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Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- From Ahmadinejad in Egypt to "Tribal Voices" in Tehran (Arseh Sevom)

This week's "Tribal Voices" festival in Tehran

Arseh Sevom, the NGO devoted to civil society and human rights in Iran, posts its latest review of developments inside the country:

This week we saw the arrest of Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi, following a power struggle on the floor of Parliament between Speaker Ali Larijani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The President joined the ranks of those on the receiving end of flying shoes during a trip to Egypt. And amidst worries about the economy and more crippling sanctions, Tehran celebrates the Tribal Voices festival.

Ahmadinejad’s Adventures in Cairo: Red Carpet, Criticisms, and a Shoe Attack

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt on Tuesday for the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than three decades. The visit was the latest sign of efforts by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi to improve relations with Tehran, which have been cut since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Morsi greeted Ahmadinejad with smiles and a red-carpet ceremony at the airport. Then tension took over. Ahmadinejad went to a key Sunni site of scholarship, the Al-Azhar mosque and university, where he faced heavy criticism during a news conference. The Al-Azhar leadership accused Shiites of interfering in Arab countries and discriminating against Sunnis in Iran.

After the news conference, a protester tried to hit Ahmadinejad with a shoe. Reports said the assailant was a Syrian, presumably angered by Iran’s support of the Syrian regime.

Presidential Advisor Mortazavi Removed, Mortazavi Reappointed, Mortazavi Arrested, Mortazavi Freed

For months, controversial former Iranian prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi has been at the center of power struggle between the country’s President and head of Parliament: the Majlis has . tried to remove Mortazavi from his leadership of the Social Security Organization, but has failed to do so.

On Sunday, President Ahmadinejad went to the Parliament to defend his Minister of Labor, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami against impeachment. During his speeh, Ahmadinejad played a recorded conversation between Mortazavi and Ali Larijani’s brother Fazel, accusing the Larijani family of corruption.

The next day, Mortazavi was arrested and moved to Evin Prison. No reason was given; however, Fars News Agency reported that it might be related to the abuse and killing of post-election protesters in Kahrizak Prison in summer 2009, when Mortazavi was Tehran Prosecutor General.

Mortazavi was freed from prison early Wednesday morning, as a sign of a brief settlement in Iran’s political arena.

Most Wanted: Interpol after Former Bank Head Khavari 

Interpol has placed the former head of Iran’s Bank Melli, Mahmoud Reza Khavari.

Earlier, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei called on Interpol to arrest and hand over Khavari, who fled Canada after a $2.6 billion financial fraud case was uncovered in September 2011.

Meanwhile, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that a man caught last month trying to enter Germany with a check worth about $70 million was Iran’s former central bank chief, Tahmasb Mazaheri.

Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela said that the check was going to be used by an Iranian company for its expenses while building public housing in Venezuela.

Iran-America Dilemma: Promising Talks or New Crippling Sanctions?

Speaking at the Munich security conference on Saturday, US Vice President Joe Biden said that the US is prepared to hold talks with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. He declared that “the ball is in the government of Iran’s Court” to show that the negotiations will be held in good faith.

Last week Shargh Newspaper dedicated its front page to the assertion of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani that negotiation with the United States is no longer a “red line.” However, the situaton was complicated by a new wave of US sanctions, designed to prevent Iran from receiving its oil revenues and forcing Tehran to make arrangements for barter.

Tribal Voices: A Festival of Colors, Traditions, and Music

Since Saturday, Tehran has been hosting the festival “Tribal Voices", an introduction to traditions and costumes of Iranian tribes.

The streets filled with color, costumes, signs of diverses cultures, and tribal music has been a welcome relief from sanctions, executions, and air pollution.

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