Spotlight on Iran (Week of August 18-25, 2011)

Issued on: 28/08/2011 Type: Article

Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran

Highlights of the week

  • End of Gaddafi era: Iranian media on developments in Libya

  • Government deals with inflation: publication of inflation data prohibited מחאת

  • Pro-regime bloggers protest: "Cyber activists demand meeting with Supreme Leader”

  • Why did the Pink Panther upset the editors of Alef?

  • Pictures of the week: subway ride in Tehran

 Note: the next issue of Spotlight on Iran will be released on September 25

End of Gaddafi era: Iranian media on developments in Libya

In recent days the Iranian media has given considerable attention to the developments in Libya, expressing satisfaction with Gaddafi’s fall while voicing concerns over the possibility of the Western world taking advantage of the internal situation in Libya.

Conservative media portrayed the fall of the Libyan dictator as yet another expression of the "Islamic awakening” sweeping the Arab world these past several months, stressing that the Libyans took to the streets and celebrated Gaddafi’s fall with calls of "Allah Akbar”.

While expressing satisfaction with the fall of Libya’s ruler, the Iranian media took a strongly critical stance towards the Western involvement in that country. The media claimed that Western countries had supported Gaddafi for years, and the aim of their newfound support for the Libyan revolutionists was to take control of the Libyan oil resources.

Conservative media also mentioned Israel in connection with the overthrow of Gaddafi, who was accused of cooperating with it. The daily Resalat said that the fall of the Libyan ruler on the eve of the international Quds Day is good news for the world’s Muslims, since he was one of the secret allies of the "Zionist regime”.

Some Iranian media took the opportunity to express their hope that Gaddafi’s fall will make it possible to bring closure in the disappearance of Musa Sadr, the Shi’ite leader in Lebanon, who disappeared during a visit to Libya in 1978.

Those media affiliated with the reformist opposition also widely covered Gaddafi’s fall; however, in general they chose not to draw parallels between the fall of the Libyan regime and internal political developments in Iran. In what could be construed as a reference to the political reality in Iran, the reformist daily Sharq argued that the fall of the Gaddafi regime has proven that even the military cannot provide a safe haven for regimes that ignore the demands of the people.

Government deals with inflation: publication of inflation data prohibited

Dr. ‘Adel Azar, director of the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), recently admitted before the Majles Planning and Budget Committee that the SCI had been instructed by the authorities to avoid publishing official data on the inflation rate.

The chairman of the Majles Planning and Budget Committee reported this week that Azar’s admission came after he was summoned to appear before the committee over the non-publication of inflation data by the SCI in the past two months, during which those figures were published by the Central Bank.

Not surprisingly, the SCI director’s admission that the government issued a directive to avoid publishing inflation data drew criticism from government critics.

Tehran Emrouz, a daily close to Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Tehran’s mayor and the president’s political opponent, said that the non-publication of official economic figures makes it impossible to correctly assess the country’s economic situation and draw up plans for the future. Those who believe they can keep the economic reality hidden from the public and prevent criticism of the government by concealing the data are mistaken, the daily said.

The reformist daily Sharq also criticized the government’s non-disclosure of economic data. In an interview to the daily, former reformist Majles member Hadi Haqshenas said that the government is forced to conceal the inflation data since it has been unable to curb the inflation that came after the launch of the subsidy policy reform. He warned about the consequences of the unavailability of inflation data, particularly the loss of investors’ trust in the Iranian economy.

Last month government critics, particularly Majles Research Center chairman Ahmad Tavakoli, claimed that the government was keeping economic data hidden from the public and the Majles, and giving false information on Iran’s economic situation in an attempt to conceal the harsh economic reality.

Pro-regime bloggers protest: "Cyber activists demand meeting with Supreme Leader”

Hundreds of Iranian bloggers affiliated with the regime’s supporters joined a new online initiative this week to let them meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and have the Ramadan fast-breaking meal (Iftar) with him.

One of the bloggers complained last week that Iranian "cyber activists” working for the regime since the 2009 riots have not yet been invited to meet with the Supreme Leader as part of meetings he holds with various groups of the Iranian population on the occasion of Ramadan. The bloggers operating in the cyberspace, he said, are a front in the regime’s struggle, and would like to present their proposals to Khamenei.

So far hundreds of bloggers signed up for the initiative on the Islamic Bloggers website to express their desire to meet with the Supreme Leader.

Why did the Pink Panther upset the editors of Alef?

Last weekend the conservative website Alef protested the screening of an episode of the Pink Panther animated series on the Iranian TV’s Channel 5. The episode, aired on August 12, revolves around the Pink Panther’s efforts to resolve a conflict between two of his neighbors over the fact that one of them has a beard and the other a mustache. Eventually the Pink Panther settles the conflict by suggesting that the first neighbor shave his mustache and the second shave his beard.

The editors of Alef claimed that the animated film reflects the worldview of Western secularism, and that Iran Broadcasting must exercise caution with regard to the character of programs for children to keep them from watching programs that encourage Western culture.

In addition, the Alef website suggested changing the way that the authorities deal with the growing phenomenon of "immoral” recreation in Iranian society, which includes water fights and watermelon eating contests in which young men and women participate together. An editorial titled "The right way of dealing with the new cultural plot” said that Iran’s external enemies as well as political elements inside Iran are taking advantage of the growth of negative social phenomena to realize their objectives.

Dealing with such phenomena by having them physically suppressed by the internal security forces is ineffective and even undermines the public sympathy for the regime. The authorities, therefore, must provide official solutions, one example of which is assigning specific locations where young people can socialize in accordance with "Islamic values” while being supervised by the security forces

 

End of Gaddafi era: Iranian media on developments in Libya

In recent days the Iranian media has given considerable attention to the developments in Libya, expressing satisfaction with Gaddafi’s fall while voicing concerns over the possibility of the Western world taking advantage of the internal situation in Libya.

Conservative media portrayed the fall of the Libyan dictator as yet another expression of the "Islamic awakening” sweeping the Arab world these past several months, stressing that the Libyans took to the streets and celebrated Gaddafi’s fall with calls of "Allah Akbar” (Fars, August 22).

While expressing satisfaction with the fall of Libya’s ruler, the Iranian media took a strongly critical stance towards the Western involvement in that country. The media claimed that Western countries had supported Gaddafi for years, and that their change of stance in recent months was motivated solely by the desire to take advantage of the new developments to further the interests, mainly economic, of the West.

The conservative Mehr News Agency said that the policy of the Western world towards Libya is a reflection of its double standard. Until recently, the Western countries that supported the revolutionists in Libya in recent months were considered the most significant trading partners of the Libyan regime, and had even signed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of contracts with it. According to Mehr, the policy pursued by the West shows that it takes advantage of any situation for its own interests, and that the aim of Western countries’ support for the Libyan revolutionists is to take control of Libya’s oil resources (Mehr, August 22).

The Alef website also warned about the Western plans for Libya. An editorial written by Mojtaba Ferdowsi-Pour, head of the Persian Gulf Department of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, says that the West, which suffered a blow after the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, is now trying to regain control through internal wars and tribal and national conflicts. The aim of the Western countries’ military involvement in Libya is to obtain an opportunity to take advantage of the popular uprising for their own interests. Ferdowsi-Pour warned about the possibility of the situation in Libya turning into the same kind of situation that arose in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s fall, when control of the country was given to the American military governor. The countries of the region must be careful not to trust their fate to the Western occupation forces, he said (Alef, August 22).

The daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami also warned about attempts by the West to take advantage of Libya’s difficult internal situation to take control of the country. The future now facing Libya is highly dangerous considering the immense devastation it suffered in recent months; it is in danger of yielding to imperialism and to the aspirations of the Western world, which seeks to rob the country of its treasures and influence its future. The daily strongly condemned Gaddafi for his uncompromising conduct in recent months, saying that the man formerly viewed as a revolutionist and Libya’s savior from imperialism ultimately ended up on the list of history’s most notorious dictators (Jomhuri-ye Eslami, August 23).

Cartoon published in Sharq, August 23
Cartoon published in Sharq, August 23

Conservative media also mentioned Israel in connection with the overthrow of Gaddafi, who was accused of cooperating with it. In its editorial, the daily Resalat said that the fall of the Libyan ruler on the eve of the international Quds Day is good news for the world’s Muslims, since he was one of the secret allies of the "Zionist regime” (Resalat, August 23). The Raja News website claimed that Israel even attempted to help Gaddafi save his regime. On February 18, Raja News reported, Israeli leaders held a special meeting where they decided to dispatch African mercenaries to Libya to help the dictator suppress the popular revolution. According to the website, Military Intelligence director Aviv Kochavi said at the meeting that the Libyan revolution carried an Islamic character (Raja News, August 22).

Some Iranian media took the opportunity to express their hope that Gaddafi’s fall will make it possible to bring closure in the disappearance of Musa Sadr, the Shi’ite leader in Lebanon, who disappeared during a visit to Libya in 1978. The capture of Musa Sadr in the first days of the Islamic revolution in Iran was, according to the daily Resalat, the greatest service Gaddafi had ever done for the West and for Israel. The most pressing task right now is to go through Libyan prisons and locate the founder of the popular resistance against Israel in Lebanon. If he is still alive, information on his current whereabouts has to be obtained; if he is dead, the location of his burial site has to be found (Resalat, August 23).

Those media affiliated with the reformist opposition also widely covered Gaddafi’s fall; however, in general they chose not to draw parallels between the fall of the Libyan regime and internal political developments in Iran. The reformist daily Sharq argued that the fall of the Arab regimes is a result of their unwillingness to engage in a dialogue with the opposition in the first stages of the political struggle, their refusal to implement necessary political reforms, and their disregard for citizens’ demands. In what could be construed as a reference to the political reality in Iran, Sharq added that the fall of the Gaddafi regime has proven that even the military cannot provide a safe haven for regimes that ignore the demands of the people (Sharq, August 23).

Government deals with inflation: publication of inflation data prohibited

Dr. ‘Adel Azar, director of the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), recently admitted before the Majles Planning and Budget Committee that the SCI had been instructed by the authorities to avoid publishing official data on the inflation rate.

Musa al-Reza Servati, chairman of the Majles Planning and Budget Committee, reported this week that Azar’s admission came after he was summoned to appear before the committee over the non-publication of inflation data by the SCI in the past two months, during which those figures were published by the Central Bank.

In his appearance before the Majles, Azar promised to release the inflation figures in the future, having been reminded by Majles members that he was required to do so under the economic development plan law. Azar also reported to the Majles that, according to the SCI, last month’s inflation rate was 19.6 percent. The figure is higher than that reported by the Central Bank last week—16.3 percent (ISNA, August 20).

Not surprisingly, the SCI director’s admission that the government issued a directive to avoid publishing inflation data drew criticism from government critics, who claimed that concealing the data from the public was unprecedented, and that the government had not stopped releasing monthly inflation reports even during the Iran-Iraq War. 

Tehran Emrouz, a daily close to Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Tehran’s mayor and the president’s political opponent, said that the publication of the data is highly significant for Iran’s economy. Without official data, economists and executives—as talented as they may be—are unable to correctly assess the country’s economic situation and draw up plans for the future. It should be known that withholding economic data is a dangerous path to follow. Those who believe they can keep the economic reality hidden from the public and prevent criticism of the government by concealing the data are mistaken, the daily said. The citizens of Iran are well aware of its economic situation, and they don’t need to wait for someone to provide them with the figures. Iranian society needs hope now more than ever, and concealing economic data to escape criticism is inappropriate (Tehran Emrouz, August 21).

The reformist daily Sharq also criticized the government’s non-disclosure of economic data. In an interview to the daily, former reformist Majles member Hadi Haqshenas said that the government is forced to conceal the inflation data since it has been unable to curb the inflation that came after the launch of the subsidy policy reform. He warned about the consequences of the unavailability of inflation data, particularly the loss of investors’ trust in the Iranian economy. When investors have no information on such economic indicators as inflation and unemployment rate, foreign investments, and economic growth, they have no interest in investing, which may lead to an economic recession.

Haqshenas estimated that the government will be unable to keep the inflation figures a secret for long, the way it couldn’t prevent the economic growth rate from being published. The result of the non-publication of the economic growth rate for two years was that the International Monetary Fund published figures saying that Iran’s economic growth for the past two years was close to zero. That forced the government to release figures on its own initiative. If the government releases no data, economic experts will have to present their own assessments. Therefore, the government would be well advised to release the official figures—even if they’re undesirable—on its own initiative, to prevent the unwelcome consequences of their non-disclosure (Sharq, August 21).

Last month government critics, particularly Majles Research Center chairman Ahmad Tavakoli, claimed that the government was keeping economic data hidden from the public and the Majles, and giving false information on Iran’s economic situation. This way, they said, the government attempted to conceal the harsh economic reality. The critics also warned that the non-disclosure of official data compromises the ability to successfully deal with the economic challenges facing Iran, and forces economic experts, potential investors, and ordinary Iranians to resort to using unofficial figures released in Iran and elsewhere in the world.

Pro-regime bloggers protest: "Cyber activists demand meeting with Supreme Leader”

Hundreds of Iranian bloggers affiliated with the regime’s supporters joined a new online initiative this week to let them meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and have the Ramadan fast-breaking meal (Iftar) with him.

Blogger Hamid Bazm Shahi Esfahani complained last week that Iranian "cyber activists” working for the regime since the 2009 riots have not yet been invited to meet with the Supreme Leader as part of meetings he holds with various groups of the Iranian population on the occasion of Ramadan.

According to Esfahani, those in charge of the Supreme Leader’s office do not believe that the bloggers, who operated in cyberspace during and after the 2009 riots and carried the burden of protecting the regime, are interested in having the fast-breaking meal at the Supreme Leader’s residence. In 2009 these activists were busy fighting the cyber war, and in spite of that they were not invited to visit the Supreme Leader last year. This year was no different.

It is unfair, Esfahani claimed, that cyber activists should only be invited to the Supreme Leader’s residence on students’ visits, without being personally introduced to him. The activist bloggers are a front (in the regime’s struggle) and they have problems, ideas, criticism, and suggestions that may, in their view, help the regime, and which the Supreme Leader should hear. And there is no better opportunity for that than the month of Ramadan (http://bazm.blogfa.com/post-314.aspx, August 13).

"Cyber activists want to meet with the Supreme Leader”: the logo of the bloggers’ struggle
"Cyber activists want to meet with the Supreme Leader”: the logo of the bloggers’ struggle

To promote a meeting between the Supreme Leader and the bloggers, the Islamic Bloggers website, Pavana (www.pw-arzeshi.com) called on interested bloggers to sign up on the website for a meeting with the Supreme Leader, if and when it takes place during or after Ramadan. So far hundreds of Iranian bloggers have signed up on the website, and even posted a special logo on their blogs calling for a meeting with the Supreme Leader.

Why did the Pink Panther upset the editors of Alef?

Last weekend the conservative website Alef, affiliated with Majles member and head of the Majles Research Center Ahmad Tavakoli, protested the screening of an episode of the Pink Panther animated series on the Iranian TV’s Channel 5.

The episode, aired on August 12, revolves around the Pink Panther’s efforts to resolve a conflict between two of his neighbors over the fact that one of them has a beard and the other a mustache. Eventually the Pink Panther settles the conflict by suggesting that the first neighbor shave his mustache and the second shave his beard.

Alef, August 20
Alef, August 20

There is no doubt, Alef said, that the animated film reflects the worldview of Western secularism. The author of the criticism admitted that the screening of the Pink Panther episode on Iranian TV is not the main issue the country needs to be concerned with. Correctly educating young people to Iranian-Islamic culture is, however, highly important, and from now on Iran Broadcasting must exercise greater caution with regard to the character of children’s shows to keep them from watching "programs that encourage Western culture”.

In addition, the Alef website suggested changing the way that the authorities deal with the growing phenomenon of "immoral” recreation in Iranian society, which includes water fights and watermelon eating contests in which young men and women participate together (for more information see Spotlight on Iran, Week of July 28-August 4). An editorial titled "The right way of dealing with the new cultural plot” said that Iran’s external enemies as well as political elements inside Iran are taking advantage of the growth of negative social phenomena to realize their objectives.

Water fights and watermelon eating

The website said that dealing with such phenomena by having them physically suppressed by the internal security forces is ineffective and even encourages young people to take part in events organized through social networks. Forceful suppression of such social gatherings may turn them from leisure and recreation activities into politically-charged events. Suppression by the security forces also undermines the public sympathy for the regime, since it gives the impression that the authorities are going after young people and their recreation habits. These un-Islamic, immoral phenomena cannot be ignored, however, and there must be a way to turn the threat into an opportunity.

Alef suggested that the authorities should provide official solutions to allow young people to socialize in accordance with Islamic values. For example, municipalities must assign locations where families can engage in water games while being supervised by the internal security forces. These events should be reported by the media to encourage social activities and thus make it clear that the regime is not opposed—and even welcomes—recreation that is moral and compatible with Islamic law, and provides the means to facilitate such recreation. In this fashion such events cannot be used for political needs, and Iranian society will be more willing to accept the internal security forces’ battle against the few young people who behave immorally (Alef, August 16)

Pictures of the week: subway ride in Tehran

Police operation to confiscate satellite dishes

Police operation to confiscate satellite dishes

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