Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – March 24, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included an exclusive interview with President Bush, focusing on US mistrust of Iran because of its nuclear program and with special Norouz – New Year’s – greetings for the Iranian people; the five-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War and Vice President Dick Cheney’s surprise visit to Baghdad; more detailed results from last week’s parliamentary elections in Iran; the continued detention of student leaders in Iran; Iran’s judiciary reviewing the 2003 Evin Prison death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi; the continuing deterioration in human rights in Iran, with updates on crackdowns on the women’s movement, labor movement, and media; the election of the first female speaker of the National Assembly in Pakistan; interviews with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, veteran US diplomat Dennis Ross and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey on Iran’s nuclear program and US-Iran relations; and interviews with singers Shahnaz Pirmoradi, popularly known as Elham, Sima Bina, and Sepehr and Soheil Osloobi, of the rock band Blurred Vision.
VOA Persian Service" hspace=2 src="/persian/images/Bush_2Shot_Still_2.jpg" width=190 align=right vspace=2 border=0>President Bush gave an exclusive interview to the Persian News Network March 19 in which he said the United States doesn’t trust the Islamic Republic of Iran because the regime hasn’t been forthcoming about its enrichment of uranium. “It’s very hard for people to trust the Iranian government because they haven’t told the full truth, and that’s why the people of Iran have got to understand there are great suspicions right now, not only in the United States, but around the world. But there is a better way forward….The Russians proposed an interesting way that says – and I have said publicly, and the Iranian people need to know that I believe Iran has to right to have civilian nuclear power. “Russia has offered to provide fuel on a contractual basis and consistent basis,” the President said, but Iran needs to verifiably suspend enrichment to end UN sanctions. President Bush said he’s not surprised Iran blames the United States for problems the regime has created. “A lot of times, governments have failed to meet the needs of their people, particularly in relatively non-transparent, non-free societies, they always look for somebody to blame….On the other hand, the people of Iran must understand that the [difficult] conditions [in Iran] exist in large part because of either [mis]management by the government or isolation because of the government’s decisions on foreign policy matters – such as announcing they want to destroy countries with a nuclear weapon. It is irresponsible remarks like that which cause great credibility loss.” The President went to great lengths to express his respect for the Iranian people themselves, reserving special praise for reformists. “My thought is, is that the reformers inside Iran are brave people. They’ve got no better friend than George W. Bush, and I ask for God’s blessings on them on their very important work.” Mr. Bush made it clear that any bilateral talks with Iran are limited to activity in Iraq. “From my perspective, Iran has not been helpful in terms of helping this young democracy survive. I would think it would be in Iran’s interests to have a peaceful neighbor….The message to Iranians is: Stop [exporting] your weapons, your sophisticated IEDs, or there will be consequences.” The President also expressed special greetings for the New Year to the Iranian people. “The people of the United States respect the people of Iran; we respect the traditions of Iran, the great history of Iran….We want the people to live in a free society….Please don’t be discouraged by the slogans that say America doesn’t like you, because we do. And we respect you.” [Eds. Note: The Washington Post March 20 published an article based, in part, on this PNN interview with President Bush. Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA), www.washingtonpost.com (with soundbites) and Google News Alert also carried stories.]
Roundtable with You March 22 featured former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq will go down as the greatest foreign policy disaster in US history. She said it is even greater a disaster than Vietnam because of its unintended consequences, the most significant of which is the role it gave Iran to play in the affairs of Iraq. On the nuclear issue, Secretary Albright said Iran has failed to give satisfactory answers to IAEA inspectors and that this has created a cloud of suspicion about the nature of Iran’s program. “We don’t know how long their nuclear program has been going on and what its purpose is. If we couple this with their support for Middle East terrorist groups and lack of support to the Middle East peace process, then Iran presents a clear threat to US security concerns,” she said. Ms. Albright called on Iranian leaders to allow IAEA inspectors to have full and unfettered access to all of Iran’s nuclear sites. Turning to the women of Iran and their quest for equality, she said, “I have the highest admiration for the women of Iran. Their young women are among the best educated and bravest in the world, and I want to assure them that their sisters around the globe wish them well and want them to be active contributors to Iranian society. We know that in societies where women play an appropriate role, those societies are better off.”
News and Views March 20 interviewed veteran US diplomat Dennis Ross on US-Iran relations. A scholar and diplomat with more than 20 years experience, Ambassador Ross is now affiliated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Mr. Ross told PNN that nothing the Bush Administration or the international community is doing now is likely to alter Iran’s behavior over the coming year. Indeed, so long as the sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council don’t directly affect the Iranian economy, he said, Iranian leaders won’t have to make a choice between economic well-being and nuclear development and will thus proceed on the path to completing the nuclear fuel cycle. Mr. Ross faulted the Bush Administration’s efforts in forestalling the acquisition of nuclear technology by Iran. “The fact of the matter is that Iran was not a nuclear power before President Bush came to office, but we know that there is a strong possibility that Iran will be one by the time he leaves office in January 2009,” he said. On the role of Russia and China in coordinating international sanctions against Tehran, he said: "The next administration will need to convince the Chinese that as America contemplates direct talks with the Iranians, they must not undercut those negotiations by removing the leverage that could make them succeed. Indeed, if the Chinese want to ensure that force is not the only option left to stop the Iranian nuclear program, they must not undercut the sanctions. The Saudis could be very important in this connection: They don’t want to face an Iran that has a nuclear shield behind which it can engage in coercion and subversion, so America should try to convince them to use their enormous financial clout with the Chinese.” The Russians, he said, may be reluctant to restrain their relations with Iran given their interests in becoming an alternative to the United States in the Middle East and elsewhere. Still, the Russians also have strong financial interests in being a supplier of nuclear reactors and fuel elsewhere in the global market – and the next US administration could facilitate that objective.
News and Views March 20 interviewed R. James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA and currently an advisor and strategist for the presidential campaign of the presumptive Republican candidate, Senator John McCain. PNN asked Mr. Woolsey about the most recent assessment of Iran’s nuclear capability by the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Mike McConnell. Last month, Admiral McConnell said the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate was poorly written and misread. Contrary to what people now believed, Admiral McConnell said, Iran has not stopped its uranium enrichment nor has it stopped its program of perfecting the ballistic missile. Mr. Woolsey agreed and said, “The NIE report was badly written and therefore gave the wrong impression.” He said columnist Tom Friedman put it well in an article in The New York Times: Iran is like the neighbor who has been a drug dealer for 18 years. “Recently, this neighbor has been very visibly growing poppies for heroin in his backyard in violation of the law. He’s also been buying bigger and better trucks to deliver drugs. You can see them parked in his driveway. In the past year, though, because of increased police patrols and all the neighbors threatening to do something, this suspicious character has shut down the laboratory in his basement to convert poppies into heroin. In the wake of that, the police declared that he is no longer a drug dealer. But he’s still growing poppies. He was using them for heroin right up to 2003. Now he says he’s in the flower business. He’s not in the flower business. He’s dealing drugs….That’s basically what has happened between the US and Iran – just substitute enriched uranium for poppies.” Mr. Woolsey said he is glad Admiral McConnell clarified the vague parts of the NIE. The former CIA director said he agrees with IAEA Director-General Mohammad El-Baradei that the US and Iran should hold talks. “But it is highly important that the people of Iran know in the event of an earthquake, such as the one that happened in Bam a few years ago, what problems such as safety and security the nuclear program of Iran entails. What will happen in the event of an earthquake to the nuclear installations as far as radioactivity is concerned?” Mr. Woolsey said, “The United States is not interested in supremacy in the Middle East. The United States is interested in the people of Iraq, and I might add in the people of Iran, being able to govern themselves rather than under the thumb of a theocratic, totalitarian, genocidal maniac such as Mr. Ahmadinejad.”
Both News and Views and NewsTalk March 21 reported that National Security spokesman Gordon Johndroe clarified one of the remarks President Bush made in an interview on March 19 with Radio Farda. In the interview, President Bush said he supported Iran developing a civilian nuclear power program. He went on to say, “The problem is the government cannot be trusted to enrich uranium because one, they’ve hidden programs in the past and they may be hiding one now, who knows; and secondly, they’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people – some in the Middle East.” On March 21, the White House downplayed those remarks, with Mr. Johndroe saying, Bush had “shorthanded" Iran's desire "to wipe Israel off the map", its refusal to heed U.N. Security Council demands to suspend its enrichment work and Iran's continued development of ballistic missiles.
Today’s Woman March 19 opened with President Bush’s speech at the Pentagon marking the five-year anniversary since the start of the Iraq War. The President addressed the debate on whether a US presence in Iraq is necessary, stating that “removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision and this is a fight America can and must win.” President Bush praised American soldiers for their work in liberating Iraq and said that US intervention led to the uncovering of human rights violations facilitated under Saddam’s reign. President Bush acknowledged that the Iraq War has gone on longer than expected, but he insisted that it is a battle worth fighting. The progress made in Iraq was emphasized, including the addition of Iraqi soldiers and police and the decrease of violence and death. President Bush said, “We’re helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.” President Bush ended his speech by reaffirming his commitment to stay in Iraq until success is accomplished.
News and Views March 19 reported on President Bush’s speech on the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Speaking at the Pentagon, President Bush said, “Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision – and this is a fight America can and must win. The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. Iran would be emboldened as well – a renewed determination to develop nuclear weapons and impose its brand of hegemony across the Middle East. The President said he understood the debate over continuation of the war, but said the surge of reinforced troops is working. He said in Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology and his murderous network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated. The President referred to Iran twice – as a supporter of Shi’ite militants and as a question, in that what would Iran do if the American forces were pulled out of Iraq prematurely? He said there is no argument that the Iraq War has come at a high cost, but said those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq. “A free Iraq,” he said, “will be an example for others of the power of liberty to change the societies and to displace despair with hope. By spreading the hope of liberty in the Middle East, we will help free societies take root – and when they do, freedom will yield the peace that we all desire.”
News and Views March 17 talked with Washington, DC-based writer Mohammad Borghei on parliamentary elections held on March 14. He said the elections were an important process for the regime in Iran. “They advertised the number of participants and candidates….But these were not real elections. Candidates were chosen by the regime, they are not known by the people, they have no plans, no platform, no programs. Iranians have become indifferent to this process since they know that they will not have any say in it.”
News and Views March 17 reported on Vice President Dick Cheney’s surprise visit to Baghdad, just days before the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion. The Vice President declared Washington’s “unwavering support” for Iraq. Earlier in the day, Mr. Cheney met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for talks focusing on security issues relating to Iraq and the region. The Vice President’s stop in Iraq is part of a Middle East tour including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Turkey. Republican presidential candidate John McCain also was in Iraq, on what he said is a fact-finding mission.
News and Views March 17 also interviewed David Foley, spokesman for the State Department’s Near East Bureau. He commented on a Bloomberg report that said former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in an interview that the US should enter in to direct talks with Iran. Mr. Kissinger had said he was in private talks with Iranians. He did not say any more. Mr. Foley said the State Department was unaware of what Kissinger was doing, but Washington has at least three channels of communication with Iran: European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, the Swiss government, and bilateral talks that have been taking place on and off in Iraq. Mr. Foley said he hopes Mr. Solana’s talks with Iran go forward and that he follows both the US and the EU’s policies. On a separate matter, Mr. Foley said Washington has expressed its displeasure with the natural gas deal Switzerland has worked out with Iran. Swiss energy trading company EGL said March 17 it had signed a multibillion dollar contract to buy natural gas from Iran over the next 25 years.
News and Views March 18 reported on Vice President Dick Cheney’s surprise visit to Iraq, where he said the United States will continue its mission in the country. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who is on day two of a previously unannounced visit to Iraq, said the United States will continue its mission in the country. Mr. Cheney said some phenomenal changes have taken place as a result of the progress that’s been made in the past year, “with respect to the security situation where Iraqi and American forces have done some very good work as well as with respect to political developments here in Iraq.” The Vice President said many sacrifices have been made, so “it is very, very important that we succeed, that we not quit before the job is done.” Next door, in Jordan, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain held a news conference in which he said, “We recognize that al-Qaeda is on the run, but they are not defeated. Al-Qaeda continues to pose a great threat to the security and very existence of Iraq as a democracy. So we know there's still a lot more of work that needs to be done.” And further east, in Russia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said no agreement has been reached with Russia on US plans to deploy a missile defense system in Central Europe. However, the Secretary said the two sides have agreed to put together a strategic framework document on strategic arms reductions.
Roundtable with You March 23 focused on who would benefit most from a rapprochement between the United States and Iran. Hooshang Amirahmadi is a professor of Urban Planning at Rutgers University and Director of the University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He said that he recently traveled to Iran for the first time in time in 10 years, and that he got the impression after several meetings with President Ahmadinejad that the Iranian leader is very interested in breaking the logjam in US-Iran relations. Mr. Amirahmadi said he has come to Washington to give US policymakers a more accurate picture of Iran. “Unfortunately, issues related to Iran have taken on mythic proportions and we need to deal with them in a more realistic fashion. The fact of the matter is that both Iran and the United States are both great countries and we should see them as they are – not as we wish them to be.” Mr. Amirahmadi said his impression of President Ahmadinejad is that he is a good man with good intentions, “but his knowledge of the world around him is kind of limited.” Bijan Mehr, a political activist and the spokesman for the Iranian National Front in the United States, countered that Mr. Amirahmadi is not seeking to improve relations between the Iran and the US. “He is trying to get the government of Iran out of its international isolation and is not the least interested in the well-being of the Iranian public.” One viewer has this to say: “Either Amirahmadi is stupid or he is assuming we are stupid. No one in his right mind considers Ahmadinejad a good or honest man. How many university professors in the US do you know that have relations with both the US Congress and Ahmadinejad, and then claim they are not trying to do anything to facilitate better relations between the two countries? The problem in Iran is basic and Ahmadinejad and Khatemi cannot solve it. We need to change Iran’s constitutional law. Under the Shah, our constitutional law was good – we needed reform not a revolution. But now we do need a revolution because too many things have gone wrong.”
News and Views March 19 interviewed Mohammad Sharif, one of the lawyers for the Kazemi family, on the Iranian judiciary’s review of the death of Zahra Kazemi. An Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Ms. Kazemi died in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003, almost three weeks after she was arrested for taking pictures outside a prison during a student protest in Tehran. Mr. Sharif said he was present in the criminal court in Tehran where the case was reviewed, and that the Kazemi family lawyers formally filed her death as a deliberate murder despite an earlier court acquitting an intelligence agent accused of beating her.
News and Views March 19 reported on students in jail in the New Year. VOA/PNN talked with the mother of Behrouz Karimi, a former Tehran University student who is now incarcerated at Evin Prison. “By ordering very high bail, the authorities mean they do not wish to release our dependents from jail,” she said. “I ask the authorities to reduce bail to a reasonable amount. Otherwise we will celebrate Norouz in front of Evin Prison. At least one dozen students detained last year for their role in student protests are still in jail. News and Views followed-up on this story March 20, and indeed the families of a dozen students celebrated Norouz in front of Evin Prison where they asked authorities to release their loved ones. One of the protesters, a young woman related to one of the detained students, told PNN, “Saeed Feyzollah Zadeh did nothing illegal. During last year, authorities first expelled him from the university and when he insisted on entering the university, they arrested him. He is a student who is not being allowed to continue his education.”
News and Views March 18 reported on the status of the Iranian student movement in the past 12 months (year 1386 on the Iranian calendar). Ali Tayakkoli, whose brother is imprisoned, told PNN, “If my brother and other jailed students are not released by the New Year (tomorrow), we will have a gathering in front of Evin prison.” Rashid Ismaeli, a student activist in Tehran, said, “Last year, we saw one of the harshest political situations against the student movements, but we’re going to stand our ground and continue to defend human rights.” meanwhile the movement could firmly stand on its positions to defend human rights.”
Today’s Woman March 19 reported on the release from prison of Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, an Iranian woman who had been under threat of being stoned to death for adultery. Her lawyer, Shadi Sadr, said Ms. Ebrahami was released from prison in Qazvin province on orders of the Iranian judiciary’s amnesty commission. Ms. Ebrahami’s partner, Jafar Kiani, was stoned to death in July 2007, creating international awareness of Iran’s increasing use of such forms of capital punishment. Today’s Woman also reported on Pakistan’s parliament electing the first female speaker of the National Assembly in the country’s 60-year history. Fahmida Mirza is a loyalist from the Pakistan People’s Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated three months ago.
News and Views March 20 interviewed Karim Lahidji, a Vice President with the International Federation of the League of Human Rights. He said, “The head of the Iranian judiciary is nominated by Iran’s Supreme Leader, and Iran’s Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Khamenei – is the top person responsible for all human rights violations in Iran.” Mr. Lahidji said that 2007 “was the worst year in the last decade with regard to human rights in Iran.”
News and Views March 17 talked with Faraj Sarkouhi, former chief editor of Adineh, a leading independent magazine now banned in Iran. Mr. Sarkouhi, who now lives in exile in Germany, said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policy on press and books is totally based on security regulations. Iran has banned nine lifestyle and cinema magazines for publishing pictures of “corrupt” foreign film stars and details about their “decadent” private lives. Mr. Sarkouhi said by banning more publications, “The Iranian authorities aim to kill all voices in order to unify a country according to one voice – the voice of the government.”
News and Views March 23 talked with Saman Rasoulpour, a Kurdish civil rights activist in western Iran, who said Kurdish activists who work with non-governmental organizations are under more suppression now than ever before. He said dozens of activists in Kurdish towns were detained and sentenced to severe punishments in the past year. Mr. Rasoulpour noted the cases of teacher Farzad Kamangar, journalist Adnan Hassanpour and environmentalist Hiwa Boutimar – all three of whom have been condemned to death and are awaiting execution because of their activism for Kurds. “The Ahmadinejad government’s policy of suppression against Kurdish civil rights activists is more severe than any previous government policy against Kurdish activists,” Mr. Rasoulpour said.
News and Views March 19 looked at the labor movement in Iran over the past year. Arash Alaei, a spokesman for the Unemployment and Expelled Workers Syndicate told PNN that the main impetus for union protests against management, factory owners and the government is non-payment of wages. He said workers are owed very large amounts of back pay, making it very difficult if not possible to pay bills. He said worker protests will be continuing despite many workers being jailed for their activism. Lawyer Mohammad Sharif who represents one of these jailed workers, told PNN, “Authorities haven’t allowed me to visit my client, Mahmood Salehi. Mr. Salehi has begun a dry hunger strike to continue his protest from Sanandaj Prison.”
News and Views March 17 interviewed the Director of Research from Israel’s Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, Arnon Groiss. Mr. Groiss also holds the position of Deputy Director at Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Arabic Radio. He participated in a conference held last week at a Washington, DC–think tank, the Hudson Institute on Iranian school textbooks. Mr. Groiss said the schoolbooks are preparing “Iran’s children for global jihad – war and martyrdom against the West in general, and against the United States and Israel in particular.” He said preparing the next generation to hate the West is a part of “fulfilling the Islamic world revolution.”
Today’s Woman March 18 focused on Iran’s parliamentary elections with journalist Fariba Davoudi Mohajer. She said, “The upcoming elected Majlis will allow the Iranian government to sustain self-interest and maintain a dictatorship. There might be a struggle for power within the Majlis, but that power will never be given to the people.” According to the Iranian Interior Ministry, conservatives won 166 of the 223 seats in the Majlis, reformists won 32 seats and independents 25 seats. Official voter turnout statistics given by the Iranian government are under major scrutiny because many conservatives believe the numbers are fabricated. Ms. Mohajer said, “The past year has been hard for the women’s movement in Iran, but hopefully the next year will be more successful.” She said because the requests of women are not accommodated and implemented through the Majlis, there is a lack of motivation for women to vote. “The first thing the seventh Majlis did was prohibit any bills that included the language ‘gender discrimination,’ implying that such a thing does not exist,” Ms. Mohajer added.
Late Edition March 19 reported on the growing relationship between Iran and Bolivia. Over the next five years, Iran will be investing over $1 billion in Bolivia, financing everything from milk processing plants to hydrocarbon exploration and new farming equipment. Iran’s state-run television also will be installing several television channels in Bolivia; the channels will interface with Venezuela’s international television service, Telesur, which is beamed via satellite throughout Latin America. The Iranian investments make a big difference in Bolivia whose GDP barely reaches $9 billion annually. Late Edition examined the strain placed on US-Bolivian relations by the improved relationship between La Paz and Tehran.
Late Edition March 21 focused on latest developments in the US presidential campaign, from the controversy over remarks made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Trinity Unity Church of Christ in Chicago, the church attended by the Obama family for years. Incendiary remarks made by Rev. Wright from the pulpit put Senator Obama on the defensive, and led to his making a speech on race, widely praised as one that addressed a sensitive issue in an unprecedented way. Late Edition covered the concerns expressed by Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate-in-waiting, about Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East. He said Iran is hindering progress in Iraq. At a news conference in Amman, Senator McCain said Iran was allowing al-Qaeda fighters into the country to be trained and return to Iraq. Senator Joe Lieberman, who was traveling with Senator McCain, stepped forward to correct his colleague’s remarks. Senator McCain then went on to say that Iran is supporting extremist militants in Iraq – not al-Qaeda.
News and Views March 20 interviewed Nicholas Schmidle, a freelance writer who is currently a fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs, about the political scene in Pakistan following the election of the country’s first female speaker of parliament. Mr. Schmidle said that the Pakistani Islamists may not be pleased with a woman speaker, he doubts they would actively oppose her. But he predicted that Pakistan faces a period of political uncertainty, at least in the short-term. "The important point about the Pakistani election has been that the people of Pakistan were able to impose their will on President Musharraf and his dictatorial government. And this has been done with relative peacefulness," he said. Mr. Schmidle concluded by saying that US aid to Pakistan will have strings attached given the critics of President Musharraf in the US Congress. "President Musharraf has to continue working on the political development of his country in order for US assistance to continue uninterrupted."
News and Views March 21 reported that the US has taken a number of steps over the past week to put Tehran on notice that the international community will not allow the Iranian government to misuse the international financial system or global transportation network to further its aspirations to obtain nuclear weapons capability, improve its missile systems, or support international terrorism. The Department of State released a statement saying Tehran must end its support for terrorism, comply with the demands of the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The incentives package from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany remains on the table, as does Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s offer for negotiations. News and Views reports the former Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, said Tehran should prove its nuclear program is peaceful and is not intended to produce atomic weapons. The former UN chief said the best way to do this would be for Iran to give inspectors full access to the country’s nuclear facilities. Additionally, the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has issued an alert on Iran. The statement says the Central Bank of Iran and Iranian commercial banks have asked that their names be removed from global transactions to make it more difficult to determine the “true parties in the transaction.”
News and Views March 23 reported on Vice President Dick Cheney’s meeting in Jerusalem with President Shimon Peres. He said the Bush administration is dedicated to moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward. Mr. Cheney said the United States also is involved in dealing with threats it sees emerging in the region, including threats to both Israel and the United States. Mr. Peres referred to Iran as a threat to Israel. He said no one can claim that remarks Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes against Israel are less serious than they seem. Mr. Cheney traveled to Ramallah in West Bank later Sunday for meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Roundtable with You March 17 talked about new horizons in science with Babak Amir Parviz, an Associate professor of engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. The University’s web site describes Mr. Parzin’s work this way: “Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes – visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go. The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.” Mr. Parviz talked about this project plus nanotechnology, its application to the medical world, and other branches of modern science.
Today’s Woman March 20 focused on a variety of women’s accomplishments during the past year to welcome in the Iranian New Year. The show reported on the swearing-in March 19 of Iranian-American Goli Ameri as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, who will be largely responsible for the US government’s public diplomacy efforts abroad. Panelists discussed the visit to Iran by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and her wearing a headscarf during her meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and whether this was appropriate or not. The Minister said she was respecting the laws of the country she was visiting. Today’s Woman highlighted VOA’s interview with Fahmida Mirza, the new Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly. She said that the people of Pakistan are crushed under rocketing prices, joblessness, terrorism, and the ever-worsening law and order situation in the country. Ms. Mirza also said she is a staunch supporter of free media and would permit media to cover not only the proceedings of the House but also the sessions of the standing committees. Today’s Woman also featured greetings from PNN’s interview with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “I have the highest admiration for the women of Iran,” she said, “who are in fact among the bravest, best educated, young women and older women, who really want to play an active role in Iranian society. The program also noted that two Iranian women won the UK’s 2008 Orange Broadband Prize for Literature: Anita Amirrezavani won for her book, The Blood of Flowers and Dalia Sofer won for her book, The Septembers of Shiraz.
Roundtable with You March 20 featured legendary folk singer Sima Bina as a special guest on the occasion of Norouz, the first day of the Iranian New Year. She is a voice that Iranians always enthusiastically listen to and have enjoyed over the years, and this time appearance on Roundtable was no exception. Sima Bina has a special stature among Iranians, as a woman who portrays the true nature of Iranian women and their quiet but resilient fight to achieve their rightful place in Iranian society despite officially sanctioned discrimination.
Roundtable with You March 19 featured the classical Iranian singer Shahnaz Pirmoradi, popularly known as Elham. Iranian pop artists have thrived in the United States and helped pop music survive inside Iran. When it comes to classical music, the genre is allowed in Iran, but women’s voices are prohibited. Iranian singers such as Elham did not accept this edict. In her ordinary life, Elham is a certified nurse. But she also has helped the cause of Iranian women by following their love of life through the highest of standards applied to classical music. Callers admired her talent, which can be heard at http://bahaivideo.com/farsi/chanting/shahnaz1.html
Today’s Woman March 17 focused on women in the arts, beginning with the recent new that Iran’s Culture Ministry has closed nine lifestyle and cinema magazines for printing stories and pictures of “corrupt” foreign film stars, namely Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts. Panelists acknowledged the recent Stanford Literature Prize awarded to prominent Iranian poet Simin Behbahani and highlighted the traveling exhibit “Freedom’s Sisters” now featured at the Smithsonian. The exhibit showcases the work of 20 women civil rights activists. In an interview, one of the honorees, Myrlie Evers-Williams, said the current US presidential campaign illustrates how much progress has been made for women in the United States. The next segment noted that March is National Women’s Month, with festivities taking place around the world to celebrate the accomplishments of women, including an art exhibition in Afghanistan of women’s work. Panelists discussed the International Women’s Film Festival in Paris which honored French actress Josiane Balasko, and the Tiburon International Film Festival, which included five Iranian filmmakers and five films focusing on Iran. The last segment showcased the achievements of several exemplary women in the arts: JK Rowling’s last Harry Potter book, Marjane Satrapi’s critically praised film, Persepolis, and the work of photographer Maryam Zandi and actress Mania Akbari. This last program of the Iranian year recognized artists who passed away in the past year, Iranian and non-Iranian.
Today’s Woman March 19 talked with Iranian history specialist Mehra Malaki about Norouz and the history of the women’s movement in Iran, including the role print magazines have played in empowering women’s rights activists. Ms. Malaki said media and education both have empowered the women’s movement. She said foreign print media has played an important role by enabling prohibited feminist thought to infiltrate Iran. She said there was a time when the female literacy rate in Iran was 3-4%, but that has changed and is now over 70%, making it possible for articles such as “Women Care More about Humanity than Men” to have a great influence on the women’s movement.
News and Views March 18 interviewed Bijan Bidabad, an economics professor at Tehran University. He said electricity and gas bills in Iran have grown sharply in the last few weeks, primarily because of growing consumption. Mr. Bidabad attributed that higher consumption on the price stabilization policies of the Ahmadinejad regime.
Roundtable with You March 18 focused on vaccines as a treatment for cancer. Dr. James Elist, a urologist who has written extensively on such treatments, says, “There is a new horizon in cancer treatment with Dendritic cells, or DC, vaccines. “DC vaccines are being tested successfully for treatment of a number of cancers such as lung, breast, prostate and colon, with no significant side effects.” Dr. Elist said since finding the protein responsible for those four cancers – lung, breast, prostate and colon – “With DC vaccines, we can now change the white cells to fight cancer in a patient’s body. This brings hope to millions of cancer patients and their families.”
Today’s Woman March 21, 2008 focused on Norouz celebrations around the world, starting with North America. Toronto-based journalist Fariba Sahraie said Ontario’s large community of Iranians celebrated New Year’s traditions despite the cold weather. She said many markets were opened for the purchase of special foods. Many Iranians got together, she said, for house parties, traditional concerts, hip-hop concerts, and special on-campus events at universities such as the University of Toronto. The second part of the show was dedicated to Persian New Year celebrations in Central Asia, Middle East, Turkey, and Afghanistan. Today’s Woman spoke with Najiba Salam, a broadcaster with VOA’s Afghan Service about the tradition of Norouz in Afghanistan. She shared information about differences among Iranians and Afghans celebrating the New Year, touching on religious aspects of ceremonies that marked the birth of the Prophet’s grandson. The theme of the third segment was about women’s rights in Iran. Today’s Woman interviewed activist Khadijeh Moghadam. She said many activists in Iran visited the families and relatives of fellow activists in prison. Ms. Moghadam said the latest parliamentary elections will probably put further restrictions on the women’s movement in Iran, and activists will have to plan projects to succeed the One Million Signatures Campaign.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about widespread fraud and corruption in parliamentary elections held on March 14; how tolerance has declined to its lowest level under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his regime; in the absence of domestic media coverage, foreign media coverage was quite good in covering events inside Iran; only 46% of eligible voters cast ballots from small towns and villages; in Tehran and five other major cities, the percentage of those who voted declined to just 17%; overall, in Iran, 37% of eligible voters cast ballots; no, out of 7,000,000 eligible voters in Tehran, only 1,740,941 participated, which means 26%, and another 18 million voted in other cities around the country, with about 23 million staying home, so about 41% of the eligible voters cast ballots; when a dictator eliminates his opponents, corruption grows; Brigadier General Ali Reza, the Tehran police chief and a confidant of President Ahmadinejad, was arrested while in the company of six prostitutes; officials in the country are more interested in Islam than they are in the welfare of the people; President Ahmadinejad has said, “Let us go to the US and conduct and teach the Americans about elections” – but he doesn’t speak English and knows nothing about the electoral process in the US; there are few similarities between elections in Iran and elections in the US; in the US, if an Iranian-American wants to run for office, he/she can while in Iran, do you think just anyone can be elected to the majlis? Of course not; this is one of the first times the European Union has questioned the legitimacy of elections in Iran; Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gains more power through last week’s elections; citizens can express themselves in a dictatorship just as citizens can in a democracy – the problem is that the consequences for doing so in a dictatorship can be quite dire; the father of detained Amir Kabir University student Ehsan Mansouri says authorities won’t permit his son to have legal representation nor will they let the family visit, adding that all efforts over the past 70 days to gain Ehsan’s release have failed; latest developments in the US presidential campaign; the improvement in US-French relations since Nicolas Sarkozy came to office; PNN’s March 19 interview with President Bush; and Osama Bin Laden’s latest threats toward the European Union and the Pontiff.
Late Edition March 18 interviewed Toronto-based musicians, Sepehr and Soheil Osloobi, of the rock band Blurred Vision, on the release of their new CD “Under A Faded Sun.” The Iranian brothers explained that they are organizers of a rock music tour in support of Amnesty International to generate more awareness about human rights. They talked about their music, which is based on western progressive rock, mixed with world music and Persian influences. Late Edition also aired a video documentary March 18 on the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition at the PS1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens, New York, titled “Wack! Art and Feminist Revolution.” Curator Cornelia Butler told VOA/PNN that the exhibition focuses on women artists influenced by the feminist revolution in the pivotal years between 1965 to 1980.
This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of writer Edgar Allan Poe, the all time master of the macabre, famed for such literary classics as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven.” Segment two profiled actor Raymond Burr, best known from television as quintessential lawyer, Perry Mason – whose name became synonymous with American jurisprudence. Mr. Burr, who received recognition for his performances in “A Place in the Sun” and “Rear Window”, went on to play a chief of detectives on “Ironside.” The third segment focused on computers, the modern marvels that have revolutionized the way people calculate, communicate, work and live. Its invention has touched each of us and sparked an explosion of technological accomplishments. The fourth segment highlighted the career of Mickey Rooney, the number one box office star in the US from 1939-41 thanks to his roles in films such as “A Midsummer Nights Dream” and the “Andy Hardy” series. His fame peaked with a string of musicals with Judy Garland. Mr. Rooney has been married to his eighth wife since 1978 and the couple has been together for longer than all of his other marriages combined. Segment five profiled actress Suzanne Somers, best known in the US as the sexy, blonde airhead on the hit ‘70s sitcom, “Three’s Company.” She has had several incarnations in the entertainment industry, reinventing her image of late as a health and fitness guru.
Today’s Woman March 22 was devoted to World Water Day, focusing on the importance of water sources and how water crises have caused many problems in the world, particularly for those who suffer from access to clean water. The history of World Water Day goes back to the Rio Conference in 1992 when many environmentalists decided to acknowledge the importance of water and better awareness of using water on March 22. The second segment of the show focused on the latest technologies for purifying water, including filtering. Large parts of the world need water purification and new technologies eliminated arsenic, mercury and other chemical contaminants to make clean water. The third part of the show focused on water pollution and waterborne diseases. Many water sources, such as Caspian Sea, are polluted with radioactive or industrial waste and with sewage. Contaminated water used for drinking and in the preparation of foods can lead to cholera, diarrhea, and other serious health problems. Earlier this month, drugs were reported found in many US water supplies, raising concerns among Americans. Panelists discussed ways of preventing the spread of diseases, such as boiling water, drinking clean water, washing hands and paying better attention to sanitation and hygiene.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – reviewed VOA/PNN’s programming over the past year. Mr. Mahmoudi said the best judge for the programs is the audience. Based on the feedback received, VOA/PNN had a successful year, if success is defined as the impact and penetration of VOA/PNN in Iranian society. Mr. Mahmoudi referred to expansion of PNN programming, which VOA staffers consider quite remarkable considering the budget and staffing limitations. Mr. Mahmoudi also emphasized the importance of constructive interaction between the audience and VOA/PNN.
PNN’s question of the week was, “Considering the way the last parliamentary election was conducted in Iran, do you think people are disheartened and more disappointed in the Islamic Republic regime?” Out of 9,274 respondents, 81% said yes, 16% said no, while 3% said they did not have an 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
A viewer in Tehran sent this note: “Happy New Year. Tonight we are looking forward to watching and hearing Setareh Derakhshesh’s interview with President Bush….The New Year [truly] will be when Iran and Iranians will be free so that everybody will have the right to live freely.”
From a viewer in Isfahan: “Norouz bar shoma mobarak. May Ahura’s grace always be with you. Thanks for everything you have done for Iran.”
From a viewer in Tehran: Hello and thanks to Mr. President Bush and Mrs. Lora Bush, the white house and US government. We hear your messages in Iran by VOA TV on satellite. We are waiting to liberty and light years and times. And It's when Iran be in freedom beside USA as a friend side by side . I believe in it . That day is coming soon. It should be come and will come . THANK YOU, Norouz Mobarak. . Happy new Persian year and spring to all, Saeed - Iran - Tehran suburb.
From a viewer in Kurdistan: “Your exclusive News & Views interview with President Bush should have provided a good opportunity for our demands and everyday challenges to be heard by the highest official in the US government. But unfortunately the interview by Ms. Derakhshesh centered on nuclear issues and Iraq, areas that have been covered over and over again by the media. Besides, we all know what the position of the US government is on these two issues. It would not be unreasonable to expect an Iranian journalist to bring up the issues of human rights, the crackdown on women struggling for equality, rising executions and political repression. Thank you.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Hi. Due to last night’s storm and the windy situation in Tehran, many satellite dishes were displaced and many of your viewers were simply not able to see Today’s Woman. Please consider rerunning it in the near future.” [Editor’s Note: We received dozens and dozens of viewer e-mails complaining that weather conditions on March 15 prevented them from seeing the Today’s Woman program that day which focused on Alzheimer’s disease. VOA/PNN reran the program in its entirety on March 23.]
From a viewer in Karaj: “Please inform your guests that these days under a variety of excuses the regime is arresting young people to prevent them from celebrating Charshanbeh Soori (the last Tuesday of the year, March 18th). Yesterday the authorities arrested my son and two other youngsters, and after holding them overnight, released them after having them sign a guarantee [that they would not participate in festivities]. Thanks.”
From a viewer in Behbahan: “On the 16th and 17th of March, 2008, people from Behbahan by took to the streets to protest against the candidate from Behbahan, a fundamentalist who is a hardline supporter of [Supreme Leader] Ali Khamenei. As a result, 70 young individuals were arrested, and a few were hospitalized. On the 18th, a force of 3,000 anti-riot police arrived in Behbahan and imposed martial law in the city, so that anyone who goes out at night will be arrested by the security forces. Hoping for the day that Iranians will see freedom.”
From another viewer in Behbahan: “There are still confrontations going on in this small city. The Islamic Republic has avoided giving any news in this respect. People in Behbahan were hoping that the VOA would give us the news, but unfortunately you did not even mention the e-mail received regarding this event in Behbahan. You did not mention the mothers who were crying for their children around the jails in Behbahan. You did not mention how savagely the security forces broke into the houses. And nobody talked about how people were beaten up by clubs by the wage earners of the Islamic Republic and how they were crying for help. No news reporter came to Behbahan because it is an isolated city. The animals of the regime, who had come from the center of the province, rendered no mercy to children, elderly women and men. Last night Behbahan cried blood, but [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei, [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, Mesbah Yazdi, and [Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani and [Ayatollah Ahmad] Jannati . . . slept well. And the governor of Behbahan avoided watching the videos of these confrontations. Who do we have to call for help???? How can we reach the human rights activists????? Last night I saw with my own eyes a youngster being beaten by security forces. He was shouting and crying. I saw him with my own eyes, and cried for him in my heart.”
From a viewer in Iran: “During the Shah’s time, Iran was compared with European countries. Now Iran is compared with neighboring countries. Why?”
From a viewer in Iran: “NewsTalk on Tuesday, March 18, was very good. We watched it with the family because we were going to celebrate Char Shanbe Soori later that night. We think Elahe Boghrat and Nasser Mohammadi and Rob Sobhani are genuine and trustworthy. Your questions are good, just like the questions we would like to ask the Islamic government. We all want a free and democratic Iran for everyone in Iran.”
From a viewer in Mazandaran: “Thank you for your endeavors to elevate our political vision. I want to tell you that you and the United States are our hope.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Thank you bringing NewsTalk into our homes for another year. Despite difficulties, you were on our side here in Iran where we have been taken hostage. You gave us hope and delivered our cries to the world when we were unable to do so. Dear friends, we wish you a happy spring and a Happy New Year.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I would like to take this chance to thank you and your friends at VOA. You should rest assured that today, even among the indifferent and neutral people in Iran, VOA has a reputation as a reliable and fair source regarding Iran affairs, and watching VOA programs does mean a great deal to them. Dictators can never eliminate the free press. Even if they attempt to [ban television] like the Taliban did [in Afghanistan]. All this makes your duties even heavier. I myself do not like to hear a single piece that raises doubt and suspicion in your programs, since Voice of America is the only voice of trust for us Iranians inside Iran.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Happy New Year. Thank you for bringing Today’s Woman to our house everyday. Thank you for being with us and bringing hope for us through your programs. Thank you for letting our voice be heard.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I think this election was symbolic and everybody knows that 99% of the voters were from the government’s families. You do not know how much money the government spends for this.”