women already working in clerical roles in the police would make up the first class of students.

Women served a variety of roles in the police under the Shah, but have worked mainly in offices since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


Iranian parliament changes mind on extra rice imports

TEHRAN, June 17 (AFP) - The Iranian parliament has gone back on a decision to allow more rice imports in a bid to stem spiralling prices of one of the country's staple foods, newspapers here said on Wednesday.

Parliament approved in principle on Sunday a bill allowing extra imports following a sharp rise in prices to more than 6,000 rials a kilo (two dollars at the official exchange rate.)

But during a parliamentary session on Tuesday, several MPs demanded a new vote which failed to gain a majority, and the bill was referred back to committee, newspapers said.

Iran, a major consumer of rice, produces around two million tonnes a year but is not self-sufficient and needs to import various staple goods to meet its needs.

This year Iran is already importing 600,000 tonnes of rice in addition to three million tonnes of wheat, 900,000 tonnes of sugar and 850,000 tonnes of vegetable oil for a total of around 1.6 billion dollars.


Tehran mayor clashes with judge as trial resumes

TEHRAN, June 16 (AFP) - Tehran mayor Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi clashed with the judge as his trial on corruption charges resumed here on Tuesday.

As the session opened, Karbaschi asked to be allowed to say a few phrases in homage to Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad and a revered figure for Iran's Shiite Moslem population.

The judge, a cleric, cut him off saying "this is a court, not a mosque!" to which the mayor replied: "I didn't think a few phrases from Imam Ali could be interpreted as disrespect to the court."

Judge Hojatoleslam Mohseni Ejei admonished Karbaschi for "wasting time." "We're wasting time. There is a time for everything," he said.

The sparring continued through the session, with the judge asking Karbaschi, a key backer of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, to avoid digressions in his answers and to respond directly to charges.

The mayor fired back by reiterating his rejection of the charges against him, calling the trial "a case fabricated for political ends" by the conservative-dominated judiciary.

Karbaschi also rebuked the court for conducting the trial in a way that is "not healthy."

He defended the performance of his co-workers in the Tehran municipality, several of whom he claims were maltreated and sometimes tortured in detention in connection with the corruption investigation.

Called upon to testify, the mayor's financial deputy, Gholareza Ghobeh, told the court he "was detained for 191 days, 55 of them in a solitary cell."

When the judge appeared to cut off the testimony by ordering Ghobeh to return to his seat, Karbaschi accused the magistrate of "partiality."

The judge said that former interior minister Ali Mohammad Besharati, who is close to conservative circles, will appear at the next session.

But he rescheduled the next session from Sunday to June 25 to avoid a conflict with Sunday's World Cup football match between Iran and the United States.

He said the postponement would "permit the population to follow this sensitive and important match for our country."

Each session of Karbaschi's trial is being broadcast in its entirety by state radio and television.

Mayor of this metropolis of some 10 million people since 1989, Karbaschi is being tried for fraud, embezzlement, diversion of public funds, mismanagement and other alleged offenses.

The 44-year-old mayor has also been accused of using municipal funds to help finance the election campaigns of moderate candidates during 1996 legislative polls.

Karbaschi's arrest and detention for 11 days in April triggered a crisis between Khatami's mainly moderate government and the conservative-dominated judiciary.

The mayor was released from prison on the orders of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following a request from Khatami and against the wishes of the judiciary which had wanted him remanded in custody until his trial.


Iranian authorities release director of moderate newspaper

TEHERAN, June 14 (AFP) - The Iranian authorities on Sunday released the director of a moderate newspaper published by journalists from the official news agency IRNA.

Ali-Mohammad Mahdavi-Khorami, director of Gozarech-eh Rouz (News of the Day), was released on bail, a judicial official told IRNA, adding that chief editor Mohammad Aghazadeh had been ordered to appear for questioning.

Mahdavi-Khorami was detained on Friday after he refused to answer a court summons. The paper voluntarily stopped publishing Wednesday while it waited to appear in court to respond to charges from the culture ministry.

The paper is accused of reprinting on the front page of its last edition an article from an Arab newspaper reporting that certain Iranian leaders have begun sending capital out of the country.

Iran's deputy culture minister, Ahmad Bourghani, told the Iranian media Wednesday that reprinting the article was "irresponsible," and suggested the paper could be banned.

In May, the culture ministry warned the same paper after it published a picture of young people exchanging knowing looks in public, which it lambasted as an "attack on decency and Islamic values."

A Tehran press court last week revoked the licence of another moderate daily, Jameeh, and banned its managing director from holding similar responsibilities with other newspapers for a year.

Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani last week criticized the paper for publishing a photo in which a drawing of ousted former president Abolhasssan Bani Sadr appeared.

Jameeh, which first rolled off the presses in February, was one of the most visible symbols of the recent changes in Iran's print media, which has become more diversified and critical since moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami took power as president in August.

But in recent weeks Jameeh has been the target of a barrage of criticism from fundamentalists and conservatives accused of publishing tendentious and sometimes anti-Islamic articles.


Iranians hold POW talks in Iraq

BAGHDAD, June 17 (AFP) - An Iranian delegation opened talks here Wednesday on POWs still being held from the 1980-1988 war between the two countries, an Iranian diplomat said.

The eight-member delegation was led by General Abdollah Najafi, head of the Iranian committee on prisoners of war.

The International Committee of the Red Cross oversaw an April 2-7 operation in which 5,584 Iraqi POWs were returned, as well as three Iranian POWs and 316 other Iranian captives.

Earlier this month, Iran and Iraq exchanged almost 200 soldiers' remains. The issue of POWs is a key stumbling-block to a normalization of ties between the two Moslem neighbours.

But Iranian pilgrims have been allowed to visit Shiite holy sites in Iraq for the first time since the war, and Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz has said relations are "slowly and gradually improving."


Thousands killed and tortured in Middle East and North Africa - Amnesty

LONDON, June 17 (AFP) - Thousands of people were systematically tortured or killed, deprived of the most elementary justice, in the Middle East and North Africa last year, Amnesty International said in its annual report Wednesday. "Hundreds of cases of unfair trials of political prisoners were recorded in most countries ... while hundreds of other political detainees continued to be held years after their arrest without charge or trial," the report said. "Torture remained widespread and in some countries systematic, and the number of executions recorded by Amnesty International increased significantly." Algeria saw some of the worst violence against civilians since the beginning of the conflict in 1992, the report said, adding that in October Amnesty and other human rights groups had called for an international investigation. "In rural areas, armed groups massacred thousands of men, women and children with unspeakable brutality. Killings often went on for several hours in villages close to army barracks, but the army and security forces failed to intervene...." "Security forces were responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture and 'disappearances,' and state-armed militias committed deliberate and arbitrary killings and other abuses against civilians." Amnesty pointed to arrests of opponents of the government and the lack of fair trials in such countries as Bahrain and Saudia Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Iran, Egypt and Israel. In Israel Palestinian detainees continued to be systematically tortured and ill-treated, Amnesty said, noting that the UN Committee against Torture had branded certain Israeli practices as such. At least three detainees also died in custody in Palestinian-ruled areas, apparently as a result of torture, the report said. In various countries of the Gulf "cruel and inhuman judicial punishments, such as amputations, flogging and stoning were widely imposed," Amnesty said, singling out Iran, Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Death sentences remained high, with 122 in Saudi Arabia, "many of the victims being migrant workers sentenced after grossly unfair trials conducted in secret in the absence of any defence lawyer," and 143 in Iran. Positive events during the year included the Egyptian supreme court upholding a ban on the practice of female genital mutilation, and the release of some political prisoners in Syria.


FYI: Shafi'i Kadkani, Zarrinkoub, and Eslami Nodushan in New York

Epic of Soul & Wisdom An Inquiry into the Thoughts of Hakim Abolqasem Ferdowsi

Sponsored by: The Council for the Promotion of the Persian Language & Literature in North America Columbia University

*** Friday, June 26, 1998 5-11PM Saturday, June 27, 1998 9AM-10PM Casa Italiana, Columbia University 1161 Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY 10027 Registration: (212) 397-6094 The following speakers have been invited to present papers in the conference:

Alireza Amir-Moezzi (France) Jereme Clinton (USA) S.M. Dabirsiyaghi (Iran) Olga Davidson (USA) Dick Davis (USA) M.A. Eslami Nodushan (Iran) Charles H. Fouchecour (France) Gholam Ali Haddad Adel (Iran) Ahmad M. Damghani (USA) Nasrollah Pourjavadi (Iran) Ali Ravaghi (Iran) Fazlollah Reza (Canada) Ali Mohammad Sajjadi (Iran) M. Reza Shafi'i Kadkani (Iran) Seyyed Jafar Shahidi (Iran) Abdol-Hossein Zarrinkoub (Iran)


Khazali U-Turn on Youth Clapping, Whistling in Moharram

khazali: youth who clapped at tehran u. have good intentions

tehran, june 17, irna -- ayatollah abolqasem khazali, member of the guardians council, here tuesday night said that the youth who clapped and wistled during the may 23rd celebrations at tehran university have good spirit and genuine nature.

he said that the enemy should not be allowed to take advantage of this good-natured youths.

addressing a memorial ceremony for ayatollah boroujerdi on may 29, ayatollah khazali had said "allah-o-akbar is gone, with the people clapping and whistling in the month of moharram.''

ayatollah khazali was criticizing the youth for clapping and whistling during a speech by president mohammad khatami to a rally at tehran university at the first anniversary of his election.

deploring the prevailing mood at tehran university on may 23rd rally, ayatollah khazali said, ''they whistle instead of saying a salavat and they clap hands instead of salavat ... i hope this mistake will immediately be corrected. i request our president to declare this mistake unequivocally.''

the ayatollah, speaking in a mourning ceremony in tehran last night on the 40th day of martyrdom of imam hussein (as), the third imam of the infallible household of prophet mohammad (pbuh), criticized the press for having distorted his earlier remarks.

he said that in his may 29 speech he gave some recommendations adding that the focal point of his speech, contrary to what was printed in the press, was not clapping and whistling of the youth.

''i have great respect and sympathy for the youth of the country. whatever i say is inspired by this sympathy. i have sympathy for the whole population.''

in conclusion of his speech he urged all those who care for islam and the revolution to refrain from discord and tolerate one another. he said enemy takes advantage of schism.

::irna 17/06/98 14:18


Iran Opens the Door

From USNews Online: 6/17/98

Iran opens the door

In an ancient land, the emphasis is on tourism, not terrorism

BY NORIE QUINTOS DANYLIW

Above the entrance to the Homa Hotel in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz are 6-inch-high burnished brass capital letters that spell out in English: "Down with U.S.A." Beneath it, American tourists lounge in the lobby sipping nonalcoholic beer and not-quite-the-real-thing cola. The former Sheraton doesn't take American Express; a U.S. trade embargo keeps American companies from doing business in the country. But it happily takes U.S. dollars.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is still remembered for taking dozens of American hostages in 1979 and holding them for 444 days. These days, however, Iran wants to be known for tourism rather than terrorism. The government recently began issuing tourist visas to U.S. citizens, and after nearly two decades, Americans can once again visit the gloriousruins of Persepolis, the rich museums of Tehran, and Esfahan's mesmerizing blue-tiled mosques. While there are still no diplomatic ties between the United States and Iran, cultural ties are forming, particularly on the playing field. Iranians welcomed American wrestlers warmly to Tehran in February and are sure to be watching when the two countries face off on the soccer field in France on June 21 in the World Cup. Early this year, President Mohammed Khatami told CNN he welcomed "an exchange of professors, writers, . . . and tourists." In response, the State Department toned down its travelers' advisory, noting that the country is no longer dangerous for Americans, though it still advises against travel there. Waiting list. Last year, some 500 American tourists visited Iran, nearly all through American tour groups. This year, the number is expected to double. "We announced two trips last year and within 24 hours they sold out," says Janet Moore, president of Distant Horizons (800-333-1240), a tour operator based in Long Beach, Calif.

Visitors expecting to rough it in a country enfeebled by U.S. sanctions and the eight-year war with Iraq that ended in 1988 are in for a shock. Iran hides its trauma well. Roads are good. The water is generally potable. The food--mostly meat kebabs and rice--is not unfamiliar to most Americans. Many Iranians speak English. And the former Hyatt and Hilton hotels are shabby but serviceable. Compared with China or Pakistan, Iran is comfortable, even cushy.

But for the worldly, mostly older travelers who can spare the time and money to visit (trips typically run two to three weeks and cost as little as $4,800, including airfare), comfort isn't the point. "I'm fascinated by the culture of this place and curious about the people. Besides, I've been everywhere else," says René Girerd, 78, of Morris Plains, N.J., a retired pathologist on a group tour organized by San Francisco-based Geographic Expeditions (800-777-8183). Typical stops include the Caspian resort town of Ramsar; the sacred city of Mashhad; the abandoned, medieval city of Bam; and serene Shiraz. But for sheer beauty, few cities exceed Esfahan, which its 16th-century residents boasted was "half the world." Its azure-domed mosques, sycamore-lined boulevards, painted palaces, and the warrens of its bazaar encapsulate all that is romantic and exotic about the Near East. But while Esfahan and the rest of the country are blissfully devoid of tourist traps of the T-shirt and key chain variety, shoppers can still get fleeced at the bazaar. The most skillful merchants are the carpet sellers, who engage you in small talk, invite you in for tea, and only after a second cup start showing you rugs--and then only in the guise of education. Don't have the cash? No matter. Some say they'll let you take the rug and trust you to wire payment to a U.S. bank account. Getting it through U.S. Customs is another matter: The regulation bars Iranian-made goods "other than gifts valued at $100 or less" from entering the country. In practice, many inspectors have interpreted it loosely. Nowhere did I appreciate the lack of mass tourism more than at Persepolis. Built by Darius the Great, sacked by Alexander the Great, and buried by the sands of time until it was rediscovered in the 1930s, Persepolis remains the best-preserved example of the achievements of the ancient Persian empire that once extended east to India and west to the Aegean Sea. The complex of stone columns, palaces, and portals rivals the ruins of Rome and Athens in beauty and scope. Places seem to retain so much more of their history when your view isn't framed by the back of other sightseers' heads.

But it's hard to concentrate on architectural wonders--even 2,500-year-old ones--while standing in the summer heat wearing a trench coat, long pants, socks, and a head scarf, as I was. Mandated during the revolution that overthrew the shah, the Islamic hejab ensures women keep covered in public. It's a searing reminder that Iran remains an Islamic theocracy, with few of the personal freedoms Westerners are accustomed to.

Bare ankles. But there are signs that times are changing. While most women still wear the traditional chador, a tentlike black cloak covering all but the face and held closed at the neck by the hand or the teeth, some are donning loose coats and head scarves in neutral shades. As for the heat, one woman confessed, "Actually, I'm not wearing too much under this." Like Catholic schoolgirls testing the school dress code by rolling up the waistbands of their uniform skirts, some Iranian women push the limit--applying heavy makeup, showing hair beneath a scarf, exposing slices of neck or ankle, or sporting the latest European shoes and handbags.

European and American culture thrived right up until the 1970s, and 20 years of isolation has not been able to kill it. Western commercialism seeps in through the Internet, pirated videos ("Have you seen Titanic?" I was asked more than once), and indoor satellite dishes that pick up CNN and the Cartoon Network. And plenty of Iranians living abroad in Paris, Frankfurt, and Los Angeles ("Tehran-geles") go home for visits. Tehran, where every trip begins and ends, is a loud, homely city with a gorgeous alpine backdrop. Don't miss the Archaeological Museum, the Carpet Museum, and the National Jewels Museum, located in a bank vault and containing the glittering royal jewels of the kingdom. For a look at more recent history, I tried to enter the former U.S. Embassy--now called the "U.S. Den of Espionage" and containing a military school--but I was politely refused. Instead I walked the length of its green gate and read the graffiti: "This century, God willing, is the century of the weak taking over the strong."

Fallen dynasty. On the outskirts of Tehran is the Mellat Palace Museum, the last shah's White Palace. Its '70s-dictator-chic decor--gilded baths, French crystal chandeliers, mirrored walls--is a display of the Pahlavi dynasty's excesses. South of town, stock up on Khomeini postcards at the uncompleted shrine to the late leader of the Islamic revolution.

The twin ayatollahs--Ruhollah Khomeini and the current Ali Khamenei--peer out from giant billboards at traffic circles and from posters in offices, shops, and restaurants throughout the country. They're also on a huge mural on the side of Esfahan's Kowsar Hotel. At night, only their eyes are visible above the treetops from the nearby riverside park. But their Big Brother gazes are unable to keep dating couples from furtively holding hands.

What undoubtedly surprises visitors the most is the overwhelming friendliness of the Iranians toward Americans. Strangers we met invited us into their homes, and students engaged us in conversation to practice their English. Even in the ultrareligious city of Qum--the one place American tour groups have been barred from entering a mosque--someone in our group found a willing mullah to pose for photos. And when some youths mobbed us in Shiraz, it was only to smile and shout: "Hallo, Western! Hallo, Western!"

At least one person isn't a bit surprised by this love fest: former hostage Bruce Laingen. The senior diplomat at the embassy in Tehran when it was stormed in November 1979, Laingen says, "Iranians are among the most hospitable people in the world. What happened to us was totally out of character for them. I look forward to going back myself someday." Friendly residents. Mullahs on motorbikes. Chador-clad women in Gucci pumps. Trendy teahouses. Laingen may not be surprised, but I sure was.


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Jun 1998 to 17 Jun 1998
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