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Khamenei Grabs for Azad; German Journos, Sakineh's Son, Lawyer Arrested

12 Oct 2010 04:412 Comments

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'Azad University Endowment Incorrect'

Press TV | Oct 11

Amid the controversy surrounding the Islamic Azad University, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has announced the endowment of the university's assets is against the law.

Ayatollah Khamenei notified Chairman of the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution (SCCR) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Head of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Azad University Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of the results of an "in-depth and extensive" investigation into public endowment of the university, IRNA reported on Monday.

Two delegations comprising legal experts and jurisprudents were tasked with conducting a comprehensive survey into the issue, IRNA quoted the Leader as saying in a letter to President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Rafsanjani.

The final result was that the endowment has "major legal and jurisprudential problems," Ayatollah Khamenei further said in his letter.

The problems concern the legitimacy of the endowment as well as the competence of the university's founders to do so, the Leader further explained.

The disputes surrounding the Islamic Azad University emerged after the Board of Trustees headed by Ayatollah Rafsanjani announced last year that it had endowed all movable and immovable properties of the university.

Eight months later, the SCCR drew up new Articles of Association for the university and changed a number of members of the founding board.

The move prompted the founding board of the university to complain to the Judiciary and to call for the annulment of the SCCR's bill, arguing the bill lacked religious and legal bases. A court in Tehran consequently issued a verdict whereby it nullified the bill.

One day after that, the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) passed a bill under which the SCCR's bill regarding the Articles of Association of the Islamic Azad University had to be considered null and void.

The court's verdict and the bill by the Parliament sparked strong protests by supporters of the government.

Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i called on Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani to repeal the verdict and to task another court with the case. The request was accepted by Ayatollah Larijani.

The Guardian Council also said that the legislation by the Parliament had ambiguities as well as religious and constitutional violations.

Founded in 1982, Islamic Azad University is Iran's largest private chain of universities that consists of 357 branches and satellite campuses throughout the country with an enrollment of 1.4 million students.

Iran's Hardliners Target Moderate Stronghold

Associated Press | Oct 12

The endowment, or vaqf in Farsi, was set up in 2009, shortly after the elections by the university board to keep the it independent in the face of the rising power of hardliners in the ruling system.

The university, which has more than one 1.3 million students in over 350 branches nationwide, allowed opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi free access to its huge resources during his election campaign, allowing his voice to be heard all over Iran.

Ever since, Ahmadinejad and his extremist camp have intensified efforts to strip Rafsanjani of this multibillion dollar power house. The assets of the university are estimated to be around $250 billion.

Khamenei's decision is a public humiliation of Rafsanjani and a huge boost to his archenemy Ahmadinejad and his extremist supporters.

Azad University is considered a private institution and is supposed to be immune from state interference.

But Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, said the university would be neither private nor government-controlled, possibly meaning that it will now be under his own control.

[Rafsanjani] said last month that annulling the endowment would be tantamount to fighting God.

"I don't think God will let anybody to disallow this endowment. And if somebody does that, God will be stronger than him and one day will take endowment back," he said at the time.

Rafsanjani said four legal scholars, including himself and Hasan Khomeini, grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, had approved the endowment.

Khamanei Rules to Nationalize Free University of Iran

Uskowi on Iran | Oct 11

Immediately after Khamenei's ruling on Azad University's status, Rafsanjani's website posted a historical note saying Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, had personally donated 1 million toumans to the university. It also quoted Rafsanjani of reporting to Imam Khomeni that there were forces that wanted to nationalize the university and Khomeini told him not to worry, to continue keeping the university private, and he (Khomeini) would take care of the opponents.

See also: Latest statement from Rafsanjani (HashemiRafsanjani.ir [in Farsi])

Two Foreign Visitors Arrested in Iran

Mehr | Oct 11

Two foreign tourists who had sought to conduct an interview with the family of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani have been arrested, Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei announced on Monday.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has received a death sentence for committing murder and this sentence takes precedence over her conviction for committing adultery.

An Iranian criminal suspect, who had fled to a foreign country earlier, had called Mohammadi's family and told them two foreign reporters wanted to conduct an interview with them, Mohseni-Ejei told reporters at a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

Mohseni-Ejei, who is also the national prosecutor general, said that on the day the foreigners visited the Mohammadi family, one of the family members became suspicious and informed the police.

After they were arrested, the evidence showed that they were not reporters and had traveled to Iran as tourists, he stated.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he said political prisoners will receive harsher punishment if they continue to conduct seditious acts.

Mohseni-Ejei was referring to the political prisoners who have written political letters or issued statements from prison.

"If anyone convicted of a crime commits the same felony" during his incarceration or after being released from prison, he will receive a more severe punishment, he stated.

Seven suspects have been identified so far, but none of them have confessed to writing political letters or issuing statements from prison, he added.

He went on to say that over the past month the court has issued verdicts for 64 prisoners who were arrested during the post-election unrest in 2009.

Three of them were acquitted of all charges, and the others were sentenced to between six months and 19 and a half years in prison, he stated.


Iran: Sakineh's Son and Lawyer 'Arrested'

AKI | Oct 11

The son and lawyer of an Iranian woman condemned to death by stoning for adultery and helping kill her husband have been arrested by security agents, according to a report on the web site of opposition news agency Iranpressnews.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's son Sajjad Ghaderzade and lawyer Javid Hutan Kian were arrested late Sunday while they were giving an interview to two German journalists, according to Iranpressnews.

The arrests were confirmed by friends of Ghaderzade, who asked not to be named in interviews with Adnkronos International (AKI), and by Iranian human rights activist, Taher Djafarizad.

Sajjad and his sister Sahideh Ghaderzadeh in an interview with AKI last week asked Italy for political asylum after feeling threatened by security authorities at home.

Jailed Iranian Woman's Son Reported Missing

AOL News | Oct 12

The government has not confirmed the arrests or detention of Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, or her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian. But sources connected to the case said neither of them returned to their homes Sunday night, nor have they answered their phones.

Mina Ahadi, the Iranian-born head of the Frankfurt-based International Committee Against Stoning, said the arrests occurred Sunday afternoon while she was on the phone in Germany acting as translator during the interview.

The interview was taking place in the Tabriz law office of Kian, Ashtiani's longtime lawyer.

Ashtiani has been held on death row in nearby Tabriz prison since 2006 on adultery and murder charges. She was sentenced to death by stoning but has not yet been executed following international outrage over her case.

Ahadi said she had helped arrange the meeting in Iran. Both journalists are male, she said; one is a photographer. She declined to identify them for security reasons.

The interview had just started and Ahadi was helping translate the third question when the journalist suddenly sounded agitated, she said, and then hung up. She tried calling back several times, but no one at the interview ever answered their phones again.

"It was terrible, terrible," Ahadi said in a telephone interview from Frankfurt. "We were on the phone talking and then I heard a lot of noise and the phones went dead."

The journalists are reportedly associated with Germany's Bild Zeitung, a tabloid newspaper.

Sources close to the case said it was probably true that they did not have official media credentials to interview Ashtiani's son and lawyer because such credentials would probably never be granted.

Tobias Frohlich, a spokesman for the Berlin-based newspaper, wrote in a short e-mail to AOL News: "We do not know anything about any arrests of employees of our company. That's all I can say at the moment."

Maryam Namazie, an Iranian-born human rights activist based in Britain, said that Ashtiani's 17-year-old daughter went to Tabriz prison today to ask if her 22-year-old brother and her mother's lawyer were arrested.

"They wouldn't tell her anything," Namazie told AOL News. "But she told me her brother has not been home and he's not answering his telephone. No one can reach the lawyer either."

Namazie said the Iranian government has threatened Ashtiani's lawyer before. She said that officials "held him" for eight hours on Saturday and would not let him sit down during questioning.

"It was about his contact with the media," Namazie said.

Namazie pointed out that Sunday's arrest of the journalists occurred on World Day Against the Death Penalty.

"Often they do things like this on important days," she said. "These are just windows into Iran and how they consider women to be subhuman. They've been getting away with it for years now. Sakineh would be dead by now it there hadn't been this international pressure."

See also: "Sajjad Ghaderzadeh's Letter to the UN" (International Committee Against Stoning)


Iran's Economy Feels Sting of Sanctions

Wall Street Journal | Oct 12

Iran's economy is under increasing strain four months after the latest international sanctions against Tehran, say Iranian businessmen, traders and consumers, who describe spreading pain from inflation, joblessness and mounting shortages.

"Every morning, we go to work wondering how we will manage the day," says Gholam Hossein, a Tehran brick-factory owner. "The market is chaotic and unpredictable. One day we can't move our goods from the port. Another day we can't open a letter of credit."

An industrial-machinery importer says operating costs have risen at least 30% because of new shipping and insurance restrictions on Iran-bound cargo, costs to be passed on to consumers. A retired accountant in Tehran says her pension is now stretched thin. "Inflation is putting a lot of pressure on people," she says. "It's on everyone's minds."

Layoffs and worker strikes at state companies have been rarities in Iran. But a pharmaceutical company owner said he recently curbed production and laid off at least 40 employees because of the increasing time and cost of importing raw materials. Iran's ILNA news agency, meanwhile, reported that last week workers walked off the job at government-owned factories--two tire plants and a cooking-oil maker-- saying they hadn't been paid in as long as four months.

Sanctions Hit Iran Petrol Imports

Financial Times | Oct 11

Iran's oil minister has said petrol imports have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade owing to international sanctions over the country's nuclear programme but insists domestic production remains sufficient to meet demand.

Although Iran sits on the world's third-largest oil reserves, it lacks sufficient refining capacity and until recently imported about a third of its 66.5m litres of petrol needs.

Masoud Mir-Kazemi told reporters on Monday that imports of petrol during the last Iranian month, ending September 22, had shrunk to 0.8m litres, down from 23m litres a few months ago.

Vitol, Trafigura and Glencore were among the trading companies that stopped selling petrol to Iran in the spring owing to the threat of US sanctions. The downward trend accelerated in June after the Obama administration barred international companies from selling refined petroleum to Iran.

Mr Mir-Kazemi described the US measure as "a violation of human rights."

Some Iranian oil analysts believe the petrol produced in petrochemical factories is too costly, which makes the new measure only a short-term solution.

They reckon it costs at least 15 times more than the petrol made in refineries, which rises to about 40 times if disruption of the petrochemical industry is also taken into account.

People are also concerned about health hazards of the high-octane petrol on their lives and the damage to cars.

"These are all dictated by politics...[reflected] in western media," Mr Mir-Kazemi said, refusing to say how much the new petrol costs.

Mr Mir-Kazemi said new discoveries had increased the country's oil reserves to 150.31bn barrels and gas reserves to more than 33 trillion cubic metres, as it sought to remain ahead of neighbouring Iraq.

Iran Looms Large in Allawi, Riyadh Talks

UPI | Oct 11

Leaders of the secular Iraqiya slate in Iraq spoke of Iran's political meddling during talks in Riyadh, a spokesman for the party said.

Iraqiya won the March 7 election in Iraq by two seats but fell well short of the 163-seat majority needed to form a ruling government. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, is within sight of the coveted majority following support from his former rivals in the political party loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Haidar al-Mulla, a spokesman for Iraqiya, told the Voices of Iraq news agency that Iraqiya leader and former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi met with key leaders in Saudi Arabia during the weekend to discuss the Iranian role in Iraq's political affairs.

"Allawi is leading a delegation comprising key Iraqiya members Saleh al-Mutlaq and Osama al-Nujaifi to Saudi Arabia to discuss Iran's attempts to impose its dictations on the political parties in Iraq" the spokesman said.

Chinese Warplanes Refueled in Iran Enroute to Turkey

Hürriyet | Oct 11

Iran indirectly supported a secret military drill between the Turkish and Chinese air forces that took place in September, sparking concerns in the United States.

The Turkish and Chinese air forces secretly participated in "Anatolian Eagle" war games in Konya, which two years ago involved Turkey's fellow NATO members the United States, Israel and Italy.

Four drill-bound Chinese SU-27 warplanes that took off from bases in China refueled in Iran -- the first time the Islamic Republic has ever allowed foreign warplanes to refuel at its airbases, the report said.

The Russian-made SU-27s used by the Chinese air force had to refuel in both Pakistan and Iran because of their limited 3,500-kilometer range.

Officials Reject Rebel Group's Claim of Kidnapping Nuclear Scientist

Babylon & Beyond/Los Angeles Times | Oct 8

The ethnic Baluchi group Jundollah claimed on its website that it had kidnapped an Iranian nuclear scientist and would begin forcing him to tell his secrets unless the Iranians released 200 prisoners from the group.

Iranian authorities say the man who was kidnapped, Amir-Hossein Shirvani, is not a nuclear scientist, rather a laborer who was fired from a nuclear facility in Isfahan four years ago.

"Amir-Hossein Shirvani worked as a welder and later as a driver in one of the contractor companies of the AEOI for a short time," Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Hamid Khadem-Qaemi said Saturday, according to the website of Iran's state-owned Press TV.

Another Iranian official, Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, told Iran's Fars news agency that Shirvani was running smuggling operations along the eastern Iranian border and that the kidnapping was over a business dispute. Iran considers Jundollah a terrorist organization.

Jundollah [...] describes itself as a "resistance" group but shares the extremist ideology of Osama bin Laden.

US Warns Citizens ahead of Iran Leader's Lebanon Visit

AFP | Oct 11

The United States on Monday urged its citizens in Lebanon to remain vigilant during the Iranian president's high-profile visit to the country this week, warning of possible demonstrations and violence.

"The embassy reminds US citizens that even peaceful gatherings can turn violent and spread over neighborhoods with little or no warning," the US embassy in Lebanon said in a statement.

"The embassy therefore strongly urges US citizens visiting or residing in Lebanon to remain vigilant, monitor news reports, avoid large gatherings of people, and carefully consider their safety and security before choosing to visit popular gathering spots or places where large numbers of people are commonly found," it added.

Lebanese Reactions Mixed over Ahmadinejad Visit

Voice of America | Oct 11

Lebanese leaders appear divided over the controversial visit, with Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun calling Mr. Ahmadinejad a modest man who is widely misunderstood. He urged Lebanese to welcome him, insisting that Iran "welcomes Lebanese leaders and Lebanon should do the same."

Top figures in the pro-Western March 14th coalition that supports Prime Minister Saad Hariri were mostly critical of Mr. Ahmadinejad's impending visit. Several complained that Iran treats Lebanon "like an Iranian base on the Mediterranean" and that the visit "could provoke strife."

The leader of the coalition partner National Liberal Party, Dory Chamoun, says the Iranian president is welcome, provided he makes no provocative statements:

"Anybody is welcome to visit Lebanon. I mean, we cannot say that we refuse his visit here," said Chamoun. "And, he is welcome to visit the country, to meet with our people and with the [officials] over here, and to respect our autonomy and our independence, and not to, hopefully, come out with any speeches that might put Lebanon in any sort of danger. But, we cannot judge him before he comes and let us see what he has to say."

The atmosphere of Mr. Ahmadinejad's trip to Lebanon is far from the unanimous show of respect shown to then Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, when he visited in 2003. Mr. Khatami was a well-liked figure in much of the Arab world, arousing little controversy.

American University of Beirut Political Science Professor Hilal Khashan says the Ahmadinejad visit has provoked the ire of many Lebanese, who see his presence as a show of support for the militant Hezbollah, which they find domineering:

"The Lebanese are highly divided. They are divided on everything, so the division [over] the visit of Ahmadinejad is conspicuous, because Ahmadinejad brings along with him controversy at a very bad time in Lebanon's history," Khashan said. "The Lebanese Shi'ites and [their] few Maronite allies are enthusiastic to see Ahmadinejad come. The rest of the Lebanese, most Maronites and I would say almost all Sunnis are angry because they see [the visit] as boosting Hezbollah's standing in Lebanese politics. It is already preponderant in Lebanon."

Iran Expels Spanish Journalist -- Newspaper

Reuters | Oct 11

Iran has cancelled the accreditation of the correspondent of the Spanish daily El Pais and ordered her to leave the country within two weeks, her newspaper said on Monday.

Angeles Espinosa is one of a dwindling group of resident foreign correspondents in Tehran who have faced growing restrictions on their activities and freedom of movement since a disputed presidential election sparked protests last year.

El Pais said Espinosa had been given no official explanation but the decision appeared to be linked to an interview she had conducted with the son of the late dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in July.

She was detained in the holy city of Qom after interviewing Ahmad Montazeri and stripped of her press card.

Expediency Council Secretary Calls for Revision of Subsidy Reform Plan

Mehr | Oct 11

Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaii has said that Iran's subsidy reform plan should be revised in view of the recent UN sanctions resolution.

"The subsidy reform plan was drafted before the imposition of the (new round of) sanctions against Iran, so the sanctions should be taken into consideration and the plan should be revised," Rezaii told the Mehr News Agency on Monday.

Rezaii, an economist who ran unsuccessfully for president in the 2009 presidential election, also said he believes the savings from subsidy cuts should be allocated to create jobs and stimulate domestic production.

The government plans to eliminate the subsidies on fuel, energy, and certain goods over the course of five years. The administration had previously announced that the implementation of the subsidy reform plan would begin in the second half of the Iranian calendar month of Mehr (September 23 to October 22).

Economic experts have described the plan as an overhaul of the national economy, but at the same time have expressed concern over the potential inflationary repercussions of the elimination of subsidies and the subsequent effect on the people's standard of living.

UAE Seeks Greater Clarity on Iran Trade Sanctions

Bloomberg | Oct 10

The United Arab Emirates is seeking greater clarity from the United Nations as it implements the latest round of trade sanctions with Iran, the director general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry said.

"What we hope for is that there is some clarity as far as what is allowed, what is not allowed, what shipping lines are allowed, what's not allowed, which parties we can trade with, and who we can't," Hamad Buamin, director general of chamber, said in an interview in Dubai today. "Right now, there is no clarity."

Trade between Iran and the U.A.E., which lies across the Persian Gulf from the Islamic republic, is expected to fall about 50 percent to $6 billion in 2010 from 2008, according to Dubai's Iranian Business Council. Two years ago, the U.A.E. was Iran's largest trading partner.

Peugeot Threatened by the Iranian Government with Bankruptcy

Autoevolution | Oct11

French automaker Peugeot has just received a couple of threats bankruptcy-related, the ISNA agency news reported recently. The Iranian government announced that if it would decide to stop the import of spare parts, Peugeot will likely enter bankruptcy.

"If we decide we can bring Peugeot company to bankruptcy. If we stop the importation of spare parts from Peugeot tomorrow, the company's sales will drop by 2.5 billion dollars," stated Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. "If we just raise our eyebrows, a part of the French auto industry will collapse," he warned.

Iran is currently producing Peugeot's 405 and 206 models, which represent a large proportion of cars on the roads of Iran. Some spare parts for these cars are imported.


Iran, the Paper Tiger

Roger Cohen (New York Times) | Oct 11

I had breakfast last month in New York with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Other journalists had lunch or dinner. Ahmadinejad's passion for the hidden Imam, whose imminent return he expects, is matched only by his passion for Western media.

At the time I chose not to write about the meeting. I was too disgusted -- by the media merry-go-round, by more incendiary provocations from Ahmadinejad, and by the sterility of an Iran debate that turns in the tight circle formed by fear-mongering, ignorance and the ghastly stew of Western carrots and sticks.

Ahmadinejad is a one-trick pony. His thing is double standards. Ask about the Iranian nuclear program, he'll retort with Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal. Ask about Iran's economic difficulties, he'll see you with September 2008. Ask about rampant capital punishment, he'll raise you a Texas. Ask about Iranian lying, he'll counter with human rights and Abu Ghraib.

Throw in some headline-grabbing lunacy -- 9/11 as self-inflicted, or the Holocaust as invention, or "Iran is the freest country in the world" -- and you have a post-modern media star and villain.

And what do all his words amount to? I'd say not a whole lot beyond unnecessary misery for 71 million isolated Iranians. This guy is all hat and no cattle.

Ahmadinejad is odious but I don't think he's dangerous. Some people do of course find him dangerous, especially in the Israel he gratuitously insults and threatens, and yet others -- many more I'd say -- find it convenient to find him dangerous.

Murdoch's Iranian Invasion

Reza Aslan (Daily Beast) | Oct 9

Farsi1, a Persian language satellite station partly owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, has become the most popular entertainment network in Iran, with nearly half of the country's population (some 35 million people) tuning in daily to keep up with dubbed episodes of Fox favorites like 24 and How I Met Your Mother.

However, the real draw of the network is its dubbed versions of Latin American Telenovelas, which have most of the country in their melodramatic grip. One Telenovela in particular, Second Chance, has become such a national obsession in Iran that it has inspired a hairstyle for women called "the Isabel," named after the show's heroine.

Although satellite dishes are technically forbidden in Iran, practically every home in the country has a shiny white disk perched on its rooftop. Ali Darabi, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) estimates that approximately 40 percent of Iranians have illegal satellites, but the number is probably much higher than the government wants to admit. Occasionally the authorities make sweeps of certain neighborhoods, collecting the dishes and fining their owners. But after a few days the dishes pop back up again, usually sold back to their owners by the same authorities that confiscated them.

The truth is that the Iranian government is fairly blasé about the satellite dishes, perhaps recognizing that it may be able to get away with denying basic rights and freedoms to its citizens, but if it tried to take away their right to find out what happened to Victoria (the title character of one of Iran's most popular Telenovelas) after her husband left her for a younger woman...well, that's enough to stir up a revolution.

Still, the government is particularly troubled over the meteoric rise of Murdoch's Farsi1. Maryam Ardabili, women's affairs adviser to the governor of Fars province, summed up the government position: "There is no doubt that Farsi 1 is a tool of the extensive cultural onslaught [of the West] against Iran." Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, head of the clerical faction in the Iranian parliament, accused Farsi1 of seeking "to destroy the chastity and morals of families and encourage young Iranians to have sex and drink alcohol."

$800M Membership Dues

Richard Lourie (Moscow Times) | Oct 11

Sometimes what doesn't happen counts most. In late September, President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree banning the delivery of the S-300 air-defense system to Iran after Moscow had signed a contract for the system in 2007 worth $800 million.

The figure may be much higher -- from $11 billion to $13 billion -- since other weapons were covered by the presidential decree: "battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missiles systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms," to use the language of the recent UN resolution placing sanctions on Iran. Why are the Russians willing to incur such losses? Or to put it another way, what are they getting for that money?

Iran's defense minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, said Russia's decision to not sell the S-300s to Iran "lacks logic" because the weapons system is not banned under the UN resolution, which concerns only conventional weapons. Vahidi is correct in a narrow sense.

But there is a wider logic in Russia's decision, although it is neither the logic of commerce nor that of an overly strict interpretation of the UN resolution. Russia has made a fundamental decision to throw its lot in with the West. Russia sees the West as a source of investment and know-how and an ally against ravenous China. Many Russians both in the power elite and the opposition see China as the adversary in the resource wars of the future. Russia, the only European country sharing a border with China, also has border disputes with Beijing. The eastern Russian territory is so sparsely populated that Chinese guest workers must be imported, an abhorrent vacuum.

The refusal to sell S-300s to Iran is Russia's $800 million membership dues in the exclusive club of the West.


Speech by Akbar Ganji

Akbar Ganji's Speech on the Occasion of Ahmad Zeidabadi Receiving the Golden Pen Prize of 2010 -- Translated from Persian by Hamid Dabashi (World Association of Newspapers) | Oct 6

People of the pen have gathered here to honor Ahmad Zeidabadi, a journalist who during dark and difficult days has defended the cause of liberty and the right to dissent.

This is the third time that because of his defense of liberty and human rights he has been arrested. During the first two times he spent thirteen months in jail, a few months of which was in solitary confinement. His third round of incarceration, which began on 13 June 2009, continues to this day.

The hardships of this new episode of imprisonment and the weight of pressures that his jailers have put on him have pushed him to the edges of suicide. It is now for more than a year that under the most unbearable conditions he is suffering in a fire that absolutist religious tyranny has set aflame.

The flames of this injustice are not limited to Zeidabadi himself. His wife and three children are also patiently and courageously suffering the consequences of his pain and tribulation. They too are trapped in the larger prison of juridical Sultanism. Unfortunately not much attention is paid to the destructive effect of these acts of injustice and violence on the children of Zeidabadi and those of other activists for liberty in Iran.

The pain and sufferings of the family members of those who are fighting for democracy and human rights in Iran are no less than the pain and suffering of those defendants of liberty themselves. When these family members hear and learn how their loved ones are tormented and tortured under hellish conditions of the Supreme Jurist's dungeons, when they hear that the henchmen of this Supreme Jurist shove the proud head of these brave men and women into toilet, the fear and horror they experience are beyond description.

The childhood of the offspring of these courageous men and women are filled with such terrors. Every time their door bell rings, the little hearts of these children tremble with fear that yet again their home is being violently raided by the officers of this Supreme Jurist, and that their parents become victims of violence and indignity right in front of their eyes.

The true nature of this Islamist clerical Sultanism is best evident in the dungeons of Evin, Kahrizak, and Raja'i Shahr. How this regime nourishes the rise of the lowliest characters, and how despicable this regime is can only be witnessed in the hellish corners of these dungeons.

Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei have done things without the slightest hesitation that Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah never did, or could not bring themselves to doing, and they have concocted all sorts of religious and non-religious justifications for what they do.

In their ideological Islam, anything, absolutely any heinous act, is considered justifiable. It is for that reason that in the government of the Supreme Jurist anything, absolutely anything, is permissible in order to break down political prisoners and violate their human dignity. But in these very hellish circumstances, Ahmad Zeidabadi has transformed the solitary confinements of the religious tyranny into a place for contemplation and cleansing of his own soul. In his solitary confinement he both prays and dances, diligent about his piety, and yet putting on stage his joyous self in his happy and self-choreographed dancing.

Alas Iran today is under the occupation of a band of deceitful liars. The occupying regime of the Shi'i clerics has targeted the moral foundation of the society and is determined to portray vices as virtues.

Usually foreign occupiers occupy a country territorially. But these occupiers have targeted the dignity and integrity of a nation. In what these people in position of power do there is not a trace of commitment to ethics, propriety, or truthfulness.

They call people to an election, and yet they call their vote "a velvet revolution," "a soft regime change," and "a menace." But the Supreme Jurist and his henchmen did not cheat in this election. They never even counted people's votes to manipulate them one way or another.

Following the instructions of the Supreme Jurist, those who administered this election never actually counted people's votes and just periodically fed people with manufactured statistics. This was a very clear message to all those involved in politics inside the regime: A new kind of politics had just stared and election even in the limited conception that had hitherto existed will no longer be allowed.

All politicians now had to comply their behavior with the wishes of the Supreme Jurist, or else they will be jailed. Even the neutral and silent people will not be tolerated and will be eliminated from the political scene. Only those who will abide by the new guidelines and its consequences will be tolerated inside the organs of the regime. Ahmad Zeidabadi was among those who opposed this tyrannical rule that has violated the constitutional rights of the people-and thus jail and solitary confinement has become his lot.

I now ask myself what would have Ahmad Zeidabadi possibly said if he were here with us receiving this award? Answering this question is not easy. But we know for sure that he is a man of peace.

As a prominent Iranian analyst of the Middle East, he has always defended the aspirations of peace between Israel and the Arabs, and he believes that this objective is possible only through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel. He believes that the fate of Palestinian people will have to be determined by Palestinians themselves, and no state should abuse the fate of the Palestinians as an instrument for furthering its own interests and objectives. His perspective on the Palestinian predicament was always from a humanitarian and humanist perspective, and thus vastly different from the instrumentalist vantage point of the Islamic Republic. He has been repeatedly attacked by various organs of the Islamic Republic precisely because of his humanistic perspective in this respect.

In the matter concerning the nuclear stalemate between the Islamic Republic and the West, Zeidabadi was severely critical of the provocative and unwise polices of the regime. He is deeply concerned about all sorts of dangers that threaten the territorial integrity and natural and human resources of Iran precisely because of such unwise policies. He always opposed the face off between the Islamic Republic and the Security Council of the United Nations. Contrary to the Iranian president he did not consider the Security Council resolutions "useless pieces of paper." He wishes for the Iranian national interests to be pursued based on wise policies predicated on people's will. He is worried about the independence of Iran, and he knows very well that this territorial independence cannot be guaranteed except by respecting the independence and dignity of Iranian people.

Zeidabadi is a liberal, and a democrat. He has always defended the rights of those who think differently. He believes that it is the inalienable right of people to change their ideas and be free to choose the way they live.

He has always defended the rights of women and been critical of discriminatory traditions against women. He believes that a government is a product of a people's will and must abide by that will. In his judgment, a political leader is simply representative of people and responsible to them-and not a sanctified person who assumes a position beyond reproach.

This very perspective led Zeidabadi to write open and critical letters to the tyrant sultan who rules Iran. Zeidabadi knows only too well that a passage to democracy is impossible without a social movement. During the last presidential election in Iran he was looking for a candidate who would offer relatively more radical ideas that would in turn initiate a social movement. Of course the oppositional movement in Iran was not the result of any project by oppositional candidates or that of political activists.

Instead, it was the cumulative effect of all sorts of disappointments among a variety of groups, from journalist and students to women, teachers, and workers. In this process, journalists like Zeidabadi were enlightening the public in solidarity with their movement. Zeidabadi is not a revolutionary, and does not believe that violence is the way towards securing a democratic system that is committed to human rights and liberty.

In his judgment the means of achieving and end are as important as that end. Nonviolent struggle is defensible ethically and it is practically efficacious. A nonviolent movement also generates deep sympathy in the international community and raises this question in people's mind that why is it that in a regime dominated by Islamic jurisprudence, and the Supreme Islamic Jurist who rules over the Islamic Republic, thinkers and intellectuals who have no weapon except their ideas are so brutally crushed.

It was precisely for this reason that as an intellectual journalist Zeidabadi was consistently calling on people to be calm and avoid violence. There were even times that he was calling on activist to observe "political silence" and simply ignore the government so that the volume of state repression of the opposition would diminish, and thus despite serious flaws in the Iranian electoral process he opted to enter the election scene actively so that no peaceful way for changing and reforming the political structure would be left unexamined. He knows very well that hatred and violence would lead to more hatred and violence, and yielding to this dangerous game might very well push the society into a vicious circle of destructive aggression that would engulf generations to come.

I have no doubt that if Ahmad Zeidabadi was here with us, he would have shared the honor of this prestigious award with other political prisoners.

One must interpret these awards as a kind of ethical and moral endorsement of democratic activists who are committed to liberty and human rights.

Today members of the world community of journalists have selected Ahmad Zeidabadi as the courageous journalist of 2010 fighting for democracy, and have honored him with the Golden Pen Award. This is a judicious and fair choice worthy of Ahmad Zeidabadi. He uses the might of his pen not just to tell the truth and expose political corruption.

In addition he also tries responsibly to use his pen and his ideas to make the world more ethical, reduce people's pain and suffering. Without a doubt this pen will bring its responsibilities to fruition, for what that pen writes gushes forth from the soul of the person holding that pen and is the bright and shining mirror of his noble heart and his humane ideas.

Iranian Youth in Times of Economic Crisis

Introduction to Study by Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Wolfensohn Center for Development, Middle East Youth Initiative (IRNA via MEMRI) | September

Young people in Iran have emerged as important players on the country's political scene but remain marginal on its economic scene. They were a vital part of President Khatami's political base and contributed to his landslide victories at the polls, in 1997 and 2001. In June 2009 they again played a key role, this time in challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial reelection, which led to massive anti-government protests in the nation's largest cities. A year later the political crisis appears to have subsided, but the economic crisis that has engulfed the country since early 2008 has deepened, and with it the crisis facing Iran's youth. Youth unemployment is at record high levels and, for the majority of youth, marriage and family formation are increasingly becoming challenges to overcome rather than celebrations of reaching adulthood.
The economic recession has drastically reduced the economy's ability to absorb new workers just as the number of young people entering the labor market reached its highest level ever. While the challenges facing youth are at an all time high, the major policy initiatives pushed by the Ahmadinejad administration address issues that have little to do with youth -- reforming energy subsidies, offering incentives for families to have more children, and amending the family laws to tighten the conditions governing temporary marriage. These initiatives and a general form of policy paralysis following the political upheavals of last summer have prevented the government from addressing young people's problems.

Studies show that Iranian youth face difficult transitions through school, from school to work, and to marriage and family formation. These and other studies of Iranian youth have documented how the period between adolescence and adulthood has over time become longer and filled with more frustration and anxiety, a condition common enough in the Middle East to have received its own expression -- "waithood". The old panacea that promised youth better futures through more education no longer seems to work in Iran; educated youth often find transition to adulthood more difficult than less educated youth. They seem to wait longer to find their first job after graduation, to delay marriage more, and to stay longer in their parents' home. Unfortunately, these long periods of waiting are not spent in building human capital, saving for a home, or other activities that signal hope. For youth with the means, these periods are largely spent in idleness, in seeking degrees and diplomas that may not add to their productive skills, or in preparing for greener pastures abroad. Those without the means to pursue such options, leave school earlier to take up temporary jobs that neither provide stepping stones to future careers nor improve their chances of marriage and family formation.

In this paper, I review the evidence on youth transitions in Iran, using recent survey data for 2007 and 2008, to show how the economic crisis since 2008 has affected youth transitions to employment and to marriage. I also show how transitions differ by family background and by region of residence -- rural and urban. While in many ways "waithood" is a phenomenon that cuts across social classes in Iran, disadvantaged youth sometimes face greater challenges in transitions to employment and marriage.

The next section begins with a presentation of Iran's rapidly changing demography, which is a major influence on young peoples' lives. Thanks to a baby boom in the early years of the Islamic Revolution, roughly around 1979-1984, the cohorts of young people reaching adulthood in the last few years have been by far the largest in Iran's history. Iran boasts the highest share of 15-29 year olds in total population of any country in the world. Even a well-functioning economy would have difficulty absorbing new cohorts into the labor market when they outnumber the retiring cohorts 6 to 1. Iran's peculiar demography has also affected the marriage market in adverse ways. The baby boom women of Iran have reached marriage age several years before the men from the same cohorts, thus facing the smaller older cohort of marriage-age men, causing a classic "marriage squeeze," or a shortage of men -- about four men for every five women of marriage age. The sections that follow present an analysis of the transition from school to work and to marriage.

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Hamid Dabashi mistranslates Ganji's speech when he writes that Zeidabadi is burning in the fire that "absolutist religious tyranny" has created. Ganji refers to the fire that "the religious tyranny of the clerics" ( استبداد دینی فقیهان) has created. Ganji's statement is more powerful.

Cy / October 12, 2010 1:43 PM

How funny that at last Rafsanjai saw himself check and mate by his buddy Khamenie. He though if play a low key after the election and not to stick his neck out, he would get away with the wrath of the Necons in government.
See Mr Rafsanjani! You either completely with the system or not. there is not any middle ground any more. They deprived you from the presidency, which to be honest you were not fit to to start with, and then humiliated you in other regional elections and finally here you go. They got your prized university. How much work did you put in to it, i feel sorry for you.

Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are on the roll now. They will squelch all the sounds, all the resistance, all people that potentially can stand against them. The future of Iran is bleaker that you had thought to, its going to be IRGC and NEcons runningthe show. iran is going to lose more people whether to the regime or to brain drain. The economy will bleed dry people. They are gonna get Nbomb and then hell knows what they gonna do with it.
Iranian regime should be taken out before its to late.

PersianTraveler / October 13, 2010 3:26 AM