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News | UN: Iran 'Clampdown' on Dissent; Ahmadinejad: 'Enemy' Rocks Rial

by DAN GEIST

03 Oct 2012 04:47Comments

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. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

ParisaHafezi.jpgHuman Rights Story of the Day

U.N. rights agency condemns Islamic Republic's expanding "clamp down on critical voices"

The office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights on Tuesday expressed its deep concern over the Islamic Republic's recent detention of "several prominent human rights defenders, journalists and political activists" and urged the Iranian government "to promptly release all those who have been arrested for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights." On Sunday, Iranian state media reported that Reuters bureau chief Parisa Hafezi (pictured at right) had been convicted by a special media court of "spreading lies" in connection with a a video report that the news agency originally ran under the headline "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins."

Among the other cases described in the U.N. human rights agency's briefing are those of Faezeh Hashemi and Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, daughter and son of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; Ali Akbar Javanfekr, press adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and chief of the Islamic Republic News Agency and Iran newspaper; and Mehdi Rahmanian, managing director of the reformist Shargh daily, shut down by authorities last week ostensibly for publishing an "insulting" cartoon.

According to the briefing, the agency is particularly concerned about Saturday's arrest of Mohammad Ali Dadkhah (pictured on homepage),

a prominent human rights lawyer and co-founder (with Shirin Ebadi) of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders. Mr Dadkhah is now beginning a nine-year jail sentence previously imposed on him after he was charged with "membership of an association seeking to overthrow the government and propaganda against the system."

The prison sentence was coupled with a 10-year ban on legal practice and teaching. Mr Dadkhah had been involved in defending many high-profile cases, and the case against him is widely believed to be linked to his work as a human rights defender.

Mr Dadkhah's case is reminiscent of those of other jailed human rights defenders in Iran, in particular that of the lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, whose case has been raised in the past by the High Commissioner. Ms Sotoudeh is one of the three final nominees for the prestigious Martin Ennals human rights award, which is being awarded this evening here in Geneva, despite the fact she is serving a six-year jail term.

Amnesty International issued a call on Monday that Dadkhah be "immediately and unconditionally released."

The U.N. rights agency also noted that Reuters' Iranian operations have been completely suspended; the wire service's 11 employees in the country were ordered to surrender their press cards in March, after the ninja story aired.

Admission of the Day

"Are these [currency] fluctuations because of economic problems? The answer is no. Is this because of government policies? Never.... It's due to psychological pressures. It's a psychological battle.... The enemy is making pressure by playing with [exchange rate] numbers in the street."

-- At a press conference Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledges the effect of Western financial "pressure" on Iran's crashing rial. With rare exceptions, Islamic Republic officials have consistently denied that foreign sanctions have had any negative effect on the Iranian economy.

Palliative Headline of the Day

"Iran May Still Be Years Away from Any Nuclear-Armed Missile"

-- From Reuters, a story reported from outside Iran. While the Islamic Republic may soon have enough uranium enriched to 19.75 percent that it could quickly produce weapon-grade fissile material sufficient for a nuclear bomb if it so chose, the report observes that there would also be the not-so-little matter of "fashioning highly refined uranium gas into a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile." Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, says, "I still think that we are talking about several years...before Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and certainly before they could have a deliverable nuclear weapon."

Provocative Headline of the Day

"Iran to Enrich Uranium to 60% If P5+1 Talks Drag On: MP"

-- From Iran's state-run Press TV. Mansour Haghighatpour, deputy chief of the Majles's Foreign Policy and National Security Commission, says that if negotiations with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany fall through, the Islamic Republic is prepared to drastically increase its highest-end uranium enrichment, from the current 19.75 percent, to fuel nuclear "submarines and ocean-going ships."

Video of the Day

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Akbar Salehi addresses and takes questions at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Monday.

Q&A of the Day

From the transcript of the foregoing, a question posed by moderator Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker and an excerpt from Salehi's lengthy response:

I understand that the Iranian constitution demands that you protect Muslims wherever they're threatened. In taking that principle, why would you support a largely secular regime in Syria, which has murdered more Muslims, not just in this regime but in the previous Assad regime, than probably Israel has in its entire existence?

We support the Syrian people, and we have stated [so] many times over and over. The first time I made my position clear vis-à-vis the crisis in Syria, it was more than a year and [a] few months ago. And we said it is incumbent upon the people -- upon the government of Syria to meet the legitimate demands of the Syrian people and that the Syrian people, like any other people in any democratic country, are entitled to democracy, are entitled to freedom. And so the government of Syria will have to meet these demands. And there was an article, I was told, in [the] New York Times: "Has Iran changed its position vis-à-vis Syria?" But that was our position then, and this is our position now.

We have -- and I have said it in my statement that we are for the people of Syria to gain their freedom and democracy, but at the same time, we're against international interference. What is happening now in Syria, as you just refer -- I refer you to the Western intelligence reports, which says that many foreign fighters, specifically and more importantly including the extremists and al-Qaeda, are now fighting in Syria against the government and committing all these atrocities to tarnish the -- I'm not -- I'm not trying to acquit the Syrian government, but also these atrocities committed by others is tarnishing the image of the Syrian government.

But the Syrian government -- we have said it also. We wish that they had taken a better position vis-à-vis their people in the outbreak of the uprising. There were some mistakes committed, but this does not justify in any way interference from outside.

We are not in a position -- I do not -- I speak on -- on the part of my country, on behalf of my country. We never think, ever, to tell the president of a country, please step down. I mean, imagine somebody comes and tells the president of the U.S., please step down because there are some people who dislike you. I mean, even if that is a fact, even if the majority of the people don't like the president of their country, it is not upon another country to go to that particular country and ask the president of the country to step down. This is -- this has to be left to the people of Syria to resolve their issue.

Now, we have been in contact with the opposition, although discreetly in the beginning because the government of Syria didn't like it. But eventually we discussed with them that we have to recognize the opposition. So we have been in contact with the opposition for over a year, and we have declared and announced that we are ready to host the opposition and the government in Iran to facilitate for the coming together, sit with each other and find a solution. [...]

Photo of the Day

AhmjadFars10212.jpg

An evocative image from Ahmadinejad's press conference. The Fars News Agency is an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Within the Islamic Republic's complex ruling system, the relationship between the Revolutionary Guards and the president's camp has become increasingly tense over the past year.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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