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'I Am Sad for My Country': Filmmaker Speaks Out on National TV

02 Apr 2011 23:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

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Ebrahim Hatamikia.

11:30 p.m., 13 Farvardin/April 2 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Well-known movie director and producer Ebrahim Hatamikia shocked many when in a nationally televised program he explicitly criticized the current state of affairs in the country. Hatamikia's latest film, Report on a Festival, has been attacked fiercely by the hardliners and fundamentalists. Among the points that he made:

"Whether a friend, or enemy, or well-wisher, everyone knows that I am being watched and scrutinized closely [by the government]."

"How can we ignore the conditions of the country over the past two years? I am explaining it using my own language."

"Even though I am a veteran filmmaker, if I need to have police in my movies, I must do it secretly."

"We are the orphans in the cultural arena and have no one [to support us]."

"I belong neither to the opposition, nor to the government. I try to say what is on my mind, and I believe people understand it."

"I would never forgive myself if I ever made a movie that created hopelessness. It would be immoral and unfair for a filmmaker to produce a movie that would create repression worse than the political repression in the country and give people the impression that there is no hope [for a more open society], and lie to our children and our elders, and then conclude that we should leave the country and go to the other side of the ocean [the United States]."

"My movie Report on a Festival is being attacked by the political radicals as severely as they attack the opposition, and the surprising thing is that the two [his movie and the opposition] are being treated as if they are one and the same. They can attack it; it does not bother me. I am sad for my country, which belongs to all of us. This political system must be reformed and we need reforms. We all know this, and try to say it in our own language."

Mohammad Jafar Behdad, deputy to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, threatened Mashaei's opponents. He accused them of spending the budget that the government has dedicated to the "soft war" on confronting the president and his chief of staff, and warned that they would be exposed to the public if the documents concerning the matter were to be released. "Soft war" is the label that the government applies to the peaceful struggle by the democratic opposition and its use of the Internet. "Ahmadinejad is the fundamental criterion for the principlism [fundamentalism]," said Behdad. "In the new [Iranian] year, the principlists should cleanse their ranks deeply, and reevaluate principlism using Ahmadinejad as the main criterion." He also warned that those who confront the president will be destroyed, and that "Ahmadinejad destroyed the Followers of Imam's Line [Islamic leftists] and has left nothing of the reforms. The principlists who are critics of Ahmadinejad should be thinking, similar to the reformists, of leaving the political scene. They feel threatened and want to undermine Ahmadinejad before they are destroyed, but their fate has already been decided."

The memorial for Mir Hossein Mousavi's father that was supposed to be held on Sunday has been canceled. In the Islamic tradition a memorial is held on the third and seventh days after the death, but Mousavi's family has issued a one-line statement informing the public that the memorial will not be held.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran has not intervened in any country, including Kuwait, which recently convicted three Iranian citizens of espionage and handed them death sentences. Kuwait is investigating the possibility of expelling some Iranian diplomats and citizens, accusing them of interference in its internal affairs. Salehi spoke by phone with his Kuwaiti counterpart, Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah, and emphasized that non-intervention in other countries' affairs is a fundamental principle of Iranian foreign policy and that Kuwait's security and stability is important to the Islamic Republic. He reminded al-Sabah that when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Iran stood by Kuwait and provided it with substantial aid. Reports indicate that Ali Zahrani, who was in charge of tourism at the Iranian embassy in Kuwait as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' intelligence branch for the Persian Gulf and Kuwait, left Kuwait in December 2009 after a number of Iranians were arrested, as did three other staff members of the embassy. Kuwait has withdrawn its ambassador from Tehran to protest the alleged interference by Iran in its internal affairs. Iran has rejected Kuwait's allegation that it has a network of spies there.

Asgar Jalalian, the Majles deputy from Dir and Kangan in southern Iran, said that 100,000 people in the fishing industry of Bushehr province have lost their jobs due to the elimination of subsidies and the steep increases in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel. He said that the problem has been further exacerbated by unregulated imports of fish.

Due to the political unrest in Syria, two Palestinian groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have asked Iran and Kuwait for permission to move their Damascus offices to Tehran and Kuwait City. Kuwait has agreed to allow Hamas to open an office there, but has rejected the Islamic Jihad's request, and hence the organization has turned to Tehran. According to the report, Iran has responded positively to the request, and has told Islamic Jihad that it can operate an office in Tehran until the situation in Syria clams down.

Nine members of Mir Hossein Mousavi's 2009 presidential campaign in Mazandaran province have been sentenced to jail: Dr. Ahmad Miri, Alireza Shahiri, Dr. Ali Akbar Soroush, Arya Aramnejad, Alireza Falahati, Mohammad Reza Karbalaei, Agha Malaki, Mohammad Ma'soumian, and Mostafa Ebrahim Tabar received sentences ranging from seven to 20 months imprisonment.

Imprisoned university student activist Arash Sadeghi has gone into a coma and been transferred to a hospital. Since March 15, he had been on a hunger strike, which he had been under pressure by prison officials to break. He was held in Evin Prison's Ward 209, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, where he was reportedly beaten up so badly that his shoulder and ribs were fractured.

The cleric Mohammad Reza Nour-alelahian, former deputy intelligence minister, has been incarcerated in Evin Prison. He used to work in the office of the Supreme Leader, and was in charge of clerical affairs of Mousavi's presidential campaign in 2009. A veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, he lost two brothers in the conflict, and is respected by both the reformists and conservatives.

The judiciary's Isfahan branch, in central Iran, has issued a statement confirming that 132 people are on death row. Fifty-nine other convicts sentenced to death on narcotics-related charges have received clemency.

Fakhr ol-Sadat Mohtashamipour, wife of imprisoned outspoken reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, has been transferred to a hospital. She threatened that she would go on a hunger strike if she was not allowed to see her husband, and has apparently made good on that pledge.

Journalist and documentary film maker Mohammad Nourizad has gone on a hunger strike. In a letter to Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, dated over two weeks ago, Nourizad stated that he is taking the action because he rejects all the accusations against him and the legality of his jail sentence. He said that until his wishes are granted, he will accept no food, will not ask to be allowed to call his family, and will not ask for any furlough. Responsibility for the consequences of his action, he declared, rests with those officials that had roles in his illegal arrest and conviction. He was previously given a medical furlough, but was returned to jail on February 26, before his medical treatment was completed. Nourizad was arrested after he wrote several highly critical letters to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Minister of Economic and Financial Affairs Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini, said that when inflation is brought under control, three zeroes will be eliminated from the Iranian rial. In other words, what costs 10,000 rials at present will be revaluated at just 10 rials. He also said that the banks will make more loans and other financial services available in the new Iranian year that began on March 21. The interest rate on one-year saving accounts was reduced from 14 percent to 12.5 percent.

Dr. Mohammad Hossein Sharif Zadegan, Mir Hossein Mousavi's brother-in-law and minister of welfare and social security in the Khatami administration, has been released from detention. He was arrested 50 days ago.

The government of India has announced that, pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions that have imposed sanctions on Iran, it would also put more restrictions on commerce with Iran. According to the new restrictions, the sell of any type of technology that might help Iran's nuclear program has been banned. It also includes those that have dual use and might be used in the nuclear program. Also banned is the sale of any technology that can be used in Iran's missile program.

The government of China has issued an official statement in which it has emphasized that the problems about Iran's nuclear program must be addressed and solved diplomatically. The statement says that it is possible to resolve the issues diplomatically, which will help the stability and peace in the Middle East, and that China will do its utmost to help resolve the issue diplomatically.

Turkey has reported to the United Nations Security Council that it has found items in an Iranian cargo plane that are under U.N. sanctions. As reported by Tehran Bureau, the cargo plane that was flying from Tehran to Syria was forced to land in Turkey so that its cargo can be inspected. Turkey has reported that it has identified ammunition and weapons among the cargo and has seized them.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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