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Whistleblower Speaks from Hiding; University Activist Lashed 74 Times

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

10 Oct 2011 18:00Comments

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 Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

PalizdarBW.jpg12:45 a.m., 19 Mehr/October 11 More items from our columnist Muhammad Sahimi:
In 2008, Abbas Palizdar (pictured), a hardliner who was an ally of Ahmadinejad at the time, spoke to a gathering of university students and made revelations about corruption among 123 leading political and religious figures, including, for example, the reactionary cleric Mohammad Mesbah Yazdi, who is a member of both the Guardian Council and the Assembly of Experts. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to six years in prison, although he was released after posting bail. He has been summoned to jail to serve his sentence, but has refused to do so. In interview with the reformist newspaper Etemad, Palizdar said that he does not live in Tehran and has essentially been in hiding in a town that he did not name. He said that not only should he not go to jail, but that if he is imprisoned, his wife who has cancer may die due to the stress. When asked whether he has documents confirming his allegations, he said that he has "a pickup truck of documents," of which he has transferred scans to several DVDs. He added that he wants the judiciary to vacate his verdict, but if that does not happen by November 20, he will go to jail.

Peyman Aref, a university activist who is imprisoned in Ward 350 of the Evin prison, was lashed 74 times before his release from prison on Sunday. Aref is a member of the Organization of University Graduates of the National Front, a long-banned opposition group. The lashing was punishment for "insulting officials." In an interview with the pro-Green Rah-e Sabz (JARAS) Aref observed that he received the most brutal punishment for expressing his political beliefs, while Ahmadinejad repeatedly claims that "Iran is the freest country in the world."

Reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, who head the Majles's clerical bloc, suggested that women who do not wear complete Islamic hejab should be barred from receiving passports, and hence banned from leaving Iran. He said that not only does the government not confront such women, it has given them a "green light."

In August, Dr. Mahmoud Golzari, a professor of psychology at Allahmeh University in Tehran, published the results of his research that indicated that 80 percent of students have romantic partners. His claim was rejected by the Ministry of Education, based on the fact that 30 percent of the population lives in rural areas and, therefore, according to Golazari's results, approximately one quarter of rural girls must have boyfriends, which the ministry found unbelievable. On Sunday, Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, the commander of the national police, said that if Golzari's figures are accurate, "I will resign." He said that publicizing the results of such research is harmful to the psychological security of the society, and the person responsible intended to disturb the public.

The security forces have intensified the pressure on the Organization of University Graduates. Last week Hamid Mazzeni, a member of the central committee of the goup's Bushehr branch, was detained; no information is available on his whereabouts. Sirus Baneh-Gazi, a member of the same branch, has been suspended from his university; another member, Dr. Mahmoud Jamhiri, has been barred from teaching; and branch president Hesam Mansoori has been barred from leaving Iran to attend a conference. It is not yet clear why so much pressure is being exerted on members of this particular branch of the organization.

Marzieh Vafamehr, wife of the distinguished film director Naser Taghvaei, has been sentenced to one year in prison and 90 lashes. Vafamehr, who appeared in the movie My Tehran for Sale, was arrested in July. The picture, written and directed by Iranian Australian filmmaker Granaz Mousavi, portrays a young Iranian woman who meets a young Iranian man who lives in Australia and attempts to leave Iran with his help. At the time of his wife's arrest, Taghvaei said that all the people who had a hand in making the movie had been arrested and released on bail, except his wife, who has reportedly been held in the Gharchak detention center near Tehran, which is usually reserved for dangerous criminals.

Two documentary filmmakers, Naser Saffarian and Mohsen Shahnazdar, have been released from jail. They were arrested two weeks ago and charged with working for the BBC, which recently produced a documentary about Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that angered the hardliners.

The pressure on imprisoned political activist Reza Joshan is apparently increasing. A report indicates that he has been held in solitary confinement in a ward of Evin Prison that is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to the report, the security forces tried to arrest Joshan's mother, but because she had left Iran, the assets of the family were seized instead.

According to official statistics from the national coroner's office, on average four workers are killed everyday as a result of accidents at their workplaces. Two people are killed in the average day as a result of falls from heights.

The BBC reported that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suspended IranAir after the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) included the airline in its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List. According to the report, the suspension went into effect last Wednesday. IranAir still can operate flights abroad, but the suspension means that it cannot share other airlines' facilities and non-Iranian travel agents cannot arrange bookings for it, thus severely hampering its ability to operate internationally.

In response to a question posed by a group of Majles deputies, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran has brought suit against Russia in a Paris-based international over the nondelivery of the S300 missile system to Iran. He added that Russia has offered a settlement proposal that is being studied by his ministry's legal department.

1107601_PhotoA.jpg6 p.m., 18 Mehr/October 10 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
As the 2012 Majles elections draw near, the hardliners around Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seem increasingly concerned about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters. Alef, a news website published by conservative Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakoli, reported that the "perverted group" -- the hardliners' code name for Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president's chief of staff, and his inner circle -- is unhappy with Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar and may try to sack him three months before the March elections. The Ministry of the Interior is in charge of supervising the vote, and if Najar is fired three months before the elections and his dismissal is not opposed by Khamenei, Ahmadinejad can appoint an acting minister (the law gives him 90 days to introduce a permanent replacement to the Majles).

The new hardline group Jebheh Paaydaari-ye Enghelab-e Eslami, or JPEE (Steadfast Front of the Islamic Revolution), founded by reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, may not join other principlists in nominating joint candidates for the Majles elections. The lead competing hardline group is under the leadership of Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the so-called 7+8 Committee. When asked about the outcome if JPEE does not join the committee, Kani responded, "They will join, but if they do not, the structure of the 7+8 Committee will change." The JPEE consists chiefly of former officials in the Ahmadinejad administration, his supporters in the Majles, and hardline clerics. Khamenei has emphasized that the principlists who support him must be united.

Iranian Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei (pictured above) confirmed a report that Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Ahmadinejad's first vice president, has filed a lawsuit against him. Ejei said he was being sued because when he was asked a while ago whether there were charges against Rahimi that were under investigation, he responded affirmatively. As noted previously in this section, both Rahimi and Mashaei have filed lawsuits against several senior officials in the hardline camp who oppose Ahmadinejad.

Mohammad Ali Pourmousavi, deputy minister of this interior for political affairs, said that his ministry will confront those who try to create "superficial excitement" in the country over the Majles elections. He said that the political environment must be such that the height of excitement is reached at the time of the vote. He warned that those who try to create that excitement long before the designated time will be "confronted."

Emad Afroogh, a conservative academic and former Majles deputy, said that Ahmadinejad and his administration have "'illusions' about themselves". Afroogh said that Ahmadinejad considers himself as the second coming of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh. As an example, Afroogh said that when he was elected president in 2005, Ahmadinejad told someone, "Yesterday we drove our car from Behesht Avenue [in eastern Tehran where he lived] to Pastor Avenue [where the presidential palace is]. Now, we start from Pastor and end in Washington." Afroogh added, "I have said repeatedly that I do not see a government. I see the head of the government that is worshiped by his cabinet."

He added, "The head of government stayed home [for 11 days last spring over the firing of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi], but realized that no one is shouting 'either death or Mosaddegh' [Ahmadinejad], which goes to show how much support he has..."

Majid Ansari, a prominent member of the Association of Combatant Clerics (ACC), a leftist organization, denied that the reformists are preparing to run in the Majles elections. Hardline news outlets have apparently been spreading rumors that a committee, referred to as 7+1, has been formed to organize the reformist election campaign. Ansari denied that such a committee exists. The ACC is led by former President Mohammad Khatami and influential leftist cleric Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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