Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Unemployment among university graduates, Mardom Salari, May 15
Islamic dress code enforcement kicks into high gear
Twenty-eighth liberation anniversary of Khorramshahr
www.parsine.com (an Iranian news website), May 24
Highlights of the week
Reformist opposition prepares for anniversary of
presidential elections and outbreak of riots
Reformist opposition leaders Mehdi Karoubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi met this week to discuss the preparations made by the reformist opposition for next month’s anniversary of the Iranian presidential elections (June 12, Khordad 22) and the riots they precipitated. During the meeting, the two leaders called on the Iranian people to take part in a procession to be held on the anniversary day, saying that if the authorities do not grant permission to hold the procession, they will use peaceful measures to raise public awareness, including messages on social networks.
Mousavi and Karoubi stressed the continuing demand of the Iranian people to exercise their rights in accordance with the constitution, and called for free elections, freedom of the press, and the release of all political prisoners. They also condemned the ongoing oppression against the opposition by the government, and the use of violence against reformist activists held in prison. During their meeting, Mousavi and Karoubi also discussed Iran’s economic situation, criticizing the government’s failure to solve the unemployment and inflation crisis (www.rahesabz.net, the reformist opposition’s website, May 24)
Even as the opposition leaders call on the Iranian people to take part in the election anniversary processions, Hossein Sajediniya, the chief of the internal security forces in Tehran, has warned this week that the security forces will suppress any illegal demonstration that will be held on June 12 (ILNA, May 25).
Meanwhile, the reformist movement has marked this week the anniversary of the election of Mohammad Khatami, one of the leaders of the reformist camp, for president of Iran on May 23, 1997. During a meeting held this week by Khatami with a group of academia members, the former president said that the month of Khordad which began this week is "the month of the people” who, throughout the recent history of Iran, have expressed their faith, determination, and commitment to fight against oppression and tyranny and for justice.
Referring to the riots which broke out following the presidential elections, Khatami said that if the popular protest had been properly addressed by the authorities, the crisis could have been resolved and perhaps the people could have been swayed by logic; unfortunately, however, the protest was suppressed using violence and arrests. Khatami called on the public to act in a civilized manner, respect the law, employ no violence, and use the tragic events that occurred in the past year to move forward, uphold the values of the revolution, and realize the historical demands of the people. Hope must not be lost and the long way still ahead must not be abandoned, the former president said. He called to avoid the use of violence, particularly by the government, since that contradicts the principles of democracy, the values of the revolution, and the historical identity of the Iranian people. Khatami concluded by suggesting three ways to resolve the political crisis: releasing the political prisoners; creating a safe and free atmosphere while implementing the constitution, which would include ensuring the freedom of congregation and the freedom of the press; and holding free and proper elections (ILNA, May 22).
Reformist opposition leader’s wife calls nuclear agreement worse
than Golestan/Turkmanchai treaties
Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, sparked a controversy this week when she compared the nuclear agreement signed last week between Iran on one hand and Brazil and Turkey on the other to the humiliating agreements signed by Iran in the nineteenth century: the Treaty of Golestan (1813), in which Iran lost Georgia and important cities in the Caucasus to Russia; and the Treaty of Turkmanchai (1828), in which Iran ceded to Russia areas to the north of the Aras River. Those treaties, signed in the wake of painful defeats suffered by Iran against the Russians, became symbols of humiliation in Iranian historical consciousness.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the anniversary of Iran’s liberation of the city of Khorramshahr in 1982, the opposition leader’s wife mentioned Iran’s success in defending its territorial integrity during the war against Iraq, saying that those achievements were all the more noteworthy compared to some of the agreements signed nowadays, including the nuclear agreement signed last week, which are even worse than the treaties of Golestan and Turkmanchai. She added that the only difference between those treaties, signed during the Qajar dynasty, and the agreements signed nowadays is that in those days, Iran had leaders who were willing to learn from its defeat and who took the necessary measures to rebuild it. It is possible that if the rebuilding process had continued, Iran would not have been put in a position of having to sign yet another Treaty of Turkmanchai, she said (Tabnak, May 24).
The conservative daily Keyhan, which voiced firm support of the nuclear agreement last week, strongly condemned Rahnavard’s statements. The daily referred to them as far-fetched claims made by Mousavi and his wife, who remained silent when all uranium enrichment activities were halted during the administration of former president Mohammad Khatami. While Khatami’s government did not allow as little as 25 centrifuges to operate in a laboratory, today there are over 7000 operational centrifuges in uranium enrichment facilities, and ten more enrichment centers are currently under construction. The question is, therefore, whether it is the policy of the current government, which expanded uranium enrichment, that should be compared to the treaties of Golestan and Turkmanchai, or rather the policy of Khatami’s government.
According to Keyhan, in order to compensate for its defeat in dealing with Iran, the West exploits the bleak picture of reality painted by Iran’s domestic enemies. Their purpose, as the Quran says, is to misrepresent reality so as to spread hopelessness and pessimism. A skewed outlook on reality is yet another result of the personality change among the monafeghin (hypocrites, a derogatory term for the Iranian opposition) (Keyhan, May 24).
Government increasingly criticized over ongoing unemployment crisis
This past week, increasing criticism was voiced by the media, Majles members, and even the religious establishment over the government’s failure in successfully dealing with the ongoing unemployment crisis in the country. While Abdol-Reza Shekholeslami, the minister of labor and social affairs, said this week that the unemployment rate was 11.3 percent last year, several media reported that the actual figure is much higher. According to ISNA news agency, there is a significant discrepancy between the official data published by the government and the actual data, claiming that the government data, supposedly indicating a drop in unemployment in recent years, are actually the result of changing the method used to calculate the number of unemployed people. The agency reported that the unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 24 reached 24.7 percent last year, 1.7 percent higher compared to the year before (ISNA, May 22).
Mehr news agency also had reservations about the official unemployment figures, claiming that in light of the fact that young people under 35 comprise over 70 of Iran’s population, the actual unemployment rate is at least 22 percent. In an interview to the news agency, Abbas Vatan-Parvar, the former Iranian representative to the International Labor Organization (ILO), said that the official unemployment figures reflect a lack of transparency on the part of the government, since it considers soldiers, housewives, and even people working only one or two hours a week to be employed. According to Vatan-Parvar, the unemployment rate in some provinces is over 45 percent. Vatan-Parvar also criticized the lack of a single government organization which would be solely responsible for employment (Mehr, May 21).
The daily Mardom Salari also addressed the unemployment crisis among young educated people. According to a commentary published by the daily last week (Mardom Salari, May 15), while academic education was formerly considered to be enough to find a job, more and more university graduates now find themselves unemployed. The daily reported that over 350 thousand students graduate every year, and that more than half of them cannot find work in their chosen fields.
Unemployment among university graduates, Mardom Salari, May 15
The Majles also criticized the government’s employment policy last week, demanding that the minister of economy and industry be summoned to the Majles to present the reasons behind the continuing increase in the unemployment rate. During a Majles discussion held last week, Majles member Dariush Ghanbari (Ilam Province) reported that 11 percent of the suicides in his electoral province are related to the unemployment crisis. The Majles member from the minority reformist faction complained that the government is not doing enough to solve the unemployment problem (Fars, May 19).
Criticism over the unemployment crisis was also voiced by the Friday prayer leader in the city of Qom, Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini. In his Friday prayer, the senior cleric addressed the increasing unemployment among young people, saying that it was one of the major problems in the country. He warned about the spread of unemployment, which does not allow young people to get married and to plan their lives after graduating, and called on the Majles and the government to cooperate and to increase their efforts to solve the problem (Tabnak, May 15).
Islamic dress code enforcement kicks into high gear:
improperly-dressed students denied entry to Tehran University
The official in charge of security in Tehran University has announced this week that the university started preventing students who do not abide by the Islamic dress code from entering the campus grounds.
In an interview to Mehr news agency, Mostafa Khosravi said that the university campus is "sacred”, and that the security authorities therefore asked the university president and the faculty deans to take action vis-à-vis the students to persuade them to adhere to the Islamic dress code. If the persuasion efforts do not contribute towards dealing with the phenomenon, Khosravi said, the university authorities will take legal action and prevent improperly dressed students from entering the university. He noted that most students do adhere to the Islamic dress code, but some students use improper clothing as a means to express their political struggle. Those students, Khosravi warned, will be directed to the disciplinary committees. He added that such students will be warned three times at the university entrance and subsequently will not be permitted to enter the campus grounds. He stressed that the university is committed to fight anyone who does not adhere to the Islamic dress codes: both female students who do not wear their veils properly, and male students coming to the university in improper clothing (Mehr, May 22)
The statement made by the security official in Tehran University came just one day after the Friday prayer leader in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, criticized the authorities for failing to enforce the Islamic dress code as stipulated by law.
The senior cleric stressed the need for adherence to the dress code in universities, hospitals, and government ministries. He noted that while enforcing the dress code was the authorities’ responsibility, they did not take proper action as required by law. Jannati, who serves as the chairman of the Guardian Council, added that that the students must be required to adhere to the Islamic dress code, and even said that students must be chosen according to Islamic criteria, while students who do not abide by the code should be summoned to the disciplinary committees. He expressed his appreciation to residents who demonstrated in recent weeks for increased enforcement of the Islamic dress code, and to Majles members who mobilized to the fight as well (ISNA, May 21).
Mardom Salari, a daily affiliated with the moderate reformist camp, criticized this week the use of internal security forces in the struggle to enforce the Islamic dress code. An editorial published by the daily claims that while Islamic values must be protected and the issue of wearing veils is important, the non-adherence to the dress code must be dealt with using cultural means rather than enforcement. Those who call to use force against the phenomenon ignore the fact that it is a deeply-rooted cultural phenomenon. Any use of force by the authorities will not lead to a solution and may even cause greater damage.
It should be noted that last month, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar announced that the authorities intended to enforce the Islamic dress code this coming summer in accordance with the "headdress and veil program” approved in 2005 by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, which has yet to be implemented in full.
Twenty-eighth liberation anniversary of Khorramshahr,
the city that was liberated but not yet rebuilt
This week, Iran marked the 28th liberation anniversary of Khorramshahr, a city in Khuzestan Province (southwest Iran) in the Iran-Iraq War. The province is mostly populated by the Arab minority, comprising about three percent of Iran’s population. The liberation of the city in May 1982 is considered a turning point in the Iran-Iraq War. Iran’s takeover of the city concluded the phase of the war in which Iran focused mainly on liberating the territories it had lost, allowing it to take the initiative into its hands.
ISNA and Mehr news agencies published this week recent photographs of Khorramshahr, reflecting the deplorable condition of the still ruined city. Twenty-eight years after the liberation of the city, the Mehr report says, the question is why it has not yet been rebuilt. This is a question continuously on the minds of not only Khorramshahr and Khuzestan Province residents but of all Iranians (Mehr, May 23)
The daily Mardom Salari also criticized this week the government’s severe neglect of the city. An editorial published by the daily on the occasion of the liberation anniversary of the city says that according to the announcement of the Khorramshahr representative in the Majles, only 30 percent of the city have been rebuilt so far. Twenty-eight years after the liberation of the city, 22 years since the Iran-Iraq War ended, and five years from the presidential campaign of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who promised to rebuild the border regions hit in the war, almost nothing has been done to promote projects and programs designed to solve Khorramshahr’s problems. The city is still facing severe problems with its water supply, waste disposal, electricity and gas systems, employment, agriculture, and industry. The daily wondered why the considerable state revenues from the petroleum provided by Khuzestan Province do not go towards rebuilding the city (Mardom Salari, May 24).
The distress of Khorramshahr residents reached a boiling point this week during President Ahmadinejad’s visit to the city. His speech was interrupted by hundreds of angry demonstrators protesting the unemployment problem in the southern city and chanting "unemployment, unemployment” at the president (ISNA, May 24).
Pictures of the week: execution of Abdolhamid Rigi, Jondollah leader’s brother
Abdolhamid Rigi, the brother of Jondollah leader Abdolmalek Rigi and one of that organization’s leaders, was executed by hanging Monday morning in the city of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan Province.
Rigi was detained in Pakistan in 2008 and extradited to Iran. During his trial, he admitted to being involved in a series of terrorist attacks perpetrated in recent years by Jondollah in Sistan-Baluchistan Province in southeast Iran, populated mostly by the Baluchi minority. His brother, Abdolmalek Rigi, was arrested last February in a joint operation of the Iranian security and intelligence forces and is to be executed as well following his trial
www.parsine.com (an Iranian news website), May 24