Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – January 28, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included a decision of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany to seek new sanctions against Iran; the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina; Israel easing its blockade of Gaza and Palestinians flooding an Egyptian border town in pursuit of supplies; a public debate in London on whether it would be better to bomb Iran than to risk Iran getting the bomb; and interviews with German Ambassador to the US, Klaus Scharioth, on EU policy toward Iran; cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of the opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf Party in Pakistan on elections; British journalist Robert Tait on his expulsion from Iran; with John Lonski, the Chief Economist with Moody’s Investor Services, about fluctuating market; peace activist Nick Jehlen on a campaign linking Americans and Iranians by telephone; Iranian writer Sheida Mohamadi on cultural censorship by the Islamic Republic; veteran journalist Robert McMahon on the Council on Foreign Relation’s new web site on international issues in the US presidential campaign; economic forecaster Karim Pakravan on the looming recession; John Lonski, the Chief Economist with Moody’s Investor Services, about the fluctuating market; and Shaheen Fatemi, Professor of Economics and Dean of the Graduate School of Business at the American University of Paris, on the growing economic crisis worldwide.
VOA/PNN will have special live coverage tonight of the President’s last State of the Union address, beginning at 8:30 pm (5:00 am Tehran time) with a pre-speech discussion with two PNN political analysts, simultaneous translation of the speech and the Democratic response, and post-speech analysis. VOA/PNN’s congressional correspondent, Siamak Deghanpour, will report live from Statuary Hall, and we will be on the air until 10:30 pm (7:00 am Tehran time).
PNN’s daily call-in show Roundtable with You January 27 interviewed Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Klaus Scharioth, on European policies toward Iran. Ambassador Scharioth talked about new sanctions the UN Security Council is hoping to secure against Iran. He said if “Iran stops uranium enrichment, we will cooperate in the security of the region. We are ready to respect the right of Iran in achieving advanced technology for the purpose of peaceful nuclear energy. But conditions in the Middle East are complex. The government of Iran has lost the trust of the international community.” He said, “If you really intend to have peaceful nuclear energy, it is not necessary for you to enrich uranium, since Russia is providing you with the fuel.” Ambassador Scharioth continued, saying “We do not have any problem with the people of Iran. Our problem is with the Iranian government. In the international community, we are united, and we are in full agreement regarding Iran. In case Iran thinks that there is division amongst us, they are completely wrong.” Mr. Scharioth went on to say that Germany condemns the violation of human rights in Iran, “including the recent public executions which are a very inhumane form of punishment.” The German envoy also said in the case of Kazem Darabi, Germany’s judiciary released him after 15 years in jail despite the German government’s wishes. Mr. Scharioth said, “The judiciary in Germany is quite independent from the government.” Mr. Darabi was one of the men who assassinated four Iranian-Kurdish politicians at a Berlin restaurant in 1992. He returned to Iran immediately after being released from prison last month.
News and Views January 25 reported that diplomats from six world powers agreed to present elements of a third nuclear sanctions resolution against Iran to the full United Nations Security Council. Germany and the five permanent Security Council members met in New York Thursday to discuss the resolution aimed at pressuring Tehran to curb its disputed nuclear activities. A senior European diplomat told reporters the six world powers are committed to ensuring that the resolution process is inclusive and unanimous. He also said the proposed sanctions are targeted measures not intended to hurt the Iranian people. US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, visiting Israel Thursday, said the new sanctions resolution will be “punitive” despite earlier Russian remarks to the contrary. Mr. Burns said the resolution will ban travel by certain Iranian officials, limit the export of some items, and freeze Iranian assets. He said that in some cases, the measure strengthens existing sanctions on Iran. Mr. Burns believes, after the ratification of the draft, the EU will restart discussions on the bloc’s intended sanctions against Iran. He also characterized the statement of John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN – that Israel will attack Iran – as very extreme.
News and Views reported on the meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – known as the P5+1 – in Berlin on January 22. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the group has agreed on the content of a new UN sanctions resolution aimed at pressuring Iran to curb its nuclear activities, and that Germany, France and England will soon submit the new draft for discussion before the 15-member Security Council. He also called on Tehran to comply with current UN demands and, by doing so, make further sanctions unnecessary. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the P5+1 have reaffirmed a commitment to a two-track strategy, sending a strong message to Iran that it needs to comply with UN resolutions. He said the resolution penalizes Tehran while it offers incentives for officials to resolve the nuclear dispute diplomatically. US diplomats say the new draft resolution increases the severity of travel bans and asset freezes already imposed on key Iranians. Iran has said new sanctions would not stop it from pursuing a nuclear program.
News and Views January 26 talked with international energy analyst Bahman Aghaii Diba on the new sanctions the UN Security Council will discuss now that the five permanent members – the US, Britain, France, China and Russia – as well as Germany have agreed on a draft resolution. Mr. Diba said he expects the new resolution will be passed, in part because it is not very harsh. He said that during their deliberations last week, China and Russia were able to dilute the measures because their support is needed to move the sanctions forward, so the resolution isn’t as tough as some quarters feared – or as tough as some quarters wanted. He said this third set of sanctions against Iran would include restrictions on Iranian authorities’ foreign travel and the inspection of exports to Iran. Mr. Diba said the measures should be harsh enough to let Iranians know their government’s nuclear program is not worth the pain of sanctions, and that this could force hardliners in the government to comply with UN resolutions and suspend uranium enrichment.
Roundtable with You January 24 focused on upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran. Author and human rights activist Parviz Dastmalchi described the inner structure of the Islamic Republic where the spiritual leader, or Velayate Faghih, controls all aspects of the government, beginning with the selection of candidates for the national assembly. Lawyer Nemat Ahmadi, a former political prisoner, joined the show by telephone from Tehran, and said the Islamic organs that selected candidates also disqualified 3,000 others. What is surprising, he said, is that 17 members of the current parliament – as well as scores of former ministers, ambassadors, former parliamentarians and high officials – are among those who were on an announced list of those deemed not fit to run by the Ministry of Interior. Mr. Ahmadi pointed out that the next step is for the Council of Guardians, whose members are appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to approve the final list of candidates – meaning no anti-Khamenei or Reformist candidates will be on the ballot. Reformist journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, also appearing on Roundtable by telephone from Tehran, said former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former President Mohammad Khatami, as well as their allies, chose not to register knowing their candidacies would have been thrown out.
Legendary cricket champion Imran Khan, who is now an opposition politician in his native Pakistan, spoke January 24 at the Asia Society in Washington. Afterward, he spoke with VOA/PNN and said he will boycott elections scheduled for February 18 unless President Pervez Musharraf reinstates the judges he sacked when he declared a state of emergency two-and-a-half months ago. Mr. Khan said he thinks the upcoming election will be rigged [by President Musharraf] to ensure a compliant parliament, and that voter turn-out will be very low because of ongoing violence. Mr. Musharraf, in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum, pledged the elections would be peaceful as well as “fair, free and transparent.” However, Mr. Khan said reinstatement of the judges is essential if free and fair elections are to be held. Pakistan has been in crisis since November 3, when martial law was declared. The turmoil exploded at the end of December when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto – widely expected to win elections then scheduled for January 8 – was assassinated.
News and Views January 24 reported on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s comments on Iran at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The United States has no desire to have a permanent enemy in Iran,” she said, “even after 29 years of difficult history. Iranians are a proud people with a great culture, and we respect the contributions that they have made to world civilization. We have no conflict with Iran’s people, but we have real differences with Iran’s government – from its support for terrorism, to its destabilizing policies in Iraq, to its pursuit of technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon.” The Secretary said that the agreement between the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany showed “that we remain united, that we do not want Iran to become a nuclear weapons power, and that we will continue to hold Iran to its international obligations.” But she said this problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy. “Should Iran suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities – which is an international demand, not an American one – we could begin negotiations, and we could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship – one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences.”
Correspondent Siamak Deghanpour traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to cover the Democratic primary for VOA/PNN where he reported on Senator Barack Obama’s strong first place finish against Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards. Florida’s delegates are up next in a primary for both parties on January 29, the last balloting before the Super Tuesday, February 5, when 52% of all delegates from 22 states and one territory will be awarded.
News and Views January 23 interviewed veteran journalist Robert McMahon on the comprehensive Web site on international issues and the US presidential campaign launched by the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. McMahon helps shape editorial content for www.cfr.org. With the presidential primaries in full swing, Mr. McMahon says the site brings the same thorough, objective analysis that the council applies to global developments to the coverage of international issues in the campaign. More than 20 issue trackers provide up-to-date profiles of the candidates’ records, statements and policy documents on issues ranging from how they would handle the political crisis in Pakistan to Iran’s nuclear program. “The intended audience was meant to be Americans at first,” he said, “but now we have people from outside the country visiting our Web site too.”
News and Views January 23 interviewed British journalist Robert Tait of The Guardian, who was expelled earlier this year for his reporting on Iran without explanation. Iranian authorities declined to renew his visa and residence permit, and he was forced to leave the country despite an appeal on his behalf from The Guardian’s editor. He is the second British journalist to be expelled from Iran in the past six months. The expulsions come amid a general crackdown on press freedom in Iran: newspapers closed, journalists detained, self-censorship for those remaining. Two previous Guardian correspondents also were expelled from Iran, one in 2001 for interviewing a jailed dissident and another in 2004 for his reports on the earthquake in Bam. The Ministry of Islamic Guidance, which overseas media in Iran, says The Guardian is free to send another journalist. Mr. Tait said, “Iranian authorities wanted to apply the restrictions they usually impose on their own reporters to me as a foreign correspondent. You cannot cover a closed country like Iran without having to look over your shoulder all the time.” He said Tehran welcomes foreign correspondents initially, “But as soon as they try to give a true picture of what is going on inside the country, these reporters come under fire,” he said.
Late Edition January 23 talked with VOA/PNN staffer Kourosh Sehati on the participation of the Basij in elections despite a ban on such activity. The Basij are the volunteer paramilitary force established in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini. Today, they enforce Iran’s strict Islamic codes and come under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Basij monitor the activities of citizens, enforce the hijab and arrest women for violating the dress code, and disable satellite dishes. Mr. Sehati said one of the most notable political figures among the Basij is Iran’s prosecutor general, Saeed Mortazavi, a former judge implicated by human rights organizations as one of the most notorious in Iran in torture, illegal detention and coercing false confessions by numerous former prisoners. Mr. Sehati said another Basij active in elections is Hossain Taeb, acting commander of the Basij. The Islamic Republic News Agency reports there are currently 12.5 million Basij forces organized in Basij resistance bases throughout the country, five million of whom are women. Western security organizations estimate the number of volunteers as significantly lower.
VOA/PNN January 23 covered a public debate in London sponsored by The Spectator, where six journalists, scholars and diplomats faced off over the question, Is it better to bomb Iran than risk Iran getting the bomb? Before the debate, the audience members answered the question. 188 people voted for bombing Iran, 483 voted against and 195 said they didn’t know. A distinguished Italian political scientist, Emanuele Ottolenghi, argued that letting Tehran acquire nuclear weapons would create turmoil in the Middle East and beyond, and possibly spread proliferation even more widely. Former British ambassador to Tehran, Richard Dalton, was against bombing Iran, saying it wasn’t legal, didn’t have regional support, and the aggressors weren’t committed. British journalist Simon Jenkins said, “Iran is a sophisticated, complex, plural country. So why deny them the bomb?” He said an attack would make the region more unstable. After the debate, more of the undecideds decided they were against bombing than they were for it. 154 people voted for, 606 against and 53 said they still didn’t know.
News and Views January 25 interviewed John Lonski, the Chief Economist with Moody’s Investor Services, about the wild fluctuations in financial markets. “We need to worry about the retirement of baby-boomers and the burden this would add to our entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare,” he said. According to Mr. Lonski, even if the stimulus package that has been hammered out between congressional leaders and the White House does not save the United States from recession, at the very least it has the potential of reducing its severity. “The recession in the housing market is deep and has a ripple effect on other parts of the economy,” he added. “With people losing equity in their homes, they naturally reduce spending and slow down growth,” he said. Mr. Lonski said, “Moody does not foresee a severe recession,” he concluded.
VOA/PNN reported for the first time from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange January 24 with correspondent Nazy Beglari describing the mood of investors following a week of volatility on Wall Street and overseas financial markets. Before the US markets had even opened, she said, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke slashed a key interest rate three-quarters of a percentage point. The surprise move arrested the rout, and the markets have since rallied, but investors are left to absorb an unavoidable truth: the US, still the world’s biggest market for exports, appears to be in real economic trouble. “Nobody would escape unscathed,” she said, “if the US economy were to hit a wall.” The trouble, according to Ms. Beglari, stems from the sub-prime mortgage crisis which has led to many foreclosures in recent months. “If the world economy were a train, we’d now have a greater number of engines pulling that train. However, the biggest engine is still the United States and as a result, the speed of that train depends on it,” she said.
News and Views January 25 interviewed Karim Pakravan, a senior member of the Global Currency and Commodity Group in Chicago, providing middle market and mid-corporate bank clients with global economic and foreign exchange research. He also is on the faculty of DePaul University’s Business School. He said turmoil in the market began with the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States, and it will likely continue to have repercussions in both emerging and developing countries. “The recession could last as long as six months,” Mr. Pakravan predicted. “Banks are tightening credit, which will make it harder for businesses to grow.” As far as the exposure of US financial institutions to further losses, he said the figure could top $100 billion to $500 billion. “America imports 20 percent of the world’s good and services,” Mr. Pakravan said, “so if the United States finds itself in a recession, it will slow down the global economy. He said more than half of all Americans have their financial assets tied to equity markets, and that this will undoubtedly have a ripple effect as more people tighten their belts and consume less. That’s why this stimulus package proposed.
Roundtable with You January 25 looked at the growing economic crisis worldwide with Shaheen Fatemi, Professor of Economics and Dean of the Graduate School of Business at the American University of Paris. Mr. Fatemi said the US stimulus package is a timely remedy to avert the present crisis, but he said cooperation between Europe’s Central Banks and the US Federal Reserve System will be essential. He said uncontrolled home loans in the US housing industry contributed heavily to this crisis, and that a stimulus package is needed to put more money in the hands of the middle and lower classes to avert a recession. On the oil front, Mr. Fatemi said there is a shortage in production due to a lack of sufficient refineries to meet global demand. He said the recent increase in oil prices is due in part to increased energy consumption in China and India. These two giants, he said, are consuming more now than they ever have before.
News and Views January 22 reported that Israel eased its blockade of the Gaza Strip to allow some shipments of fuel and cooking oil into Hamas-controlled territory. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to ease the blockade following warnings from UN officials and international human rights groups that Gaza was on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. In addition to other Arab countries, Israeli’s blockade had drawn criticism from the only two Arab countries to sign peace deals with Tel Aviv, Egypt and Jordan. In an interview with VOA, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said Egypt views the blockade as “collective punishment” that, in his words, is contrary to the Geneva Convention. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations said, “This form of collective punishment is in a way a declaration of war against Palestinians in Gaza and, as it was characterized today, by Amr Moussa, as a war crime.” From London, Salam Fayyad, Palestinian Prime Minister said, “Life has become completely unbearable, and that situation should not be allowed to continue in the way it has been going.”
News and Views January 23 reported that thousands of Palestinians from Gaza flooded the Egyptian border town of Rafah to buy food, fuel and other supplies that have become scarce because of an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Egyptian border guards and police from Gaza’s ruling Hamas group took no action. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman (Arye Mekel) said Israel is concerned about chaos at the Gaza-Egypt border, which could permit the infiltration of arms and terrorists. Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza January 17, saying it is aimed at pressuring militants to stop firing rockets into Israel, but several days later eased some restrictions and allowed shipments of fuel and cooking oil into the Hamas controlled territory. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister said, “We don’t want a humanitarian crisis, but the Hamas government which is responsible for the launching of rockets into Israel, has to be weakened by all means.”
News and Views January 24 reported that Palestinians continued to cross into Egypt for second day to stock up on food, fuel and household supplies that have been scarce in the Gaza Strip since Israel imposed a blockade on the territory last week. Egyptian border guards are patrolling access roads to the region, directing traffic and preventing Palestinians from moving beyond the border area markets. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he ordered border security forces to let the Palestinians cross, as long as they are not carrying weapons. In New York, the president of the UN Security Council (Libyan Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi) said the body is nearly in agreement on a statement that would call on Israel to ensure Palestinian access to humanitarian aid. The draft also calls for an immediate end to the firing of rockets into Israel.
News and Views January 27 reported that Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit is warning that his country’s hospitality to Palestinians from Gaza will stop when Egyptian lives are put in danger. Mr. Gheit said Saturday that some 40 Egyptian border guards have been wounded in clashes since Palestinian militants knocked down barriers between Gaza and Egypt last week. Because of a two-week-old Israeli blockade that prevents goods from entering Gaza, thousands of Palestinians have poured into Egypt seeking food and supplies. Egyptian authorities are trying to use roadblocks to stop Gaza residents from traveling further into Egypt from Rafah. Residents of the border town say they are happy to help the Palestinians, but they say they are getting tired of the crowds, empty stores, and gasoline shortages the influx has caused.
Late Edition January 25 interviewed Los Angeles-based attorney Zohreh Mizrahi who represents the family of former Iranian Air Force officer Siavash Bayani, a US citizen. He returned home to visit his mother in 1997, but was charged with being a spy for the CIA, was beaten and tortured while detained at Evin prison, and finally executed. Ms. Mizrahi said, “This is the first case against the Iranian government involving its killing of a US citizen in Iran. This is the first case against the Revolutionary Guards since the US government classified them as a terrorist group.” She said Mr. Bayani didn’t work for the US government contrary to such allegations by the Iranian government. Ms. Mizrahi said a US federal court ordered the Iranian government to pay $466 million to Mr. Bayani’s family, and said they will be able to collect the awarded money by seeking Iranian government assets frozen in the United States. Iranian assets have been frozen in the US since Islamic militants took Americans hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
VOA/PNN reported on the phone lines set up between New York City and Tehran by the peace activist organization, Enough Fear. Organizer Nick Jehlen said the “Direct Line to Iran” campaign began in Boston last November. “It is basically the idea that there is a hot line between Iran and the US. It should be between our two governments, but right now we start with the people.” Mr. Jehlen said the project combines elements of participatory street theater with high tech communications tools to promote direct talks between the two countries in a bid to bring the voices of Iranians and Americans into a discussion that is being dominated by extremists on both sides. Enough Fear started its campaign two years ago as an Internet project. In the US, volunteers man phones on street corners and passersby can pick up a red phone line and talk to a counterpart in Iran. Iranian organizers have their volunteers work from the privacy of their homes to avoid risk of arrest and jail from waging the campaign in public.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy for civil rights in the United States; how the people of Iran need their own human rights movement, achieving change through peaceful means; the mistreatment of minorities in Iran; the country’s economic problems, including the high rate of inflation and unemployment, due more to government mismanagement than to sanctions; Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 14, and whether they can be free and fair; how Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to have a majlis, or parliament, in which there will be nothing but admiration and respect for him; the World Economic Forum in Davos; a call by the State Department for Iran to account for the death of a Kurdish student after he was detained in the western city of Sanandaj; why authorities refused to give the body of Ebrahim Lotfollahi to his parents; why they rushed to bury him in the middle of the night; the public debate in London where panelists discussed whether it would be better to attack or permit Iran to build a nuclear bomb; the decision by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany to recommend additional sanctions against Iran for discussion by the full 15-member Council; the possible impact of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s resignation on Iran; Iran’s increased presence in Latin America, such as the trip to Bolivia by a dozen economy experts to make trade and oil deals; how Hamas fits into Israeli/Palestinian peace talks; the thriving drug trade in Iran; the non-existent tourist trade in Iran; and the hardships people are still enduring on a daily basis in Bam, four years after a devastating earthquake buried much of the city.
Roundtable with You January 22 featured poet, writer and journalist Sheida Mohamadi, who lives in Los Angeles after moving from Iran two years ago. She has published two books in Iran and one collection of poetry, published underground. Conversation focused on cultural censorship and book publishing under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She questioned cultural censorship by the Islamic Republic and she criticized President Ahmadinejad’s administration for its irrational acts.
Today’s Woman January 22 compared the women’s movement in the United States to that of Iran’s with Iranian writer, journalist and social activist, Shokooh Mirzadegi. Unlike the US, where the women’s movement has garnered support, in Iran the women’s movement has been cracked down upon repeatedly. Panelists talked about the role of women in today’s politics, including Laura Bush’s role with education at the UN, Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House of Representatives; and Hillary Clinton’s effort to win the US presidential election. Women who have fought for human rights in the US paved the way for today’s women politicians.
Late Edition January 23 looked at the Persian collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The library has the largest collection of Persian language materials outside Iran, and includes over 50,000 volumes in Persian, manuscripts, maps, music and Persian movies. Recently, the Library opened its doors for an event in partnership with the Washington chapter of the International Society for Iranian Studies. The chair of the chapter, Mona Khademi, said the event was dedicated to the Library’s Persian language treasures. “Every year, the Library of Congress adds thousands of new items to its Persian language collection,” she said. “Some of the materials come from Iran, some from Afghanistan and others from the Iranian-American community in the United States.”
NewsTalk January 25 talked with Hormoz Hekmat, editor of IranNameh, a quarterly Persian-language journal of social science based in the Washington, DC, area, about the path that took him to IranNameh. Mr. Hekmat was born in Tehran, but his family moved to Tabriz when he was six-years-old. He said he was just beginning to develop political interests when he was in junior high school, at the time of the 1951 assassination of Iranian Prime Minister Ali Razm-Ara. Mr. Hekmat said he was particularly influenced by the nationalistic ideas of Mohammed Mossadegh as he continued his own studies in Switzerland and the US at Columbia University. In 1960, he and his friends founded a society of Iranian students in New York, which later expanded and became the world-wide Confederation of Iranian Students. He returned to Iran in 1963 and after the revolution, began to teach at a national university. He again left Iran, and this time headed for France, where he met up with Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah, and got immersed in politics once again.
Today’s Woman January 25 focused on the life of university students in the United States. Discussion focused on rules and regulations of American colleges for newcomers and what extra processes international students must undergo. Panelists talked about applying for financial aid before joining college and how to locate helpful tools on the Internet. They also touched on enrollment, scholarships, accessibility to resources, the relationship between students and professors, and how the Internet, sharing information and virtual communication impact studies. Panelists discussed non-academic matters, including life on campus and life off-campus, talking about the freedoms given to American students. They also briefly talked about violence on campus, citing the massacre at Virginia Tech in April 2007 in which 32 students were killed. Panelists advised Iranian youth who want to study in the US to improve their English language skills and to focus on science-related subjects to increase their chances of being accepted at an American university.
Discussion on Today’s Woman January 26 was devoted to puberty and polycystic ovaries and featured an interview with pediatric endocrinologist Rosa Sherafat-Kazemzadeh, an assistant professor at Georgetown University Medical School. Dr. Sherafat-Kazemzadeh said treatment of delayed puberty helps prevent psychological issues as well as poor metabolic outcomes, such as osteoporosis. She answered many questions direct from viewers: “My 15-year-old daughter has not started her menstrual periods yet. Should I worry?” “If a girl doesn’t develop any secondary sexual characteristics by age 14,” she said, “it is worrisome. Also, if she has developed breasts but has not started menstrual periods by age 16, she needs a medical evaluation.” Another viewer asked, “My 13-year-old son is the shortest boy in his class. This has emotionally affected him. What should I do?” “Some boys with enter puberty late and experience the growth spurt late. In most cases, reassurance is what is needed. If a boy doesn’t show symptoms of puberty by age 14, he should be evaluated.” Dr. Sherafat-Kazemzadeh then talked about treatment options for polycystic ovarian syndrome. She also talked about complications of untreated PCOS, and said they can include infertility, increased cardiovascular complications, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. She said women can screen for PCOS with an oral glucose tolerance test.
VOA/PNN interviewed Mojgan Khadem, a young Iranian filmmaker living in Australia, who wrote and directed the award-winning film, Serenades. In the film, which takes place in central Australia in 1890, a beautiful girl is born of an Aboriginal mother and an Afghan father on a Christian mission at the edge of the desert. She is a reluctant traveler between the worlds of her parents. Ms. Khadem said, “I didn’t want to say who is better or who is worse in this film. I think people around the world have their own beliefs which are important to them and we can’t blame them for that. But the point is that people should not impose their beliefs on each other.” Two prominent Iranian filmmakers praised Serenades. Actress and director Roya Arianpad told VOA/PNN, “I think it is a very interesting film. Especially the ending, when the Aboriginal girl starts searching for her roots.” Mr. Hassan Fayaad, founder of the Film Society of Los Angeles, said “Our viewers showed a very good and positive reaction to this film, and I am very happy.”
Late Edition January 26 interviewed Iranian-Canadian pop singer Hengameh. The young singer left Iran in 1992 and began singing when her family moved to Vancouver. She has released two albums and is working on her third one in Los Angeles, which is where VOA/PNN caught up with her. “I was born in Lahijan,” she said, “but moved to Tehran when I was a child.” Hengameh said her father was the first person to believe in her talent. “It was very difficult in the beginning, but I had a great team who supported me, and I thank them for helping me make my dream come true.” She noted that she is classified as a pop singer, but said she also has some songs with social and political themes. “I have received many e-mails from Iran and they enjoy my music very much. There are many young girls who want to be artists or singers but can’t because of the Iranian government. I hope I will be able to come back to my country someday and sing for my people.”
This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of physicist Albert Einstein, who in 1905 proposed his special theory of relativity which dismissed the traditional notion that time and space were absolute concepts, suggesting instead that both vary with circumstances. By 1915, Einstein summed up his theory with the mathematical equation E= mc² (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared) and in 1921 won the Nobel Prize in physics for the broad implications of his work. A second segment focused on offshore oil drilling as one of mankind’s greatest technological feats, how these superstructures revolutionized the search for crude oil and the environmental costs of such work. A third segment looked at the complicated principles of fluid and aerodynamics the ancient Chinese had learned and were practicing 2500 years before modern air travel in the kites they flew, the boats they sailed and the children’s toys they made. A fourth segment profiled legendary film actor Kirk Douglas, tracing his life and career from an impoverished childhood in upstate New York through his stardom in Hollywood. The week’s fifth segment focused on the 2004 tsunami caused by a 9.3 earthquake – killing more than 200,000 people in 14 countries.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – answered several e-mails from viewers asking about employment opportunities at VOA/PNN. Mr. Mahmoudi referred them to the official web sites of the IBB (www.ibb.gov) and USAJOBS (www.usajobs.com). A number of individuals asked whether people with views opposed to the US government’s positions are allowed to be on the air. Several more cited the recent case when a NewsTalk anchor did not give sufficient time to a guest who opposed US policy in the Middle East. Mr. Mahmoudi said, “First of all, PNN welcomes a variety of opinions. Several programs, including NewsTalk, Roundtable with You and frequently Today’s Woman, demonstrate PNN’s impartiality and its tolerance toward opposing views and opinions. That is the main difference between a broadcasting organization that operates in a democratic society and media controlled and managed by a dictatorial government. Some PNN viewers don’t want us to invite those who aren’t in compliance with their political beliefs. It is important for us to listen to a breadth of opinions and to draw our own conclusions. Peaceful talk and debate are very healthy and important. We at PNN try our best to comply with this credo. Doubtless, mistakes are made, and sometimes a guest might be given as much time as another. We will do our best to be more careful and to remain balanced and always authentic.”
PNN’s question of the week was, “The Islamic republic says Ebrahim Lotfollahi, a student from Sanandaj, committed suicide in prison. Do you agree or disagree with what the government says?”
Out of 9,939 respondents, 6% said yes, 90% said no, while 4% did not know.
The Kuwait Times January 23 ran a story written by Hengameh Hosseinpour on what Iranians are watching on television these days. He said one-third of all Iranians have access to satellite broadcasts, despite the government’s 14-year ban on owning satellite TV equipment, and can access more than 3,000 channels. “The success of such private satellite channels,” he wrote, “has prompted foreign governments to step up their efforts to transmit Farsi-language broadcasts into Iran. Among the most popular of these is the Persian service of the Voice of America. Operated by the US government, the channel has attracted a large audience because of its high-quality programming and because it is seen as the only independent source of Persian-language TV news. The channel claims to have 10 million viewers a day, and is considered one of the most important sources of news and information in the country. The channel’s popularity has prompted the BBC to launch its own Persian news channel.”
The Persian News Network’s television programming complements its radio broadcasts. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four Iranian households tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs also are streamed on www.voapnn.com.
PNN’s 7-hour program block opens with Today in Washington, a brief look at the latest news developments in Washington, as well as the content of PNN’s upcoming programs. Then we present cultural programming translated into Farsi from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of news breaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, PNN’s newest program, had its debut September 27, 2007. The one-hour program features influential women from around the world discussing a full spectrum of topics, including social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, is now 2 hours in length, and features live news coverage of the latest headlines from Washington, Iran and across the globe. Roundtable with You is a talk show with expert guests, featuring discussion of current events, politics, popular culture and global health. Viewers and listeners from Iran and around the world participate in the show via phone calls and e-mails.
Late Edition begins with a wrap up of the day’s news and a close look at the day’s top story. Targeted to a younger demographic, the show also features segments on health, technology, sports, entertainment and culture. NewsTalk is a new journalists’ roundtable discussion program that features a news update followed by an examination of the day’s top stories and an in-depth look at issues relating to Iran.
PNN INSIDER – VIEWER PERSPECTIVES
From London-based political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh, a VOA contributor: [While participating on January 23’s NewsTalk] “I called on President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Vice Presidents Ahmad Zia Masood and Abdul Karim Khalili, as well as Yunus Qanooni, Speaker of the Afghan Parliament, to pardon Parwez Kambakhsh, the young journalist sentenced to death in Balkh. Early the next morning, Vice President Khalili called me to say, ‘We Afghans will never forget VOA’s support for us against the evil forces of terrorism, and we appreciate your concern for Parwez’s life. I assure you he will be pardoned. The President, myself and the rest of [the Cabinet] will not ignore our friends’ plea for the life of Parwez.’ [Editor’s Note: A court in northern Balkh province sentenced 23-year-old Parwez Kambakhsh to death in a closed-door trial January 22 without a defense attorney present. The Balkh University journalism student and reporter for the local daily, Jahan-e-Naw, was reportedly arrested for distributing anti-Islamic literature after downloading an article from the Internet that discussed the Koran and the rights of women in Islam and giving it to friends.]
From a viewer in Iran: “Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful program on the nonviolence movement on [Roundtable with You] January 21, 2008. It was great to hear Prof. Gene Sharp, one of the most well-known experts in the nonviolence movement around the world on your program on VOA/PNN. He was great, and your VOA team was wonderful. This was one of the best Roundtable programs I’ve watched. The topic of the nonviolence movement and how we can make it more effective in today’s Iranian society needs to be discussed more. We need to hear more about how others used this kind movement to achieve their goals.”
From a viewer who watched the January 23 broadcast of Late Edition that included a segment on the largest collection of Persian language materials outside Iran: “Could you send me a link to the Library of Congress?” [Editor’s Note: The URL for the Iranian World section of the Library’s Near East Collections is http://www.loc.gov/rr/amed/guide/nes-iranianworld.html]
One viewer in Shiraz sent in a two-page letter to VOA/PNN’s ombudsman, thanking us for our programming and offering five suggestions that could improve those programs: “1 - Younger generations of Iranians within Iran are much more sexually liberated than their parents yet they are lost in translating this into their normal behaviors…please try having more programs pertaining to issues that are still taboo in Iran. 2 – Other issues are nationalistic misunderstandings and prejudices… matters that stop Iran from joining the larger world community. 3 – Exaggeration, self-righteousness and narrow-mindedness have become a big part of the Iranian’s psyche and needs to be discussed more frequently. 4 – Today’s Woman can be a great program in educating Iranian women on how to have a better life…yet most of the issues discussed have no relevance to what is actually happening in Iran and to grassroots Iranians…Today’s Woman seems to target ….the high end of Iranian society, programs that cannot connect with the poorly educated poor Iranians that comprise most of the country outside of Tehran. i.e., Who cares how the wife of an American senator (John Kerry) lives or thinks when an Iranian woman does not know or cannot even choose her husband, raise her kids up to today’s standards or educate her kids properly? 5 – Iranians are not accustomed to debates, and the Islamic government-controlled media machine intentionally avoids such dialogue by all means…A few days ago on News and Views, [one of your guests expressed views I found distasteful, but which had every right to be expressed. Your anchor tried to limit his airtime.] But I strongly believe other perspectives must be heard and discussed. For the last 30 years, all we hear from the opposition is condemnation of the Islamic government in Iran. But this has not swayed Iranians in Iran to change their government….Hearing debates and other perspectives might help us in our plight and change conditions in Iran.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “Two nights ago, you [Setareh Derakshesh] resumed being anchor of News & Views. We are pleased [she has] returned from your overseas assignment [covering President George Bush’s visit to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt and the Gulf]. We all have fond memories of President Bush’s speeches over the years, and we are going to stay up and watch his State of the Union speech on Monday night. All reporting from the Middle East was excellent. We’re all proud of what you do at VOA. May God bless you and all your PNN colleagues. Thank you for inviting [State Department Middle East spokesman David] Foley [on your show] again tonight. Your newscast was excellent, as always.”
From a viewer writing to Late Edition’s new segment, “The Youth Factor,” which addresses the concerns of the younger members of our audience: “I’ve seen VOA/PNN and I really like it. I want to say that everything in Iran is limited. For example, [there are shortages of Gas and Oil]. But in Mashhad and many other cities we also have water shortages. In fact, we have water only three days a week. We really have a problem with showers, with [toilets], with cooking, with all of the things you need water to do. I want you to read my e-mail on the air so that other Iranians around the world will know we are in a PRISON here in Iran.”