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Entries in Kalemeh (5)


The Latest from Iran (31 March): Nuclear Chatter & Political Prisoners

2000 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The physicians of Ebrahim Yazdi, the 78-year-0ld former Foreign Minister and leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran, have requested an extension of his temporary leave from prison on grounds of ill health.

UPDATED Iran Politics and Music Video: “Karroubi” and the Arrest of Sasi Mankan
UPDATED Iran Appeal: Japan’s Deportation of Jamal Saberi
Iran: Preventing Tehran from “Going Nuclear” (Ramazani)
Iran Politics and Music: Sasi Mankan’s “Karroubi”
Iran: The Green Movement’s Next Steps (Shahryar)
The Latest from Iran (30 March): Strategies

1840 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kalemeh reports that reformist journalist Masoud Lavasani will be set free tonight on a bail of around $500,000, four months after his arrest.

Bastani's initial prison sentence was reduced from 8 1/2 years to 4 1/2 years after appeal.

It is reported, from human rights activists in Iran, that Jafar Ashari who has been on hunger strike since March 17, has been transferred to Mahabad prison and is now in quarantine. Ashari has been in detention for more than five months.

1835 GMT: The Nuclear Defector. Press TV publishes an account, from Iranian state media, of "Missing Iran N-scientist 'defected to US'". What is interesting is that there is no denial of Shahram Amiri's claimed position in Iran's nuclear programme.

That means that, contrary to its initial position, the Iranian Government is no longer denying that Amiri is a nuclear scientist while the US Government is no longer denying that it is involved in Amiri's disappearance.

1500 GMT: More US-Iran Fencing. This time, the sparring is over Afghanistan, with the US military setting up Iran as a negative influence rather than a possible ally. The Chairman of the Joint Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told a news conference in Kabul:
Iran is working to increase its influence in the area. On the one hand, that's not surprising, she is a neighbor state, a neighbor country. On the other hand, the influence I see is all too often negative. I was advised last night about a significant shipment of weapons from Iran into Kandahar, for example.

I have seen them over the last several years -- the last couple of years anyway, certainly be more than just interested, provide some capabilities. I am also concerned that that desire to be influential is increasing....I was taken aback. [The arms shipment] wasn't insignificant.

1355 GMT: More on Iran Air in Europe. An EA reader sends us an update:
Ramp checks on Iran Air - which has been subject to US Government sanctions - have turned up evidence of "insufficient oversight" over the past year, says the Commission.

But Iran Air will still be permitted to operate 18 Airbus A300/310s, nine Boeing 747s, six Airbus A320s and a single Boeing 737 into Europe.

The Commission says it will send representatives to Iran over the next few months to examine the situation with Iran Air.

1040 GMT: Nuke Chatter Continues. Iranian state media is reporting that Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council and the country's primary negotiator on nuclear issues, will visit China tomorrow for discussions.

0645 GMT: Trouble in the Air? An Iran Air official claims that, despite the European Commission's ban on the airline within Europe, that "nothing has changed" and no restrictions have been imposed on the airline.

An EA correspondent offers a contrasting view: "Even though the ban is limited in financial terms, its international outcome is devastating. From now on the regime must answer the question, for all of its boasting, if it is able to provide essential safety for its airplanes. This ban is the best reply to Iran's jamming of European satellite broadcast, as the safety issue is untouchable."

0635 GMT: Political Prisoner Resistance Watch. Rooz Online reports on the defiance, often humourous, of political prisoners.

0610 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Rah-e-Sabz reports on the poor conditions and hygiene in the women's section of  Evin Prison.

Christian pastor Wilson Issavi has been released on bail after 54 days in detention.

Rah-e-Sabz writes that 51-year-old university instructor Rahmatollah Bastani has been re-arrested by the Intelligence Bureau in Qom. Bastani was one of 30 people detained during Sunday's funeral for the wife of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. He was released five hours later but was summoned on Monday for further interrogation.

0555 GMT: Economy Watch. Asre Iran reports that some Kuwaiti banks have stopped dealing with their Iranian counterparts, who have protested to the Kuwaiti Central Bank about the "unbearable injustice".

0545 GMT: Subsidy Watch. Back to more pressing concerns for most Iranians and for the President. In an unprecedented move, Ahmadinejad has proposed an "addendum" to the Parliament's approved budget, allowing him access to the extra $20 billion of revenues he wants from subsidy cuts.

0500 GMT: Lots of white noise about the Iranian nuclear programme yesterday and this morning.

Following this week's New York Times wayward article on supposedly secret Iranian nuclear site, The Washington Times goes farther by mangling --- through misunderstanding or wilful distortion --- a story on the latest public US intelligence finding on Tehran's nuclear development. The newspaper headlines, "Iran is poised to begin producing nuclear weapons after its uranium program expansion in 2009, even though it has had problems with thousands of its centrifuges."

The report says no such thing. Here's the take-away, as noted by other Iran observers:
We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons. Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.

During the reporting period, Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure and continued uranium enrichment and activities related to its heavy water research reactor, despite multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions since late 2006 calling for the suspension of those activities. Although Iran made progress in expanding its nuclear infrastructure during 2009, some obstacles slowed progress during this period.

The misleading story seems to have disappeared with little notice, replaced by an intriguing claim:
An award-winning Iranian nuclear scientist, who disappeared last year under mysterious circumstances, has defected to the CIA and been resettled in the United States, according to people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials.

The officials were said to have termed the defection of the scientist, Shahram Amiri, "an intelligence coup" in the continuing CIA operation to spy on and undermine Iran's nuclear program....

Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early 30s, went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage.

On the political front, President Obama maintained the public stance of US and international pressure on Tehran, declaring at a press conference with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
I'm not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place....I am interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks. And we are working diligently with our international partners, emphasizing to them, that as Nicolas said, this is not simply an issue of trying to isolate Iran, it has enormous implications for the safety and the security of the entire region.

The Latest from Iran (27 March): Rumours

2330 GMT: A Quick Note. We've taken the evening off to spend time with friends and unwind. We'll be back bright and early on Sunday.

Meanwhile, here's a new analysis for you: "Israel, Iran, and 'Existential Threat'".

1800 GMT: Public Funeral for Montazeri's Wife Blocked? Iranian officials have objected to a funeral procession for the wife of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who passed away today (see 1125 GMT), from the family house to the shrine of Masoumeh (the sister of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Shia) in Qom.

Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the Ayatollah, told BBC Persian that the officials limited the funeral ceremony to 150 metres from the burial site . The family objected, so the compromise is that the public can gather in the Masoumeh shrine where Grand Ayatollah Shobeyri-Zanjani will say the prayer.

The Latest from Iran (26 March): Break Time

1730 GMT: Temporarily Freed, Politically Active. Mostafa Tajzadeh, senior member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front and former Deputy Minister of Interior, continues to use his temporary release from prison to visit families of detainees and others who have been bailed but face long prison sentences. The last meeting is with key reformist thinker Saeed Hajarian, who was jailed for more than three months and put on trial after the June election.

1515 GMT: Academics and Political Prisoners. Students have sent an open letter to the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, to protest the arrest of Abdollah Yousefzadegan, a law student at Allameh Tabatabai University and winner of the nationwide Olympiad of Literature. Yousefzadegan was detained on 15 March in Mashhad and has not yet been charged.

The letter condemns the harsh treatment of the academic elite and maintains that the arrest of Yousefzadegan “destroys the credibility of the judiciary and trust in the security institutions of the Islamic Republic".

1310 GMT: Rumour Denied. Mir Hossein Mousavi's website Kalemeh is denying the report, first circulated by Farda News, that Mousavi met Hashemi Rafsanjani on the first day of Nowruz.

1125 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that the wife of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri passed away in Qom this morning. Her funeral will take place tomorrow 10:00 am local time.

Montazeri, the one-time successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, died in December.

1100 GMT: Nowruz Visits. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard saw the family of Amir Aboutalebi, a Mousavi advisor who has been detained since January. Despite the efforts of Aboutalebi's family, he was not granted temporary release for Iranian New Year. Aboutalebi recently had his first phone call with his family after 45 days of detention.

A group of pro-Green Movement students of Elm-o-Sana’at University, where Aboutalebi's children study, also sent their sympathy to the family. Aboutalebi was a political prisoner of the Shah, losing an eye during his detention and was also pursued by the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) after the Revolution.

0950 GMT: Reformist Challenge. Rasoul Montakhab-nia, the deputy head of the Etemade Melli party, has declared that the Government "cannot speak with language of force to people." Montakhab-nia say that this new year should be a year of forgiveness(for protesters, and that responsible political figures should try to involve all Iranians in the "nezam" (system) and Revolution of the Islamic Republic.

0940 GMT: Subsidy Fightback. The President's supporters are hitting back at Parliament's criticism of his economic manoeuvres (see 0755 GMT). Former Minister of Health Alireza Marandi says that the duty of the Majlis is to support the Government, while Lotfollah Forouzandeh asks the Parliament to take the burden off the Government's shoulders and accept the subsidy cuts and spending proposals.

0935 GMT: Friday Prayer Round-Up. Rah-e-Sabz has the highlights of prayer addresses throughout the country. An EA correspondent gives the top prize to Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi in Tehran with "the keys  God offered to the Supreme Leader" to solve Iran's problems.  Runner-up is  Ali Hajizadeh from Tabriz, who has discovered a "Velvet Revolution" in Iraq.

0925 GMT: Rumour of Day (2). The Iranian blog Che Mishavad (What Happens) blog claims that the Revolutionary Guard is laundering money, including revenues from drug smuggling, in Bahrain and Kuwait. The money is then placed through Ali Jannati, the son of Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, into a Swiss bank.

0915 GMT: Rumour of Day.  Rah-e-Sabz claims that the Supreme Leader promised Hashemi Rafsanjani that most political prisoners would be freed. However, when the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, tried to do so, the move was blocked by the "hard-line" Judge Abolqasem Salavati.

0755 GMT: The Subsidy Battle. Khabar Online keeps up the pressure on the President, featuring the claim of member of Parliament Hasan Qafouri Fard that Ahmadinejad is not authorised to call for a national referendum on his subsidy reduction and spending plans.

The Parliament approved an extra $20 billion in the Iranian budget from the subsidy cuts but has refused Ahmadinejad's $40 billion request.

0740 GMT: The relative quiet in Iran continues, as global attention focuses on the elections next door in Iraq. Press TV's top domestic headline is "Iran wins 3rd Sitting Volleyball World Championships".

There is a bit of a show for the first International Nowruz Celebrations in Tehran and Shiraz, as President Ahmadinejad tries to boost the image of international legitimacy. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, and Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov are in Tehran for the two-day event, and Iranian state media reports that they will be joined by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek.

A useful story from the Carnegie Council, which gets behind all the sanctions huffing-and-puffing to identify the key development, "U.S. Pressures Oil Companies to Leave Iran". This passage deserves attention and repetition:

Since the start of 2010, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell stated it would no longer sell gasoline to Iran, along with Glencore (Switzerland), Vitol (Switzerland), and Trafigura (Amsterdam). British Petroleum and Reliance (India) stopped selling to Iran in 2009. With this series of departures, Iran now imports its oil from only five sources: Total (France), Lukoil (Russia), Petronas (Malaysia), Independent Oil Group (Kuwait), and Chinese companies. [Lukoil declared just this week that it, too, would divest.]


The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2225 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. This could be interesting --- Hossein Marashi, cousin of Hashemi Rafsanjani's wife and a Vice Secretary-General of the Kargozaran Party. has been arrested.

2220 GMT: Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America offers an analysis, "Iranian Government Releases Prisoners for Persian New Year", with contributions from EA staff.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Mousavi's and Rahnavard's New Year Messages (18 March)
NEW Iran: Reading Mousavi & Karroubi “The Fight Will Continue” (Shahryar)
NEW Iran & the US: The Missed Nuclear Deal (Slavin)
Iran Labour Front: Minimum Wage, “Unprecedent Poverty and Hunger”, and Strikes
Iran Analysis: What Does the Fire Festival Mean?
Latest Iran Video: Two Views of the Fire Festival (16 March)
UPDATED Iran Document: Mousavi Speech on “Patience and Perseverance” (15 March)
The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2215 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Women's rights activist Somaiyeh Farid was arrested on Wednesday. Farid was at Evin Prison enquiring about her husband, Hojat (Siavash) Montazeri, who was arrested on 5 March.

2145 GMT: A Ray of Light. Amidst some poor analyses today of the Iranian political situation and the Green Movement, Melody Moezzi comes to the rescue with this piece in The Huffington Post:
The arrests before Revolution Day last month (11 February) surely dissuaded many opposition protesters not already in jail from pouring into the streets and risking beatings and unlawful detentions. I personally know of several opposition activists who stayed home as a result of the intimidation, and I can't say that I blame them. Still, no matter how few or many pro-democracy demonstrators show up in the streets for Nowruz the Iranian opposition has far from died. Rather, it has merely been pushed underground, but it is germinating like a stubborn hyacinth, taking on a course and a life of its own, teeming with the sweet smell of a freedom to come.

2100 GMT: A slow evening. Only significant news that we've noted is the release of Abolhasan Darolshafaei from detention. He is the last member of the family to be freed, following the releases of daughters Banafsheh and Jamileh and nephew Yashar.

No members of the Darolshafaei family are any longer in custody, just in time for New Year festivities.

1625 GMT: We have posted the New Year's video greetings of Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, to the Iranian people.

1440 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Bahman Amoui, who has been detained since 20 June (read the letter to him from his wife, Zhila Baniyaghoub), has reportedly been released.

1415 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch: Journalist Akbar Montajabi has been released on bail. So have journalist Keyvan Samimi and Hojatoleslam Mir Ahmadizadeh.

1410 GMT: The Case for Change. Hassan Rowhani, a member of the Expediency Council and ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, has used a long interview to discuss nuclear issues and to make the case for electoral reforms.

1355 GMT: Escape. The BBC is now reporting the story, which we carried last week, of student activist Ali Kantouri, who has fled Iran after being given a 15-year prison sentence for abduction and extortion.

1340 GMT: We have posted a special analysis by Mr Verde of the political significance of this week's Chahrshanbeh Suri (Fire Festival).

1220 GMT: On the Economic Front. Following up on our Wednesday special on the minimum wage and "unprecedented poverty and hunger"....

Six independent labor organizations have argued that the poverty line is $900 per month and asked for that to be new minimum wage. (The Government has authorised $303.) Economists at Mehr News Agency” have set the poverty line in the coming year at above $1000.

(Persian readers may also be interested in Faribors Raisdana's detailed analysis of minimum wages and labourer's poverty.)

1000 GMT: We have two specials for you this morning (and there's a third on the way). We've posted an excellent account by Barbara Slavin of the US-Iran deal on uranium enrichment that almost came off but then collapsed last autumn, and we have Josh Shahryar's analysis of the latest moves by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

0855 GMT: We're Taking Our Subsidy Bill and Going Home. The ongoing fight between the President and Parliament for control of the budget and expenditure is highlighted by a bad-tempered interview of Ahmadinejad supporter Ruhollah Hosseinian in Khabar Online.

Hosseinian declares that, since the Majlis only gave the President $20 billion of the $40 billion he wanted from subsidy reductions, Ahmadinejad should withdraw the proposal: "It's not clear which portion of the government's revenue will be channeled to other sectors by the Parliament, so I believe implementing subsidy reform bill is against our interests."

Asked how the Administration could avoid implementing a plan which has been passed by Parliament, Hosseinian replied:
Although the bill has become a law, a way must be explored to halt its execution, since enforcing this law in its current form will simply add to the problems. As the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei coordinates the interactions between state branches of the country, a method must be found to annul implementing subsidy reform bill.

0830 GMT: The Uranium Issue. An EA reader asks for clarification on the claim that Iran may be facing a crisis over uranium stock for its medical research reactor.

I am strongly influenced by the knowledge that Iran's approach to the International Atomic Energy Agency last June, which set off this round of talks over uranium enrichment, was prompted by the specific issue of isotopes for medical treatment. I have my suspicions, though no firm evidence, that the renewal of a Tehran push for a deal may also be prompted by this immediate need for 20 percent enriched uranium.

We will soon be posting an excellent investigative piece by Barbara Slavin highlighting this issue.

0605 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amnesty International is featuring the case of student activist Milad Asadi, detained without charge since 1 December.

0555 GMT: We might have been concerned with the Fire Festival and the renewed protest through the statements of prominent opposition figures (Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami), parties (Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution), and activist groups (Committee of Human Rights Reporters).

Looks like the Ahmadinejad Government wants to talk uranium, however. Iran's atomic energy agency chief, Ali Akhbar Salehi, put out the line that it was time to agree a uranium swap inside Iran. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi insisted, "During the new year, new nuclear plants will be built and the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue with its path without allowing the arrogant powers to meddle."

But, with the US threatening more sanctions and no sign that the "West" will accept a deal where the swap occurs inside Iran, where is the hope for Tehran? No problem: "Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin has called for stronger ties...and urged closer cooperation between Iran and Russia to confront existing regional and international threats."

Better hope so. I get the sense that not only is Iran concerned about economic restrictions, primarily through the withdrawal of foreign companies and investment, but also that there may be a crisis looming over uranium for the medical research reactor.

Iran Special: Zahra Rahnavard on Women's Rights and The Green Movement

Zahra Rahnavard in an interview with Kalemeh, translated by Khordaad 88:

Q: It’s a good idea to start this interview with a question about women and the Green Movement. A while ago women’s rights activists released a statement writing that there has been no attention to their demands in any of the statements and discussions released after the day of the election. These activists wrote that they believe the issue of women is a big part of the current crisis, and without attempting to solve these issues, no solutions would be sustainable. That is why a group of these activists wrote a critical letter to Messrs [Mehdi] Karroubi and [Mir Hossein] mMousavi. What do you think about this?  Do you believe that from the day after the election, the candidates were oblivious to women and their issues?

RAHNAVARD: Truly, why do we women have to sit around and wait for someone to tend to us? We have to be the ones who step forward. We can learn much from the story of great women in history. We have thousands of years of history to draw on from the time, which, according to the Quran, humanity was one unified nation, or the time when, according to some theorists, women were the prime decision makers, when, according to archeological findings, the gods were female and ruled the world.

If nothing else, the history of civilization tells us that the first industrialists, cloth weavers,  potters and farmers (if not hunters) were women. Of course, in those times, there were unwritten agreements which, according to the physical, economic, religious and traditional beliefs, men and women divided tasks. And since it has not been historically proven that there once was a society ruled solely by women, at least we know that there was a time whe,n [though they may not have been at the pinnacle of rule, they played a huge role in the laws and governance of their society.

What is stopping us now from learning from them? In the third millennium,  during the recent  election women were maybe treated as first-rate citizens but  right after the election that status was taken away from them in a flash. Despite what happened,  we are in pursuit of our demands such as freedom , removing discrimination and] violence, and stopping polygamy.

Are the Green Movement and women’s rights movement related? If yes, can you tell us about their link?

On the more general issues, there is considerable overlap between the two movements. On more specific issues, there is a need for the women’s rights movement to branch out and push its own agenda above and beyond the support that it gleans from the Green Movement. When it comes to basic rights—such as gender equality, democracy, and law abidence, the two movements are in complete agreement. But I would like to firmly assert that in history, general political reform movements and revolutions have shown that women’s fight for equality needs to be distinguished from the general political movement for democracy.

In Iran, it is impossible to expect that the general political movement --- in this case, the Green Movement --- will be able to successfully eliminate inequality and violence against women without help from an established and independent women’s movement. The legal push for gender equality with regards to double standards in reparation money, court rulings, legally sanctioned polygamy, divorce laws, citizenship laws, and other ingrained double-standards should be fiercely pursued by advocates of the women’s movement.

The general political movements of the past two centuries, such as the industrial revolution, the French Revolution, the pursuit of American democracy, the Bolshevik Revolution, the fall of the Russian communist regime, did not do much to propagate the advancement of women’s rights. It was only until much later, when women put up a separate fight of their own, that they began to advance their legal rights.

What is the responsibility of the Green Movement towards gender equality?

The Green Movement must understand that today women are at the forefront; they take initiative and sacrifice in an awe-inspiring way, much like they did during the Islamic Revolution. Hence, the movement should not overlook the pursuit of women’s rights. The movement’s platform needs to be mindful of women’s rights issues and has to incorporate gender equality into its platform, in the same way that Mousavi said in a previous interview that we are friends of the women’s movement and this friendship means camaraderie.

However, the reality is that the Green Movement is like an umbrella to several other significant social movements --- for example, the women’s movement, the labour movement, the students’ movement, and the teachers’ movement. The general slogans of the Green Movement are freedom, equality, rule of law, and democracy. Leaning too much towards one of the sub-movements can make the Green Movement appear biased. Like I said before, the women’s movement, while being supported by the Green Movement, still needs to be active and push forward its agenda independent from the Green Movement as well.

At the same time, the Green Movement should in its statements and views acknowledge the importance of each of these sub-movements and should demand the amelioration of the political environment, and should push for a government that would ultimately grant the wishes of each sub-movement --- without appearing biased.

In this situation, what is the role of the government?

I have repeatedly declared that this government is illegitimate. But, since it has been established as the official one and it recognizes itself officially, it should fulfill its responsibilities accordingly. These should not consist of destroying families and condemning women and children to misery by neglecting their demands, repressing them, and proposing anti-women legislation in the name of supporting family while simply satisfying hedonists. If it claims to be a [government, it should withdraw anti-women legislations immediately, designate committees to restore women’s rights, and, inspired by the ideals of the women’s movement, interact with the Parliament and the Judiciary [to achieve these ideals]. However, this  government is incapable of carrying out such deeds.

In the aftermath of 10th presidential election, a group of MPs, along with their supporters, have decided to pass the so-called family support legislation . This is while the slightest protest by students, teachers, workers and journalists against violation of citizen rights   is met with threats, arrests, and unjust trials. Why are they in such a hurry to pass legislation which would legalize polygamy and is more backward than the one passed 35 years ago?

This is puzzling. On one hand, they are trying to take advantage of the situation to advance their agenda against the will of freedom-loving women of this country. They think that the Green Movement does not pay attention to women issues; therefore they can use the opportunity to realize their backward demands. This is of course [in their view] an opportunity for them but not the reason, so what is the reason?

[ I believe] that this government has a retrogressive mindset that seeks violence. They are related to repressive pressure groups that have imposed their influence on certain layers of the Islamic society, who committed the Chain Murders, accused and threatened others, and physically assaulted their opponents in public gatherings so that they can create a closed society.

Today these groups are in power and have the authority to impose and enforce their views. But even if they succeed temporarily, they will be defeated in the long term. They should know that they cannot present their backward views in the name of Islam forever.

Islam is a progressive religion. It has the potential to interact with the modern world  and new ideas and its dynamic Ijtihad [making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal sources] has provided an opportunity for  innovation  in a contemporary context.

Overall I think the parliament is under pressure by the government to pass these anti-women legislations.

In an interview you declared that you do not recognize this government, and you will not compromise with it. That interview was greatly publicized. What reasons do you see behind such attention to your words?

There were rumors going around back then that leaders of the Green Movement, each in their own way, were compromising with the government. Of course this was the wrong interpretation. Such rumours were further promoted by "right conservative" [they do not deserve the word Principlists] newspapers. They were making a big deal out of baseless rumors to ruin the spirit of people. They glorified news that the Green Movement is frightened, that they have lost, and that they were regretting the course of action they had taken.

As a member of the Green Movement, side by side with people, I declared what they thought. I did not say anything new. What I said were the words of people who have refused to retreat. It is these people that guide the leaders of the Green Movement towards demands of the nature of freedom and democracy.

How do you see the future of the Green Movement?

If a nation wants to change its destiny, it will definitely be successful. This is the message of hope from the great Quran. If you help God, God will help you back and fix your step on your path. It is the promise of the Almighty. If  our steps are fixed in this path, we will definitely be victorious and we can breathe a new life into the body of our thoughts and lives.

Some are very concerned with outbreaks of violence on the [Chaharshanbeh-Souri (Fire Festival)]  celebrations of the last Wednesday of the Iranian year [16 March]. What is your solution to stop the violence?

Those celebrations are among the ancient national rites of Iranians. It is a day of joy, a day where people wear smiles, and wipe the misery off their faces. It is when nature will flourish in an Spring-like fashion in colorful colors and flowers. Thanks to Norouz [New Year] celebrations of the first of Spring, and the kind spirit of this day and its gift of freedom, the Green Movement will definitely be happy and proud.

The Green Movement is with the purpose of compassion, resistance and calm. We will commemorate the memories of people like Neda [Agha Soltan], Sohrab [Arabi], and other martyrs. We would not commit any violence; we would love all people, whether they are Green, or any other color. We say to the military members that we love you too. Be our brothers, and give people flowers instead of batons and bullets. If there is a violence, it is violence of the government.

During the last 9 months you have been attacked many times. Sometimes these attacks were physical like the one on "University Students Day" [7 December] or on the day of anniversary of the Revolution [11 February]. Other times these attacks were in the form of slanders and accusations from the media attached to the government. One of the leaders of the opposition to the Green Movement had gone as far as saying that you are a Zionist, and support the Baha'i minorities and that you have hidden your real views from people. What is the reason behind all this violence against you?

They know very well what our women are capable of in the scientific and executive fields. They also know about my dedication and passion to the Green Movement and my role in it. Putting me in jail won’t do them any good at the moment, so they have decided to torment me in the streets and the media instread. What illusions! Our good people have not yet forgotten about thirty books I’ve written that clearly demonstrate my beliefs and principles. What I can do is given to me by God. Following the saying of Quran, I’ll just tell them not to fight against what is given by God, as it is his will.

They will not be able to suffocate me with the curse of their lies and libel as the Green Movement provides me with all the fresh oxygen I need to cheerfully and briskly go on.

In one of the media attacks, the opposition to the Green Movement had said that Mousavi would have nominated Zahra Rahnavard as his chief of staff. Is this an attack on you or actually praise to a woman?

The gentlemen who have spread these rumors, who are also aligned to the right, have not experienced the joy of being an intellectual and an artist in pursue of his/her nation’s freedom. Otherwise, they would know that if they gave us intellectuals and artists everything on the surface of this earth, including all the power in the country, we would throw it all back at them swiftly, as we are completely happy with working with our intellect and art or teaching our lovely students.

Nevertheless, I decided to become active during the election campaign to support our ignored Constitution, freedoms, and democracy, and I will continue to do so in the future. Perhaps as you mention, these comical statements by the opposition to the Green Movement praise the woman more so than condemning her. I will tell them from here that I’m only one of many women in the Green Movement, all of whom are more capable than I am. What will you do with them?

Ms. Rahnavard, you are better known as an artist. You have been active as a visual artist. One of your most famous pieces is the “Mother’s Sculpture” that was placed in Mother Square in Tehran and has become one of the most famous sculptures in Iran during the first two decades of the Islamic Republic. Some of your antagonists have put ropes around the sculpture’s neck. How do you feel about that?

For artists, their work is as close to them as their body. It comes from the heart.  The artist puts all of his/her love into art and it becomes the tale of all the untold stories, cries, secrets, morals, and dreams that the artist has. But when the extremist forces take people’s lives just because they’re seeking freedom, whether it is through executions, brutal beatings, or other means, what can we expect them to do with a bronze statue? How can they understand what this statue stands for? How can they understand motherhood and art?

You saw the reaction of our wonderful people who said if you take down the statue, we would bring Rahnavard herself and put her on the stand. I now worry about all of my art. The paintings and sculptures can easily be objects of such brutality. I hope God will save us all from their illusions.

What has upset the Green Movement these days and what are your expectations for the future?

The Islamic Revolution, despite its greatness and glory, was an incomplete project whose goals and ideals should have been realized in the Islamic Republic, but this did not happen. So the Green Movement is after issues like freedom, democracy, women’s rights, and the rule of law.

But with regard to your question about the Green Movement’s afflictions, don’t ask me to list all the grievances and sufferings that the movement has endured, as it will take oceans of ink to write them. I don’t want to compare, but imprisoning intellectuals, cutting hands, making minarets of heads and heaps out of bodies has been documented before [many times] in the history of dictatorships. I hope that those currently in power would learn from these notorious examples and spare our beloved republic from having such an awful and bitter fate.

So what should they do? What do we expect? What will it take to satisfy us? It is important that the right thing be done; it is not important by whom. So we expect the regime to free the press and media, the reporters, women, men, the young and old. We want them to provide the military forces with flowers, so they can present them to people in compensation for their actions. We want them to free the prisoners to an extent that instead of having the jails holding freedom-seekers, they will be planted with flowers, will be turned into gardens. They should be turned into cultural centers and scientific research labs, all efforts should be put together for developing our industries and agriculture so our youth would have less problems in employment, marriage, and education.

On the international level, we want carefully-thought and friendly policies that are in line with our national interests. We want the demands of the women’s, workers’, teachers’, and artists’ movements to be met. We want them to guarantee the freedom of expression and thought.

These and much more can be fulfilled by any decent establishment. Among civil movements, the Green Movement has a particular sympathy for the women’s movement. The Green Movement demands the freedom of all prisoners, particularly the women, whose spouses, mothers and children are impatiently awaiting their release these days.

The Latest from Iran (11 March): Marathon

1910 GMT: Reuters has picked up Zahra Rahnavard's latest interview, highlighting the line, "I have said many times that this government is illegitimate...but because the government claims to be legitimate, it has to carry out its duties."

1900 GMT: From Washington With... ? We've posted the video of yesterday's "Iran at A Crossroads" conference.

NEW Video: “Iran at a Crossroads” Conference (10 March)
NEW Iran: Gender Issues and the Green Movement
Iran Document: The Hardliners’ Project (Bahavar)
Iran Interview: Habibollah Peyman “Change Through Social Awareness
The Latest from Iran (10 March): The View from Washington

1855 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Readers have rightly noted an apparent lapse in our coverage of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. The reformist daily Bahar claimed on Wednesday that, in a clear sign of reconciliation with the regime, Rafsanjani would soon lead Friday Prayers in Tehran. (He has not done so since his 17 July address, which was a catalysts for demonstrations against the Government.)

I saw the story, which was picked up by the Babylon and Beyond blog of the Los Angeles Times, but decided to pass on it. It felt much more like rumour than a confirmed development.

That said, even the rumour deserves noting. Elements within the Government seem keen on establishing that Rafsanjani no longer has any issues with the leadership, so all is now politically well. So far, however, Rafsanjani has been his usual coy self, not confirming any return to the Friday Prayer slot.

1840 GMT: Rahnavard, Women's Rights, and the Green Movement. Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has given an interview to Kalemeh talking about the relationship between campaigns for women's rights and the initiatives of the Green Movement. (See our separate entry on this subject, which was posted before we read the Rahnavard interview.)

1805 GMT: From Czechoslovakia to Iran. Vaclav Havel, the playwright and activist who was instrumental in the movement that challenged the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and then became the country's first post-Communist President, has sent a message to Iran's protesters. The occasion was the award of the Homo Homini Award by a Czech NGO to Iranian student activists Majid Tavakoli and Abdollah Momeni:
Of course all of us are interested in Iran's nuclear program and the nature of the current regime, just as we are interested in the abuses committed under the flag of Islam and whether or not the 2009 election was rigged. However, what I am most interested in are the brutal violations of human rights. I found myself in high political position thanks to peaceful public demonstrations and thanks to the students, who led them and made them happen. As a result, I have an elevated sensitivity for certain things and am deeply outraged and shocked that for participating in similar demonstrations in Iran, people are not only being sentenced to several years in prison, but are even being executed. It seems to me like an endless barbarity and I firmly believe this savagery is about to come to an end.

1745 GMT: Escape. It is being reported that student activist Ali Kantouri, recently sentenced to 15yrs in prison, has fled to Turkey.

1525 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. I think former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has taken another swipe at President Ahmadinejad but any impact may be ruled out by Rafsanjani's vagueness in expression. From Radio Zamaneh:
Akabar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council stressed the role of people in governance and maintained that with the growth and spread of media, governments that do not have popular bases can not last long....

Speaking in a meeting of members of municipal councils of Tehran Province, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani said that Islam holds a special place for the role of people in the government.

He added that in democracies, parties that are triumphant in the elections act as buffers and when the elected candidates take a wrong turn, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the parties and this way the system does not suffer.

He also criticized the policy of limiting the legal powers of city councils saying such policies only weaken the councils and reduce their ability to respond to people’s demands.

1445 GMT: Ain't Nothing Gonna Change. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reviews the Supreme Leader's pronouncement on possible electoral reform, which we noted yesterday), and sees this is a clear rejection rather than an ambiguous response.

1345 GMT: Fist-Shaking. Yet another Iranian military advance which has nothing to do whatsoever with Tehran's power politics vs. the US: Iran has started production of a surface-to-air missile.

President Ahmadinejad added rhetorical colour with the promise that people in the region "would cut (American) hands off of Persian Gulf oil".

However, in a sign that the US still wants to avoid conflict, and possibly establish co-operation, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Iranian support for the Taliban in Afghanistan is "pretty limited".

1230 GMT: Catching Up.

I've posted a follow-up to the Washington hearing, considering the failure to answer adequately a question on gender issues and the Green Movement.

There is also an important correction: we reported yesterday, from Iranian human rights websites, that Saeed Nourmohammadi of the Islamic Iran Participation Front had been released on bail. His family say, however, that Nourmohammadi has not been freed.

Reports indicate more freeing of political prisoners. Mostafa Tajzadeh, a senior member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been released without bail for Iranian New Year.