Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – March 3, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included on-the-ground coverage of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s historic visit to Baghdad; UN deliberations on additional sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program; Iranian reaction to the most recent IAEA report; Iran’s economic problems; campaigning for the make-or-break presidential primaries in Texas and Ohio; anti-government student protests at Shiraz University; death penalties handed down to three Kurdish activists in Tehran and to a Baluchi student/journalist in Zahedan; star soccer player Ali Daei being named new head coach of Iran’s national team; and interviews with Nimrod Raphaeli, editor of the Memri Economic Blog, on Iran’s economy; with Tufts University Professor Vali Nasr on the current political situation in Pakistan; with former member of parliament Ghasem Sholesadi, lawyer Mohammad Safezadeh, political activist Maliheh Mohammadi, and opposition figure Manouchehr Ganji on upcoming parliamentary elections; with union spokesman Jafar Azimzadeh on continuing suppression of workers in Iran; with writer and journalist Pirnia Mansoureh on women’s suffrage in Iran; with State Department Middle East spokesman David Foley on sanctions and a host of other topics; on demonstrations against Britain’s refusal to grant asylum to a young gay Iranian wanted for trial in Iran because of his sexual orientation;
NewsTalk March 1 opened with a live report from PNN correspondent Nazy Beglari in Baghdad, where she reported on the imminent visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She said President Bush has stated Mr. Ahmadinejad must stop supporting insurgents in Iraq in order that security might be established. Since the US surge in troops, violence and murders have declined. The Iranian leader, then, will begin his landmark visit into what is still a hostile environment. Though officials in Baghdad issued the invitation, Ms. Beglari reported that thousands of Iraqis demonstrated against the Ahmadinejad visit, with protesters carrying signs reading “Iraq is not for sale” and “Ahmadinejad: killer of the innocent.” Relations between Iran and Iraq have improved since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Under Hussein’s rule, in the 1980’s, the two neighbors fought a protracted war that killed one million people. This visit is expected to cement relations between the countries’ Shi’ite-led governments.
VOA/PNN correspondent Nazy Beglari reported live from Baghdad March 2 on President Ahmadinejad’s historic visit. During a press conference with Ahmadinejad and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Ms. Beglari asked Ahmadinejad a question regarding the trust between Iran and Iraq, to which he and Prime Minister al-Maliki responded. This response was included in her report. After a red carpet welcoming ceremony with President Jalal Talabani, the two leaders held a meeting to discuss cooperation between Iran and Iraq. Mr. Talabani told journalists this first visit by an Iranian leader since 1979 showed the good relations their people now enjoy. He said they talked about many fields for cooperation such as the economy, security and oil. President Ahmadinejad stressed the shared culture and history between the two countries, saying his visit will open a new page in relations and cooperation that will move the region forward. Mr. Ahmadinejad also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. After the meeting, Mr. Maliki said the visit was a positive example that neighboring countries should follow. Note: Ms. Beglari interviewed Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowafaq Rabaie in Baghdad on March 1, which aired on News & Views March 2.
VOA/PNN correspondent Nazy Beglari interviewed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David Howell Petraeus, current Commanding General, Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I), in Baghdad on March 3. Both interviews are in the process of being edited and translated in Baghdad for air on News & Views March 4.
News and Views February 28 interviewed Nimrod Raphaeli, editor of the Memri Economic Blog (www.memrieconomicblog.org), on Iran’s economy, which he described as burdened by corruption and mismanagement. Mr. Nimrod said Iran has not been exploiting its rich and plentiful resources. “The crux of Iran’s economic challenge,” he said, “is its rampant corruption. It has exacerbated the sluggishness of the economy. Thirty percent of Iran’s youth is unemployed. Iran’s clerical rulers have been unable to address their pressing needs.” He said in order to attract domestic and foreign investment, Iran has to come out of international isolation. “International sanctions have deprived Iran of the confidence necessary for investors to put their hard currency to work.” Mr. Raphaeli said Iran desperately needs to upgrade its oil and gas industries with the help of Western technology. “But international sanctions make it impossible for Iran to avail itself the needed technology. Iran’s Central Bank recently announced that “not even a single dollar has been invested of late in Iran by foreign investors.”
News and Views February 27 interviewed the State Department’s Middle East spokesman, David Foley, on the likeliness of the UN imposing a third round of sanctions against Iran. Mr. Foley began by saying the United States will not work with European countries to offer Iran new incentives if it agrees to halt its uranium enrichment program. “Secretary Rice has repeatedly said she would meet with her Iranian counterparts at any time and location provided Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment. With Iran defying the will of the international community, now we have to ratchet up international sanctions not add to the incentives,” he said. With the Security Council edging closer to adopting a third set of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear defiance, and with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling the IAEA report a victory for the Iranian nation, Mr. Foley said that “the Iranian public would know the truth once a third set of UN sanctions go into effect whether this was a victory for Iran or not. They will soon realize the true cost of the blunders made by their government.” Mr. Foley added that the Russian envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow could back a sanctions resolution that the Western powers have drafted if Iran does not suspend enrichment.
News and Views February 28 talked with David Foley, the State Department’s Middle East spokesman, about sanctions. He said a third round of punitive sanctions that will be imminently imposed by the UN Security Council should signal to Iran that unless it complies with the demand of the international community, the pressure will not relent. “We hope that Iran suspends its enrichment and accepts the generous incentive package offered by the West. We hope we will have a unanimous vote in the Security Council. On President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that Iran has become the number one country in the world in terms of its power and influence is pure propaganda, more for domestic consumption that foreign. He said, “The United States hopes to have a different kind of relationship with Iran. I believe the Iranian people have the same wish.”
Roundtable with You March 1 examined Iran’s response to the IAEA’s most recent report and the probability of a third round of UN sanctions. Independent researcher Hassan Dai said the Iranian government keeps the public totally in the dark, adding that there has been no substantive debate in the country about the pros and cons of a nuclear program. He further claimed that Iran’s nuclear program is under the total control of Iran’s military and the Revolutionary Guards. Political scientist Kaveh Afrasiabi, author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy, said the IAEA report has justifiably been hailed by Iran as a “victory” since it confirms the satisfactory resolution of all the thorny “outstanding questions”. He added, however that the UN nuclear watchdog, which has had extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, some on short notice – such as nine “unannounced” visits at Iran’s uranium enrichment sites – in the same breath threw doubt on those alleged military studies by categorically stating that it does not have credible information in this regard. “Why should the IAEA attach so much importance to dubious information thrown at it by US intelligence that has all the markings of systematic disinformation?” he asked.
VOA/PNN covered a demonstration February 25 outside the British Embassy in Rome to protest the extradition of an Iranian asylum seeker, Seyyed Mehdi Kazemi. The flight that was to take the 19-year-old Iranian to London, and later to Tehran, was booked for February 26. Mehdi came to England in November 2005 to pursue his studies. Not six months later, back in Iran, his partner – Parham – was arrested and eventually executed for his homosexuality, but not before admitting a relationship with Mehdi. Iranian police have issued a warrant for Mehdi’s arrest with the intention of sending him to trial on charges of lavat, or sodomy. The British government has refused his application for asylum, saying he does not run any risk in Iran. Following this decision, Mehdi fled England and ended up in the Netherlands en route to Canada, but Britain formally requested his extradition in order to proceed with his deportation to Iran. Britain may deport him as soon as this week unless gay activists are able to persuade British officials to reverse the extradition order.
News and Views February 24 interviewed former member of parliament Ghasem Sholesadi on Iran’s upcoming election. He said as long as the Guardian Council oversees the election process and legislature, there is not chance to have democratic, free and fair elections. Mr. Sholesadi said Iran’s reformist coalition has announced it will take place in the March 14 balloting – despite the Guardian Council barring 90% of the reformists’ key candidates throughout the country. The coalition can now only hope to run for some 67 out of 290 seats up for grabs.
Roundtable with You March 2 focused on Iran’s upcoming parliamentary vote: Is it election or selection? Opposition figure Manouchehr Ganji, who was Minister of Higher Education prior to the 1979 revolution, said the distinguishing feature of the next Iranian parliament is that a majority of those who win seats will be members of the Revolutionary Guards. “This majlis (parliament) will be made up of one political persuasion with little presence of reformist ideas.” Mr. Ganji suggested Iranian citizens exercise their free will by protesting the selective balloting, but said those who feel compelled to vote should cast their ballots for women candidates. Most of the viewers who called in to the program expressed skepticism and outright hostility to Mr. Ganji’s recommendation of voting for women candidates, with the callers saying all of those on the ballot had to pass the vetting of the Guardian Council, so gender is irrelevant. Another guest, former student activists Roozbeh Farahanipour said, “If we compare Iran’s electoral process with Pakistan’s, we can see how far behind Iran is in terms of pluralism.” He said the Iranian public knows these are sham elections. “They are totally disengaged and disenchanted,” Mr. Farahanipour said. “They will stay away from the ballot box because the results are a foregone conclusion,” he said. “If there is low turn-out in small towns across the country, then it will deprive the regime of the legitimacy needed to govern.”
Today’s Woman February 26 focused on Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections with lawyer Mohammad Safezadeh in Iran and Germany-based political activist Maliheh Mohammadi. Iranians appear to fall into one of three categories regarding the elections: those who will vote and believe the elections are legitimate; those who are boycotting the elections; and those who believe the elections are illegitimate, but still think voting is better than not voting at all. Via phone from Iran, Mr. Safezadeh talked about the origins of the Committee for Freedom of Elections in Iran, which he chairs. He said the committee doesn’t advocate whether or not people should vote. It promotes awareness on whether the elections are carried out legally. “The people of Iran should have the freedom to vote, as they want without influence or repercussions,” he said. “There should be no corruption, cheating, or interference within the process of elections.” From Germany, Ms. Mohammadi said, “Traditional and intellectual women in Iran may have different outlooks on how to go about addressing the problems faced by women, but overall they have the same goals.”
News and Views February 25 reported that a Tehran court has sentenced three Kurdish activists to death on charges of “acting against national security” and moharebeh [armed opposition to the state]. Attorney Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee said the court ordered the sentences because Farzad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili and his client – Ali Heidarian – had “tried to destroy the Islamic Republic.” He said, “We are optimistic that the Supreme Court will reject the death penalty and re-open the case.” All three have spent the past 17 months in prison.
News and Views February 26 talked with the head of Human Rights Watch in Sistan and Baluchistan, Masood Balouch, about the death penalty handed down earlier this month against Baluchi student and journalist, Yaghoub Mehrnahad. Mr. Balouch said Yaghoub Mehrnahad’s activities were not “attempting to destroy the Islamic Republic,” as the court in Zahedan claimed. Rather, he was secretary of a youth association called “Voice of Justice,” which was legally registered and devoted to promoting literacy and providing aid to the poor.
News and Views talked with Mohammad Mehdi Ahmadi about student protests at Shiraz University this week. Mr. Ahmadi, who is a member of Shiraz University’s Islamic Association, said students overtook the university’s administration building to demand the resignation of Chancellor Mohammad Sadeqi. “His poor performance over the past few years is what prompted students to protest,” he said. More than 1,000 students overtook the building and reportedly forced the university head to flee out the back door, motivated by increasingly restrictive measures being imposed on campus. University personnel, as well as residents near the University, are said to have been supportive of the students.
News and Views February 25 reported on a powerful explosion that shook the city of Tabriz, a major city located in the northwestern corner of Iran. A local reporter, Peyman Pakmehr, told PNN the explosion was caused by the demolition of waste munitions by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian officials would not release any further information about the blast.
News and Views February 28 reported on the continuing crackdown on workers in Iran in an interview with Jafar Azimzadeh, the spokesman for the National Union of Dismissed and Unemployed Workers of Iran. He said a fourth worker, Tayyeb Chatani, was to be flogged for his participation in a May Day event last year, with another half dozen workers yet to be lashed. Three others had already been given 10 lashes and charged a monetary fine. A total of eleven workers were accused of disturbing public order and participating in the gathering, described as illegal by both civil and revolutionary courts in Sanandaj. Mr. Azimzadeh said lashing of the workers is a warning to the public that there will be increased oppression of Iranian workers. The union has issued a press release saying, “The judicial authorities of Iran are persisting with the execution of these sentences, and, as mentioned, have now issued a summons for Tayyeb Chatani. Mr. Chatani and the seven other workers [who were arrested for participating in the May 1 gathering] do not intend to report to the court for the execution of the sentence; so they may be arrested and the sentences may be carried out at any moment. Members of the National Union of Dismissed and Unemployed Workers in Sanandaj, as well as workers of Shahoo Factory, along with their families, have decided to assemble outside the court should these workers be detained for the sentences to be carried out.”
Today’s Woman February 28 focused on a report released by Amnesty International calling on the Iranian government to support, not suppress, women human rights defenders. Amnesty published details of 12 women’s rights activists who are currently being detained or are otherwise facing persecution because of their peaceful efforts to lobby for legislative change. According to the report, Iran: Women’s Rights Defenders Defy Repression, human rights defenders leading the campaign to end legalized discrimination against women are frequently arbitrarily arrested and detained, denied access to lawyers, family members and due process, and sometimes ill-treated with impunity by security officials. Panelists discussed the contributions of these women’s rights activists in trying to overcome the struggles of Iranian women. The report called on Iranian officials to abide by Iran’s international obligations to uphold women's rights and end legal and other discrimination. Panelists highlighted the role Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has played in raising awareness of human rights issues in Iran. Journalist Elahe Boghrat, a guest on the program, said, “The inclusion of the 12 women’s rights defenders in the Amnesty human rights report benefits the women’s rights movement in Iran and raises awareness about the struggles human rights defenders face in Iran.” VOA/PNN broke into the program to carry President Bush’s news conference live, and continued carrying the news conference in its entirety into the first hour of News and Views.
Roundtable with You February 27 addressed brain drain in Iran, where over 100,000 education citizens migrate each year. Denmark-based writer and human rights activist Roya Moghaddas said, “The realities of the Iranian socio-political situation are what is behind post-Islamic Revolution brain drain: political pressures, lack of hope for a bright future, and the search for learning, education and employment.” She said the opposition of religious authorities to anything Western and new and violence against women also prompt people to leave. Ms. Moghaddas said IMF statistics indicate 150,000-200,000 education Iranians flee the country each year. Discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities also has contributed to the massive exodus. She said Iranians in general have made a great contribution to the countries they now call home, something they were denied the privilege of doing in their land of birth.
News and Views February 28 reported on civil rights leaders John Lewis changing his support for Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in favor of Barack Obama. Mr. Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Atlanta, Georgia, is the most prominent black leader to defect from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign in the face of near-unanimous black support for Senator Obama in recent voting. Mr. Lewis also is a superdelegate who grants one of the very coveted votes at the Democratic Convention in Denver this summer. “After taking some time for serious reflection on this issue,” Congressman Lewis said, “I have decided that when I cast my vote as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention, it is my duty as a representative of the 5th Congressional District to express the will of the people...As a US representative, it is my role not to try to subdue or suppress the will of the people, but to help it prosper and grow.” Mr. Lewis considers the Clintons very close personal friends, and the decision to jump ship was, he said, one of the most difficult of his entire life. Political pundits, even Senator Clinton’s own husband – President Clinton – say she must win in Ohio and Texas on March 4 to keep pace with Senator Obama, who has 11 straight wins in nominating contests.
News and Views February 28 also reported on the sharp barbs thrown by Senator John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, and Senator Barack Obama, who momentum is propelling toward the Democratic finish line. Speaking in Texas, Senator McCain lashed out at Mr. Obama for saying, “If Al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad” He said he would reserve the right to take military action in Iraq if al-Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq. “If we left Iraq,” Senator McCain countered, “they wouldn’t be establishing a base, they’d be taking a country, and I’m not going to allow that to happen my friends, I will not surrender, I will not surrender to al-Qaeda.” Senator Obama, who along with Mrs. Clinton has said he would withdraw troops from Iraq, quickly answered back from a rally on Ohio, saying, “There was no such thing as al-Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.” Senator Obama said the war in Iraq forced the United States to divert attention from the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
News and Views February 26 interviewed Tufts University Professor of International Politics Vali Nasr on the current political situation in Pakistan. Mr. Nasr said Pakistan’s Army will still play a major role in the country. He said the West is now supportive of the new chief of the army, General Ashfaq Kayani, not President Parviz Musharraf. With President Musharraf’s retirement from the Pakistani Army, the military’s connection with civilian politics is formally separated. Mr. Nasr said, “There are security, economic and political problems in Pakistan. And the only way forward is for security and calm to return to that country.”
News and Views February 27 reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered her top Asia aide, Christopher Hill, to stay in Beijing for continued closed-door talks with Chinese officials over North Korea and its nuclear capabilities. VOA/PNN interviewed Bruce Klinger, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, on the matter, and he said, “Our best estimates indicate that North Korea has enough fissile material for eight to 10 nuclear bombs.” Mr. Klinger said the Bush administration has tried a different tack in its policy toward North Korea partly because of its Iraq experience. “It decided to put more emphasis on multilateral diplomacy to get North Korea’s full disclosure of its nuclear activities,” he said. “Whenever you have a nuclear program that is as advanced as North Korea’s program,” Mr. Klinger said, “in a country that is opaque and has had very little contact with the outside world, you need to worry about proliferation,” he continued. On the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert in Pyongyang, he said the concert doesn’t represent a “diplomatic coup” and relations will only improve when North Korea discloses its nuclear program.
News and Views February 29 reported on the chief US negotiator in the North Korea nuclear disarmament talks saying he may meet with his North Korean counterpart in the next couple of days. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters in Bangkok he may travel back to Beijing to hold talks with [North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator] Kim Kye Gwan. Mr. Hill said he “had some very good discussions” with Chinese officials this week on the stalemated talks. The United States is demanding North Korea account for uranium enrichment that Pyongyang has never publicly acknowledged. But North Korea says it wants promised energy aid first. In Bangkok, Mr. Hill said the performance of the “New World Symphony” by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Pyongyang symbolized what awaits North Korea if the country were to give up its nuclear weapons. “I’m a strong believer in music, especially if it helps them understand that to give up their nuclear ambitions is to really open up a whole world of possibilities for them.”
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about the IAEA report and its implications – that Iran has been lying all along about its nuclear program and that it has been in pursuit of nuclear weapons; how it could be more difficult to pass a third round of sanctions against Iran because of the NIE released in December 2007; how the current situation in Iran is similar to that of Stalin’s era in the former Soviet Union, where revolutionaries started eliminating each other; how young people demonstrated in Tehran’s Sadeghiyeh Square chanting, “We don’t want an Islamic government”; the concern of NGOs about the death sentences hanging over three Kurdish activists and a Baluchi journalist in Iran; the ongoing suppression of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran; how the Islamic regime wants to pass a law legalizing dismemberment; the poor treatment of journalists and bloggers in Iran; the smuggling of girls to neighboring countries as sex slaves; officials consider people just numbers – for example, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said, “We want to make the voting booths as crowded as possible. For us, it’s quantity – not quality – that’s important.”; how it would be better if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave $1000 each month to the poor instead of helping Hezbollah and Hamas; how Ayatollah Khamenei himself is behind the closure of www.nosazi.com; how Ayatollah Khamenei should bow to the people’s vote like Pervez Musharraf has in Pakistan; Lebanon turning into a battlefield, with Iran and Syria on one side and the United States on the other; Mr. Ahmadinejad saying the IAEA’s most recent report is a great victory for the Islamic Republic of Iran because the nuclear case of Iran is now closed; how Iranian officials said the same thing – “the case is closed” – when the NIE report was issued in December; how capital punishment for adultery is now going to be legalized in Iran; more than 700 city bus driver company employees being fired; unlike previous regimes, how the current government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using “all out force” to suppress the opposition; how the UN Security Council is getting closer to new sanctions against Iran; Mr. Ahmadinejad’s landmark trip to Iraq; the ongoing political crisis in Turkey due to the issue of the hejab; the US presidential campaign, and the British government’s refusal to grant asylum to a young Iranian homosexual.
Late Edition March 2 talked with Los Angeles-based sports analyst Dariush Zahab about the surprise appointment of Iran’s former star player Ali Daei as the new head coach of the national soccer team. Mr. Zahab said this was a radical move by the Iranian Football Federation in advance of a World Cup qualifier at the end of March against Kuwait. Mr. Zahab said, “Ali Daei was a great national player but he is not a popular person among Iranians. They don’t like him much. Some people believe he is doing business with government officials and is making a lot of money because of those relationships. That’s why I think this is a political move by Iranian Football Federation.” Mr. Zahab said he didn’t think Iran would qualify for the next World Cup in South Africa. “This is not the best choice the Iranian Football Federation could have made.” Ali Daei is the leading international scorer in football history. He only retired fully from playing last year and until now has coached a Tehran club, making him relatively inexperienced in leading a national team.
Today’s Woman February 23 looked at heart disease with Dr. Mohammed Naficy, a heart surgeon who practices in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. “With regard to heart attacks,” he said, “women have different symptoms than men, and they are less likely to realize they have heart conditions.” High blood pressure may increase the probability of having a heart attack and needs to be monitored. Diet and exercise are important tools for adults and children to avoid blood pressure problems. Panelists discussed some of the major risk factors associated with heart disease, from high cholesterol and high blood pressure to anxiety and the use of birth control pills. They also touched on First Lady Laura Bush’s campaign to promote healthy heart awareness the past four years. Dr. Naficy described the circumstances facing women in Iran regarding heart disease. “Most women do not take exercise seriously, and they are not advised to take it seriously. But by not exercising, harmful chemicals are unable to filter out of the body. Iranians used to have a more healthy diet, but people are paying less attention to nutritional content with the advent of more fast foods on the market….Children are less active than they used to be. Video games and television have replaced outdoor activities….Our money should not be spent on medicine; it should be spent on preventative care. With this in mind, cigarette smoking is the number one bad habit that should be broken.”
Today’s Woman February 24 broke its normal format to focus on three separate topics: cultural, political and medical. The first segment focused on the 24th of February, which was a holiday in ancient Iranian culture that commemorated women. Panelists talked about different dates being used in different regions to recognize the accomplishments of women, but noted that the most renowned is International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8th. Iranian government officials have tried to repress celebratory events by not permitting Iranian women to gather and commemorate this day. The next segment discussed the current status of Burma, which has drafted a new constitution prohibiting Aung San Suu Kyi from running in any national elections because she was married to a foreigner. (A British citizen, her husband, Michael Aris, died of cancer nine years ago.) The program highlighted the life and accomplishments of Aung San Suu Kyi, including her pro-democracy political work and the awards she has received. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Suu Kyi used the award money for education and health care reforms in Burma. The last segment highlighted the World Health Organization’s recent report regarding tobacco use, with the number of women smokers increasing significantly. If the number of people who smoke cigarettes continues to rise, the amount of tobacco-related deaths in this century may be top one billion.
Today’s Woman February 25 looked at the nominees and winners of the 80th Academy Awards ceremony, held in Los Angeles on February 24. Panelists talked about the nomination of Persepolis by Iranian filmmaker Marjane Satrapi for Best Animated Feature Film, which lost to Ratatouille. They talked about Persepolis not targeting a young audience while both Ratatouille and Surf’s Up, the other two nominees, went after the younger viewer. They also touched on the possibility of the current sensitive political climate in Iran as impacting Persepolis’s chances of winning. The next segment highlighted the films nominated for Best Picture, noting the win of No Country for Old Men. The last segment highlighted the nominees and winners of the four acting awards, noting that it was a clean sweep for Europe, with British citizens winning Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Best Supporting Actress, Tilda Swinton; a Spaniard, Javier Bardem, winning Best Supporting Actor; and a French citizen, Marion Cotillard, winning Best Actress. Panelists also touched on the humor of host Jon Stewart, who invented an imaginary award – the Baby – which he presented to the evening’s best pregnant woman: with nominees Jessica Alba, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and the prize going to . . . Angelina Jolie.
Today’s Woman February 27 focused on women’s suffrage in Iran, where women were not allowed to vote or be elected to the Majlis until 1963. Women’s suffrage was obtained after years of struggle and demands from women for equality. Writer and journalist Pirnia Mansoureh said it is important to acknowledge and understand the history leading up to women’s right to vote. “There are still issues confronting Iranian women today, particularly the law that prohibits women from obtaining custody of her children after a divorce. Additionally, women today are not as fully represented as they were in the past. Malaktaj Boroumand, a former member of parliament who now lives in California, said obtaining the right to vote was not easy. “Immediately following the announcement that women were given the right to vote there was an election. However, since the law had not officially passed through parliament, the votes of women did not technically count. Nonetheless women still took part in the election, voting more out of symbolic significance.” Ms. Boroumand said when she was a member of parliament, Iran’s population was approximately half its current size, about 35 million people, and there were 20-22 women in elected positions. Today, Iran’s population is around 70 million. There are two women in secondary cabinet positions and 11 in parliament.
Today’s Woman February 29 focused on the economic status of women with Nadereh Chamlou, a Senior Adviser of Social and Economic Development for the World Bank. Ms. Chamlou talked about the bank’s work, which includes giving out loans to governments. She said the World Bank also helps in relief efforts for areas where natural disasters have occurred, such as the earthquake which leveled Bam in 2003. Ms. Chamlou said the World Bank has found that more women are attending universities and receiving higher grades than ever before. She also said more women hold corporate office than is widely known. Ms. Chamlou said future World Bank projects include efforts to assist women who work in the non-official workforce.
Roundtable with You February 29 focused on challenges facing the Iranian economy with Siamak Shojaie, a Professor Economics and Dean of the College of Business at Hartford University in Connecticut. An economics student from Alameh University wrote an e-mail that opened the program: “Last night, our economics professor, who is a Principalist, said, ‘Western economic doctrines are the main causes of economic backwardness in Islamic countries, and we should not follow them.’ Continuing, the professor said, ‘We started to find the means of economic prosperity only three decades ago with Islamic teaching, and that will soon find its place through Islamic economic teachings all over the world.’ Mr. Shojaie responded, making a comparison between the economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the Asian economies of South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, China and India. In the past three decades, he said, “While the economy of many countries that are not even blessed with many natural resources are advancing, the Iranian economy is regressing.” Mr. Shojaie also talked about Germany during Hitler, and the system of economy that “brought the world to the point of destruction with rhetoric, lies and empty promises.” He compared those lies and empty promises with those pronounced daily by the leadership of the Islamic Republic.
News and Views February 28 reported that President Bush and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek are near agreement on placement of a US missile defense radar system in the Czech Republic. The two leaders met with reporters after a meeting at the White House. Mr. Bush said the system is being set up to deal with future threats from extremist regimes, and that Russia has nothing to fear from the missile defense plan He said Russia also faces a threat from rogue nations such as Iran. The president stressed the US missile defense initiative is aimed at bringing stability to Europe. He said it will be an asset to NATO and will respect the sovereignty of all nations that agree to host elements of the system. The Czech Republic still has reservations with regard to the standards that will be applied to guarantee environmental protection. Mr. Topolanek said, “That is a technical matter that is going to be resolved very soon.” Russia strongly opposes the plan and has threatened that if a base is set up on Polish soil it will target it with missiles. The deal with Poland is still pending.
Roundtable with You February 25 focused on the crisis over Kosovo’s declaration of independence with Elez Biberaj, Director of VOA’s Eurasian Division and author of Albania in Transition: The Rocky Road to Democracy. Kosovo’s declaration of independence has provoked a worldwide debate about the merits of recognizing it as a state. Mr. Biberaj said the declaration was the inevitable outcome in Kosovo, which has been under UN control since Serbian troops were forced out in 1999. Mr. Biberaj noted that the US and several major European countries immediately recognized Kosovo, but for historical reasons, “Russia is opposed to independence, saying it undermines the security of Europe.” He said the Russians believe Serbia should have a say in the matter. Mr. Biberaj said most Muslim countries, including Iran, have not recognized Kosovo even though a great majority of Kosovo’s population is Muslim.
Late Edition March 1 interviewed Paris-based film critic Darius Kadivar on the award-winning animated film, Persepolis, co-directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. Mr. Kadivar said that the film – adapted by Marjane Satrapi’s book of the same name – has been a huge critical and box office success, winning the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, as well as awards at multiple film festivals on three continents. It also was nominated for a 2008 Academy Award, but didn’t win. “Bu this is a great achievement for this Iranian writer and artist,” Mr. Kadivar said. He described the film in this way: “Persepolis is the story of the lost generation of young Iranians who had nothing to do with the Islamic Revolution, but who still had to leave their beloved country.
Roundtable with You February 28 looked at violence against women since the inception of the Islamic Republic with Shahla Shafigh, the Paris-based writer and human rights activist. Ms. Shafigh’s most recent book, Islamic Totalitarianism, was published last year. She was forced to leave Iran shortly after the revolution, but described her hopes and aspirations when she was a young university student in Tehran, saying her dreams were shattered when Ayatollah Khomeini announced mandatory hejab for all women. “Religious laws replaced civil laws. All women judges were replaced by clerics of one sort or another. The Islamic Courts began implementing Koranic – or Sharia – law, and the summary execution of opponents began.” Soon, she said, women were deprived of the privileges they had gained over the years since the Constitutional Revolution. “The practice of stoning by Islamic authorities against women has once again taken us to medieval age,” she said. Ms. Shafigh criticized Iranian intellectuals who joined the Islamists or kept silent against these abuses, and she showered praise on the women who have been struggling for equality and an end to discrimination over the past three decades. She also expressed gratitude to the international community for its support and recognition of the Iranian woman’s struggle.
This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of the assembly line, one of the most important technological innovations of the 20th century. In building his landmark Model T, carmaker Henry Ford put the concept of progressive progression, in which the work moves to the worker, and not the other way around, on a mass scale. It was a radical concept and produced stunning results. A second segment profiled actor and singer Dean Martin, best known for his comedic partnership with Jerry Lewis, as well as for his participation in the “Rat Pack.” He retired from show business after a 1988-89 concert tour with fellow rat-packers Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra. A third segment profiled one of Hollywood’s greatest enigmas, actor Humphrey Bogart. Physically, he wasn’t a typical movie star, but he became one of the screen’s biggest, with films such as Casablanca, The Caine Mutiny and The African Queen. A fourth segment profiled actor Clark Gable, “The King” of Hollywood, who starred in one of the most beloved films of all time, Gone with the Wind. He won an Academy Award for one of his first films, It Happened One Night. A fifth segment profiled Eleanor Roosevelt, who was not content to stand in her husband’s shadow; she involved herself in everything from newspaper columns to US delegate to the United Nations.
The semi-official FARDA news site in Iran published a story February 21 slamming VOA for its coverage of the Nosazi-Khomeini brouhaha and for supporting the Iranian web site, www.nosazi.com. The back story is that Nosazi (trans. Renovation) published an article accusing Hassan Khomeini for betraying the legacy of his grandfather, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. The official IRNA news agency said Nosazi had attacked the grandson for opposing the decision by hardline vetting bodies to strike leading moderates from the list of candidates for March 14 parliamentary elections. What the web site addressed was Hassan Khomeini’s failure to follow in his late grandfather’s path and for living ostentatiously well while so many in Iran are suffering: “We wish we also had a BMW . . . and breathed the posh northern Tehran weather . . . and had the pleasure of only observing oppressed people’s pain like you do.” IRNA reported that Nosazi’s managing director, Hossein Nobakhtian, was subsequently arrested and transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison.
FARDA took VOA’s NewsTalk, a journalists’ roundtable discussion program, to task, saying Jamshid Chalangi, NewsTalk’s host, “once again came to the defense of this site and said, ‘In England and the US, people can express themselves freely in the course of an election campaign. But in the Islamic Republic, just speaking about the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini gets the poor Nosazi web site closed.’ Chalangi, [who espouses overthrowing the Iranian regime], in his last program defended the Nosazi site and its insult to Hassan Khomeini….Chalangi, along with panelists Alireza Nourizadeh and Mohsen Sazgara, [defended the people’s right to insult Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson]. Chalangi strongly criticized the filtering of Nosazi’s website, saying it was illustrative of a lack of freedom of expression in Iran….This is not the first time web sites [in Iran] that claim to support the regime are supported by VOA and Radio Farda (which Kayhan reports are organs of America’s intelligence apparatus). Nor is it the first time articles written by VOA personnel are headlined on such web sites. When [former nuclear negotiator Mohammad] Hussein Moussavian was temporarily imprisoned [10 months ago], numerous websites – including RajaNews, Nosazi, SepehrNews and Edalatkhaneh -- published an article written by [London-based NewsTalk panelist] Alireza Nourizadeh, made up of statements he’d made on VOA. Many people in Iran believe these web sites are tools of those who would overthrow the government. Although government officials have criticized all of these web sites for their [superficial] support….they are getting more courageous daily in their avalanche of insults of the Islamic Republic.”
PNN’s question of the week was, “Do you think the latest report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed El-Baradei on Iran’s nuclear activities has been accurately published/broadcast by the state media?” Total votes: 9711 No: 8348 or 86% Yes: 1017 or 10% Don’t Know: 346 or 4%
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 a viewer in Rasht (a city in northern Iran on the Caspian Sea): “I am 24-years-old and graduated with a degree in engineering. My father died when I was very young, and I have come to look on [Jamshid Chalangi] as a father figure since I am learning about democracy and truthfulness from [him]. This is something you only rarely find in Iran. What is taught here is dishonesty and lies, hypocrisy, thievery and how to deceive others. Unfortunately, officials in the Velayat-e-Faqih [trans: Islamic government] have tried their best to transfer these ugly characteristics to the people of Iran. The regime, which claims God’s authority to rule on earth, lies in such a way that if one is naïve, one can easily be duped. When [IAEA Director-General Mohamed] El-Baradei’s report was issued, I was watching the VOA very carefully. The next day I was riding in a cab, and since I never watch the Velayat-e Faqih regime’s TV, happened to hear some very strange things on the radio: ‘nuclear victory…congratulations to the noble people.’ Officials one after the other spoke with such confidence that I questioned what I’d heard on VOA. I watched a re-run of the same VOA broadcast I’d watched earlier, and the next day watched new VOA programs. And then it came to me. Imagine what happens when the news is not accurate. [Iranian TV] claims all nuclear achievements have been by Iranian scientists. Of course, we do not have anything against the Russians, the Chinese and other engineers. Whether or not it is our achievement is irrelevant to me. But government officials turn our engineers and scientists into technicians, repairmen and factory workers. These jobs are honest jobs, of course, and they require expertise and experience. But none are the duty of an engineer. A student who cannot utilize a university laboratory, or has to spend money he doesn’t have, will never become a good researcher or engineer. You do a great service to Iran’s young citizens by broadcasting truthful news to them. I thank you and wish you all the best.”
From another viewer in Rasht: “I’m so thankful for seeing IRAN in a new light. I know you understand there is a difference between the people of today and the past….We are breathing, but with difficulty. No problem. What is important is that WE ARE ALIVE. WE WILL CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT BECAUSE WE ARE ALIVE AND AWAKE.”
From a viewer in Khuzestan province: “Thank you very much for providing valuable information to the Iranian people. When news of the IAEA report was broadcast, officials – thanks to the government “sugar dealer” – started distributing candies in the streets and alleys populated with bassijis (a mobilized paramilitary force that is part of the Revolutionary Guards). One interesting interview that was broadcast showed a bassiji saying, ‘This victory is due to bassiji diplomacy.’ I am hoping and looking for the day that our country will have an army we can be proud of.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “Last night in Sadeghiyeh Square, police stopped a woman, who was accompanied by her husband, because of hejab. Police asked the woman to get into a police van. The husband got between his wife and the police, and they proceeded to beat the husband. People in the area got involved and the police and the passersby started fighting. The police called for back-up support, and soon more policemen arrived. They started beating the people present and corralled some into a passageway where they hit them with batons as harshly as they could. I just wanted to let you know about this incident so that you could look into it further. Please let people know that other people are not afraid to get involved with the police force.”
From an Iranian viewer in Germany: “I was born in Iran, but I am now a citizen of Germany. I have been a fan of NewsTalk for some time, and try not to miss any of your programs. I thank you for your programs and appreciate that you are there so that we can find out what is going on in Iran, especially since those who are ruling Iran are not the right people.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “People donate blood for humanitarian reasons. But the officials of the blood banks are selling this donated blood to Germany. Shame on them.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “People in Iran are waiting for the right moment to rise up and get rid of these liars, but people are still scared and think that the rulers of Iran are messengers from God. Since watching your programs, we do not believe in them.”
From a 19-year-old male in Tehran: “I got to the protest in Sadeghiyeh Square late, but I noticed that everybody was talking about it with happiness and smiles which is a sign of hope. It was obvious that the participants were not government-paid like bassijis and guardians of revolution, but they were ardent and educated people. When the people tried to drive them off, they started chanting slogans saying they do not tolerate tyranny. I have to add that young people are not free to wear what they want and have no entertainment but the Internet.”
From a viewer in the northwestern city of Ardabil: “Following the trip of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Iran [last October for a Caspian Sea summit], one cleric said, ‘The Russian president’s trip to Iran caused Iranians to be proud.’ Is the trip of the president of a country that fought with Iran for 11 years in the past cause for pride for Iranians?”
From a viewer in Iran: “Thank you for NewsTalk. It is an excellent program. Please invite Alireza Nourizadeh to be a contributor more often.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Your NewsTalk programs are excellent, but the best are the ones you have with Alireza Nourizadeh and Mohsen Sazgara. I would like to let you know that I think your programs have a lot of influence on ordinary people. I would like your programs to be longer.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Most of your programs are among the best out of VOA. Although you start late in the evening, but I try not to miss them. Today you touched a very good point. Nobody had ever talked about seegheh (trans: temporary marriage). Seegheh is the basis for selling sex and trading Iranian girls in Persian Gulf countries. Thank you for bringing up this subject and please discuss more for your viewers. Selling Iranian girls is much more widespread than you think.”
From a viewer in Iran: “In my view, and the view of most of my friends, relatives and neighbors, NewsTalk is indeed a university. Every evening, we learn new subjects from NewTalk. And it is due to your expertise and programming that NewsTalk is produced so well. [Anchor Jamshid Chalangi] is key to NewsTalk’s success.”
From publicist Mojgan Gomroki in Los Angeles: I wanted to thank you for inviting Oscar nominees Habib Zargarpour and Kami Asgar to your show on February 23rd. As you know, among seventy million Iranians and eighty years of Oscars, we have seen only seven Iranian Oscar nominees. This makes each of them one in eleven million! As their publicist, I appreciate the platform you have provided over the past year for such artists. It is through your shows that for the first time Iranians across the world heard of their names, success and achievements. They have received an overwhelming number of e-mails from across the world expressing appreciation for their achievements and bringing a sense of pride to our people. Please accept my sincere thanks on behalf of myself, Habib and Kami.
From an Iranian couple in England: “The regime in Iran is a mullah-cracy dictatorship and the upcoming elections are not elections, but appointments. The best way for civic disobedience is non-participation – don’t go to the voting booths. All of the current parties are factions, and there is no political difference among them. All of them are fighting for the same thing: power.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I had in mind to participate in the upcoming elections in support of reformists, but having listened to [NewsTalk contributor Alireza] Nourizadeh, I have changed my mind.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I do not always have the time to watch Today’s Woman, but I do whenever I can and I really enjoy it. I especially enjoy the days when your program covers topics that we can learn something from. For instance, when you had a program about immigration or when VOA/PNN correspondent Hamed Behravan talked about education in America, the programs were particularly useful. Thank you so much.”
From a viewer in Thailand: “Thank you for your great program. I follow Today’s Woman every night. I would like to know if there is any way I can download one of your previous programs with Mrs. Nayereh Tohidi [Professor and Chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at California State University]. I could not find this specific program in your archive. Would you please tell me how I can find it?”
From a viewer in Shiraz: “Can you tell us about marriage and divorce laws in the United States? Please do a program on this topic so that I can make a comparison with the marriage and divorce laws in Iran.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Please cover more political and human rights-related issues on Today’s Woman. By the way, from your recent question of the week, I do not plan to vote in Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Thank you for holding [a debate on Iran’s nuclear program [on Roundtable with You March 1]. We all know that the IAEA report, which has been hailed as a victory by the regime, is bad news for Iran. They think we are blind and deaf and cannot tell that the report is quite damning. I wish Iran’s state-run TV had the gumption to hold such a lively debate inside the country and allow its critics the same kind of space as you do.”