Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – March 17, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included parliamentary elections in Iran; an interview with reformist parliamentarian Nouradin Pirmoazen that triggered a maelstrom – and charges of treason – at home; the flurry of news coverage of the Pirmoazen interview; a poll conducted in Iran by Terror Free Tomorrow showing “Iranians are simply not inspired by any of the candidates” on the ballot; and interviews with a wide range of journalists, union leaders, student leaders, lawyers and politicians on the elections; the State Department’s annual human rights report and its findings that the situation only worsened in Iran in 2007; the 20th anniversary of the chemical bombardment of the Kurdish town of Halabcheh by Saddam Hussein’s regime; continuing unrest on Iranian campuses, particularly at Shiraz University; the International Women of Courage Awards; the Noor Film Festival in Los Angeles; and interviews with nuclear weapons expert Hans Blix on the IAEA’s recent report on Iran’s nuclear program and new ways to encourage Iranian cooperation; with State Department official Erica J. Barks-Ruggles on the human rights situation in Iran; with the Deputy Director of Programs at Freedom House, Daniel Calingaert, on the non-profit organization’s work to promote democracy and freedom; with former Iranian Budget and Planning Minister Abdol-Madjid Madjidi on Iran’s economy; with lawyer Mohammad Hossein Aghasi on the status of the legal case of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran one year ago; with State Department Middle East spokesman David Foley on the appointment of Muslim-American Sada Cumber as the US representative to the OIC and on sanctions against an Iranian bank in Bahrain; and with the US representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Mandana Zand Karimi.
VOA/PNN programming the past week focused on events leading up to March 14 parliamentary elections. Preliminary reports indicate conservative candidates will win about 70 percent of the seats in parliament. But results also show a split in Iran’s conservative camp between radical supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his conservative critics. One prominent conservative critic, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, won a landslide victory in the city of Qom. Iranian reformists expect to win at least 40 seats in the 290-seat parliament, about the same number they hold now – a performance some reformists described as a success. The regime claims 60 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Anecdotal information puts the total lower, with many Iranians boycotting the elections to protest the massive disqualification of candidates deemed inappropriate by the government.
Reformist parliamentarian Nouradin Pirmoazen gave Roundtable with You a behind-the-scenes look at Iran’s parliamentary elections on March 9, creating a big backlash at home. Mr. Pirmoazen – who is spokesman for the minority faction in the Iranian parliament, or majlis, a position equivalent to Senate Minority Leader in the US – was disqualified by Iran’s Guardian Council from running for re-election in the 8th majlis. VOA/PNN opened the Roundtable program with footage of some of Mr. Pirmoazen’s speeches from the floor of the majlis in Tehran, with one sound bite showing him criticizing the domestic policy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government as resulting in “poverty, inflation and corruption.” He also is shown talking about the necessity of “building bridges with the West,” something the current government opposes. Mr. Pirmoazen also is shown criticizing Mr. Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy and harsh rhetoric, saying it isolated Iran from the rest of the world, adding that his comments about the Holocaust were against Iran’s national interest. In yet another sound bite, he said he believes the US is a better partner for Iran than Russia. On Roundtable, Mr. Pirmoazen amplified the criticisms he’d made at home, referring to the disqualification of reformists from the upcoming majlis elections as a “political massacre.” He said he thinks the majlis is becoming a tool for the Supreme Leader and government of Iran, and that the Iranian regime is moving toward a “military-ruled dictatorship.” However, Mr. Pirmoazen encouraged Iranians to participate in the elections, possibly because he wants reformists to keep their minority presence in the parliament.
Iranian hardliners immediately condemned Mr. Pirmoazen, accusing him of committing treason by granting the interview. IRNA, the state-run news agency, quoted Iranian Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie as saying, “This has definitely been treason and an appalling act. The law bans people in such positions from interviews with foreign radio and television. The Intelligence Ministry will certainly probe this and will not ignore it.” Numerous news agencies covered the interview and its aftermath, including AFP, BBC, Gulf Times, Times Online, Fars News Agency and Press TV. Some excerpts:
Agence France Press: “Iranian hardliners charged leading reformers with being too close to Iran’s Western enemies, days ahead of an election expected to see conservatives consolidate their hold on parliament…. a leading reformist MP in the outgoing parliament was sharply rebuked by conservative figures for giving an interview about Friday’s elections to the Persian service of the US-funded Voice of America television…. leading reformist MP Nouradin Pirmoazen [talked] to the VOA, a channel heartily disliked by Iran’s Islamic leaders. [He] criticised the disqualifications of reformists and raised doubts about the importance of the elections in the interview, which was roundly mocked on state television news late Monday. ‘Some go to the foreigners and criticise the parliament, the government and the system on American television,’ outgoing parliament speaker Gholam Ali Hadad Adel seethed at a major conservative rally in Tehran. ‘This is neither defending independence nor principals,’ he added. Another MP Elias Naderan commented according to the Fars news agency: ‘Parliament is not a place for spies and asylum seekers.’”
BBC: “The Iranian intelligence ministry has accused a leading reformist MP of committing treason by speaking to an American-funded television channel. The ministry is investigating the interview given by the MP, Nouradin Pirmoazen, for the Persian-language service of Voice of America. The MP criticised the disqualification of hundreds of reformists from Friday’s parliamentary elections in Iran. Mr. Pirmoazen is among those who have been barred from standing….In the interview, Noureddine Pirmoazen criticized the disqualification of reformist candidates by the Guardian Council, and cast doubt on the significance of the elections. Iran’s leaders regard Voice of America, and other foreign television stations that broadcast in Persian via satellite, as vehicles for propaganda against the Islamic republic. A ban on satellite dishes in Iran is widely flouted.”
Fars News Agency: “Certain media outlets are reporting the possibility of the spokesman of the reformist camp in the Majlis not returning to the country following a trip to the US. Others are saying that he is in the US to attend a medical conference….Although many reformists who are critical of the government are running for the elections and are strongly criticizing the government in the media, Pirmoazen claimed: Opposing the government and the president were the main reasons for the disqualification of the reformist candidates….He did not say however, how he – who holds strong and radical views – could enter the sixth and seventh Majlis through an election which is a show and based on cheating.”
Press TV: “Iran’s Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie has said that his ministry will not overlook an MP’s interview with VOA. Referring to the Voice of America’s interview with Iranian lawmaker Nouradin Pirmoazen, Mohseni-Ejeie noted that even someone who is not currently a lawmaker should avoid giving interviews to foreign media. He pointed out that the Intelligence Ministry intends to follow up the case.”
Britain’s Times Online: Iran’s hardline leadership today began a fresh crackdown against political opponents before elections to be held at the end of this week, announcing an investigation against a leading reformist for “treason.” As the last day of a muted campaign before Friday’s largely discredited parliamentary poll neared an end, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, denounced Nouradin Pirmoazen, a reformist spokesman, as being guilty of an “appalling act” after he criticized the regime during an unauthorized interview with an American-backed television channel. During the interview, broadcast by the Persian-language service of the Voice of America this week, Mr. Pirmoazen became the second reformist leader in a matter of days to denounce the regime’s decision to disqualify 1,700 candidates — including himself — from standing in the elections.”
The Australian: “Iranian hardliners yesterday charged leading reformers with being too close to Iran’s Western enemies, days ahead of parliamentary elections expected to see conservatives consolidate their hold on parliament….a leading reformist MP in the outgoing parliament was sharply rebuked by conservative figures for giving an interview about tomorrow’s elections to the Persian service of the US-funded Voice of America television.”
News & Views foreign correspondent Nazzy Beglari traveled to Dubai to gauge the attitude of members of the Iranian Diaspora as well as Iranian tourists on the upcoming elections. All had decided in favor of a boycott because the selection process of candidates left them feeling that they had no real choices. For fear of retribution, none of those interviewed revealed their identity or real names. A businessman we interviewed said the mere fact that he could not openly express his opinion was insulting to this dignity. A video artist and Iran-Iraq war veteran said the current elections were meaningless and that he would not vote again in Iran until there was real freedom and the economy was better. The businessman we interviewed suggested that sanctions against Iran were hurting the economy and that he was having trouble getting credit for a loan as a result. Because religion and state are so intertwined and only candidates who supported the Islamic Revolution were allowed to run, important issues such as unemployment and the economy were not sufficiently addressed.
News & Views interviewed Mehdi Khanbaba-Tehrani, a well-known Iranian political analyst based in Germany, on the controversy generated by VOA/PNN’s interview with a leading reformist in the Iranian parliament, Nouradin Pirmoazen. Mr. Khanbaba-Tehrani said the dictators who are ruling Iran needed political chaos to be the hot topic before the upcoming election, and did so by characterizing Mr. Pirmoazen as a traitor. He said Iranian authorities’ harsh reaction to the Pirmoazen interview shows they do not even try to hide their hostility to Iran’s constitution and civil rights. Mr. Khanbaba-Tehrani said it is ironic that Iranian hardliners say anyone who talks to foreign media or foreigners is acting against Iran when they themselves talk to foreign media and foreign officials in Iran and abroad.
News and Views March 16 reported that mid-term elections for the Assembly of Experts took place in four towns – including Tehran – on March 14, the same day as parliamentary elections. Editor and columnist Amir Abbas Nakhaee of Sarmayeh, a well-known newspaper in Tehran, told PNN, “It was the ruling circle’s goal to enter Ayatollah [Mohammad Reza] Mahdavi Kani to the Assembly of Experts, and that goal was achieved.” Mr. Nakhaee said because he is a hardliner, Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani could balance Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s position as the reformist speaker of the Assembly. The Assembly is a deliberative body that is charged with electing and supervising the Supreme Leader of Iran.
News and Views March 13 interviewed former member of Parliament Ghassem Sholeh-Sadi, who said the Iranian election is designed to concentrate power in the hands of people he called “insiders” who use all the levers of power to outmaneuver and drive out their reformist critics. He said these conservative groups have usurped all important centers of power and according to the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, a legislative body does not have any meaning because all laws come from divinity and cannot be in any way interpreted or amended. “Our legislative body is a farce and cannot be called a real Parliament where actual legislation happens like other countries,” Mr. Sholeh-Sadi said. “This regime cannot stand the idea of having a loyal opposition. We saw this when the reformists enjoyed a majority in Parliament, but watched all their efforts in pressing a reform agenda stymied by the Guardian Council, a non-elected body that was created to ensure that legislation passed by Parliament is in compliance with Islamic rulings and teachings.” Mr. Sholeh-Sadi said he has decided not to take part in these elections.
Late Edition March 10 reported on the results of a survey conducted in Iran by a US non-profit organization called Terror Free Tomorrow, which conducts public opinion polls to find out why people support or oppose extremism. The poll showed Iranians do not strongly support the ballot choices offered to them and that they also continue to overwhelmingly favor better relations with the United States, a full democracy for Iran, and concessions on the nuclear issue. Nine out of ten Iranians want to elect their Supreme Leader and other leaders. But the most popular choice is not on the ballot. A third of Iranians said they would vote for “Neither” the Conservatives nor the Reformists. “Iranians are simply not inspired by any of the candidates.” Meanwhile, former President Mohammad Khatami warned that the Islamic Revolution, and even Islam itself, “may not keep its current course forever.”
Roundtable with You March 13 focused on parliamentary elections being held in Iran. The elections have been the subject of debate and discussion amongst Iranians, both in and out of the country since the inception of the Islamic Republic nearly three decades ago. Some strongly believe any participation in the process of voting legitimizes the regime and prolongs rule by the clerics. Others believe that choice is limited between bad choices and worse choices. Veteran London-based journalist Masoud Benoud believes that participation is a must, although he feels the current election is the worst since the start of the Islamic Revolution. Mr. Behnoud said three out of four candidates were pre-selected by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. But he said that leaves one out of four candidates that should prompt people to get involved. This opinion was not shared by other participants in the show. Various political organizations political parties, labor unions, and university students – through e-mails and calls – expressed an opposing view. Massoud Salamati, a member of Central Committee of the Democratic Front of Iran, spoke with PNN by phone from Iran. He said, “The election doesn’t solve our problems. The regime is not willing to cede power to elected representatives of the people.” Mr. Salamati also said the disqualification of candidates was in violation of the constitution and human rights. “Any participation in this election is a vote of approval for the regime,” he said. Another guest from Iran, who appeared on the show via telephone, was Ali Akbar Pirhadi, a member of Tehran’s bus drivers union. He said he believes the real issues for Iranians on the eve of Norooz are the bad economy, inflation and unemployment, and that “people couldn’t care less about this election.” Viewers who called in echoed these latter guests.
Roundtable with You March 14 was a continuation of the previous day’s program, again focusing on parliamentary elections, this time with London-based political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh. Hundreds of e-mails poured in during the past 24 hours, during the one-hour duration of today’s program a record 174 e-mails were received, and the e-mails continued to pile up after Roundtable concluded for the day. Mr. Nourizadeh gave an update on the elections, reporting a total lack of interest on the part of the Iranian people for the “government-staged election production” – this, despite the clergy’s utmost efforts to encourage people to vote. He said many clerics even resorted to advising people that voting is a religious duty. But people had no ear for such counsel on the eve of Norooz, Iranian New Year, which starts March 19. One caller from Tabriz questioned not only the legitimacy of the election, but the legitimacy of a constitution that permits “selection” in the name of election. Another caller from Azerbaijan talked about the deceptive tactics of the regime, with officials’ description of “today’s election as a great victory” an example of their smoke and mirrors. Roundtable with You March 15 talked with Tel Aviv-based Middle East analyst Meir Javdanfar about parliamentary elections. He said Iran’s elections were far from perfect and certainly not up to the standards we are familiar with in the West, but they are still more democratic than those held in the neighboring countries allied with the United States like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “Even Palestinians were able to hold a more democratic election that Iran two years ago when they held theirs and led to Hamas coming to office,” he said. “For Iran there are a lot of models to follow. But for the Supreme Leader of Iran, following these models would threaten his position of power.” Mr. Javdanfar said reformist candidates will have more clout and be more effective if they win more seats in this election. “They will be to challenge some of Ahmadinejad’s policies especially in the economic area where Ahmadinejad’s track record leaves a lot to be desired,” he said. One important feature of the new Parliament will be a greater presence of Revolutionary Guards leaders. “This means,” he said, “that the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has come to depend on leaders of the Revolutionary Guards to keep him in power….the new parliament will have more members from the Revolutionary Guards than it has ever had before.”
Today’s Woman March 16 focused on parliamentary elections. According to the Iranian government, out of 43 million eligible voters, 60% participated in the balloting. The United States and the European Union both said the electoral process in Iran was not democratic and was not carried out legitimately. Panelists discussed the reasons why fewer women voted than in the past, and whether women’s issues and concerns will be addressed by the incoming members of parliament. They highlighted the discriminatory nature of laws toward women in Iran, and noted that although the Iranian Constitution equates men and women, Islamic interpretation and implementation of Sharia law endorses women as second-class citizens. Panelists also discussed inheritance laws, noting the recent passing of a law that grants more leniencies toward religious minorities than to women. Prominent Iranian lawyer Mohammad Hossein Aghasi said it doesn’t matter what laws the parliament makes because the Guardian Council has the power to veto any legislation passed through the parliament. He said, “It is very important for women to challenge the laws that prohibit their liberation. However, because the majority of the members of Parliament are men, the concerns of women often go unheard and unimplemented.” Mr. Aghasi said there is a strong division between constitution and Sharia law, and Iran’s implementation of Sharia laws disallows Iran from fully abiding by international standards.
News and Views March 16 talked with human rights activist Morteza Anvari about elections in Iran. He said the Iranian President’s populism and his attacks on the West trumped criticism of his handling of the nation’s financial crisis as early results showed the hardline leader winning strong support in parliamentary elections. Reformist parties opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood little chance in Friday’s voting. Hundreds of reformists, including high-profile candidates, had been removed from the ballot by the Guardian Council, a body of clerics and jurists that scrutinizes candidates for loyalty to the country’s Islamic system. Mr. Anvari said this election was not conducted by world standards, and noted that the EU has said it cannot accept the results as the election was not free and fair. Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was elected to parliament with 75% of the vote. As a conservative opposed to President Ahmadinejad, Mr. Anvari said it is unclear whether Mr. Larijani can pull together a conservative coalition to balance the President’s religious hardliners. Political allegiances in Parliament are often difficult to gauge, with some members modifying their ideologies when they take office.
News and Views March 14 interviewed dissident Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who is now living in exile, about parliamentary elections. He said that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei claims Washington is encouraging the Iranian public to vote and cast their ballots in favor of reformist candidates. “A lot of individuals and groups have argued for a boycott of the election and I include myself in that camp,” he said. “If there are political groups that encourage the public to participate in the vote, then they owe it to the electorate to propose a program of reform in the fields of economics, culture and politics.” Mr. Ganji argued that even the reformist camp admits only a third of the seats in the new parliament are competitive and if all reformist candidates are elected, they will not be able to pass any legislation because of their minority status. “They will not be able to hold other branches of government accountable as any parliament needs to do,” he said. Mr. Ganji said the reformist camp is telling its supporters to vote for reformists so that they can continue to be a minority, otherwise the conservatives will seize all the power in the new parliament. “But I think they have been an ineffective minority and unable to give voice to the aspirations of their constituents,” he said. “I have decided to sit out these elections because they are meaningless.”
Late Edition March 12 examined the shortcomings of Iran’s majlis elections and the regime’s efforts to spin the elections as free and popular. PNN used footage from Iranian TV, which included an interview with a so-called expert who claimed the United States is trying to prevent Iranians from going to the polls. PNN also showed how an Iranian website is promoting the public opinion survey conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow – but a censored version, not the poll itself. Late Edition also summarized the general mood in Iran in advance of Friday’s election, including the regime’s harsh reaction to PNN’s interview with Noureddin Pir Moazzen
Today’s Woman March 11 talked with human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh about the Iranian government preventing her from leaving Iran to attend a women’s conference. Via telephone from Iran, Ms. Sotudeh said the orders had to be complied with because they came from the Revolutionary Guard, thereby making them legitimate by definition. The rest of the show focused on the upcoming parliamentary elections. Political activist and former student organizer Parviz Safari said the organization he is involved with, the Iranian Democratic Front, has released an official statement stating it is boycotting the parliamentary election. He acknowledged, however, that the Front can do little more than boycott the elections because it faces great government pressure. Mr. Safari said Iranian media have been barred from mentioning which organizations are boycotting the election or publicizing their perspectives. Abdollah Momeni, another political activist and former student organizer, said some people are not officially boycotting the elections – they are just choosing not to participate. Mr. Momeni said the candidates are pre-selected so it’s not much use for people to participate in the elections, but noted people are still paying attention to the process and to the results. Journalist Babak Dad talked about the limited role of women in the election and in the parliament under this government. Journalist Hossein Bastani, co-founder of the online publication www.Rooz.com, said there is still an opportunity for change despite the parliament’s lack of accountability.
News and Views March 11 interviewed Mohammad Hashemi, secretary of Iran’s main reformist and independent student organization, the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, or Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat. Mr. Hashemi said student leaders debated whether or not to boycott the elections over two days of meetings at Tehran University last weekend. He said they decided to boycott the elections: “In Iran, political reform is going to come through non-governmental organizations and other civic movements – not through quote elections unquote.” News and Views March 10 interviewed Tehran-based freelance journalist Babak Dad. He said Friday’s parliamentary elections are a test for next year’s presidential election. “The elections are a test for potential candidates to learn more about their rivals’ strengths and weaknesses for the presidential election.” He said leading reformist and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami may throw his hat in the ring and seek the presidential office once again.
Today’s Woman March 14 focused on Iran’s parliamentary elections. From Washington, student activist Ali Afshari said the results of the elections were obvious before the ballots were counted. He said Supreme Leader Khamenei supported – even if indirectly – candidates who supported the existing conservative regime. Mr. Afshari dismissed former President Rafsanjani’s claim that Iran’s elections are more democratic than neighboring Turkey or Pakistan. He said if minority party candidates do win seats in Iran, their influence is disproportionately weak. From Iran, Kourosh Zaim of the National Iranian Front said the government promised to avoid interfering with the candidacies of reformist and other opposition politicians, “but they have not.” He said the Guardian Council has violated the law by interfering with the electoral process, primarily by discriminating against reformist candidates while openly supporting conservative candidates. Mr. Zaim said the Iranian government has prohibited freedom of speech and assembly, and most opposition groups were barred from participating in the elections. He said Iran’s political future includes the synchronization of all branches of government: the parliament, the judicial system, and the Guardian Council.
VOA/PNN March 10 interviewed former Swedish diplomat Hans Blix in London. Dr. Blix, who was Director-General if the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981-1997, was called back from retirement 2000-2003 to head the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in charge of monitoring Iraq. He now runs the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, an independent body funded by the Swedish government. He said the IAEA has a duty to clarify the questions raised in its report on Iran’s nuclear program. Dr. Blix welcomed the P5+1 promise of incentives to encourage Iranian cooperation and suggested two additional incentives: assurance against attack – which the North Koreans are getting – and diplomatic relations with the United States. Dr. Blix said there is no economic advantage to Iran to enrich uranium. He pointed out that South Korea has 20 nuclear power plants compared to Iran’s two, adding that it imports needed enriched uranium from abroad. “We have many rights in the world, and we are not obliged to exercise every right that we have. We can abstain from it if there are advantages in doing so.” Dr. Blix urged Iran to adopt the Additional Protocol. On another issue, he expressed regret that Iran banned activist Parvin Ardalan from traveling to Sweden to collect the Olof Palme Prize. “I think the fight for greater equality for women is one of the crucial fights of our time.”
News and Views March 13 talked with Michael Beer about non-violence working to bring about social change. Mr. Beer runs the North American office of Nonviolence International, a non-profit organization promoting nonviolent action and seeking to reduce the use of violence worldwide. “We try and help people around the world whose needs are not met by the court system or elections,” Mr. Beer said. Nonviolence International is actively involved in organizing non-violence movements in a number of countries, including Burma and Kosovo. But he said it is challenging to operate under military dictatorships. “Our activists are routinely killed, tortured or jailed in these countries. But we also see many success stories. We have witnessed 20 or so countries change their governments through nonviolence. And nonviolent movements across the world have spawned social movements like women’s movement and student movement. To the Iranian people, I’d say don’t feel trapped. Take reasonable risks to bring about change through nonviolent actions like not voting, holding protests and sit-ins. The Iranian regime is like a lot of dictatorial regimes – it uses violence to intimidate its people.”
News and Views March 11 interviewed a student from Shiraz University on the continuing unrest on campus. The student, who asked to not be identified, said students were en route to an on-campus meeting March 9 when Iranian police confronted the students and beat them. The student – who was one of those beaten – said police arrested eight students, all of whom were released within 48 hours. “Students gave an ultimatum to authorities,” he said, “to release the arrested students by Tuesday night. If they didn’t, we would have a sit-in protest.”
News and Views March 14 focused on the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report and its references to Iran and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – more than any other country or government leader. Iran is reported as the country that has taken the most steps to repudiate the Holocaust. Iran’s famous “World without Zionism” conference came only one month after the UN General Assembly designated January 27 as International Holocaust Day. The report also cites examples of anti-Semitism, including the 1994 bombings in Argentina that culminated in the issuance of arrest warrants in 2007 by Interpol for five former and current Iranian officials. The report also cites two Holocaust deniers – one from Austria, the other from Switzerland – who have sought refuge in Iran. Overall, the report says incidents of anti-Semitism have become more frequent in recent years and that it is a global issue. Other countries faced with this issue are Syria, Venezuela, Poland Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany and the UK. The report notes that denial of the Holocaust is illegal in some countries while the First Amendment of the US Constitution provides for freedom of expression – not allowing the making of such comments as illegal.
Roundtable with You March 12 featured Abdol-Madjid Madjidi on Iran’s economy, yesterday and today. Mr. Madjidi had a distinguished career in public service under the Shah, serving as head of the Iran Plan Organization in the 50s, and later serving in a series of senior budget positions, including Minister in Charge of Planning and Budget just prior to the Revolution. He is now CEO of the Milan Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by HRH Reza Pahlavi. Mr. Madjidi described the Iran Plan Organization, created shortly after the end of World War Two for the development of various sections of Iranian society. He said the organization’s budget increased geometrically with Iran’s increased oil revenue, allowing the government to initiate new plans for rapid economic development in Iran. However, Mr. Madjidi said President Ahmadinejad dissolved the Plan Organization, which had gathered Iran’s best and brightest individuals. Under the Islamic regime, budget and planning was put under the office of the Presidency and its authority to direct Iran’s new developments was significantly reduced. Mr. Madjidi said the new set-up has significantly retarded Iran’s economy. Despite Iran’s oil revenue reaching five times the level enjoyed before 1979, a lack of planning has led to high inflation and widespread poverty. Because the regime has based Iran’s budget on oil revenue at current prices, the Iranian economy is hostage to any possible reduction in oil prices.
News and Views March 10 talked with attorney Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, who represents the family of missing former FBI agent Robert Levinson in Iran. Mr. Aghasi told VOA/PNN he has formally submitted the case to the Iranian Judiciary on Kish Island, the Iranian resort and free-trade zone off the southern coast of Iran from which Mr. Levinson disappeared one year ago. Mr. Aghasi said the judiciary told him it was the first time anyone had formally submitted anything having to do with the Levinson case. He said, “It is hard to believe that Mr. Levinson is being detained in any official Iranian institution.” Last week, Christine Levinson – Robert Levinson’s wife – told VOA/PNN she had met with Iranian officials in December 2007, but they were unable to give her any information on her husband’s whereabouts. “It has been three months now,” she said, “and we have not heard anything. I hope the Iranian officials keep their word and pursue my husband’s case vigorously.”
News and Views March 16 talked with Kurdish journalist Wouria Mohammadi in northern Iraq as Iraqi Kurds observed the 20th anniversary of the chemical bombardment of the town of Halabcheh by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Mr. Mohammadi said a large number of Kurds question whether the chapter on Halabcheh should be closed with the execution of Ali Hassan Abd al-Majid – Saddam Hussein’s first cousin and the mastermind behind using chemical warfare against Iraqi Kurds. Mr. Mohammadi said most Kurds want the bombardment of Halabcheh to be tried in international courts. He said nothing – not the Iran-Iraq War, not the Kurds’ armed struggle against Saddam Hussein – justifies chemical warfare.
Roundtable with You March 11 focused on the work of Freedom House, a non-profit organization founded in 1941 and whose mission is to promote the adoption of policies that support democracy and human rights at home and abroad. The Deputy Director of Programs, Daniel Calingaert, said Freedom House’s funding is predominantly from the US government and that it maintains headquarters in Washington, DC with field offices in a dozen countries, including Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Jordan. Mr. Calingaert said Freedom House is non-partisan and does not identify itself with either the Republican or Democratic parties. “What we support are non-violent initiatives in societies where freedom is denied or under threat. We support the right of all people to be free.” Mr. Calingaert called Freedom House
Roundtable with You March 12 featured Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, on the State Department’s annual human rights report. She said the Iranian government’s poor human rights record worsened in the past 12 months, and that it continues to commit numerous, serious abuses. “The government severely limited citizens’ right to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections,” she said. “Iran’s upcoming elections are neither free nor fair, as the Guardian Council has disqualified candidates based on ideological background.” Ms. Barks-Ruggles said Iran’s constitution provides that the judiciary is “an independent power” but in practice, the court system is subject to government and religious influence. She said there were reports of unjust executions after unfair trials and that “Security forces committed acts of politically motivated abductions, torture and severe officially-sanctioned punishments including death by stoning, amputation, flogging and excessive use of force against and imprisonment of demonstrators.” The human rights situation in Iran, she concluded, is getting worse by the day. News and Views March 12 also featured Ms. Barks-Ruggles, discussing Iran’s worsening human rights record in 2007.
VOA/PNN interviewed Ali Asghar Ramezanpour, formerly Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance on the recent recall of selected books from Iranian public libraries. Mr. Ramezanpour, who fled Iran and now works as an independent journalist, said he regretted what is occurring, and stressed that the majority of recalled books were approved publications only a few years ago. He said the government of Iran is growing increasingly restrictive and that severe censorship is commonplace in the closed society of today’s Iran.
News and Views March 13 interviewed well-known Tehran attorney Nemat Ahmadi on lawyers in the capital protesting a decision by the Judiciary Monitoring Court. The court disapproved nine lawyers from running for the Executive Committee of the Tehran Bar Association. An election for the positions was held earlier in the day on March 13. Mr. Ahmadi said independent lawyers “do not expect the Tehran Bar Association or any other [government-dominated] organization to take any positive steps. He noted that each of the nine banned lawyers has been involved predominantly in politically-related cases.
News and Views March 13 talked with State Department Middle East spokesman David Foley about US sanctions on a Bahraini bank and the appointment of a Muslim as the US envoy to the OIC. Mr. Foley said the Bush administration is imposing financial sanctions on Future Bank, a Bahraini bank that is a joint venture between two Iranian state-owned banks and a private bank based in Bahrain. The US alleges the Future Bank is controlled by Iran’s Bank Melli, which was put on the US’s black list last year for providing support to Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Foley said this action marks the government’s latest effort to tighten the financial noose on Iran. With regard to the news that the US government is sending a Muslim envoy to attend the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mr. Foley said that the objective is to dispel Muslim misperceptions about the United States. Sada Cumber, a Pakistani-born businessman from Texas, was named by President George Bush last week as special envoy to the 57-member OIC to promote understanding and dialogue with Muslim countries. Mr. Foley said, “The United States has a large population of Muslims who live in a spirit of tolerance among Christian and Jewish Americans. By appointing this envoy, we are sending an important message to Muslim countries that we respect Islam as a great religion.”
VOA/PNN March 10 interviewed Karim Pakravan, Adjunct Professor of Finance at De Paul University and a former Vice President at JP Morgan Chase, who said inflation in Iran is the result of bad policies, a rise in the prices of food and government corruption. He said the rate of inflation in Iran is over 40% according to independent and unofficial sources – this in an oil-rich country – while the piece of oil has reached $105/barrel.
News and Views March 11carried live President’s Bush’s address to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville. He said America’s election-year politics will not affect his commitment to keep US troops in Iraq. President Bush says he will carefully consider the recommendations of US military and diplomatic chiefs in Baghdad when they deliver their status report on the war next month, but said his decision to send 30,000 reinforcements to Iraq last year is making a difference. “Since the surge began, sectarian killings are down and al-Qaeda has been driven from many strongholds it once held. I strongly believe the surge is working and so do the Iraqis,” he said.
News and Views March 11 also reported that President Bush promised on Monday that the United States will help modernize the Polish military, as part of a deal to place components for a new US missile defense system in Poland. Mr. Bush announced the plan after talks with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the White House. Poland says an urgent modernization of its armed forces is necessary because Russia has threatened to point nuclear weapons at Poland if the anti-missile system is deployed. The US says the project is designed to ward-off potential attacks by so-called "rogue states", notably Iran. Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department March 10. Ms. Rice told reporters US policy on expansion of settlements in disputed areas is well-known. “We consider, as I know the Israeli government does, as does the Palestinian leadership, the fulfillment of roadmap obligations is a part of the Annapolis process,” she said.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked parliamentary elections in Iran; the probable victory of conservatives over reformists; the small window of time candidates had to campaign; the promises made and broken by candidates in their bid to win election; the brouhaha created by VOA/PNN’s interview with MP Nouradin Pirmoazen and his comments about parliamentary elections; the accusations of treason leveled against Mr. Pirmoazen by Iran’s Intelligence Minister; how the Iranian people have no expectation of the new parliament providing any relief for their everyday problems; the likelihood of harsher restrictions on the people after Norooz; how the Islamic regime has taken away the fundamental rights of the Iranian people; how people are thinking more about Norooz than they are about the elections; Supreme Leader Khamenei views the people’s votes as decorative – “I wish he’d learned something from General Musharraf, who respected the vote of the people” in Pakistan; about President Ahmadinejad’s trip to Baghdad; quoted the Director of Iraqi Intelligence, General Muhammad Shahwani, as saying “Iraq is hosting someone who spends money to murder Sunnis”; the disruptive nature of Syria and Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine; the increased pressure placed on Iran because of new UN sanctions approved by the UN; how the change in leadership in Russia won’t change Moscow’s policy toward Iran; the Iranian parliament not making any decisions regarding the country’s nuclear program; of what use the parliament is if it doesn’t have any power; claims of widespread fraud in the past presidential election leading to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad coming to office; Iran’s 12 women legislators having done little to improve the lot of women in Iran; people deserving a nutritious diet, something the poor economy in Iran is making impossible; the 29-years of the Islamic regime bringing Iran 20% inflation and 30% unemployment; the Arab world communicating with Tehran through Qatar and Oman; Iran’s relations with Venezuela deteriorating since Tehran stopped building a Samand automobile plant there; Iran giving away $2.8 billion in 2007, nearly one-third to Hezbollah, and hundreds of million invested in Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Indonesia; true clerics in Iran need to protest the executions going on today; Israeli intelligence writing a report that says the Islamic regime wants to acquire nuclear weapons.
Today’s Woman March 13 focused on the UN Commission on the Status of Women with the organization’s US representative, Mandana Zand Karimi. The show opened with a news brief on VOA/PNN’s recent interview with Nouradin Pirmoazen, an Iranian member of parliament. During the interview, Mr. Pirmoazen criticized the electoral process in Iran, generating harsh condemnation from the Iranian government. Next, the co-hosts responded to e-mails and acknowledged that e-mail is a good way for viewers to give feedback on programs and to suggest ideas for future programs. They also displayed URLs for the One Million Signatures Campaign (http://www.we4change.info) and the Feminist School. Ms. Karimi, a longtime champion of women’s rights, talked about the Commission’s main purpose being one of empowerment for women and girls and the promotion of gender equality rights. She said the UN Commission on the Status of Women tries to build awareness of women’s issues and to promote involvement by both women and men. She said Iran has one of the lowest rankings among women who hold political positions. “It is important that societies not be segregated based on gender. Gender equality should not only be central for women, it should also be significant for men. There are still countries, like Iran, that do not accept men and women as equal human beings,” Ms. Karimi said.
Today’s Woman March 13 reported on the International Women of Courage Awards, which recognizes women “who display extraordinary courage in their efforts to improve lives and protect human rights.” PNN interviewed honorees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. Suraya Pakzad founded Voice of Women, a non-governmental organization in Afghanistan that provides shelter and counseling to women and girls who have escaped forced marriages. Ms. Pakzad told PNN her foundation tries to empower and improve the status of women. She also discussed self-burning, saying no woman should ever feel it is the only alternative for dealing with her problems. Iraqi honoree Eaman Al-Gorbory, a physician, searches hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation centers for sick and wounded children in need of specialized care that can only be provided outside of the country. She also works to build capacity to meet their needs in Iraq. Dr. Al-Gorbory said that being a doctor and working alongside Americans in Iraq is dangerous, but added that that is not a deterrent from continuing her work. The Palestinian honoree, Nibal Thawabteh was the first woman to be elected to the Beit Fajjar Village Council, a conservative village near Bethlehem. She founded a monthly newspaper, Al Hal (The Situation) that covers controversial issues including honor killings, polygamy and the plight of the poor. Ms. Thawabteh said she recognizes that the status of women in Palestine is much better than the status of women in neighboring countries where some women don’t even have the right to vote. The awards were presented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a ceremony in Washington, DC.
Today’s Woman March 12 focused on women in sports in Iran and in other countries. Despite increased restrictions on women in sports since the Islamic Revolution, Iranian women continue to demonstrate their potential to excel athletically. Dress restrictions have prohibited Iranian women from participating in games hosted in foreign countries. For Muslim women swimmers, for example, a bathing suit has been created that covers the entire body. However, this suit puts the swimmer at a disadvantage because of the extra material and can result in an unfair competition. A women’s ping-pong team recently competed in a tournament in China, ranking, with the Iranian men, 62nd out of 82 participating countries. Iranian women have long had restrictions on their watching soccer games, but the Iranian regime recently widened the scope of that prohibition, and banned women from watching handball games. The program also talked about there still not being a coach for the national women’s soccer team.
Late Edition March 14 focused on the appointment of Ali Daie as head coach of the Iranian national football team with Paris-based journalist and sports analyst Iraj Adibzadeh. Although Ali Daie is widely considered one of the best players Iran has ever fielded, Mr. Adibzadeh said, “He is not a popular person and it is very difficult to convince people to support him as the new head coach.” Mr. Adibzadeh said it had been expected that the head coach in Persepolis, Afshin Ghotbi, would be appointed to the job. “But disagreements between the Iranian Football Federation and top government officials changed everything. Afshin Ghotbi is a fantastic coach, but he is an Iranian-American, and hardliners didn’t want him to represent the Islamic Republic at the next World Cup. They forced the IFF to make a U-turn at the last minute with this appointment of Ali Daie. This is just like the Mafia.” Mr. Adibzadeh conceded that Ali Daie was a great player. “But he hasn’t had enough experience to coach the national team. This is not a wise decision….I would love to see Iran in the 2010 World Cup, but I don’t think they’ll be able to make it this way.”
Late Edition March 15 featured the Noor Film Festival in Los Angeles – the first Iranian-American film festival in the United States. Co-founder and director Siamak Ghahremani said the first Noor film Festival in 2007 was very successful, leading to this second year’s event. Mr. Ghahremani said, “This year’s theme is women, and we have a very interesting selection of films and documentaries from Iran and the US.” Judges this year are some well-known Iranian-American artists, including Reza Badiyi, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Omid Djalili. Mr. Ghahremani said, “We also have two distinguished American performers, Ever Carradine and Rainn Wilson.” He said the mission of the Noor Film Festival is to present films from Iran and other countries that an American audience would typically not have access to so that diverse communities can be brought together through film. “We show an appreciation of the Iranian-American culture and its contribution to the American cultural landscape.”
Today’s Woman March 15 focused on Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and fatal brain disorder that destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is estimated that 100 million people worldwide have the disease, although only 25% of that number is formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Warning signs of the disease are loss of memory, space and time. The disorder completely alters the lifestyle of its sufferers and the lives of their loved ones. Alzheimer’s is more prevalent among women, but scientists say this can be attributed to the higher life expectancy rate of women. The major symptom of Alzheimer’s is dementia and it is most common amongst the elderly. Treatments include medications that may lessen the symptoms of the disease, but there is still no cure. New studies show that brain stimulation may improve memory. Medical researchers in Canada say a brain stimulation procedure used to treat people with Parkinson’s and other diseases could help restore the memory of dementia patients.
This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of actor Mickey Rooney whose fame peaked with a string of successful musicals with Judy Garland, including the Oscar nominated Babes in Arms and classical films such as National Velvet. He and Garland made nine films together. He married his eighth wife in 1978 and the couple has been together for longer than all of his previous seven marriages combined. A second segment featured the Statue of Liberty – the beacon in the New York harbor that started as an idea at a French dinner party and became the very symbol of the free world. The story of France’s gift to the US reveals a 20-year struggle to design and build the world’s largest monument using paper-thin copper sheets. A third segment focused on the Tennessee Valley Authority. During the depths of the Great Depression, it was FDR’s greatest triumph: a massive public works project that took a 40,000 square mile, disaster-prone river basin, and turned it into a model of industrial progress. A fourth segment profiled the US space shuttle, mankind’s first attempt at a re-useable spaceship – the triumphant saga of the dream of flight tempered by the physical and technological challenges faced by determined people whose reach exceeded their grasp. A fifth segment focused on the evolution of television, the electronic miracle that opens up a window to the world, bringing global events right into the living room.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – addressed some of the criticism raised by several high-level officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran about an interview conducted March 9 by Roundtable with You anchor Vafa Mostaghim with Nouradin Pirmoazen, a member of the Iranian parliament. Iran’s Minister of Intelligence Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie said Mr. Pirmoazen will be prosecuted for betraying his government. Iranian officials called VOA/PNN an enemy of the people of Iran. Mr. Mostaghim read one of the questions posed by Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, chairman of the Islamic parliament. Question: “Mr. Haddad-Adel, a high-ranking official of the Islamic Republic of Iran, called VOA/PNN an enemy of Iran and Mr. Pirmoazen of using this ‘alien medium’. Some other Iranian officials accused Mr. Pirmoazen of washing his dirty laundry in front of foreigners and the enemies of Iran. What is your reaction to these comments and criticisms?” Mr. Mahmoudi answered this way: “We are sorry for those who distort facts. VOA/PNN is not the enemy of anyone. This medium is neutral. If they are talking about the messengers and messages that were addressed to the people of Iran, they should know better. ‘Washing dirty laundry in front of foreigners….’ does not apply here. The interview was conducted in Persian and was broadcast to the Iranian people. An Iranian audience is not ‘a foreigner’. Also, we at VOA/PNN and as far as we know, the officials of the US government, always speak highly of the people of Iran. There is no reason and absolutely no evidence to accuse PNN of being an enemy of the people of Iran. As we have mentioned previously in this program, officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, if willing, are welcome to be interviewed on our programs. We respect freedom of speech and favor the free flow of information.”
PNN’s question of the week was, “A survey from Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonprofit advocacy group says Iranians favor free and direct elections of their top leader. Do you agree or disagree with direct elections of the Supreme Leader?” Out of 12,813 respondents, 89%said yes, 9% said no, while 3% said they have no opinion.
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 Iran: “In Iran, day and night TV/Radio and other news media talk about this stupid election/appointment. People are sick and tired of it and have no choice but to put up with it. Now, for a third night in a row, you too? Then, so what is the difference? Norooz is coming. Talk about it – not something we all know is just a game!”
From a viewer in Iran: “This is to inform you that VOA’s Persian Service on the Internet today, Friday [March 14], has pictures but no sound! It is important that this problem be fixed ASAP because it is Election Day and people like myself use VOA for the best coverage of current affairs in Iran and the world.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “Today we witnessed one of the dullest and most insipid elections ever. If you see long lines on state-run TV, they are a minority of people compared to the countless Iranians who sat out the vote....Polling stations across Tehran were hardly bustling. Instead, people were out shopping in preparation for Norooz [the Iranian New Year]. Last night a channel of the state-run TV shamelessly referred to you [Voice of America] as ‘the enemy of the Iranian people.’ With many thanks.”
From a 29-year-old viewer in Tehran: “According to figures provided by the Office of Status Registration, now that the voting age has been reduced to 18-years-old, 43,800,000 people are eligible to participate in the elections. Vote counting will be done by computer. Unlike previous years, candidates haven’t had much time to advertise. Do you think our election results are pre-planned?”
From a viewer in Tehran: “Thanks very much for NewsTalk. It is a wonderful program. Are you able to contact candidates who have been disqualified by phone so that we can benefit from their views and opinions?”
From a viewer in Iran: “Sometimes the answer is so obvious that no one pays any attention. If the regime were to come under sanctions for not holding free elections under the supervision of international observers, what would they tell the people? Would they be able to claim the results of a free election were a conspiracy of the enemy? Certainly not. Would this regime have any face-saving mechanism left at its disposal if it claims to be a democracy? What if the regime submitted to a real referendum? Do you think they would garner more than 10 percent of the votes cast? If we want to discredit this regime for not submitting to a free referendum, then it needs to be sanctioned until those of us who have been deceived ask ourselves the following question: Why are we accepting a sanctioned regime that will not honor our rights to a free and fair election?”
From a viewer in Iran: Please read this e-mail on NewsTalk. Please remind people of the people “appointed” to office four years ago. In the event people’s problems have declined – drug addiction, unemployment, nonpayment of wages, executions, corruption, prostitution, gas rationing – by all means, go and vote. But please read this e-mail. If it leads to at least one individual being educated and not voting, then it will be at least one slap on the cheek of the Islamic dictatorship.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Many thank you for your interesting and excellent programs. I understand VOA had an interesting interview with [Nouradin] Pirmoazen sometime last week. Unfortunately, I missed that program. Could you please let me know how I can find and view the interview again? Keep up the very good work and many thanks in advance.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “I want you to know how much you are appreciated. Your program is one of the only ways the Iranian people can learn about real news. I follow your program every night.”
From Connie Bobroff at the University of Texas at Austin: “Congratulations on [Siamak Dehghanpour’s] fine reportage from Texas which we have turned into a language lesson http://www.laits.utexas.edu/rfpit/video/VOAelections.html. Hopefully, there are no copyright violations since we are non-commercial. Please let me know if you have any concerns. Thank you!”
From an Iranian graduate student in Oslo: “The last night’s Tafsireh Khabar [NewsTalk] was balanced and instructive – one of the best I have ever seen!”
From a viewer in Rasht: “The biggest problem we have in this country today is a lack of any kind of planning whatsoever. Government officials operate based on trial and error as if this stupid revolution happened just yesterday – not 29 years ago. Gas for Norooz is a good example. For 25 days they are going to offer unrestricted gas with higher prices. If this works, then they will continue it. Haven’t these retards heard of economic stimulation?”
From a viewer in Iran: “I live in Iran and I’m a fan of the great Today’s Woman program. About two months ago, you had an Iranian physician on your program who talked about ovarian cancer. Is it possible for you to send her email address to me so that I can contact her? Thank you very much.”
From an Iranian viewer in Germany: “I follow your program regularly. For about six months now, German state television has been airing programs about Iranian women. I have recorded some of them. If you are interested, I can send them to you so that you can use them on Today’s Woman.”
From a viewer in Iran: “The new changes in your program with regard to use of the camera are great. I like the way in which you go back and forth with the camera; you zoom back and forth in a cool way. These changes have made the programs more fun and entertaining. Job well done. Also, lately you have more reports and packages from inside Iran. This has made your show much more attractive to viewers.”
From a 22-year-old woman in Iran: “Would it be possible for you to produce a program about the life of the American actress, Marilyn Monroe? Thank you for your great programs.”
From an Iranian viewer in Malaysia: “Thank you for Today’s Woman. It’s a great program. I wanted to tell you that I support Mohammad Khatami, the former president of Iran. Since the hardliners have led the government, I think people have realized how great Mr. Khatami is. I hope he will run in the upcoming presidential election in Iran.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “I want you to know how much you are appreciated. Your programs are one of the only ways the Iranian people can watch the real news. I follow you every night.”