Spotlight on Iran (Week of June 13-20, 2012 )

June 2012-Khordad 1391
Week of June 13-20, 2012
editor : Dr. Raz Zimmt
Highlights of the week
  • Nuclear talks in Moscow end without agreement as expected; Iran continues to show resolve
  • Discourse on Shari’a aspects of developing nuclear weapons continues: fatwa against nuclear weapons does not express taqiyya principle
  • Iran’s media lowers expectations in view of political developments in Egypt
  • Iran mourns the death of French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, who passed away at the age of 98
  • Number of mental disorder sufferers increases while crisis of mental health services continues
Nuclear talks in Moscow end without agreement as expected; Iran continues to show resolve

On Tuesday, June 19, after two days of intensive discussions, the nuclear talks between Iran and representatives of the 5+1 group of countries ended without an agreement. During the talks, Iranian representatives presented a five-point proposal regarding the framework of the talks. The Iranians demanded that the talks be target-specific and that their end date and objectives be defined in advance. Another demand brought up by the Iranian delegation was that the talks be based on the principle of reciprocity, and that the Western representatives officially recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and refrain from asking Iran to make commitments that go beyond the treaty (Mehr, June 18.

At the end of the first day of the talks, Ali Baqeri, the deputy chairman of the Supreme National Security Council, said that the talks were serious and effective, and that Iran’s representatives had presented the Iranian line in detail and stressed that referring the nuclear case to the U.N. Security Council and imposing the sanctions on Iran was illegal (Fars, June 18). At the end of this latest round of talks, Catherine Ashton, the E.U. foreign policy chief, said that the gaps between the two sides remained significant and considerable. She noted that the representatives of the 5+1 group of countries had one again asked Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, shut down the enrichment facility in Fordo, and ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. Sa’id Jalili, the chairman of the Supreme National Security Council, said at a press conference that, during the talks, Iran had stressed its right to enrich uranium, and that the West needs to choose whether it wants to continue on its old path, which led to a dead end, or start a new path based on willingness to cooperate with the Iranian people (Fars, June 19).

 The two sides are expected to hold an expert-level meeting in Istanbul on July 3 to discuss the proposals brought up during the Moscow talks, after which a meeting between the deputy chief negotiators is scheduled to take place. As the Moscow talks began, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced that Iran would not comply with “unreasonable demands” brought up by the West. Speaking with top regime officials and ambassadors from Islamic countries, Khamenei said that the enemies of Iran need to learn a lesson from the unsuccessful struggle they have been waging against the Iranian people, and know that acting arrogant and bringing up unreasonable demands when dealing with a nation that has learned its determination and unity from the Quran will not lead anywhere (Mehr, June 19).

Meanwhile, Iran continues accusing the West of responsibility for the failure to reach an agreement during the nuclear talks. Fars News Agency reported that Iran’s detailed proposal provided the West with all the necessary conditions to move the talks out of the dead end they are currently in. The conduct shown by the Western representatives shows that the West has no interest in reaching an agreement with Iran but rather seeks to force it to make tactical concessions, which will not lead to a full, long-term agreement. The proposals brought up by the West are not part of a comprehensive framework, and the Western representatives focus on isolated measures, while Iran insists that any measures it takes be part of an overall package (Fars, June 19).

The Farda website also argued that the West continues following a strategy of holding negotiations just for the sake of holding negotiations, and has no interest in reaching an agreement with Iran. A commentary article published by the website said that, while Iran is asking the West to show its serious intentions during the talks, the Western representatives want talks just for the sake of talks so that they can control the oil prices in the world. The first day of the talks in Moscow was proof that Catherine Ashton follows the line dictated by Israel’s PM Binyamin Netanyahu. The West is not interested in a serious deal with Iran, and even if an agreement is reached during the talks, it will not prevent the West from making additional unreasonable demands in the future (Farda, June 19).

The daily Hamshahri accused the West of wasting time. The Western representatives want to stall the talks, knowing that an agreement with Iran will require them to honor the NPT and lift the sanctions imposed on Iran. This is not what the Zionists want, which is why the West is concerned about moving ahead with the talks at this point (Hamshahri, June 19).

The daily Javan also accused the West of responsibility for the failure of the talks, saying that the Western countries’ refusal to hold expert-level talks prior to the Moscow talks show that they do not consider the negotiations to be a means of reaching an agreement with Iran. The daily estimated that the West would not allow the talks in Moscow to succeed, and emphasized a statement made by the Supreme Leader, who said that it is not a nuclear Iran that the West fears, but rather an Islamic Iran. If Iran is going to remain Islamic after the talks in Moscow, said an editorial published by Javan, one shouldn’t expect the negotiations to have any results. The day after the talks, Iran needs to be stronger, more determined in the face of its enemies, and it has no other option available but to keep resisting (Javan, June 19).

Discourse on Shari’a aspects of developing nuclear weapons continues: fatwa against nuclear weapons does not express taqiyya principle

Dr. Gholam-Hossein Elham, chairman of the Guardian Council’s Research Center and former minister of justice, published an article last week to refute the claim voiced by the West according to which the fatwa supposedly issued by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei against nuclear weapons should be considered as a reflection of the Shi’ite principle of taqiyya. According to this principle, Shi’ite believers are allowed to conceal their religious identity and the main precepts of their faith for self-defense and survival. The article was intended to prove that the doubts raised by many in the West about the validity of Khamenei’s fatwa are misplaced, and that it cannot be considered to reflect the principle of taqiyya.

In his article, Elham argues that the enemies of Iran are trying to downplay the importance of the fatwa banning the use of nuclear weapons to mobilize public opinion support for their claim that the Iranian nuclear program is intended for military needs. Elham argues that it is not an Iranian nuclear bomb that the West fears, but rather the moral and cultural power of the Islamic republic, which has technological and scientific capabilities, and that the humane, peaceful, and moral record of the Iranian regime and of Islam cannot be denied. Iran’s conduct during its war with Iraq, which used chemical weapons against Iranian civilians, proved the moral and religious principles by which the Iranian regime is guided, Elham said, and the West has been unable to convince the world public opinion that its claims against Iran and Islam are valid. The Supreme Leader’s fatwa further undermines the Western propaganda against Iran. This is why there are arguments voiced in the West that this is taqiyya at work and why the principle of taqiyya is being distorted.

Elham brings up five arguments to refute the claim according to which the fatwa against nuclear weapons was issued under the principle of taqiyya and therefore does not reflect the Iranian regime’s intentions with regard to the nuclear program.

First, taqiyya is a binding legal institution, and even fatwas issued on the basis of the taqiyya principle have to be implemented. Even though lying is an immoral act that goes against the values of Islam and is forbidden in Islamic religious law, a fatwa issued on the basis of the taqiyya principle is intended to protect more important values or lift dangers and threats, and has to be executed. Such a fatwa is usually intended to protect a person’s life and prevent bloodshed.

Second, the Supreme Leader’s fatwa is a “primary”, not a “secondary” fatwa, and is intended to prevent the killing of innocent people by means of weapons of mass destruction.

Third, in cases where a fatwa is issued on the basis of the taqiyya principle, it has to be accompanied by a previous fatwa which rules that the second fatwa was done in accordance with taqiyya and is valid for a limited period of time. No such restrictive fatwa was placed on the one issued by Khamenei, which bans the use of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. Anyone who studies Islamic law literature pertaining to jihad understands that the Islamic religious law bans the use of weapons which results in the death of innocent people, and the Supreme Leader’s fatwa is therefore based on Islamic religious law rather than on the taqiyya principle.

Fourth, a fatwa based on the taqiyya principle usually pertains to a general instruction about the conduct of the individual, not about the execution of a particular act. Clerics can issue a general, preliminary fatwa based on the taqiyya principle; however, when it comes to a rule of conduct that goes against the laws of religion, it is not a religious ruling (fatwa) but rather an executive order (hokm). The Supreme Leader issued a fatwa rather than an executive order; hence, his fatwa cannot be considered a ruling based on the taqiyya principle, which carries an essentially general character.

Fifth, clerics prohibit the breach of contract even in a time of war and in a time of jihad. An Islamic regime must remain true to its commitments regardless of difficult war conditions. Accordingly, the Islamic regime cannot be accused of harboring the intention to act in contradiction to Islamic religious law based on the taqiyya principle and avoid honoring its obligations (http://www.borhan.ir/NSite/FullStory/News/?Id=3462, June 13).

Elham’s article is yet another expression of the religious discourse that takes place in Iran these past several years about the theological aspects involved in the development and use of nuclear weapons. On a number of occasions, top Iranian officials have claimed that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei formerly issued a fatwa (which was never published) banning the development of nuclear weapons and arguing that such weapons are contradictory to Islamic religious law, which prohibits the indiscriminate killing of innocents even in times of war.

Iran’s media lowers expectations in view of political developments in Egypt

Iranian media warned this week that the decision made by the Cairo court to disband the parliament could be signaling the return of Egypt’s old regime, and estimated that even if Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi is declared winner of the presidential elections, his power will be limited.

The daily Kayhan referred to the developments in Egypt as a “military coup” green-lighted by the United States. An editorial published by the daily said that there is no longer any doubt that the West, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the remnants of President Mubarak’s regime are involved in a project intended to put an end to the Egyptian revolution. Evidence of the project’s existence can be seen in the forgery of the results of the first round of the presidential elections, which led to Ahmed Shafik’s qualification for the second round; in the fact that Egypt’s former president was cleared of some of the charges made against him during his trial; in the brutal suppression of Egyptians in Tahrir Square by the security forces after the verdict given by the court against Mubarak; in the authorization given by the Supreme Military Council to the security forces to carry out arrests during the presidential election day; in the court’s decision to disqualify the election of about a third of the parliament members and disband the parliament; in the court’s decision to let Ahmed Shafik run in the second round of elections; in the recommendation issued by the U.S. State Department to U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Egypt in light of the internal situation in that country; and in the reports on the numerous meetings held in recent months in Cairo, Doha, Paris, and London between representatives of the Egyptian security apparatuses and representatives from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, France, Britain, and Germany. According to the daily, these developments show that the Egyptian military leaders are trying to change the balance of power in Egypt by undermining the revolution. They believe that creating a “security atmosphere” will make it possible to postpone the transfer of power, provide the remnants of the Mubarak regime with enough time to rebuild their status, and encourage the revolutionary forces to reach an agreement with the military out of concerns about the possible escalation of the internal situation. At the same time, the military is working together with the West to promote Shafik’s candidacy and weaken the Muslim Brotherhood so that, even if the next president does come from the Islamic bloc, it will be a weak president who is going to have to bring the military into the administration.

An Islamist administration in Egypt will completely change the balance of power in the Middle East and North Africa, and is therefore a cause for grave concern in the West. According to Kayhan, the conspiracy hatched by the United States in Egypt may stall the process of the Islamist takeover of Egypt and the fundamental geopolitical change in the region, but it cannot prevent it. The revolutionary forces in Egypt are now facing a historic test, and they have the power to win by staying united and sustaining their presence in the Tahrir Square (Kayhan, June 16).

The daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami warned about the repercussions of the developments in Egypt on the future of the revolution, when considered against the background of the ongoing attempts made by the United States, the Zionists, the Arab reactionaries, and some elements inside Egypt to hijack it. The disbandment of the parliament and the qualification of Ahmed Shafik are intended to let the Supreme Military Council weaken the Islamists, who have won the majority of parliament seats. The actions of Egypt’s Supreme Court and the Central Election Committee are in fact dictated by the Supreme Military Council, which takes its orders from the United States and the Zionists. The radical Salafis are giving the enemies of the revolution an excuse to take action against it and incite public opinion against Islam.

The newspaper said it is unfortunate that the Muslim Brotherhood did not take the threat facing the revolution seriously and agreed to cooperate with the military against the young revolutionaries. Now that the military leaders have betrayed the revolution, the only thing left for Egyptians to do is to continue demonstrating and maintain their resolve. If they come back to Tahrir Square and not leave it until the military has been removed from power, the revolution will be able to overcome the military coup and win. The treacherous military leaders are unable to contend with the citizens, and they will have to back down soon provided that the people do not trust the parties and stay on the scene until their ultimate victory (Jomhuri-ye Eslami, June 16).

The daily Hemayat also warned about the attempts made by the enemies of the revolution to defeat the Islamists and keep the military in power. The Supreme Military Council is trying to create a tense security atmosphere to retain its power under the pretext of emergency and guarantee Shafik’s victory. The decision of the Egyptian court can be rightly considered a “military coup against the popular revolution” staged in collaboration with the generals, the secular factions, the Zionists, and some Arab and Western countries (Hemayat, June 16).

The initial reports about the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in the presidential elections did not ease the concerns about the challenges facing the new president. The daily Tehran Emrooz estimated that each new president will be held captive for a certain period of time by the Supreme Military Council, and that it is impossible to end 60 years of military rule in one fell swoop. Even if Mohamed Morsi is declared the winner of the elections, it cannot be said for certain that democracy has defeated the military, and Egypt is currently facing a new era of struggle between those who demand democracy and the military. The daily noted that the military leaders will not place obstacles on the path towards democracy if Morsi can assure them that their economic interests will not be harmed. Even in that case, however, the economy will remain in the hands of the military, which goes against the wishes of the citizens of Egypt (Tehran Emrooz, June 19).

The daily Siyasat-e Rooz also estimated that there are probably big challenges ahead for the new president. Even though Morsi has the support of the people and the Islamist parties, he is facing difficult challenges on the way towards the fulfillment of the objectives of the revolution, said an editorial published by the daily. Egypt is facing an economic crisis and depends on external assistance. The new president will be forced to put economic issues ahead of the political demands of the citizens, which include dealing with Mubarak’s allies, the Zionists, Arab countries, and the West.

The new president will also have to deal with the Supreme National Council, which has already proven itself unwilling to give up power. The military will be trying to restrict the authority of the president and even declare him a provisional president for a one year period. Under these conditions, Morsi will need to defend his government while preventing conspiracies against the Islamist parties. The daily warned that, if it turns out that Morsi is unable to realize the demands of his people, this will not only ruin his political reputation but also remove the Islamic faction from the Egyptian political scene (Siyasat-e Rooz, June 19).

The daily Mardom Salari, too, expressed its doubts about the chances of removing the military from power, arguing that it is an illusion to think that the Egyptian military will be willing to relinquish power after so many years. The daily argued that, after winning the parliament elections, the Muslim Brotherhood made the mistake of abandoning the young revolutionaries and the other political groups, and did not take their side against the Supreme Military Council. If Morsi loses, there will be riots in Egypt, and if he wins, he will have to face the powerful military. Whichever way the situation evolves, it will be a win-win situation for the military. It was a mistake for the Egyptians to celebrate after the announcement of Morsi’s victory, said Mardom Salari, because the battle between democracy and dictatorship has not been decided yet. Egypt needs time to purge the dictatorial foundations and implement democracy (Mardom Salari, June 19).

Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad announced this week that the Iranian people will continue to support the Egyptian people in their struggle for liberty and justice until all of their objectives are fulfilled. Speaking at a meeting with the families of those killed in the Egyptian revolution, Ahmadinejad said that cooperation between Egypt and Iran will eliminate the rule of Islam’s enemies and the “Zionist regime” even without the need for war. Reports on a possible unity between Iran and Egypt are enough to send the Zionists into panic and cause them to flee from the region, Ahmadinejad said (IRNA, June 16).

Iran mourns the death of French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, who passed away at the age of 98

This week the Iranian media widely covered the death of French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, who passed away last weekend at the age of 98. The French philosopher, who converted to Islam in 1982, was fined 120,000 francs by a Paris court in 1998 for his book The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. The court ruled that the book distorted the reality of the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.

This week Mohammad-Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Basij wing, published a letter of condolence for the death of Garaudy, in which he described the Holocaust denier as “a brave author and a revolutionary politician” who dedicated his life to exposing the truth. Naqdi had praise for Garaudy, saying that this philosopher, who discovered Islam as a religion of global reach, called on the Muslims to fight against the monopolist rulers of the world and, through his writing, rose up against the “occupying and inhumane Zionism”. Naqdi expressed his condolences for the death of the French philosopher as well as his hope that Garaudy’s students and supporters will follow his path to uncover the “historical truth” (Fars, June 17).

The Iranian media also eulogized the Holocaust denier, extensively discussed his biography, and published selected quotations from his writings and from the declarations he made against Israel, Zionism, and the West and in support of Islam. The Iranian media particularly emphasized his conversion to Islam in the 1980s and the restrictions imposed on his academic activity as a result of the publication of his Holocaust-denying work.

Fars News Agency referred to Garaudy as “the first denier of the Holocaust fairy tale” spread by the Zionists, and extensively reported on his anti-Zionist articles, where he claimed that the Holocaust was a means for Israel and Zionism to implement their political objectives, take over Palestine, and perpetrate crimes against the Palestinian people (Fars, June 16). The Alef website also published extensive quotations from his anti-Zionist “reflections” and statements against Israel and Zionism. The Iranian media argued that the restrictions imposed on Garaudy and his activity in Europe since the 1990s reflect the intolerance of Western countries towards independent philosophers who dare question the validity of the Holocaust. The actions taken against Garaudy and other Holocaust deniers reflect the essence of the freedom of expression in the West, which allows one to offend prophets and religions but not bring up fundamental questions about the policy of Europe and the United States. The freedom of expression in Western democracies is only possible within the framework of the “liberal-democratic hegemonic discourse”, Alef said (Alef, June 16).

Ever since his trial in Paris in 1998, Roger Garaudy was a highly regarded personality in the Islamic republic. In March 1998 he was invited to Iran after being convicted in France under a 1990 law banning Holocaust denial. He met with the leaders of the regime, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, former president Mohammad Khatami, and Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, who went as far as to declare Garaudy as one of the heroes of the world of Islam. During the visit, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the chairman of the Guardian Council, said that Garaudy’s book had to be translated into Persian and all the other languages spoken in the world of Islam to spread its important message. Even before Garaudy’s trial began, 160 Majles members and 600 journalists signed petitions in his support. Iranian students held protest demonstrations in front of the French embassy building in Tehran, and Iran even helped him pay a part of the fine he was given in France.

Garaudy was applauded and hailed by the Iranian media. The daily Resalat condemned the trial as being a manifestation of the way that international Zionism was able to penetrate into the Western legal system and deal a crushing blow against the “myth of democracy in Europe and America”. Other newspapers took advantage of the incident to expose the “lie” of Western democracy. Jomhuri-ye Eslami argued that Garaudy’s trial in a country that proclaims itself the champion of freedom and democracy was an affront to the intelligence of the international community. Kayhan International argued that putting the philosopher on trial was a repeat of the dark times in which witch hunts were carried out by those who proclaim their country as the cradle of the idea of freedom. The newspaper complained that Garaudy, one of the icons of French culture, was not allowed to challenge the Zionist myths and lies, while the author Salman Rushdie was allowed to say anything he liked against the Prophet of Islam. Inviting Garaudy to Iran was the most prominent manifestation of the Islamic republic’s active support for Holocaust deniers until the Holocaust denial conference organized in December 2006 by the Institute for the Study of Politics and International Relations under Iran’s Foreign Ministry.[1]

Number of mental disorder sufferers increases while crisis of mental health services continues

This week a number of media outlets reported that there has been an increase in the number of mental disorder sufferers in Iranian society and an ongoing crisis in Iran’s mental health services. The daily Shargh reported that 20 to 30 percent of Iranians suffer from mental disorders, and that the percentage of mental disorder sufferers in Tehran increased from 21.5 percent in 1999 to 35 percent in 2011. The daily claimed that, despite the increase in the number of the mentally ill, the field of mental health has been continuously neglected by the decision makers. Such neglect can be seen in the recently approved state budget, which only allocates resources to physical health services and completely ignores mental health services.

Dr. Ahmad Jalili, a psychiatrist and representative of the World Psychiatric Association in Central and Western Asia, said in an interview given to Shargh that, because of the stigma associated with mental illness in the Iranian society, many of those who suffer from mental disorders do not seek treatment. Many people think that the mentally ill are “crazy”, even though cases of severe mental illness account for only 4 to 5 percent of all mental health problems. He also noted that the prevalent public opinion about psychiatric drugs causing addiction and the stigma associated with mental treatment also discourage many from seeking treatment. The daily took issue with the fact that the Health Ministry refrains from publishing official and up-to-date figures on the number of mental disorder sufferers, saying that the most recent official figures date back to 2005 even though the ministry is required to publish up-to-date figures every five years. According to the data from 2005, 21 percent of Iranians suffer from mental disorders; however, according to Dr. Jalili, the actual number of mental disorder sufferers is considerably higher than the official figures suggest.

Shargh indicated two main problems in the treatment of mental health patients in Iran: the small number of hospital beds designated for mental health patients, and the high cost of mental health services. Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi recently announced that there are currently only 10,000 hospital beds for mental health patients in Iran, 41 percent of which are in Tehran. Seventeen out of Iran’s 31 provinces have no hospital beds designated for the mentally ill, and 23 of the provinces have no hospital beds for children who suffer from mental health problems. According to psychiatrists, the number of hospital beds allocated for mental health patients is only a third of what it needs to be. Dr. Jalili said that, in the past, the Health Ministry decided to allocate 10 percent of all public hospital beds for the mentally ill, but that decision was not implemented due to the opposition of hospital directors and the lack of supervision from the government. Allocating beds for mental health patients does not serve the economic interests of the hospitals, Jalili said, and most hospital directors prefer allocating beds to more profitable departments, such as cardiology and orthopedics.

Another problem brought up in the article published by Shargh involves the high cost of psychiatric and psychological services, which has to do with the fact that a large portion of these services, including group therapy, occupational therapy, and psychiatric tests are not covered by medical insurance, limited as it already is (Shargh, June 19).

The Khabar On-line website also reported on the increase in the number of mental disorder sufferers, particularly among women, and the crisis experienced by the mental health services. Parviz Mazaheri, the chairman of the Psychiatric Association, said in an interview given to the website that only a quarter of those who suffer from mental disorders seek treatment, and that only 10 to 15 percent of them actually treat their illness. He noted that the Iranian Psychiatric Association is working through the media to change the prevailing public perception of mental disorders. Financial reasons, according to Dr. Mazaheri, are another main factor which discourages many Iranians from seeking treatment (Khabar On-line, June 17).

[1] Meir Litvak, “Israel in Iranian eyes: from Holocaust denial to denial of existence” (Hebrew). In U. Rabi (Ed.), Iran Time (Tel-Aviv: Hakkibutz Hameuchad, 2008), pp. 56-57.

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