Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, DC – June 9, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included the FAO hunger summit in Rome and the withdrawal of the credentials of VOA/PNN’s reporter in Rome, allegedly because Iran didn’t like his coverage; anti-Ahmadinejad protests in Italy; the IAEA meeting in Vienna, which raised new questions on Iran’s nuclear program; Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki beginning a three-day visit to Iran; Senator Barack Obama becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee for President – the first African-American to be the presidential candidate of a major party; the tough positions on Iran taken by both Senator Obama and Senator John McCain in public addresses; Iran’s categorization as having one of the worst records fighting human trafficking; housing prices in Iran rising through the roof; pipeline explosion in southwestern Iran killing five and wounding more than 20; and Iran’s play in qualifying rounds for the 2010 World Cup. Interviews were conducted with the US Ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte; with the top US naval commander in the Middle East, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff; with the governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer; with political activist Hassan Shariatmadari; with film critic Mohammad Haghighat; with author Sir Salman Rushdie; with CBS journalist Kimberly Dozier; with Ambassador Mark Logan, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
VOA/PNN reporter Ahmad Rafat (right) filed reports from Rome previewing a food summit
convened June 3-5 by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, but was then forced to file reports on his being barred from covering the conference – allegedly because of pressure from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. Rafat, who lives in Rome and is now an Italian citizen, was accredited for the three-day summit, but officials withdrew his credentials, telling him he was considered “a person not desired by Iranian authorities.” Mr. Rafat’s reports in advance of the summit highlighted criticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit and the refusal of many top Italian officials and the Pope to meet with him. VOA and others expressed concern over the incident. The International Federation of Journalists said, “UN agencies must not be used as the battleground for member states to victimize journalists they don’t like…. The UN should be providing models of pluralism and respect for media freedom.” RFE/RL, for whom Mr. Rafat also works, said, “We are disappointed at the designation of any professional, accredited journalist anywhere as persona non grata
. We are particularly concerned that this could be possible at a UN-sponsored conference.” FAO spokesman Nick Parsons formally apologized to Mr. Rafat June 4, saying, “I hope Ahmad Rafat will accept the apologies of the organization and myself following this incident.” He also said Mr. Rafat’s credentials were restored. The opening speeches at the summit included an attack by President Ahmadinejad on the West over its handling of the global food crisis, accusing certain “big powers” of acting with sometimes “devilish” motives.” Mr. Rafat reported live on the summit, his credentials problem, the FAO’s apology, and on the remainder of the summit. He said his being banned from covering the summit shows “how the Iranian regime will do anything it can to prevent the Iranian people from freely getting information from VOA.” Mr. Rafat also said the withdrawal of his credentials generated more than 100 requests for interviews from other news organizations.
News and Views June 8 reported that VOA/PNN correspondent Ahmad Rafat received one of Italy’s top journalism rewards over the weekend. The surprise presentation of the Ilaria Alpi Television Journalism Award for freedom of the press came after Mr. Rafat’s credentials were temporarily revoked by the FAO because of Iranian government pressure. Mr. Rafat told VOA/PNN, “I cannot take a break from my responsibilities. My job is to provide a voice to those who have no voice.” In addition to reporting for VOA, Mr. Rafat reports for the largest private news agency in Italy, ADN-Kronos International, and for El Tiempo, an influential Spanish news magazine.
News and Views reported live on the week-long meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. IAEA Director-General Mohammad El-Baradei reported on the Agency’s projects, including a joint project with the World Health Organization on cancer treatment, a planned radiation emergency exercise in Mexico, implementation of a data system, an operations financial monitoring system, a nuclear thermal experimental project, etc. The IAEA chief also reported on implementation of safeguards in Syria, North Korea and Iran. He announced that IAEA inspectors will be visiting Syria at the end of June to investigate three more alleged nuclear facilities. On North Korea, Mr. El-Baradei asked that it be clarified whether the country is still a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Later, the Board of Governors issued a statement saying Pyongyang had not exited the Treaty through the proper procedures and that it should engage in talks with the IAEA in this regard, so the Agency would be able to verify the dismantling of the facilities at the end of the 6-party process. With regard to Iran, Mr. El-Baradei had submitted his report 10 days in advance, enabling 24 Board member-countries to provide reaction from their respective governments. A majority expressed concern about the IAEA’s revelation that Iran was likely engaged in weaponization studies in the past. Inspectors had earlier expressed alarm that Iran has a document that describes the process for making what could be the core of a nuclear weapon. The 15-page document, referred to as the uranium metal document, describes the process of “machining uranium metal into two hemispheres of the kind used in nuclear warheads.” A statement from the Non-Aligned Movement, read by Cuba’s Ambassador to the IAEA, sided with Iran and said the allegations were baseless. Cuba said it believed Iran had fulfilled all of its obligations and accused some countries of pressuring Iran unnecessarily.
News and Views reported that the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, gave a press conference after speaking to the IAEA. He repeatedly said the US had politicized the issue. He said Iran had fully cooperated with the IAEA, would not stop enrichment, and that if certain countries pursue the same policy, Iran would retaliate. Mr. Soltanieh said he had earlier in the day delivered a 30-page confidential report to each member of the Board on the alleged studies. In response to a question, asked in Farsi, from VOA/PNN on whether Iran would implement the safeguards fully, Mr. Soltanieh asked which organization the reporter represented, also in Farsi. When she responded, in Farsi, Mr. Soltanieh switched into English. He at first refused to answer the question, and then said Iran’s parliament had banned implementation of the safeguards, and that only when the UN Security Council stops interfering and allows the matter to be handled by the IAEA will Iran reconsider the matter.
In an exclusive interview with VOA/PNN, the US Ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, said Iran has repeatedly denied any activity, and only admitted to it under pressure by the Agency. Iran has called the intelligence supporting the alleged studies at “fabrications and forged.” Ambassador Schulte said this response is not sufficient and that Iran should provide real answers. He said the intelligence came from about ten countries, adding that the Agency found the reports consistent and credible enough to discuss with Iran. He said the Iranian people are paying the price for their leaders’ decisions. The Ambassador said the West insists that Iran stop enriching uranium and come to the table, noting that a Russian proposal is still on the table that would allow Iran to obtain enriched uranium for its civilian nuclear power needs directly from Russia.
News and Views June 8 reported Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki arriving in Tehran for a three-day visit. Mr. Maliki was scheduled to meet with President Ahmadinejad later in the day. Among other things, the two leaders are expected to discuss Iranian concerns about a planned US military agreement with Iraq. The agreement would allow the US to establish a number of permanent bases in Iraq and would give American forces autonomy to conduct offensive actions without consultations with Baghdad. The Iraqi leader also is expected to repeat his government’s wish to see Tehran discontinue its role in Iraq’s violence and to resume a dialogue with Washington over security in his country. Well-known commentator and former cultural minister Sami Shoresh said Iran’s problem with Iraq is really with Washington. “Iran could promise the Iraqi government to stop providing support to Shi’ia militants and to cooperate with the central government. But Tehran has a problem with Washington and therefore cannot cut its support of the militants. I think Mr. Al-Maliki will go home empty-handed.” Mr. Shoresh said Iran has four major disputes with the United States: Iran’s nuclear program, support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and Iran’s security in the Persian Gulf. “Without a resolution to these problems, stability in Iraq is a dream.”
News and Views June 7 reported that the Iranian government has temporarily closed the semi-official Fars News Agency. Authorities ordered the agency closed for three days for “false reporting and disturbing public opinion.” A spokesman for the Iranian Committee for the Defense of Freedom of the Press, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, told VOA/PNN, “The closure of the Fars News Agency is a clear interference by the government. They shut down the News Agency for three days because it predicted the resignation of the head of Iran’s Central Bank. But the fact of the matter is that the press’s job should be and is these kinds of predictions.”
Roundtable with You June 2 focused on ethnic groups and religious minorities in Iran with journalist Hossein Faraji, the former editor of German Radio’s Persian service. Reports from Iran indicate that authorities in Iran have arrested more Bahais in Iran, without formally charging them. These arrests raise the total to 14 of the number of Bahais arrested in the most recent wave, which has now expanded to 11 cities, with the latest being Yazd. Amnesty International’s most recent annual report said members of ethnic groups continue to be deprived of basic human rights in Iran, citing discrimination, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and torture. Historically, the terms Iran and Persia have referred to a confederation of all groups native to the Iranian plateau. Mr. Faraji said all of these “unjust and inhumane treatments” are taking place because of the system established by Ayatollah Khomeini. Though Mr. Khomeini died 19 years ago, the abuses continue unabated. Mr. Faraji said it is in the nature of authoritarian regimes such as Iran’s to violate the rights of the majority for the sake of a ruling minority. In Iran’s case, the violence and discrimination was started and promoted by Ayatollah Khomeini himself – something in direct opposition to the image of sainthood the country’s leaders are trying to create for him. One caller from Tehran said discrimination and mistreatment of people in Iran is not limited to minorities. “Discrimination in Iran is against the Iranian people,” the caller said. “All of them.”
News and Views June 6 reported that Pentagon officials concealed from US intelligence agencies potentially useful tips from Iranian agents in 2001 and 2002, including one that Tehran allegedly sent hit teams to Afghanistan to kill Americans. A Senate Committee reported Thursday that the Iranians also told two Pentagon employees at a December 2001 meeting in Rome of a purported tunnel complex used to store weapons and covertly move personnel out of Iran after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and Washington. Then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith sent two Pentagon employees to the Rome meetings with Manouchehr Ghorbanifar, an Iranian dissident already dismissed by the CIA as untrustworthy, and several Iranians who were former and current members of the security service. Ghorbanifar used one of those meetings to press for regime change in Iran, and outlined a plan for it on a napkin, according to the report, saying it would cost about $5 million to start. The Senate Committee report suggests the information was questionable, adding that then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley failed to fully inform then-CIA Director George Tenet and other senior officials about the meeting, either before or after it occurred. Despite these revelations, Committee Republicans, in a dissent, said the report would be a “disappointment” to people looking for evidence of Pentagon wrongdoing.
News and Views June 6 reported that a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee held a hearing on Iran called “More Than Just Enrichment: Iranian Strategic Aspirations and the Future of the Middle East.” Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said, “The threat from Iran to our vital national security interests is real. It is real, but I am absolutely convinced it is manageable.” Ray Takeyh, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations said if the purpose of engagement is to get Iran, “to stop wanting to have influence in the Arab East, to stop developing a nuclear infrastructure of some capability, to stop being a power in the Gulf, then I actually wouldn’t recommend diplomatic negotiations, because what you’re trying to do is get through diplomacy what we couldn’t get through coercion.” From the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, Judith Yaphe said she didn’t think the US has much to lose. “It’s hard to see how things could worse, in many ways, than they are now. But we do have commonalities, and anytime you want to get into saying what can we gain from this, both sides are going to have to come away with gaining something, or you’ll only have had a one-off experience. But I think of the issues, Iraq, clearly, is a big one, because we share the same concerns. Neither one of us wants to see it fail.” Jon Alterman, Director and Senior Fellow of the Middle East Program t the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the core issue that people are missing is that the bar shouldn’t be set too high. “Can we manage the Iranians better if we have some contact, if we have a way to escalate up? I think it gives us another management tool to deal with very disturbing Iranian behavior. You can be in a room with somebody, and it doesn't mean you’re making concessions to that person. I think we need to take that under advisement.”
VOA/PNN correspondent Siamak Deghanpour interviewed the governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, for the June 4 edition of NewsTalk, this as his state became the last contest in the Democratic presidential primary. Governor Schweitzer is a farmer and rancher who held no elected office prior to being elected as the first Democratic Governor to serve Montana in 20 years. But as Mr. Deghanpour reported, the governor has traveled to many countries in the Middle East and has familiarity with Middle Eastern countries. Mr. Deghanpour said Governor Schweitzer is on Senator Barack Obama’s list of possible Vice Presidential candidates. “People should know that choosing the Vice President is Senator Obama’s decision. We have not had an African-American president or a woman Vice President before. He might choose Senator Clinton.” With regard to US relations with Iran, Governor Schweitzer said, “We are a superpower, and there is no country that can match our military power. However, with this comes responsibility. When you have power, you can win any war. But can you win the heart of the people as well? Creating cultural and economical relationships with people you disagree with is the best way of handling problems. Not talking with Iran might open the door to more radical groups seizing power there.” Governor Schweitzer said as president, Senator Obama would substitute oil with other sources of energy, “which shouldn’t threaten oil-producing countries in the Middle East, because China and India are going to be their markets…. The world is looking at us to create new technologies.”
News and Views June 2 reported that Republican Senator John McCain, addressing a pro-Israel lobbying group, called for a worldwide campaign to isolate Iran and criticized Barack Obama for expressing willingness to meet with Iranian leaders. Senator McCain, his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that private entities should join in pressuring Iran’s regime by divesting from companies that do business with the Persian Gulf nation. “The Iranians have spent years working toward a nuclear program,” the Senator said, “and the idea that they now seek nuclear weapons because we refuse to engage in presidential-level talks is a serious misreading of history.” Senator McCain called for a host of new sanctions against Iran, including an international campaign to restrict Iran’s import of refined oil and a private divestment campaign, similar to one imposed on South Africa to end its apartheid regime in the 1980’s. He reminded the audience of his support, along with independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, for designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. “Over three-quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but not Senator Obama,” he said. “He opposed this resolution because its support for countering Iranian influence in Iraq was, he said, a ‘wrong message not only to the world, but also to the region.’” .
News and Views June 3 reported on the last contests in the presidential primaries. VOA/PNN correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour, reporting from Helena, talked about the state of the races in South Dakota and Montana, explaining the reasons why polls show Senator Obama is ahead of Senator Clinton by double digits margin in Montana and why the race in South Dakota is close. Montana election is open to Independents and Republicans and South Dakota is restricted to just Democrats, and Senator Obama usually does better with Independent voters than Senator Clinton. Geographically, Senator Obama has won all neighboring states: North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. He also has the advantage in terms of superdelegate support in both states. However, Senator Clinton said after South Dakota and Montana, she will lead in the popular vote and Senator Obama will lead in the delegate count. “The voters have voted and so the decision will fall to the delegates empowered to vote at the Democratic Convention and I will be spending the coming days making my case to those delegates.”
News and Views June 4 reported that Senator Barack Obama secured the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday evening, prevailing in an epic battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Because of you,” the Senator said from Minnesota, “tonight I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States of America … I congratulate [Senator Clinton] on her victory in South Dakota and I congratulate her on the race that she has run throughout this contest … I honor, we honor the service of John McCain and I respect his many accomplishments even if he chooses to deny mine.” Senator Clinton refused to concede, despite the numbers. “This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight,” she said. “In the coming days, I’ll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward, with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way.” Senator John McCain said no matter who wins this election, “the direction of this country is going to change dramatically but the choice is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backward.” VOA/PNN correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour’s reportage included interviews from Dennis McDonald, Chairman of Democratic Party of Montana, and Ed Tinsley, Democratic National Committee member;
Roundtable with You June 4 reviewed primary elections over the past five months, from its start on January 3 in Iowa through its conclusion in Montana on June 3, and talked about the beginning of the general election campaign with Senators McCain and Obama both giving speeches to AIPAC focusing on their disagreement on Iran. Senator Obama said Wednesday that Iran posed a serious threat in the Middle East and vowed to stop it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “The danger from Iran is grave, it is real and my goal will be to eliminate this threat,” he said to a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group. “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon – everything,” he said to a standing ovation. Senator Obama told the audience that talks would be an essential part of his diplomacy. “We have no time to waste. We cannot unconditionally rule out an approach that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We have tried limited, piecemeal talks while we outsource the sustained work to our European allies. It is time for the United States to lead… there will be careful preparation. We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing – if and only if – it can advance the interests of the United States.” Senator McCain has criticized Senator Obama’s call for talks with Iran, a state Israeli leaders consider a threat to Israel’s security. John Calabrese, who teaches US Foreign Policy at American University, joined the show and reminded viewers that historically, every president after going to the White House tilts more toward the center. He noted that both Senators Obama and McCain agree that Israel is one of Washington’s closest friends and that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat. As Senator Obama himself pointed out, their views on a number of issues are not different. What differs is how they intend to deal with specific issues.
News and Views June 7 reported that Senator Hillary Clinton ended her presidential bid and endorsed Senator Barack Obama on Saturday, urging her supporters to unite behind his candidacy and help recapture the White House for Democrats in November. In the first step toward healing the wounds of a sometimes bitter five-month Democratic nominating battle, Senator Clinton told a cheering crowd at her final rally that she would work hard to put Senator Obama in the White House. She urged her supporters to unite behind the Illinois senator in his general election race against Republican John McCain. “I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president,” Senator Clinton told a crowd of about 2,000 at the in Washington, DC. “I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me.” With her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and her daughter, Chelsea, standing to the side of the stage, Senator Clinton said she and Senator Obama shared the same values and goals. “I endorse him and I throw my full support behind him,” she said. “We will make history together.”
Today’s Woman June 8 focused on Senator Hillary Clinton’s historic bid for the White House and her official exit as a candidate from the race. In a speech delivered in Washington, DC, Saturday, the Senator congratulated Senator Obama and endorsed his candidacy – seen by as observers as more than words as her 18 million supporters make her one of the country’s most powerful Democratic leaders. Senator Clinton pointed to the progress “we’ve already made that has led to female and African-American presidential candidates.” Referring to her support, Senator Clinton suggested that although “women have not yet broken the glass ceiling in politics, they have put 18 million cracks in it.” Senator Clinton’s team has said she wants to be Senator Obama’s running mate, and many are eager to find out the nature of her private talks with him at the end of the week. Her enthusiastic support could lend Senator Obama votes from the Latin American community and older women, which are considered key voting blocs in the general election.
Today’s Woman June 4 focused on the tough primary battle between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, and his cinching the Democratic nomination. VOA/PNN correspondent Siamak Deghanpour, who has been on the road every week for the past five months covering the campaigns, said, “Two women voters stated they voted for Hillary because she is woman and because she would make a better candidate.” Approximately 35 million people voted in the Democratic primaries, and nearly half of those votes went to Senator Clinton. Senator Obama needed 40 more delegates going into the last two primaries, and secured the magic number when he secured 71 superdelegate votes in less than 24 hours. Panelists discussed whether or not media coverage was more critical of Senator Clinton because of her gender, and also talked about the likelihood of Senator Obama asking Mrs. Clinton to be his running mate. The last segment of the program focused on Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, who has had a three-month head start in the general election campaign. Panelists debated whether this would give him an advantage in the race for the White House.
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about human rights abuses in Iran; in an interview from Tehran, the wife of Arjang Davoodi said her husband is being tortured in prison and that there is no justice for him, “none at all. My husband has been in jail for more than 19 years and it is still not clear what the charges are against him.” Panelists also talked about Ayatollah Boroujerdi, the Muslim cleric jailed the past two years for advocating the separation of religion and government; about demonstrations at Iranian universities, including a major protest at Tarbiat Moallem University in Karaj; how mismanagement in Iran’s oil industry has prevented the Iranian people from any benefits of the country’s oil income; how Iran is supporting terrorism and trying to export Islamic revolution 30 years after its own revolution and 19 years after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini; protests in Italy against President Ahmadinejad while he was in Rome to attend the FAO hunger summit; and Iran coming under fire at an IAEA for deliberately stalling the UN agency’s investigation into its nuclear program.
News and Views June 4 interviewed Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, Commander of the United States 5th Fleet, about wanting improved communication between the US and Iranian navies. The top US naval commander in the Middle East said he hopes for more communication between the US and Iranian navies in the Persian Gulf. He said he was not involved in the political fray regarding “engagement” between the two countries, adding that he will “leave that to the diplomats.” However, Vice Admiral Cosgriff did say that more formalized methods of contact with Revolutionary Guard naval commanders in the Gulf might prevent mistakes and accidents from escalating into larger conflicts. The Admiral said that though the US has “routine” communications with the regular Iranian navy, rogue elements of the Revolutionary Guard sometimes make “high speed” maneuvers against US ships. Vice Admiral Cosgriff said, “We will not let our ships be successfully attacked by small boats.” The commander said US operations are transparent. “We’ve been here for decades and plan to be here for decades to come to conduct operations in this part of the world on behalf of our friends and US interests.”
Late Edition June 4 interviewed Harold Lee Wise, Adjunct History Professor at Elizabeth City State University about his new book, Inside the Danger Zone: the US Military in the Persian Gulf, 1987-1988. Mr. Wise says the danger zone was a period 20 years ago when the US and Iranian navies engaged in a series of underreported military operations on each other’s warships, tankers and installations. Though the conflict did not escalate into a full-blown war, it nonetheless entailed the largest US military deployment in the region at that time and resulted in the some of the largest naval engagements since World War Two. Mr. Wise not only talked about particular battles, he also compared and contrasted US policy toward the Middle East then and now, drawing parallels in what is still a danger zone in the Gulf.
News and Views June 7 talked with London-based economist Hasan Mansour on the decision by Barclays Bank to use the US Patriot Act, a controversial American anti-terrorism law, to shut down the personal bank accounts of British citizens who work for Iranian-owned businesses. The Times newspaper reported June 6 that, “The bank has unilaterally enforced anti- Iran sanctions drawn up by the Bush Administration under the US Patriot Act against companies that operate completely legally in Britain. Those affected by the account closures are not directors of the companies but ordinary staff members, including clerical officers, computer engineers and bank tellers.” Mr. Mansour said British citizens who work in Iranian banks are being impacted more severely than employees at two of Iran’s biggest commercial institutions, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat because neither bank is under European sanctions. Mr. Mansour said the British employees’ whose accounts were closed have had their money returned to them.
News and Views June 3 talked with political activist Hassan Shariatmadari, who lives in Germany and is the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, about the 19th anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s death and the need for change in Iran. His father, a grand ayatollah or marja, had followers in Iran, Pakistan, India, Lebanon and Kuwait, and he was a vehement critic of Ayatollah Khomeini. “Khomeini never operated within the framework of the Constitution,” Mr. Shariatmadari said. “What he wanted was full authority and vast influence over the three main branches of the government through the Velayate Faghih, or Supreme Leader.” He said the Islamic Republic’s Constitution must change in order for Iranians to advance toward a democratic society. “It has to be based on the will of the people. People should be able to elect their own leaders. But Iran also needs to change its behavior on an international level.” Mr. Shariatmadari said, “Iran’s claim to be the strongest and most influential power in the Middle East does not match its real capabilities. This claim has become a threat to the region.” He said Iran also needs to recognize the legitimate government of President Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian territories, have good relations with its neighbors, normalize relations with the US and stop the free fall of the Iranian economy, which has been in a downward spiral since President Ahmadinejad took office.
News and Views June 5 reported President Bush tried to reassure Israelis worried about the US commitment to keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. “Iran is an existential threat to peace,” Mr. Bush told Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the outset of talks in the Oval Office. “It’s very important for the world to take the Iranian threat quite seriously, which the United States does.” Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Ramallah, top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said that reaching a peace agreement with Israel before Mr. Bush leaves office will take a “miracle.” But he said there is still room for progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Also, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday called for renewed dialogue with Hamas, in what appeared to be an about-face after insisting for a year he would talk to the Islamic militants only if they give up control of Gaza. Hamas, which seized Gaza by force last year, immediately welcomed Mr. Abbas’s offer, made in a televised speech. In another development, Hamas militants fired mortar shells from Gaza into southern Israel Thursday, killing one person and wounding three others. The attack dealt a new setback to Egyptian efforts to mediate a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and raised the likelihood of a tough Israeli military reprisal.
News and Views June 4 reported that President Bush is to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Washington Wednesday for talks on advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. The two leaders are also expected to discuss Iran’s controversial nuclear program as well as security relations between the United States and Israel. Mr. Olmert, who is in Washington for a three-day visit, met Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and leaders of the pro- Israel lobbying group, AIPAC. In an address to the group, Mr. Olmert reiterated his support for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians before the end of the year. Secretary Rice, who also addressed the AIPAC conference, said Tuesday the Bush administration still believes there is a chance to reach a deal on what she called the “basic contours of a peaceful Palestinian state.” But she called it an "ambitious" goal that might slip to the next U.S. administration. Mr. Olmert’s visit is being overshadowed by a corruption scandal at home. He has faced growing calls to resign from coalition allies and opponents following allegations that he received bribes from US businessman Morris Talansky. Mr. Olmert has denied the allegations.
Roundtable with You June 5 focused on human trafficking as the US State Department issued its eighth annual report on the topic. Categorized as third tier, Iran is ranked as one of the countries with the worst records on fighting human trafficking, along with Burma, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. The report says, “Iran is a source, transit, and destination for women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and involuntary servitude. Iranian women are trafficked internally for the purpose of forced prostitution and for forced marriage to settle debts.” The report says the government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Human rights activist Ali Afshari said the Iranian government punishes victims instead of violators, which harsh penalties such as stoning. Ambassador Mark Logan, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, appeared on the program live from the State Department, to talk about the report and answer viewer questions. He said there have been limits to obtaining information from the government of Iran because of limited US-Iranian relations, but added that there is a clear case of serious human trafficking in the Islamic Republic.
News and Views June 3 reported on the impact the Islamic Republic’s policies have had on the housing market in Iran. Housing prices are rising so steeply that many Iranians complain they are being priced out of the housing market. Real estate prices surged by more than 100% in 2007, after rising about 65% in 2006 and by more than 50% in 2005. President Ahmadinejad has promoted quick loans at low interest rates to spur construction and jobs. But the stimulus is also a textbook cause of inflation and has pitted the governor of Iran’s Central Bank, Tahmasb Mazaheri, against Mr. Ahmadinejad. Mr. Mazaheri wants to raise interest rates to stem the lending spree which economists blame for the runaway inflation.
News and Views June 5 reported that hundreds of students at Tarbiat Moallem University in Karaj are on the fifth day of a hunger strike. The strike began with the students expressing minor dissatisfaction with the University’s cafeteria. But the protest quickly turned more serious. A spokeswoman for the students, Mahdieh Golroo, told VOA/PNN, that the “Students will carry on until the authorities accept their demands.” Those demands now include not only better quality food and better service in the cafeteria, but a broader demand for increased quality in their university education.
News and Views June 8 reported that students are in their second week of a hunger strike at Tarbiat Moallem University in Karaj. The longer they are on the strike, the bigger their demands become. The students now want the president of the university dismissed. More than 125 students are reported to be participating in the hunger strike, with some 3,000 students “sitting-in” as a show of support. University security forces surround the protesters.
News and Views June 5 reported that an explosion in a village in southwestern Iran killed five people. Oil pipelines in the area of Mey Davood are very old and some parts have eroded. Journalist Abolfazl Abedini said the explosion, which happened at night, also wounded more than 20 people and destroyed many farms and houses. He said the explosion is believed to have been caused by an oil leak.
News and Views June 8 reported that Palestinian medical officials say Israeli forces killed a Palestinian fighter and wounded another in the Gaza Strip Saturday. An Israeli army spokesman said Israeli soldiers opened fire when they saw an armed man planting a bomb near the border with Israel. Also Saturday, the Israeli army announced it will impose a complete closure on the West Bank during the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which ends Monday. Israeli media reported Saturday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is due to hold talks June 10 with top officials on possible plans to launch a major new offensive into the Gaza Strip to stop Palestinian rocket fire. In another development in region, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged strong support for Lebanon’s new president and urged feuding factions to engage in dialogue during a one day visit to the country. Mr. Sarkozy is the first Western head of state to meet President Michel Suleiman since the former army chief was elected as a compromise president on May 25. “President Suleiman has a big responsibility to achieve national reconciliation and it is essential for all Lebanese political parties to translate into reality their commitment to hold dialogue,” Mr. Sarkozy said Saturday. “There has been too much suffering in Lebanon.”
Roundtable with You June 7 focused on the long-running dispute Iran has had with its Arab neighbors over the name assigned to the Persian Gulf, which some in the Arab world insist on calling the Arabian Gulf. Scholar and editor Jalal Matini, who was on the faculty of Mashad University before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, said, “The name of the body of water separating the Arabian peninsula from Iran has been disputed by some Arab countries since the 1960s. This gulf is historically and most commonly called the Persian Gulf.” But rivalry between Persians and Arabs, along with the emergence of pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism has seen the name Arabian Gulf become predominant in some Arab countries. Mr. Matini added that “On almost all maps printed before 1960, and in most modern international treaties, documents and maps, this body of water is known by the name Persian Gulf.” Mr. Matini said Iranian leaders do not confront Arab countries as forcefully as they should “because they don’t feel a strong sense of nationalism. They attach more significance to their Islamic identity.” In addition to the simmering dispute over the name of the Gulf, there also is a tug-of-war between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over sovereignty of three islands in the Persian Gulf. Tehran gained control of the three islands – Abu Musa, Greater Tumb and Lesser Tumb – after British troops left the Gulf in 1971. The disagreement over sovereignty is a sore point in relations between the two countries, despite the UAE being Tehran’s top trade partner and being home to some 450,000 Iranians.
Roundtable with You June 3 focused on Iran’s national soccer team and its performance in the qualifying games for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Sports columnist Ali Sarshar said Iran’s performance June 2 against the tiny United Arab Emirates was dismal and disappointing. He said the team could not come up better than a draw that put Iran in the hole, and kept UAE on top of a group made up of Iran, UAE, Syria and Kuwait. The game left the most optimistic of fans wondering how Iran will beat even tougher teams the rest of the qualifying rounds. Mr. Sarshar said the Iranians’ lackluster exposed a lack of preparation, competence, organization, adequate coaching, and lack of professionalism at all levels. Both he and VOA/PNN’s viewers – who called in or e-mailed the program – complained about the negative impact of politics on sports in Iran, where the politics of religion is “omnipresent in every aspect of a person’s life, including sports.” Some viewers expressed the desire for Iran’s national team to lose, saying the government would use victory by Iranian footballers as fuel for President Ahmadinejad’s propaganda machine.
Late Edition June 6 interviewed sports journalist and soccer analyst Hassan Alsafar about the 2010 World Cup qualification games. Mr. Alsafar said despite its performance so far, Iran’s national team has the potential to be the best team in Asia – “it’s the Iranian officials who are not qualified to run the Iran Football Federation.” He said the blame doesn’t belong just to Ali Daie, the retired football player now turned head coach. Mr. Alsafar said much of the blame for the team’s problems should be assigned to the Iran Football Federation and Iranian officials for mixing politics with sports. He said Mr. Daie’s relative inexperience as a coach doesn’t make him the best choice at such a high level of play – at least right now. He said there are three important games ahead, and Iran still has the chance of qualifying for the World Cup if it wins. He said the next scheduled game for Iran is on June 7 against the UAE – and that it is a must-win game.
Roundtable with You June 6 focused on Iran and film festivals with Paris-based film critic Mohammad Haghighat. He said Iran was lauded in the 1990’s as one of the best exporters of cinema, with some critics ranking Iran as one of the world’s most important, if not the most important, artistic filmmakers. Mr. Haghighat said Iranian filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami have received numerous awards around the world, including the highest prizes from film festivals in Cannes, Venice, San Francisco and Moscow, and that they also have earned the admiration and respect of their peers. He pointed out that Children of Heaven, written and directed by Majid Majidi, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 as Best Foreign Language Film. “But films made during this administration, under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are not warmly received the major film festivals. In the absence of freedom, creativity is lost. And with the extra restrictions imposed on filmmakers in Iran today, many have been forced to leave the country and continue their careers elsewhere.” One caller argued with Mr. Haghighat, claiming that Iran is “the freest society in the world.” Mr. Haghighat responded by saying that, “Last year, out of 105 feature films made in Iran, only 49 gained permission to be shown in theaters.”
In New York, VOA/PNN correspondent Nazzy Beglari interviewed British-Indian writer Sir Salman Rushdie about his tenth novel, The Enchantress of Florence. Sir Rushdie writes that in the 16th century, there was not one Renaissance, but two. He says Florentine society’s Renaissance was mirrored in the court of India’s Mughal emperor Akbar. Sir Rushdie said when he first began researching his book, he thought he should write about the differences between the two cultures, but that the more he studied, the more he learned of the similarities of eastern and western cultures. On Iran, Sir Rushdie said he drove to Iran – to Tabriz, Tehran Shiraz and Isfahan – when he was 21, and that the scenes he describes in the book about Persia’s Safavid dynasty are based on his memories of that trip to Iran. When asked about the worse misconception people have about him, Mr. Rushdie said it began with The Satanic Verses, the book that prompted Ayatollah Khomeini to place a death sentence or fatwa on him in 1988. “I was expected to become an angry writer or to write cautious little books.” His new book is a mix of Sheherazad and post-modern Western style-writing, filled with beautiful fables about history, peppered with imaginary characters. Sir Rushdie is 62 years old and has been married three times. Queen Elizabeth knighted him last year.
Today’s Woman June 3 talked with CBS journalist Kimberly Dozier, who has written a book called Breathing the Fire about her near death injury while reporting from Iraq in 2006. VOA/PNN talked with Ms. Dozier after a recent book signing at the National Press Club, and she clearly expressed her determination to continue working. She said she still wants to go back to the Middle East to work as a correspondent and said she enjoyed the time she spent in Iran from 1978-1979. She added that she loved Iran and would like to return. The car bomb that nearly took Ms. Dozier’s life killed four people – cameraman Paul Douglas, soundman James Brolan as well as Captain James Alex Funkhauser and his translator. The second segment discussed the definition of suicide and self-burning, acknowledging the high rate of these cases among girls and women in Afghanistan. Worldwide, one person commits suicide every 40 seconds; 70% of people who commit suicide had previously sought medical attention; and 80% who self-burned and did not die regretted their actions. As a continuation of a weblog series on Today’s Woman, the next segment discussed an Iranian blog entitled From Life that discusses the importance of ending relationships on good terms.
Today’s Woman June 2 profiled 51-year-old contemporary visual artist Shirin Neshat, who came to the United States at the age of 17 to study art in college. After 12 years of life in the US, she returned to Iran, and she continues to visit every year. Ms. Neshat’s first art exhibit was entitled, “Women of God”. In a pre-recorded interview Ms. Neshat stated, “The four symbols used in the series include a veil, gun, a woman’s body and the writings of women. These icons somehow contrast each other but are used to provoke questions.” All of the Farsi writings Ms. Neshat uses in her artwork are by Iranian women writers. Ms. Neshat has a photo collection that features the characters from her upcoming film, Women and Men, adapted from the Iranian book by Sharnush Parsipour. In talking about her work, Ms. Neshat said, “When it comes to Iran, you cannot not be political; however, I view my work as poetic.” She said she considers herself a combination of east and west, with one foot in each world. On feminism, Ms. Neshat said, “Men make laws and women wear them. Men and women are equal, but they are not the same.” Ms. Neshat said she is seeking faith and the meaning of life through her art. “I would like my artwork to take hold of the viewer emotionally and rationally, and not let go for a long time. I wish that seeing my artwork will be similar to a spiritual experience.”
Late Edition June 7 featured Nima Fakhrara, an Iranian-American musician who has found success as a film composer working on such films as Lost Dream, Tumblers, Broadway Bound and Heist. As a part of Remote Control Productions, he has helped create the music for The Dark Knight, Columbus Day, Drillbit Taylor and the Bee Movie. Mr. Fakhrara also has worked on the music team creating the music for Season 5 of television’s Cold Case. He has performed on a number of filmed projects, solo and as part of the CSUN Studio Ensemble (California State University at Northridge). Mr. Fakhrara talked with VOA/PNN about his early life in Iran, and learning to play the santur, or hammered dulcimer, at the age of five. He has studied with some of the greatest Iranian masters and has learned how to play all the instruments native to Persia. Since moving to Los Angeles, he has worked as a composer, team composition member and musician. Mr. Fakhrara is known for mixing eastern music with western elements in his compositions. He also has worked on a number of projects with Hans Zimmer, who is recognized as one of Hollywood’s most innovative musical talents.
Today’s Woman June 8 opened with a segment on lengthy article from the Washington Post regarding Iranian-American relations, especially the positive attitude both countries’ people hold toward each other – independent of their governments. The article, which appeared in the June 1 “Outlook” section of the newspaper, was written by Time magazine correspondent Azadeh Moaveni, who is the author of Lipstick Jihad and who has a new memoir, Honeymoon in Tehran, which will be published next year. She wrote that some Iranians believe US policy toward Iraq will remain the same no matter who succeeds President Bush in the Oval Office. She says Iran cannot choose only to accept Western advancements in science and technology without adapting to Western culture. And for that to happen, secularism must rule the day because secularism is necessary for the adoption of Western culture and democracy
Today’s Woman June 5 focused on volunteerism in the United States. In a recent commencement address at Furman University (in South Carolina), President Bush spoke of the necessity to help others and to give back to society. Advantage of volunteering and making financial contributions to non-profit organizations in the US include tax return deductions, reduced interest rates on federal student loans and showing one’s support for the charities on biographical sketches. In 2006, approximately 63 million people volunteered in the US and the number continues to rise. The oldest volunteer organization in the US is the Red Cross. Panelists listed several volunteer organizations in Iran and commended those who work for the improvement of society. The second segment highlighted the way women in Iran use the media to promote women’s issues, particularly the Internet. For instance, the One Million Signatures Campaign has used the Internet as a tool for networking and expanding their number of supporters. The URLs of several Iranian women’s rights groups were displayed. The last segment discussed the life and accomplishments of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. He was very influential in the fashion industry and is most remembered for creating the pantsuit for women. Yves Saint Laurent believed that clothes did not make women beautiful; he believed fashion gives women greater self-confidence.
This week’s History Channel segments included profiles of actor Lloyd Bridges, ice skater Michelle Kwan and singer Tina Turner as well as a segment on America’s roads and part one of a two part profile of Saddam and the Third Reich. Segment one profiled actor Lloyd Bridges, known for being a devoted husband and father as well as patriarch of a Hollywood acting dynasty. From his star making role in High Noon, to his adventures as a skin diver from Sea Hunt, he also had comedic turns in films such as Airplane. Segment two told the incredible story of the “paving of America.” In 1912, a headlight-maker and an auto magnate built the first cross- country road to spur the demand for new cars; 70 years and $125 billion later, the highway system had grown to 42,000 miles. Segment three profiled world champion ice skater Michelle Kwan, the daughter of Chinese immigrants who became a legendary performer, one whose grace and sportsmanship made her one of the most marketable female athletes in the world. Segment four profiled Tina Turner, the daughter of a Tennessee sharecropper who became one of the most successful entertainers of all time. Throughout her career she broke down the racist and sexist walls that had traditionally insulated the world of rock music. Part one of “Saddam and the Third Reich” traced the formation of the Baath Party and historical parallels to the Nazi Party in Germany. The program re-examined the April 1941 pro-Nazi coup in Iraq, led by the Grand Mufti, with help from Saddam Hussein’s uncle. After a successful uprising against the British- installed king, funded with Nazi money and support, Baghdad started broadcasting pro-Nazi propaganda. Under the tutelage of his uncle, Saddam later joined the Baath Party and began his long career of politics and violence.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – answered several e-mails from viewers about the just concluded primary elections in the United States and why VOA/PNN provided extensive coverage of the contests. Mr. Mahmoudi said though our primary duty is broadcasting balanced news and information, we also have the responsibility to demonstrate to our audience the value of the free flow of information and, whenever possible, to show how various elements of democracy work in this country. A free election is a basic principle of democratic systems. Freedom of participation in elections is not limited only to going to the polls and to electing a representative or representatives of that person’s choice. Demonstrating the entire process is as important as the end result. In this regard, the USA is quite unique. There are countries where candidates are chosen by the authorities, and people are forced to vote for the pre-selected nominees. In some democratic countries, it is up to the political parties to nominate candidates. In the United States, a unique system is in place. In this country, the nomination of the major party candidates is not automatic. Citizens even in this early process must be heard. It is a grass roots process. VOA/PNN broadcast the entire process as a demonstration of how democracy works in this country. We are living in a world quite different from that of the 19th or even 20th century. Globalization is at work in many areas and at many levels. To show how true democracy works in this country does not mean that it must be a prescription for the entire world. We showed a working model and left judgment to the audience. We are grateful to the majority of our viewers who expressed by phone and e-mails their satisfaction with what PNN presented to them during this phase of the US presidential election.
Week six of Late Edition’s Book Club highlighted Fareed Zakaria’s Post-American World.” In the book, Mr. Zakaria analyzes the era are now entering. With equal prescience, he describe a world in which the United States will no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics or overshadow other cultures. He bases his argument on a theory called “rise of the rest” – meaning the growth of countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia. Mr. Zakaria provides insight into how the United States might choose to understand and survive in this rapidly changing international climate and global era.
PNN’s question of the week was, “Will Chris de Burgh be able to get Iranian officials’ approval for a concert in Iran?” Out of 6,910 respondents, 42% said yes, 50 % said no, while 8 % said they did not know.
[Editor’s Note: Chris de Burgh is an Argentine-born musician and songwriter who holds British nationality and who currently lives in Ireland. He has released 17 albums with sales in excess of 40 million. His biggest hit was The Lady in Red, which went to #1 in 25 countries. At the end of 2007, Chris recorded the song The Words I Love You in English and Farsi with Iran’s The Arian Band. Video of the recording can be seen on YouTube at http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=Ods5MbuG5TI.]
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 Neyshabur: Recently, I got a chance to talk to a group of simple, honest, hard-working but unskilled workers who were relocating my furniture to a new building. Complaining from inflation and difficulties of day-to-day life under the regime of Mullahs, one of them referred to VOA news and others nodded in approval. Surprised was to learn that VOA is being watched by such low-income people.
When I expressed my surprise, they looked at each other and proudly said "we seldom miss the VOA programs”. The low-income classes have their own word-of-mouth channels of communication. In all cities and large villages, there are members of low-income classes that earnestly access the banned satellite TV and watch the VOA programs.
From a female viewer in Iran: “Obama’s victory shows that although the US might tolerate a black President, even in the US they are still not ready to put a woman in the White House.”
From artist Shirin Neshat following the broadcast of a pre-recorded interview and a showcase of her artwork on Today’s Woman June 2: “I watched the program and I have to say that you [staffer Poopak Raad] are a better speaker about my work than I am. You were so articulate and also you really represented my ideas and comments so well. THANK you so much for your professionalism. I really appreciate it. Hopefully, your audience appreciated the program. It’s been a pleasure working with you.”
From a viewer in Mashad: “If our wish so far has been for the separation of religion from government, now we have to wish for the separation of religion from sports, since it is sending our soccer team down the drain just as surely as it has our country.”
From a 16-year-old female in Arak: “I want to talk with you about one of the problems we Iranian women face. After some long conversations with my parents, I finally convinced them to allow me to ride by bicycle to school. Many people were surprised to see a girl riding a bike to school. When I arrived, my school chaperone told me that our customs and tradition don’t condone such behavior. ‘Here, it is not Europe,’ he said. I said if I rode my bicycle, and some of the other girls did the same, then women riding bicycles would become accepted in our culture. But he would not listen to me! Even though our government encourages people to use their bicycles in order to reduce air pollution, I only see men on bikes – not women. In my opinion, if some women started using the bicycle, afterward some other women will follow suit. By informing, educating and doing, we can make a new tradition. I hope we women in Iran get more freedom. Thank you for Today’s Woman – it’s a great program.”
From a women’s organization in Iran called Focus on Iranian Women: “Thank you for introducing our website’s address on your program. The regime has filtered our website three times. Here is the new address: www.irwomen.info.”
From a 22-year-old woman in Tehran: “I always watch Today’s Woman. Yesterday, you discussed relationships and how people might change in the course of that relationship. My boyfriend changed. He became very religious and wanted me to share the same beliefs. He wanted me to stop listening to music and to discontinue other hobbies. He wasn’t like this at the beginning of our relationship. I have personally experienced this change. My boyfriend changed afterwards. He became a religious person and he wanted me follow his step. I decided to break up with him. I just wanted to share my story with you.”
From a male viewer in Denmark: “I have the same opinion about gender equality in Iran as you have: women should have equal rights. But have you thought about women who violate other women’s rights? My own sister is one of these women. She teaches the Koran and she also is an interrogator at Evin Prison. I just wanted to let you know that I think we have two types of women in Iran.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I have a request. I think it would be much better if your anchors used the greeting, ‘Dorod,’ instead of ‘Salam.’”