Iranian lawyer Mohammad Assadi, who was arrested in 1993 on chargesof spying for Israel, membership in the Lions Club, the Free Masons, aswell as for importing American agricultural machinery and equipment, facesimminent execution by the Islamic judiciary, family members said last week.The lawyer's daughter, Camelia Biau-Assadi, said in Paris she feared thereal reason behind her fathers prosecution and conviction was his refusalto cede ownership of his lands to certain ayatollahs who had been eyeinghis property. She acknowledged that her father had traveled to Israel (asdo many Iranians), but as tourist before the revolution. She also deniedthat her father had ever been belonged to a Masonic organization. [IranPress Service 5/9]
The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is concerned with Mr. Assadi'splight, and calls on the Tehran authorities to grant him a fair and publictrial, with the right to defense.
The European Parliament passed a resolution on May 14, expressing solidarityfor the victims of Iranian government terrorism and announcing that it"supports all the democrats opposed to the present Iranian regimewho are fighting to establish a truly democratic and secular state in Iran."The resolution urged the European Union "to put a definite end tothe 'critical dialogue' with the regime and to enhance dialogue with allthose promoting the transformation of Iran into a democratic state."
No specific groups were mentioned in the statement, which also condemned"in the sharpest possible terms the persistent acts of state terrorismperpetrated by the Iranian government at home and abroad." [EP statement5/14]
The leftist Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution, a group headed by formerHeavy Industries minister Behzad Nabavi, has warned of widespread fraudin Friday's elections by supporters of Majlis speaker Nateq-Nouri, anddecried what it called the "amazing move" by the Council of Guardiansto ban election monitors from polling stations. The monitors were seenas a real guarantee against election fraud, and were to include representativesof all four candidates. The group also complained of interference by theRev. guards and bassij force commanders in the elections through theiractive support of Nateq Nouri, and the proliferation of leaflets defamingchallenger Mohammad Khatami. [Salam 5/18]
Foreign policy issues have been remarkably absent in the current electioncampaign - as they are in many countries struggling with immense economic,social, and political difficulties. But at a press conference on May 18,Foreign Minister Velayati gave another reason why foreign policy was notan issue: because the regime's foreign policy options are all designatedby Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene'i, making any debate moot.
There have been numerous reports recently of clashes between the LEFand Khatami supporters. On Saturday night, May 18, the LEF arrested youthsdriving cars festooned with photographs of Khatami. The arrests were carriedin the Sunday editions of Resalat, Keyhan, and Salam. On Monday, the FrenchPress Agency estimated that 100 youths had been arrested on Saturday. Alsoon Monday, Rev. Guards Brigadier Youssef Reza Mir Abelfathi, commanderof the Tehran LEF, said that more than 280 persons had been arrested inTehran for "illegal acts" in connection with the elections. [RadioIsrael, 5/19, quoting Tehran press reports].
A surprise two-week recess of the Majlis has provoked a furor amongpro-Khatami deputies who believe the break was orchestrated to benefitMajlis speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri. The Majlis Presiding Board declaredthe recess on May 8, without any warning. Deputy Majlis Speaker HassanRohani gave two reasons for the recess: the need for lawmakers to returnto their constituencies during the elections, and the Muharram mourningperiod.
80 Majlis deputies wrote to the Presiding Board to oppose the recess,which they claimed was "a politically motivated move in the interestsof one particular faction," Majlis deputy Samad Qassempour told IranNews. "The break will enable the deputies to go back to their constituenciesto campaign in favor of a particular candidate." Another Majlis deputy,Ghulam Haider Ibrahimbaie Salami, echoed Qassempour's concerns, and voiceddoubts that the state-controlled radio and television would remain neutralduring the election campaign.
According to the Presidential Election Law, the four presidential candidateshave equal access to the media to introduce their programs. [Iran News,5/8] On Monday, May 12, Salam (which is pro-Khatami) reported that morethan 190 out of the 270 members of the Majlis have openly declared theirsupport for Nateq-Nouri [5/12] The director of the Statistics Center ofIran, Abbas Zali, announced that a total of 33 million are eligible tovote in the forthcoming election. [Tehran Times, 5/11]
An INP activist has been arrested by the security forces in the Kurdishcity of Boukan, the party's Youth Organization says, for having distributedleaflets calling on citizens to boycott the Presidential elections. KhosrowKordpour was apparently one of several hundred INP activists arrested onFriday, May 16, the party announced in Tehran. The INP claimed that "familymembers of those arrested gathered in front of the LEF stations and askedfor the immediate released of their loved ones," many of whom hadbeen beaten and tortured in jail. [INP statement 5/17]
INP leader Darioush Forouhar told a Los Angeles radio station by telephonethat he believed "people are indifferent to the presidential electionbut the leaders of the Islamic Republic want to portray it as a popularmove." [Radio Sedaye Iran 5/16]
Daily Keyhan reports that 51 persons have been arrested on charges oftearing down election posters. The daily said the detainees were all employeesof a company belonging to the Tehran Municipality, which publishes Hamshahrinewspaper, a strong supporter of Khatami's candidacy. [Keyhan, 5/14] Meanwhile,in the "Hello, Salam" column of Salam newspaper, a reader claimsthat the paper has disappeared from Tehran news stands because "somepeople are buying and destroying your newspaper." [Salam, 4/28]. Salamis a major Khatami supporter, too.
A little-known opposition group, the NAVID organization, has threatenedthe regime and regime-officials with terrorist attacks, unless they cancelthis Friday's elections. In a statement issued in Germany by spokesmanHomayoun Moghaddam, the group said that unless the elections were canceled,"the military operations of the Babak Khorramdin Organization (BKO)will be resumed throughout the country."
BKO claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Iranian officialsduring the early 1990s, and against the Swiss subsidiary of Bayer, whichwas attempting to ship biological warfare production gear to Iran in 1992and 1993.
NAVID said it would use the BKO to launch attacks "against thefollowing targets: the leader of the Islamic Republic, the heads of executive,judicial and parliament powers, the Minister of Intelligence, heads ofthe General Depts of the MOIS with the exception of the Counter/IntelligenceDept, foreign experts and advisors to the MOIS, heads of censorship sectionsin the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, heads of censorship sectionsin the Radio and TV organization, commanders of the Ghods force of theRev. Guards who are involved in planning and executing assassination attemptsagainst opposition elements, heads and commanders of Ansar-e Hezbollahorganization in the cities of Mashad, Tehran, and Shiraz, Minister of Post,Telephone and Telegraph of the Islamic Republic, and all the authoritieswho are responsible for the torturing and harassment of political prisoners."
The group also said it would begin a series of publications aimed atexposing "the financial, political, and social corruption of the leadersof the regime." [NAVID statement 5/19]
Challenger Mohammad Khatami stressed "social justice" and"national solidarity" in his major election speech, soundingmany of the themes that have seen him branded as a "liberal."Although Khatami has been publicly associated with Rafsanjani's "pragmatist"faction, these themes have long been associated with the "radical"faction, which favors greater state control over the economy, suggestingthat Khatami's true ideological roots may be with them. [IRIB 5/10]
Nateq-Nouri made his official presentation three nights later, on May13, focusing on the economy, the ills of inflation, but also devoting alot of time to the Velayat-e Faqih, which is fast becoming a real campaignissue. On the morning of Nateq-Nouri's speech, Jomhouri-e Eslami questionedKhatami's loyalty to the Velayat-e Faqih, which is the ideological underpinningof the regime, saying that in recent days he had "openly questioned"it as a principle of government. [Jomhouri-e Eslami 5/13]. In an earliereditorial, the paper attempted to delegitimize Nateq-Nouri's opponents,Khatami included, by accusing them of "being against the Velayat-eFaqih." [5/11].
It has also reported that Ibrahim Yazdi, Ali Akbar Moinfar, and EzatollahSahabi were rejected as candidates because they all had crossed out thesection regarding "Velayat-e Faqih" in their registration form[Jomhouri-e Eslami 4/30]
Ayatollah Khamene'i weighed in (again) on May 13, in an address to employeesof the state broadcasting service. "How is it possible that therewould be no idea about one of the candidates?" he said. "In myopinion, the election of the best candidate is only natural" [TehranRadio 5/14].
Khamene'i's support for Nateq-Nouri has been widely commented upon inthe Tehran press. Ansar-e Hezbollah has again been insulting Khatami as"disloyal" to the Islamic republic, this time in leaflets distributedin the city of Kermanshah [Salam 5/10].
One Khatami supporter wrote to Salam that he feared Khatami would beassassinated by his opponents [Salam 5/10]
The endorsement of Nateq-Nouri by the Association of Qom Seminary Teacherslast fall was called into question by two of its members who argued thatthe endorsement should not have been given before Khatami entered the race.The two dissenters, Ayatollah Masudi Khomeini (no relation to RuhollahKhomeini) and Ayatollah Seyed Jaafar Karimi disputed the endorsement ininterviews with Hamshahri and Salam. [Iran News, 5/1]
Ayatollah Meshkini touched on the same theme by warning against thosewho believe in "the American brand of Islam." In his Friday prayersermon in Qom, he said that when Khomeini wrote to Mr. Gorbachev, "hesaid that the Islam that he was referring to was the Islam which our nationcalled the American Islam. This Islam compromises with everything. It compromiseswith bullying, with bullies. You should elect someone who is the followerof the pure Islam." [ IRIB, May 3]
In a stunning reversal for Khatami, the Central Council of the influentialworkers organization, Labor House, announced that it would not be supportingany particular candidate, despite their long-standing ties to Khatami'sleftist supporters. Instead, they issued a call to members to vote forany of the three front-runners, all of whom were the "most qualified".The Khaneh Kargar, or Labor House, is a worker organization that extendsits influence across the country among workers and traditional families.In the past, the body, headed by 'Ali Reza Mohjub, put its support behindleftists, including Majma'-e Rohaniyun-e Mobarez, the Militant ClericsSociety. During the 5th Majlis elections last year, it supported the pro-RafsanjaniServants of Construction, or G-6. [Iran News, 5/7]
"Right now, Mr. Khatami is facing an uphill task because of thesilence of the Labor House," an unnamed Tehran analyst quoted by IranNews said. With Labor sidelined, Nateq-Nouri is banking his victory onthe wedge of votes from farmers, who comprise 45 percent of the total population,the analyst said. "Mr. Nateq-Nouri expects that 80 percent of thefarmers will cast their votes in his favor," the analyst said. "BothMr. Nateq-Nouri and Mr. Khatami are closely fighting for the votes of governmentemployees, and Mr. Khatami will succeed in receiving comparatively morevotes from major cities." [Iran News 5/18]
"We lack technical know-how for the opinion polls at least at thisstage of our election history," admitted Iran News. Another flaw isthat those who are conducting these polls are affiliated to one or theother political faction," the newspaper said. [April 30] The latestpoll, conducted by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance's NationalCenter for public Opinion Studies and Assessment, showed 40.8 percent supportfor Nateq-Nouri with Khatami trailing with 33.8 percent. The poll was conductedin Tehran and was based on interviews with 1,182 people. [Akbar, 4/30]
In a meeting with the families of martyred commanders, Supreme LeaderAli Khamene'i harshly criticized those who have shown signs of "leniencytoward the United States" and have not taken a "stand againstglobal arrogance and the arrogant spirit of aggressor governments."His remarks were seen as direct rebuke to Khatami who has vowed greaterpolitical and personal freedom if elected.
"Why should some people speak of human rights and women's rightsin a way that runs counter to the view of Islam or talk as if we had tobring our views closer to those of the Westerners?" Khamene'i askedwithout directly naming Khatami. "It is the Westerners who shouldbring their viewpoints closer to ours. They should correct their wrongviews about human rights, women's rights and democracy and should adaptthem to the views of Islam," he said [Iran Times, 5/8]
The day before Khatami had attended a question-answer session with teachersin which he said women would have a place in his government. Khatami saidthat half of Iran's population were women, but that they "have notbeen provided with equal opportunities alongside men throughout history."Khatami also stressed the virtues of tolerance." It is necessary webecome accustomed with each other, stand beside each other, present ourviews, (and) not resort to sanctities in order to eliminate those whomwe do not like, leaving judgment to the people." He called for expandingthe "civil society" in Iran. [Tehran Times, 5/7]
42 intelligence agents of the Tehran government have been warned byGermany to leave German soil, the opposition Nimrooz weekly reported recentlyfrom Munich. The 42 persons "are well known elements who have beenin the service of the Islamic Republic and have spied for the Islamic Republicembassy in Germany," the London-based weekly said. Nimrooz added thatthe German government believed the 42 persons were connected to "someevents" which have happened on German soil., and that the German authoritieshave launched a series of investigations into individuals suspected ofspying against Iranian refugees and opposition figures in Germany. [Nimrooz5/9]
A prominent Iranian lawyer and former judge told a Tehran-based women'smagazine recently that Islamic Republic laws are "against women."Ms. Shirin Ebadi, who is also a professor at Tehran University, told Zanan("Women") magazine that the nation's laws "are extremelyanti-women. Even the right of existence for men and women is not the same.If a man kills a woman, the family of the woman must pay millions to thefamily members of the man if they want the court to punish the man."
She noted that under the Islamic Republic, girls can legally be marriedas of the age of eight and a half, with a provision that a girl's guardian(father or grandfather) can legally commit the girl to a marriage partneras of birth. "If a girl who has married a man at the age of 9, andhas delivered a child by the age of 13, looses her husband and decidesto work in order to feed her child, according to the law she cannot becausethe minimum working age is 15. How is such a young mother supposed to carefor her child?" [Quoted by Nimrooz, 5/9]
Yet another Iranian writer, Hesamedian Nabavi-Nejad, has been arrested,and continues to be subject to harassment by the intelligence ministry,an Iranian cultural group said last month in Sweden. Mr. Nabavi-Nejad isa well-known lawyer and the editor of Zendeh Roud magazine, which was recentlybanned in Isfahan, an exile journal said. The Pouya Art and Cultural Clubin Sweden issued a statement on April 27 claiming that Nabavi-Nejad hadrecently been arrested and jailed for one week by the MOIS, and was stillbe harassed by MOIS agents after his release. [Nimrooz 5/2]
Saudis stationed agents at Jeddah Airport in order to distribute freebooks on the life, the thoughts, and the decrees of Muhammad Bin-'Abd-al-Wahhabto the pilgrims, charged daily Keyhan. The free books were in Farsi, English,Malaysian, Indonesian, Turkish, and any other language spoken by the pilgrims.The newspaper added that the Saudi agents were also handing, a copy ofthe Koran, "thus making any decent person ashamed to reject the offer."Keyhan claimed that the free books were scattered on the floor at JeddahAirport and no one was keen on reading them. "The style used by theauthor of the books--at least the ones in Farsi--was very Afghan and asthough written by someone like the Talebans. This showed that the author,the publisher, and the financier did not know anything about the differencebetween Afghan and Farsi literature. But what can one do when the studentsof the school of Muhammad Bin-'Abd-al-Wahhab--that is, the Talebans inSaudi Arabia--are unable to understand such things?" [Keyhan, 4/28]
In a response to a letter from Dr. Khosrow Akmal, the Secretary Generalof the Constitutionalist Movement of Iran (CMI) to the Prime Minister JohnMajor last month, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has repliedthat Britain "will continue to work with our EU partners to put pressureon Iran to improve its behavior," although the FCO believed that "thebroad international support for sanctions against Iran does not exist."The FCO reply, dated May 7 (after the elections that swept Labor Partyleader Tony Blair to power), put human rights at the top of the EU andBritish agenda, and said the UK had "no intention" of letterthe Sarkuhi affair drop. "We take a very serious view of all humanrights abuses in Iran and work closely with our EU partners through theUN machinery to maintain pressure on Iran to improve its human rights record."[FCO letter to CMI, 5/7]
Colonel Hassan Aghilipour, the leader of a "Crisis Cabinet in Exile"based in Paris, has called on the international community to impose a travelban on Iranian diplomats and other officials from the Tehran regime becauseof their terrorist activities. "Establishing a critical dialogue,allowing the free circulation of Iranian officials in the world, and continuingsensitive trade with this regime is a crime of complicity with those whohave committed crimes against humanity and who threaten peace in the regionand in the world," Aghilipour said in a statement addressed to EuropeanForeign Ministers. "We ask you this time to defend the honor of theFree World and of the civilization of the third millennium, by taking aninternational decision against the leaders of that country and not againstthe oppressed people of Iran. Sufficient measures exist - legal, economic,and political - that would exclude Iran from the international community."[5/12 statement]
Ayatollah Mehdi Rouhani, the leader of the Shiite community in Europeand a member of the FDI board, has called on the international communityto "to forget the political situation in Iran" and come to theaid of Iranians whose villages were devastated by the recent earthquake."It is time for every Iranian and Iranian opposition group to setaside their political differences with the regime and try to help and toheal the victims of this tragic event," he added. [5/13 statement]