Spotlight on Iran

Issued on: 31/08/2009 Type: Article

Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran

Political battle begins for approval of the president’s cabinet nominees

Unsurprisingly, the list of ministers submitted by President Ahmadinejad to the approval of the Majles last week drew political criticism from his rivals, including those belonging to the conservative bloc.

Last weekend, Majles First Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar said that four to five of the president’s cabinet nominees would not gain the approval of the Majles. According to Bahonar, Majles members believe that some of the ministers proposed by the president are no more deserving than their predecessors from the outgoing government. Bahonar also criticized the president for revealing some of his ministerial candidates in a television interview before submitting the list of ministers to the Majles, as is customary (Aftab, August 21).

Ahmad Tavakoli, the head of the Majles Research Center, joined the criticism made regarding some of the ministerial candidates proposed by the president, saying that the list of ministers boded no good for the next government’s chances of success. Tavakoli noted that some of the ministers lacked any kind of executive experience. For example, Dr. Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi, the president’s candidate for health minister, has no executive experience other than being in charge of the Basij association of Karaj University’s women, and cannot be expected to succeed in running an important socio-economic ministry. Also criticized by Tavakoli was the president’s candidate for intelligence minister, Hojjatoleslam Haydar Moslehi. The latter, Tavakoli said, had never done any intelligence work in his life and was therefore unfit to be intelligence minister. He further added that if the president had followed the suggestion of the Majles speaker and consulted the Majles before formulating the list of ministers, he would have made better choices (Asr-e Iran, August 18).

Fatemeh Ajorloo’s nomination for welfare minister was also cause for some concern. Seyyed Mehdi Sadeq, a member of the Majles Industry Committee, questioned her professional skills and predicted that she would not win the trust of the Majles (Farda, August 19). Another reason Ajorloo’s nomination was met with resistance is that her name surfaced in connection with the Abbas Palizdar affair, which broke out last year (Jomhuri-ye Eslami, August 17). Palizdar, who claims to have been an advisor for the Majles, stirred controversy in Iran in 2008 when he accused top-level Iranian officials, including clerics, of serious economic corruption affairs. Palizdar, a relative of Ajorloo, was arrested shortly afterwards on various charges, including spreading lies and embezzlement.

Source: the daily Mardom Salari
Source: the daily Mardom Salari

At the same time, several conservative websites have reported this week that senior clerics also criticize the president’s intention to appoint three women for ministers in his government. In an interview given to Farda, a website affiliated with the pragmatic conservative bloc, Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar, chairman of the clerics’ faction in the Majles, said that many senior clerics, including two prominent conservative clerics Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani and Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi, questioned the wisdom of appointing women for government ministers and asked the president to reconsider. According to Rahbar, the issue of appointing women for ministers in the government contains aspects of religious law which the president must take into consideration. He noted that when the position of the senior clerics is officially announced and if the Supreme Leader does not voice his opinion on that matter, the Majles would be required to take into consideration the clerics' position during the approval vote of the three women candidates (Farda, August 21). Majles member Mostafa Tabatabai also criticized the president's intention to appoint women to the cabinet, saying that there was no shortage of men in Iran to justify that. If Ahmadinejad considered himself a "fundamentalist", Tabatabai said, he would have to reconsider his position (Farda, August 23).

Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, the Friday prayer leader in Mashhad who is known for his ultra-conservative views, has also expressed his reservations regarding the president’s intent to appoint women to the cabinet. In his last week’s Friday sermon, Alam al-Hoda said that the roles of men and women in Islam were strictly defined, and that even Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatimah Zahra, a woman of unsurpassed talent, received no management assignments from the Prophet. The senior cleric, who is considered one of President Ahmadinejad’s supporters, said that the president should have consulted the clerics on that matter (Ansar News, August 21). The Majles vote on the president’s ministerial candidates is scheduled to take place next week.

Argentina’s judicial system serves Zionist interests, say Iranian sources following the criticism voiced against the candidate for defense minister

This week, top Iranian officials strongly condemned the criticism made by Argentina against the intention to appoint Ahmad Vahidi, suspected of involvement in the 1994 Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires, to defense minister.

On Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Argentine chargé d’affaires to Iran Mario Enrique Quinteros for a reprimand. During the conversation, the head of the Foreign Ministry South America division strongly condemned Argentina’s announcement regarding Vahidi’s nomination for defense minister, saying it constituted a blatant intervention in Iran’s internal affairs. He further added that some groups and personalities in Argentina, mainly in the judiciary, protected Zionists’ interests instead of protecting the interests of the people of Argentina. He referred to some cases of corruption in Argentina’s judiciary during the investigation of the AMIA bombing, saying it included bribes, forgery, and deceiving public opinion (IRNA, August 24).

Prior to that, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi also condemned the criticism voiced by Argentina, saying it was interfering with Iran’s internal affairs and that the fact that Argentina’s judiciary handled legal affairs in accordance with Zionist interests was an insult to the intelligence of the people of Argentina. Qashqavi noted that despite the numerous investigations it conducted since 1994, Argentina’s judiciary had not managed to find even one legal document against Iran’s diplomats and top political and defense officials that could be presented in court. All the documents presented by the prosecutor on the Buenos Aires bombing affair were based on hearsay as well as false and contradictory evidence distributed by oppositionists and anti-revolutionaries. The judge himself, Qashqavi said, was relieved of duty after being accused of taking bribe. That judge had a lot to do with concealing the evidence which indicated that Zionist circles were involved in the terrorist attack and that they wanted to divert attention from the real culprits to Iran. Argentina’s judiciary is influenced by the pressure, bribes, and propaganda of the Zionist lobby, and serves Zionists’ interests instead of Argentina’s. Qashqavi called on the government of Argentina to identify "the real agents” standing behind the bombing of the Jewish center (IRNA, August 23).

The Majles also strongly criticized the claims made against Vahidi. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that Argentina’s claims against the candidate for defense minister would not affect the Majles decision regarding the approval of his nomination, and that the accusations against Iran on the Buenos Aires bombing were groundless (Iran Daily, August 25). Kazem Jalali, the spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, also ruled out the claims about Iran’s involvement in the terrorist attack, saying that the Zionists’ claims only strengthened Vahidi’s position in the Majles ahead of the trust vote. Committee member Javad Karimi Qoddousi also said that the claims against Vahidi would strengthen the Majles members’ trust of the candidate. He noted that the claims on Iran’s involvement in the bombing were made up by the Zionists, and that Iran couldn’t care less about those wild accusations. Everybody knows about the influence of the Zionists in Argentina’s judicial system, said Karimi, and the only reason the Zionists raise their claims is to offend Iran and Islam (Alef, August 24).

Were riot victims secretly buried in the Tehran cemetery?

Earlier this week, the reformist website Norooz reported that dozens of civilians killed in the riots which broke out following the presidential elections were secretly buried last month in the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in south Tehran. Citing a cemetery worker, the website reported that on July 12 and 15 forty-four bodies had been transferred from an industrial cooling facility in southwest Tehran and hastily buried in lot 302 under heavy security. The unnamed graves were marked only with the burial license numbers (Norooz, August 23).

photos of the unmarked graves from the opposition website:
photos of the unmarked graves from the opposition website:

Iranian officials quickly denied the Norooz report. Mahmoud Rezaian, the managing director of Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, claimed that there had been no illegal or covert burial performed in the graveyard, saying it was just rumors. In an interview to Mehr News Agency, the cemetery managing director said that no bodies had been anonymously buried in the last several days, and that no pressure had been exerted on the cemetery to perform such burial. He further added that every burial performed in the cemetery was legal and that the reports about the existence of mass graves in the cemetery were untrue. Farhad Tajari, a member of a special commission appointed by the Majles National Security Committee to investigate the situation of the detainees and detention centers following the presidential elections, also denied the reports about riot victims buried in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery (Mehr, August 24).

Majles member Hamid Reza Katouzian also called the reports "unfounded”, saying that if anyone had evidence of a mass burial of the riot victims in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, they should present them to the Majles. He noted that launching an investigation based on rumors and speculations was impossible (Parlaman News, August 23). Despite the denials, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani has ordered an investigation into the affair this week. In addition, Iranian media has reported that the managing director of Behesht-e Zahra cemetery was dismissed by Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf (E’temad, August 26).

The son of radical cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi offers a glimpse into
the relationship between his father and President Ahmadinejad

The senior cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi is considered President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spiritual patron in recent years. Mesbah Yazdi, head of the Khomeini Education Institute in the city of Qom, is one of the leaders of the radical-conservative bloc in Iran’s religious establishment, and is known to have radical views on a variety of issues. Among other things, Mesbah Yazdi supports extending the authorities of the Supreme Leader at the expense of the political institutions elected by the people, holds radical messianic views, supports increasing the Islamization process of Iranian society and Iran’s higher education institutions, and calls to employ violence and merciless suppression against the regime’s opponents.

Ever since Ahmadinejad became the president of Iran in 2005, Mesbah Yazdi’s name surfaced on numerous occasions as a cleric who enjoyed tremendous influence on the president and his policy. Mesbah Yazdi has even caused a controversy recently when he declared that obeying a president supported by the Supreme Leader was tantamount to obeying God.


In an interview granted this week by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s son to the Khabar news website, Ali Mesbah Yazdi offered a rare glimpse into the relationship between the president and the ultra-conservative cleric. In the interview, the senior cleric’s son attempted to downplay the significance and strength of the relationship between the two personalities.

According to Ali Mesbah Yazdi, the relationship between his father and the president is not particularly close, and Ahmadinejad only contacts him when he needs "mental guidance” or when he wishes to deliver updates to the senior cleric. When asked how the two communicate with each other when Mesbah Yazdi wishes to bring a topic to the president’s attention, Ali responded that in such cases the cleric has a telephone conversation with the president.

Ali rejected media reports according to which the relationship between Mesbah Yazdi and Ahmadinejad is extensive and that the president confirms everything he does with the senior cleric, claiming that it was not true. The president’s closeness to Mesbah Yazdi, according to Ali, is ideological and mental.

Ali was asked whether the president’s recent statement about having a "father and son” relationship with the Supreme Leader could also be applied to his relationship with Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. Ali said that it could not, and that the kind of connection the president had with Khamenei could only exist between him and the Supreme Leader, being the "ruling jurisprudent” (vali faqih).

The cleric’s son was also asked about his father’s views on Ahmadinejad’s controversial decision to appoint Rahim Masha’i as his first vice president (a decision which he had to reconsider following an instruction issued by the Supreme Leader). In response, Ali said that his father had never expressed any concrete stance regarding specific personalities, and that he was not going to express his opinion regarding that matter. However, he confirmed that his father had criticism about Masha’i’s statements, actions, and views, which sometimes contradicted the principles of Iran’s Islamic regime (Khabar, August 25).

Recent information on the spread of AIDS in Iran:
the number of cases reaches 83 thousand

According to Asr-e Iran, the head of AIDS control division in Iran’s Health Ministry said that the number of AIDS cases in Iran was estimated at 83 thousand, of which only 19 thousand cases were identified so far. According to various experts, the actual number of AIDS cases in Iran is even higher than that official figure.

The website says that AIDS is on the rise in Iran and that the average age of those who have contracted the disease is 25 to 34. Asr-e Iran also notes that due to the sensitive nature of sex-related issues in Iranian society, particularly on the official media and in the education system, young people in Iran know less about the disease and how it is contracted than their counterparts in other countries (Asr-e Iran, August 22).

Iranian official sources have until recently claimed that the number of AIDS cases in Iran was less than 20 thousand. According to Iranian health experts, there has been a change in AIDS contraction in Iran: compared to previous years, most AIDS cases discovered now have to do with unprotected sex instead of using infected needles by drug addicts or infected blood transfusions.

In recent years Iran’s authorities have become increasingly aware of the need to fight the disease. They are also more willing to recognize that dangerous sexual behavior is a significant AIDS risk factor also in Iran. There are currently about 70 safe sex counseling centers operating in Iran, but without sufficient promotion of public awareness about AIDS, many Iranians remain unaware of the existence of those centers.

Pictures of the week: the president of Iran breaks the Ramadan fast with orphans

Pictures of the week

the president of Iran breaks the Ramadan fast with orphans

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