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Regime's Concerns Grow over International Focus on Rights Violations

08 Aug 2011 00:56Comments

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

ZeidabadiSpeaking.jpg12:30 a.m., 17 Mordad/August 8 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
On Friday, following more than 750 days of imprisonment, distinguished journalist Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi was finally granted a two-day furlough, after he posted $400,000 bail. Zeidabadi, who was arrested in the immediate aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election, has been sentenced to six years of incarceration, five years of internal exile in Gonabad in southern Iran, and a permanent ban on any type of civil activity, including journalism. After the furlough expired Saturday evening, Zeidabadi returned to prison.

The granting of Zeidabadi's furlough illustrates the hardliners' mounting concerns over the worldwide pressure on Iran regarding the gross violations of human rights that occur routinely. The hardliners despise Zeidabadi and his principled journalism and have never hidden their wish to see him dead. The appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, has magnified their worries. It has been reported that Mohammad Javad Larijani, who heads the human rights department of Iran's judiciary, has stated in recent days that many of the political prisoners, particularly those who are better known and influential, will be gradually released under various excuses. According to these reports, Larijani has, in particular, named Zeidabadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh, the courageous attorney and human rights advocate, and granting a furlough to Zeidabadi seems to confirm the report.

The problem that the hardliners have is that Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, as well as Mehdi Karroubi have stood their ground and not changed their positions. They are under the most severe form of house arrest and if the hardliners allow Shaheed to travel to Iran, he will surely want to meet with the trio and Karroubi's wife, Fatemeh.

ShaheedJuly.jpgShaheed has appealed to the government to extend its full cooperation with his mandate after the Islamic Republic refused to permit him to enter the country. As reported by Tehran Bureau in July, Mohammad Javad Larijani dismissed "the Western-engineered appointment" of Shaheed as "an illegal measure," adding, "Iran has no problem with the individual who has been appointed as the special rapporteur, but the appointment of a rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran is unacceptable and Iran will not accept the decision." Shaheed, however, has expressed hope that "the Iranian authorities will view my mandate as a secure and legitimate space in which to take steps to comply with its international human rights obligations, as well as an opportunity to address the areas of concern communicated to Iran during its interactions with the international community on human rights issues."

Shaheed added that the new mandate "provides an opportunity for Iran to engage on a range of human rights issues that have been raised by the international community. I issued a written communication to the Iranian authorities to introduce myself and express my interest in visiting the country. My first report shall be submitted to the sixty-sixth session of General Assembly, and I have sought meetings with the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. offices in Geneva ahead of that date to discuss a platform for cooperation in the months ahead." Shaheed stressed that, "Every effort shall be made to demonstrate both the steps that the Iranian authorities can take to comply with Iran's international obligations, as well as to draw attention to the grievances of those who feel victimized by alleged human rights violations."

In a short letter to his son Dr. Hossein Karroubi, the elder Karroubi said, "You can be sure that these difficult times will end. The ugliness and embarrassment [of what has been done to the people] will remain with those who oppress the people and do unjust things to them, and against the laws and religion violate and ignore people's rights." He also warned his son not to travel outside Iran because "it is not in [your] interest."

The Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope, the temporary leadership body while Mousavi and Karroubi are under house arrest, has issued a statement expressing its support for the efforts of the Syrian people to achieve democracy. It says in part, "The Green people of Iran are extremely sad over what is happening to you these days. We remember you in every moment of this good month [the fasting month of Ramadan that began on August 1], and we are certain that God will help you in the righteous path that you are struggling. Victory is awaiting you and other freedom-loving people of the world.... Dictators such as [Bashar] Assad and [Muammar] Qaddafi make it possible, on the one hand, for foreigners to intervene in the social-political affairs of their countries and, on the other hand, leave behind burnt-out lands and sacrifice the natural and human resources of their countries for their own thirst for power." The statement has also been translated into Arabic.

Mohammad Ali Ramin, former deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance, said that if the "sedition" -- the hardliners' name for the Green Movement -- had been victorious, its leaders, Mousavi and Karroubi, would have been killed by the "enemies." Ramin, who was fired by Ahmadinejad from his post, did not explain who the "enemies" are and what would have been the goal in murdering the two leaders. He praised Khamenei and called on the people to refer to him as "Imam Khamenei."

Speculations have been rife concerning who will replace Brigadier General Rostam Ghasemi, the new minister of oil, as head of Khatam ol-Anbiya, the engineering arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Three officials have been talked about as his potential successor at the economically powerful operation: Parviz Fattah, minister of power in the first Ahmadinejad administration and current head of the Guards' cooperatives foundation; Seyyed Masoud Mir Kazemi, the previous oil minister of oil; and Abolghasem Mozaffari Shams, who heads the Organization for the Development of Iranian Water and Power Resources of Iran.

Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, member of the Tehran City Council and vice president for environmental affairs in the Khatami administration, asserted that under the current conditions the reformists will not run in the Majles elections next March. Addressing the lack of a free press and the right to free political activity, she said, "Any political group requires a minimum set of conditions [to be fulfilled] in order to participate in any election or any other important event. Thus, if they [the Reformists] feel that they do not have the necessary tools and cannot trust that the elections will be held without any problem, no one can expect them to run in the elections. But, not participating in the elections does not imply that they do not care about the country and the political system." Cleric Majid Ansari, who is close to former President Mohammad Khatami, also said that the reformists have no plans to run in the Majles elections.

At the same time, Dariush Ghanbari, spokesman for the reformist minority faction in the Majles ,said that there is no evidence that the next parliamentary elections will be fair. He added that the reformists have been following the political developments in the country and, "There has not been much change in the country's political atmosphere to encourage the Reformists to run in the upcxoming Majles elections." Ghanbari also predicted that Ahmadinejad will not accept the decisions reached by the Supreme Council for Resolving the Differences Between the Three Branches recently appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In a separate interview, Ghanbari said that the Iranian people's are now even worse off than they were during the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

In contrast, Hassan Ghafoorifard, a Majles deputy and member of the central committee of the Islamic Coalition Party, opined that the reformists will definitely run in the Majles elections, because if they do not, "They will be destroyed forever. They know very well that they need to have some success in the elections. If they do not, they will lose their political structure, parties, and social base and will be completely ruined."

The hardliners and conservatives have been trying to form a coalition to prevent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters from taking control of the next parliament. They have formed a group to try to unify them known as the 7+8 Committee, after the way its membership was distributed between the main hardline and conservative groups. The associated groups are the Society of Militant Clerics of Tehran, headed by Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts; the Society of Teachers and Scholars of Qom Seminaries, headed by reactionary cleric Mohammad Yazdi; the Front of Followers of Imam and the Leader (FFIL), itself is a coalition of 15 political groups, headed by Habibollah Asgar Oladi of the Islamic Coalition Party; and the recently formed Resistance Front of the Islamic Revolution (RFIR), which consists of former hardline officials in the Ahmadinejad administration who are not willing to work with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant, and his "perverted group." The committee is overseen by three conservative elder statesmen, including Asgar Oladi and former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Mohammad Reza Bahonar, deputy Majles speaker, and former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki represent the FFIL in the committee. Majles deputy Ali Asghar Zarei and former Health Minister Kamran Bagheri Lankani represent the RFIR.

Abbas Ali Khadkhodaei, spokesman for the Guardian Council, which vets the candidates for most elections, dismissed the suggestion that Yazdi's simultaneous membership in both the council and a political committee that is trying to unify the conservatives and hardliners for the Majles campaign is indicative of his lack of impartiality. He also rejected the conditions that the reformists have set for participating in the elections, saying, "This is like saying a person can enter a street only if there is no red light."

Nourollah Tabarsi, Khamenei's representative in Mazandaran province, said that he and the Supreme Leader's other representatives support a unified principlist front for the upcoming Majles elections. He added that by voting for the four new ministers who had been nominated by Ahmadinejad, the Majles deputies "did not make the enemy happy."

At the same time, Jahan News, the website that is published by hardline Majles deputy Alireza Zakani, declared that any list of Majles candidates drawn up by Ahmadinejad's supporters will be a list of "deception." Jahan News continued, "There have been many credible reports that the perverted group will spend vast sums on getting its candidates from various cities elected to the next Majles and control the Majles. The people should be aware that the perverted group has terrible plans for the country, and if people's awakening is not increased, there will be terrible consequences for the true owners of the Revolution, the people."

Three Majles deputies have filed a complaint against two of Ahmadinejad's closest aides, Mashaei and Hamid Baghaei, with the Majles's Article 90 Commission, which investigates the complaints of citizens against officials. The complaint was filed by former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Karami Rad, Hassan Noroozi, and Mohammad Dehghani. The complaint calls on Ahmadinejad to fire the two, because they supposedly represent that last remnants of the "perverted group" in the government.

But at the same time, Economic and Financial Affairs Minister Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini appointed Hossein Fazeli as chief operating officer of the Foreign Investments Company of Iran. Fazeli was deputy to Mashaei when he was the head of the Organization for Cultural Heritage and Tourism.

The website Ahang-e Rah, published by Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, the influential leftist cleric, has been blocked. Khoeiniha had begun publishing the website only a month ago, and had threatened in recent days that he would speak explicitly and bluntly about what has been happening in the country.

In an interview with Euro News, Ahmadinejad addressed a wide range of issues. Asked about his thoughts on the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, he responded, "I must express regret that some leaders have such a tarnished relationship with their people that they get to this point. We should express regret for the management of some nations that in order to achieve a certain level of freedom, they have to ask for the trial of their leaders. I hope world management will be revised in a manner so that world leaders will come from among people and will work for the people along with the people. We hope that there will be no clashes or fights among the people."

Asked for his views on the manner in which Syrian President Bashar Assad is handling the crisis in his country, Ahmadinejad responded, "We believe that the nations have a right to have freedom; they should be free to make their choice and to live with justice. At the same time, we believe that if others would not interfere, the nations in the Middle East would be able to solve their own problems. Many of the problems that we witness today and we are used to witnessing in the past have been due to the interference of others. If there are problems in certain places, then we should try to seek the roots in past intervention in past interferences."

When asked whether what has been happening in the Middle East will happen in Iran too, Ahmadinejad responded, "What happened in Iran is not similar to what happens in other countries. A completely free election was held in Iran. It was the freest election in the world. More than 85 percent of the people took part in the election. Forty million people voted, all those 40 million are Iranian nationals living together. However, attacking buildings, people and cars is forbidden in all countries. It's natural that the police and the judiciary would get involved."

Ahmadinejad told Jon Davies, the Euro News reporter, that there are also demonstrations in European countries against the governments there. Davies then responded, "The difference perhaps, I think, in the view of the European Union for instance, is that opposition party leaders and those with disagreements with the government are not necessarily arrested and put under house arrest or in in jail because of their political activities. They have the right to express those political activities and those political points of view without the fear or threat of violence or arrest, or any other kind of infringement on their human rights. I think that's the difference that is seen from outside Iran."

The Iranian president responded in his typical fashion -- by changing the subject: "I believe that they are even a few steps further in Europe; the governments do not even allow opposition to be formed. Those who express their views about the basic European issues are imprisoned. For example, the issues of the regions in the world today are all based on what happened in the Second World War. Are people allowed to write the truth and the realities of the Second World War? Or can they take any measures against the prevalent systems? I'm sure they can't, but in Iran people express their objections through legal channels and their complaints are seen to. However some scientists are now in prison for expressing their historical views."

When Davies asked, "Is there freedom for Mir Hossein Mousavi who is under house arrest? Is there freedom for Mehdi Karoubi who's under house arrest? Do they have the freedom to express their opposition? It's evident that they are opposed to you, but do they have the freedom to do that from their prison cell or their guarded house?" Ahmadinejad responded, "There are prisons everywhere. There are problems with the judiciary. The judiciary in Iran is independent. I don't have the right to interfere in what judges decide. There are certain laws according to which people can interact with the judiciary. If you're asking my personal view, I wish and I hope that there will be not even one single prisoner in the world, in all parts of the world; in Abu Ghraib [in Iraq], in all the hidden prisons in Europe."

During the interview Ahmadinejad also denied that he has any major differences with Khamenei. However, the website of the office of the president eliminated this statement from its version of the text of the interview. Raja News, the hardline website that used to support Ahmadinejad, questioned the passage's removal.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, perhaps the most important Marja (source of emulation) in Shia Islam, has been reported as saying that he woul never utter a word that would weaken the Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Morteza Ashrafi Shahroodi, who last year met with the grand ayatollah, said that Sistani told him that he is completely aware of what is going on, and "Although I have some criticisms of what is going on in Iran, but I am concerned that if I express them it will lead to weakening of the Islamic Republic system. I am responsible toward God [if I publicize my criticisms], and therefore will never utter even a word to weaken the Islamic Republic." Sistani was also quoted as saying, "Iran is the only country that has an Islamic government, and thus we should all try to strengthen this system."

Seyyed Emad Hosseini, spokesman for the Majles's Energy Commission, said that the development of the oil and natural gas fields that Iran shares with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf must have the highest priority. Hosseini added, "Even if we start today, we will still be behind Qatar," with which the Islamic Republic shares the giant South Pars gas field. Hosseini said that the most important problem facing the Ministry of Oil is management.

An oil pipeline from Ghaleh Nar in the province of Lorestan to Ahvaz in the province of Khuzestan exploded. The huge fire that resulted was finally brought under control after ten hours. The explosion and fire have forced a halt to oil production in Ghaleh Nar. The pipeline normally transports 4,000 barrels of oil a day to Ahvaz. This is the second pipeline explosion this year in Iran.

Koohyar Goudarzi, a member of the Committee of Reporters for Human Rights, has been arrested in Kerman. Reports indicate that his mother Parvin Mokhtare has also been arrested. Goudarzi was released from jail in December 2010 after serving a year.

Political prisoner Reza Joshan suffered a heart attack in Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran. Reports indicate that, at first, the prison officials did not do anything and only took him to the prison's medical center after other inmates protested. His health has been reported to be poor. Another political prisoner at Rajaei Shahr, Masha'allah Haeri, is also reported to be in poor health and has been taken to a hospital. Haeri, arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections, was also imprisoned in the 1980s. He has been sentenced to 15 years of incarceration.

On the occasion of Reporter's Day in Iran, a group of journalists held in Rajaei Shar and Tehran's Evin Prison -- including the managing editors of Etemad Melli, Karroubi's banned daily, and Kaleme, Mousavi's website -- issued a statement denouncing the house arrests of Mousavi and Karroubi. The statement says in part, "We the signatories condemn the authoritarian and security treatment of the journalists and the press, demand complete restoration of civil rights, particularly freedom of expression, release of all the imprisoned journalists, and creation of the necessary conditions for the work of journalists and independent press, and ask for help from all the defenders of human rights all over the world."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu confirmed the report by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung that three months ago Turkey seized an Iranian arms convoy that was apparently being sent to Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah. He added that the investigation is continuing, and the results will be publicized in due time.

Thirty-six European entities, including several shipping companies, have begun a legal challenge against the European Union after it imposed sanctions on them over their alleged involvement in Iran's nuclear program and arms trafficking, a court application showed. In May, the E.U. extended its sanctions on Iran by adding more than 100 new entities to a list of companies and people affected, including those it said were owned or controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). In a summary application filed recently with the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg, 36 entities led by Hamburg-based shipping firm Ocean Capital Administration, sought an annulment of financial sanctions that they said had led to an E.U.-wide freeze of their assets. According to the application, "The result is that they are unable to trade or carry out business at all within the E.U., and are not able to obtain insurance or reinsurance for hull or machinery from any European company, and it is prohibited to load or unload their cargoes in E.U. ports." The companies are based in Germany, Malta, and Cyprus. They said the financial damage to their reputation from the "serious allegations" was enormous. "This is incorrect, unsubstantiated and unjustified. None of the applicants is engaged in, directly associated with, or provides support for, Iran's proliferation-sensitive activities, or the development of Iran's nuclear weapon delivery systems. None of the applicants is owned or controlled by an entity that is engaged in or supports such activities," they said in their application.

After Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Syrian President Assad that he faced a "sad fate" if he did not introduce reforms, Moscow's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin accused NATO of planning a military campaign against Syria to overthrow tits regime "with the long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran." Rogozin added, "The planning is well underway. It could be a logical conclusion of those military and propaganda operations, which have been carried out by certain Western countries against North Africa." He suggested that Yemen could be another intermediate target. "The noose around Iran is tightening," he said.

The United States has been strongly pressuring South Korea to participate in the economic sanctions against Iran, putting Seoul in a difficult position. More than half of the small and medium-sized Korean companies doing business with Iran have already been hurt. At the same time, 9.5 percent of South Korea's total oil imports come from Iran, $4.7 billion annually, and over 2,000 Korean companies export goods and products to Iran. If South Korea buckles to U.S. pressure and suspends trade with Iran, its largest trading partner in the Middle East, it will face a situation in which it is impossible to predict the economic damage.

Last year, in return for the oil imports from Iran South Korean companies exported $4 billion worth of automobiles, electronics and other products to Iran, which accounted for just 1 percent of total South Korean exports. In the construction and plant sector, too, South Korean companies have obtained from Iran six contracts worth $1.92 billion, and Korean shipbuilders have received orders for 28 ships valued at $1.1 billion.

South Korean banks' recent decision to suspend foreign currency payments in trade with Iran has dealt an immediate blow to smaller Korean companies. The Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business announced Friday that a survey of 72 of its members doing businesses with Iran found that 56 percent had suffered loses after the announcement of planned sanctions by the United States, and 31.5 percent of firms exporting to Iran had all their dealings suspended. The Korean government is trying to find alternative routes for South Korean companies to send money to and from Iran, but it reportedly has yet to find an effective countermeasure. South Korean banks have virtually suspended financial deals fro export contracts made after July 8 in accordance with U.S. sanctions.

Der Spiegel reported that Israel was behind the latest assassination of an Iranian scientist, Dariush Rezaeinejad. "That was the first serious action taken by the new Mossad chief Tamir Pardo," an Israeli intelligence source told the magazine. According to Der Spiegel's sources, the killings are part of a campaign to sabotage, or at least slow down, Iran's nuclear program. The campaign involves other tactics, such as the cyber-attack using the Stuxnet computer virus, which paralyzed large parts of the Iranian nuclear program in the summer of 2010.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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