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University Students, Basijis Clash; 2 Reformist Papers Barred

29 Sep 2010 11:26No Comments

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.


Iran Students and Security Clash on Campus

Al Arabiya | Sept 28

Clashes between Iranian students and security forces intensified with the beginning of the academic year as university campuses witnessed unprecedented deployment of Basij forces.

Violence started in the northwestern city of Rasht when security personnel at the Free University prevented male students from entering the campus for wearing a short-sleeved shirt as well as female students for not covering their head properly.

The incidents triggered protests by the students and clashes with security forces ensued. Students were beaten by Iran paramilitary forces the Basij, whose members played a major role in crushing opposition during the political unrest that followed the 2009 presidential elections.

Students from other universities voiced their indignation at the violent treatment of students and threatened to stage expansive demonstrations all over the country's university campuses in solidarity with their colleagues in Rasht.

Iran Bans Two Papers for Insulting Officials

Reuters | Sept 28

Iran has banned two newspapers for insulting political and religious figures, in a continued crackdown on dissent more than a year after a disputed presidential election.

"Bahar Zanjan (weekly) has been banned for publishing articles insulting the country's officials and some which are contrary to public morals," Deputy Culture Minister Mohammad Ali Ramin was quoted as saying in Sharq daily.

Andishe-ye No, a pro-reform daily, was also closed under a law that prohibits insulting Iran's supreme leader or other senior clerics with the revered status of "source of emulation."


Iran Claims It Has Started Exporting Gasoline

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Sept 28

Iran's Oil Ministry has claimed that the country has started exporting gasoline, seemingly reversing a trend that has long seen it forced to rely on imports because of a lack of refining capacity.

"The first shipment of Iran's gasoline has been exported," SHANA quoted Ali Asghar Arshi, manager of international affairs at the National Iranian Oil Company, as saying. "By producing [gasoline] in some petrochemical complexes Iran reached self-sufficiency in gasoline and will soon export more gasoline shipments."

Iran, the world's fifth-largest exporter of crude oil, has been forced to import up to 40 percent of its gasoline because of lack of refining capacity.

However, officials announced this month that the country had become self-sufficient in gasoline.

Outside traders have voiced skepticism over the claims.

See also: "Iranian Petchem Complex Cuts Gasoline Production" (Mehr)

Iran Cutting Energy Subsidies to Boost Revenue -- IMF

Reuters | Sept 28

Iran, dependent on imported gasoline but squeezed by international sanctions, is working to eliminate subsidies on oil and natural gas, International Monetary Fund economists said on Tuesday.

Iran's energy price reform is expected to lower demand as prices rise in the country. The higher prices will prompt more efficient energy use within Iran while increasing the supply of oil and gas available for export, the economists said in an interview published on the IMF website.

Iran's energy subsidies kept domestic oil and gas prices as low at 10 cents a liter in an effort to distribute the country's wealth to its people, said senior IMF economist Roman Zytek.

But as the gap between the extraction price and prices on the international market surged in recent years, "giving away for free something that could be sold for a pile of money is not the best policy," Zytek said.

Also, the cheap price of fuel spurred energy waste and magnified pollution in the country. Zytek said the subsidy allowed Iran's wealthiest people to splurge on gas-guzzling vehicles and large energy-inefficient appliances, while the poor saw fewer benefits because they use less energy.

Suspicions Aroused in Killing of Iranian Doctors

New York Times | Sept 28

The Jaras opposition Web site said Tuesday that the killing of an Iranian doctor here this month may have been linked to a politically motivated cover-up of prisoner abuses in the post-election crackdown.

The doctor, Abdolreza Sudbakhsh, was killed by gunmen on motorcycles, and no suspects have been apprehended.

But Jaras reported that Dr. Sudbakhsh had been one of the physicians responsible for inmate health at the Kahrizak detention center, where at least three post-election protesters died from torture and harsh treatment. The Jaras report also asserted that Dr. Sudbakhsh had been killed the day before he was to leave Iran for an unidentified destination.

According to the report, which could not be independently confirmed, Dr. Sudbakhsh had been ordered by Iranian security officials to give false diagnoses regarding Kahrizak detainees, including Mohsen Ruholamini, the 25-year-old son of a top aide to the presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai. Officials initially had claimed that Mr. Ruholamini had died after contracting meningitis. A parliamentary report last January said Mr. Ruholamini and two other detainees had died from beatings and harsh physical treatment at the prison.

Another physician connected with the Kahrizak case, Ramin Pourandarjani, also died under mysterious circumstances last November. Iranian officials ruled his death to be suicide, but there has been speculation that he died from poisoning. Dr. Pourandarjani was thought to have given evidence about abuses at the Kahrizak center to a parliamentary committee after having served at the prison as part of his compulsory military service.

170 MPs Criticize President for Controversial Remarks

Tehran Times | Sept 27

In a letter issued on Tuesday, 170 lawmakers censured President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his latest remarks about the role of Majlis.

Ahmadinejad had recently said the statement by Imam Khomeini that "Majlis is on top of affairs" was expressed at a time that prime minister whose candidacy had to be approved by the parliament and not president was in charge of the executive body.

The letter noted that these statements not only weaken the Islamic democracy and unity among officials, it may also prevent the administration and other government branches from serving the nation or solving their problems properly.

See also: "Majlis Has the Power to Remove President" (Tehran Times via Tabnak)

Iran Threatens the UAE

Rooz | Sept 28

Iran's Mehr news agency reported the commander of Iran's navy responding to a question regarding the UAE's claim that it had inspected many Iran-bound ships following the recent UN sanctions resolution to have said, "We shall never allow such a country to inspect our ships." Sayari called the UAE ambassador's statements propaganda and added, "The UAE is not significant enough to make such remarks."

In his remarks, the senior Iranian navy officer warned the UAE that Iran "was capable of defending itself and to retaliate the inspection of ships and shall do this whenever necessary."

Last Tuesday, the spokesman of Iran's foreign ministry Ramin Mehmandoust said ambassador Otaiba's remarks were "out of line,"adding that the two countries enjoyed "satisfactory" commercial relations and said, "the import and export of cargo to Iran is carried out according to regulations and any out of line comments are noteworthy."

Domestically Manufactured Flying Boats Delivered to IRGC Navy

Mehr | Sept 28

A new squadron of flying boats was delivered to the Naval Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps on Tuesday.

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the boats of the Baver 2 squadron were designed by Iran's naval and aviation industry organizations and Malek Ashtar University.

The flying boats can carry out reconnaissance and surveillance missions on the sea, he noted.

Each boat is equipped with a machine gun, regular and night-vision binoculars, and video cameras that can transmit images, he explained.

See also: "3 Squadrons of Flying Boats Handed Over to IRGC" [photo gallery] (Mehr)

Senior CPC Official Reiterates China's Opposition to Iran Sanctions

Mehr | Sept 28

China is opposed to sanctions against Iran, said Li Changchun, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in a meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here on Tuesday.

China believes that Iran's nuclear issue should be resolved through negotiation and is opposed to imposing sanctions and applying pressure on Tehran, Changchun said.

"China resolutely opposes the unilateral sanctions against Iran," he asserted.

"The Chinese government always considers the Iranian nation its close friend and has always adopted the policy of cooperation with Iran," he added.

US Senators Urge Sanctions on Chinese Firms in Iran

AFP | Sept 28

The United States should punish Chinese and Turkish firms reportedly providing Iran with refined petroleum products, two senior US senators urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Jon Kyl, his party's number-two leader in the chamber, called on Clinton in a letter to "promptly" enforce a US law aimed at denying Iran access to world gasoline markets.

The United States should "penalize those companies that are continuing to supply Iran with refined petroleum products" since President Barack Obama signed the law in July, they wrote.

"According to press reports, these would include Turkey's Turpas, and China's Sinopec, National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and Zhuhai Zhenrong," said Kyl and Schumer, whose offices made the letter public.

US lawmakers have bitterly complained that Chinese firms have taken the place of European rivals leaving the Iranian market, undermining international sanctions aimed at halting Tehran's suspect nuclear program.

Iran Ordered to Pay $92M for 1983 Beirut Bombing

Daily Star (Lebanon) | Sept 29

A federal judge in Washington on Friday ordered the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay nearly $92 million to victims of the 1983 suicide bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, legal newswire Court House news service reported on Monday.

The bombing, which is believed to have been carried out by Shiite militants, killed 241 servicemen and wounded many others, making it the single most deadliest attack on Americans overseas.

The Court House report said "a widely renowned expert on Iranian affairs" testified during the trial that before the bombing, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) directed the Iranian ambassador to Syria to contact the leader of Amal and "instruct him to have his group instigate attacks against the multinational coalition in Lebanon."

Iran Key to Middle East Deal: Lieberman

AFP (via Sydney Morning Herald) | Sept 29

Iran is at the heart of the Middle East conflict and any settlement with the Palestinians could take decades to cement, Israel's hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday.

He told the UN General Assembly that Iran, through its links with militant groups, could "foil" any peace accord with the Palestinians, or with neighbouring Lebanon.

"The Iran issue must be resolved" before there can be agreement with the Palestinians, said the minister who is a key coalition ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Iran to Discuss US-Held Captives at UN

Tabnak | Sept 28

Iran's foreign minister says he will pursue the cases of Iranian citizens detained and jailed by the US in his upcoming New York meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"We have prepared a list of Iranian nationals that have either been detained in the United States on false charges and allegations or arrested and on trial in other locations, such as the UK, and awaiting decisions on extradition requests by the US," said Mottaki in a press briefing on the sidelines of the 65th session of the UN General Assembly on Monday.

In his recent visit to New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also highlighted the illegal detention of eight Iranian nationals in the US or third countries by American agents on baseless allegations.

Iran Rejects Malware Infected N Plant

Tabnak | Sept 28

Iran has rejected reports that a complicated cyber worm has damaged computer systems at the country's first nuclear power plant.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in his weekly press conference on Tuesday that the report was part of the "soft war" and a "propaganda stratagem" against Iran.

According to the Iranian spokesperson, the new soft war is aimed at targeting the Islamic Republic's peaceful nuclear program.

"The Busheher plant is pursuing its activities based on a set timetable," Mehmanparast said, adding that the plant will join the country's electricity grid within the next two months.

Farhadi Says His Remarks Were Misconstrued

Mehr | Sept 28

Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi whose latest remarks forced the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to revoke the production license for his film "Separation of Nader and Simin" broke his silence after a week, declaring his remarks were misconstrued.

"My remarks (at the award presentation ceremony at the 14th Iran Cinema Celebration on September 16) were both misquoted and misconstrued," he told the Persian service of ISNA on Tuesday.

During the award presentation ceremony, Farhadi had criticized Iranian cultural policy for isolating a number of prominent cineastes, including Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Jafar Panahi, Bahram Beizaii, Amir Naderi, and Golshifteh Farahani.

"This is not fair. Why were my remarks misunderstood? I respect the productions by those filmmakers but I had nothing to do with their politics and political viewpoints," Farhadi noted.

"I have always tried not to impose my personal opinions into my films and upon the viewers of my movies. If I meant to do so, why would I have made these remarks at the cinema celebration? There are so many international festivals with many interviews in foreign countries where political opinions have greater priority," he continued.

Iranian Director Takes Stand against Curbs

Financial Times | Sept 27

Iran's most celebrated film director has announced he will not make any more movies in his home country, in protest against tightening restrictions on the cinema.

Abbas Kiarostami, who won the Palme D'Or at Cannes in 1997 for Taste of Cherry, said he had abandoned plans to make his next film in Iran. His decision came after the government stopped another prominent director, Asghar Farhadi, from shooting a film half way through its schedule. The culture ministry said this was necessary because of public comments made by Mr Farhadi in favour of political change in Iran.

"They [the government] are sending their message to us that they don't want cinema," said Mr Kiarostami in Shargh, a reformist newspaper in Tehran. "I've got this message and tell them it is fine that you don't want cinema, but I have my own cinema and my own resources."


Listen to Iranian Voices of Dissent

Ali Safavi, President of Near East Policy Research (Huntington Post) | Sept 28

Last year, millions of Iranians took to the streets in the face of extraordinary violence perpetrated by the regime's security forces to chant not just for the observance of their universal rights, as the [U.S.] President has acknowledged, but more pointedly for democratic change.

That is where they need to be encouraged the most. Young Iranian protestors chanted in November 2009, "Obama, Obama, are you with them, or with us?" The President responded in his Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo City Hall: "We will bear witness to ... the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran." In addition to rhetorical support, Mr. Obama should take concrete and practical steps to make a deliberate point that tyranny in Iran is no longer permissible in America's eyes.

A large bi-partisan group of members of congress have underscored that perhaps the most important obstacle to democratic change in Iran is the blacklisting of the main Iranian opposition, the People's Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK) in the US. In 1997, the State Department placed the group on its Foreign Terrorist Organization list to curry favour with the Ayatollahs and cultivate reform. The policy backfired because it not only failed to mollify the mullahs but instead it emboldened them to pursue their nefarious policies at home and abroad. Indeed, America's weak signals actually cultivated the likes of Ahmadinejad.

Hitler at the Gate

Aluf Benn (Haaretz) | Sept 29

Three weeks from now, Netanyahu will have a one-time opportunity to stop the new Hitler and thwart the incitement to genocide. Ahmadinejad will pay his first visit to Lebanon and devote an entire day to a tour of the southern part of that country. He will visit sites where Hezbollah waged battles against Israel and, according to one report, he will also pop over to Fatima Gate, just beyond the border fence at Metula. The route is known, the range is close and it is possible to send a detail across the border to seize the president of Iran and bring him to trial in Israel as an inciter to genocide and Holocaust denier.

The media effect will be dramatic: Ahmadinejad in a glass cage in Jerusalem, with the simultaneous translation earphones, facing grim Israeli judges. In the spirit of the times, it will also be possible to have foreign observers join them (David Trimble of the Turkel commission was a leader of the "try the Iranian president" initiative ).

There are also operational advantages: Iran will hesitate to react to its president's arrest by flinging missiles, out of fear for their leader's life. It will also be possible to capture Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who will no doubt emerge from his hiding place and accompany Ahmadinejad. Israel will have high-ranking hostages it will be able to exchange for Gilad Shalit.

And if the world has any complaints, it will be reminded that the Americans invaded Panama in order to arrest its ruler Manuel Noriega -- and only for dealing drugs, a far smaller offense than incitement to genocide.

The Ideological-Political Training of Iran's Basij

Saeid Golkar, Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University (Middle East Brief 44/Crown Center for Middle East Studies) | September

In the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran, the Mobilized Resistance Force (Niruy-e muqavemat-e basij, better known as the Basij) was thrown into the limelight when it was used by the Iranian government to crush and eventually control opposition demonstrations. For the past twenty years, the Iranian state has used Ideological-Political Training (IPT) in order to remold the Basij as a new security force, tasked with confronting internal unrest and social revolt. Given the increasing role of the Basij in Iranian society and the increasing resort to it by the state as an instrument of suppressing internal unrest, knowledge of what the Basij is and how it functions has become vital. While there are some publications about the use of IPT with military forces in Iran, such as the Army and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), less is known about the Basij. This Brief, the first of its kind, seeks to improve fundamental understanding of the Basij by examining the evolution of the organization's use of Ideological-Political Training.


Hossein Mousavi and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami Held a Joint Meeting

Report by Mir Hossein Mousavi (Mir Hossein Mousavi's Notes/Facebook) | Sept 28

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, former president, in a joint meeting discussed the current affairs of the country. Khatami and Mousavi by expressing sorrow that on one hand some individuals monopolized the revolution and on the other hand they know no other means but to lie, insult and falsely accuse, emphasized on the continuation of the existing coordination between the reformists in all areas.

They also condemned the failed efforts of a specific movement to induce difference and diversion among reformist figures. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami also by stressing that the society is aware that many of these claims and subjects that are being unofficially or officially spreading are baseless reiterated: If there is any sorrow it is because these behaviors and remarks are being spread in the name of the revolution which its goal was to establish honesty, purity and justice and its risen establishment which was emphasized on the importance of people's votes, freedom and dignity of all the people of society as well as the salvation and caring of the authorities; and based on these very wrong behaviors and remarks many of the caring figures and valuable recourses of the country have been arrested, tried and imprisoned, and even their complaints regarding the improper treatments [against them] are not being investigated and still other movements and forces are under increasing pressure and restrictions.

Former president and former prime minister while once again emphasizing that the political prisoners must be freed, open and secure environment must be leading the society and the constitution must be implemented fully and comprehensively, expressed sorrow that still opposites of these demands are being happening and even those dear ones who feel that they have been oppressed and have been wrongly accused and even used their legal rights to file complaints, instead of having their complaints being followed on justly are being called back to prison.

Seyyed Mohammad Khatami and Mir Hossein Mousavi also by commemorating the memories of the epic defence era (Iran-Iraq war) and honoring those who heroically defended the country and paying tribute to the martyrs, those who got injured while defending the country, veterans and their respected families, demanded serious confrontations against those who insulted and attacked the dear families of great martyrs Hemat and Baakeri*, two commanders who bravely sacrificed their live to defend the country during Iran-Iraq war, and other prominent figures of the revolution and country. They also condemned the growing and numerous restrictions imposed against the critic figures and movements whom have always emphasized on abiding by the principles and values of the revolution and the constitution.

* [A] few days ago the families of martyrs Baakeri and Hemat invited Mehdi Karroubi for dinner but security forces threatened Mehdi Karroubi that if he attends this dinner invitation so-called organized plain-clothes militias will attack the house of martyr Baakeri who was supposed to host the dinner. Therefore Mehdi Karroubi in order to prevent any disrespect and harm to the honorable families of these great martyrs called them and told them that despite his personal desire he cannot attend the dinner. Following this the families of martyrs Baakeri and Hemat decided to meet with Mehdi Karroubi in his house but when they arrived by his door they were stopped and prevented to enter Karroubi's house by the security forces stationed in the area and when they protested to these illegal and ugly action they were brutally attacked and the wives of these great martyrs were severely beaten and attacked with pepper spray and son of martyr Baakei when protested to these hideous acts was arrested for few hours. Also the families of martyrs Baakeri and Hemat tried to meet with Mir Hossein Mousavi on the day marking the start of the eight-year war in which their loved ones were martyred, but they were stopped and prevented by security forces. Just recently when a group of reformist women tried to meet with the families of these two great martyrs to comfort them they also were attacked and prevented by security forces and plain-clothes militias who were stationed outside the house of these great martyrs!

Shourd: Iranian Official Offered To Pay Bail

Transcript of Interview with Sarah Shourd by Golnaz Esfandiari (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) | Sept 28

Why do you think Ahmadinejad's Intelligence Ministry brought the espionage charges against you and your friends, while there seem to be zero evidence and your lawyer has also said that there is no evidence?

I don't think I will ever get a clear answer on that. I think that the more the world learns about Shane, Josh, and I the more the world will come to see -- and so much of the world has already come to see -- that we're the opposite of spies. We're anything but spies. We're peace activists. Shane is an international journalist. Josh Fattal is an environmental teacher. All of this is well documented.

We broadcast to Iran -- what would you like to say to the Iranian officials and Iranian people who might be listening to this?

Shourd: I would just really like to beseech the Iranian government and religious leaders to continue this same humanitarian trend. I really want to appreciate the steps that they've made towards granting me a visit with President Ahmadinejad and of course granting my release on bail. [...]

I was very touched by a story that I heard about the days preceding my release when there was a scramble for the bail and it was unclear who was going to pay the bail. An Omani official told me that an Iranian official offered to mortgage his house in order to provide the money for my bail because he believed so strongly that I deserved to be freed on bail and that he was so concerned about my health and my well-being and that of my companions and I was so deeply touched by this. I don't know who this man is and I probably never will but I just want to thank him and every other Iranian that believes in peace and dialogue and wants to be a bridge just the same way that Shane and Josh and I want to be a bridge for a better relationship between our countries cause now there is a very good opportunity. I think there is a possibility for improvement.

Free Expression Organizations to Iran: Release Blogger Hossein Derakhshan

Joint Press Release by ARTICLE 19, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Index on Censorship, and PEN Canada (Canada NewsWire via Digital Journal) | Sept 28

A group of leading free expression organizations has come together to express dismay at the sentence handed down to blogger Hossein Derakhshan. Although the prosecutor's call for the death penalty was not approved, the sentence against Hossein Derakhshan represents a serious violation of Iranian obligations under international law. It is clear that Derakhshan, charged with cooperating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda and insulting religious figures, was sentenced for merely enjoying the right to freedom of expression.

Reports from former cell mates indicate that Derakhshan has been tortured while in prison and has been the subject of harsh interrogations. ARTICLE 19, CJFE, Index on Censorship and PEN Canada believe that Derakhshan remains at risk for as long as he is in prison, and that the extreme length of the sentence adds to the danger that he faces. Derakhshan has been held in Evin prison for almost two years, but his case only went to trial last summer.

The 19 and a half year prison sentence was announced on the conservative website Mashreghnews.ir this morning. The sentence also includes several fines -- €30,750, US $2,900, and £200.

The free speech groups call on the Iranian government to immediately release Derakhshan and meet its commitment to protect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. The groups also ask the international community to continue to hold Iran to its obligations and to support Iranian bloggers, journalists and writers to do their work without fear of imprisonment or reprisal.

Prison is no place for Hossein Derakhshan or for the dozens of other writers, journalists, academics and bloggers who continue to languish in Iran's jails.

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