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Convert's Death Writ 'Not Definitive'; Students Protest Sex Segregation

06 Oct 2011 21:15Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic 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 Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

NadarkhaniAndWife.jpg9:15 p.m., 14 Mehr/October 6 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Responding to the wave of international protest against the death sentence for Yousef Nadarkhani, a Muslim Iranian who converted to Christianity and become a preacher, the Iranian Embassy in Rome was forced to issue a statement denying that the death sentence is definitive. The statement pointed out that Article 13 of the Constitution recognizes the adherents to other Godly religions as religious minorities and respects their rights. It also observed that several religious minorities have their own representatives to the Majles. The embassy's statement was released after the false claim by Fars, the news agency run by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, that Nadarkhani was sentenced to die not for his conversion, but for other offenses, proved ineffective.

Eighteen citizens in Mashhad, including both Muslims and Baha'is, were given jail sentences on charges of propaganda against the state and insulting Islam. The prison sentences range from two to five years; they also received a total of 65 years of suspended sentences. The Baha'i faith, of which there are approximately seven million adherents around the world, is not recognized by Islam.

Hundreds of students at the University of Zanjan, 170 miles west of Tehran, gathered on the campus to protest the gender-based segregation of the school. In particular, the students protested their segregation in restaurants, in buses that transports them to and from their dormitories, and the science and engineering library. They complained that while the university claims that it has no funds for many projects, it spends money to institute and enforce the new segregation rules. Since last year, the hardliners have been trying to implement the segregation that has been demanded by ultra-conservative clerics. The plan has provoked many campus demonstrations around the nation, including at Amir Kabir University in Tehran and universities in Yazd, Shahr Kord, Kordestan, and other provinces. University security forces reportedly attacked the University of Mazandaran engineering school, trying to prevent a similar protest by students there.

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IranMovieHouse.jpgIranian cinema owners this week said they are preparing to close their movie houses in protest against the soaring utility bills they must bear since the reduction and elimination of energy subsidies that began last December. The costs for air conditioning and central heating are on the verge of driving many theaters out of business, they say. The National reports,
Owners argue that most of their customers cannot afford higher ticket prices at the box office to offset rising utility bills.

"After the implementation of the [subsidy] plan, the price of electricity, water and gas increased 10 to 15 times, while the income of the cinemas did not increase," Habib Kavoush, a spokesman for the Cinema Guild, told Sharq, a reformist newspaper, on Tuesday.

If one cinema is forced to close because of its rising costs, "we will shut down all the others," he warned. [...]

Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said movie house owners were exaggerating the problem -- but promised the government would help.

"The issue is not so critical...no cinema will be closed due to this," a ministry official, Alireza Sajadpour, told Sharq. "There is a plan to support the cinemas and it will be put into practice within 10 days at the latest."

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More items provided by Muhammad Sahimi:

In an article posted by the semiofficial Fars News Agency, Sadollah Zarei -- one of Iran's leading political pundits and a member of the editorial board of the hardline Kayhan newspaper -- criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for "not understanding the developments in the Middle East." In particular, Zarei chastised the president for referring to the developments as a "human awakening," rather than attributing them to Islam. "Ahmadinejad's positions over the last several months do not help discovery of the truth," Zarei wrote. "Regardless of what position Ahmadinejad has, he has no right to express his personal views whose origin is not clear, and ignore the national interest and expediency. The second most important person in the country cannot play a music instrument that helps only the enemy."

Ahmad Karimi Esfahani, a member of the central committee of the Front of Followers of the Imam and the Leader, a conservative coalition, said that there are those who do not want to allow Ahmadinejad to finish his second term, and have begun taking action, both within and outside the administration. He added that the opposition to Ahmadinejad among the hardliners, or principlists, "create a problem for him every day that targets the prestige and credibility of the president and the government. The president must be alert and not get trapped in the plans of the enemies."

Referring to the Majles elections to be held next March, reactionary cleric and Secretary-General of the Guardian Council Ahmad Jannati said that "some people want to deviate the elections from the path of the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] and the Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. The clerics should be aware of it and prevent it." He did not specify who those people are, but, he was apparently referring to Ahmadinejad and his supporters. Jannati emphasized that the Guardian Council will act according to Khamenei's wishes and demands.

Ahmadinejad is visiting Hamadan, in western Iran. Among the hand-held placards with which he has been greeted in the city's streets, some read "Ahmadi-ye Rajaei, dast bardar az Mashaei" -- Ahmadinejad, who is similar to Rajaei, get rid of Mashaei. Ahmadinejad's supporters liken him to Mohammad Ali Rajaei, the former prime minister and president who had a reputation for being pious and incorruptible; Rajaei was assassinated in August 1981. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president's chief of staff and close confidant, is considered the leader of the "perverted group" that the hardliners have been attacking.

Central Bank governor Mahmoud Bahmani said that he will not resign under pressure in the wake of the discovery of embezzlement of close to $3 billion. He added, "I am a soldier of the state and do not believe in resignation. The appointment and firing of people happens all the time, but I will not resign under any condition." At the same time, Hamid Reza Fooladgar, head of the Majles's Article 44 Commission, which oversees privatization of government-owned enterprises, said that the plan by some Majles deputies to impeach Minister of Economic and Financial Affairs Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini will be dropped only if Bahmani steps down.

Two Majles deputies criticized Hosseini for appointing Mahmoud Reza Khavari as Bank Melli chief, even after the Ministry of Intelligence rejected his credentials. After the discovery of the embezzlement, Khavari resigned and moved to Canada. One deputy, Mohammad Dehghan, said, "The appointment of Khavari as the Bank Melli chief was problematic from a legal point of view, for the Ministry of Intelligence had not supported his qualification and the Minister of Economics was aware of his dual [Iranian Canadian] citizenship." Another deputy, Esmail Kosari, said that since both the intelligence and economic ministries were aware of his dual citizenship, both are responsibile for Khavari's appointment, and that he had access to a lot of classified information and state secrets. However, Hamid Hontei, the Ministry of Economics security chief, said that Khavari's qualifications were approved in 2008.

Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, former secretary-general of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist group that has been outlawed by the hardliners, said that the reformists will not take part in the upcoming Majles elections. When told that the reformists must take a position against the "sedition" -- code name for the Green Movement -- in order to be allowed to campaign, Khatami responded, "Are we going to have elections?! Everybody takes positions against the sedition, [while] the country is dragged through embezzlement." When asked what the Sixth Majles (2000-4) would have done regarding the embezzlement, Khatami responded that if that Majles existed today, the crime would not have occurred in the first place.

Speaking at a conference, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said, "When we were learning to read books, we read in our textbooks that Iran is a developing country. Now that we are old, they still call Iran a developing country. When is the development going to occur?" He added, "Thirty-three years after the Revolution, we still do things by trial and error, which is a great and unforgivable sin, for we repeat things again and again. These are challenges that we must address in the research arena." Ghalibaf is considered a leading prospect for the 2013 presidential elections.

Labor activist Hamid Haj Esmaili said that there are 3.5 million people unemployed in Iran. He put the total number of people in the work force at 27 million, and thus the unemployment rate at close to 14 percent. Haj Esmaili said that 2.2 million people are permanently unemployed, and that many people, despite working 44 hours per week, cannot adequately provide for their families. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad claimed again that five million jobs will be created by next year.

Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, the commander of the national police, said that "1.2 million narcotic addicts have been identified, some of whom are wealthy and do not have any financial needs. Four hundred thousand people are also addicted to heroin for whom there is no treatment center near where they live."

In an interview with the Lebanese daily Daily Star, which is close to the Lebanese Hezbollah, Hossein Allah Karam, a well-known hardliner who is associated with the paramilitary group Ansar-e Hezbollah, said that there is the possibility of unrest in 80 districts in connection with the Majles elections. He categorized Ahmadinejad's critics into two groups, "One consists of the principlists who are close to the bazaar [merchants]. They do not support Ahmadinejad firmly and are waiting for him to make a mistake, so that they can take advantage of it. The second group consists of the true principlists, who are his critics because of his close association with Mashaei." Sadegh Ziba Kalam, a well-known professor of political science at the University of Tehran, also told the Daily Star that "it is highly doubtful that the reformists will take part in the Majles elections."

There have been reports that the daily newspaper 7-e Sobh may stop publishing. According to the reports, the editorial board members of the newspaper, which is closely linked to Mashaei, have not received their salaries for two months, and the paper is experiencing financial strains.

Jahan News, the website published by hardline Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ali Reza Zakani, reported that a "fake" Marja taghlid (source of emulation for the Shia masses) who is close to Mashaei has been arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison. Jahan News claims that the man, whom the website does not identify, has a "very bad track record of political and moral activities," and rejects the claim that he is a Marja. The cleric may be Seyyed Hadi Ghazanfari Khansari, who is known to be a close associate of Mashaei's.

Mashregh News, a website aligned with the security forces, reports that Mashaei and First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi have filed lawsuits against Ghalibaf; Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei; Brigadier General Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, the hardline Revolutionary Guard commander who is an adviser to judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani; Naser Saghaye Biria, a former Ahmadinejad supporter who has turned against him; and Majles deputies Ahmad Tavakoli and Elias Naderan. The website said that Zakani, Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ali Motahari, and the manager of Khabar Online, which is close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, are on a list of additional people who will be sued by Mashaei and Rahimi.

New reports indicate that human rights activist Kouhyar Goudarzi is being held in Evin Prison's Ward 209, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence. He was arrested on July 31, and is said to have been on a hunger strike for the last 17 days. Last month, two of his friends, Behnam Ganji and Nahal Sahabi, who were arrested with him, committed suicide after their release from jail.

Twenty-six Kurdish political prisoners, some of them Sunni activists, who are incarcerated in Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, have gone on hunger strike to protest the discrimination against them and disrespect for their rights as political prisoners, such as the right to receive regular visits by their families.

Journalist and mass media activist Mohsen Hakimi, long-time member of the Liberation Movement of Iran, founded by Mehdi Bazargan and his comrades in 1961, has been arrested. He was previously arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election and detained for several weeks.

Dr. Mehrdad Mashayekhi, political and social analyst, authors of numerous articles, and an editor of the book Iran: Political Culture in the Islamic Republic, passed away in Washington, D.C., at the age of 58. The cause of death was leukemia. He had a doctorate in sociology and an M.S. degree in economics, and was a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University.

On June 1, a young woman was raped by a large group of people in Khomeini Shahr in central Iran. The rape was national news for days and provoked wide reactions. Four of the rapists have been condemned to death and will be hanged publicly. At the same time, three people in Kerman in south-central Iran were hanged after they were convicted of narcotics trafficking. Eight other people were hanged in Rasht in northern Iran; their charges have not been announced.

In a speech in Indonesia, Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), urged Iran to fully cooperate with the agency to dispel doubts about the nature of its nuclear program. "Iran has not provided necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities," Amano said. "I'm encouraging Iran to take steps forward for full implementation of its obligations in order to establish international confidence in the peaceful nature of their activities."

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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