Date: Oct 28, 1998 [ 0: 0: 0]

Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 26 Oct 1998 to 27 Oct 1998

From: Automatic digest processor

Return-Path: <owner-DNI-NEWS@D-N-I.ORG>
Delivered-To: farhad@ALGONET.SE
Received: (qmail 95 invoked from network); 28 Oct 1998 09:00:12 +0100
Received: from (
by with SMTP; 28 Oct 1998 09:00:12 +0100
Received: from simorgh (simorgh [])
by (8.8.6/8.8.6) with ESMTP id AAA23252;
Wed, 28 Oct 1998 00:00:00 -0800 (PST)
Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 1998 00:00:00 -0800
Reply-To: dni-disc@D-N-I.ORG
Sender: DNI news list <DNI-NEWS@D-N-I.ORG>
From: Automatic digest processor <D-N-I@D-N-I.ORG>
Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 26 Oct 1998 to 27 Oct 1998
To: Recipients of DNI-NEWS digests <DNI-NEWS@D-N-I.ORG>

There are 4 messages totalling 682 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Possible ellection irregularities
3. Leading Pakistani Islamic Party Rallies for Revolution
4. Wpost: Barbie, 'Titanic' Show Good Side of 'Great Satan'


Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 13:19:24 GMT
From: Jamshid Naghizadeh <janakgf1@CALVADOS.ZRZ.TU-BERLIN.DE>
Subject: Possible ellection irregularities

There have been reports of irregularities in the ellection for
the Assembly of Experts. The average participation in this ellection
is reported to be approximately 46%. In Teheran the total number of
votes is reported to be 2,800,267 (irna Oct. 25).

It is difficult to conclude any irregularities from reported data,
however, a preliminary examination of this data and its comparison
with the presidential ellection of May 24, 1997 reveals some
apparent discrepancies.

A candidate whose name appears in both Presidential and Experts ellection
was Mohammed Reyshahri. In the presidential ellection of 24 May he
received a total of 742,598 votes of a total of 29,076,178 vote cast
(Hamshahri 26 May 1997). The same person received a total of 1,212,249 votes
from a total of 2,800,267 cast for the Experts Assembly from Teheran.
There is an apparent discrepancy in this data, however, it can not be said
with certainty that Experts ellection results have been manipulated.



Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 11:09:59 EST

Join our Campaign to Save Taslima Nasrin

Who is Taslima Nasrin? What is the demands of this Campaign?
Why should you join it? Taslima Nasrin is the author of
the controversial book called "Laijja" ("Shame"). She has
criticized in this book Islam and the Islamic beliefs which
humiliate women and violate their rights. Since the first day
her book was released (February 1993) she has been condemned
to death by the Bangladeshi authorities and the Muslim
community both inside Bangladesh and abroad. She was
charged under Section 295A of Bangladesh’s Penal Code
for having "deliberately and maliciously outraged the religious
sentiments of a class of citizens." In 1993 after she received
her first death threat she was made a PEN Honorary Member.

She had to flee the country in August 1994 and stay in
different countries such as the US, Germany and Sweden.
During this time, she was an outspoken activist against Islam
and a defender of women’s rights. She participated in interviews
and conferences advocating the universality of women’s rights.
On September 16, she returned to Bangladesh to see her sick
mother. Yet again she faced angry mobs and Islamic thugs who
have demanded her persecution and execution.

Now her life and the security of her family is in danger. Taslima
Nasrin is more than a writer. She is one of the brave women
who have raised their voices against Islam, one of the
most notorious instruments of oppression of humanity and
women in the current world. She is against Islam. She has
stood up to a reactionary force which has its roots and claws
in all continents of the world. A force which is financed and
propped up by governments such as the Islamic Republic of
Iran and the Taliban gangs in Afghanistan. A force that has
made life a hell for thousands of women everywhere, even in
the heart of Europe.

Islamic forces and reactionary governments support the
death penalty for Taslima Nasrin. However, she is not alone in
her struggle against persecution by reactionary Muslim thugs
and their governments. The "Campaign to save Taslima Nasrin"
is a platform for all those who want to fight back. The
Campaign calls upon all those who believe that they should
stand for civilization, equality and liberty to join the struggle
for saving Taslima. ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1998 AT
Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues), during 12:00 - 12:30P.M.,

The court injunction for Taslima Nasrin's arrest be revoked;
The Bangladeshi government’s guarantee of safety for Taslima
Nasrin and her mother while they are in the country;
The Bangladeshi government’s provision of a safe exit
for Taslima and her mother.

Demonstration Organizers are the Committee for
Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR),
the International Campaign in Defense of Women’s
Rights in Iran (ICDWRI), the International Federation
of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) and the Worker-communist
Party of Iran (WPI). For more information, call 212-747-1046.

Friday, October 30, 1998
12:00 - 12:30p.m.
at the Consulate of Bangladesh
212 East 43rd Street
(between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)

Taslima Nasrin, the writer, the outspoken activist against Islam,
and the defender of women's rights, has returned to Bangladesh
to visit her ailing mother. She is currently living underground
and her life is in danger. We strongly condemn her
persecution by the reactionary Muslim organizations and the
threatening lawsuit against her by the Bangladeshi government.


___ Add my organization or my name as an endorser of
the Taslima Nasrin defense campaign demanding:
* The withdrawal of the court injunction for Taslima Nasrin's arrest;
* The Bangladeshi government’s guarantee of safety for
Taslima Nasrin and her mother while they are in the country;
* The Bangladeshi government’s provision of a safe exit for Taslima and
her mother.

___ A representative from my organization can read a solidarity
message on that day.

___ We will bring our members to the demonstration.

___ We will help in publicizing the demonstration.

NAME: _________________________

ORGANIZATION: _________________________

Please fax this form to 212-425-7240 or e-mail to by October
29, 1998. For more information, please contact: CHAIR, GPO, P. O. Box 7051,
New York City 10116. Tel: 212-747-1046.


Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 23:26:55 -0500
From: Rahim Bajoghli <rbajoghli@JUNO.COM>
Subject: Leading Pakistani Islamic Party Rallies for Revolution

Global Intelligence Update
Red Alert
October 28, 1998

Leading Pakistani Islamic Party Rallies for Revolution

Pakistan's fundamentalist Islamic movement continued to gain momentum
over the weekend, with a rally of the country's leading Islamic party,
Jamaat-i-Islami. Jamaat leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad launched the October
23-25 rally in Islamabad claiming, "This grand demonstration of faith is
a harbinger of a great movement for Islamic revolution." The tens of
thousands of attendees
reportedly responded with shouts of "Inqilab (revolution), Islami
Inqilab!" The one-time ally of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
lashed out at Sharif, claiming he lacked sincerity, courage, and
competence to carry out Islamic Shariah law. Ahmad charged that Sharif
only pushed for adoption of the Shariah, which has already passed the
lower house of parliament, as a means to acquire more personal power.
Declaring that it appeared as though there was no government in Pakistan,
Ahmad asked, "If today we move to take over the parliament and the
government, who can stop this mammoth crowd?" "But we do not want
anarchy," he added.

Among the tens of thousands in attendance at the Islamabad rally were
guests of honor Syed Salahuddin, chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the
pro-Pakistani Islamic rebel organization in Kashmir, Golboddin Hekmatyar,
former Prime Minister of Afghanistan, and Ibrahim Ghousha, the official
spokesman for HAMAS. Jamaat had also formally invited "the hero of the
Islamic world," Osama Bin Laden, to attend, and had formed special
uniformed units of mojahedin youth to provide security had he attended.
By including these guests of honor, Jamaat sent a message not only to the
Sharif's government, but also to India, Afghanistan, Israel, and the
United States, that the rise of
fundamentalism in Pakistan was not going to stop.

In case that message was too subtle, Ahmad blasted the U.S. for global
attacks against Islam, and declared Jamaat's solidarity with Islamic
forces in Algeria, Sudan, Turkey, Malaysia, among others. The choices
were poignant. Algeria's Armed Islamic Group is waging an ongoing, bloody
struggle with a secular government. Sudan's regime supported Osama Bin
Laden, drawing and withstanding the wrath of the United States. Turkey's
Islamists are increasingly suppressed by the secular regime in Ankara.
And Malaysia's Muslims are rapidly emerging from
dormancy to assert themselves on the political stage.

Jamaat also raised more than one million dollars in donations during the
rally, for use in what it called a jihad (holy war) fund. According to a
Jamaat spokesman, the fund will be used to support militant Muslims
throughout the world. One candidate was immediately apparent, as
commandos of the Hizbul Mujahideen
marched for the event.

The conference ended on Sunday with the adoption of a three-part plan for
Pakistan: implementation and enforcement of the Shariah, with an Islamic
government to back it up; development and retention of nuclear
capabilities for Pakistan with no concessions to western governments; and
the return of Kashmir to Pakistan.

As we reported in the October 21 Global Intelligence Update, Prime
Minister Sharif has been waving the flag of Islam in an attempt to
bolster his own power in Pakistan. Faced with scandals over his
financial activities, as well as a lack of confidence in his ability to
pull Pakistan out of its economic downturn, Sharif used the Indian
nuclear tests as a starting point to refocus the attention of the
Pakistani people. The dramatic success of the Pakistan-backed Taleban
militia in neighboring Afghanistan fueled the fervor. And Sharif stoked
the fires with his campaign for the Shariah. However, his attempts to
raise nationalistic and fundamentalist Islamic sentiments in Pakistan has
now backfired, as the Islamic parties have capitalized on the movement
and are now pressing for Sharif's

Invigorated by the Islamic fervor created by Prime Minister Sharif,
Jamaat is already well on its way to realizing at least two of its goals.
Jamaat supported the right of Pakistan to test and posses nuclear
weapons. It recently warned Sharif that if he plans to sign the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in Washington this December, he
should "take a one way ticket." Jamaat has declared that it will not
allow Sharif to stay in power if he signs away Pakistan's power to
control its own nuclear destiny.

Jamaat is also pressing for the passage of the Shariah by the Pakistani
Senate, this despite its assertion that Sharif only proposed adoption of
the law to advance his own power. Clearly, Jamaat does not believe
Sharif will be around long enough to abuse the law. After all, Jamaat
has pledged a "great movement for Islamic revolution." With JI backing,
the passage of the Shariah is nearly ensured. Other Islamic parties are
backing the measure as well. In fact, a member of the Senate has
complained that the head of the Markazi Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith has issued
death threats against those who vote against the Shariah.

With Jamaat's first two goals in sight, attention is now drawn to its
third goal -- Pakistani control of all of Kashmir. The invitation of
Syed Salahuddin to speak at the JI rally was a direct threat to India.
Salahuddin is one of the most wanted men in India, and heads the violent
resistance to Indian "occupation" of Kashmir. Salahuddin called on
Pakistan to end its internal squabbles and create an Islamic nation. He
called for all the people in Pakistan who are involved in killings and
bombings to join him in Kashmir and direct their energy against India.
Border tensions in Kashmir, always high, are rising. India claimed
border clashes with Pakistani soldiers on Tuesday morning, a claim which
the Pakistani government denied. There have also been recent reports that
Taleban-trained soldiers are infiltrating Kashmir and beginning to take
charge of the guerrillas there. If Jamaat is facilitating this, through
Hizbul Mujahideen, to what extent can it draw on Taleban support against

With the Islamabad rally, Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists have
launched their Islamic revolution, if only in rhetoric at the present.
Jamaat has turned the tables and used Prime Minister Sharif to raise its
own power. It allowed him to raise fundamentalist feelings in Pakistan
and to promote the Shariah, and is now carrying on the cause, while at
the same time pushing to oust Sharif. With opposition coming from within
and outside of his government, Sharif can't last long. The question is,
will Jamaat take his place, or will the army act first to maintain
secular authority. Moreover, has the situation in Pakistan progressed to
the point where even the army can not contain the Islamic militants? One
possible pressure release valve, at least temporarily, would be action in
Kashmir. While such a venture would rouse nationalist, Islamist
sentiment still further in Pakistan, with the careful feeding of select
Pakistani militants into the Indian army meat grinder, Islamabad's
secular leadership could hope to diminish the actual organizational
strength of Pakistan's fundamentalist Islamic opposition.


To receive free daily Global Intelligence Updates
or Computer Security Alerts, sign up on the web at, or send your name,
organization, position, mailing address, phone
number, and e-mail address to

STRATFOR Systems, Inc.
504 Lavaca, Suite 1100
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: 512-583-5000
Fax: 512-583-5025

You don't need to buy Internet access to use free Internet e-mail.
Get completely free e-mail from Juno at
or call Juno at (800) 654-JUNO [654-5866]


Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 23:52:44 -0500
From: Rahim Bajoghli <rbajoghli@JUNO.COM>
Subject: Wpost: Barbie, 'Titanic' Show Good Side of 'Great Satan'

Washington Post
October 27, 1998

Barbie, 'Titanic' Show Good Side of 'Great Satan'

By John Lancaster

Sasson, 28, is a child of the Iranian revolution, reared on a diet of
anti-American bile. He grew up in a country that marks the 1979 takeover
of the U.S. Embassy here with public celebrations, where newspapers
denounce the United States as the "Great Satan" or "Global Arrogance." In
high school, he heard his teachers blame Washington when they ran out of

When it comes to American-made entertainment, however, Sasson has nothing
but praise.

Not for him the propaganda-laden war epics or mournful, chaste love
stories that fill Iranian movie screens, if not theaters. Like thousands
of Iranian young people, Sasson is nuts about "Titanic," the lavishly
produced Hollywood blockbuster that began circulating here on
bootleg videocassettes -- taped inside movie theaters with hand-held
cameras -- within days of its U.S. release.

"I've memorized every line," said Sasson, who recently earned a graduate
degree in electrical engineering and admits to a particular fondness for
Kate Winslet, the movie's russet-haired star. "What do we call this in
Iran? A cultural invasion? Whether it's accidental or not, it's
a fact, and we can't do anything to stop it. . . . American culture is
very dominant."

In some respects, the Iranian appetite for "Titanic" -- and "Face Off"
and "Air Force One" and any number of other U.S. mass-market offerings --
should hardly come as a surprise. Fueled by the spread of English, the
proliferation of modern communications technology and
the collapse of totalitarian regimes that sharply limited the flow of
information across borders, cultural exports from the United States --
books, films, music, computer software and other forms of "intellectual
property" -- have in recent years surpassed tangible goods such as grain
and automobiles as its most important and valuable global product.

But Iran was supposed to be impervious to the corrupting power of
"Baywatch" and Barbie. Resistance to Western, and especially American,
cultural influence was a pillar of the 1979 Islamic revolution that
toppled the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Chanting "Death to
America" as a patriotic slogan, Shiite Muslim clerics led by Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini sought to remake their country as a true
Islamic state, a place of rigid censorship and strict social mores where
women shunned fingernail polish and cloaked their figures in billowy
black chadors.

But even the mullahs, it seems, have not been able to keep American
culture at bay.

Though officially banned, bootleg copies of the latest U.S. films are
widely available in Iran, and it is rare to find a teenager who lacks at
least a passing familiarity with the music of Michael Jackson or Madonna.
Anti-American slogans share wall space with spray-painted
odes to Metallica and Guns N'Roses. Bookstores are filled with Persian
translations of novels by John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon and Danielle

To a greater degree, perhaps, than in any other country, the easy
availability of American popular culture in the closed society of Iran
demonstrates its appeal across political, religious and ethnic
boundaries. It also shows the futility of trying to screen it out in an
age when digital images fly across international telephone lines at the
speed of light and Hollywood movies can be widely disseminated by anyone
with a videocassette recorder.

Don't look for Planet Hollywood anytime soon. Conservative clerics, who
still hold sway in the Iranian parliament and other powerful
institutions, sound regular warnings about an encroaching "tide of
godlessness" and lament the growing numbers of "rappers and West-struck
youth," as one recently put it. Even among young Iranians, there are
fears that an onslaught of U.S. videotapes, books and compact discs will
dilute the richness of a 6,000-year-old culture of which most are
extraordinarily proud.

But Iran's gradual opening to the outside world -- a process that
accelerated last year with the election of Mohammed Khatemi, a moderate
cleric, as president -- and the introduction here of modern information
technology, such as the Internet, have inexorably weakened the country's
defenses against American culture.

While hard-liners struggle to maintain barriers against foreign
influence, Khatemi and his followers favor a subtler approach, one that
emphasizes the positive aspects of Western culture -- whether films,
software or democratic institutions -- while filtering out its more
tawdry elements. At the same time, they are trying to ease restrictions
on Iranian filmmakers, writers and other artists with the aim of making
their work more attractive to local audiences, hence more competitive
with foreign imports.

"What Khatemi wants is a sort of exchange," said Nasser Hodian, an
American-educated political science professor at Tehran University. "He
would argue that what the conservatives propose is not possible. Five to
10 years from now, the Internet will be everywhere."

Particularly among Iran's Westernized elite there is a sense that Khatemi
can hope for little more than to postpone his country's eventual
assimilation into a single, global culture -- in which U.S. influence
will reign supreme.

"It's inevitable," said a former diplomat in the shah's regime who
returned here from the West several years ago to reclaim family property
confiscated during the revolution. "I mean, it's happening in France. Do
you know how many McDonald's are in France now? And the French are
supposed to have the best cooking."

Still, Gallic pride is no match for Iranian xenophobia. Having read in
the history texts about centuries of domination by foreign powers, many
Iranians are even more sensitive than the French to assaults on their
language and culture. During the 1930s, Shah Reza Pahlavi earned the
lasting enmity of tradition-minded Iranians by trying to purge them of
their Shiite Muslim heritage, to the point of ordering a ban on veils.

Much of that wrath was later targeted at the United States, which
supported the military coup that unseated a democratically elected
government and restored power to the shah's son in 1953. Backed by a
dreaded security apparatus, the new shah followed closely in his
father's footsteps, relentlessly pushing his country toward the West with
scant regard for tradition.

The shah's efforts did much to modernize Iran, especially its sprawling
capital, which bears the signature of U.S.-trained urban planners in its
looping highways and American-style car culture. But the shah's
Westernization program caused deep resentment among Shiite clerics
and ordinary Iranians. Decrying the loss of Persian heritage, the late
Jalal Ali Ahmed, one of the country's most influential thinkers, coined
the term Gharbzadegi -- "Weststruckness" -- in a 1963 book by the same
name; it was subsequently banned.

Ahmed's definition of the term -- "a disease that comes from without" --
is said to have struck a powerful chord with Khomeini, the ... cleric
whose triumphant return from exile in 1978 set the stage for the shah's
ignominious flight and the subsequent taking of American hostages at the
U.S. Embassy here.

Iran's new leaders sought to erase the stain of "Westoxification," as
Khomeini put it, closing -- and sometimes burning -- movie theaters,
bookstores and other portals of Western influence. Government officials
grew beards and traded Western-style ties for collarless shirts. The
powerful Ministry of Islamic Guidance imposed strict censorship, chasing
many of the country's best writers and artists into exile.

With conservatives still dominant in parliament and elsewhere, a stifling
prudery pervades Iranian cultural life, at least in public. Satellite
dishes are illegal. So are performances by female singers and musical
tapes that feature vocalists of either sex.

But there is less to Iranian censorship than meets the eye. Despite stiff
fines, satellite dishes are widely if discreetly used, and customs
authorities are helpless against the flood of tapes, videocassettes and
other illicit materials smuggled from abroad; one diplomat described an
Iranian friend who boasted recently of having passed through the airport
here with 35 CDs hidden in his clothing and bags.

"Whatever you want, we can supply," said the owner of a video-rental
store in north Tehran, although he added, "We are going to rent these
tapes [only] to the people we know."

Guidance Ministry approval is still needed for publication of all books
and they are subjects to strict censorship. In the last few years,
however, as the government has eased restrictions on the printed word,
Iranian publishers have issued scores of translated U.S. titles,
heavily expurgated works by Danielle Steele and John Grisham and
self-help books such as John Gray's "Men are From Mars, Women are From
Venus." Iranian publishers, who are not bound by U.S. copyright laws, pay
nothing to use the material.

"In the last few years, Danielle Steele was like a fever," said Hassan
Kyaian, the owner of Chesmeh Publishing Co. in Tehran and the spokesman
for the Iranian publishers' association. "American literature has two
parts. One part is alive and deep, the other part is just on the surface,
and each part has its own audience."

A somber man with a neat mustache, Kyaian, 47, emphasized that he has
little time for the latter variety, preferring the work of Ernest
Hemingway and William Faulkner. He traced his affection for American
literature to high school, when he read a translated version of John
Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

"It was 30 years ago in one small city north of Tehran, and I can still
tell you about one of the most human scenes, at the end of the book, when
the old man is dying and the young woman feeds him from her breast," he
recalled from behind a counter in his small bookshop. "In
every good book there is a hidden thought and the thought is universal,
and it does not belong to any geographic area."

By and large, however, it is American popular culture -- especially music
and movies -- that has grabbed younger Iranians by the lapels. The lure
of forbidden fruit is clearly one part of the explanation.

"The attraction of [American] movies is sex and violence," said Sasson,
the engineering graduate and "Titanic" fan, who also had kind words for
"Scream" and "Independence Day."

"If you want to induce a sense of love, how can you in Iran with the
restrictions?" he asked. "Everything we have in Iran is forbidden."

During numerous conversations over a recent 10-day visit, younger
Iranians repeatedly expressed a view of U.S. culture as dynamic, youthful
and modern -- qualities they say are lacking in their tightly controlled
society. "They like to shake their body," said Behrooz, a clerk in a
bookstore near Tehran University, when asked to explain the appeal of
American pop music.

Noushabeh Amiri, an Oxford-educated journalist who edits an Iranian film
magazine, attributes part of the fascination with American movies to
Hollywood special-effects wizardry. "You have great technology,
which enables you to make any sort of imagination," she said recently,
citing Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" as an example. "You make
dreams, and those dreams can be understood anywhere."

The widespread availability of American music and films in a country
where women are barred from appearing in public with their heads
uncovered lends a surreal quality to life in the Iranian capital. At a
recent party in affluent north Tehran, the hostess served caviar and
homemade vodka to her guests -- including one young woman in a
thigh-length black mini-dress with faux-leopard collar -- while Barbra
Streisand crooned on the stereo.

"In Iran, people love America," said one of the guests, the former
diplomat, dressed like a Wall Street banker in a charcoal pin-striped
suit. "American culture, it has attraction for everyone, in music, in
dressing, everything." The country's clerical leaders, he added, "think
it's a plot. There's no such thing as a plot. It's just the inevitability
of the culture."

The infiltration of American culture has sparked a predictable backlash
among conservatives loyal to Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, who remains the dominant figure in Iran's complex political
hierarchy. "The biggest vice facing us is the cultural offensive," one of
the country's senior clerics, Ayatollah Jannati, told an audience at
Tehran University recently. "What are those who are seeking the opening
of the way for the U.S. thinking about? Why are you betraying Islam?"

But disquiet over American culture is not confined to the radical right.

Sitting on a brocade-covered couch in an elegant high-rise apartment,
Azad, 20, seemed to embody the conflicting attitudes that many young
Iranians harbor toward the West. A high-school senior who plans to enter
his father's food-processing business, he likes the music of Bryan
Adams and Celine Dion, considers "Titanic" "the best film I ever saw" and
regularly attends mixed-sex parties -- a flogging offense in Iran --
where the sound track runs toward techno and rave.

"In our homes we have America," said Azad, dressed in Levis and Nike
tennis shoes.

All the same, Azad is worried. "It will destroy the culture," he said of
the onslaught of U.S. films and music, adding that he would prefer to
watch Iranian films if only the government would lift restrictions on

Not that Iranian cinema is dead. Even under the Islamic regime, Iran's
film industry has continued to turn out high-quality art films such as
Abbas Kiarostami's "Taste of Cherry," a meditation on suicide that last
year won the prestigious Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Like their counterparts in France and Italy, however, Iranian filmmakers
worry that direct competition from Hollywood would soon drive them into
oblivion. "As a general rule, there shouldn't be any limitation [on
foreign imports], but the bad thing is if you open the
door, people will go after the highly commercial stuff," said filmmaker
Tamineh Milaneh, 37, draped in head scarf and black robe on the set of
her latest project, about a woman who is prevented by Islamic law from
divorcing her husband. "Right now everyone is watching videos. It's
very hard to control."

Some conservatives have reluctantly reached the same conclusion. "The
doors are open whether we like it or not," said Mohammed Kazem Anbarlou,
editor of the daily newspaper Resaalat, which backs Khamenei and, judging
from its content, regards the United States as the devil incarnate. "From
the Internet, we can have access to an ocean of knowledge."

Sporting the three-day beard favored by acolytes of the revolution,
Anbarlou acknowledged that American culture has its redeeming qualities.
He was particularly moved, he said, by the scene in "Titanic" in which a
minister clings to the rail of the sinking ship quoting from the Bible.
"At the time they were sinking, they thought about God," he said of the
scene, which was shown recently on Iranian television. "If the Western
culture and Islamic cultures and all cultures reach to God, there will be
no fight between them."

Trying to present a softer image to the world, some conservatives argue
that Khomeini's diatribes against the West had more to do with his quest
to reassert Iranian national identity, which the shah had done his best
to erase, than it did with revulsion toward Western culture.

"There are good points in any culture," said Hassan Ghofari Fard, a
senior member of parliament who earned his doctorate in physics at the
University of Kansas, where he volunteered on the 1972 presidential
campaign of George McGovern. "Human beings are the same all over the
world. . . . The problem is we don't want our culture to be smashed. We
don't want to to be washed away by American or any other culture."

Like the conservative parliamentary speaker, Nateq Nouri, with whom he is
closely linked, Fard expresses the view that some restrictions on the
flow of information and culture, such as the ban on satellite dishes, are
an essential protection against "disease."

But Khatemi favors another approach.

A former culture minister who once lived in Germany and has read Alexis
de Tocqueville in English, Khatemi has acknowledged that Iran has much to
learn from the West, asserting last December that the country "will only
succeed in moving forward . . . if we possess the
requisite fairness and capacity to utilize the positive scientific,
technological and social accomplishments of the Western civilization."

During his presidential campaign, he conspicuously failed to endorse the
satellite-dish ban, arguing that government should instead seek to
"immunize" Iranian youth against inappropriate material by providing them
with a better alternative. Examples abound in Tehran, where garbage
trucks broadcast Beethoven on their morning rounds and
Persian folk melodies play incessantly from loudspeakers in Mellat Park.

In a similar vein, Iranian television has tried to liven up the content
of its three channels, substituting soap operas for some religious
programming and recently signing a contract with BBC to purchase serials
such as "The Bill," a gritty police drama. It recently aired heavily
edited versions of "Robocop," "Dances with Wolves" and "All the
President's Men."

Perhaps the ultimate test of whether Khatemi's approach will succeed is
the Internet, which was introduced in universities and research centers a
decade ago. Recently, the government has permitted a handful of private
entities to begin offering the service on a limited basis. The
biggest is Neda Rayaneh Institute for Cultural Data and
Communication Development, a nonprofit corporation that operates from a
modern office block near a busy highway in north Tehran.

Using elaborate software to filter out pornography and other offensive
material, Neda is trying to use the Internet as a means to promote
Iranian commerce and culture rather than as a tributary for foreign
influences, according to Nasser Saadat, 38, an intense but genial
software engineer who runs the company from a spacious modern office
equipped with Microsoft manuals and a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Among other things, Neda provides Web sites for several hundred Iranian
companies seeking to market their products abroad, as well as
Persian-language newspapers and art galleries trying to sell paintings to
a wider audience. Its customers include Guidance Minister Ataollah
Mohajerani and Khatemi, who surfs the Web at a respectable baud rate of
64,000, according to Saadat, who installed the system in his office.

"Here at Neda, we don't see the Internet as a cultural imposition," said
Babak Davarpanah, 40, an economist who recently returned here from Paris
and works as a consultant to the company. "We see it as a tool to
promote Persian culture, Persian identity. There is a give and take."

Government officials acknowledged that restrictions on Internet access,
like the ban on satellite dishes, are easily circumvented. But they say
that is not really the point. "It's a kind of symbolic restraint,"
Mohammed Javad Larijani, a Berkeley-educated physicist and member of
parliament who introduced the Internet to Iran a decade ago, said of the
dish ban.

Such measures, he said, are designed to convey the message, "You should
be aware, you should be sensitive."

But that may be asking a lot of Iranian youth. Sasson, for example,
recently spent the evening at the home of a friend who has access to the
Internet through his employer. They used it to look at pictures of


Popular culture -- movies, television, music, food, clothing and more --
has become America's biggest export, now reaching every corner of the
globe. This series takes a closer look at how American style has
infiltrated even such supposedly closed countries as Iran and how the
power of the international market has come to influence what Hollywood

You don't need to buy Internet access to use free Internet e-mail.
Get completely free e-mail from Juno at
or call Juno at (800) 654-JUNO [654-5866]


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 26 Oct 1998 to 27 Oct 1998