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Mousavis Reported in Poor Health; Regime Strife Radiates to Education

07 Jul 2011 07:30Comments

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 Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

Mrs. Navvab Safavi, mother of Zahra Rahnavard. Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo.

7:30 a.m., 16 Tir/July 7 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

In an interview with Kaleme, the website that reflects the views of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mrs. Navvab Safavi, mother of Mousavi's wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, said that her daughter and son-in-law are weak and in poor health, having lost considerable weight. She last visited Mousavi and Rahnavard two weeks ago, along with some of her other children. According to Safavi, the morale of the couple was very high and they were in good spirits.

Every family visit takes place in the presence of a large number of security agents and no political discussions are allowed. The children of the couple have been allowed to see them only on a very limited basis. They are thoroughly searched; even their hair is inspected. The agents repeatedly tell them that they should not divulge any information about the visit to the press. Mousavi has said that he will allow a medical checkup only in a proper hospital, and Rahnavard has asked for their personal physician. Safavi also said that Mousavi's children and grandchildren, as well as other relatives, have repeatedly been summoned, interrogated, and threatened with such punishments as being fired from their jobs. The security forces have demanded that the members of family maintain absolute silence about what is going on.

The confrontation pitting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the reactionary clerics that support him may have entered another new phase. Last year, the clerics around the Supreme Leader began lecturing about the "Islamization" of universities, advocating separation of male and female students, along with revisions to the curricula. In the process, many prominent academics, particularly those in the fields of law, political science, and the social sciences have been forced to retire or simply fired.

In a letter to Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo, who oversees the universities, Ahmadinejad ordered him to stop both the forced retirement of professors and implementation of the plan to separate students in classes by gender. The forced retirement or outright dismissal of academics, however, began almost immediately after Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 and is not a new issue.

In reaction to Ahmadinejad's letter, Ali Abbaspour Tehran, chairman of the Majles Education Commission, said, "There is no plan for gender-based separation of students in the universities, and in the meeting that we had today with the minister of science, the subject was never brought up." He added, "Mr. President, are you aware of the details of the plan which you oppose?" Nosratollah Torabi, a member of the Social Affairs Commission, supported Ahmadinejad's letter, declaring that gender-based separation the students is "superficial" and women should decide for themselves what to wear and how to cover themselves. He added that the universities should seek to employ experienced academics instead of forcing them to retire. In an interview with Khabar Online, the website aligned with Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, Abbaspour Tehrani said that he is surprised that Ahmadinejad seems only now to care about the forced retirement of academics, as it has been going on for six years.

Prominent reformist Dr. Ali Shakouri Rad, who served as a deputy in the Sixth Majles (2000-4), said that Ahmadinejad's letter should be viewed in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections, to be held next March 6. "To prevent such things, there is no need to write a letter," he observed, but added that the administration's attempt to correct a mistake is positive.

Just before Ahmadinejad issued his letter, Khajeh Sarvi, Daneshjoo's deputy, saw fit to announce that three groups are opposed to gender-based separation of university students: (1) counterrevolutionaries outside Iran, (2) politicians who want to exploit the issue to garner votes, and (3) those who want to change the Islamic identity of the culture. (It is not exactly clear which category might encompass Ahmadinejad, whom term limits restrict from running again for the presidency.) As evidence for his claim, Khajeh Sarvi said that the majority of the BBC's and Voice of America's Persian programs are devoted to the issue of mandatory hejab. At the same time, a senior official at the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology said that the ministry has not received any letter from Ahmadinejad regarding the issue.

Meanwhile, hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami said that those university chancellors who enforce gender-based separation of the students must be rewarded. He rebuked those who criticized the "chancellor of one of Tehran's universities" for saying that separate classes would be held for female and male students. Khatami was referring to Reza Rousta, chancellor of Sharif University of Technology.

Alef, the website published by Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakoli, asserted that Khamenei is also opposed to the gender-based separation of university students. Alef claimed that the Supreme Leader's office was explicitly asked about the issue and that it responded that Khamenei has not issued any order for such separation and does not favor the current plan. Alef also claimed that the plan was conceived by the "perverted group" -- Ahamdinejad's chief of staff and potential presidential aspirant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and his inner circle -- to create chaos in the universities.

Hardline weekly 9 Dey, which was barred for two weeks, has been allowed to resume publication until its fate is decided by the commission that oversees the performance of the press. The ban on the weekly, run by Majles deputy Hamid Rasaei, was prompted in part by its publication of a cartoon of former President Mohammad Khatami.

Majles deputy Asadollah Badamchian, an influential member of the right-wing Islamic Coalition Party, said that Ahmadinejad will not form a coalition with the principlists for the upcoming Majles elections. The reason, he said, is that Ahmadinejad continues to support his inner circle and, therefore, will never enter into an "election union" that might diminish the odds of his closest associates winning office. Several months ago, before the confrontation between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei finally came to the surface, the president and the principlists formed a committee to look into the possibility of nominating common candidates for the Majles elections, but their differences have proven too deep to overcome.

Hamid Reza Taraghi, another influential member of the Islamic Coalition Party, opined that "moderate reformists" will form a coalition with supporters of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He predicted that the "extremist reformists" will not participate in the election, and likened them to both the "perverted group" and the Kaargozaaraan (Executives of Reconstruction Party), a group of Rafsanjani supporters who opposed the principlists in the elections for the Fifth Majles in 1996.

Taraghi also said that Khamenei has appointed a commission to investigate the reasons for "the government repeatedly breaking the laws." According to Taraghi, the Supreme Leader cannot allow the trend to continue, because it will hurt the political system and the people. He added, "The friction between the different branches of the system has never been higher than at present -- it is more severe even than during the era of [Abolhassan] Bani Sadr," the first president of the Islamic Republic, who was impeached in 1981.

According to Speaker Larijani, Khamenei has emphasized that is the right of the Majles to question and even impeach the president, but that he prefers that the deputies and administration officials not publicize their differences. Larijani said that the plan to question Ahmadinejad has been postponed for now.

Hardline Majles deputy Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash asserted that former President Khatami "does not have any right to a political life. He does not have the right to participate in any election, because he has never condemned the events of the Day of Ashura of December 27, 2009, nor Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. He has never apologized for his performance as president, which hurt and questioned the moral prestige of the state. He has never condemned the sedition" -- the right-wing catchphrase for the Green Movement." Bighash added, "The issue of Khatami is separate from the reformists. The Supreme Leader said that the leaders of the sedition have left the state. How many times has Khatami condemned Mousavi, Karroubi, and the children of Rafsanjani?" Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, similarly declared on Tuesday that Khatami may return to the political scene only if he condemns Mousavi, Karroubi, and the "sedition."

Two close associates of Ahmadinejad's and Mashaei's have been arrested: Azadeh Ardakani, the private English tutor of Mashaei and Vice President Hamid Baghaei, another close confidant of the president's; she served as a contact between Mashaei and Iranian artists. And Tahmineh Ardakani, deputy head of the Organization for Cultural Heritage and Tourism.

As reported by Tehran Bureau, a few days ago Ahmadinejad accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of running illegal wharves to import goods, a charge vehemently denied by Guard commander Jafari. Aftab News, the website closely aligned with Rafsanjani, just published a list of 70 wharves that do not have the permits necessary to allow the legal import of goods. They are in the provinces of Hurmozgan, Bushehr, Sistan and Baluchistan, Khuzestan, and Mazandaran. A decade ago, Mehdi Karroubi, then Majles speaker, said that there were 63 wharves in Iran outside of the customs office's control that were being used by various military-linked groups to import goods.

Ahmadinejad, however, seems to be retreating from his accusation that the Guards have made improper use of wharves. The president's public relations office claimed that the press had tampered with and incompletely reported what he said, which "had provoked a reaction by some officials," meaning General Jafari.

Brigadier General Seyyed Mohammad Hedjazi, deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, seemed to confirm that some Guard commanders have bank accounts outside Iran, when he said that the freezing of their assets by the United States and Europe is a "sign of their anger and inability to weaken the Islamic Republic." Though he also likened the move to "satire," he did not explain how it is so ineffective if the commanders do, in fact, have bank accounts outside Iran.

As reported by Tehran Bureau, a few days ago Ahmadinejad promised that the government would give 1,000 square meters of land to every Iranian family free of charge to build its "dream home." New reports indicate that Khamenei opposes the plan. One reason given is that there is just not enough land available, given that there are 21 million families in Iran and 75 percent of the country consists of desert and mountains.

As reported by Tehran Bureau, three Kurdish activists and political prisoners have been on hunger strike for nearly a month ago to protest their conditions in prison and violation of their rights. Despite the support that other political prisoners who went on hunger strike received both from within Iran and in the diaspora, little attention has been paid to the plight of the Kurdish activists. A letter signed by 700 Kurdish activists has been sent to various human rights and political organizations, asking them to support the hunger strikers and pay attention to the fact that their lives might be in danger. The letter criticizes what it calls the "silence" surrounding the Kurdish activists. In particular, concerns about the health and condition of Kamal Sharifi, one of the hunger strikers, have increased. Sharifi was convicted of moharebeh (warring against God), sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment, and barred from receiving family visits for the entire three decades.

Thirty-two Iranian press photographers have issued a statement demanding the immediate release of Maryam Majd, the sports photographer who was arrested for unknown reasons.

Attorney Hassan Younesi -- son of Ali Younesir, who was minister of intelligence during most of the Khatami administration -- has been summoned to Evin Prison to serve his sentence. He was arrested last year and spent two months in prison before his release on $250,000 bail. The court sentenced him to three years incarceration, two of which were replaced by a fine. He was also barred from practicing law for five years. He has declared his readiness to defend political prisoners and called his trial a "show."

Human rights activist Masoumeh Dehghan -- wife of Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent attorney for political prisoners -- has been arrested. She was summoned to Evin's judicial office and did not return home. Her daughter Maedeh Soltani said that Dehghan was not politically active and that she believes her mother may have been arrested to put pressure on her father. Abdolfattah Soltani was arrested a week after the 2009 presidential elections and detained for 70 days. He was released only after he posted bail of $100,000.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said that his country's bilateral dialogue with Iran will continue. Speaking at a joint press conference with his British counterpart, William Hague, in Jeddah on Tuesday, al-Faisal said, "I met with Iran's former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran [several months ago] and the next meeting was supposed to take place in [the Saudi capital] Riyadh. However, they [Iranians] placed some conditions that we did not agree with. Recently, current Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called me and requested a meeting on the condition that it take place in Kuwait. I asked him why he would choose Kuwait in the context of a bilateral dialogue when we are supposed to meet in Saudi Arabia."

Bahrain sentenced one of its citizens and two Iranians to ten years in prison for spying for Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The Iranians worked as diplomats in the Iranian embassy in Kuwait and were sentenced in absentia. The Bahraini prosecutor said the three "spied from 2002 until April 2010 in the Kingdom of Bahrain and abroad," and gave the Guards both economic and military information, including the locations of secret installations.Article continues below The Bahraini citizen was recruited while visiting relatives in Kuwait, and the Iranians reportedly also spied on Kuwait's military, oil installations, and U.S. forces in the country. In early April, Kuwait expelled three Iranian diplomats it accused of espionage, reportedly since the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. In retaliation, Iran expelled several Kuwaiti diplomats, which prompted Kuwait to recall its ambassador from Tehran.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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