The life and [troubled] times of the Islamic Republic ofIran
The Islamic Republic authorities are now blaming the United States inaddition to Pakistan's government for the attack last Thursday againstan Iranian cultural center in Pakistan's Punjab province, during whichIran's cultural attaché, Mohammad Ali Rahimi, and seven others werekilled. Iran's chief judge, (Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi,) said during a Fridayprayer service in Tehran, "If the Pakistani judiciary officials hadshown more decisiveness during the previous attacks, such an incident wouldnot have happened again... Just condemning the attack is not enough, thoseresponsible for this crime should be traced, arrested and punished.'' Alsospeaking on Friday was Majlis speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, who accusedthe United States on Friday of being behind the attack and of "sowingdiscord" between the main two Muslim sects. [IRNA, DPA, 2/21]
Reuters reported from the Punjab city of Multan that Pakistani policeannounced on Friday that they arrested two Sunni Muslim militants suspectedof having carried out the assault. They were thought to be members of theLashkar-i-Jhangvi group, linked to the militant Sunni Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan(SSP) organization. Police also seized 13 rocket launchers, three assaultrifles, five hand grenades and other weapons and ammunition. Newly electedPrime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew to Tehran on Friday to accompany Rahimi'sbody. [Reuters 2/21]
Local authorities called out troops earlier after Shiite protestersbegan chanting anti-American slogans and burning tires on main roads inthe city in Punjab province. SSP supporters burned the Iranian culturalcenter in Lahore Jan. 19, a day after a bomb blast there killed their leaderZia-ur-Rahman Faruqi and 25 other people.
In the latest developments on Wednesday, Feb. 26, which were broadcastby Tehran Radio, angry Pakistani Shiites in Punjab held an anti-Americandemonstration, and demanded that the government immediately close the U.S.cultural center in Multan and expel all U.S. residents in Pakistan. "Ifthe government does not take these steps," Tehran radio quoted thedemonstrators as saying, "then the Muslims have the right to do itthemselves." [Tehran Radio, 2/26]
In the past, Tehran radio has trod softly when it came to Sunni-Shiitetensions in Pakistan.
All bets are off on how the Islamic Republic will handle the annualpilgrimage to Mecca this year. A riot during a political rally on the streetsof Mecca led to the slaughter of 400 Iranian pilgrims in 1987 by the Saudisecurity forces, and the Saudis have made it clear they do not wish tosee a repeat of the anti-U.S. and anti-Israel demonstrations.
In a lead editorial on Tuesday, an English-language daily in Tehran,Iran News, pleaded for calm. "Rationalism demands that officials inboth countries sit down together and sort out all relevant issues relatedto the hajj affairs every year on the eve of the major religious duty,"the paper said. "Pre-hajj exchange of views by the two countries isa must to exterminate [sic] tension between the two major Islamic nationsof the world.'' [Iran News, 2/25]
Just the day before, however, the Islamic Republic authorities vowedthat their pilgrims would defy a Saudi ban and hold a major political rallythis April during the hajj. "The 'disavowal of infidels' is the highpoint of the social goals of hajj ... We should try with all our powerto perform the true hajj as revealed to us by the late Imam," hajjsupervisor Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshari was quoted as saying by Tehran radio[2/24]. 'Disavowal of infidels' is the term used by the regime to designateits yearly anti-American and anti-Israeli hajj demonstration.
In a crude attempt to deflect international attention from accusationsof religious persecution by the Islamic Republic authorities, the officialIslamic Republic News Agency quoted the head of Iran's Islamic RevolutionaryCourts, Gholam Hoseyn Rahbarpour, as saying that two members of the Baha'isect, condemned last year to death for apostasy, had in reality been convictedof spying for Israel. "No one in Iran will be prosecuted or punishedfor having a specific ideology or view,'' Rahbarpour said. [IRNA 2/23]
The State Department had protested the decision by Iran's supreme courtlast month to uphold the death sentence against the two men, which wasdelivered on the grounds the two were "apostates" from Islam,the usual accusation used against members of the Baha'i faith. Rahbarpourcalled the U.S. condemnation "utterly fabricated and spiteful."
The two condemned men, Musa Talebi and Zabihollah Mahrami, "wereinvolved in espionage activities in the interests of Zionist aggressors,"Rahbarpour claimed, without presenting any evidence. "They were arrestedwhile spying and were sentenced to death.'' He also claimed that Talebiwas later pardoned, but gave no further details. It was not clear whethereither Talebi or Mahrami have been executed.
Baha'is in the United States say more than 200 members of their faithhave been executed in Iran for their religious beliefs since the IslamicRevolution of 1979. In a 1983 "blueprint" condemning the Baha'is,Islamic Republic leaders accused the religion itself as being an espionagetool of Israel and the United States.
Iran's top two diplomats in Turkey, Ambassador Mohammed Reza Bagheriand Mohammed Reza Rashid, who was consul-general in Istanbul, left Wednesdayfor Tehran, after being criticized for their open interference in Turkey'sinternal affairs, the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday. Thetwo had provoked an outcry by calling for Turkey to drop its secular legalsystem in favor of sharia law, at political rallies inside Turkey.
A Foreign ministry source told United Press International that the IRIdiplomats were "not expected back," and said that Turkey haddone "the appropriate thing." Bagheri had been ambassador formore than seven years, so there had been speculation he was scheduled tobe rotated - giving the IRI embassy in Ankara a face-saving way of diffusingthe crisis. [UPI 2/21]
Another Iranian writer, Kalimollah Tavohodi Oghazi, has apparently disappearedin the eastern Iranian city of Mashad, an exile weekly published in Londonsaid. Kalimollah Tavahodi Oghazi, author of many books, was last seen twomonths ago, when he was ordered to report to the office of the Ministryof Culture and Islamic Guidance in Mashad, to apply for authorization topublish his latest book, "The History of the Immigration of Kurdsin Khorassan Province." [Nimrooz, 2/21]
Mr. Oghazi has written extensively about the small Kurdish minorityin Khorassan province which was forced to leave Kurdistan for eastern Iransome 350 years ago, during the Safavid dynasty. Kurdish sources confirmedhis disappearance.
Iranian exiles have been circulating a petition on the Internet, callingon the Tehran authorities to release jailed writer Faraj Sarkuhi.
Those interested can sign onto the petition by sending an e-mail messageto the Committee to Support Iranian Writers, at email@example.com.
The Foundation for Democracy of Iran has endorsed the letter and urgesAmericans and Iranians to join hands in calling for Mr. Sarkuhi's freedom.
Another supporter of dissident Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Shirazi hasdied in Iran, as a result of repeated torture and ill-treatment duringprison terms.
Haaji Masood, aged 45, was married to the niece of Grand Ayatollah Shirazi,and died on Feb. 18 after failed kidney surgery. He had been abducted onthe streets of Tehran and jailed in the "Tawheed" prison, whichis feared by Islamic opponents of the regime because of its reputationas a house of torture.
After Haaji Masood was released from the Tawheed, he underwent surgeryseveral times for kidney failure, ulcers, internal bleeding and other ailmentsdirectly caused by torture while in jail. He complained to family membersthat while in prison he had been lashed on the back and on the sole ofthe feet with thick cables, deprived for water for long periods, and keptin a damp underground cell without a bed or blanket for long periods.
Many followers of Grand Ayatollah Shirazi are believed to be jailedin the Tawheed, including Hojj. val Muslimin Sheikh Taqi Dhaakeri, whowas arrested on Nov. 11, 1995. On Jan. 14 and Jan. 15 this year, severalother Shirazi supporters were arrested, including Hojj. val Muslimin SeyedHussein Faali, Hojj. Sheikh Amin Ghafoori, Taha al-Baldaawi, and ImaadSaaberi. [Supporters of the Iranian Muslim Nation, 2/21]
A Berlin Court judging the 1992 gangland murder of Kurdish dissidentleaders at the Mykonos restaurant, has been told that the operation was"dictated" by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of theIslamic Republic of Iran.
Lawyers for the Lebanese defendants told the Court that their clients,whom they described as "profoundly Shi'a believers," carriedout the assassination of Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran leaders on the"explicit order" of Ayatollah Khomeini, who had declared a "jihad,"or holy war against Iranian Kurds.
This was the first time that Ayatollah Khomeini has been cited as theforce behind the killings. During earlier testimony, the Court was toldby "Witness C," a former senior intelligence operative of theIRI who identified himself in court as Abolghasem Mesbahi, that currentregime's "highest authorities," including Supreme leader AyatollahAli Khamene'i, President Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and the Ministers of ForeignAffairs and Information (Intelligence), had ordered the terrorist operationagainst the Iranian dissident leaders who were meeting in Berlin. [IPS2/20]
Herbert Hedrich, the German lawyer for Abbas Rayel, a Lebanese Shi'awho finished off the Kurds as they lay dying on the restaurant floor, confirmedthat his client had been trained in Iran for terrorist operations, beforebeing dispatched to Germany to carry the "sacred mission" orderedby Ayatollah Khomeini. Hedrich told the court that his client acted outof religious fervor, and that his deeply-held Shiite Muslim beliefs meant"he could not have ignored" the orders of current Iranian spiritualleader Ali Khamene'i to kill the dissident Kurds. [AFP 2/20]
Kazem Darabi, an IRI embassy official believed to be a senior memberof the Information Ministry, finally admitted to the court last week thathe had provided all the "necessary logistics" to the mixed Iranian-Lebanesehit commando, "without knowing the purpose of the mission." TheGerman prosecutor has accused Darabi with coordinating the killings. [IPS,2/20]
In an earlier hearing, on Feb. 7, "Witness C" said that Tehran'sambassador to Germany, Hussein Mousavian, was also linked to the crime,and played a major role in Tehran's terrorist operations against Iranianexiles throughout Europe.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Feb. 20 condemning theIslamic Republic for "repeated violations of human rights in Iran,"and expressed concern about "the high number of executions" bythe authorities.
Members of the European Parliament also condemned "the continuingdiscrimination against women in Iran", "the recent widespreadarrests" during demonstrations in Kermanshah and elsewhere, the "tortureof prisoners of conscience", "the outlawing of oil workers' organizations",the fatwa against the British author Salman Rushdie, and "the arrestof Iranian writer Faraj Sarkuhi".
The European Parliament also expressed deep concern about "thethreats made against the judicial officials of [Germany] which has accusedthe leaders of the Iranian regime of direct involvement in the assassinationsof Iranian opponents in exile." [Iran Zamin News Agency, 2/20]
In an interview with Salam newspaper, Hojj. Mehdi Karrubi, a leaderof the hard-line Majma-e Rouhanioun, has confirmed that his organizationwill be supporting former Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Khatami inthe May Presidential elections. But he added that Nateq-Nouri appears headedfor victory. [Salam 2/19]
The Greek government has handed over two Iranian refugees to the IslamicRepublic authorities, during an official visit to Athens by IRI Vice PresidentHasan Habibi. Greek dailies confirmed on Feb. 20 that the refugees hadbeen sent back to Tehran on a direct flight from Athens the day before.
During his trip to Greece, Habibi stated his hope that Iran and Greececould further strengthen relations, and declared his eagerness to serveas a mediator between the Turkish and Greek governments over the loomingCyprus crisis. [Radio Israel 2/20]
Meanwhile, sources in Washington quoted Turkish officials as sayingthat a senior Greek official had recently traveled to the Bekaa valley,where he had met with PKK leaders.
Iranian newspapers published a statement by the head of the Ministryof Information and Security office in Kerend city (Kermanshah province)on Monday, Feb. 17, that fifty people had been arrested recently in connectionwith "espionage activities during the war with Iraq." [IRNA,Salam, 2/17]
It would appear the arrests were connected to the recent anti-governmentviolence in Kermanshah.
The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran has alleged that agents from theTehran regime have staged a wave of attacks against Kurdish refugees livinginside Iraq in recent weeks. Among the operations alleged by the KDPI:
- a Jan. 12 attack against a delivery van traveling to an Iranian Kurdishrefugee camp near the town of Suleymaniah in which two persons were injuredby gunfire.
- the Jan. 19 murder of Abdullah Pirotzadeh, an Iranian Kurd from thetown of Ushnavied, who was shot dead by "terrorists in the pay ofthe Iranian regime."
- the Jan. 22 rocket attack against a house used by a KDPI activistin the Ghala Sayda refugee camp near the town of Ranya.
- a Jan. 23 rocket attack against the same camp in which three personswere seriously injured.
- the Jan. 23 kidnapping of a sympathizer of the Khabat organizationand a sympathizer of the People's Fedayeen of Iran, who were handed overto the Iranian authorities.
- a grenade attack on Jan. 29 in the town of Ranya.
- a Feb. 1 mortar attack against a Kurdish refugee camp in Koy-Sanjak.
- the disappearance and subsequent murder of two KDPI activists, AbbasBadri and Ataollah Feizi, en route to Suleimaniya to seek medical attention.The two disappeared on Feb. 3; their mutilated bodies were discovered outsideof Suleimaniya on Feb. 12.
- a bomb attack on Feb. 7 near the house of a party activist in theBayajan refugee camp near Suleimaniya, which damaged several houses. [KDPIstatement, 2/17]
Seven teachers were arrested during a demonstration in southern Tehranon Feb. 16 in the Shahre Rey area, close to where oil industry workerswere staging a protest sit-in. The teachers were seeking a meeting withMr. Ghayouri, a representative of Ayatollah Khamene'i, to protest a lackof contractual benefits, when they were attacked by MOIS agents and LawEnforcement Force elements. [INP weekly bulletin 2/23]
Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, who had been in line to succeed AyatollahKhomeini as Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic but was deposed shortlybefore Khomeini's death, is said to be considering public action againstthe regime, including a call for "unlimited fasting," an oppositionnews service in Paris reported.
"Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has said he thinks the only way to stopthis despotic regime is to cut its revenues," according to a communiquéattributed to his office in Qom, where he has been under house arrest."Grand Ayatollah Montazeri added that if the economic boycott againstthe regime is reinforced and the sale of oil is stopped, the regime, notbeing able to pay its employees, those in the oil services, in the Army,the Pasdaran and the security services, will soon collapse," the oppositionnews service quoted the communiqué as saying.
"The attitude you have adopted (in governing the country) willlead to the destruction of both Iran and Islam," Montazeri reportedlytold Supreme Leader Khamene'i. "You should stop crushing under yourfeet people's aspirations to a better life and more freedom. You must alsoallow dissident clergy to participate in the elections and help you salvageIran and Islam."
According to the communiqué, Montazeri urged Khameneh'i to "makeroom for greater freedom for the people in choosing their own candidateas well as assuring free elections." [IPS 1/23]
A coalition of Iranian opposition groups in Europe, known as the IranianNational Conference, has written an open letter to President Clinton, callingon him to "convince the G-7 countries to unite and lead the internationalcommunity to combat the terrorist regime in Tehran."
The letter assails the European Union for its decision to continue "criticaldialogue" with Tehran, only days before the Chief Prosecutor in Berlinbrought charges against the leaders of the Tehran regime in the Mykonosterrorism trial. "Is it possible that the EU has buried its head underthe bottom line blanket? That 60 million Iranians are the sacrificial lambsas long as the European Governments can exchange their goods for the Iranianpetro dollars?"
The letter accuses the Islamic Republic for the house arrest of GrandAyatollahs inside Iran; or kidnapping and killing journalists and intellectuals;of having assassinated numerous opposition leaders in exile, and of supportinginternational terrorist groups.
"Mr. President, the Islamic regime of Iran does not represent theIranian masses," the letter says. "Their only popular supportis the people in charge and on its payroll. Over ninety percent of Iraniansare virtual hostages for lack of opportunity, unemployment, economic misery,social restrictions and political persecution. We support your stance againstthe terrorist regime in Tehran and we strongly urge your Government toconvince the G-7 nations to unite and leader the international communityin this effort. We believe democratic principals and justice should notbe compromised or sacrificed for economic gains or commercial agreements.The Iranian National Conference, an all inclusive democratic front seekyour support in its struggle to free Iran from its bondage."
The letter was signed by Hassan Massali, Ahmad Rafat, Parviz Zarghami,Amir Hossein, and Ladan [name suppressed] [INC letter, IPS 2/19]