Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – May 5, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warning that Iran continues to foment instability in Iraq; the Pentagon saying Iran is arming Taliban forces in Afghanistan; live coverage of President Bush’s news conference in which he criticized Iran’s nuclear program and its support for terrorist groups; the US, Russia, China, England, France and Germany meeting to talk about using carrots and sticks to prompt Iran’s compliance with UN resolutions on its nuclear program; Iran proclaiming Barbie dolls as dangerous; and interviews with Ambassador David Satterfield, the State Department’s Coordinator for Iraq, on Iranian activity in Iraq; with essayist and political commentator, Mehdi Ghassemi, on the political theory behind the Islamic government; with Georgetown University professor Mehrdad Mashayekhi about the power of civil forces in society; with human rights champion Mohammad Sharif on increased human rights violations in Iran; with attorney Saleh Nikbakht on a new definition in Iran for political crimes; with songwriter Shahyar Ghanbari on the role of today’s artist in society; with Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow Chingiz Mammadov on Azerbaijan halting a shipment of Russian nuclear material destined for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant; with Iranian opera singer Bahram Tajabadi; with Shirzanan women’s sports magazine founder Solmaz Sharif on Iranian women and the Olympics.
News and Views April 28 reported on the news briefing held by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, on Iran’s negative influence in Iraq. He spoke about how much and just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability and enumerated ways Iran is creating chaos there. Admiral Mullin said Iran provides support to criminal groups in the form of munitions and training and continues to kill coalition and Iraqi personnel. “First, on Iran,” he said, “I’ve been clear lately that I’m extremely concerned about what I believe to be an increasingly lethal and malign influence by that government and the Quds Force in particular in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. He said the Iranian government has failed to honor its pledge to halt such activities some months ago. “It’s plainly obvious they have not,” Admiral Mullin said. He said he believes that a third conflict in that part of the world – on top of Iraq and Afghanistan – would be extremely stressing for the US, but says no option is off the table. “I have reserve capability, particularly in our Navy and our Air Force, not just there but available globally. So it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability.” The Times of London described Admiral Mullen’s statements as “an unusual public warning.”
Today’s Woman April 29 carried live President Bush’s news conference in the Rose Garden. The President blamed Congress for most of the economy’s ills, from higher energy and food costs to problems with mortgage payments and the availability of student loans. Mr. Bush also talked about Iraq, Afghanistan, Hamas, Colombia and Iran. On Iran, the President said, “And then we have an interest in sending a message to Iran, and the world for that matter, about just how destabilizing a – nuclear proliferation would be in the Middle East, and that it’s essential that we work together to enforce UN Security Council resolutions aimed at getting Iran to stop their enrichment programs. In other words, one of the things that this example shows is that these programs can exist and people don’t know about them – because the Syrians simply didn’t declare the program; they had a hidden program.” President Bush also criticized Iran for supporting groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. “Unfortunately, they’re getting help; in Syria, they get help. There [are] rumors about Iranian help. And these countries that I just named are – take, for example, Lebanon. I talked to Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora today. Here’s a struggling democracy in the heart of the Middle East that is – whose internal politics are being influenced by Syria, Hezbollah – as a result of Iranian influence with Hezbollah – all aiming to destabilize the country, which should be a clear signal about the intents of – the intentions of groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.”
News and Views May 3 reported that Russia says six world powers concerned about Iran’s nuclear program want Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment while negotiations are under way. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that it is necessary to explain to Iran what benefits Tehran would receive if it agreed to talks. Mr. Lavrov was speaking in Moscow after meeting in London Friday with his counterparts from the United States, Britain, France, Germany and China. He said the six nations did not discuss imposing new sanctions on Iran, but they did agree to improve a package of incentives first offered to Iran in 2006. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in Tehran that he has warned world powers not to cross Iran's “red lines.” In the past, Tehran has described the suspension of uranium enrichment as a “red line.” The six nations have been using a mix of incentives and sanctions to try to persuade Iran to halt its enrichment program.
Roundtable with You April 29 talked with Mehrdad Mashayekhi, an Assistant Visiting Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, about the power of civil forces in society. He believes that those who sought change in Iran through violence and forceful revolutionary methods, and the Reformists who seek change within Iran’s present government structure, both are stalled and can no longer go forward. Mr. Mashayekhi suggested a third alternative which he calls civil movements led by all sorts of groups whose rights have been violated by the government, including minorities, worker unions, students, teachers and women. Mr. Mashayekhi suggested these groups should identify their goals and objectives, as well as their rights which have been violated, and then create a civil force to pressure the government to accept changes.
VOA/PNN interviewed Chingiz Mammadov, a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, about Azerbaijan halting a shipment of Russian heat insulators destined for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant. Mr. Mammadov, who is on the faculty at Azerbaijan’s Khazar University, said stopping the shipment of nuclear material is a technical matter not really related to Iran’s nuclear issue. “These technical issues will be resolved and the shipment will be sent to Iran. The big picture is the relations between these countries and what Azerbaijan is asking.” Mr. Mammadov said Azerbaijan wants to be counted as a player in the region, and to be treated fairly, in a similar manner to Georgia. “Azerbaijan sent a resolution to the United Nations about its territorial integrity, and this whole incident goes back to the fact that it wants to be taken seriously.”
VOA/PNN May 4 interviewed human rights champion Mohammad Sharif about increased violations by officials in the Islamic Republic. Speaking by telephone from Iran, Mr. Sharif emphasized that all totalitarian systems which have not been selected by the people have failed to survive for long. VOA/PNN also spoke with attorney Saleh Nikbakht, who serves as the spokesman for the Society of Political Prisoners in Iran. Commenting on the recent development that Iran’s judiciary defines political crimes, Mr. Nikbakht said, “This announcement is stunning, particularly as you don’t frequently hear such definitions made public in closed societies by their governments.” Mr. Nikbakht said that all gatherings and the most basic of movements within political parties can now be categorized as political crimes.
VOA/PNN reported that 300 books published in accordance with guidelines from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance have been recalled from Tehran’s International Book Fair. This, of course, doesn’t even touch on the number of titles banned for having “inappropriate” pictures. Farkhondeh Haji-zadeh is a participating publisher whose books have been banned from the fair. She told PNN she strongly opposes the recall, calling the action illegal. Ms. Haji-zadeh also said, “Gossip on the street is that the banned foreign titles were put on the black list due to their governments’ poor relations with Iran.”
Late Edition’s “Youth Factor” April 28 focused on last week’s protests at Sahand University in Tabriz to protest the disrespectful treatment of female students by university authorities. The protests quickly turned political, and one protester, Reza Pakzad, told VOA/PNN that a number of the students who started a hunger strike on April 24 were sent to the hospital for care. Mr. Pakzad that there are different kinds of represent at Sahand University, including gender discrimination and separation, and sending students to disciplinary committees and courts without cause. Sahand University is one of the institutions of higher learning targeted by the government to become more “more Islamic.” Meanwhile, in Tehran, three student activists – Mohammad Hashemi, Ali Neko-Nesbati and Ali Azizi – were sent to revolutionary court again. In Ardabil, three students arrested last month are still in custody with no news about them. And in Shiraz, 1,200 students signed a petition demanding Shiraz University’s disciplinary committee stop proceedings against activists.
Late Edition reported April 28 that scores of protestors from the Pakistan-based Baloch Students Organization demonstrated in Quetta on the eve of a visit to Pakistan by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The students, who gathered in front of the Quetta Press Club, condemned the public execution of Baloch tribesmen in Iran and chanted slogans against the Iranian regime. Protesters told the local media that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were involved in the public execution of dissident Balochis in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province. They alleged the Iranian government has denied them religious, linguistic and economic freedom. A militant Sunni group, Jundullah, which has its roots in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, has claimed responsibility for several recent attacks on Iranian troops in the border area between Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan has arrested several Jundullah activists on charges of terrorism. Mr. Ahmadinejad arrived Monday in Islamabad for his first visit to Pakistan. He was to meet with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and to discuss an oil pipeline Pakistan and India are considering in order to import natural gas from Iran, as well as security issues, including worsening conditions in neighboring Afghanistan.
News and Views April 28 reported that one of Iran’s top national security officials held talks with the acting secretary of Russia’s National Security Council aimed to defuse international concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said his talks with Russia’s Valentin Sobolev focused on what he called a package of “serious” Iranian proposals designed to minimize the nuclear threat around the world. Mr. Jalili said Iran is ready for talks with world powers, but that such discussions must respect the Islamic Republic’s growing role as a regional power. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s top investigator, Olli Heinonen, arrived in Tehran April 28 for three days of talks the IAEA says will focus on allegations Iran has researched how to make nuclear weapons. Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, insists that Mr. Heinonen’s visit is part of Tehran’s routine cooperation with the UN nuclear agency.
News and Views May 1 reported on the State Department’s annual report on terrorism in the world, which says Iran remains the most active state sponsor of terrorism and has been directly involved in planning terrorist acts in the Middle East. The State Department said elements of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps also support groups that use terrorism to advance their regional goals. In an exclusive interview with VOA/PNN, Ambassador David Satterfield, the State Department’s Coordinator for Iraq, said “Iran must establish relations with the Iraqi government -- not with the insurgents and radicals.” Mr. Satterfield also said, “Now is the time for Iran to choose the right course and path.” A delegation of Iraqi Shi’ite politicians is in Iran to discuss Tehran’s alleged support of Shi’ite militias in Iraq. AFP said they want to meet and talk with Muqtada Sadr, but AP reported that they have already met with Kazem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force that also operates in Iraq, with plans to meet with him again as well as meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
News and Views May 1 reported that senior US military officials say there is new evidence that Iran is continuing to supply weapons and other material to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. The Chief of Operations for US Senior Military staff, Lieutenant General Carter Ham made the comments to reporters late Wednesday. He said the evidence does not suggest Iran is supporting the Taliban at the same level it has supported insurgents in Iraq. General Ham spoke as two US aircraft carrier strike groups are in the Persian Gulf in what has been called an unusual display of American military power in the region. General Ham said it’s not so extraordinary to have two carriers in one CENTCOM area of responsibility. “The message of commitment to the region is one that we think is important but it’s not intended to be anything more than that. It is a message to all nations that the United States possesses the capability and the will to operate globally.” Meanwhile, Dell L. Dailey, Coordinator of the State Department’s Office for Counterterrorism, said Iran’s backing of Iraqi insurgents and Taliban forces is a shrewd tactic to keep US-led forces under pressure. “The last thing I would suspect that the Iranians want,” he said, “is a totally pacified Afghanistan with a US base on their immediate eastern side.”
Roundtable with You May 4 examined the political theory behind the Islamic government with essayist and political commentator, Mehdi Ghassemi. Mr. Ghassemi said although Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lacks the charisma of his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he has been able to align himself with powerbrokers within the Islamic regime and maintain his position. “Right now, those who wield power are the Revolutionary Guard leaders and they have made a calculation that it’s to their advantage to support Khamenei as the leader. Khamenei has in turn given them his backing,” he said. “These military leaders were idealistic in the early days of the revolution, but are now accustomed to being in power and are unwilling to give up the perks that come with this power.” In discussing the concept of the supreme rule of the religious jurisprudent, Mr. Ghassemi said it was a national affront to the moral conscience of all Iranians to be governed by a system that claims it has a divine right to rule and with no accountability to the people of Iran. “In effect,” he said, “the Supreme Leader’s claim to power is that 70 million Iranians are minors and he as their guardian have to rule over them,” he said. Mr. Ghassemi said Iran’s salvation will only be through a total separation of religion and state. “This would protect religion from the wiliness and intrigue of politics. The Islamic system of government has brought to Iran the twin-brothers of despotism and corruption.”
VOA/PNN interviewed prominent Iranian political analyst Dariush Homayoun following the second-round of parliamentary elections. Up to five people were killed in the western province of Ilam on April 25 when supporters of a candidate for parliament protested in front of a town hall against rumors of election fraud. Mr. Homayoun said confusion and chaos characterize the Islamic regime, adding that “the peaceful process of social movements inside Iran should continue.”
News and Views April 28 reported on the ongoing violence in Iraq, with the US military saying American and Iraqi troops have killed 38 militants in Baghdad, including 22 during an attack by fighters on an Iraqi checkpoint in the city’s northeast. A military statement said troops repelled an attack on the evening of April 27 on an Iraqi Security Force checkpoint by 22 “criminals” using small arms fire. The statement said there were no US or ISF casualties in the attack. In another development, representatives of Iraq’s main ethnic groups have concluded three days of talks in Finland, where they studied the reconciliation process in other countries. Organizers of the event, which ended Sunday, said it brought together Shi’ite and Sunni Arabs as well as Kurds with the goal of ending the violence in Iraq. Meanwhile, in Tehran, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that a claim by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper that five British hostages kidnapped in Iraq almost a year ago are being held in Iran by Revolutionary Guards was “untrue.”
News and Views May 4 reported US and Iraq forces killed 14 insurgents during clashes in Baghdad’s Sadr City district since Friday. The US military says the insurgents were killed in a series of ground battles and air strikes. On Saturday, the US fired missiles into Sadr City in an attack on what the military called an insurgent command and control center. News reports say at least 25 people were wounded in the attack. The area’s main hospital was also damaged in the strike, which shattered windows and destroyed ambulances. A small building near the hospital was demolished. Also Saturday, a delegation of Iraqi officials returned from a visit to Iran, where they discussed Tehran’s alleged support of Shi’ite militias in Iraq. A spokesman for the delegation (deputy parliament speaker Khalid al-Atiyah) said Iranian officials had agreed to work with the Iraqi government to re-establish security in the country.
News and Views April 29 reported that 28 militants were killed in fighting between Shi’ite militiamen and US and Iraqi forces in the Sadr City area of east Baghdad. A US military spokesman said at least four US soldiers were wounded in the clashes. In another development, Iraq’s former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz went on trial on charges related to the execution of 42 businessmen in 1992. Mr. Aziz became internationally known as Saddam Hussein’s defender and fierce America critic after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War. He later was promoted to deputy prime minister and often represented Iraq at the United Nations and other international forums. Mr. Aziz has been held for five years without charge and is said to be in poor health.
News and Views May 1 reported a car bomb exploded in a Baghdad commercial district, killing nine people and wounding about 20 others. Police said the bomb went off Thursday morning in eastern Baghdad as a US military patrol passed through the area. In other violence, Iraqi officials say fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City district has killed eight people since late Wednesday. Baghdad has seen a rise in violence since late March, when Iraqi and US forces increased operations against Shi’ite militants in Sadr City. The district is a stronghold of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The US military in Iraq said April was its deadliest month since last September, with 51 troops killed, more than half of them in Baghdad. A Baghdad security official says the fighting in Sadr City has killed 925 people and wounded 2,600 others. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has vowed to disarm militias by force and disband al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, Sunni insurgent groups and al-Qaeda in Iraq.
News and Views April 30 reported that US military officials say five suspected insurgents dressed in Iraqi uniforms attacked the home of a human rights worker, killing two people and injuring two others. The military said the insurgents attacked the home with small arms fire. The human rights worker was killed as well as an Iraqi soldier who lived in the neighborhood. Two Iraqi citizens were injured. The military also said two US soldiers were killed in separate incidents. One soldier died when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. The other was killed when he was attacked by insurgents in northwestern Baghdad. Earlier, the military said 28 militants were killed in fighting between Shi’ite militiamen and US and Iraqi forces in the Sadr City area of east Baghdad. In another development, a court in Iraq began on April 29 to hear the case against Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein’s best-known lieutenants, over charges of allegedly ordering the execution of dozens of merchants for profiteering. Mr. Aziz is one of eight defendants accused of executing the 42 merchants in 1992. He denies the charges.
News and Views April 29 reported that top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said Tehran will soon unveil a proposal that will help assure the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. “We will present our package of proposals in the near future,” Mr. Jalili said. “And we are ready to talk and negotiate with those powers that can be influential on this issue and can agree with this approach.” Mr. Jalili was talking with reporters at a joint news conference with Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Valentin Sobolev. Mr. Sobolev also met with the head of Iran’s nuclear organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who said the Iranian proposals will be handed to Russia first and then to other countries. Iranian officials also met with Olli Heinonen, the deputy chief of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. “We have a very transparent program and we believe that the problems have been resolved,” Mr. Aghazadeh said.
News and Views April 29 reported that the beginning of two weeks of talks in Geneva on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty were marred by a clash between Iran and Syria with the West over accusations of non-peaceful nuclear activity in both countries. Speaking for the European Union, Slovenian Ambassador Andrej Logar said, “The EU is resolved not to allow Iran to acquire military nuclear capabilities and to remove any proliferation risks posed by the Iranian nuclear program.” Iran, which was not slated to speak, took the floor to blast the EU for “lengthy and exaggerated allegations that distort the truth” about Iran’s enrichment campaign. Britain is scheduled to host six-power talks on Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the West on May 2. Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad criticized Iran’s role in Iraq in a UN Security Council Meeting. “You heard us highlight the unhelpful role, particularly of some of the neighbors, especially Iran,” he said, “and that we regard those actions, arming, training, and supplying funds to militia elements, criminal elements to attack coalition forces, attack Iraqi security forces, cause civilian casualties, to be fundamentally inconsistent with UN resolutions that have passed under Chapter VII.”
Today’s Woman April 28 opened with a report on students at Tabriz University staging a sit-in to protest sentencing decisions made by the administration with regard to other student protesters. Another report focused on the demand from Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi, that the country’s children be protected from the “destructive” cultural and social consequences of importing Barbie dolls and other Western toys, such as Batman, Spider Man and Harry Potter. Mr. Najafabadi said these personalities are dangerous to the health of children. Panelists discussed the Women’s Film Festival in Sweden with journalist Helen Hemmati, including the importance of women getting involved behind the camera and the deep impact they can have on society by creating films. Ms. Hemmati said, “Even though the movies featured in the Women’s Film Festival were produced by Iranians – both men and women – there were more non-Iranian attendees.” Panelists also talked about Toronto’s Tiburon International Film Festival, begun by Iranian-born Saeed Shafa, and the Noor Film Festival in Los Angeles, which features the work of Iranian-Americans. The Noor Film Festival, which is two years old, is important because it allows Americans to experience Iranian culture.
Roundtable with You April 30 talked with Hossein Faraji, a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles, about Iran’s parliamentary elections. According to the Associated Press, conservatives have consolidated their control of Iran’s legislature following last month’s second-round parliamentary elections. But moderates within the bloc opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerged as an even stronger force. The conservative bloc is divided between supporters of President Ahmadinejad and opponents critical of his handling of the economy as well as his handling of the nuclear issue resulting in three UN sanctions against Iran. Mr. Faraji talked about his predictions for this eighth legislative body. He said contrary to the views of some Western journalists, the Iranian parliament was, is and will be a dysfunctional unit regardless of who is a member. Mr. Faraji said this is the case because of the government’s structure and the monopoly on power held by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Mr. Faraji said the eighth majlis will only deepen the disaster facing Iranians due to the mishandling of domestic and foreign policies by Iran’s rulers.
Roundtable with You May 3 focused on the role of today’s artist in society with lyricist and songwriter Shahyar Ghanbari. As Iran’s most famous lyricist, Mr. Ghanbari has written many memorable songs about pre-Revolution Iran. “The most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with are the restrictions the government has imposed on my freedom of speech. Iran would be liberated and able to enter the modern world if it would learn to talk freely about its history and social realities instead of sweeping them under the carpet.” Mr. Ghanbari said he didn’t mean to incite anti-regime feelings among young people with the provocative lyrics he wrote before the revolution. “I don’t think you can do that with a song, but a song can open a new window or be a moment of awakening for people. I write my songs with the intention of them being the first draft of history.” In comparing the degree of censorship in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran, Mr. Ghanbari said the main difference is that not every aspect of one’s private life was subject to control under the Shah. “With all its shortcomings, the regime never cared what you did in your home or your bedroom.”
Today’s Woman May 2 focused on how Iranian culture, society and laws affect the status of women in Iran’s economy as well as women’s income. Lawyer and women’s rights activist Mehrangiz Kar, who wrote a book Women and Business in Iran, said, “In order to empower Iranian women economically, there needs to be more progress made in the society, culture, and more support from the government.” She said the status of women in the Iranian economy has worsened since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with women pressured into staying at home rather than getting a job. Ms. Kar said the situation has declined even further since she wrote her book in 1995. “With a harsher economic climate, more and more women are falling into prostitution and drug dealing as a means of making money. Hopefully, the restrictions Iranian women face will be eliminated.”
Late Edition May 2 interviewed Iranian opera singer Bahram Tajabadi, who now lives in France, about his early life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology on the road to becoming a doctor only to realize that being a physician was not his dream profession. After listening to legendary Spanish singer Placido Domingo one day, he decided he, too, could be an opera singer. “Unfortunately, there are no professional institutes to study opera in Iran. All of the country’s art centers were closed after the Islamic revolution.” Mr. Tajabadi continued his education in opera in Italy and France. He sings different repertoires of Mozart, Rossini, Puccini and Verdi, and is best known for his role in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Mr. Tajabadi performed in a commemoration ceremony held last November in honor of the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. “It was my honor to sing at Pavarotti’s memorial service in Italy. He was the greatest opera singer of all time.”
Late Edition May 3 talked with Los Angeles-based psychologist Azita Sayan about the benefits and disadvantages of divorce, which has always been a taboo in Iran. Dr. Sayan said the priority in a marriage should be to work out the problems and save the relationship. She said in many cases it is possible resolve difficulties in the marriage relationship and to gain a better understanding and respect for the partner. But Dr. Sayan said this doesn’t always work, adding, “It’s okay to get divorced. It’s not the end of the world. And, in fact, it can be a new beginning for those who can’t live together.” Dr. Sayan explained how culture and tradition have made divorce a taboo for Iranians, but she said there are a number of ways people can deal with post-divorce issues. She said inevitably, it is recommended that the husband and wife analyze their failed marriage and the reasons behind this failure so that they can move on and begin their new lives with the benefit of this information. Dr. Sayan advised those who are going through a divorce not to blame each other, noting that “Divorce is a two-way street.”
Roundtable with You May 2 focused on immigrant Iranians, their goals and achievements with Reza Moridi, the first Iranian-Canadian member of Ontario’s parliament. Because of legislation introduced by Mr. Moridi, Ontario’s parliament April 10 unanimously approved a bill to recognize the first day of spring as Norooz, one of the most sacred days in Iranian culture. Mr. Moridi, who is a nuclear physicist, said such an action is part of “a effort by the majority of immigrant Iranians in the free world to bring their host countries to a better understanding of great culture and heritage of Iranians. This task has become more important these days,” he continued, “considering the negative image of the Islamic Republic in free societies based on the news in today’s media.” Mr. Moridi said many Iranians are trying to distance themselves from a government they believe does not represent them, and instead are offering a different and more positive image that reflects the true nature and culture of Iranians. Mr. Moridi said, “Iranians for centuries have demonstrated their adaptive nature and tolerance for other cultures, races, origins, and religions. So what we hear about religious intolerance, for instance, or discrimination against women in today’s Iran, is not what Iranians are all about.”
News and Views May 2 interviewed California State Assembly Republican Member Joel Anderson on the state legislator getting tough on Iran. Mr. Anderson discussed his sponsorship of Resolution 79, which calls on the University of California to divest from foreign companies with business activities in Iran. He said, “The national security implications of bolstering the economies and infrastructure of terrorist states, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, may seem obvious. But the real intent of this resolution is to protect state investments from profound risk and ensure that those Californians who depend on the University of California pension system for their retirement income need not fear the risks to their portfolio associated with funding business in an unstable and dangerous terrorist regime.” Mr. Anderson said the resolution enjoys bipartisan support, adding that many American students of Iranian descent have lent their support to this legislation. “We hope to send a message to Iranian leaders that the international community will take any action necessary to ensure that they do not acquire the capability to build an atomic weapon,” he concluded.
Today’s Woman April 27 opened with a news brief on an assassination attempt on the life of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and protests taking place in China over the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The next segment focused on an Economic Empowerment Summit that recently took place in London. The summit focused on women of the future, including speakers such as the Indian-born Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Panelists discussed a recent USA Today article on women CEOs that noted only 43 women have become heads of Fortune 1000 companies in the last 35 years. The program turned next to a recent study that suggests generosity will lead to happiness and that the way people spend their money affects their lives. Panelists highlighted the work of volunteers who have helped reconstruct areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Today’s Woman’s last segment focused on the dangerous side effects of drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, highlighting the risk factors associated with Vioxx, a drug used for patients with arthritis.
Roundtable with You May 1 looked at women’s poetry in Iran with Mehrangiz Rassapour, the chief editor of Vajeh, a literary magazine (www.vajehmagazine.com). Ms. Rassapour began writing poetry when she was nine, and published her first poem when she was 13. She earned a BA degree in literature in Iran before moving to London in 1983. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, and is famous for her poems such as Stoning and Lash, which have been published in seven languages. Ms. Rassapour talked about what the harsh environment women in Iran live in under the Islamic regime. “Women poets are subjected to all sorts of censorship, including self-censorship,” she said. Ms. Rassapour strongly condemned a political system that considers women “as half of men. Iranian women have proven they will not yield to this injustice – not 29 years ago when this government was established, and not now.”
Late Edition May 2 talked about the female soccer team of George Washington University with Coach Tanya Vogel and two of her players. Football has been the reigning sport around the world for a century, with the lone exception of the United States, where football even goes by a different name – soccer. Coach Vogel said soccer is very popular and competitive among women in the United States these days. “A lot of these women,” she said, “get into the field of business. They understand that they can achieve everything they want – and that comes from their participation and success in sport.”
Today’s Woman May 1 began with news of Academy Award nominee Marjane Satrapi, director of Persepolis, being the first Iranian to be one of the Cannes Film Festival’s panel of judges. Panelists also noted the opening of the 10-day International Tehran Book Fair before moving on to artistic expression. They discussed the way artists have contributed to disadvantaged children by teaching them photography. The next segment focused on Ladies in White, a peaceful movement in Cuba where wives of political prisoners protest for the release of their loved ones. The Ladies in White were recognized at an international conference but prohibited from attending, much like women’s activist Parvin Ardalan, who was prohibited in March from traveling to Sweden to receive the Olof Palme Award for her activism. The Ladies in White earned their name by marching silently every Sunday along a Havana boulevard dressed in white. Panelists said the group’s Iranian counterpart is a women’s movement called Mothers of Peace (see http://www.motherspeace.blogfa.com/post-4.aspx for more information).
Today’s Woman May 3 opened with the latest news on women’s activist Parvin Ardalan, who was issued a suspended two-year sentence – meaning she is free unless she is found guilty of another crime during the next three years. The program then turned to hair and beauty. The first segment was devoted to hair growth, loss and treatment, with discussion on early signs of hair less, the impact of smoking on hair as well as how medicines, diet and shampoo all can affect the health of hair. Next, panelists turned to the philosophy of beauty and the relationship between beauty and personality, and how many women use a change in their hairstyle to indicate a change in their personality or lifestyle. The last segment focused on successful women, who started from scratch to achieve great heights. Panelists highlighted Polish-American multimillionaire Martha Stewart, best known for her magazine, books and homemaking advocacy.
Today’s Woman April 30 focused on women in sports and women in the Olympics with Solmaz Sharif, founder of Shirzanan, the first Iranian women’s sports magazine. Panelists talked about “Follow the Women,” an annual event where approximately 500 women from 30 countries cycle around the Middle East as advocates for peace. They talked about Lebanon holding a championship game for the country’s women’s soccer team for the first time and the invitation extended to Iran’s national soccer team by the US Soccer Federation for a 10-day camp and two friendly soccer matches. They also talked about the accomplishments of Danica Patrick, the first woman to win the IndyCar series, as well as the acceptance in Iran of two women – Zohreh Vatankhah and Laleh Seddigh – as racecar drivers. Conversation turned next to the Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Beijing August 8-24, with a review of the history of women in the Olympics. From New York, Shirzanan founder Solmaz Sharif said, “Even though there is not a strong presence of Iranian women in the upcoming Olympic Games, the presence of two women contenders breaks barriers, gives hope, and changes perspectives in Iran.” The two women are Homa Hosseini, for rowing, and Sara Khoshjamal for tae kwon do.
Today’s Woman May 4 focused on the global food crisis as a result of inflation due to causes such as drought, excessive land divisions, and increase in price of oil. President Bush has asked for $770 million in emergency food aid. Increased specialization and dependence on different regions for specific products has led to a global crisis rather than more isolated regional ones. The show’s second segment focused on the self-empowerment of women in the Western Sahara. When Spain pulled out of Morocco in 1975, Polisario separatist rebels fought Moroccan troops for 16 years until a UN-brokered ceasefire went into effect in 1991. Victor Frankel, a psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor, by studying his and others’ experiences in concentration camps, suggests that those who are able to find meaning in difficult situations are able to continue their lives more positively and successfully by learning and growing from their hardships. Women and children in Western Sahara live in refugee camps, but many of the women are using small loans to create jobs for themselves. The final segment discussed the importance of laughter in the improvement of mental and physical health.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about the discovery of Iranian-made roadside bombs in Iraq; the activities of Quds Army leader, Kazem Soleimani, in Iraq; May 1st – International Workers Day – celebrations; the history of the workers movement; Ayatollah Khomeini’s comment that “God is also a worker!” in the first year of the Islamic Revolution; worker conditions in Khuzestan; Iran’s nuclear program; Participants discussed May 1st Celebration, the International Workers’ Day, in Europe; the history of workers’ movements, Ayatollah Khomeini’s comment “ God is also a worker!” in the first year of Iran’s revolution; and the condition of workers in Khuzestan; Italy’s support of sanctions against Iran; and the increase in global food prices.
This week’s History Channel segments included profiles of the Barrymore and Lindbergh families, actor/comedian Robin Williams and the founders of Google – one of the Internet’s runaway successes. The first two segments focused on the Barrymores, the American family that has reigned both on stage and film for over 150 years. The Barrymores have an almost Phoenix-like ability to rise up from their self-conflicted wounds to continue in life and career. Their story unfolds at the dynasty’s beginning with the birth of Maurice Barrymore in the early 1800’s, and continues through the turbulent life of Drew Barrymore. The third segment profiled Robin Williams, described by some as the “funniest man alive.” A classically trained actor, his career has run an obstacle course, from TV’s Mork & Mindy in the late 1970’s to winning an Academy Award in 1997 for Good Will Hunting. The week’s fourth segment profiled Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two brainy Stanford PhD dropouts who have changed the wage people use information with their Internet search engine, Google. By streamlining Internet searches, Google now receives 200 million queries a day and has turned the two young men into billionaires in the process. The week closed with the first of two segments on the Lindberghs. The husband, Charles Lindbergh, was one of America’s greatest heroes who became one of its most reviled citizens. The segment chronicles Charles’ epic flight to Paris in 1927, the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh’s first-born son, and Charles’ advocacy of American isolationism. Some believed him to be a Nazi sympathizer, which cost him dearly, despite his record-setting achievements in the air.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – addressed a question that viewer e-mails are still addressing, and that is the level of freedom PNN/VOA has in its news gathering and editorials. Although this issue has been discussed several times, it seems we need to discuss it in more detail. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right of the people and the media in the United States. This week happens to coincide with the 100th birthday of Edward R. Morrow, one of America’s great journalists. It is most appropriate to use this occasion to present our audience some of his basic thoughts and actions. In the mid-1950’s, Edward R. Murrow was confronted with a great challenge. During those years, despite a tradition of protected free speech and free expression, the United States was going through a difficult post-Second World War period and the consequences of the so-called Cold War. To protect the national security of this nation and particularly to prevent subversion, one US legislator, Senator Joseph McCarthy must be remembered “for hearings in which he accused some government officials and other public figures of being Communists.” What he was doing had a direct bearing on media and was in contrast with one of the basic rights of the people in this free society, i.e., freedom of speech. I refer to this historical event to show our audience that even in one of the most democratic and free societies, freedom of speech and expression could be challenged by the authorities. Ed Murrow, who later was appointed as the Director of the US Information Agency which overlooked the Voice of America, took a bold action against Senator McCarthy’s actions. In a historic television program, Mr. Murrow said, “We have to distinguish between treason and expressing a different view.” He added, “Whoever talks about shortcomings and/or malpractices of the government is not a traitor. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.”
At VOA/PNN, we are working under the articles of a charter and a Journalistic Code that was inspired by and built on the abovementioned concept. We must be truthful, as we are, and we are not afraid to present the realities and truth, however bitter they might be. When we present some different viewpoints, or if we interview someone who has a different perspective from mainstream views, though opposing opinion is also presented in the same program, we are accused of being an agent of X or Y. If we only present one popular view or a dictated opinion then what would be the difference between a free and unbiased medium and a government-controlled media? This discussion will be continued in our future segments.
PNN’s question of the week was, “Is the proposed package by Iran, in the nuclear negotiations, an attempt to buy more time? Out of 9.660 respondents, 73 % said yes, 25% 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 Iran sent in photos from a protest in Tabriz:
From a viewer in Iran: “You’ve earned my eternal gratitude for inviting a legend of Iranian culture and literature to your exceptionally good Roundtable [on May 3]. Meeting Shahyar Ghanbari on VOA is an example of the priceless gift that you present us with every night through your hard work to your compatriots in Iran who live under the yoke of dictatorship. If there is a single medium that is worthy of having our gratitude, it’s undoubtedly Voice of America for having safeguarded Iranian cultural values and indeed the universal values of humanity. Again, thanks for all your hard work and for bringing such a special guest into our homes.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “Here are the accomplishments of the Ahmadinejad regime: 1) class distinctions, 2) dismissals in the workplace, 3) extensive unemployment, 4) increased immorality, 5) more political prisoners, 6) more executions of political prisoners, and 7) international isolation.”
From a viewer in Iran: “[Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei says sanctions have worked to the benefit of Iranians. Wrong! International sanctions have exacerbated poverty, slowed down economic growth, and lowered purchasing power. Sanctions also have prevented foreign investments.”
From a viewer in Iran: “The Minister of Welfare does not believe in the ‘poverty line,’ saying we should replace this term with ‘survival line.’ Should Iranians strive only to survive or to have a life?”
From a viewer in Iran: “I would like to know why you have extra people sitting in on a program if you only have one or two people as the anchors?”
From a viewer in Iran: “Please discuss the student hunger strike taking place at the University of Tabriz and also the three imprisoned university students from Polytechnic University in Iran.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Hello, and thanks for Today’s Woman. My daughter has had a problem with her eyes. Could you please repeat the program from last Saturday regarding macular degeneration. Is it possible to get Dr. Ali Rezaie’s e-mail address in order to get more information?”
From a viewer in Iran: “Recently our family went to the beach and I saw women fully dressed in their chadors while in the ocean. This made me think of free women in other countries who don’t face such restrictions. However, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, women are forced to cover and be oppressed. As an Iranian man, I grieve for Iranian women.”
A viewer in Iran sent in photos from a student protest at Sahand University in Tabriz, provincial capital of Eastern Azerbaijan in northwest Iran:
From a viewer in Tehran: “To me, the fall of the Islamic Republic of Iran is sure and certain because this regime imprisons workers instead of paying them a rightful wage. The Islamic Republic is creating tension with the world instead of maintaining friendship, and it is governing the nation despotically instead of giving the people their rightful liberties.”
From a viewer in Gorgan: “By losing the parliamentary election, the reformists now know where they stand with students, journalists and others who gave them power with so much hope. The reformists failed to meet the people’s demands. I hope they understand this fact.”
From a viewer in Rasht: “Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says, ‘The Iranian nation stands against any threat.’ My question is, what threat? Why should anyone threaten us? Why should we always think about conflicts with others? There is a simple answer to these and other similar questions: In the absence of threats, the government feels it is accountable to the nation. But in the presence of imminent danger, the government doesn’t about have to think about accountability.”
From a viewer in Iran: “The government says the price for low-fat milk price has not gone up. The problem is that our factories do not produce such a milk! And the price of regular milk is now up 65%.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Last week I was unable to e-mail you but I wanted to let you know that like myself, most young people in Iran are thinking about leaving. Many young Iranians are thinking of going to places like the United States, Australia, England or Canada. Why are people leaving? It’s a big question, but the answer lies in the questions you asked regarding fear: fear of the future, fear of the economic situation, fear for our families and fear of the possibility of war.”
From a viewer in Iran: “When you receive e-mails, why don’t you respond to them? Sometimes the topics chosen on Today’s Woman are not interesting or appealing. Have you considered the age of your target audience? The majority of us are younger people; perhaps if the name of your program were Today’s Girl it would be better.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Regarding the topic of discussion on last Thursday’s Today’s Woman – the importance of love versus money in marriage – I believe, as a 27-year-old man, that the basis of a good marriage is an inherent attraction. The main thing that attracts two people is love. I believe more in love, but money is also an important factor that should not be forgotten.”
From a viewer in Iran: I’d like to thank you for the high quality of your programs. I understand that there is a limited amount of airtime and that you can only do so much in one hour. However, some of the new changes you have made are really irritating. You’ve introduced a short break in the middle of every program. This is annoying and avoidable. Instead of having two minutes at the top of the program and two minutes in the middle, why don’t you have five minutes at the top of the program and then you won’t have to interrupt your guests when they are midway through a sentence or a thought in order to cut to a newsbreak. I think this change reduces the quality of your work and spoils/wastes almost 10% of the possible broadcast time.”