Date: Mar 9, 1999 [ 21: 6: 28]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 8 Mar 1999 to 9 Mar 1999 - Special issue

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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 8 Mar 1999 to 9 Mar 1999 - Special issue
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There are 13 messages totalling 1208 lines in this issue.

Topics in this special issue:

3. RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 2, No. 10, 8 March 1999 (2)
4. A Popular Reception (?) gathering thousands of protestors for the
president of an Un-Popular Regime
5. 300 women elected in Iranian municipal polls
6. The Kids Are All Right
9. Sen. Roberts Urges Lifting Food Export Sanctions On Iran
10. Criticism mounting against powerful Iranian religious court
11. Iran reformers score another big win, sweep Tehran elections
12. Italian police to disrupt Rome traffic for Iranian president


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 13:06:35 EST


On March 10, the Citizen and Immigration Canada Advisory Committee
will hold a forum to “discuss” the new proposed “Immigration Act.”
The reason that the committee has asked some groups and
organizations to take part in the forum is to legitimize the
government’s upcoming anti-refugee and immigrants policies.


* deprive refugees of their rights,
* deport refugee claimants who have no identification papers right at
the port of entry without giving them the opportunity to exercise their
right to seek asylum,
* deport activists of many political organizations in the name of fighting
terrorism and crime,
* control refugee claimants by issuing photo IDs with specific numbers
for refugee claimants in order to trace them and prevent them from
applying for refugees status in other countries like the USA, Australia,
England and Canada,
* deny refugee claimants the right to get married,
* take away many other rights from refugees and virtually put an end to
the principles of the Convention Related to the Status of Refugees.

If you are to be denied the right to refuge,
If you are concerned for yourself and othe refugee claimants,
If you are worried about the deportation of refugee claimants which will put
them at risk of torture, imprisonment and execution in countries like Iran,
If you oppose even one aspect of the new proposal and find it inhuman and a
violation human rights,

Wednesday, March 10,1999
Noon – 1:00pm
950 West 41 Street, Vancouver
International Federation of Iranian Refugees - Vancouver, BC Branch

For more information, contact IFIR, GPO, PO Box 7051, New York, NY
10116. Tel: 212-747-1046. Fax: 212-425-7260. E-mail:


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 13:10:54 EST

This letter is in response to an e-mail (which follows our letter) regarding
International Women's Day press release.

March 9, 1999

To: Farid

I have worked with Iranian refugees for the past 12 years and with many
international and local refugee and human rights organizations. I have
visited Iranian refugees in camps in various countries, including the
Netherlands and Turkey. I have met with refugees languishing in detention
centers in the United States, and spoken on the phone or received letters
from literally thousands during these years. All are people who have
fled persecution in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I work daily with people
who have been tortured, beaten, discriminated against, and dehumanized.

The press release you mention as being too general is in fact so. It did
not even begin to recount their stories and the intolerable repression in
the Islamic Republic of Iran. One story of one person who has spent years
in prison under torture, who has seen her closest friends and family
members executed by this regime, who has fled stoning, who has been
denied a life worthy of human beings would fill books, let alone a one-
page press release.

Moreover, even if I had not been born in Iran nor worked with Iranian
refugees, I would have the responsibility and right to denouce such
gross violations against other human beings. I have never lived
through Hitler's fascism, nor racial apartheid in South Africa, but I
denounce them none-the-less. I expect all persons who respect
humanity to do the same.

Those who defend such a heinous regime and deny that it is a
dictatorship, do so to promote their own interests. There were and
are people who defend fascism, genocide and racial apartheid. No
one, however, with humanity in mind can say that condeming
gender-apartheid, brutality and cruelty in the Islamic Republic of Iran
is "biased criticism."

I will remove you from our e-mail list, as you requested.


Maryam Namazie
Deputy Director, IFIR
Steering Committee Member, CHAIR



>I think your information about Iran is oversimplified and you have
>generalized too much for my liking. Please take me off this email list
> because I don't wish to receive this sort of one sided biased criticisms
> about a country you probably know very little about.

> Thank you.
> Farid


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 00:02:30 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 2, No. 10, 8 March 1999

<< This message is part 2 of a previous message >>>

1997-98, over 500,000 tons of Australian grain were shipped
to Iran, and in 1997-98, 3.35 million tons were shipped
there. Australian Trade Minister Tim Fischer visited Tehran
in the first week of March. (Bill Samii)

the Iranian military in the war with Iraq was hampered by the
division between regular and revolutionary units, and that
problem still exists. Since 1989 there have been efforts to
reorganize and streamline the Iranian military, particularly
through the creation of the Supreme Council for National
Security, which is chaired by the president. But despite
these moves, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps retains
considerable independence.
The Iranian military journal "Saff" published an
interview in mid-February with the new chief of the Joint
Staff of the Iranian Army, Brigadier General Mustafa
Turabipur. The interview highlighted continuing rivalry
between these services. It showed that even though the
military is nominally subordinate to President Khatami,
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is at the top of the
chain of command. And finally, the interview pointed to some
future plans of the Iranian military establishment.
Turabipur explained that after the Iraq-imposed war a
reorganization of the armed forces took place. Because of
this, the Supreme Leader is the commander-in-chief of the
Armed forces. The second-highest authority is the commander-
in-chief of the army. And the commander-in-chief of the IRGC
"will be the third highest," Turabipur noted. Also, the
reorganization "enhanced the Army's status with the entire
armed forces."
Notably, he made no mention of the Supreme National
Security Council or of the President in this chain of
command. And in fact, the executive branch has no
constitutional or legal authority in the security field. This
organizational set-up permits unity of command, according to
Turabipur, and that in turn permits joint maneuvers and
improved coordination of operations and avoids "duplication
and confusion."
Turabipur identified his objectives: (1) improved
recruitment of personnel; (2) expanded army "intelligence
capability and strength," reflecting his former position as
Army counterintelligence chief; (3) improved esprit des
corps; (4) increased financial efficiency; (5) improved
living standards and social status for soldiers; (6) improved
"brotherly ties with other military and security forces" and
more joint operations; (7) achievement of domestic self-
sufficiency in research and technology; and (8) further
reorganization to eliminate duplication and improve training
standards. (Bill Samii)

AUSTRALIAN TRADE WITH IRAN. In the first week of March
Australian Trade Minister Tim Fischer visited Iran to discuss
a variety of subjects, the most significant of which were
trade- and investment-related. In the last year Iran imported
$500 million worth of Australian goods, Iranian Agriculture
Minister Issa Kalantari said, while it exported only $16
million worth of goods to Australia. Kalantari believes that
trade between the two will be more balanced in the coming
year, with Iranian imports amounting to $227 million and
exports equaling $20 million, the Islamic Republic News
Agency (IRNA) reported. Fischer expressed the hope, during a
meeting with Minister of the Construction Jihad Mohammad
Saeedi-Kia, that Australian oil imports will increase in the
coming year. Fischer also signed a joint communique
expressing readiness to provide $86 million of credit for an
Iranian copper smelting project.
Fischer also met with President Mohammad Khatami. They
discussed bilateral relations, then Khatami "severely
condemn[ed] crimes committed by the Zionist regime in the
Middle East" according to the IRNA report. Fischer and
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi discussed the war on
drugs and arms control, with Kharrazi saying that Iran was
drafting a document on controlling biological weapons.
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri and Fischer
discussed expanding ties in tourism and Central Asian
investment, while Fischer and Expediency Council chairman Ali
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani discussed cooperation in the areas
of electronics, telecommunications, and transportation. (Bill

BROADCAST NEWS. In mid-February Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei reappointed Ali Larijani for another term as head of
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. Only a month earlier,
however, Larijani was facing heavy criticism after a guest on
the "Cheraq" television program said the autumn murders in
Iran were the work of the allies of President Mohammad
Khatami. There were reports that Larijani would be banned
from cabinet meetings, and Minister of Culture and Islamic
Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani said Larijani should apologize
publicly. Television coverage of the council elections, said
observers in Iran, was "mostly neutral and often very
informative." On the other hand, "Jam-i Jam," which is IRIB's
international service, carried almost no coverage of the
elections, the daily "Kar va Kargar" reported on 28 February.
(Bill Samii)

Copyright (c) 1999. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.

The RFE/RL Iran Report is a weekly prepared by A. William
Samii on the basis of materials from RFE/RL broadcast
services, RFE/RL Newsline, and other news services. Direct
comments to A. William Samii in Prague at

Technical queries should be emailed to

For information on subscriptions or reprints, contact Paul
Goble in Washington at (202) 457-6947 or at
Back issues are available on the RFE/RL Web site at:

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word subscribe as the subject of the message.

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meterbands, or 6040, 9680, 11730, and 12025 khrz, and 0800-
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and 9850 khrz.



Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 00:01:44 EDT
From: Bobby Iri <Bobby@WWW.DCI.CO.IR>
Subject: RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 2, No. 10, 8 March 1999

Vol. 2, No. 10, 8 March 1999

A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Regional
Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.

results of the 26 February council elections are not in yet,
but some in the Western press already have termed them a
sweeping victory for "reformists" allied with the relatively
moderate President Mohammad Khatami. In fact, the results so
far point to a victory for populist candidates from across
the political spectrum rather than for reformers as such.
In most towns and villages, candidates were selected on
the basis of local issues, and during the campaign candidates
emphasized their professional and educational credentials
rather than their revolutionary ones. Only in a few of the
major cities - such as Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz - did
candidates seek to identify themselves with Khatami or, for
that matter, with any of the four major coalitions.
Hatam Qaderi, professor of political science at Tarbiat-
i Modariss University (Tehran Teachers Training College),
commented on the election in an interview with RFE/RL's
Persian Service (which was picked up by "Akhbar" newspaper
without attribution). He said: "Our political organization,
whether on the left or the right, is not equipped and wide-
reaching enough to be able to infiltrate into the depths of
the social structure. You cannot expect to find a smoothly
running structure of the left and the right even in the
villages. It is only natural that people should be influenced
by their common problems and by the people around them, and
those will have their influence on the way they vote."
Qaderi also said that one cannot make "a simple and bi-
polar classification" of pro-Khatami/reformist versus
hardliner/conservative, because voters made their choices
based on a combination of religious, ideological, and
practical grounds.
Khatami's supporters viewed the election results
optimistically. The Islamic Iran Participation Party's Tehran
office said, according to the 4 March "Salam" daily, that out
of 112 towns, 75 percent of the winning candidates are from
the Second of Khordad Front (the date of Khatami's election).
"Sobh-i Imruz" tried to coin the phrase "Ninth of Esfand"
(the election's date) to make it as significant as "Second of
Khordad." Ebrahim Yazdi of the Liberation Movement of Iran
was more cautious. He said if the rural councils work well,
it will be a major step toward democracy, "Akhbar" daily
reported on 28 February.
The voter turnout appears to have been high, although
the "Tehran Times," which is published by a government
ministry, suggested otherwise. The newspaper reported on 3
March that about 60 percent of the 39 million electorate
voted. Although this compares poorly with the approximately
70 percent turnout in the May 1997 presidential election, it
is an improvement over the 46 percent turnout for the October
1998 Assembly of Experts election. What is curious is that in
October, "Tehran Times" referred to the turnout positively,
and it also suggested that the actual number of eligible
voters was around 35 million.
There were some complaints about fraud. On 27 February,
the Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Jameh-yi Ruhaniyat-i
Mobarez-i Tehran) suggested fraud because election monitors
could not enter the vote-counting area, but the Tehran
governorate explained that because the process is
computerized there was not enough room for additional people.
"Resalat," a daily affiliated with conservative bazaaris,
quoted an "informed source" in the elections supervisory
board about widespread irregularities in Tehran's polling
"Kayhan" daily, which is affiliated with the Supreme
Leader's office, editorialized on 28 February that wealthy
voters in northern Tehran supported pro-Khatami candidates,
while voters in the religious cities of Qom and Mashad
elected conservative candidates. Kayhan also suggested that
the Tehran results were skewed because votes from the
southern and poorer areas of the city were not counted. And
on 3 March, "Kayhan" reported that elements associated with
the long-dead Mehdi Hashemi had interfered with voting in
An unsuccessful conservative candidate, Alinaqi
Khamushi, complained that candidates did not get the votes
they deserved because voters got confused by similar-sounding
names, "Arya" reported on 3 March. A petition complaining of
fraud was circulated in Karaj, "Zan" reported on 4 March, and
another one in Sanadaj, complaining that many people voted
twice. The Bandar Abbas municipality is investigating a
number of complaints, including reports that individual votes
were bought for 15,000 rials (from $2-$10, depending on the
exchange rate), "Khordad" daily wrote on 4 March.
Tehran's Election Supervisory Board threatened to annul
the election results on 1 March, because previously
disqualified candidates had run for office. The next day, the
head of the Central Election Supervisory Board, Hojatoleslam
Ali Mohammad Savoji, said there might have been fraud in
Najafabad in Isfahan province because there was no electoral
supervision or observation there. Najafabad, where dissident
cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi comes from,
has been a stronghold of opposition to regime hardliners.
If an If anything, attempts by the hardline supervisory
to ban pro-Khatami candidates backfired. In January, news
reports indicated public indifference towards the election,
as well as reluctance to get involved in a politicized
process (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 January 1999 and 1
February 1999). But extensive press coverage about the issue
made people aware that the regime was attempting to limit
their choices, and apparently they fought back by voting.
(Bill Samii)

KHATAMI GOVERNMENT TESTED. The elections, whether seen as a
victory or defeat reform, are only one of the challenges that
will test the government of Iranian President Mohammad
Khatami and his commitment to reform in the months ahead.
Last month, a number of clerics were physically attacked (see
"RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 February 1999). Last week, UN human
rights official Maurice Copithorne called for the abolition
of the Special Court for the Clergy. And then, Islamic
intellectual Hojatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar was arrested on the
orders of the Special Court.
The Special Court for the Clergy was established in
1986-87 at the urging of Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi
Reyshahri to pursue a case against Hojatoleslam Mehdi
Hashemi. Now, the Special Court investigates and tries crimes
such as "counterrevolution, corruption, immorality, unlawful
acts, anything which might damage the prestige of the clergy
and acts committed by pseudo-clergy," according to Amnesty
International. Penalties imposed by the court include death
and imprisonment. It is this court which has sentenced many
leading clerics to house arrest.
Copithorne's report says it is "difficult to justify the
continued existence of such an apparently arbitrary and
secretive tribunal." Akbar Ganji asked in "Sobh-i Imruz" on
28 February what differences between clerics and laymen
should make such a special court necessary. Paris-based
lawyer Abdol Karim Lahiji told RFE/RL's Persian Service that
the court's existence demonstrates that the clergy considers
itself an elite.
Kadivar (born in 1959) was charged with several
"crimes," "Salam" newspaper reported on 28 February. He spoke
favorably about dissident cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali
Montazeri, disrespectfully about the leadership, and
insultingly about the founder of the Islamic Revolution
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Also, he undermined public
confidence in the Special Court.
In an interview with "Sobh-i Imruz" on 1 March, Kadivar
defended himself by rejecting the authority of the Special
Court and calling it "illegal." As for the anti-Khomeini
charge, he said, that stemmed from misunderstanding Kadivar's
comments about nationalist Premier Mohammad Musaddiq.
Just as there was a sharp public reaction last month to
the attack on Hojatoleslam Hadi Khamenei in Qom, there has
been a sharp reaction to this arrest. The Office for
Strengthening Unity, a coalition of pro-Khatami Islamist
student groups, condemned the arrest at a special meeting,
"Salam" reported on 1 March. So too did a number of
individual student groups. In Shiraz, about 100 students
staged a rally outside Kadivar's home.
Liberal newspapers like "Neshat," "Sobh-i Imruz," and
"Khordad" indicated their unhappiness, and the Islamic
Republic News Agency reported that the "managing directors of
major dailies" protested the arrest in a letter to Khatami.
Ayatollah Mohammad Abai-Khorasani of the Qum Theological
Lecturers Association told "Zan" daily on 2 March that the
arrest was inappropriate, as did another Islamic scholar,
Hojatoleslam Mohammad Taqi Fazel Meybodi. Abdol Karim
Soroush, an Islamic intellectual, also criticized the arrest,
saying positive comments about Montazeri are permissible
because he is a respected cleric and also because he was
Kadivar's teacher.
How the Khatami government reacts to this arrest will be
an indicator of its commitment to the rule of law.
Minister of Islamic Guidance and Culture Ataollah
Mohajerani defended Kadivar as an intellectual and academic
with no political involvement, "Etelaat" reported on 1 March.
Mohajerani wrote, in Tehran's "Iran Daily" on 3 March, that
Kadivar's arrest "is like the detention of thoughts and
theories. ... We should recognize and appreciate [Kadivar's]
value and try to understand his concerns." Since Kadivar is
Mohajerani's brother-in-law, it is unclear whether this
statement stems from personal or ideological concern.
But will such outspoken concern be extended to laymen?
Even after the arrest of 45 people involved in the attack on
Khamenei, many were not reassured. It is fine if people are
arrested for assaulting a cleric, a member of the public
asked "Salam" newspaper last month, but will anybody speak up
if students are attacked? Another said that he had become
physically ill just thinking about the attack, because he is
not a cleric and "what if, God forbid, I lose control and I
want to speak my mind?" (Bill Samii)

Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Mehdi Hosseini signed a contract
with France's Elf Aquitane and Italy's Ente Nazionale
Idrocarburi SpA (ENI) for development of the Dorud oilfield
in the northern Persian Gulf. Details about the contract are
unclear: the "New York Times" described a $998 million, ten-
year contract; Reuters described a $1 billion contract; and
Agence France Press described a $540 million, nine-year
contract. Either way, this contract exceeds the limits set by
the U.S. law called the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA),
which calls for U.S. actions against any firm which invests
more than $20 million in Iran's petroleum sector.
Whether or not the U.S. will implement ILSA is unclear:
sanctions against the $2 billion Total, Gazprom, and Petronas
project were waived last year, but U.S. State Department
spokesman James Foley said there is a possibility of
sanctions against Canadian firm Bow Valley for its $200
million project (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 March 1999). The
Clinton administration is "disappointed and concerned" about
the Elf-ENI deal, Foley said, and the State Department will
review it. He said: "The United States remains strongly
opposed to investment in Iran's petroleum sector and we have
repeatedly urged the governments of France and Italy at the
most senior levels to discourage this investment." Elf
Aquitane spokesman Thomas Saunders is confident, however,
saying his company expects "the same treatment" as Total.
At a New York oil conference this week, Reuters
reported, industry executives voiced their irritation with
ILSA, which will remain in force until it expires in 2001.
John Lichtblau of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation
said: "ILSA will probably not be renewed, but that also means
for the next two and a half years, U.S. companies will be
excluded. But other companies will go ahead and do business
with Iran." Lance Johnson of Mobil said that compared with
their European counterparts "U.S. companies are at a
competitive disadvantage."
Conoco's senior vice-president for governmental affairs,
J. Michael Stinson, told a Senate subcommittee on 3 March
that the sanctions were a bad idea both economically for the
companies and politically for the U.S. He said: "Leadership
demands engagement, not isolation"
Lichtblau expressed the belief that Iran is liberalizing
and argued that selling food and medicine to it would reward
this process. But Judith Kipper of the Center for Strategic
and International Studies sounded more restrained, although
she too criticized ILSA as "foolish" and "self-defeating."
Kipper said: "All of you in the oil business were hoping once
Khatami was elected things would change very quickly, U.S.
sanctions could be lifted and everybody could go to Iran to
do business. That would be wonderful. ... But this change in
Iran is going to take much longer than we anticipated." (Bill

EUROPEAN WHEAT PURCHASED. Some 300,000 metric tons of German
and French wheat which Iran purchased in February is
scheduled for delivery in April and May, Dow Jones
Commodities Service reported on 22 February. Iran is expected
to import a total of 3.8 million tons of wheat this year,
according to the International Grains Council. This is
reportedly the first time Iran has bought European-origin
wheat in five years. Dan Basse of AgResources, a Chicago
consulting firm, said this confirms that Iran will request
American wheat once U.S. sanctions are relaxed.
US-based Niki Trading Company claims that Iran already
requested American wheat (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 January
1999), while Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari
denies this (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 25 January 1999). On 1
March, Senators Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), Larry Craig
(R-Idaho), and Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) met with U.S.
National Security Adviser Samuel Berger to ask for a lifting
of sales restrictions, Agence France Presse reported.
Other grain producers are ready to meet Iranian demand,
and in some cases, they see American reluctance to sell grain
as an opportunity for themselves. "Australian exporters have
benefited from the lack of U.S. competition" in Iran, the
"Australian Financial Review" reported on 8 February. In

<< Continued to next message >>>


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 18:46:39 -0600
From: "Aryo B. Pirouznia" <Iranyar@EMAIL.MSN.COM>
Subject: A Popular Reception (?) gathering thousands of protestors for the
president of an Un-Popular Regime

ROME, March 9 (AFP) -Thousands of protestors, mostly Iranians living in
exile, demonstrated in Rome Tuesday against the visit of President Mohammad

There were also protests in France and the Netherlands where Iranian
demonstrators occupied the Italian embassies in Paris and Amsterdam.

Seven Iranians occupied the Paris embassy with another 20-30 outside. Police
said the occupation was peaceful.

In Amsterdam about 15 Iranians occupied the embassy but then left peacefully
after talking briefly to ambassador George Testori.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:50:52 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: 300 women elected in Iranian municipal polls

300 women elected in Iranian municipal polls

03/08/99 Agence France-Presse

TEHRAN, March 8 (AFP) - Female candidates did extremely well in Iran 's first-
ever municipal elections with 300 of them elected to city councils across the
country, Interior Minister Abdolvahed Moussavi-Lari said Monday.

"It's a very interesting score, because in many districts, women account for
a not insignificant proportion" of the new councillors, Moussavi-Lari told a
news conference.

Of the 15 seats on the Tehran council, three went to women, all close to
moderate President Mohammad Khatami. They include Jamileh Kadivar, wife of
Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani and Fatemeh Jalai-Pour, sister of the
chief editor of the moderate Tous newspaper, which has been banned.

Khatami's sister, Fatemeh Khatami, was also swept to victory in Ardakan city
council in central Iran .

The women's success is all the more striking, since there were only 4,000
female candidates across the country, out of a total of 300,000.

The turnout nation wide was 64.41 percent, although in Tehran only 40 percent
of eligible voters went to the polls, according to official statistics
released Monday.

Only the turnout in the May 1997 elections that brought Khatami to the
presidency was higher, at 80 percent.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:49:49 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right
Don't tell the clerics, but Iranian films sparkle with wisdom, ambiguity and
movie magic by Richard Corliss

03/15/99 Time Magazine

A child's arm stretches out, as far as it can, to pour water from a cup onto
a scruffy potted plant. This, the first image in Samira Makhmalbaf's The
Apple, introduces with poetic clarity the film's strange, true story: of
12-year-old twin girls imprisoned by their father in their Tehran home, away
from sunlight, from the friendship of other kids, from the smallest ecstasies
and exasperations of childhood. This wise, poignant film was made under
unusual circumstances. The father and the girls were persuaded to play
themselves, and Makhmalbaf was only 17 when she shot it. But extraordinary
Iranian films have been almost...ordinary. Savvy cinephiles know that Iran is
the place where movie miracles happen all the time.

Iran is today's one great national cinema. Not since the Czech New Wave of the
mid-'60s has a country made such a lovely noise at the big festivals and in
Western capitals where the term foreign film doesn't evoke a yawn. Directors
Abbas Kiarostami (A Taste of Cherry), Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon) and
Samira's father Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Gabbeh) are as revered in the world film
community as they are anonymous at American 'plexes.

To most Americans, the Islamic Republic of Iran is known for denouncing the
Great Satan U.S., swearing out fatwas on any renegade soul and defining
women's rights as the privilege of wearing a chador. For two decades, Iran
has been, notoriously, fascism with a cleric's face. So it is a conundrum and
a wonder that the republic has allowed the production of highly sophisticated
films that are both touching, in the style of Italian postwar neorealism, and
at least implicitly critical of aspects of the ruling theocracy. How do Iran
's auteurs pull off this double feat? Frequently, by cloaking grownup stories
in toddler raiment. For Iran is not only a leader in world film; it is the
leader in children's films. This is Iran 's cinema spirit: humanism with a
kid's face.

Children's films--by which is meant movies about the young but not necessarily
for them--have an honorable pedigree in Iran . The Shahrina sponsored a
children's film festival for a dozen or so years before her husband was
overthrown in 1979. Under the Ayatullah, as in the Pahlavi regime, Iranian
films proved a valuable cultural export. Last month Majid Majidi's Children of
Heaven became the first Iranian movie nominated for an Academy Award as best
foreign film.

Children's stories are often tales of desperate travels through far-off
lands. In Iranian films, the terrain is typically the child's own hometown.
And the potential tragedy can be as simple as being left alone at school, as
in Panahi's deliciously devious The Mirror. Or, as in Children of Heaven, the
loss of your sister's shoes.

Ali (Mir Farrokh Hashemian) leaves them outside a grocer's, where a blind
trashman spirits them off. Fearful of their father's wrath, the boy and his
kid sister Zahra (Bahare Seddiqi) agree to share Ali's sneakers; Zahra will
wear them to her school each morning, Ali to his in the afternoon.
Complications ensue, vitalized by the boy's heroic goodwill and the girl's
frantic fretting-- her petulance is comically magisterial. When Ali enters a
4-km race, the film gets a case of slo-mo sentimentality; it becomes a sort
of Chariots of Farsi. But Majidi can show family love among the poor without
finger wagging. Ali and his clan have the affection of an ideal movie family.
American kids and their parents ought to love them.

The Naderi family, in The Apple, is far more troubling. Neighbors petition the
authorities about the girls' confinement; Zahra and Massoumeh are removed for
haircuts and a good scrubbing, then sent home. But the old father keeps them
locked in. His blind wife can't keep an eye on them, and there are boys living
nearby. If anyone touched the girls, he says, "I'd be dishonored."

The girls yearn to see growing things; they make a painting of a flower by
splatting two sooty handprints on a wall. Finally they do get out and play
with two other girls, in a meeting as sweet and spooky as the one between
E.T. and little Drew Barrymore. Massoumeh smacks an apple against one girl's
face, then hands her the fruit. Baffled but beguiled, the girl kisses
Massoumeh--who, inferring that this was a reward for aggression, hits the
girl again!

The Apple, like the best Iranian films, is full of such privileged moments.
But it is no simple fable of the Wild Child civilized. For two girls and
their blind mother thrust into the light, a cave has its security, and the
world its perils. The film can only wish the Naderi family the success that
Iranian cinema had when it emerged from the shadow of the imams and into the
glare of the world screen.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:50:31 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>


03/06/99 Xinhua English Newswire

Iran 's prestigious Tehran University Saturday signed a project document with
the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on human rights research and

The document, "Strengthening Capacities for Human Rights Research and
Training," was signed by Dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Science
Mohammad Reza Takhshid and UNDP resident representative Michael von der
Schulenburg in the presence of the visiting UNDP Assistant Administrator Nay

The project aims at promoting human rights as laid down by international
standards and by Islamic law and jurisprudence, the official Islamic Republic
News Agency reported.

The project includes introducing a human rights master degree program (two
years) and a doctoral degree (five years), the first ever degree courses on
human rights in Iranian universities.

The document also envisages implementation of six research projects in two
phases, including seminars, workshops, interviews and field studies, each
lasting two years.

Schulenburg said that it was the most important project document he had signed
in the seven years he had worked in Iran .

"The U.N. welcomes the spirit of cooperation the Iranian authorities have
shown and we hope the project will bring Iran increasingly into the global
discussion of human rights," he said.

Rejecting the West's sharp criticism of its human rights record, Tehran said
it observes human rights according to the country's constitution and Islamic

Iran set up an Islamic Human Rights Commission in 1995 to counter Western

In December 1997, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan delivered a speech in
Tehran University on World Human Rights Day and the U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights Mary Robinson also visited Iran for a regional human rights
workshop in 1998.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:51:57 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>

Commentary by Dilip Hiro

03/08/99 Inter Press Service

LONDON, Mar. 8 (IPS) -- The first Iranian leader to visit a Western country
since the Islamic Revolution 20 years ago, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami
arrives in Italy tomorrow to face protests from Italian conservatives,
feminists and Iranian exiles.

The National Resistance Council of Iran , composed chiefly of the
Baghdad-based Mujahedin-e-Khalq -- listed as a terrorist organization by
Washington -- is planning an anti-Khatami demonstration in Rome on the
Iranian president's arrival.

Among Italian parliamentarians, 320 out of 945 members of the two houses of
parliament were opposed to the trip -- according to Marco Taradash, deputy
editor of the opposition conservative Forza Italia party.

And the fact that President Khatami is arriving in Rome the day after
International Women's Day, Mar. 8, has been seized on by women politicians and
others in Italy for an excuse to attack Iran .

"It seems like a joke, a game," said Forza Italia deputy Cristina Matranga.
"But you don't play around with human rights (of women)."

Khatami and his delegation, however, can marshall an array of facts to rebut
this charge.

More than 5,000 women ran for office in the Feb. 26 local government
elections. In the hotly contested 15-member local council of Tehran, which
attracted 1,400 candidates, two women are poised to win.

One of the issues discussed widely during the election campaign was
male-female relationship.

On assuming office 18 months ago President Khatami appointed Dr. Mousume
Ebtekar, 37, as Iran 's first woman vice-president, with special
responsibility for environment. Until then the highest public office any
woman had held in the Islamic Republic was that of a deputy minister.

Dr. Ebtekar, holding a doctorate in immunology, had led the Iranian delegation
to the Beijing international conference on women in 1995. Before her public
office, she was the head of the central committee of Iran 's non-governmental
women's organizations, and the editor of a magazine.

Earlier she was on the editorial board of the country's most prestigious
newspaper Kahyan International, published in Persian and English.

A moderate in his politics, and a liberal in his social views, Khatami
secured an overwhelming majority among women in the presidential poll in May
1997, when women voted in larger numbers than ever before.

A year earlier the number of women deputies in the 270-strong parliament
tripled, from four to 12. Women have also made much progress in the playing

Following Iran 's victory over America in the football world cup series in
France last June, Iranians were infected with soccer mania.

Women became as fanatical football fans as men, and demanded entry into
stadiums to watch the game since sports are segregated in Iran . This was
denied but women's football was recognized as a legitimate sport; and since
then there have been matches involving five-a-side teams.

In Iran today the issue is no longer whether women should be involved in
sport or not. Indeed, four years ago the Iranian Women's Sporting Federation
sponsored the first International Muslim Women's Olympics in which 13
countries participated.

The driving force behind the event was Fayizeh Rafsanjani, a trained physical
education instructor and a parliamentary deputy for Tehran. A daughter of Ali
Akbar Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran , she is well known public

While segregation in sports is viewed by Westerners as oppressive, its
introduction has had unexpected results in Iran .

"Separation of sexes has allowed more women, especially from traditional
families, to participate in sport," said a representative of the Sporting
Federation in Tehran recently. "No longer is sport the domain of the
privileged elite as it was under the Shah, it is open to all."

This is equally true in education. Today 95 percent of all female children go
to primary school. The chief reason for the dramatic rise is the fact that
since education is segregated parents in rural areas -- where nearly half of
all Iranians live --are no longer opposed to sending their daughters to

Equally impressive is the statistic that 40 percent of all students in higher
education in Iran today are female. This figure is higher than the one
prevalent in most European countries, including Britain -- around 35 percent.

The improvement in public health has resulted in the decline in infant
mortality rate of 104 per thousand in 1976 to 25 per thousand in 1996.

At the simple, observational level, a traveller arriving at Tehran's Mehrdad
airport is most likely to encounter woman employees acting as immigration,
customs and foreign exchange officers.

In the city it is common to come across women bank clerks, shop assistants,
even small supermarket managers and they are conspicuous as newsreaders on

That does not mean that Iranian women are as free as men. The image of them
wearing a loose dress or chador, which fully covers their hair, arms and legs,
in the street, conveys their limitation dramatically.

Women are not allowed to become judges and they are barred from contesting
seats in the clerical Experts' Assembly, which elects the Supreme Leader.

But they are challenging the status quo. In the run-up to the poll for the
Assembly last October, Fayizeh Rafsanjani demanded that pious laypersons,
including women, be permitted to contest. Her demand was backed by other

As a result the jurisprudence on the Guardians' Council, which stipulates the
qualifications for membership, declared that non-clerics could contest the
Assembly seats provided they showed a high degree of expertise in Islam.

This was an important concession that indicated which way the wind was

One subject, where the cleric Khatami will find much in common with Italy's
religious leaders, is the importance they attach to family life. Among the
leading figures he will meet in Rome is Pope John Paul II.

Those concerned with the rights of the Christian minority in Iran will find
that its constitution allocates two parliamentary seats to the country's half
a million Christians, affiliated mainly to the Armenian Orthodox and Assyrian

It is noteworthy too that Tehran has strong ties with neighboring (Christian)
Armenia but frosty relations with Muslim-majority Azerbaijan because it has
been veering ever closer to Washington. Tehran and Yerevan are bound together
by a series of economic and technical agreements.

Just as economic interests over-ride all others in the case of Armenia and
Iran , so do these interests in the instance of Rome and Tehran.

Italy imports a sizable proportion of its oil from Iran . Hence Rome is the
first western port of call for President Khatami, the next being Paris in

France not only imports petroleum from Iran ; but, defying Washington's 1996
embargo on investment in Iranian oil and gas, French companies have been in
the forefront of making large investments in Iran 's energy resources.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:53:04 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Sen. Roberts Urges Lifting Food Export Sanctions On Iran

Sen. Roberts Urges Lifting Food Export Sanctions On Iran

03/08/99 Dow Jones Commodities Service

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., again is calling on the
Clinton administration to exempt agricultural exports from sanctions on Iran .

" Iran is a significant market in need of agricultural commodities produced by
struggling American farmers. Food should not be used as a tool of foreign
policy," Roberts wrote in a letter to President Bill Clinton.

Last week, three U.S. senators, including Senate Agriculture Committee
Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., met with National Security Advisor Samuel
"Sandy" Berger to urge a one-time exemption of the sanctions to allow a $500
million sale of U.S. wheat.

The issue came more in focus when Iran late last year reportedly asked to buy
significant amounts of U.S. wheat and other commodities. Clinton banned all
commercial export sales to Iran in 1995 due to the country's alleged support
of terrorist organizations.

"Removing sanctions on agriculture exports to Iran will produce the dual
benefit of relieving a substantial market surplus of U.S. commodities, while
demonstrating to the Iranian government the positive results that stem from
acceptable standards of international behavior," Roberts said in his letter.

Iran once was the largest single importer of U.S. white wheat. Iran imports
from 3 million to 7 million metric tons of wheat each year, but U.S. farmers
have been locked out of that market since the sanctions were imposed.

Last year, Roberts' bill to exempt agriculture commodities from sanctions on
India and Pakistan was signed into law, which resulted in a $37-million sale
of U.S. wheat to Pakistan.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:06:45 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Criticism mounting against powerful Iranian religious court

TEHRAN, March 8 (AFP) - Reformers stepped up the pressure on
Iran's special religious court Monday amid growing public anger at
one of the Islamic regime's most hardline institutions.
A reformist MP lashed out at Iran's all-powerful Special Court
for Clergy (SCC) over its arrest of liberal cleric Mohsen Kadivar,
who is increasingly being seen here as a political prisoner in a
case that has sparked public demonstrations and widespread outrage.
"No one should be arrested for expressing his opinion,"
Qodratollah Nazarinia told the English-language Iran Daily.
"If there are any additional charges pending against Kadivar,
the SCC must notify the public," he said.
Even conservative MP Ali Moalemi agreed that the SCC had failed
to give a satisfactory explanation why Kadivar, a leading figure
among Iran's reformers, had been jailed by order of the court last
"The SCC must provide proper explanations as to the reasons for
Kadivar's arrest," he said.
Nazarinia stressed that the Iranian public have come to see
Kadivar as a political prisoner being detained for his dissident
speeches against the Islamic regime.
The vigorous debate over his arrest, a daily staple of
newspapers here, marks a new freedom to criticise the Islamic regime
under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, whose supporters handily
defeated conservatives in last month's first-ever municipal
elections here.
But the vague official statements about Kadivar's detention are
signs that the hardline court, which operates behind closed doors
and independently of the judiciary, has yet to embrace the spirit of
democracy and openness that has marked Khatami's reformist agenda.
Nearly every day contradictory reports emerge in the press over
Kandivar's detention and whether or not he will be allowed to hire a
defence attorney.
The moderate Zan paper on Monday said Kadivar was due to be
released in the next few days, citing parliamentary sources.
The pro-government newspaper Iran said Sunday that the trial had
been postponed because Kadivar had insisted on hiring a private
Conservative judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi told
reporters last week that it was too early to comment on Kadivar's
case because the investigation was not yet completed and the charges
still not known.
But the SCC itself said Saturday that Kadivar had been arrested
for "spreading false information and propaganda hostile to the
Yet critics insist the liberal cleric, who has been fiercely
critical of the Islamic regime, is being held simply for his
dissident views.
Kadivar was arrested for "seeking freedom and fighting against
the political power monopoly," said Akbar Ganji, another prominent
liberal whose own newspaper was banned by the regime.
He taunted authorities by saying he was guilty of the same
"crimes" himself and should be arrested, the Khordad newspaper
reported last week.
The pro-government Jahan-e-Islam paper said Sunday that even if
the SCC comes forward to announce charges, it will be "too late"
because the Iranian public already believes Kadivar is a political
On Sunday several hundred students demonstrated in Tehran over
Kadivar's arrest, defying calls from the jailed critic's family to
postpone the rally over fears of violence.
The students chanted "Kadivar must be released" and "Death to
the monopoly," a reference to the regime's hardliners.
The public criticism is unprecedented for the SCC, established
in 1985 by the Islamic republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah
The court is charged with trying cases involving the Islamic
regime's clerics and has in the past been well above any public
But along with reports on the case, newspapers here have been
full of often dense arguments about the court's legitimacy --
something unthinkable before Khatami's 1997 election.
Some 200 journalists signed a petition saying Kadivar's arrest
was an unconstitutional "offense" to Iran's writers and
intellectuals and the streets of Tehran have been plastered with
thousands of pro-Kadivar posters.
The SCC has said typically little about the uproar, though on
Saturday the Iran paper cited a court representative who perhaps
best summed up its powerful and unclear ways.
"Ordinary people lack the knowledge to differentiate between
what is permissible and what is not," he said.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:06:53 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Iran reformers score another big win, sweep Tehran elections

TEHRAN, March 8 (AFP) - Reformist supporters of Iranian
President Mohammad Khatami swept all 15 seats on the Tehran
municipal council Monday in another stunning defeat over the Islamic
regime's conservatives.
The victory is a powerful endorsement of the president's reform
agenda on the eve of his historic trip to Italy, the first to a
western European nation by an Iranian head of state since the 1979
Islamic revolution.
Pro-Khatami candidates led by former interior minister Abdollah
Nuri captured all 15 council seats in Tehran, the biggest prize in a
bitterly fought campaign that marked the Islamic republic's
first-ever municipal elections.
Nuri led balloting in the capital, according to final results of
the February 26 polls released Monday by the official news agency
IRNA, after reformers scored major victories around the nation where
votes had already been counted.
Women captured three of the Tehran seats, led by journalist
Jamileh Kadivar, whose husband is culture minister and whose brother
was arrested last month in a case that has outraged students,
intellectuals and other backers of reform.
Reform candidates even won two of the six alternate seats, with
the closest conservative finishing more than 25,000 votes behind the
lowest vote-getter among the 15 reformers elected.
Two of the 15 also had the backing of conservatives but Monday's
results confirm a staggering victory for reformers nationwide, who
won 124 seats on the municipal councils in Iran's 28 provincial
Conservatives earned just 44 seats with another 88 going to
independent candidates, according to tallies in the Iranian press.
Some 300 women won election to municipal councils nationwide,
according to the interior ministry, including the elder sister of
President Khatami, elected in Ardakan in central Iran.
Some 4,000 women were among the 300,000 candidates contesting
the elections.
A total of 64.41 percent of Iran's eligible voters -- nearly 25
million out of 40 million -- took part in the balloting according to
official figures.
Only 40 percent of the eligible voters in the capital cast their
ballots while the overall turnout figure of 64 percent was lower
than the 80 percent recorded in the May 1997 presidential election
which swept Khatami to power.
The decisive victory raises expectations that reformers will
take control of the conservative-dominated parliament in next
spring's parliamentary elections.
It will also put Khatami supporters in mayor's offices
nationwide and one of the first tasks facing the new Tehran council
will be finding a successor to Gholamhossein Karbaschi, the former
Tehran mayor jailed on corruption charges last year.
Karbaschi, who is close to Khatami, was sentenced to two years
in prison and is barred from holding public office while his case is
under appeal.
The popular mayor has repeatedly claimed he was set up by
opponents and the sweeping victory by reformers indicates popular
displeasure with the conservatives' continuing control over Iran's
police and judiciary.
The resounding endorsement of Khatami's reform agenda could not
come at a better time for the president, who begins a high-profile
trip to Italy on Tuesday.
Khatami will meet with Pope John Paul II, Italian President
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema in a visit
certain to give a further boost to Iran's international
The trip comes on the heels of a 540 million dollar deal Iran
signed earlier this month with Italian oil firm ENI along with
France's Elf Aquitaine, as Khatami seeks to translate respect abroad
into badly needed dollars at home.
Iran depends on oil revenues for some 80 percent of its hard
currency and has been hard hit by the worldwide slump in crude
The English-language Iran Daily on Sunday highlighted Khatami's
trip, stressing that fixing the nation's flagging economy, currently
facing a budget shortfall of more than five billion dollars, is
"essentially an exercise in public relations."
It said Khatami should seize the moment to demonstrate the
country's "stability and the viability of the political system."
It urged him to work toward negotiating a large international
line of credit, a task that will be made easier with the resounding
mandate of the Iranian people behind him.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 05:07:00 GMT
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: Italian police to disrupt Rome traffic for Iranian president

ROME, March 8 (AFP) - Police here were planning "exceptional"
security measures, including closing streets to the public, for the
arrival Tuesday of Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Rome police
said Monday.
Khatami's official visit will close Thursday with a meeting with
Pope John Paul II .
Police headquarters said it plans to create "protected roads"
closed to cars and pedestrians, which will not be revealed until the
last minute.
At least seven bus routes will be diverted and a number of roads
in the city's historic centre will be shut on Tuesday and
Khatami is to visit the presidential residence on Tuesday, as
well as the parliamentary Chamber of Deputies and Senate.
Several thousand Iranian dissidents are expected to demonstrate
late Tuesday morning in the historical centre of the capital,
demonstration organisers said.


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 8 Mar 1999 to 9 Mar 1999 - Special issue