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Greens Seek Egyptian Solidarity March; State Media: Protesters 'Thank Iran'

06 Feb 2011 20:22Comments

Press Roundup provides selected excerpts of news and opinion pieces from the Iranian and international media. Click on the link to the story to read it in full. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. The inclusion of various opinions in no way implies their endorsement by Tehran Bureau. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow other news items through our Twitter feed.

THE LEAD

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Opposition Demands Permit to March in Support of Egyptian Uprising

Los Angeles Times | Feb 6

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have asked the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by [Mostafa Mohammad Najar,] an acolyte of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to allow for a march next Monday in support of the Egyptian uprising and Tunisian revolution.

"In order to show solidarity with the popular movements in the region and specifically the freedom-seeking movement embarked on by Tunisian and Egyptian people against their autocratic governments," says a letter addressed to the Interior Ministry, "we hereby request permit to call for a rally -- as Article 27 of the constitution authorizes -- on Monday, Feb 14, 2011, at 3 p.m. from Imam Hossein to Azadi Square."

Iran's hardline authorities won't approve a permit for the march, especially at the same site where up to 3 million anti-government protesters staged a rally on June 15, 2009.

These days, only rallies by supporters of the Iranian government, often bused in and handed free food, are allowed.

Iranian Opposition Wants to Rally in Support of Arab Uprisings

Radio Zamaneh | Feb 6

In the past year, [Mousavi and Karroubi] have repeatedly applied for demonstration permits, so that the protesters would be spared the bloody attacks by security forces which led to the deaths of dozens of demonstrators following the 2009 elections.

The government has refused each request. The Iranian far right, headed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has accused the opposition leaders of fomenting a seditious movement aimed at toppling the regime.

In comparing the protests in Egypt and Iran, Mousavi has said: "Today in Egypt, despite all tensions and conflicts, protesters are allowed to demonstrate in order to establish which group has greater support. Therefore we believe that if Iranians were also allowed to demonstrate, it would become fully apparent which movement enjoys a greater social and popular base."

Iranian Opposition Bids to Hold Pro-Egypt Rally

Reuters | Feb 6

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the two uprisings [in Egypt and Tunisia] as an "Islamic awakening", continuing the work started by Iranian revolutionaries who overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979 and established Shi'ite Muslim clerical rule.

In reply, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told Khamenei to mind his own business: "Instead of seeking to distract the Iranian people with Egypt's political movements, the Supreme Leader should look to Iran and its people who have been aspiring to freedom from an oppressive system."

And Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement responded to Khamenei's comments by saying it did not deem the Egyptian uprising to be an Islamic revolution.

After Friday prayers in Tehran, where Khamenei sent a message of encouragement to the Arab protesters, several hundred Iranians demonstrated, burning pictures of Mubarak and shouting slogans against Israel and the United States.

See also: "Mousavi Statement on Recent Events in the Arab World" (Tehran Bureau) | "Mousavi and Karroubi Held a Joint Meeting" (Mousavi's Facebook page) | Map of requested rally route (Green Voice of Freedom via Google Maps)

Egyptian Protesters Thank Iran for Supporting Freedom Movement

IRNA | Feb 6

Masses of protestors in Egypt on Sunday thanked the Iranian nation for supporting the freedom movement in Egypt.

According to IRNA correspondents in Cairo, tens of thousands of Egyptian[s] on Sunday continued their protests and called for regime change in Egypt to put an end to the conspiracies of the US against Arab nations.

During the demonstrations, the people pledged to continue with [the] campaign to topple the US-backed regime.

An Egyptian citizen said people should also hold their protests in front of [the] US and Zionist regime embassies.

Another protester said reestablishment of brotherly ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Egypt would be in line with the interest of [the] Muslim World.

OTHER NEWS

Iran Begins Trial of Three US Spies

Press TV | Feb 6

The trial of the three US nationals detained in Iran for illegal entry and charged with espionage has begun in the Iranian capital of Tehran behind closed doors.

The trial, which heard the charges brought against Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, began at 10 a.m. on Sunday in Tehran's Revolution Court.

Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were arrested in July 2009 after illegally crossing the border into Iran from the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdistan region.

Shourd was not present at the first session of the trial; however, her lawyer submitted a statement on her behalf.

The three have pleaded not guilty.

The Tehran Prosecutor's office says it has "compelling evidence" that [the] three were cooperating with US intelligence agencies.

Death of Imprisoned Green Movement Supporter Arash Arkan

Green Voice of Freedom | Feb 6

After a year, 2 months and 26 days of imprisonment, another Green Movement supporter, Arash Arkan, has died of a heart failure three days after he was hospitalised.

According to Iran-Emrooz, Arash Arkan died in hospital at around 2pm on 29 January after a deterioration of his health condition in prison. He was recently granted a prison leave after his kidney disease worsened in Evin, but was soon called back to prison depriving him from receiving the medical attention that he required. Soon after his return to prison, Arkan's condition deteriorated and just three days prior to his death, he was taken to Baghiatallah hospital -- associated with the Revolutionary Guards -- where he passed away due to heart failure.

Arash Arkan was arrested on 4 November 2009 while helping a protester who was being chased by the police for having taken pictures from an opposition protests close to Vali-Asr Square in Tehran. According to Iran-Emrooz, Ashkani, who had realised that a young protester was in danger of being arrested by Iranian security forces for the sole "crime" of filming the unrest using his mobile phone, quickly intervened and attempted to trip one of the security forces to allow for the protester to flee the scene. Although Arkan's heroic act helped his fellow Iranian to run away, it wasn't enough to to save himself from the batons of the police forces present at the scene.

When Arash was freed from prison for a few days prior to the court's decision, he was asked, "If you could go back in time, would you be prepared to help that youngster again?"

"Without hesitation," [he] replied.

Iran Parliament Plans Dress Code for Women Reporters

AFP (via StraitsTimes) | Feb 5

Iran's conservative-dominated parliament plans to implement a new dress code for woman journalists who cover its proceedings, the ILNA news agency reported on Saturday.

"Some woman reporters do not dress appropriately for the atmosphere of the parliament," conservative MP Fatemeh Rahbar told ILNA.

Islamic dress has been mandatory for women in Iran since the 1979 revolution, with every adult female -- regardless of religion and nationality -- required to cover her hair and bodily contours in public.

Iran's female MPs, all staunch conservatives, wear the traditional black enveloping head-to-toe chador, but many government employees just opt for a headscarf and long coat.

Foreign Cooking Shows Banned on Iran TV

AFP (via Khaleej Times) | Feb 6

Iran's state-run television has been banned from screening cooking shows that promote foreign cuisine as conservatives seek to fight Western influence in the Iranian culture, media reported on Sunday.

'From now on teaching how to cook non-Iranian dishes is banned,' deputy head of Iran's state broadcaster Ali Darabi was quoted as saying by Aftabnews, a moderate website, and several other media outlets.

Iran Bans State TV from Teaching Foreign Recipes

AP (via Washington Post) | Feb 6

Darabi, announced the ban during a visit to one of the country's 30 state-run TV channels.

The ban is seen as part of a nationalistic campaign increasingly pushed by Iran's government in recent years.

Pizza, pasta and Western fast foods like hamburgers and hot-dogs are popular in Iran, and Tehran boasts many restaurants that serve Western or Asian food.

Russia Rejects New Iran Sanctions

Press TV | Feb 6

Russia has rejected imposing new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, saying the move violates previous agreements reached between major powers.

"The sanctions which were approved in June last year aimed at [Iran's] nuclear program have been completely exhausted," RIA Novosti quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

"Any new proposals at least those which I hear from time to time regarding new sanctions will basically be aimed at suffocating the Iranian economy which was not part of the agreement when E3+3 started," he went on to say.

E3+3 or P5+1, which comprises Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany, held the last round of the multifaceted negotiations with Iran in the Turkish city of Istanbul last month.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Arab Revolutions Transcend Iran's

Roxane Farmanfarmaian, Affliated Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University and Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Center of the University of Utah (Al Jazeera) | Feb 6

[Mubarak's] warning that it was either him -- or the Muslim Brotherhood -- was designed to instill fear both at home and abroad. And it is a message that has resonated well with Western concerns, particularly in this age of al-Qaeda extremism and Islamic terrorism.

The "either us or them" argument, however, had an earlier incarnation in a mantra often used by Iran's Shah. In his day, it was not Islamism but communism that struck fear in the Western heart, and that is what he suggested would replace him were he to fall. Ensuring against a Red Iran was the impetus behind the CIA coup that placed him on the throne in 1953 - and guaranteed him US support until the bitter end. As a result, the real story of the Iranian revolution -- that it was a highly organised, mosque-based movement that over the course of several years had built up the momentum at last to topple the Shah -- was ignored until too late.

Looking at the movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan as what they really are -- rather than as what they are feared to be -- reveals broad-based popular uprisings that do not bear the Islamist organisational or ideational imprint. The Egyptians in the streets, much like presumptive coalition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei and women's rights activist Nawal El Saadawi, all state categorically that what is happening in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. The demonstrations were started by bloggers, social media activists, Al Jazeera watchers -- not by the Brotherhood -- which joined the demonstrations three days later. There are no Islamist banners being held up in the streets, no Islamist leaders jumping on soap boxes calling the faithful to jihad.

In Iran in 1979, there were as many banners bearing Islamic slogans as there were banners calling for the Shah to go. The drumbeat of the demonstrations marked Shia holidays, such as Ashura and Tasua, and followed the 40-day Shia mourning ritual for 'martyrs' killed by the Shah's army. The voices of Ayatollah Khomeini and other clerics led the demonstrations through exhortations at Friday prayers. In many demonstrations, the women and the men marched separately -- the women shrouded in black, head-to-toe chadors. From the outset, for anyone willing to read it, the writing was on the wall: Iran's revolution was Islamic.

Theocracy Is History

Jaber Ansari, Former Iranian Ambassador to Libya (Iranian Diplomacy) | Feb 6

Tunisia turned upside down the conventional dynamism of protests: this time, it was the masses that compelled the political opposition, the ruling elite and influential foreign actors to take action. It seems that Egypt has patterned itself on Tunisia, though unlike its western neighbor, Egypt has always had a vibrant political opposition.

The masses have drawn the political opposition into the street. However, this does not negate the potential influence of the opposition on the popular anti-regime demonstrations in these countries. In both Tunisia and Egypt (and other candidates for public protests), Islamist groups have been trying to leave their mark on the demonstrations and direct them in a way that maximally realizes their historical demands. In Egypt, this desire is more conspicuous. The Muslim Brotherhood is perhaps the oldest Islamist movement in the entire Muslim world. It enjoys an efficient organization and its roots runs deep inside Egyptian society, from the intellectual and the elite, to trade unions and NGOs. The Brotherhood will naturally make efforts to take control of the popular wave of anger against Mubarak's regime and deepen and widen the political tsunami.

Even a minimal structural change in Egypt and Tunisia, one that creates room for participation of the masses and the non-governmental elite in state affairs, will pave the way for a stronger presence of Islamist movements in politics. This does not equate with the establishment of an Islamic regime in these countries, at least in [the] middle- and short-term, as such a thing would face fierce opposition. In the case of Egypt, in particular, Tel Aviv's grave concerns and the Muslim Brotherhood's staunch support for the anti-Israel resistance will foil any effort that leads to an Islamist party's domination over Egyptian politics.

On the other hand, faith is not the only concern of Tunisians and Egyptians. A better state of the economy, politics, diplomacy and especially a revival of the violated dignity of the Arabs is the key aim of the opposition and the masses. This basic demand besides the lack of a powerful, revolutionary leader who would be able to gather all opposition groups under one umbrella (similar to Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran's Islamic Revolution), Western countries' efforts, and the ruling elite's resistance, reduces the probability of dominance by an Islamist group. However, as the gap between the nation and the state becomes wider in Tunisia and Egypt and citizens, the elite, and opposition parties find an opportunity to participate effectively, the Islamist groups can turn into key actors in future politics due to their deep-seated influence in the society.

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