Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – April 7, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad despite Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordering his supporters to stand down; President Bush winning support from NATO for his plans to build a limited missile defense system in Eastern Europe; a group of retired US generals testifying before Congress that a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq could helped the beleaguered Baghdad government stand on its own; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrapping up a Mideast tour in a bid to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; Russia’s UN envoy urging Iran to negotiate with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany over its nuclear program; interviews with Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) on NATO, Iran and Iraq; with University of Southern Alabama professor Nader Entessar on the Kurdish issue in Iran and Iraq; with political activist Ali Asghar Haj Seyed Javadi and sociologist Kazem Alamdari on the history of Islamic Day; with Tehran University Political Science Professor Sadegh Zibakalam about a new BBC opinion poll on what Iranians think about their country’s foreign policy; with Bahai representative Diane Alai on the attempted burning of a young Bahai in Shiraz because of his “apostasy”; with filmmaker Reza Allamehzadeh on two anti-Islamic films that have been generating a lot of attention in the Netherlands; with Tehran University Economics Professor Bijan Bidabad on the impact of the diminishing value of the dollar on Persian Gulf countries; with Southern Center for International Studies president Richard White on last week’s meeting of five former Secretaries of State; with noted poet Simin Behbahani on human rights; with publisher Homayoun Houshiarnejad on Iranian exile publications; with Tehran-based lawyer Mohammad Seyfzadeh on Iranian elections; with poet Mehrangiz Rasapour about her writings and online magazine, Vajeh; and with artist Nasser Ovissi on respect for Iranian culture.
News and Views April 4 had an exclusive interview with Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL), founder of the Iran Working Group in Congress, on a variety of issues, from NATO’s endorsement of a US missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland against the threat of Iran’s ballistic missile program, to the involvement of Iran in supporting different Shiite factions in Iraq. On NATO, Congressman Kirk said he thinks Russia has two big issues. “One is PNN INSIDER March 31- April 6, 2008 VIEWER PERSPECTIVES - PAGE 12 voa pnn logo the missile defense program against the Iranians and the second is preventing Georgia and Ukraine from joining NATO. Between the two, [President Vladimir Putin] cares way more about Georgia and Ukraine not joining NATO. So in this deal he’ll get a slow down on NATO membership and [President] Bush will get his missile defense for Europe.” Congressman Kirk said from the US perspective, Russia’s motives are entirely mercantile. “Russia is only interested in Iran for money, nothing else. And if the Iranians don’t offer contracts and money, then Russian will vote with United States. Things have broken down between Iran and Russia over reprocessing and nuclear fuel because Iran insists on reprocessing this on their own. There is no money for Russians and that’s why they don’t support it.” Switching gears to Iraq, Congressman Kirk said the combat in Basra shows both the government and the Sadr militias are weaker than expected. “Iran brokered a cease-fire to save Muqtada Sadr.... Muqtada has to do everything possible to avoid direct combat because his forces will be destroyed and [President Nouri] Maliki has the support of US and Britain.” Mr. Kirk said the top US military commander in Iraq, General David Petreaus will announce five combat brigades will be withdrawn by June. “But personally, I believe the drawdown should be continued because much of the problem in Iraq is political....President Maliki and Sadr should show they are Iraqis because sometimes President Maliki has been seen as a puppet of the United States and Muqtada as a puppet of Iran.”
News and Views March 31 reported on the barrage of rockets or mortar bombs that struck Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, home to Iraqi government headquarters and the US Embassy. No fatalities were reported, but other attacks in the past week have killed at least two Americans in the Green Zone. Today’s attack comes one day after Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his militant supporters to withdraw from deadly street battles against Iraqi government and coalition forces. A spokesman for the cleric (Hazem al-Aaraji) said the order was given to “stop the shedding of Iraqi blood.” The fighting has killed more than 250 people across the country in seven days, including in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed the move, calling it a step in the right direction, and said an around- the-clock curfew would be lifted in 24 hours.
News and Views April 3 reported on a group of retired generals testifying that a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq with an announced timetable would probably prod Iraq to make the kinds of decisions necessary for the country to stand on its own. A bipartisan group of legislators concurred with their assessment. The generals also said Iran is playing a very dangerous role in Iraq. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, General Barry McCaffrey said, “[The Iranians] are supporting Iraqi Shia factions with money, advisors, training in Iran, EFP’s (explosively forced penetrators), mortars, rockets, automatic weapons, and belligerence….We must open up a multi-level dialog with the Iranians.” General William Odom said US forces in Iraq and US threats to change Iran’s regime are making the region unstable. “Those who link instability with a US withdrawal have it exactly backwards,” he said. “Our ostrich strategy of keeping our heads buried in the sands of Iraq has done nothing but advance our enemies’ interest.” General Robert Scales agreed. He said, “The influence of Iran will loom very significant, and will seem ‘conflicted,’ given Iran’s desire to bloody America’s nose but not let the Shia-led Government of Iraq fail.” The hearing came one week before the top US military official in Iraq – General David Petreaus – is expected to report on the troop surge and tell Congress he wants to stop troop withdrawals and keep 140,000 troops in Iraq. Members of the Foreign Relations Committee said they were frustrated at the fallout from the war.
Both Late Edition and News and Views April 2 reported that Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters on a conference call that despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s crackdown, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr “lives to fight another day.” Senator Biden said, “there’s a lot more to learn” about the ceasefire and whether there was “any serious damage done” to the central government or to Sadr. He said he hadn’t been briefed on the situation by the US government, but believed “we did not play a very major role in negotiating the ceasefire, and there’s some reason to believe that that may very well have occurred in Iran through the Iranians.” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, told the Committee, “I don’t have any independent confirmation with respect to the Iranian involvement in terms of brokering any outcome [in Basra] at all. I can tell you that, both broadly and specifically, the Iranian involvement, particularly in that part of Iraq, has still not been very helpful. We’re still finding IEDs, we’re finding weapons caches, we’re finding rockets and mortars that are clearly provided by the Iranians. We’ve captured or killed Iraqis who have recently been trained in Iran. And so the overall thrust, with respect to Iran’s support of what’s going on down there, is still very negative.”
Both Late Edition and News and Views April 2 also reported that the US Treasury told US Senators that top global banks are shunning Iran. Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the world’s top banks have largely stopped dealing with Iran in response to US and UN sanctions. He also said industrialized countries are working on further steps to combat financing for weapons proliferation. Mr. Levey told the Senate Finance Committee that he hopes work by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force will result in new international standards for anti-proliferation activities. He said Iranian banks, including the central bank, known as Bank Markazi, have requested anonymity in international transactions.
News and Views April 1 reported on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrapping up a Mideast tour intended to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Speaking after a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Ms. Rice criticized Israel's continued building of West Bank settlements. “As to settlement activity, we continue to state America's position that settlement activity should stop.” Israel has approved the construction of almost 1,700 homes in contested territory since renewing peace talks with the Palestinians at a US-hosted summit in November, an Israeli watchdog group reported on Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied that West Bank building had been stepped up. "I don't need to announce every two days that neighborhoods in Jerusalem will continue being built,” he said. “All the reports of dramatic construction projects in the territories are not true, and it’s not true that we’re building in violation of commitments that were made. We are not building new settlements and not confiscating any new land.” Mr. Abbas said his next meeting with Mr. Olmert is on April 7.
News and Views April 1 reported that Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, has criticized Iran for dismissing the idea of negotiating with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known as the P5+1, over its nuclear program. He said, “Iranian statements of a negative nature toward the negotiations are certainly not helpful and not constructive.” Mr. Churkin said Iran is making a mistake in pursuing its own enrichment program while it can purchase nuclear fuel from Russia, which would be financially a wiser decision. The Russian envoy also urged the P5+1 to make the incentive packaged offered to Iran more attractive, “in order to make the prospect of negotiations more interesting to the Iranians.”
News and Views April 2 talked with Tehran University Political Science Professor Sadegh Zibakalam about a new BBC opinion poll showing a majority of people in the Islamic Republic believe Iran’s foreign policy to be the most negative in the world. Mr. Zibakalam said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical speeches and comments have had a backlash from the rest of the world. “The outcome of this opinion poll is due to the difference between Mr. Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical comments and those made by the former president, which were mostly about peace and creating dialogue. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s sarcasm and the radical language he has toward many countries, including Israel, have raised concerns around the world.” Mr. Zibakalam said the poll will have little impact on ordinary Iranians since most are caught up in their struggle tu survive. “They are completely caught up in their struggle to buy bread for their families and have many more items to be concerned about in their daily routine. However, had this poll reflected positively on the government, those same people would have been out tooting their horns and welcoming the poll results as a sign of victory for the Islamic Republic. But now that it is negative, they don’t even talk about it.”
News and Views April 1 interviewed economist Bijan Bidabad, a well-known professor at Tehran University, on the impact of the dollar losing its value on Persian Gulf countries. He said, “The ongoing high inflation rate in these countries is due to the high rate of finance advanced by high oil prices. Mr. Bidabad also said that many countries in the region are balancing their national currencies by establishing a foreign exchange basket: adding more stable currencies in order to balance the diminishing value of the dollar.
News and Views April 3 reported that China dismissed as groundless a media report saying it gave the International Atomic Energy Agency intelligence linked to Iran’s alleged attempt to make nuclear weapons. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday’s Associated Press report was fabricated and stemmed from ulterior motives. She did not elaborate. Jiang Yu also reiterated China’s position on the Iran nuclear issue, saying it should be resolved peacefully through dialogue. The news story was published after two senior diplomats who closely follow the IAEA investigation of Iran'’ nuclear program told the AP that China gave information about Iran to the nuclear agency. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential. The State Department said it couldn’t confirm the report, but said China has as much concern as any other nation about Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Roundtable with You April 3 featured Homayoun Houshiarnejad, publisher of the Encino, California-based Asre Emrooz daily newspaper, who discussed Iranian exile newspapers. He said his own paper has now reached the milestone of 20 uninterrupted years of publication. Mr. Houshiarnejad said Iranian publications in exile face numerous challenges. Key problems are a limited circulation base and the lack of financial support for independent publications. He said Persian newspapers serve an important role in the United States by brining the Iranian community in the US together, informing them of what is happening in Iran as well as America.
News and Views interviewed Iranian filmmaker Reza Allamehzadeh on two anti-Islamic films that have been generating a lot of attention in the Netherlands – even though neither one has been on television or in movie theatres. Right-wing Dutch legislator Geert Wilders released a 17- minute film last week on the Internet called Fitna, creating widespread protests against the lawmaker himself and against the Dutch government. Mr. Allamehzadeh said, “Although Fitna’s maker has always been a chaos maker in his speeches against Islam, there should be no objection or restriction on freedom of speech. Fitna could have been screened on Dutch TV.” In the film, a young Muslim girl in a head scarf calls Jews “apes and pigs.” A non-believer is beheaded and another is shot. Verses of the Koran are juxtaposed with horrific images, implying that one begets the other. Mr. Allamehzadeh said, “Fitna has nothing new to say and it is, in fact, an unworthy film as a documentary.” Because of the controversy, Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin suggested that another anti-Islamic film – a comic animation of the Prophet’s life by Iranian filmmaker Ehsan Jami – not be shown. In response, Mr. Jami announced he had decided not to release his film, as expected, on April 20.
News and Views April 3 interviewed Diane Alai, the Bahai International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, on the recent attack by paramilitary forces in Shiraz, Iran, against a young Bahai member. The attackers were identified as Holy Unknown Soldiers, or Sarbazan Gomnam e Emam Zaman. Ms. Alai said the group “tried to burn the young man as an apostate on the street, but passersby helped him….People are known and respected for risking imprisonment, torture and even death because they uphold a certain political ideology. However, this is not yet fully recognized when it comes to a religious belief.” Ms. Alai said the Iranian government plans to crackdown on any Bahais who leave their communities to celebrate holy festival days in the next week. The Bahai faith, an offshoot of Islam, originated in Iran 150 years ago. It claims five million members in 191 countries worldwide, including thousands in Iran where it is officially considered “a misleading and wayward sect.” The Islamic Republic has actively pursued a campaign to identify all the Bahais in Iran, and has been zeroing in on university students.
Roundtable with You April 2 focused on human rights violations with lawyer Lily Mazahery, founder and president of the Washington, DC-based Legal Rights Institute. Ms. Mazahery said governments are not the only abusers of human rights. “In many places,” she said, “especially in third world countries, the roots of human rights abuses go deep into so-called traditions, inherited from medieval times and beyond.” She said honor killings are a good example of such abuse, adding that it is a common practice in many development societies. Ms Mazahery said, “But by not preventing these kinds of crimes, some governments are giving carte blanche to violators.”
News and Views April 1 interviewed Richard White, the Founder and President of the Southern Center for International Studies, which sponsored last week’s event in Atlanta, Georgia, with five former Secretaries of State and their conversation about Iran. The top diplomats – Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright – urged the US to open a line of dialogue with Iran, each saying it is important to maintain contact with adversaries and allies alike. Mr. White said, “We have had 16 meetings of the former Secretaries of State, and the encouraging thing about this one is that there was a feeling of real pragmatism. And we are hoping that this would be implemented in the future. We need to talk to Iran and work with our allies and friends to solve this problem. We also have to reflect on past relations with Iran [and note that] Iran was helpful in Afghanistan. We have to put aside our problems and talk with our friends and adversaries.”
News and Views April 2 reported that the chief US negotiator in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said the current stalemate must be resolved within a matter of days. Speaking to reporters in Seoul, Mr. Hill said the US is “very concerned” that three months have now passed with the situation still unresolved. North Korea said last week that delays by the US in resolving the dispute could affect work to disable its atomic facilities. South Korea is urging Pyongyang to stop verbal attacks on South Korean leaders, saying such statements increase tensions between the two neighbors. On Tuesday, North Korean state media called South Korean President Lee Myung-bak a “traitor” for having close ties to the United States. Mr. Hill said the six parties should have been in the next stage of the disarmament talks and that the process needs to be completed before President Bush’s term is over.
NewsTalk March 31 featured Iran’s most famous contemporary poet, Simin Behbahani, who focused on the human rights situation in Iran. “This past year was worse than before. Many newspapers were banned. Many journalists were jailed. Many students and activists for women’s rights were jailed. These are just some of the indications that last year was a very, very bad year for us,” she said. Ms. Behbahani said the Writers Center still holds sessions at members’ homes despite pressures not to do so. “We believe that Iranian citizens should have the right to express themselves without any restrictions….For nine years, from 1981-1990, none of my poems were published. I thought people would forget about me. Censorship influences writers and poets and can discourage them from writing at all….How can you move when your hands are chained?” she said.
Ms. Behbahani also was the featured guest on Today’s Woman April 1. “My mother was very influential in my life and was very active in the women’s movement of her time about 80 years ago,” she said. “Our family was full of culture and books. My mother’s second husband was very supportive. Both my parents were writers. My father was a newspaper editor and my mother was a teacher, poet and journalist. At the age of 14, my first poem was published in the Iranian magazine, Nobohar. It was during the time of World War Two and times were tough. I shared the poem with my mother and she encouraged me to submit it for publication.” Turning to human rights again, Ms. Behbahani said Iranian women wanted to be treated equally and with respect. They don’t want to face gender discrimination. “We should remember the men who support the women’s movement,” she said. “We want to work with the men and not segregate ourselves from them. We do not want to be more than men, we do not want to be less than men. We just want to be equal to them.” Ms. Behbahani read a poem on air and then talked about her hope that political prisoners and those who face restraints on their expression will be freed. “Artistic expression serves as an outlet for the soul,” she said. “In regards to [last month’s] Majlis elections in Iran, when candidates are pre-selected, the election itself loses meaning. For the women of Iran, continue to be active in order to establish your right to equality.” Ms. Behbahani concluded with these words: “I sense that my life is coming to an end and so I feel I must continue to work and contribute as much as I can these last few years.”
VOA/PNN interviewed independent journalist Ali Asghar Ramezanpour on the letter written by a large group of Iranian publishers to the Minister of Culture, complaining of the censorship of their books. Mr. Ramezanpour, who fled Iran after resigning from his post toward the final days of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, served as Deputy of Books and Cultural Affairs to the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Mr. Ramezanpour said the situation in Iran on books today is a “complete cultural massacre and a disgrace for both writers and publishers.” He said it is unlawful to recall books once they are published since in Iran the censorship occurs before the books are published.
News and Views April 1 interviewed Tehran-based lawyer Mohammad Seyfzadeh, a member of the Committee for a Free and Fair Election in Iran. A dozen high-profile lawyers and politicians founded the group in Iran last November. They released a statement March 31 condemning the March 14 parliamentary election as unfair. Mr. Seyfzadeh said, “A free and fair election is an election in which people can vote for whomever they wish. In Iran, the people were asked to vote only for selected candidates.”
News and Views interviewed renowned Iranian painter Nasser Ovissi, who has made his home in Virginia since the 1980s. He talked about the Iranian New Year – NoRouz being celebrated in the United States at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the Philadelphia Museum and in San Francisco, or namely, all over the United States. “Contrary to the Iranian rulers who have a bad reputation internationally,” Mr. Ovissi said, “people around the world recognize the contributions of Iranian culture.”
News and Views April 1 reported that President Bush says he will strongly press this week’s NATO support to initiate the alliance membership process for Ukraine and Georgia, despite fierce opposition from Russia. Mr. Bush, in Kiev on his way to his last NATO summit in Romania, spoke at a news conference after talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Both presidents said NATO expansion is not aimed against Russia, and insisted Moscow will have no veto on the issue. Mr. Bush also rejected any trade off between US backing for Ukraine and Georgia and US plans for deploying a missile defense system in central Europe. Russia is against both. NATO members Germany and France have expressed doubts on the readiness of Ukraine and Georgia for membership. In Paris, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said his country was opposed “because we think it is not the right response to the balance of power in Europe and between Europe and Russia, and we want to have a dialogue on this subject with Russia.”
News and Views April 2 reported that President Bush emphasized the importance of the success of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, ahead of an alliance summit in Bucharest. Speaking after talks with Romanian President Traian Basescu at his Black Sea residence, Mr. Bush expressed satisfaction with pledges by France and other alliance countries to send more troops for Afghan operations. Mr. Bush also urged Russia to drop its opposition to US plans to install a missile defense shield in central Europe. He said the system is needed because countries like Iran are pursuing ballistic missiles that could strike Europe. The President said that in his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he will again stress that the Cold War is over and Russia and the United States are not enemies.
News and Views April 3 reported that NATO leaders have invited Albania and Croatia to open alliance membership talks, but postponed action on Macedonia until it resolves a dispute with Greece over the country’s name. A senior US official said NATO leaders meeting in Bucharest have agreed to endorse a planned US missile defense system for Europe. The official said the endorsement would be included in a statement adopted later in the day at their summit in the Romanian capital. Russia is strongly opposed to the missile defense shield that Washington insists is targeted at rogue states such as Iran. Earlier, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told NATO leaders that France will deploy one battalion (about 800 troops) to the eastern part of Afghanistan, to join the alliance’s mission there. A portion of US troops in the area will likely move to the south, where the threat of combat is high. Mr. Sarkozy also said he will consider within the next year France’s return to NATO's military command, after a four decade absence.
News and Views March 31 interviewed Nader Entessar, Chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Southern Alabama, on the Kurdish issue on regional developments in Iran and Iraq. He said there have been both positive and negative impacts. “It is positive for the Iraqi Kurds – there is trade with Iran, and the Kurds even have a better view of themselves. Kurds in Iran have economic, social and human rights problems. Any demand for their basic rights in seen as a separatist move. The oppression of the Kurds by the Iranian regime has historic roots. Divisions among Kurds and their leadership are hurting them as well.”
News and Views March 31 interviewed Ali Asghar Haj Seyed Javadi, a well-known political activist and a journalist who was famous at the time of the Iranian revolution, on Favardin 12 (or March 31) which marks Islamic Day. In a two-day referendum on March 30 and 31, 1979 – two months after the fall of the Shah and the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution – over 98.2% of Iranian voters gave their approval to the establishment of the Islamic Republic. At the time, the Iranian state newspaper reported, “With the referendum, people proved to the world their desire for establishment of a democratic political system based on the teachings and principles of Islam.” But Mr. Javadi believed the referendum was not democratic and was held without any apparatus such as a constitutional assembly. “Khomeni was a charismatic leader who established the Islamic Republic and obviously the people voted more for him [than they did for an Islamic government].”
News and Views April 6 interviewed Mohammad Seifzadeh, a Tehran attorney well known for his opposition to the government, on the chief of the Iranian judiciary being ordered to prepare a third development program. He said the plan is meant to improve prisons, improve the public’s trust in the judiciary, and to better honor citizens’ rights. “From the time the clerics interfered with the judiciary in Iran,” Mr. Seifzadeh said, “the whole system collapsed.”
News and Views April 6 reported that Israel will begin a five-day nationwide exercise Sunday simulating air and missile attacks on cities. The Israeli military said that emergency sirens would sound across the country and schoolchildren will practice entering shelters and other protected spaces. The military said hospitals, army emergency services, municipal bodies and ministries will all take part in the drill.
News and Views also interviewed Kazem Alamdari, a sociologist and faculty member at California State University at Los Angeles, on Islamic Day. He said, “In 1979, the people of Iran didn’t realize what was going to result from their vote, and in fact, the clerics imposed themselves on the people as their political leaders.”
Today’s Woman March 31 talked with poet Mehrangiz Rasapour about her writings and about Vajeh, an online magazine she founded. “After studying classical poetry,” she said, “I realized I needed to find my own path and to express myself freely without any restraints. This is why I decided to pursue modern poetry.” She said poetry came naturally. “At a young age, I did not understand my talent, but as I got older I realized my natural attraction to poetry. To be an artist and a poet, there is a need for a natural artistic ability.” Ms. Rasapour said it wasn’t easy to raise three children while writing poetry. “However, my children are my living poems and inspiration,” she said. “I would never sacrifice motherhood for my poetry, but I must say that my husband was very helpful in raising our children and this was a major contribution.” She said Hafiz was the biggest influence on her work. The last segment discussed Vajeh, which she said is a continuation of a conference that gathered poets and writers to establish a standard of criticism for Iranian classical and modern poetry.
Today’s Woman April 3 focused first on the website recently launched by Yahoo! at http://shine.yahoo.com. The site is dedicated to issues related to women, including work and money, healthy living, and love and sex. The show’s second segment looked at Transactional Analysis, the method for studying interactions between individuals developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist Eric Berne. Dr. Berne suggests that altering interaction with others can resolve a person’s emotional problems. The model is based on a three-pronged ego state (parent-adult- child) that is supposed to determine how people are structured psychologically. The last segment highlighted the men who are active in Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign – a campaign to e end discrimination against women. Panelists acknowledged that men and women must work together to secure women’s rights. They pointed out that there are 15 men who are on the Campaign’s core committee.
Today’s Woman April 4 looked at the current status of the women’s movement in Iran, recognizing that in order for there to be progress, there need to be concrete methods and tactics that will lead to gender equality. Panelists discussed the UN Commission on the Status of Women, including the founding of the Commission in 1946 and its goals, primarily to empower women worldwide and eliminate gender discrimination. They also acknowledged the impact of non-governmental organizations on the Commission.
Today’s Woman April 5 focused on three different topics: autism, Iranian students and Afghan women. The first segment highlighted World Autism Awareness Day, along with information on the latest research being conducted on autism. The second segment profiled the work of Iranian student activists, who despite official crackdowns against their work, continue their efforts for better rights. Panelists discussed women’s rights in Afghanistan with Lina Rozbih, a broadcaster with the Afghanistan Service of Voice of America. She talked about one of the latest controversies involving women in Afghanistan – singer Lima Sahar from Kandahar, a stronghold of the Taliban. Ms. Sahar received many threats for refusing to give up participation in the finals of Afghan Star, a version of the American Idol show broadcast on a non-government TV channel in Afghanistan. She eventually came in third. Ms. Rozbih also talked about local and foreign NGO’s in Afghanistan protecting and supporting women’s rights, mentioning an Afghan woman from Herat who provides shelter to divorced women in order to help them from burning themselves.
Today’s Woman April 6 talked with Mehrdad Darvishpour, a sociologist at Stockholm University, about feminism in Iran. He said, “If Iranian women did not face pressure and restraints from the government, they would show the world that the women of Iran are models of the progressive woman.” He said the democratic and religious movements that have taken place in Iran have put the needs of women in the back seat. Mr. Darvishpour said this was particularly true with Iran’s reformist movement, which had great support from women but did little to benefit them. He said Iranian women who leave the country are the best example of progressive and successful women.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about the NATO summit in Bucharest; NATO’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan; the detention and trial of al-Qaeda members in Turkey; a new Saudi law requiring Iranian visitors to be fingerprinted upon arrival in the Kingdom; Arab leaders most closely aligned with the West not participating in the Arab League summit in Damascus; there were 17 million eligible voters in Iran for the 1980 referendum to ratify the constitution but 23 million votes were counted; if Ayatollah Khomeni said “our forefathers didn’t have any right to decide [our government] for us,” isn’t it the right of Iranian citizens to question the validity of the 1980 referendum; Iran’s desire to separate the south of Iraq and install its own government there; the use of the Central Bank, known as Bank Markazi, for illegal trade; Iran is rebuilding the nuclear installations in Syria that were destroyed last year by Israel; Syria’s opposition to further investigation into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri for fear President Bashar Assad and his lieutenants will be exposed; Iran’s policy in Iraq is: whoever is willing to fight and challenge US forces in Iraq will receive funds, arms and training; Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dictates economic policy to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose job it is to implement said policy; inflation in Iran now exceeds 30% while unemployment has topped 25%; prior to the Islamic Revolution, for ten years – from 1961 to 1971 – Iran had the best economic growth in its history; Iran was producing six million barrels of petroleum a day before the Revolution, but is producing under four millions barrels a day now; merits of the UAE’s and Iran’s claims to sovereignty over three islands in the Gulf – Greater and Lesser Tumb and Abu Moussa; Russia’s and China’s agreement that Iran should not be a member of the Shanghai Treaty;
This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of Las Vegas hotels that house the world’s biggest gambling playgrounds unencumbered by tradition or notions of good taste; the second segment focused on Mt. Rushmore, the world’s largest sculpture and the incredible story of how Gutzon Borglum carved the faces of four US Presidents into the Black Hills of South Dakota; the third segment focused on the motion picture industry, with the complete story of the feuds, the mistakes, ingenuity and successes that made movies possible – and kept Edison at the front of the inventors’ pack; the fourth segment profile the city of Los Angeles, the unruly and eclectic metropolis with an array of engineering and construction marvels that rivals any city in the world; and the fifth segment took a detailed look at the Internet – the fastest growing form of global communication in history, started in 1969 as a way for the Department of Defense to communicate in the event of nuclear holocaust.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – focused on VOA/PNN programs. First, Mr. Mahmoudi addressed the importance of measuring audience reaction to programs and their content. “Market research is the base of media studies,” he said. “Commercial media’s income and survival is based on the popularity and acceptance of messages by any given media. Let us confine our talk to television and radio research and content evaluation. Non-commercial media, like VOA, is also subject to scrutiny and is accountable to taxpayers. Periodic audience research and analysis of the content of our radio and television programs are of utmost importance for VOA management and a necessary tool and guideline for us. For these reasons, at least once a year programs are evaluated by utilizing available measurement tools.” Mr. Mahmoudi said it is absolutely necessary that such evaluation and audience research be performed by impartial experts. Even if a media outlet is equipped and capable of doing the work itself, it is necessary, he said, to have the evaluation performed by an outside agency. Mr. Mahmoudi said VOA/PNN’s program evaluation showed that: 1) VOA/PNN television programs were found to be among the most watched television programs in Iran; 2) The desirability and acceptance of VOA/PNN programs were rated very highly; and 3) The share of PNN-TV programs compared to the numerous satellite and non-satellite television programs in Persian was found to be very high, with several programs achieving top ranking.
PNN’s question of the week was, “CIA chief Michael Hayden says he believes that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Do you agree with him?” Out of 10,430 respondents, 74 % said yes, 22% said no, while 4% 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
From a viewer in Karaj: “I watch your program every day. You might not know it, but Today’s Woman is really popular in Iran. Many women watch your programs and the day after, when they gather in various places – in line at the bank, at arenas, in grocery stores, et cetera – they talk about your program. Your program is very enlightening. Families discuss the topics that are covered in your program amongst themselves. You have great anchors on Today’s Woman and I wish good luck to each one of them.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I am writing with regard to Today’s Woman on March 31. It was fantastic. I thought it was great to see a modern poet of our time, Mehrangiz Rasapour on your show. You made me proud of Iranian culture and literature and made me proud to be Iranian.”
From a viewer in Iran: “If you and your programs cause a single change in one mind, it means that you have succeeded in your mission. I have learned from [Today’s Woman] especially and it awakened my mind. Previously, when you where talking about the discriminatory laws against women in Iran, I felt miserable and hopeless. I was overwhelmed with deep sorrow and wished I had been born as a boy. After a while, thanks to watching your show regularly, I decided to overcome my worry and depression, and I began to bring changes into my life. I wanted to do something about my life in order to avoid those disasters that happened to generations before me. I will never impose such troublesome and strict ideas on my children. In fact, after much fighting with my family, I have finally begun working outside of my home. I told my family I am a human being and can make my own decisions. I credit you with all the positive changes that are happening in my life. In your show yesterday, you asked about our goals for the New Year. Let me tell you that I plan to continue my work and studies. I also want to participate in a sport my family has always opposed. And I plan to go to a psychiatrist to work on my self-confidence skills, to be more independent.”
From a 21-year old male in Isfahan: “Unfortunately, due to the existence of the so-called Islamic regime in Iran, many people – especially women – have been oppressed by the government. As a matter of fact, when a tyrannical regime decides to destroy the culture of a country, the first people to be hurt are women because they protect a culture’s society. The main reason the Iranian government tries to prevent women from attaining their inalienable rights is that the clergy are afraid of the social power of Iranian women. I believe the strongest weapon against the Islamic regime is informed Iranian women. Thanks for your interesting [Today’s Woman] program.
From a 27-year-old woman in Iran: “I hold two bachelor’s degrees and I am busy with studying and working right now. I would like to ask you to discuss the subject of marriage on one of your [Today’s Woman] programs. I have a problem I’d like you to talk about. My boyfriend and I decided to get married two years ago, but his parents have not yet accepted that fact because I am five years older than their son. As you know, people believe that the man should be older than the woman. I love him so much and I am doing my best to make him happy. We share many of the same opinions which will help us to have a nice life. But his parents don’t pay attention to these facts. I would like to send his mother a message. Please read this message for her on Today’s Woman: ‘Dear mother: please understand that our love is pure and true.’ Once again, thank you very much.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Today’s Woman helped me talk with my husband, and finally, he has agreed that I may study. I am 30-years-old. You also have made my husband get active in the One Million Signatures Campaign. Believe it!”
From a viewer: "The flag bearing "the Lion and the Sun" is our national flag and does not belong to any particular faction. It seems you've lost your sense of national identity and history. People now realize that you speak from both sides of your mouth. Please study Iranian history more seriously."
From a viewer: "Don't be discouraged by the flap over the flag. It's obvious that these Iranian satellite TV stations based in Los Angeles want nothing but to stir up emotions and make Iranian believe that they are the only patriots in this. Keep up the good work."
From a viewer: “Iranian flag of lion and sun doesn’t belong to a particular group. It is our national flag. Please correct this mistake. Thank you.”
[Editor’s Note: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s appearance on Roundtable with You March 22 generated many e-mails. The following are a good sample of those received.]
From a viewer in Tehran: “Ms. Albright, do you happen to know that in Iran they have re- established torture for expressing one’s opinion? For several months now, people have been tortured, threatened and jailed for the opinions they have. Why is it that no institution or organization in the world pays any attention to murders and crimes committed by ‘the office of confrontation with religions,’ which is a scary section of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence? Which organization is responsible for considering violations of freedom of expression? And why is it that no attention is being paid to the deplorable status of free speech in Iran?”
From a group of students who belong to Al Yassin Society: “Ms. Albright, it is approximately one year since the Office of Confrontation with Religions and Spiritual Societies placed restrictions on the 160,000 member Al Yassin Cultural Society. Ostad Iliya was tortured and put in solitary confinement for six months because he wouldn’t deny his beliefs and he wouldn’t falsely confess to acting against the national security of Iran. He also was accused of creating a sect and of promoting Christianity. As a group of his students, we ask you as a distinguished international personality to try to lift the restrictions imposed on our group. We ask this because you are an individual who believes in freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Do not let a large group such as Al Yassin, which is made of several institutions and publications, be suppressed a result of oppression and the frightening atmosphere created by the Ministry of Intelligence.”
From a law student in Iran: “Ms. Albright, I ask you to help the freedom-seekers and clear thinkers in Iran who have been pressured and tortured. Female students and teachers have nobody to help them. It has been months that Payman Fattahi has been under pressure to give up his ideas and cultural activities. Do not let Mr. Fattahi and his students in Al Yassin Society encounter the same fate as the Gonabadi [Sufi] sect or student activists.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Ms. Albright, I hope this request of ours reaches you, and that along with the nuclear issue and human rights, attention can be paid to freedom of speech in Iran. During the previous year, a number of groups in Iran have come under attack. A segment of the Iranian intelligence apparatus, under the name of the ‘Office of Anti-Religion’ has confronted spiritual groups such as the Gonabadi sect and Al Yassin Society. These individuals have been jailed. They have undergone character assassination. This Office has tried to dissolve these groups and thereby prevent members of their community from being informed of social and cultural activities. We ask that you increase your efforts to support freedom of expression and freedom of opinion in Iran. Please ask world leaders and human rights organizations to utilize their voice to eliminate this discrimination and prevent further confrontations and attacks.”
From a physician who belongs to Al Yassin Society: “Please tell Ms. Albright that if America and its officials only talk about human rights and don’t take serious measures, the number of executions in Iran will increase. Everyday we hear that a few young individuals have been executed. And it has been some time now that Mr. Iliya (Payman Fattahi) and his students have come under threat. If he does not stop his cultural activities, he will face execution.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I have a master’s in civil engineering from Amir Kabir University. Currently, I am serving in the army and am busy with the preliminary steps to continue my education. I wanted to see if it is possible to obtain the e-mail addresses for [NewsTalk panelists] Mohsen Sazgara and Shayan Samii. I appreciate your work and always monitor your programs. I learn many things. More power to you and I wish you a Happy New Year.”