Spotlight on Iran (Week of April 29-May 6, 2010)

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

cartoon by Nikahang Kowsar, Rooz Online, May 3

cartoon by Nikahang Kowsar, Rooz Online, May 3

Workers demonstrate in the city of Shiraz in protest of the layoff policy, May 1

Workers demonstrate in the city of Shiraz in protest of the layoff policy, May 1

Fars, May 2

Fars, May 2

Rhinoplasty in Iran still on the rise

Rhinoplasty in Iran still on the rise

Pictures of the week

Pictures of the week

Iranian booth at Expo 2010, Shanghai, China

Iranian booth at Expo 2010, Shanghai, China


Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran

Highlights of the week

  • Internal debate in Iran over President Ahmadinejad’s participation in the NPT conference in New York

  • International Workers’ Day marked in Iran; no significant incidents reported

  • Mystery of the week: who stole the bronze statues in Tehran?

  • Rhinoplasty in Iran still on the rise

  • Pictures of the week: Iranian booth at Expo 2010, Shanghai, China

Internal debate in Iran over President Ahmadinejad’s participation

in the NPT conference in New York

This week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in the NPT conference in New York. As he was the only state leader to participate in the conference, which was supposed to focus on the NPT’s methods of operation, Ahmadinejad’s trip has triggered an internal debate between his opponents and supporters this week.

Mohammad Esma’il Kosari, the deputy chairman of the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, spoke in favor of the president’s participation in the conference, saying that it made it possible to thwart the US schemes against Iran. According to Kosari, in the conference the US was planning to ignore the nuclear weapons held by Israel and continue making accusations against Iran. The president’s presence at the conference, said the Majles member, foiled that scheme and isolated the US from other world countries. He noted that Ahmadinejad’s participation in the conference was vital for protecting the rights of the Iranian people (Fars, May 3).

A commentary published by the conservative daily Keyhan says that the president’s participation in the Iranian delegation to the NPT conference allowed Iran to introduce to the conference participants an alternative plan to that proposed by the Americans, and to foil the Americans’ intention of enforcing their view, denying many countries the right to use nuclear technology. According to the article, Ahmadinejad’s participation in the conference gives Iran a unique opportunity to demand from the superpowers some of the rights of world countries on the nuclear issue (Keyhan, May 3).

The conservative daily Jam-e Jam also expressed support for the president’s trip to New York, noting that the participation of the Iranian delegation, headed by the president, in the conference made it possible to reveal to other countries the stance of the US, seeking to use the conference to impose further restrictions on the use of nuclear technology by other countries instead of working for a nuclear demilitarization of the world. Being aware of the US intentions, Iran will be able to present the rational demands of the countries seeking to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes (Jam-e Jam, May 3).

On the other hand, Iranian Diplomacy, a website affiliated with the president’s political opponents in the conservative pragmatic bloc, had reservations about the president’s visit to New York, saying it was "useless”.

An editorial published this week on the website says that since the Islamic revolution (1979), no Iranian president took part in so many international conferences sponsored by the UN. A president taking part in conferences at foreign minister level is unprecedented and unacceptable on the international scene. Ahmadinejad’s previous appearances at UN conferences already provoked strong reactions in the world, and it is unclear what the purpose of his current trip is or what program he intends to propose in order to convince the world about the Iranian nuclear issue. The article expresses concern that the conference will adopt decisions completely contradicting the president’s views and plans, making Ahmadinejad’s personal attendance not only unhelpful to Iran’s national interests, but also needless and futile (Diplomasi-ye Irani, May 3)

cartoon by Nikahang Kowsar, Rooz Online, May 3
"Ahmadinejad’s message of peace to the New York conference”,
cartoon by Nikahang Kowsar, Rooz Online, May 3

The Farda website also had reservations about the president’s trip, citing Iranian experts who believe that his participation in a conference at foreign minister level did not serve Iran’s interests. Davud Agha’i, an expert from the University of Tehran, said in an interview to the website that there was no point in the president’s trip unless he intended to make new proposals. Iran’s already-known views could just as well be expressed by the foreign minister. He noted that the president incited opposition in some world countries—particularly following the last presidential elections—and that the expectation was that his speech at the conference would reflect new views that could sway world public opinion (Farda, May 3).

Reservations about the president’s participation in the conference were also expressed by another expert interviewed to the news website Fararu. In response to Ahmadinejad’s speech in New York, Hassan Beheshti said that high-level presence, bringing up good and sensible proposals, and giving speeches did not solve anything regarding the world’s nuclear demilitarization, and that it was necessary to bring up proposals that would gain international support and that could be implemented. According to the expert, most proposals brought up by the president could not be applied and should have been carefully examined by experts before presenting them at the conference (Fararu, May 4).

International Workers’ Day marked in Iran; no significant incidents reported

The Workers’ Day (May 1) was marked in Iran this week. On May 1, several news websites affiliated with the opposition reported several protest rallies held by workers in various Iranian cities. The websites also reported unusual deployment of internal security forces in various areas in Iran in an attempt to prevent order disturbances during the day (IranPressNews.com; Jaras, May 1). A senior official of the Tehran police related that the May 1 demonstrations were monitored by the police and were completely peaceful, with no significant events and without the need for police intervention (Tabnak, May 1).

Jaras, a website affiliated with the leader of the reformist opposition, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, reported this week that, ahead of the International Workers’ Day and Teacher’s Day, marked in Iran on May 2, the authorities had arrested several activists of professional unions, including the chairman of the teachers association, Ali-Reza Hashemi, and members of teachers’ organizations in Tehran, Hamdan, and Tabriz (Jaras, April 30).

Workers demonstrate in the city of Shiraz in protest of the layoff policy, May 1
Workers demonstrate in the city of Shiraz

in protest of the layoff policy, May 1

On the eve of May 1, the two reformist opposition leaders, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, issued special memorandums of opinion. In a statement given on the occasion of Workers’ Day and Teacher’s Day, Mousavi called on the authorities to respect those clauses of the constitution concerning workers’ rights. Mousavi criticized the government’s failures in dealing with the economic problems facing Iran, mainly inflation, decrease in production, corruption, improper management, withholding workers’ payment, and shutting down factories. He condemned the government’s policy of importing products, saying that it led to foreign domination of the national economy and hurt the local workers and Iran’s independence. According to the opposition leader, there is a direct correlation between the living conditions of the workers and the teachers and the continuing political oppression in Iran, and the limitations imposed by the authorities on the freedom of press and the freedom of assembly. Mousavi further stated that the country’s oil revenues were not equally distributed between the people, and that the spread of corruption compromised the public’s trust in the political system. Mousavi also addressed the "adventurous” foreign policy of the government, saying that it posed a threat to Iran’s national interests and negatively influenced the workers as well. The solution to Iran’s economic problems, Mousavi said, was not in running an economy based on charity, giving false promises, or engaging in public relations on the eve of elections. He called on the government to implement the constitution clauses in full and to ensure the legal rights of the workers and the teachers (Emrouz, April 29).

The memorandum of opinion issued by Mehdi Karoubi also strongly criticized the government’s economic policy, saying it led to an escalation of the unemployment crisis and an investment crisis on the Iranian market. Karoubi also condemned the Revolutionary Guards’ takeover of the economy, saying it was unconstitutional. Karoubi also criticized the continuing political oppression of workers and teachers by the authorities, demanding the immediate release of detained activists of professional unions (Jaras, April 30).

The Workers’ Day was marked by the authorities as well. At a convention on the occasion of May 1, President Ahmadinejad announced that the main task facing the government this year was creating new workplaces. He stressed the importance of creating new employment opportunities to allow interested citizens to freely choose their workplace. Referring to the sanctions imposed by the West against Iran, the president noted that the economic blockade and the embargo had had no influence on Iran in the past three decades. He praised Iran’s working class, saying that it was the most informed, intelligent, dedicated, and revolutionary working class in the world. He further added that for the past thirty years, Iran’s workers stood at the forefront of social developments in the country, passing with flying colors the difficult tests facing them since the Islamic revolution (various news agencies, May 1).

Mystery of the week: who stole the bronze statues in Tehran?

A mystery has gripped Iran this week: what happened to at least eleven bronze statues which have disappeared from various locations in Tehran? The affair broke out after the media reported last weekend that since the beginning of the Iranian New Year vacation (Nowruz) on March 21, over ten statues of famous historical Iranian figures which towered in central locations in the capital city disappeared. The missing monuments include the statues of poet Mohammad Hossein Shahriar; two of Iran’s constitutional revolution in the early 20th century, Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan; and Ali Shariati, one of the most prominent Iranian intellectuals in the second half of the past century and one of the leading ideologues of the Islamic revolution.

Tehran municipality officials have stated this week that they believe the statues were stolen by metal thieves. According to Mohammad-Hadi Ayazi, the spokesman of the Tehran municipality, the theft was motivated by financial considerations. In an interview to the conservative Fars news agency, Ayazi said that the Tehran internal security forces are working to track down the thieves, and that they will probably be arrested in the next several days. He further added that if the removed statues are not found or if it turns out that they have been melted, the municipality will put new statues instead (Fars, May 2). Mojtaba Mousavi, another senior official in the Tehran municipality, said that the value of each stolen statue was 10-12 million tomans (about 10-12 thousand dollars). He stressed, however, that the main damage caused by the theft of the statues was spiritual, and that there could be no compensation for such damage. Mousavi noted that for now, no more bronze statues will be erected in the city (Fars, May 2)

Fars, May 2

However, while official claims blame metal thieves for stealing the statues in Tehran, some media have raised questions regarding the affair, and some of them even suggested that the authorities may be involved.

Asr-e Iran, a website affiliated with the pragmatic conservative bloc, wondered how it was possible that such large, heavy statues, located in such central spots in Tehran and whose removal would cause a large amount of noise, could be stolen without drawing the attention of the numerous police forces deployed across the city. The website hinted at the possibility that the statues were not stolen but removed on orders from above, and that putting the blame on metal thieves was simply designed to avoid widespread public criticism (Asr-e Iran, May 1).

One of the sculptors whose sculptures were stolen also claimed that stealing them would take much time, careful planning, and proper equipment, and that it was unlikely that the security forces did not notice that they had been removed. News websites affiliated with the reformist opposition brought up the possibility that the statues had been removed as part of the policy of increasing the enforcement of Islamic code in light of religious circles’ opposition to placing statues across Tehran due to reasons having to do with religious law, or due to the desire of certain political elements to remove statues representing a historical legacy they consider to be contrary to their ideological views (Rooz Online, May 2).

The conservative Fars news agency brought up another possibility of the identity of those involved in removing the statues: Britain. In an interview granted by an expert on cultural heritage to the news agency, Hassan Mohammadi said that past experience showed British involvement in robbing the remains of cultural historical heritage worldwide and in stealing religious and national property in Iran in the past 200 years. It is not unlikely, therefore, that British experts and traders are responsible for the disappearance of the statues in Tehran (Fars, May 3).

Rhinoplasty in Iran still on the rise

The Mirath Arya news agency reported this week that cosmetic surgery is still on the rise in Iran, mainly rhinoplasty. According to the news agency report, the demand for nose operations in the country is so great that even doctors who are not experts in that particular sphere perform those operations in their private clinics without a license. Most patients are young women aged 17 to 30. Studies on the frequency of nose operations in the world show that Iran and Brazil are the world’s top two countries as far as rhinoplasty is concerned (www.chtn.ir, May 3)

Rhinoplasty in Iran still on the rise

In recent years, Iran has become a world superpower in cosmetic surgery and in rhinoplasty in particular, with thousands of operations done every year. The number of women seeking plastic surgeons for nose operations increases constantly. According to plastic surgeons in Iran, the age of the patients decreases, and even 10-year-old girls seek to perform such surgery. Even though the phenomenon is mostly widespread among women, it is also found in men, mostly aged 15 to 25.

The main explanation for the desire of more and more women to undergo nose operations is the increasing exposure to Western culture and the requirement that women cover their heads with a veil. Women are becoming more and more conscious of their looks, mainly their noses, the only part of the face which they are not required to cover. The exposure to Western culture through satellite television and the Internet has also played a considerable part in the desire to imitate the look of Western women, whose noses are usually smaller than those of Iranian women. The phenomenon of nose operations increases despite the high cost of the surgery: 1500 to 3000 dollars.

Pictures of the week: Iranian booth at Expo 2010, Shanghai, China

Expo 2010 was launched in Shanghai this week. The Iranian booth in the global exposition is divided into three parts: Iran in the past, in the present, and in the future. The first part focuses on Iranian archaeology, the second part focuses on the Iranian people and Iranian culture, and the third part focuses on the technological breakthroughs achieved by Iran. Also displayed in the booth are Iranian works of art and pictures from the Islamic revolution

Pictures of the week

Iranian booth at Expo 2010, Shanghai, China