Frontline World

IRAN - Forbidden Iran, January 2004

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "Forbidden Iran"

A Brief History

Undercover With the Underground

Nobel Prize Winner

Government, People, the Press

Human Rights, Blogs, Nuclear Threats




Deadly Tremor

The death toll from the earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam Dec. 26, 2003, has surpassed 25,000. Online NewsHour reports on international aid efforts and relief workers' shift from rescuing the trapped to addressing sanitation and survivors' humanitarian needs.

Links and Resources

• General Background
• The Student and Reform Movements
• Press Freedoms
• U.S.-Iran Relations and the Nuclear Issue
• Media Resources
• Weblogs

General Background

BBC Country Profile
This BBC News profile of Iran includes a brief history of the country since the 1979 revolution, a short biography of current president Mohammad Khatami and a summary of media in Iran. It also provides a succinct time line of the country's history since 1907.

UT Library Online
The University of Texas at Austin has archived a number of Central Intelligence Agency-created maps detailing Iran's regions and cities.

Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The homepage of President Mohammad Khatami, president of Iran since 1997, includes his biography, an audio archive of his speeches (in Persian) and links to other government Web sites.

Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran
This is the official Web site of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's chief of state.

Iran Index
This comprehensive Web guide, compiled by the non-profit Pars Times, organizes Iran-related background and links by topic. Subject headings include government, society and culture, history and national heritage, arts and entertainment, literature, and news and media.

UNICEF Statistics
The United Nations Children's Fund provides basic demographic and health statistics on Iran, such as infant mortality rate, literacy rate by gender and statistics on women's development.

The Story of the Revolution
This is a four-part radio story about the Islamic Revolution of 1979 produced by the BBC Persian Service, with text in English.

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The Student and Reform Movements

The Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI), also known as Daneshjoo, is a leading Iranian student group. Formed in 1997, its members are organizing to promote nonviolence, democracy and secularism in Iran. Its Web site includes articles from the group's newsletter and other media reports on student efforts; action alerts and discussion boards; and amateur video recordings of student demonstrations.

"Backers of Iranian Reform Fight Tide of Frustration"
This article by Afshin Molavi, published in the SMCCDI's newsletter, examines Iranian students' growing discontent and impatience with Iran's reformist president, Mohammad Khatami. The article details a pro-democracy student group's break with the reformists and the group's open letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The group charges that its former allies were incapable of achieving democracy, human rights and freedom in Iran. (July 13, 2003)

Amnesty International Public Statement
This July 2003 statement by Amnesty International expresses concern over the Iranian government's treatment of student activists and demonstrators. Thousands of students were arrested during 2003 summer demonstrations against efforts to privatize universities in Iran. The statement includes background on the student activists and their clashes with Iranian police and vigilantes. The site also has links to other Amnesty International reports on Iran.

The Campaign to Free Iran's Students
This London-based human rights organization is campaigning for the release of dozens of imprisoned student activists in Iran.

"A Revolution Short of a Leader"
International relations expert Dr. Hooman Peimani argues that Iran's growing intellectual opposition to the theocratic rule needs firm leadership and more popular support in order to become a powerful force of reform. (Asia Times, June 2003)

"Iran's Hard-Liners Reject Reform Bills Approved by Parliament"
Nazila Fathi reports on bills to expand civil rights in Iran and the blow to the reform movement when the bills were rejected by the country's hard-line Guardian Council. (The New York Times, Aug. 14, 2003) (Registration required)

"Iran: Revolting Against the Revolution?"
Heritage Foundation Research Fellow James A. Phillips argues for the use of economic sanctions against Iran to support the country's grassroots movement for reform. (Heritage Foundation, WebMemo #298, June 18, 2003)

"Iran's Municipal Elections: A Turning Point for the Reform Movement?"
This article, published by the Washington Institute, discusses the implications of the February 2003 municipal elections in Iran on reform efforts in the country. Author Ray Takeyh, a professor at the National Defense University, examines Iran's lowest voter turnout in 24 years and the resurgence of the right. (Policy Watch, March 6, 2003)

"Tehran Mostly Quiet After Fourth Anniversary of Pro-Democracy Protests"
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Charles Recknagel covers Iranian student demonstrators' clashes with police on the fourth anniversary of nationwide pro-democracy protests in 1999. Recknagel reports that student activity was relatively subdued, confirming the success of police and hard-line vigilante groups in keeping Iran's reformist students off the streets. (RFE/RL, July 10, 2003)

Profile: Shirin Ebadi
BBC News profiles human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, who recently becamethe first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The 56-year-old woman has been a key figure in the reform movement and is credited with being a driving force behind the reform of family laws in Iran, including laws regulating divorce and inheritances. Ebadi was the first female judge in her country, but was forced to resign when women were banned from holding such posts. She went on to establish a law practice, taking on politically sensitive cases that other Iranian lawyers wouldn't touch. (BBC News, Oct. 10, 2003)

Women and Social Change in Iran
The Asia Society convened a panel of experts on Iranian women's human rights to discuss social reform in Iran. Discussion highlights of the November 2003 panel and short biographies of the panelists are posted on the organization's Web site.

"Iran's Best-Known Female Dancer ... Detained on Charges..."
Associated Press reporter Ali Akbar Dareini reports on the recent arrests of Iran's best-known female dancer, Farzaneh Kaboli, and 24 of her students on charges of dancing in public. The women were performing at Tehran's prestigious Vahdat Hall for an all-female audience when police detained them. Although there are no written laws against dancing, Iran's hard-line clerics have banned the activity, saying it promotes moral corruption. Kaboli's students were released, but she is still in custody at Evin Prison. (The San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 25, 2003.)

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Press Freedoms

Freedom of the Press Throughout the World: Iran
In its 2003 annual report, the international watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, which is dedicated to defending journalists and their freedoms worldwide, states that Iran remained the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East. Although fewer journalists were arrested during 2002, 10 were still in prison at the end of the year, serving sentences ranging from three to eight years.

"Iran Reports on Journalist Death"
CNN covered the July 2003 death of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, which occurred while she was in the custody of Iranian authorities. Kazemi had been taking photographs of the Evin prison north of Tehran, where many student activists and reformists are imprisoned, when she was detained by security agents. The story details President Mohammad Khatami's establishment of a special committee to investigate Kazemi's death.

Human Rights Watch
The international human rights organization archives its various reports and press releases by country. The Iran page includes open letters to the European Union regarding political prisoners, calls to stop violent action against pro-democracy activists and other briefing papers. A 1999 report, "As Fragile As a Crystal Glass," that documents the censorship of Iranian media and repression of journalists also is available online.

Enemies of the Press
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran a repeat offender in its annual ranking of the world's worst abusers of the media in 2001. The committee's news archives also contain reports on Iranian journalists, including Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, who was imprisoned for criticizing capital punishment in Iran. In 2000, Shamsolvaezin was a recipient of the CPJ's International Press Freedom Award. Another resource on this site is a practical guide for journalists working in dangerous situations.

"Iran's Hard-Liners Step Up Arrests of Activists"
Dan De Luce reports from Tehran on Iran's new attempts to intimidate opposition before parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for February 2004. Hard-line clerics have been arrested and journalists, students and political activists have been interrogated. (Guardian Unlimited, Aug. 4, 2003)

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U.S.-Iran Relations and the Nuclear Issue

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran
The IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear cooperation arm, passed a resolution in late November 2003 deploring Iran for an 18-year-long cover-up of its nuclear energy program. The agency stopped short, however, of reporting Iran to the Security Council, which could have imposed sanctions. Members of the Bush administration were lobbying for sanctions, but acquiesced days before the resolution was passed. In addition to a copy of the resolution (PDF format), the IAEA Iran content online includes the Director General's opening remarks to the resolution; an archive, in the form of a time line, of IAEA inspections; background on Iran; and general statistics and facts.

Terror and Tehran
This 2002 FRONTLINE documentary on PBS questioned President George W. Bush's inclusion of Iran in the "axis of evil" and examines relations between the United States and Iran. The accompanying Web site includes an overview of Iran's government and political system, a look at election outcomes from 1997 through 2001, and excerpts from interviews with such leading reformists as Iran's vice president, Massoumeh Ebtekar, andits ambassador to Canada, Mohammad Ali Mousavi.

Nuclear Threat Initiative: Iran Profile
This country profile provides an overview of Iran's nuclear capacity, which includes research reactors and two partially-constructed power reactors at Bushehr. Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn to address proliferation issues, also provides links to other reports and papers regarding Iran and weapons of mass destruction.

"Iran's Secret Quest for the Bomb"
Nonproliferation expert Leonard S. Spector argues that nuclear weapons development will likely not be curtailed voluntarily by Tehran. (YaleGlobal, May 16, 2003)

"Accidents May Be Iran's Greatest Nuclear Threat"
Dan De Luce reports that while Western governments are worrying about Iran's building an atomic bomb, safety experts are saying the greatest nuclear risk posed by Tehran's nuclear program is that of an accident. (Guardian Unlimited, Nov. 10, 2003)

The Council of Foreign Relations
This nonpartisan center's Web site contains background on Iran's nuclear weapons program in the form of questions and answers.

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Media Resources

News agencies critical of Iran's government and its policies have come under attack in recent years. A total of 85 newspapers, according to Reporters Without Borders, have been shut down in Iran since April 2000, the start of the latest conservative crackdown, and more than 1,800 journalists and photographers have lost their jobs. In 2002 alone, Iran's hard-liners closed 18 papers.

News Links
This comprehensive directory of Iran media sources includes links to dozens of newspapers, radio stations and television stations.

Tehran Times
This English-language newspaper in Tehran is editorially conservative.

The Iran Daily
The English-language reformist newspaper offers PDF versions of past editions.

The Aftab-e Yazd
The Aftab-e Yazd is a Persian-language daily reformist newspaper.

The Islamic Republic News Agency
This is Iran's official news agency.

The Payvand Iran News
This Web site posts breaking news about Iran from various Iranian and Western news sources.

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Weblogs, or blogs, are frequently-updated and chronologically-ordered online journals, and they are catching on in Iran. More than 10,000 blogs have been created by Iranians to communicate with each other about both the personal and the political, from dating and sex to accounts of student protests and political criticism.

"Blogs Opening Iranian Society?"
Wired News's Michelle Delio reports on the explosion of Farsi blogs, which have come under attack by Iran's hard-line clerics. Delio details the April arrest of Iranian journalist Sina Motallebi for blogging. (Wired News, May 28, 2003)

"Web Gives a Voice to Iranian Women"
BBC News reporter Alfred Hermida discusses how women in Iran are turning to blogs to talk freely about taboo subjects. (BBC News, June 17, 2002)

"Blogging for Imam Husain"
This research paper by Alireza Mohammadi Doostdar, master's of education student at the Harvard graduate school of education, charts the development of Iranian blogs from many different political perspectives and analyzes their impact on Iranian society.

Blogs by Iranians
This is a list of Iranian-related blogs divided into "insiders," those written by people living in Iran, and "outsiders," Iranians and Iran observers living overseas. (Some of the blogs listed are down.)

Weblog on Iran, technology and pop culture
This blog, by Iranian journalist Hossein Derakhshan, was one of the first Iranian blogs created. Derakhshan, who now lives in Canada, also provides links to several other Iranian blogs that are produced in English.

ActivistChat Blog
This blog focuses on Iranian political news and discussions.

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