Archiv der Kategorie: Ayatollah Khomeini

The two faces of modernity in Iran – analysis

How the 1979 revolution and eight-year war with Iraq modernised the country

Women in Tehran protest against the hijab in March 1979.
Women in Tehran protest against the hijab in March 1979. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

It is often thought that what is currently taking place in Iran, the continuation of what has unfolded there over the past three decades – violation of human rights, systematic discrimination against women, and belligerence toward the west – constitutes a rejection of modernity and its fruits. There are many reasons to find this view plausible. Soon after the victory of the Islamists in the revolution of 1979, most of the modernising efforts and institutions of the 55-year-old Pahlavi dynasty were either abandoned or completely reversed. Some of the most visible of these institutions pertained to women. During the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah, the state had taken some positive steps regarding the status and welfare of women. Some of the most flagrant institutionalised forms of discrimination and abuse were curbed, if not abolished, through the curtailing of arbitrary divorce by men, the institution of more women-friendly custody laws, and the restriction of polygyny.

With the establishment of the Islamic republic, most of the provisions of the Pahlavi era’s Family Protection Law were abandoned. Personal freedoms, which before the revolution were more or less tolerated, came under severe attack by the revolutionaries. Women were forced to don the hijab, and any form of resistance to the closely monitored dress codes for both men and women was met with harsh punishment, including public flogging. Ancient retribution laws that entailed the cutting off of thieves’ hands and the stoning of adulterers – which, in fact, had rarely been performed in medieval Iran – were enforced in many parts of the country.

Human rights, including freedom of belief, among the fundamental features of the modern world, received a fatal blow under the Islamic republic. Adherents of the Baha’i faith, for example, came under savage attack by the government and zealots soon after the revolution. Some 200 to 300 Baha’is were killed merely because they were not willing to recant their faith. Many more received long prison sentences. The property of thousands of Baha’is was confiscated and their children were deprived of education, especially of access to higher education. Even today many members of the Baha’i Faith face gross discrimination and many of their leaders are serving long prison sentences. After the brutal repression of the Green Movement, many more journalists, lawyers and civil society activists are in jail or under house arrest.

Iran's Dizin ski resort in March 2002.
Iran’s Dizin ski resort in March 2002. Photograph: Reuters

There is no doubt that the revolution and the Islamic republic that was established in its wake militated against and negated some of what we take to be the most important aspects of modernity. Yet, modernity is complex. Under closer analysis, it could become evident that what has been taking place in Iran over the past three decades might very well be the initial phases of modernity, whose emergence has often been Janus-faced in other parts of the world. The notion of modernity is a contentious one, surrounded by conflicting methods of analysis, value judgments, and sentiments.

Of particular relevance to Iran’s situation, there are some intellectual traditions that tend to view modernity in terms of transformations in the human psyche that empower individuals so that they are no longer passive, inactive, docile, compliant, idle, suffering, and resigned. From this point of view – shared in varying ways by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, and Jürgen Habermas – modernity begins when a critical mass in a society abandons the life of passivity and acquires a sense of assertiveness, vigor, volition, resolve, and action. In a nutshell, modern people are not passive. They possess agency and power. They act upon the world. Moderns’ intervention in and acting upon nature constitutes the foundation of technology, which has liberated humans to some extent from the whims of nature and at the same time brought us close to thedestruction of both nature and ourselves.

Modern people also act upon society and politics as they assert their individual and collective power. This aspect of human agency and empowerment underlies the democratic institutions of modern societies. Democracy in the modern world is not possible without these fundamental transformations in the psyches of the people in a given society. We can install all the institutions of modern democracy, but without a critical mass in the society that has a sense of agency and empowerment these institutions will not survive. This happened in Iran (not to mention other countries) in the early 20th century. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906 laid the foundations of a restricted, constitutional monarchy, a parliament, a more or less free press, and free elections. But because a sense of agency and empowerment had not developed among the bulk of the Iranian people, none of these institutions could preserve their democratic character.. The Pahlavi period (1925-1979) witnessed some important degrees of development in the economy and education, as well as expansion of a centralised bureaucracy, military and urbanization. All of these promoted the sense of empowerment and agency among a growing number of Iranians, especially in the large cities and among the middle and the upper middle classes. Nevertheless, this sense of agency and thereby possessing human and citizenship rights was for the most part confined to the upper echelons of society and even among them it was experienced as a gift bestowed by the monarch and therefore not deeply internalized.

The observation may at first seem very counterintuitive, but the experience of Iran in the past three decades has brought a significant sense of agency and empowerment to average Iranians, especially those of the lower and lower middle classes. Ironically, this development may ultimately challenge the very existence of the Islamic republic as we know it. The revolution of 1979 galvanized and mobilized the “masses” of Iran like no other event in the country’s recent history. The participation of Iranians from all walks of life, especially the lower and lower middle classes, in political rallies, consciousness raising (as well as ideological indoctrination), formation of protest groups, and many other forms of social and political struggle toppled the Pahlavi dynasty. This collective action jolted ordinary Iranians and catapulted them into a form of agency, albeit rudimentary and contradictory.

The eight years of war with Iraq in the 1980s further promoted the sense of agency among Iran’s men, and to some extent its women (female participation in the war effort behind the front was significant). The conflict was inarguably devastating: it took a massive human toll, with between a quarter of million and one million Iranians killed or injured. It also further devastated what remained of the country’s physical infrastructure after the revolution. Yet, despite the massive human and physical damage that the war inflicted on Iran, it served to increase the sense of boldness and agency among its people.

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12 Executions inside Orumiyeh Central Prison in 11 Days; 9 of These for Drug Offenses

Iran Hinrichtung

Twelve prisoners were hanged inside the Orumiyeh Central Prison between October 18 and October 29, nine of these for drug trafficking crimes, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.

According to a source, on October 18, 2014, five inmates sentenced to death on drug-related charges were transferred from the facility’s Ward 15 to its Quarantine Ward, and hanged at 11:30 p.m. The five inmates, all citizens of Orumiyeh, were Fakhreddin Ghavidel, Esfandiar Ghahremani, Nejat Karimi, Arash Sigari, and Bahram Seddighi.

Five other inmates, Salaheddin Behnam Kerdar, Rashid Alizadeh, Reza Tahmassebi, Younes Golbahar, and Latif Mohammadi, were executed in the same facility on October 26, 2014. All of them, except for Mohammadi, had been sentenced to death on charges of drug trafficking and possession.

According to the United Nations, death sentences may be assigned only in the case of the “most serious” crimes, and drug-related charges do not fulfill this requirement. The vast majority of executions in Iran are carried out for drug-related offenses.

Recently, Iran’s top human rights official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, stated in a CNN interview [Link: http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/world/2014/10/29/intv-amanpour-michael-holmes-iran-jason-rezaian-mohammad-javad-larijani-journalists.cnn] that 80% of the executions in Iran are drug-related and that the “world should appreciate” Iran’s war on narcotics. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, however, stated in his most recent report  that “The rise in executions for crimes that do not meet the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’…severely contravene[s] the [Iranian] Government’s international and national commitments.”

http://edition.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/world/2014/10/29/intv-amanpour-michael-holmes-iran-jason-rezaian-mohammad-javad-larijani-journalists.cnn

Iran has the highest per capita execution rate in the world. According to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Iran, between July 2013 and June 2014, at least 852 individuals were executed.

Another one of the executed individuals, Latif Mohammadi, was charged with murder and armed robbery. However, the victim’s family subsequently forgave Mohammadi, and, under Iranian law, his Qisas (retaliatory death sentence) should have been either commuted or forgiven completely. Nevertheless, he remained on death row on the armed robbery charges and was executed along with the individuals convicted of drug crimes.

According to the source, on October 29, 2014, two other inmates, Ebrahim Choopani, a resident of Mahabad in Kurdistan Province arrested in 2009, and Yousef Hajiloo, a resident of Maku in West Azerbaijan Province arrested in 2008, were also hanged inside the Orumiyeh Prison for Qisas on charges of murder.

The Campaign and United Nations experts have called for an immediate moratorium on executions in Iran as Iran’s judicial process is characterized by an endemic lack of due process. Defendants are routinely denied access to counsel, forced under threat or torture to “confess,” and then convicted, including in capital cases, after brief, unfair trials.

Additionally, news of these twelve executions has not been announced by any official Iranian news media, continuing a long-standing pattern of a lack of transparency regarding executions in Iran.

Source: Inline image 1

Letters to the Ayatollah: Why Obama’s Latest Outreach to Iran’s Supreme Leader Was A Mistake

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran (REUTERS/Caren Firouz).

With a deadline for the Iranian nuclear negotiations set to expire in a few weeks and significant differences still outstanding, President Barack Obama reportedly penned a personal appeal to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last month. The move betrays a profound misunderstanding of the Iranian leadership, and is likely to hinder rather than help achieve a durable resolution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions as well as other U.S. objectives on Iran.

If the reports are accurate — and the administration has not yet confirmed the scoop by the Wall Street Journal — the letter apparently urged Khamenei to finalize the nuclear deal and dangled the prospect of bilateral cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS or ISIL) as an incentive. It marks the fourth time since taking office in 2009 that Obama has reached out to Khamenei personally, in addition to his exchange of letters (and an unprecedented phone call) with the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani.

This constitutes a striking increase in American outreach to the Iranian leadership since the revolution. The two countries have not had direct diplomatic relations since April 1980, and have engaged in direct dialogue only sporadically since that time, most recently in concert with five other world powers in talks aimed at eliminating Iran’s path to nuclear weapons capability.

In dealing with one of the world’s most urgent crises, more direct dialogue is surely a net positive. But the technique and tactics matter, perhaps even more in this interaction than in most other disputes, where contact is more routinized and where there is a more substantial foundation of mutual understanding or at least familiarity. It makes perfect sense, for example, that the U.S. military has apparently utilized Iraqi officials as an intermediary on issues related to the ISIS campaign, which Tehran has waged independent of the U.S.-led effort through its proxies on the ground in Iraq.

However, it is precisely at the tactical level that an Obama letter to Khamenei at this juncture appears so spectacularly ill-conceived. First of all, it poses no realistic possibility of advancing progress in the nuclear talks or any other aspect of U.S.-Iranian relations. After all, only the most naïve and uninformed observer of Iran would believe that a personal appeal from Obama would sway the Supreme Leader in a positive fashion.

Khamenei’s mistrust and antipathy toward Washington has been a consistent feature of his public rhetoric through the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic. He has described Washington with every possible invective; he indulges in Holocaust denial and 9/11 conspiracies; and he routinely insists that the United States is bent on regime change in Iran and perpetuating the nuclear crisis. These views are not opportunistic or transient. Anti-Americanism is Khamenei’s bedrock, engrained in his worldview, and as such it is not susceptible to blandishments — particularly not from the very object of his loathing.

Moreover, the Islamic Republic’s leadership is steeped in a Hobbesian understanding of the international system; as a hardline newspaper wrote, „our world is not a fair one and everyone gets as much power as he can, not for his power of reason or the adaptation of his request to the international laws, but by his bullying…“ Interpreted in this context, Obama’s appeal to Iran’s highest power at this critical juncture in the nuclear diplomacy will surely be read as a supplication — and as further confirmation of American desperation and weakness in the face of Iran’s position of advantage.

This may sound absurd, given the relative disparity in the two countries’ capabilities and international influence. And by any objective standard, Iran has a more compelling interest in a swift resolution to the longstanding nuclear impasse, since a deal would begin to curtail the devastating sanctions that have halved Iran’s oil exports and stranded its earnings in foreign banks that are off-limits to the Iranian treasury.

But Tehran has long sought to convince itself and the world otherwise. Khamenei himself regularly revels in his conviction that America is on the retreat in the face of Iran’s superior power. As he explained recently „the reason why we are stronger is that [America] retreats step by step in all the arenas which we and the Americans have confronted each other. But we do not retreat. Rather, we move forward. This is a sign of our superiority over the Americans.“

In addition, the incentive that Obama apparently proffered in his latest correspondence — a willingness to explore the confluence of interest between Tehran and Washington on combatting Sunni extremists — offers very little prospect of meaningful traction. The simple reality is that neither side prioritizes the ISIS battle over the nuclear diplomacy, as evidenced by the fact that Iran’s diplomats sought to use the same implicit linkage to lure Washington into greater nuclear concessions. Meanwhile, Iran’s security establishment has categorically rejected speculation about direct cooperation with the U.S.-led campaign, preferring to pursue its own offensive and convinced (probably correctly) that Tehran and its proxies have the upper hand in both Iraq and Syria.

As a result, there is simply no plausible scenario in which a letter from the President of the United States to Ali Khamenei generates greater Iranian flexibility on the nuclear program, which the regime has paid an exorbitant price to preserve, or somehow pushes a final agreement across the finish line. Just the opposite — the letter undoubtedly intensified Khamenei’s contempt for Washington and reinforced his longstanding determination to extract maximalist concessions from the international community. It is a blow to the delicate end-game state of play in the nuclear talks at the precise moment when American resolve was needed most.

The revelation of the letter also undercuts Obama elsewhere. It deepens tensions with America’s regional allies, whose assistance in strengthening the Sunni opposition to ISIS is sorely needed. It also hurts him at home, and again at the worst possible time, given the mid-term elections‘ outcome and incoming Republicans majorities in both houses of Congress. Obama’s rivals on Capitol Hill were already planning an activist agenda on Iran that could disrupt the administration’s diplomatic efforts; the letter will be seen — wrongly — as confirming the right’s most ludicrous conspiracy theories about a covert American-Iranian alliance.

It is difficult to imagine the logic that inspired Obama’s latest missive, other than an utter ineptness in understanding Iranian political dynamics. However, it is consistent with prior mawkishness that the administration has demonstrated toward Iran’s leadership during Rouhani’s two visits to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings — an unseemly, artless pursuit of some personal affinity in hopes of advancing bilateral diplomacy.

Obama would hardly be the first American president to delude himself that he can overcome international conflicts through the force of his own charisma — recall, for example, President George W. Bush’s excruciating assertion that he had looked into the eyes of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and sensed his soul. But he might just be the first to fumble a crucial arms control agreement near the finish line out of a misguided overconfidence in the power of his own prose.

Source: 

US-Kongress wird Druck auf Iran erhöhen

Republikanischer Wahlsieg erleichtert neue Sanktionen.

  (Die Presse)

Washington. Die Verhandlungen der USA, Großbritanniens, Frankreichs, Russlands und der EU mit dem Iran über die Beendigung seiner Atomwaffenpläne erhalten durch den Sieg der Republikaner bei den Kongresswahlen neue Dynamik. Jahrelang hat Harry Reid, der demokratische Mehrheitsführer im Senat, verhindert, dass Gesetzesvorschläge für neue Sanktionen auf dem Tisch von Präsident Barack Obama landen. Reid wird nun vom Republikaner Mitch McConnell ersetzt, den Vorsitz im außenpolitischen Ausschuss übernimmt sein Parteikollege Bob Corker.

Einen Vorgeschmack auf die auch gegenüber Obama härtere Gangart des neuen Kongresses lieferte die Weiterleitung eines vertraulichen Briefes des Präsidenten an den iranischen Führer, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an das „Wall Street Journal“, in dem er um Hilfe im Kampf gegen die Terroristen des Islamischen Staates bittet. Diese Indiskretion, die aus dem Kongress stammen dürfte, bringt Obama unter Druck, bis zur vorläufig auf den 24. November gelegten Frist für eine Einigung keine neuen Zugeständnisse zu machen. Ob Fortschritt möglich ist, hängt nun von einem Treffen der Außenminister der USA und des Iran, John Kerry und Javad Zarif, am Sonntag im Oman ab.

Eye on Iran: Iran Blocks Inspections, Hobbling Nuclear Deal

WSJ: „Iran’s government continues to stonewall United Nations weapons inspectors, complicating the Obama administration’s effort to forge a nuclear agreement with Tehran by a late-November deadline, according to U.S. and U.N. officials. The U.S. and the European Union have said Iran’s cooperation with the U.N. in addressing evidence that Tehran conducted studies in the past on the development of atomic weapons is crucial to reaching a broader accord on the future of the Iranian nuclear program. But Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said Friday there has been almost no progress in resolving the outstanding allegations of weapons development, despite a year of negotiations with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani ’s government… ‚What is needed now is concrete action,‘ Mr. Amano said during a speech in Washington. ‚Progress is limited.'“http://t.uani.com/1wXkUSR

Guardian: „A British-Iranian woman detained in Iran for trying to watch a volleyball game has been sentenced to one year in a notorious prison, according to her family and lawyer. Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, a law graduate from London, was found guilty of spreading ‚propaganda against the regime‘ following a secret hearing at Tehran’s revolutionary court. Ghavami has been detained for 127 days in prison since being arrested on 20 June at Azadi (‚Freedom‘ in Farsi) stadium in Tehran where Iran’s national volleyball team was scheduled to play Italy. Although she had been released within a few hours after the initial arrest she was rearrested days later. Speaking to the Guardian, Ghavami’s brother Iman, 28, said the family felt ’shattered‘ by the court verdict. ‚We are really disappointed because we felt she would get out on bail immediately. She’s been through a lot and now it’s a full-year sentence and she’s already served four months,‘ he said.“http://t.uani.com/1wYlduZ

AFP: „Global powers wrestling to hammer out a ground-breaking deal with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions are moving complex talks into high gear with a ‚critical‘ three weeks left for an accord. The main players — US Secretary of State John Kerry, his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and outgoing EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton — will crisscross the globe ahead of the November 24 deadline seeking to narrow the gaps. Ashton will first meet in Vienna on November 7 with political directors from the so-called P5+1 grouping — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States as well as Germany — her spokesman Michael Mann said. She will then fly to Oman to meet with Kerry and Zarif in closed meetings, in the country that first hosted secret talks between old foes Iran and the United States… ‚We have critical weeks ahead of us,‘ Kerry told PBS television. ‚The stakes for the world are enormous. I hope the Iranians will not get stuck in a tree of their own making, on one demand or another, in order to try to find a way together. I’m hopeful, but it’s a very tough negotiation.'“ http://t.uani.com/1x1benK

Nuclear Program & Negotiations

Bloomberg: „Iran will meet with the U.S. and other world powers next week in Oman in advance of a Nov. 24 deadline for a deal that would curtail Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran will hold talks with the group known as the P5+1 nations — the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, France and Germany — in Oman’s capital, Muscat, on Nov. 11, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement today. That meeting will follow two days of talks that Secretary of State John Kerry plans to hold in Muscat with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, who represents the European Union in the talks.“ http://t.uani.com/1xSr5nS

Al-Monitor: „Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Al-Monitor Oct. 31 that Iran’s halting cooperation so far in explaining possible military-related nuclear work would not derail ongoing negotiations on a long-term nonproliferation agreement. ‚It should not be an impediment,‘ Amano said after the conclusion of remarks at the Brookings Institution in Washington… Many experts doubt that a deal can be concluded next month but suggest that the major elements of an agreement could be reached. ‚I see no possibility of achieving a comprehensive deal by Nov. 24,‘ Robert Einhorn, a former senior nuclear expert with both the Obama and Clinton administrations who hosted the event with Amano, told Al-Monitor. ‚The best that can be achieved is to reach agreement on the key parameters of a deal and to take several more months to flesh out the parameters.'“ http://t.uani.com/1t6XyCB

Sanctions Relief

Fars (Iran): „Secretary of Iran’s Second International Auto Exhibition Sasan Qorbani announced that the number of international foreign companies that will take part in the exhibition has considerably increased. ‚A sum of 55 foreign automakers and part-makers will take part in the exhibition,‘ Qorbani said on Sunday. He noted that the number of foreign guests participating in the event has also increased to 190, and said, ‚All European and Asian carmakers will take part in Iran’s auto expo.‘ Last week, Qorbani announced that Benz, Volkswagen, Volvo, Fiat, Rover, Skoda, Renault, Peugeot, Kia and Toyota would take part in the Iranian auto expo, adding that the US car-manufacturers would also join the event. ‚In case of desirable conditions, General Motors and Ford companies will also attend the event.‘ He continued that some leading car parts makers, including Siemens, FORD Mendo, Busch, FRW and ACI would attend the gathering. The event will start work on December 10.“ http://t.uani.com/13zqnD7

AFP: „For Iran — whose currency, the rial, has been severely depressed by rampant inflation — tourism offers a foreign exchange windfall… People are coming back. Official figures show that at the end of March, tourist numbers were up 35 percent year-on-year to 4.5 million, bringing in $6 billion… However, a nuclear deal remains a hope rather than a given and tour operators know optimism can vanish quickly. For the moment, local guides are filling their pockets. ‚This is a new wave. We have between 300 percent and 400 percent more visitors,‘ says Mohsen Hajisaeid, who was looking after a group from Hong Kong.“ http://t.uani.com/1x1a1gf

Fars (Iran): „Iran’s largest carmaker, Iran Khodro Company (IKCO), has signed a 4-year contract with a German auto designer, the company’s president announced on Sunday, adding that a foreign team has also been hired for designing two new car platforms for the company. ‚We have endorsed a 4-year contract with this designer and he is due to design two new platforms in the next four years,‘ IKCO President Hashem Yekeh Zareh told FNA. ‚Accordingly, it was decided that a 10-member team visit Iran along with the German designer in the next one to two months to plan for designing two new car platforms.‘ Noting that the German designer has been employed by Iran Khodro at least for four years, Yekeh Zareh said that other members of the team are also due to sign a 1 to 4-year contracts with IKCO.“ http://t.uani.com/10eZfqH

Sanctions Enforcement & Impact

Reuters: „U.S. authorities are investigating London-based Standard Chartered Plc for potential U.S. sanctions violations connected to its banking for Iranian-controlled entities in Dubai, according to people familiar with the probe. The latest investigation involving the bank is based, in part, from evidence that emerged during a separate probe of BNP Paribas, the French bank that pleaded guilty this summer to charges related to sanctions-busting and agreed to pay $8.9 billion in penalties, the people said. During the course of the BNP case, U.S. federal and state investigators received evidence the French bank had done business with a Dubai-registered corporation that was a front for an Iranian entity, one source said. Investigators also learned that the company used to have an account with Standard Chartered, according to the source. Such an account would have been covered by U.S. sanctions laws that ban dealings with Iran because activity in the account involved U.S. dollar transactions… Standard Chartered in 2012 paid $667 million to U.S. authorities and entered into deferred prosecution agreements with the Manhattan District Attorney and U.S. Department of Justice over violations stemming from Iran and other sanctioned countries.“ http://t.uani.com/1DRz32G

Human Rights

NYT: „A senior Iranian emissary hinted on Friday that Iranian authorities might be prepared to free a Washington Post correspondent who has been inexplicably imprisoned and kept virtually incommunicado since July 22. The emissary, Mohammad Javad Larijani, who was attending a United Nations Human Rights Council session, said that security service officials had prepared charges against the correspondent, Jason Rezaian, for activities ‚entering the area of the security of the state.‘ But he added that he hoped the charges would be dropped during court proceedings that he expected to start ’soon.‘ Mr. Larijani, a member of a politically powerful Iranian family and secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, declined to elaborate on the charges. Nor did he further specify the status of Mr. Rezaian’s case in the opaque Iranian judicial process. Mr. Rezaian has not been able to hire a lawyer because no charges have been formally made.“ http://t.uani.com/10jf4Nh

Press TV (Iran): „The secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights says the propaganda campaign launched by Western media is to blame for the recent execution of a convicted Iranian woman. The Iranian government sought ‚to solicit forgiveness from the [victim’s] first-degree families. Unfortunately, the campaign which was launched by Western media and politicians definitely‘ ruined the atmosphere of soliciting forgiveness, Larijani said in an interview with CNN. He made the remarks on the sidelines of the 20th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in Geneva, Switzerland.“http://t.uani.com/1t6XItI

Domestic Politics

RFE/RL: „Promoting virtue and preventing vice proved to be the death of Ali Khalili, a young Iranian seminary student who eventually succumbed to injuries sustained when he tried to stop a group of men from harassing and kidnapping two women. Now lawmakers are debating ways to protect citizens like Khalili who take it upon themselves to defend the values of the Islamic republic. But by giving citizens legal license to take Islamic law into their own hands, critics warn, Tehran could be institutionalizing violent acts such as the recent spate of acid attacks targeting women — apparently because they were deemed to be in violation of Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. The bill winding through the conservative-dominated parliament would strengthen punishments for those who injure or kill people carrying out their Islamic duty to promote virtue and prevent vice, and would give injured vigilantes of Islamic justice the same benefits and legal protections afforded to ‚martyrs and disabled veterans.'“ http://t.uani.com/1zrSykz

Foreign Affairs

Bloomberg: „After forcing concessions from Yemen’s government last month, Shiite Muslim rebels ignored pleas to pull out of the capital, flaunting an ascendancy that has alarmed the country’s Gulf Arab neighbors. The Houthi fighters, with scimitars hanging from their waists, now guard key ministries and the central bank in Sana’a. Outside the capital, they have fought their way into Yemen’s second-largest port on the Red Sea and seized a crossing post on the Saudi border. For Saudi Arabia, it’s the perception of an Iranian hand that makes the advance a threat. The Houthis, who follow a branch of Shiite Islam called Zaidi, have pushed aside a government installed three years ago as part of a peace plan backed by the Saudis and their Sunni allies. Yemen, which shares a 1,100-mile border with the world’s biggest oil supplier, threatens to become another arena for the Saudi-Iranian antagonism that underlies many of the region’s crises… In Yemen, Houthi gains will weaken Saudi Arabia’s influence over the impoverished country led by Gulf Cooperation Council-backed President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi. ‚What is happening in Yemen should worry Saudi Arabia,‘ Faris al-Saqqaf, an adviser to President Hadi, said in a phone interview on Oct. 17. ‚Iranian ambition will not stop at Yemen.'“http://t.uani.com/1s7ST4a

Opinion & Analysis

Ray Takeyh in WashPost: „As the Nov. 24 deadline for Iran and the great powers to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear agreement approaches, both sides may be confronted with momentous choices. What happens if the decade-long search for an arms-control accord falters? Although there is little evidence that the West is contemplating alternative strategies, important actors in Iran are beginning to consider life after diplomatic failure. Since the exposure of its illicit nuclear program in 2002, the Islamic republic has wrestled with a contradictory mandate: how to expand its nuclear infrastructure while sustaining a measure of economic growth. The reformist president Mohammad Khatami avoided debilitating economic sanctions by suspending nuclear activities. Then came the tumultuous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which privileged nuclear empowerment over economic vitality. Current president Hassan Rouhani has succeeded in negotiating an interim agreement – the Joint Plan of Action – but he faces diminishing prospects for a final accord. Iran has finally come to the crossroads, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and many hard-line elements seem ready to forge ahead with their nuclear ambitions even if they collide with economic imperatives. During the past few years, Khamenei has been pressing his concept of a resistance economy whereby Iran would shed its need for foreign contracts and commerce. ‚Instead of reliance on the oil revenues, Iran should be managed through reliance on its internal forces and the resources on the ground,‘ he said last month. Writing in the conservative daily Khorasan last year, commentator Mehdi Hasanzadeh went further: ‚An economy that relies on domestic [production] rather than preliminary agreement or the lifting of a small part of sanctions or even all sanctions will bring a great economic victory.‘ In the impractical universe of conservatives, Iran can meet the basic needs of its people by developing local industries. Iran’s reactionaries seem to prefer national poverty to nuclear disarmament. The notions of self-sufficiency and self-reliance have long been hallmarks of conservative thinking in Iran. Since the 1980s, a central tenet of the hard-liners‘ foreign policy perspective has been that Iran’s revolution is a remarkable historical achievement that the United States can’t accept or accommodate. Western powers will always conspire against an Islamic state that they cannot control, this thinking goes, and the only way Iran can secure its independence and achieve its national objectives is to lessen its reliance on its principal export commodity. Hard-liners believe that isolation from the international community can best preserve Iran’s ideological identity. This siege mentality drives Iran’s quest for nuclear arms and their deterrent power.“ http://t.uani.com/1tusbFy

Iran jails British-Iranian woman who was detained for watching volleyball

British-Iranian law graduate Ghoncheh Ghavami
PHOTO

Ghoncheh Ghavami has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for 126 days.

TWITTER: @AMNESTYUK

A British-Iranian woman who was arrested in Iran after trying to attend a volleyball match has been sentenced to one year in jail, local media says, quoting her lawyer.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, a law graduate from London, was arrested in June at a Tehran stadium, where Iran’s national volleyball team was to play Italy.

The 25-year-old went on trial last month.

„According to the verdict she was sentenced to one year,“ her lawyer Alizadeh Tabatabaie was quoted in Iranian media as saying on Sunday.

He said the judge had shown him the sentence, but no reason was given for the conviction.

Iranian officials have said Ghavami was detained for security reasons unrelated to the volleyball match.

Britain said on Sunday it was worried about the case and the way Ghavami had been treated.

„We are concerned about reports that Ghoncheh Ghavami has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for ‚propaganda against the state‘,“ the foreign office said in a statement.

„We have concerns about the grounds for this prosecution, due process during the trial and Ms Ghavami’s treatment whilst in custody.“

The „Free Ghoncheh Ghavami“ Facebook page, where her friends and family campaigned for her release, features photographs of her set against the slogan: „Jailed for wanting to watch a volleyball match.“

An update on the page on Sunday appeared to corroborate the one-year sentence but bemoaned the closed-door legal process that has prevailed in the case.

„This morning Ghoncheh’s family and lawyer returned empty handed from branch 26 of revolutionary court,“ it said.

„It is not clear to her family and lawyer as to what the current legal basis of her detention is. A fair and just legal process according to Iran’s legal framework is the basic right of every Iranian citizen. Why are these rights not upheld in Ghoncheh’s case?“

Ghavami’s arrest came after female fans and women journalists were told they would not be allowed to attend the volleyball match at Azadi stadium in the capital.

National police chief General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam said it was „not yet in the public interest“ for men and women to attend such events together.

Women are also banned from attending football matches in Iran, with officials saying this is to protect them from lewd behaviour among male fans.

AFP

Iran by rail: making tracks in Tehran

The arrival of the first private train from Europe to enter Iran underlines the country’s growing appeal to tourists

Iran by rail: Making tracks in Tehran

Tourists arrive in Iran this week Photo: GETTY

Fanfare and flash bulbs greeted the Golden Eagle Danube Express this week on its arrival at Tehran station. The passengers were showered with gifts and good wishes, and eagerly pressed for quotes or poses, as they disembarked at Iran’s capital into a welcoming scrum of tourism officials, residents and international news and television crews.

Ayatollah Khomeini, hard-line architect of Iran’s Islamic revolution, might not have approved. But the much-heralded arrival of this luxury period-style service, the first private European train permitted to enter the country, is being seen as headline evidence of the thaw in relations between the West and the Islamic Republic since the election last year of comparative moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

It especially marks a new beginning for tourism in a country that’s little visited despite being richer even than neighbouring Turkey in world heritage sites such as ancient Persepolis and Isfahan’s exquisite Naqsh-e Jahan Square.

“We’re on target to double the number of incoming visitors from 2.3 million in 2013 to 4.6 million this year,” says Ebrahim Pourfaraj of the Iran Tourism Operators’ Association.

The inaugural “Jewels of Persia” departure, carrying 62 mostly Australian, American and European passengers, left Budapest two weeks earlier for the 4,100-mile journey. The train first passed through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, its regular touring grounds, before crossing Turkey for the first time to make its historic entrance east of Lake Van into the Islamic Republic.

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