DNI-NEWS Digest - 5 May 1998 to 6 May 1998

There are 3 messages totalling 173 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Civil Society in Action 2. Sarkuhi in Frankfurt 3. PEN Press Release: Sarkouhi in Germany

Civil Society in Action

Over 1,200 Iranian Doctors Blast New Islamic Medical Law

TEHRAN (May 5) XINHUA - More than 1,200 Iranian doctors issued a critical statement on Monday, condemning the new parliamentary medical law on prohibiting medical treatment from the opposite sex.

Complaining the law was approved "hastily", the doctors attacked that the document was "an insult to the holy profession of medicine," the daily Salam reported on Tuesday.

The conservative-dominated Iranian Majlis or Parliament adopted the law on April 22, stipulating only man-to-man and woman-to-woman medical services are allowed in all private and public medical institutions.

The law was opposed by two Majlis commissions and the representative of the Health Ministry. Earlier, the Health Minister Mohammad Farhadi has called on the Majlis to reconsider its decision.

The country's strict Islamic regulations prohibits any physical contacts between men and women who are not related or married.

Sarkuhi in Frankfurt

Iran Dissident Sarkuhi to Live in Frankfurt

Reuters 06-MAY-98

FRANKFURT, May 6 (Reuters) - Iranian dissident writer Faraj Sarkuhi said on Wednesday the city of Frankfurt had offered him a grant to live and work there for a year.

``I think I have the right to live where I want and to write what I want,'' Sarkuhi, who was released from an Iran jail in January after serving a 12-month sentence for ``propaganda'' offences, told a news conference.

Earlier, the 50-year-old journalist and literature critic had been met at Frankfurt airport by his wife and two children, who have been living as political refugees in Berlin.

Sarkuhi, who has spoken of the ``psychological torture'' he suffered during his prison term, said he would use his time in Frankfurt to complete three works on Iranian literature before returning to his homeland.

The grant was made jointly by the city and the Frankfurt book fair as part of an initiative for writers deemed to be facing persecution in their home country.

``People in Iran have finally become active in expressing their historic desire for freedom and democracy,'' he said.

Sarkuhi's jailing has in the past caused strains in ties between Bonn and Tehran.

Germany repeatedly raised the matter last year with Iranian officials after reports Sarkuhi had been arrested at Tehran airport as he was about to leave for Germany.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.All rights reserved.

PEN Press Release: Sarkouhi in Germany



FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Diana Ayton-Shenker tel. (212) 334-1660 [w]; fax (212) 334-2181

PEN welcomes the arrival of Faraj Sarkouhi "the former editor-in-chief of Adineh, a leading Iranian socioliterary journal" in Germany where he joins his family today after an eighteen-month ordeal.

The last time he tried to reunite with his family was on November 3, 1996, when he disappeared from Tehran's Mehrabad Airport while waiting to board a plane to Berlin. PEN promptly released an open letter to the Government of Iran requesting an account of Sarkouhi's whereabouts, while the official Iranian press insisted that Sarkouhi had flown to Germany.

Two weeks later, PEN received information indicating that Sarkouhi had in fact been kidnapped. On December 20, Sarkouhi reappeared at a press conference in Tehran, where he was forced to claim that he had been visiting Germany but had trouble substantiating his claims of having traveled.

On January 3, 1997, Sarkouhi wrote a long letter to his wife revealing the true account of events which he asked her to publish in the event of his re-arrest. In it, he said he had never left Iran, rather was subjected to an intensive interrogation which included beatings and death threats. He was arrested again and held in pre-trial detention for approximately nine months. PEN publicized his letter globally.

He was sentenced in September 1997, to a one-year prison term on trumped up charges of "slandering the Islamic Republic", beginning retroactively from the date of his arrest on January 27, 1997. After persistent international pressure from PEN and others, Sarkouhi was freed from prison on the scheduled date of release. This time, PEN issued an appeal urging President Khatami for his personal intervention in facilitating the return to Sarkouhi of his passport and to uphold Sarkouhi's right to travel abroad.

Faraj Sarkouhi was signatory to the "1994 Declaration of 134 Iranian Writers," a document that PEN circulated around the globe calling for an end to all censorship of literary endeavor in Iran. To support this initiative, PEN American Center spearheaded a major campaign of solidarity marked by a public reading of the declaration by Arthur Miller at the PEN International Congress in Prague. This campaign was intensified after Sarkouhi's arrest and led by an international group of prominent members including Edward Albee, Paul Auster, Nadine Gordimer, Gunter Grass, Yasar Kemal, Edward Said, Michael Scammell.

PEN reiterated throughout the last year and a half its belief that Faraj Sarkouhi is guilty of no internationally recognized crime, and urged the Iranian government to drop all charges, including "slander," against him, to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to allow him to leave Iran and rejoin his family.

PEN stands in firm solidarity with Mr. Sarkouhi, and all those who brave repression in pursuit of their literary and artistic goals. Following a dark year of imprisonment and isolation, Faraj Sarkouhi has emerged as a symbol for all those who champion free expression in Iran.

"We are thrilled that PEN's campaign has been so effective," said Diana Ayton-Shenker, Director of PEN's Freedom-to-Write Program, "and hope that Faraj is able to accept our invitation to visit the United States to share with us his insights into contemporary Iranian literary endeavor. "Until all Iranian writers are truly free, PEN will continue to appeal on their behalf and for the cause of Iranian literary culture," said Karen Kennerly, Executive Director of PEN, even as we savor the knowledge that Faraj is now free and safe.

PEN is an international fellowship of writers dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression wherever it is threatened. For further information, contact Diana Ayton-Shenker at PEN at (212) 334-1660.

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 5 May 1998 to 6 May 1998