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Entries in Agh Bahman (2)


The Latest from Iran (8 March): Foreign Affairs

2000 GMT: More on Women's Day. An interesting interview with Parvin Ardalan, winner of the Olof Palme Prize in 2005 it was “for making the equal rights of men and women central to the struggle for democracy in Iran”:
Many of the women’s groups decided after the election not to communicate with the government because it has lost its legitimacy. For example, they collected all these signatures for the One Million Signatures campaign to give to the parliament, but now people no longer want to sign anything because they believe that no demands should be sent to a government that has no legitimacy. The situation has changed – people want gender equality but they don’t think the approach is to go to this government to get it. So currently even the groups that did have contact with the government, no longer do

1900 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has met with reformist students of Tehran University for the second time in recent months.

1850 GMT: We've posted the video message of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Iranian women on International Women's Day.

1845 GMT: Political Prisoner News. An Iranian activist reports that Committee of Human Rights Reporters member Mehrad Rahimi was released on bail this evening. Five other CHRR members are still imprisoned.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Hillary Clinton’s Message to Iranian Women (8 March)
NEW Iran: A Journalist Writes Her Detained Husband and “Mr Interrogator”
Video: General Petraeus on Iran and Iraq (7 March)
Iran: Senior Reformist Amani “We Have Not Decided to Remain Silent”
The Latest from Iran (7 March): The Elections Next Door

1800 GMT: How Does Iran Celebrate International Women's Day? Building on the news that poet Simin Behbahani was barred from leaving Iran for ceremonies in Paris (see 0835 GMT), Golnaz Esfandiari notes other cases of restrictions of women's rights in the country.

1755 GMT: War on Terror News. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has announced that Iran has asked Germany to extradite the leader of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) to stand trial.

1745 GMT: Denial of Day:Tehran Province Governor Morteza Tamaddon claimed today that security and police forces did not enter the campus of Tehran University on the night of 14/15 June.

Responding to an 18-minute video, widely circulated last month, that showed men attacking university dormiitories, Tamaddon warned, “If anyone claims [security and police were present], we are ready to follow up on the matter.” He insisted a small group of students had started a protest in the University residences and were dealt with by the “appropriate authorities.”

1735 GMT: All is Well Press Release of Day. I have to preface this, while trying to keep a straight face, with the note that throughout Sunday, Iranian state media were announcing loudly that President Ahmadinejad would be in Kabul today (see 1055 GMT):
An Iranian diplomat in Kabul said Monday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would head a high-ranking delegation to Afghanistan on Wednesday, rejecting reports of delays in his visit.

Afghan sources in the presidential office had earlier claimed that Ahmadinejad had postponed his visit, which, they said, had been originally scheduled for Monday.

The Iranian source, however, told Press TV that Tehran had announced that the visit would take place during the week, without specifying that a day had been picked by the president.

The diplomat also rejected reports that the visit's itinerary had been influenced by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' visit to Kabul.

1730 GMT: Communicating with Iran. The US Treasury Department has approved an exemption to American sanctions on Iran, Sudan, and Cuba to allow the export of Internet communications software. Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said that the change is intended to help people "exercise their most basic rights."

1715 GMT: Economy Watch. Looks like the Ahmadinejad Government may have scored a big victory, with the approval of a $347 billion budget for the Iranian year to March 2011.

This is less than the Government's $368.4 billion request. It also appears that the $40 billion sought from subsidy cuts has been reduced to $20 billion. Still, given the criticism of the Government over the proposal, the passage is a significant advance.

The vote for the budget was 151-62 with 12 abstentions.

1420 GMT: An Unwelcome Coincidence. Within 30 seconds of posting the update below, I read the news from the Kalemeh website:
An Iranian appeals court handed a five-year jail term to a reformist journalist...while...authorities freed five other critics on hefty sureties.

The journalist, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, a prominent critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic policies, was previously sentenced to seven years in jail and 74 lashes, after a government crackdown on opposition supporters.

But the appeals court reduced that sentence to five years in jail and waived the lashes.

1415 GMT: A Special Letter. A bit limited with updates today because of academic duties; please keep sending in your latest news.

Meanwhile, we've posted a letter from journalist Zhila Baniyaghoub to her husband, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui. Both were detained after the June election, but Baniyaghoub was released while Amoui remains in Evin Prison. The letter, posted on Sunday, is one of the most moving expressions of feeling and thought I have read in this crisis.

1100 GMT: Adding Insult to Injury. Here's US Secretary of State Robert Gates, on his way to meet Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai after Karzai told President Ahmadinejad to stay in Iran: "[Tehran] also understand that our reaction, should they get too aggressive in this, is not one they would want to think about."

1055 GMT: Rejected. OK, now the news from Kabul makes sense....

I noticed a few hours ago that US Secretary of State Defense Robert Gates is also in Afghanistan today, paying a visit to President Hamid Karzai. This conjured up wild visions of US and Iranian delegations huddling somewhere in Kabul while Karzai manoeuvred between meetings with Gates and President Ahmadinejad.

But, of course, the simpler outcome is that the Afghan leadership --- whether because of pressure from the Amerians or of their own accord --- would choose their Washington visitors and tell Ahmadinejad to stay home. From Press TV:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has postponed a trip to Afghanistan devoted to providing "solutions for settling the problems" in Iran's eastern neighbor.

The one-day visit, originally scheduled for Monday, would be the President's first visit to Afghanistan since both he and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai were re-elected last year.

"President Ahmadinejad won't be coming to Kabul," an informed source at the Karzai's office told Press TV on condition of anonymity.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the source added, has, however, arrived in Afghanistan on Monday morning on an unannounced visit.

The source did not pinpoint a next date for the meeting between the two presidents.

1030 GMT: Breaking News. It is being reported that President Ahmadinejad has cancelled his trip to Afghanistan, giving no reason.

0905 GMT: In Their Honour. For International Women's Day, Setareh Sabety has posted an essay, "Working Class and Female in Iran": "For whatever it is worth, I thought that I should expose the lives of three very ordinary Iranian women from different backgrounds and different sensibilities. This is for them."

0835 GMT: Stifling the Artists. Iranian authorities have barred one of Iran's most famous poets, Simin Behbahani, from leaving the country. Behbahani had been invited to read her work at International Women's Day ceremonies in Paris.

0730 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The authorities continue to release the relatives of prominent blogger Agh Bahman: his sisters Banafsheh and Jamileh Darolshafaei. His cousin Yashar Darolshafaei has had bail set at $70,000. However, Abolhasan Darolshafaei, Bahman's father, is still detained.

0715 GMT: The Israel Front. Meanwhile, the US continues to send the Very, Very Concerned message to western Jerusalem, not to encourage an Israeli attack on Iran but to dissuade the Israelis.

The latest high-profile signal comes from Vice President Joe Biden's visit today. Before meeting Israeli officials, he declared:
Though I cannot answer the hypothetical questions you raised about Iran, I can promise the Israeli people that we will confront, as allies, any security challenge it will face. A nuclear-armed Iran would constitute a threat not only to Israel -- it would also constitute a threat to the United States.

0705 GMT: China and Iran. The International Crisis Group offers an incisive analysis on China's position on the Iranian nuclear issue:
Beijing is unconvinced that Iran has the ability to develop nuclear weapons in the short term and does not share the West’s sense of urgency about the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, despite the risks that this would present to China’s long-term interests. Moreover, it does not believe the sanctions proposed by the West will bring about a solution to the issue, particularly given the failure of this approach so far. And while Beijing has stated that it supports a “nuclear-free” Middle East, it does not want to sacrifice its own energy interests in Iran. However, if China finds itself facing unanimous support for sanctions from other Security Council members, it will delay but not block a resolution, while seeking to weaken its punitive terms.

0635 GMT: Look for Iranian state media to spend Monday playing up Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's trip to Kabul to chat with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. After several months of being ostracised by the international community, Ahmadinejad has become one of the big boys again. This visit, following the Iranian President's diiscussions in Damascus, points to the Iranian Government's play for recognition and influence in both the Middle East and Central Asia.

But is Ahmadinejad a central figure or just a figurehead? We're still watching the Japan front on the uranium enrichment story, with yet another sign from Tehran yesterday that a deal may soon be on the table for Tokyo to carry out third-party enrichment.

And, while posting the video, we're trying to read General David Petraeus's appearance on the stage yesterday. His reference to Iran's regime as a "thugocracy" seems a crude attempt, both in rhetoric and conception, to match Hillary Clinton's recent pronouncement of an Iranian "military dictatorship".

However, the most significant part of Petraeus' statement may be his assurance that Tehran is too preoccupied with internal matters to mess around abroad, including in Iraq. That reads as a declaration of the containment of Iran, which indicates that Petraeus will not be pushing for more confrontational measures against Tehran, including military action.

The Latest from Iran (6 March): Justice

2130 GMT: Jailing the Workers. Radio Farda reports the arrests of a number of labour activists in northwestern Iran in recent days.

2120 GMT: Mystery of Day. Iranian Labor News Agency reports that Ayatollahs Safi Golpaygani and Javadi-Amoli have met recently.

Given that these meetings between senior clerics are rare, what were the issues that brought the two ayatollahs together? And was there any connection to the clerical disquiet over the Mohammad Amin Valian death sentence?

UPDATED Death, Confusion, and Clerics in Iran: The Case of Mohammad Amin Valian
NEW An Open Letter to the Editors of Iran’s “Principled” Newspapers
University Special: Iran & Conservapedia Ally Against Dangerous Professors
The Latest from Iran (5 March): Re-aligning

2045 GMT: Mohareb Trial for Dr Maleki? Iranian Labor News Agency reports that Dr Mohammad Maleki, the first post-1979 Chancellor of Tehran University is being charged with "mohareb" (war against God). Maleki's lawyer, Mohammad Sharifi said that his client, who is 76 and suffers from prostate cancer, is also charged with links to an outlawed organisation.

2040 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Banafsheh Darolshafaei, the sister of blogger Agh Bahman, has been released from detention.

1955 GMT: The Khomeini Challenge. Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, has again criticised Iranian authorities. He claimed some people refuse to see the truth, and even when they are told about it, try to “accuse you of an offence”
1945 GMT: A Little Change? The Expediency Council voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to consider changes in Iran's electoral law, starting deliberations on qualification of voters, candidates, and the quality of election campaigns, according to Council member Mohammad Hashemi, the brother of Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Hashemi said a large number of council members insisted on the need to reform the election law, prevailing over others who believed that the issue should be delayed due to the country’s "special condition".

1930 GMT: Nothing to See Here, Move Along. "Conservatives" in the Parliament have decided not to press the Ahmadinejad Government on the issue of last June's attack on Tehran University dormitories.

The spokesman for the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, MP Kazem Jalali, said the committee found nothing new in an 18-minute graphic film --- an abridged version of which was broadcast by Persian and found nothing new --- of the attack.

Jalali claimed that the emergence of the film, which was shot by a member of the attacking force, was because Iran's "enemies" were "disappointed" by massive pro-regime rallies on 11 February, Iran's nuclear, aerospace, and scientific achievements, and the capture of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi.

1620 GMT: The Rigi-US-Capitalism-Zionism-"9-11 Was a Lie" Conspiracy. Western news media have picked up on President Ahmadinejad's statement, in a meeting with Ministry of Intelligence personnel, that the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001 was a "complicated intelligence scenario and act": "The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan."

That, however, is only the top of Mahmoud's West-Did-It-All Iceberg. The full speech, reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency, announces that the arrest of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi exposes the core of the campaign by US and Israeli intelligence services against Iran. This in turn is part of a struggle of "good" human nature against the devils of capitalism, liberal democracy, and US global leadership.

1515 GMT: Women's Solidarity. Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has posted a message for International Women's Day on Monday.

Rahnavard noted that discrimination and oppression of Iranian women has increased and invited the Iranian people and ruling powers to return to compassionate and humane values honouring the dignity of Iranian women.

Rahnavard added that today the leading women of the Green Movement are unjustly in prison only because they demand justice in the political, social and cultural affairs of the country. She stressed that the Green Movement is the manifestation of the ideals of any noble and justice-seeking human and that it honours women because of these humane and moral principles.

1415 GMT: Mohareb Watch. We've published two updates on the case of Mohammad Amin Valian, reportedly sentenced to death this week.

1045 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human Rights Watch has issued a statement calling on the Iranian judiciary to release six women, connected with Mothers of Mourning, arrested in January and early February 2010.

0945 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reporters Sans Frontieres offers this summary of recent developments:
Journalist Abolfazl Abedini Nasr was arrested at his home in the city of Ahvaz on 2 March by several men in plain clothes. The men, who all wore hoods, broke down the door of his house and brutally beat him. He had been earlier arrested on 30 June 2009 and freed on 26 October after putting up bail of 300 million tomans (270,000 euros).

Several human rights activists were arrested on the same day, among them the blogger and activist Naghipour Nasour. The director of the website was arrested at home in Qazvin by agents in plain-clothes. The reasons for his arrest and the place in which he is being detained are still unknown.

Reporters Without Borders learned on 3 March of the release of three journalists:

Noushin Jafari, journalist for Etemad, arrested on 3 February. Reza Norbakhsh, editor of the daily Farhikhteghan, arrested at his workplace in Tehran on 4 August, and who had been sentenced to six years in prison for “taking part in illegal demonstrations” and for articles posted on the news website Jomhoryat. Mortaza Kazemian, journalist for several reformist newspapers, arrested on 28 December 2009, was released after spending 34 days in solitary confinement in section 209 of Evin prison.

Journalist Said Laylaz had his sentence of nine years in jail reduced to three years by the Tehran appeal court. Kambiz Norrozi, head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, sentenced on 17 November to two years in jail and 76 strokes of the whip for making “publicity against the regime and disturbing public order”, had his sentence reduced on appeal to one year in prison.

0850 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. HRA News Agency publishes reports, which we have heard for days, of "the widespread arrests of human rights activists, particularly members and affiliates of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA)". Among those detained in "at least 27 incidents of arrests" is Milad Abrahamian.

0845 GMT: Iran Down Under. Our partner, Arshama3's Blog, offers an interesting account of a meeting of activists in New Zealand supporting democratic change in Iran.

0835 GMT: We begin this morning with two specials, one putting a wry smile on a regime threat, the other offering a response to a story which has no smile.

Our "black comedy" moment comes out of a speech by Iran's Minister of Science and Higher Education, Kamran Daneshjoo, in which he threatens to dismiss deviant professors. And our more serious reflections are in an open letter responding to the editors of Iran's "principlist" newspapers, who have criticised "Western" media for unfair coverage of Iranian events.