Arseh Sevom — From the “not again” department, we hear news that the Intelligence Ministry won’t let up on the BBC and continues to arrest, hold, and harass journalists and filmmakers. Meanwhile, Jafar Panahi receives international acclaim despite being under house arrest and banned from filmmaking. The South Pole could become a vacation spot for Nowruz revelers if Iran’s claim to some of its vast territory holds up. The Supreme Leader chastises Ahmadinejad and the Larijani brothers for their very public dispute. And Iran and the US finally agree on one thing: removing wrestling from the Olympic games is just tragic.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry Targets BBC
On Tuesday, February 19, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry released its third announcement [fa] regarding arrested journalists. The ministry claims the journalists worked for Western news agencies, specifically the BBC. In the ministry’s literature, the BBC is not just a news agency, it is “Psychological Operation Unit of British Government’s Spying Organization.” According to the announcement, a number of the detained journalists have been released on bail, while four others have fled the country.
The statement continues by providing a list of BBC-linked agencies, including Jaras, Kalemeh, Roozonline, Neday-e sabz-e azadi, Saham News, Khodnevis, Ghozar, Melli Mashabi, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle, R.F.I, VOA, and even Man-o-to TV, all related to the “presidential elections sedition in 2009. The list is huge, as you can see, and may be well extended by “anonymous soldiers of Imam Zaman” in coming pronouncements.
Iran Claims the South Pole!
Mohammad Bagheri, a high-ranking official of the Iranian Armed Forces, said on Monday, February 18 that Iran can legally claim governance of some parts of the South Pole, Radiofarda [fa] reported. Here is the rationale behind his words: Iran has direct access to the high seas from Makran’s shores, there is no land in Iran’s path to the South Pole and, according to international rules and regulations, Iran can legally claim governance of some portions of the South Pole. While the legality of the issue needs to be addresses by an expert panel, let’s just say it’s right. Isn’t it weird? Maybe Iranian people can spend a holiday in South Pole in the coming years!
All jokes aside, a few months ago Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said: “We have the capability to hoist Iran’s flags in various regions from the North Pole to the South Pole, and we are preparing plans for a presence near the South Pole.” Iran has shown its stubbornness on many occasions. So… maybe we should take the South Pole Project more seriously.
Jafar Panahi Awarded in Berlin Film Festival
Iranian director Jafar Panahi shared the award for best script at the Berlin film festival on Saturday, February 16 for the film “Closed Curtain” with co-director Kamboziya Partovi. The film was made in secret, showing some aspects of Panahi’s life under house arrest. The film follows the story of a man and a woman on the run from security officers. Critics believe that the film shows Panahi’s depression and even thoughts of suicide. Panahi himself once said that he started the film in a state of deep melancholy, but recovered while shooting.
Iran banned Panahi from making films for 20 years in 2010 and sentenced him to six years in prison on charge of “propaganda against the state” following the country’s 2009 disputed presidential elections. And now Panahi has not only made a film, but yet again has been recognized with an award at an international film festival, angering Iranian authorities. ISNA [fa] reported on the objections of the head of Iran’s national cinema organization Javad Shamaghdari:
“We have protested to the Berlinfilm festival. Its officials should amend their behavior because in cultural and cinematic exchange, this is not correct.”
Maybe they have a right to be angry. The international community has seen fit to award student activist Majid Tavakoli last week and Jafar Panahi this week. It seems that for every prisoner of conscience in Iran there awaits an international honor!
TedX in Tehran
Despite the odds, Tehran hosted its first ever TedX conference. The Washington Post blogged about the eventhere.
Khamenei Reacts to Ahmadinejad and Larijani Dispute
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reacted to the dispute between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the powerful Larijani brothers (in which Ahmadinejad accused speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani and judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani of corruption). Speaking to a crowd in Tabriz, Khamenei sharply criticized the president and the brothers, Fars News Agency [fa] reported. He criticized Ahmadinejad’s behavior as “acting against sharia” and the parliament’s impeachment of Minister of Labour as a “bad decision”.
The Larijani brothers and Ahmadinejad expressed their “obedience” to Khamenei in separate letters, but, of course, Ahmadinejad did so in his own way. While Ali and Sadeq Larijani released their letters immediately following Khamenei’s speech, Ahmadinejad‘s had a one-day delay. The delay may mean nothing or it may point to disagreements between the Khamenei and Ahmadinejad camps. Having in mind the whole unrest and demonstrations after 2009 presidential elections and Khamenei’s determined attempts to keep Ahmadinejad in the office, it is reasonable to imagine Khamenei asking himself: “Was it worth it?!”
Olympics without Wrestling?!
With a reported more than 300,000 wrestlers in Iran and a long history of medals, Iranian wrestling supporters were shocked by the news that The International Olympic Committee will remove wrestling from the 2020 Games. Wrestling is one of the oldest Olympic sports and one can barely find a rationale behind the decision. Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. Iran isn’t alone. Many countries are shocked by the news. See for yourself here, here, here, and everywhere.
The New York Times gives a great overview of wrestling culture in Iran, explaining the significance of the wrestler:
Wrestling, Mr. Dodangeh [a wrestling coach] said, is about becoming a “pahlavan,” a respectable, forgiving man, caring for the downtrodden and standing up for justice. “A good wrestler is a good, religious person,” he said.
It seems that it takes removal of wrestling from the Olympic Games to put Iran and America on the same side!