Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, DC – June 23, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included Iran’s rejection of a P5+1 incentives package; Israel’s reported simulation of an attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility; President Bush welcoming Britain’s pledge to tighten sanctions against Iran; thousands of students protesting at Zanjan University over a professor’s sexual harassment of a student; that student’s subsequent arrest, apparently for publicizing the harassment; a series on Iranian Kurds – their politics, their leaders, their goals;; the US Congress approving $162 billion in new funding for US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; Israel and Hamas agreeing to a ceasefire in Gaza; Secretary Condoleezza Rice meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials as well as stopping in Lebanon to meet with the country’s new president; and interviews with Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Jundollah; with former British Foreign Secretary David Owen; with AEI scholar Michael Ledeen on US-Iran relations; with former Attorney-General Ramsey Clark and former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy; with British Foreign Office spokesman Barry Marston; with Assistant Secretary of State Goli Ameri on US-Iranian exchanges; and with Mohammad Reza Shajarian, a world renowned singer of traditional Persian music.
Stay Tuned: VOA/PNN correspondent Siamak Deghanpour will host a Late Edition special on June 26 focusing on the documentary Come Walk in My Shoes, made by filmmaker Robin Smith. In the film, Congressman John R. Lewis (D-GA) leads colleagues from the House and Senate on an emotional pilgrimage to sacred sites of the Civil Rights Movement. According to Ms. Smith, “Lewis was 15-years-old when he first heard Martin Luther King’s voice on the radio” and from then on, Rep. Lewis worked side by side with Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement.
News and Views June 19 interviewed Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Jundollah, or the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran. Mr. Rigi said contrary to accusations leveled by the Islamic regime that Jundollah is supported by Washington or London, or that it is based in neighboring Pakistan, he said he and his comrades are Iranian Sunnis and that they operate as Baluchis from [Sistan and] Baluchistan. “I have never received any kind of help from any foreign country and I believe that relying on foreigners to bring us freedom would be futile. I believe in empowering our youth to carry us forward. Tehran levels this kind of accusation against us because they want to deflect attention away from their miserable military performance here. They skillfully try to portray that we’re proxies for foreign powers and that we get our marching orders from them. They cannot acknowledge the fact that our movement is made up of average local people: students and young people…. Our movement is home-grown and totally reliant on the power of the Baluchi people. If foreigners were behind these military skirmishes in Baluchistan, then this would spread much more quickly to other parts of Iran. Tehran knows that our only shortcoming is that we don’t have unlimited resources available to us.” Mr. Rigi said Jundollah has not launched any offensives against regime forces in two years because the group doesn’t have unlimited resources. However, he said Jundollah’s goal is the downfall of the Islamic regime. “We are interested in uniting with other groups in and outside Iran, which are actively involved in the destruction of the Islamic regime. Our greatest military accomplishment, however, has been to bring some of the mountainous areas in Baluchistan under our control…We are hopeful that we can gradually lay the groundwork for a popular uprising that would lead to the downfall of the regime.” He confirmed Jundollah had assassinated Judge Ebrahim Karimi because he sent 12 of their men to the gallows. Mr. Rigi also said Jundollah has called on the Islamic regime to release 15 members of his movement from prison as well as all Sunni religious scholars who are in jail. He said Jundollah, in return, would release “their captives who are in our custody.” On June 12, at a checkpoint near the border, Mr. Rigi’s men kidnapped 16 Iranian security personnel – this, after Iran announced that Pakistan had turned over a group of rebels, including Mr. Rigi’s brother, to Iran. News and Views ran a disclaimer after the interview saying that views expressed by the guest were solely his personal views and did not necessarily reflect those of the Voice of America. [Editor’s Note: VOA/PNN’s interview was broadcast one day before Jundollah reportedly executed two of the 16 hostages.
In an interview June 18 with VOA/PNN, Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, talked about an article he wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. In it, Mr. Ledeen drew a parallel between the fascist movement in Europe in the 1930s and the states that sponsor international terrorism. “Their common ground,” he said, “is that both mistreat their citizens and this should be a warning sign that if a regime brutally treats its own people, it’s willing to export terror outside its own borders.” Mr. Ledeen said, “The world is now simmering in the familiar rhetoric and actions of movements and regimes – from Hezbollah and al Qaeda to the Iranian Khomeinists and the Saudi Wahabis – who swear to destroy us and others like us. Like their 20th-century predecessors, they openly proclaim their intentions, and carry them out whenever and wherever they can. Like our own 20th-century predecessors, we rarely take them seriously or act accordingly.” Mr. Ledeen then referred to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s praise of martyrdom and suicide bombing. “For people like Ahmadinejad, dying for one’s cause is something that should be regarded as holy and sacred. There are people who are being brainwashed with this kind ideology,” he said. Mr. Ledeen said that what propels terrorism are states that sponsor these acts of violence in order to intimidate innocent civilians. “It’s a myth that injustice and legitimate grievances cause terrorist acts,” he added. He said the most effective way to confront Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism outside its borders is to support the aspirations of Iran’s freedom-loving people. He believes that once Iran has a democratic government, there will be a remarkable drop in the number of terrorist incidents the world over. Mr. Ledeen said Washington’s broadcasts to Iran should be expanded as a way to raise public awareness among Iranians on how non-violent uprisings have succeeded in toppling despotic regimes. But, he concluded, “I’m the father of two Marines so I do not favor war with Iran as the first option to remove the clerical regime in Iran.” The anchor challenged Mr. Ledeen when she quoted from his National Review articles in 2006 where he called for military attacks on Iran. Mr. Ledeen said, “Don’t invent things about me.” The anchor then cited specific quotes from the articles. Mr. Ledeen responded, “I’m misquoted all the time; I only meant attacking the nuclear sites,” he said.
Former British Foreign Secretary David Owen, who is the author of In Sick and in Power, gave VOA/PNN an in-depth interview which was broadcast in four parts, June 15-18. In Part One, Mr. Owen said he traveled three times to Iran and loves the country. From his first visit as a young student, to his third in 1977 as Foreign Secretary, he said Iran had changed a lot and that the Iranian people were becoming prosperous. However, because the West’s focus was on trade, he said, the Shah’s sickness and public unrest went unnoticed.
“By 1978, it was clear that there was considerable unrest in Iran. The Shah’s reforms affected Iranians in different ways. Inflation unduly impacted the working class, a lack of faith upset the mullahs, and a lack of democracy provoked students. “When the Shah, much like many other reformists, made fundamental reforms and alienated people, he had to expect radical reactions and animosity. If we had known the Shah was ill, we could have helped him to transfer his constitutional role to his son. In this way, he could, much like Spain, keep the kingdom and his dynasty in Iran.” Mr. Owen said sickness affected the Shah’s judgment and made him a very indecisive leader. His speeches at this time provoked the opposition and particularly angered the mullahs, more than at any time before.
In Part Two, Mr. Owen said that Britain, unlike the French, did not play games with the Shah. “If we’d known sooner that the Shah was sick, we could have helped him to have a democratic transition, and we could have had a militarily strong Iran that could not be attacked by Iraq. We wouldn’t have had the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq would not have attacked Kuwait. And there wouldn’t be al Qaeda. The collapse of the Shah’s regime was a terrible tragedy. It was a profound mistake on the West’s part to effectively perpetrate the Iran-Iraq War. We lost a lot of credibility by doing so. It was an outrageous attack by Saddam Hussein, backed by the UK and the US. We should never have allowed it, but rather condemned it…. We tried to undermine the Islamic revolution. Our reputation and influence were deteriorated so much that now, because of that, the Islamic Republic of Iran is suspicious of the West and we cannot use our influence to halt Iran’s nuclear program. We have a long way to go before being trusted again by the Iranians. However, it is not in the Islamic Republic’s short-term, mid-term or long-term interests to become a state with nuclear weapons.” He said Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger persuaded the Shah that Iran shouldn’t become a nuclear weapon state. “As long as the US wants to build military bases in Iraq and keep its forces in the region, Iran is not going to give up its nuclear program. “The international community’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear activity is not going to be clear until the United States has a new president.”
In Part Three, Mr. Owen said he is disconsolate about sanctions as a whole. “I don’t believe in sanctions against Iran. I don’t believe sanctions work.” He said former French Prime Minister Francois Mitterrand used to say for sanctions to work, they must be put into action quickly and with strength. Mr. Owen said the long build-up of sanctions against Iran hasn’t worked and people are getting around them. “Western leaders are very practical. If they see sanctions working, they will support them. As long as Russia sees Germany not engaged in sanctions, they won’t be ready to sign up for them.” He said Russia doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but Moscow believes Iran will eventually be a nuclear weapon state. Mr. Owen said he thought both Senators McCain and Obama would bring change to US policy toward Iran. The former British Foreign Secretary said Israel has the nerve to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, but said it is a difficult target because it is far away and its weapons are already sophisticated. “Israel gets rid of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapon, by attacking Iran. Its nuclear facilities are spread out and are built underground.” Mr. Owen said he didn’t think Iran’s nuclear program can be stopped militarily, and that if it is to be influenced successfully it will be an argument vis-à-vis regional stability. He said, “The IAEA’s recent report, which is based on solid information, says the Islamic Republic of Iran is lying and has made changes in the warhead designs on their Chinese missiles. Their missiles are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.”
In Part Four, Mr. Owen said the presence of US and British military forces in Iraq and the region are a massive strategic threat to Iran. He said Iran’s nuclear program can be halted through negotiations, but it would likely require US and British forces to leave Iraq and the region as a whole. He also suggested Iran might follow the Israeli model and just not claim to be a nuclear weapon state. “This would help us to continue our access to oil in the region,” he said. The alternative to this scenario, he said, is to build more military bases in the region, which in turn will generate more hostility in the region – by the governments and by the people. Mr. Owen said, “We cannot do much about human rights abuses in Iran other than to point out the abuses when they take place. We should not challenge the Islamic Revolution – whether we like it or not.” He said the West, of course, wants a more secular government in Iran, less religious interference in politics, and a more technical and democratic government. “When Iran’s Supreme Leader dies, the new leader should have more of a religious role and much less of a political one.” Mr. Owen said in order to understand Iran, we need to put ourselves in Iran’s position. “Nuclear weapons do give any country stability,” he said. “We should stop putting military pressure on Afghanistan. Britain tried it twice and was not successful. The Soviet Union had the same experience and ultimately collapsed because of Afghanistan. Forget about a military victory in Afghanistan. This is not a country that you can conquer.”
News and Views interviewed former Attorney-General Ramsey Clark and former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy. Mr. Clark said he believes President Bush will soon strike Iran’s nuclear sites. He said his claims were supported by President Bush’s comments in Israel and Europe earlier this month where he said if the US does not stop Iran’s nuclear programs, future generations will suffer. Mr. Clark said that President Bush wants his legacy to be that he was the stone to stop an evil empire from accessing nuclear weapons. Mr. Murphy, who served as the US ambassador to both Syria and Saudi Arabia, said he disagreed, and doubted the US would strike Iran because of the situation in Iraq. Ambassador Murphy said an attack might delay Iran’s access to the nuclear bomb for two or five years, but in the short-term would help the Islamic Republic’s leadership to gain public support. Mr. Clark said he believes Iran would retaliate if its nuclear sites are attacked, perhaps by sending troops to Iraq in order to increase violence against US troops deployed there. Mr. Clark said the US might prefer Israel attack Iran, but Ambassador Murphy said Israel has shown it cannot attack Iran by itself. Both men agreed on one issue. They said the hostage crisis in Iran in 1979 wounded America’s pride and left a bitter historical memory in the collective mind of Americans. Both also expressed optimism that in spite of all the political mines, there will be fresh opportunities for the two countries to mend their relations.
News and Views June 21 reported that Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is continuing with its nuclear program despite a multi-nation offer of an incentives package if Tehran stops atomic activity. IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Saturday the Islamic Republic will continue its nuclear enrichment program, reiterating the country’s claim that it is for peaceful purposes. Iran says it is ready to negotiate an incentives package offered by P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) but has ruled out halting enrichment. The Director-General of the IAEA, Mohamed El-Baradei, warned that a military attack on Iran would encourage the country to rapidly seek a nuclear weapon. In an interview with al Arabiya television, Mr. El-Baradei said such a development would turn the region into a “fireball.” His remarks followed a US media report that Israel conducted a simulated attack on Iran’s atomic facilities. A New York Times report quoted US officials as saying Israel conducted a long-range exercise earlier this month that appeared to be practice for a potential attack on Iran. The report said the Israeli military practiced
maneuvers involving more than 100 fighter jets over the Mediterranean and Greece. It said the jets flew more than 1,400 kilometers – the approximate distance between Israel and Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday the Bush administration continues to pursue diplomacy and believes it can work – although it rules out no options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
News and Views June 19 reported that the Senate Finance Committee has approved legislation to strengthen US sanctions on Iran, including a proposed ban on the export of US-made aircraft parts to Iran and the import of Iranian carpets, caviar, nuts and dried fruit to the US. The House of Representatives passed similar legislation last year. In provisions likely to displease the White House, both House and Senate bills would press Russia to stop helping Iran’s nuclear program by barring the US from entering into a civilian nuclear agreement with Moscow until that country suspends such assistance. While President Bush favors tougher international sanctions on Iran, he also wants a civilian nuclear accord with Moscow and has sent such a pact to Congress. It will go into force later this year unless both chambers of Congress vote to block it. Mr. Bush, along with many lawmakers, initially criticized Russia for delivering nuclear fuel to Iran. But he recently has taken the position that such a move shows Russia can be a dependable supplier so that Iran itself has no need to enrich uranium. Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) said, “The richness of the American market makes sanctioning rogue states a powerful weapon without having to resort to force.... For pressing issues like Iran’s nuclear program, I would rather withhold dollars and euros than spend bullets and lives. I am pleased the committee adopted several of my bill’s provisions, placing us on a path to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.”
News and Views June 17 interviewed Barry Marston, spokesman for the British Foreign Office, on policy developments toward Iran following the latest flurry of diplomatic activity. Speaking in Farsi from London, Mr. Marston said Iran has a choice: “Accept the West’s offer or be isolated.” Commenting on the talks between President Bush and Prime Minister Gordon Brown over the weekend, Mr. Marston said the US and Britain’s view on several subjects, including Iran, are very close. Mr. Marston made a point of saying the West has always tried to make sure that sanctions do not harm the people of Iran. He also said the visit to Tehran by the foreign policy chief of the European Union, Javier Solana, was “not all negative because we always favor diplomacy over any other options.” Mr. Solana met with Iranian officials to present a new and upgraded incentives package from the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) to persuade the Islamic Republic to abandon uranium enrichment.
News and Views June 17 reported the European Union said it is “not in a crisis” just because Irish voters rejected a treaty seeking major EU reforms, adding that it is working to overcome the situation. Voters in Ireland – the only EU nation to put the reform treaty to a referendum – voted “no” last week regarding a document seeking to streamline EU decision-making. It needs ratification from all 27 members before it can go into effect. The EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that they would “reflect how to go forward in its internal reform.” EU nations Monday agreed on the need for a new round of sanctions on Iran that target the oil and gas sectors. It would be the strongest punishment yet to discourage Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said, “no decision has been taken today. That is the answer to your question: no decision has been taken today.” These sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and gas industries could severely affect the country’s already-fragile economy.
News and Views June 21 talked with London-based political analyst Mehrdad Khansari about the latest news developments in Iran. Mr. Khansari said Iran is risking much with its nuclear program, especially if – as the regime claims – it is not aimed at manufacturing nuclear weapons. “This could cause lots of casualties and damage. It seems the regime does not know what it is doing.” Mr. Khansari suggested there was a link between news of the Israeli Air Force’s military exercise last month and Iran’s rejection of the latest incentives package of the P5+1. He said IAEA Director-General Muhammad El-Baradei believes an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would create a chain reaction in the region, and that tensions would expand. Mr. Khansari said if Israel were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran’s reaction would be through its allies in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, adding that the US would have to get involved eventually.
Roundtable with You June 19 focused on World Refugee Day, which is commemorated on June 20. According to a report released earlier in the day by the US Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, the violation of refugees’ human rights is widespread, and in some host countries, refugees encounter rape, domestic violence and even slavery. Bahman Malizadeh, the founder of Nowrooz, an organization that helps Iranian refugees worldwide, and PNN correspondent Ali Javanmardi, who himself was once a refugee in Turkey, talked about the painful plight of thousands of Iranians who risk their lives to flee their homeland to face a life of unknowns. Roundtable also talked with an Iranian woman who now lives in Switzerland. Marjan Azizi was tortured and raped by prison guards in Iran and shared her painful story with VOA/PNN’s audience. “I am repeating this story for the whole world to be able to listen. Because the shame is not for me who went through this to defend my human rights. The shame is theirs who committed this shameful crime in the name of law and religion.” One viewer in Iran sent an e-mail after the show was over: “I watched your show with intense sympathy, to say the least. Just as you were left nearly speechless, I too was moved to tears as I listened to the Iranian woman’s account of her horrific ordeal at the hands of those criminals in our beloved country. Had it not been for your professional experience, I doubt if you’d been able to continue your program. But continue you did, and your being overwhelmed by sorrow only displayed your sense of humanity and affection for your fellow countrymen and women. I wish you success in the good work you are doing.”
News and Views June 19 reported that a powerful rival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has again slammed the government’s policies of “trial and error,” pledging to supervise what the government is doing more closely. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was president of the Islamic Republic from 1989-1997, says a series of new regulations on Iran’s administrative system would give the people the power to govern themselves if the regime would implement Article 44 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution. The Article speaks of private ownership in industry, agriculture and services. Political analyst Dariush Homayoun dismissed Mr. Rafsanjani’s comments, saying the former president is in “no position to offer now what he was unable to deliver during his term in office.”
News and Views June 16 reported that President George Bush is welcoming Britain’s pledge to tighten sanctions against Iran and to send more troops to battle the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Gordon Brown voiced solidarity on Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan at a joint news conference Monday in London. Mr. Gordon also said his government remains committed to keeping troops in Iraq, ending speculation he might announce a troop withdrawal later this year. He said all of Europe is prepared to increase sanctions on Iran if Tehran fails to work with Western countries on differences over its controversial nuclear program. President Bush had on Saturday said that he will pursue implementation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions requiring Iran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
News and Views June 16 interviewed Goli Ameri, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Mrs. Ameri, an Iranian-American who was sworn in three months ago, says the goal of her office “is to foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries around the world, including Iran.” She said cultural, educational and sports-related programs with Iran have been very successful and well-received by the people of both countries. “Iranians who came here received a very warm welcome by Americans,” Mrs. Ameri said. “Some of these Americans opened their homes to the Iranian visitors. We are hoping that the people of Iran would do the same and we are confident they would because of their culture, history, warmth and their acceptance of other countries and people.” Mrs. Ameri said these contacts are profitable because of the exchange of information that takes place. “Iranians like to have contacts with the US and these programs increase their level of knowledge. It also conveys to Iranians the reasons behind the success of Iranian-Americans in this country. They can see how Iranian women, students and business leaders have been successful in a free and democratic society, and how it is possible to grow in such an environment.”
News and Views June 16 reported on a sexual scandal that erupted over the weekend on the campus of Zanjan University in western Iran, causing thousands of students to protest. VOA/PNN talked with Navid Nourifar, a student spokesman, who explained that the trouble started when a student sought help from a professor. The student – a female – was about to be dismissed because of academic problems. She spoke about her concerns with a university administrator that the spokesman identified as the director of the university’s Education Department, Ebrahim Madadi. The spokesman said Mr. Madadi offered the girl his help in exchange for sexual favors. He said she accepted the offer and told her friends about having been propositioned. Her classmates decided to record and film the professor’s advances. After she entered the administrator’s office, the classmates broke in, capturing him on videotape. The girl fled while the classmates escorted Mr. Madadi to the university security office. Students demanded his resignation, particularly galled at his and other university officials’ hypocrisy. Iran’s Etemad newspaper said Mr. Madadi – unnamed in the article – “had tried to shut down a student association on campus because its ‘members have moral problems and do not have an Islamic behavior.’ [Editor’s Note: An excerpt of the videotape can be seen at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/06/iran-sex-scanda.html.]
Today’s Woman June 21 opened with news of the arrest of the young woman student at Zanjan University who leveled sexual harassment charges against the university’s vice chancellor. Her offense is publicizing a video of the incident and she reportedly is being held in solitary confinement at Evin Prison. News reports say the alleged perpetrator also is in custody and quote a local prosecutor as saying that publicizing certain crimes is worse than the crimes themselves.
Today’s Woman June 17 opened with a news brief on Iranian authorities cracking down more harshly on violations of the Islamic dress code: shutting down 32 clothing stores and hair salons deemed too western. They also are stopping drivers and pedestrians who are not “properly attired.” Meanwhile, thousands of students at Zanjan University continued a sit-in. Their protest resulted from the sexual harassment of a female student by a senior university official. Student leader Bahareh Hedayet told VOA/PNN the incident that took place at Zanjan University is not the first instance of such sexual harassment. “What’s new is that we can publicize the offense internationally within minutes on the Internet. Now we can gain recognition of our problems.” Ms. Hedayet said student organizations in Iran are supportive of the Zanjan University protestors, several of whom have been arrested. She said the students are demanding the resignations of the University administrator and the Minister of Education. They also want an apology. The program’s second segment focused on the outcome of the 22 Khordad (June 11) women’s rights protest in Iran. Joining the show via telephone from Iran was lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh, who participated in the protest. Ms. Sotudeh, who represents the One Million Signatures Campaign, said authorities arrested many of the demonstrators, but said, “These arrests were made illegally, and we have filed official complaints.”
Today’s Woman June 21 focused on Turkey’s recent passage of a law that prohibits women from wearing the hejab, or headscarf, in public universities. Germany-based journalist Maryam Ansari said Turkey’s economy has been on the rise since its first wave of secularism, which leads some to believe that a complete ban on Islamic dress will lead to a closer relationship between Ankara and Europe. She said, “Women’s activists in Turkey say women should have the right to decide whether they choose to wear the hejab or not. Even discussing this issue,” she continued, “is a setback for women’s rights because the decision-making process is in the hands of men. Modernity and democracy have not been fully implemented in Turkey because traditional practices in the home are still prevalent.” Ms. Ansari said according to one study, 54% of women who wear headscarves stated they were forced to do so by a man.
News and Views June 21 reported on the recent arrest of a women’s rights activist on a bus in Tehran. Authorities arrested Mahboubeh Karami, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, on June 13. Ms. Karami’s mother, Sedigheh Mosaedi, told VOA/PNN that “her daughter was returning home, and was on a bus from Tajrish Square in north Tehran, but before reaching Mellat Park, called home to say she had been arrested.” Ms. Mosaedi said she was going to have been admitted to the hospital for surgery on June 22, but that present circumstances were now putting that off. She said attempts by her family to collect information on Ms. Karami were unsuccessful, including a visit to Vozara prison by her brother. Ms. Karami is reportedly being held at Evin Prison, but the charges against her are unclear. Amnesty International has expressed concern over Ms. Karami’s detention.
News and Views June 22 reported on the plight of Iranian refugees in Iraqi camps. Sahro Ghaderi, who works with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said 300 Iranian refugees live in camps in Irbil, the largest city in the Kurdish area of Iraq. He said they are living in difficult conditions with no hope of reaching Europe or the United States. However, Mr. Ghaderi said a long-term US-Iraqi agreement, if passed by the Iraqi parliament, could ameliorate the situation, adding that Iran and Syria would not be able to meddle in such a bilateral agreement.
News and Views June 16 aired the second segment of an eight part series on the main Iranian-Kurdish political parties. VOA/PNN talked with the Deputy Secretary-General of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK), Hassan Sharafi; with the First Secretary of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK), Khaled Azizi; and with the General Secretary of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KPIK), Abdollah Mohtadi. Mr. Sharafi said, “In a federal Iran, Kurdish areas would be those in which a majority of the population is Kurdish. In Iran today, the province of Kurdistan is only 20-25% of the actual area in the country that is Kurdish.” These political party leaders said Islamic Republic officials characterize the Kurdish people and Kurdish political parties as separatist because it gives them an excuse to suppress them, “when in actuality, all we are doing is struggling for a democratic Iran.” The third segment on June 17 focused on the Iranian-Kurdish party leaders’ expression of concern over the destiny of Kurds living in Turkey, Iraq and Syria, but said Kurds living in Iran “belong to Iranian Kurdistan, and not to the other countries’ Kurdistans.” The Director of the Office of Iraq Affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, diplomat Richard Schmierer, gave his implicit agreement, telling VOA/PNN that the United States strongly supports the unity of Iraq, saying a united Iraq is good not only for Iraq but for the entire region.
News and Views June 22 broadcast the last segment of a series on the main Iranian-Kurdish political parties. It is said that each of these parties -- the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK), the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK), and the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KPIK) – has thousands of militia, or peshmerga. The parties’ leaders told VOA/PNN that although the militia organizations are still intact, they no longer believe using militias is the way to attain their goal. They said their agenda now is to organize social and political movements. The leaders said they belong to Iranian Kurdistan and that their struggle for democracy can be successful only if the Iranian Kurdish struggle joins the movements of others in Iran. They said they are not separatists and believe the only system in which minorities’ rights will be recognized is federalism. These leaders said they are not happy with what they characterized as the lack of complete support for their struggle from the United States and other western countries. The Director of the Office of Iraq Affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Richard Schmierer, told PNN, “It is important that Kurds in Iraq and in the region receive the rights they deserve as a minority community. We certainly support that broadly – and specifically in Iraq.”
News and Views June 17 reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday the depreciation of the US dollar is a “deliberate and intentional” distortion of the world economy. The Iranian president did not name any specific countries but appeared to hold the US at least partly responsible for the weakened dollar. The Iranian president proposed OPEC members trade oil in other currencies, or a new currency set by OPEC to combat the problem of the weak dollar. With regard to Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it will increase output, as per agreement with the UN Secretary-General, President Ahmadinejad said Iran will voice opposition in Sunday’s upcoming OPEC meeting. On the Western package of incentives, there seems to be a difference of opinion between the legislators and the Supreme Leader’s office. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani has said the Majlis will study the incentives while an advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei called the package of incentives “empty.”
News and Views June 21 reported that a journalist’s reformist ties have gotten in the way of her professional development in Iran because she is not conservative enough. Mitra Khalatbari, a staff writer for Etemade Melli newspaper, wanted to be a part of the News Faculty, the only academic news faculty in Iran. She passed the first section of an entrance exam, but flunked the second part which focuses on applicants’ religious and political ideas. Ms. Khalatbari told VOA/PNN that “The new director of the News Faculty [Rouhollah Ahmadzadeh Kermani] is a 29-year-old man who has modified the school in many ways and has turned the faculty and curricula toward the right-wing.”
Roundtable with You June 17 focused on the problems young Iranians face with their country’s housing problems. Iran’s surging housing bubble has become the number one economic issue for the nation’s young people, who make up more than 70% of the population. Real estate prices more than doubled in 2007, after rising by 65% in 2006, and more than 50% in 2005. Some economists think this extraordinary rise will continue because, with interest rates below inflation, Iranians seek financial protection and security in the property markets. Economists attribute this to the economic policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government whose “quick impact loans” have acted to further inflate prices. PNN staffer Arash Alai, who left Iran not long ago, talked about the housing challenges young Iranians face today. One viewer called in from Iran to say, “The ratio of supply and demand in the Iranian housing market has never been so critically far from each other as it is in Iran today.”
Roundtable with You June 22 talked with an environmental expert about the severe drought in Iran. Hamid Arabzadeh, an environmental consultant and lecturer at the University of California at Irvine, said most of Iran has been suffering from a three-year drought, the worst in recent history. He said water rationing is a distinct possibility in Tehran and other cities, and that large numbers of the country’s crops and livestock are perishing. Mr. Arabzadeh argued that “the water crisis is drought-related only in part. Mismanagement of water resources is the more significant cause.” He said Iran’s limited water reserves are being exhausted in order to produce food for the growing population. Mr. Arabzadeh said underground aquifers, which have existed for thousands of years, are being drained at a dizzying pace – despite experts’ warnings – which is causing serious problems in some parts of the country. In years when there is less rain, he said, like this year, an even greater proportion of the country’s water reserves are exhausted, causing the water table to drop precipitously. The program noted that many political analysts, as well as Middle East leaders, claim that wars in the future will be fought over water resources.
News and Views June 18 reported that Afghan and NATO forces have launched a major offensive against Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 26 insurgents. Two Afghan army officers also were killed, as clashes broke out south of the city of Kandahar. Nearby villages were in the hands of Taliban insurgents for a few days, and some 4,000 villagers were forced to flee. This offensive is a major operation in southeastern Afghanistan aimed at forcing Taliban insurgents out of the provinces bordering Pakistan, where the militants are believed to hide beyond reach of the Afghan government. Humayoon Hamidzada, Afghanistan’s presidential spokesman, said, “About the situation in Kandahar, as I’ve said before, the Afghan National Army is in charge of the situation. They are conducting a military operation, addressing the security incident that has come up there. There is actually, I must say, in the press there is an unreasonable focus on and also an enlarging and magnifying of what’s happening in Kandahar. There are, of course, some security incidents that have taken place, but the Afghan National Army, supported by NATO forces, is there in Kandahar and they are addressing the situation.”
News and Views June 20 reported that a much-delayed Iraq war funding bill sailed through the House of Representatives on Thursday, along with a doubling of college aid for returning troops and help for the unemployed and Midwestern flood victims. Republican allies of President Bush provided the winning margin in a 268-155 vote to provide $162 billion to fund US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan well into next year. Democrats opposed to the war, however, succeeded in using the Iraq funding bill as an engine to drive past White House resistance a sweeping revision to GI Bill college benefits and a 13-week extension of unemployment checks for those whose benefits have run out. The White House issued a statement supporting the legislation. The measure also provides a quick $2.7 billion infusion of emergency flood relief for the Midwest, though more is expected to be needed to deal with the major losses in Iowa, Illinois and other states. Israel, Jordan and Mexico are among the major beneficiaries of $10.1 billion in expanded foreign aid that includes $170 million in new military assistance for Israel. The House also approved a compromise bill Friday which sets new electronic surveillance rules that effectively shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits arising from the government’s terrorism-era eavesdropping on phone and computer lines in this country without warrants. President Bush lauded Congress and pressed lawmakers to quickly send both measures to his desk. Also, Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan told Congress Friday that the Bush-Cheney administration continues to conceal information about abuses of power committed to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson for challenging the President’s storyline with regard to the “need” to invade and occupy Iraq.
News and Views June 18 reported that the US military says a renegade Shi’ite group ordered Tuesday’s deadly car bomb attack on a Shi’ite neighborhood in Baghdad to incite sectarian violence against Sunnis. Military spokesman Steven Stover said the attack, which killed 63 people and wounded 75 others, was the work of a so-called Shi’ite “special group” led by Haydar Mehdi Khadum al-Fawadi. He said Mr. al-Fawadi ordered the attack to stop Sunni resettlement of the Hurriyah neighborhood. Tuesday’s bombing was the deadliest in the Iraqi capital in more than three months when US and Iraqi forces began observing a truce with Shi’ite militants. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombing in the strongest terms, calling it a heinous terrorist attack. In another attack Tuesday, an Iraqi television news reporter (Muhieddin Abdul-Hamid) was shot dead near his home in the northern city of Mosul. Elsewhere, Iraqi officials said insurgents in the southern province of Maysan have handed over large numbers of weapons ahead of a crackdown by Iraqi security forces. Iraq’s government has ordered insurgents in Maysan to surrender their weapons by Thursday, when Iraqi forces are expected to start operations to demilitarize the province.
News and Views June 22 reported that attacks by female suicide bombers are on the rise in Iraq. A woman who was concealing explosives under her abaya, or black robe, blew herself up near a government compound north of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 40. The US military said it was the 21st suicide mission carried out by a woman in Iraq this year.
News and Views June 18 reported that Israel says it has accepted an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire deal with the Palestinian militant group Hamas to end months of fighting in and around the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said all Palestinian factions have agreed to abide by the truce and cease rocket attacks on Israel. In turn, Israel will suspend military raids and air strikes on the Gaza Strip. Israel also is to begin gradually lifting its crippling blockade on Gaza starting three days into the ceasefire. Islamic Jihad, though, has expressed skepticism and said it will keep its eye on Israel. Israel has said that since it is talking to Syria and the Palestinians, it would be only logical to engage in bilateral talks with Lebanon as well, which also would include the Shabaa Farms, a disputed area on the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
News and Views June 19 reported that a truce between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas took effect Thursday in the Gaza Strip. The leaders of Israel and Hamas say they hope the ceasefire will succeed, but they also expressed doubt that the other side will stick to the agreement. The truce began at six in the morning local time and is to last for six months. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday he views the ceasefire as “fragile” and warned it could be “short-lived.” He described Hamas militants as “bloodthirsty terrorists” who have not changed into seekers of peace. Gaza’s Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the truce could bring calm to southern Israel, which has endured years of Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks. But, he warned that if Israel violates the deal, his group is ready to resume attacks. The truce agreement calls for Gaza militants to stop attacks on southern Israel and for Israel to stop military raids and air strikes in Gaza. Israel also agreed to allow more goods to enter Gaza through Israeli border crossings three days into the ceasefire. In the final day before the truce, Gaza militants fired nearly 40 rockets and mortars into southern Israel, without causing serious damage. Israeli air strikes on Gaza wounded several Palestinian militants.
News and Views June 16 reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has met with Lebanon’s newly elected president, voicing support for the country’s yet-to-be-formed government. Ms. Rice is the first high-ranking US official to meet with President Michel Suleiman since Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement was reached last month. She said the US plans to support the new government even though it gives more power to the militant group Hezbollah. The State Department classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Secretary Rice said Washington supports Lebanon’s agreement because it serves the interests of the Lebanese people and ultimately the interests of the United States. Ms. Rice earlier met with officials in Israel. Her discussions there are reported to have produced little progress in spurring Israeli and Palestinian leaders toward the goal of concluding a peace deal by the end of the year. During her trip, she strongly condemned Jewish settlement growth, saying the continued building of homes on disputed land is having a “negative effect” on peace talks. Her comments were some of the strongest criticisms the Bush administration has made to date about Israeli settlement policies.
News and Views June 22
reported that the Israel Prime Minister says his country is willing to make
“painful compromises for the sake of peace,” but stressed that this will not
come at the expense of the country’s security. Mr. Ehud Olmert spoke at the
opening session of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors in Jerusalem. His
comments come after last Thursday’s Egyptian-mediated truce in Gaza, halting
daily Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns and communities
and ending Israeli counter raids and air strikes against Hamas militants in
Gaza. The deal is meant to end violence that has killed more than 400
Palestinians and seven Israelis since
Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip a year ago, and to pave the way toward wider-reaching agreements. Hamas expects Israel to also ease its year-long blockade on Gaza and open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. An Israeli military spokesman said Israel increased the number of trucks carrying badly needed supplies into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, as the truce with Hamas entered its fourth day. The truce deal has come under fire in Israel because Jerusalem dropped an earlier condition for the ceasefire: that Hamas release a detained Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit.
Roundtable with You June 18 focused on alternative energy with Ahava Amen, the founder of New Earth Renewable Energy, a Seattle-based company whose mission is to create solutions to the main issues of global warming and the climate crisis. With oil prices on the world market soaring to a record high, the need to find an alternative to fossil fuels is felt more than ever. Mr. Amen said the destiny of human beings is connected to alternate energies for two obvious reasons: because of a shortage in the supply of fossil fuels in the long-term and for the sake of the environment, to save our planet from the disaster of the greenhouse effect. Mr. Amen said, “The people of Iran should be more active than just watching their politicians to decide their future. They should be aware of risks involved in nuclear technology as well, and decide what the right source of energy is for them.”
Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about the execution of another minor in Iran, this time 17-year-old Mohammad Hassanzadeh, a Kurd, executed June 10 in Sanandaj for a crime allegedly committed when he was 14-15 years old; how another prisoner, political activist Arjang Davodi, is continuing a hunger strike in Bandar Abbas prison where he is reported to be in poor health; the Iranian government ignoring EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the latest offer from the P5+1; Iran liking to describe itself as “independent,” but that being an importer of gas makes it a “dependent” nation; the student protest over sexual harassment at Zanjan University deteriorating further with the poisoning of 400-500 students and also how the non-violence of the students is taking root and creating a turning point in their efforts to combat their government’s oppressive tactics; how UN sanctions might be against the government of Iran, but it is the people of Iran who bear the brunt of the sanctions, so it is the people’s responsibility to ask the government, “Why?”; how Syria plays other Arab countries and Iran against each other; the continuation of power outages in Iran, with statistics showing that Iran now consumes more energy than it generates; how Iran imports over 60% of its gasoline despite being one of the world’s top oil producers; how Turkey is encouraging Israel and Palestine to push forward with peace talks, in part by pushing peace between Israel and Hamas; the Mediterranean conference being held in Paris, and efforts to reach a peace deal between Israel and Syria; and the mayor of Rome proposing the renaming of a city street “July 9th” after the beginning of the Iranian student movement, which created a new wave of opposition against the Islamic regime.
48 Hours remembered the great showman Fereydoun Farrokhzad on June 21 with Mirza Agha Asgari Mani, a researcher and author based in Germany. A poet and singer, Mr. Farrokhzad was stabbed to death and beheaded with a knife in August 1992, at his home in Bonn, Germany. His body was found three days later. Mr. Farrokhzad had been living in exile since the Islamic Revolution in Iran. His murder is widely believed to be the work of the Iranian government because of his public opposition to the Islamic Republic and its leaders. Mr. Farrokhzad was known to insult Ayatollah Khomeini and others in his shows and was a common figure at demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. He could always be counted on to speak out loudly and clearly and was known by his supporters as an educated patriot. Mr. Mani has written a book about Mr. Farrokhzad’s career as an entertainer and his tragic death in Germany. He said, “Mr. Farrokhzad was always on the cutting edge of Iranian pop music and was light years ahead of others in making his shows entertaining for viewers.” He said he believes what led to Mr. Farrokhzad’s assassination was his constant criticism of Iranian clerics, especially former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Mr. Farrokhzad had openly criticized Mr. Rafsanjani and other ayatollahs for refusing to send their own sons to the front during the Iran-Iraq War. Mr. Mani said Mr. Farrokhzad never imagined yielding to the clerics and that “he could not stomach their vision for Iran.”
Roundtable with You June 20 talked with Behzad Raofi, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, about the Phoenix Mars lander. Phoenix landed in the Martian arctic plains on May 25 on a three-month, $420 million mission to study whether the polar environment could be favorable for primitive life to emerge. The lander’s main job is to dig into an ice layer believed to exist a few inches from the surface. The actual navigation path of the lander, and the calculation of its exact landing spot, was done by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Raofi, a member of the Engineering staff, is responsible for the Mars lander’s flight path. He said, “Life depends on the existence of water. That’s the reason we need to find evidence of water existence on the red planet.”
Mohammad Reza Shajarian, a world renowned singer of traditional Persian music might be one of the only performers in the world who can fill auditoriums in Tehran and Washington only days apart. Mr. Shajarian gave a rare interview to News and Views while in Washington, DC, for a concert at George Mason University. “We should have more and more academic resources to provide young people with educational material for the study of classical music,” Mr. Shajarian said in the interview, which was broadcast June 20. Mr. Shajarian performed with Ava Ensemble to a full house, only days before he performed in Tehran at the Interior Ministry’s Music Hall.
Today’s Woman June 20 focused on the life and work of author and playwright Niloofar Beyzaie. She was 18-years-old when she emigrated from Iran and moved to Germany, where she studied theater, education and radio and television production. “I come from a family that was and is highly involved with the arts,” she told VOA/PNN. “There was a time when I loved ballet, but after the Islamic Revolution, ballet classes were banned. When I was 13 or 14-years-old I was arrested for the first time for political reasons. I was arrested three other times for political offenses but never stayed in prison for more than a few days.” She said as an artist, she discusses the things that affect her. “Therefore, political issues surface in my plays. By using the Farsi language in my plays, I keep myself connected to Iran. My homeland is my language and I do not want to let it go.” Ms. Beyzaie said women in plays and the dramatic arts have been stereotyped as subordinate and inactive. “I want to break the taboos and show another type of woman who can say no and be independent. I hope my audience won’t let go of the issues brought up in my plays. I want to create a question in their minds, which to me is the most important question, ‘Where do I stand in the world?’”
Today’s Woman June 18 opened with the news that Tehran has opened its first women-only park where the mandatory Islamic veil is not required. Workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar cane factory, who are on strike over the non-payment of wages for three months, have blocked a main road to the facility and are now demanding a new manager. A top official at Zanjan University has been suspended because of charges of sexual harassment, but student protesters still want the Minister of Education to be reprimanded. Meanwhile, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that 177 executions in the past decade have been of minors. There are 114 offenders on death row now who were minors when they were convicted. The program’s first segment focused on an intensified crackdown with regard to Islamic dress requirements in Iran. Although President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the country’s main concern should not be the apparel of women, the Islamic regime continues to implement stricter requirements for Islamic dress. The second segment focused on corrupt officials in Iran and the impact that corruption has on the country’s economy. Panelists discussed the corruption charges recently leveled against a host of senior Iranian officials by government worker Abbas Palizdar. The corruption is taking place as 12.5% of Iranians are unemployed and inflation – as per The Economist – is running at 25%. President Ahmadinejad blames the Iranian mafia and the West for the unstable state of Iran’s economy. The last segment highlighted the humanitarian efforts of First Lady Laura Bush and how she has traveled five times to Africa to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, the importance of literacy and women’s issues. She also has made trips to Burma in support of the pro-democracy movement and to the Middle East in support of breast cancer awareness.
Today’s Woman June 16 reported that two Iranian-American women, Anita Amirrezvani and Dalia Sofer, were longlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction. The British prize acknowledged Ms. Amirrezvani’s The Blood of Flowers, which is about a young Iranian woman in rural 17th century Iran, and Ms. Sofer’s The Septembers of Shiraz, which deals with the aftermath of the Iranian revolution and the arrest of a man who is wrongfully accused of being a spy. The next segment focused on Iranian immigrant writers in two contexts: those who were established before emigrating from Iran and those who initiated their writing careers after emigrating. The last segment focused on the differences between male and female immigrant writers. Panelists said men more often have a sense of nostalgia toward Iran and their national identity while women have a renewed sense of self because they are no longer required to self-censor their opinions.
Today’s Woman June 22 talked with Ayat Najafi, the director of the documentary, Football Undercover, which was screened at the Silverdocs Film Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland. Football Undercover captures the first time the Iranian women’s national soccer team played a foreign team. The film documents the restrictions faced by the Iranian team and differences and similarities between the Iranian players and players on the German team. Mr. Najafi said his initial motivation to create this film came when he discovered there was a national women’s soccer team. “The Iranian soccer team was very happy to participate in this game; it was really beneficial for their confidence. From the beginning, I wanted to create this film for the purpose of giving the Iranian soccer players a forum where they could voice their opinions and ideas. We tried as best we could to put our own ideas aside and let the players tell their story. The common trait among the German and Iranian players is their love for the game. The major difference is their circumstances, over which they have little control.” He said the audience for this documentary is not only Iranian because the topic is so universal. “If it weren’t for the struggle and hard work of Iranian women, there would be no women’s sports in Iran.” Mr. Najafi recommended that people interested in making a film in Iran should take advantage of available funding. He said two such sources were the World Cinema Fund at www.berlinale.de/en/das_festival/world_cinema_fund/wcf_profil/index.html and the Jan Vrijman Fund at www.idfa.nl/industry/vrijman-fund.aspx.
Today’s Woman June 19 focused on the prevalence of female genital mutilation, with approximately 130 million women worldwide who have suffered from the procedure. Los Angeles-based psychologist Homa Mahmoudi talked about the psychological aftermath of female genital mutilation. She said, “People often have the impression that female genital mutilation only occurs in Africa, but actually it happens in other areas of the world as well. Every year approximately two million - three million females undergo genital mutilation. The psychological effects of female genital mutilation are permanent.”
This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of Helen Thomas, the legendary White House reporter who broke ground for women in journalism and who has kept presidents on the defensive with her probing questions and coverage. Ms. Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, worked for 57 years covering the White House for the UPI wire service, and still covers the president at the age of 88 as a columnist for Hearst newspapers. She is called upon at briefings on a daily basis but no longer ends Presidential news conferences saying “Thank you, Mr. President.” When asked why she is now seated in the back row, she said, “Because they don't like me... I ask too many questions.” The second segment examined the historical development of technological tools that help science mitigate nature’s fury. It’s a survival story that begins with comprehending the force of disaster. As environmental calamities unfold, viewers witness the urgency for change that each crisis compelled and innovations designed to lower death tolls. Segment three profiled Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian statesman and president, whose 1979 peace treaty with Israel led to his assassination in Cairo by extremists. Mr. Sadat, along with then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. The fourth segment profiled Donald Trump, the celebrity millionaire who is a modern phenomenon: love, loathed, rich, and king of the tabloids. His personal life is fodder for gossip columns, and his business dealings are routinely subjected to intense scrutiny. He is a businessman, builder, gambler, author and high-profile headline-grabber who symbolizes wealth. The fifth segment profiled actress Katharine Hepburn whose life and career were legendary. She was a star of the first rank for 64 years, and won four Academy Awards. Her tumultuous relationships with men such as Howard Hughes, John Ford and Spencer Tracy fascinated the public.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – answered two questions posed by several viewers. Some viewers have asked why VOA/PNN doesn’t broadcast news about unrest in Tehran and other Iranian cities. Mr. Mahmoudi said VOA’s policy regarding news is to report news that can be confirmed by two sources. “Everyday, we receive e-mails from individuals reporting on some events. If the information is not substantiated by at least two known international news agencies or if it is not included in the segments we receive from the Central News Division of the Voice of America, we are not allowed to include that information in our news bulletins. As I have mentioned before, we are not competing for speed. Our objective is authenticity. The criterion for authenticity is verification of a source. When we cannot verify, we refrain from broadcasting. This is VOA policy. I am sure our audience doesn’t want VOA to disseminate unverifiable information. I assure our audience that news from Iran is included in our broadcasts as soon as we are able to establish its correctness and validity. Needless to say, Iran does not allow VOA/PNN to have correspondents in Iran.” Mr. Mahmoudi also talked about the death of Meet the Press moderator and political journalist Tim Russert. “This great journalist might not be well known in Iran. But Tim’s approach to news, his style of interviewing personalities and his total fairness are the symbols of an honest and genuine journalist. We consider him a model for modern journalism. He, as every journalist must be, was totally devoted to discovering the truth. His political beliefs had no role in the conducting of interviews. His fairness, his honesty and his simplicity led Time Magazine to recently name him one of the 100 most influential personalities. He believed, as we do, in truth and the well-balanced unbiased dissemination of information.
Week seven of Late Edition’s Book Club highlighted Infidel, the best-selling memoir written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia and raised a devout Muslim. In 1992, Ms. Hirsi Ali was married off by her father in a ceremony which she refused to attend. In order to escape this marriage, she fled to the Netherlands where she won asylum, and eventually citizenship. After earning a degree in political science she served as an elected member of the Dutch parliament for three years. She has since become an active critic of Islam, an advocate for women’s rights and a leader in the campaign to reform Islam. In 2004, her screenplay for film director Theo van Gogh’s movie, Submission, led to Theo’s murder and to death threats against her, which prompted her permanent move to the United States where she has accepted a position at the American Enterprise Institute. Infidel is the circuitous, violence-filled path that led Ms. Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands, a “journey from the world of faith to the world of reason.” In the book, she explains her abandonment of the Muslim faith and how that has made her a target of Islamic extremist violence.
Week eight of Late Edition’s Book Club highlighted What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, the memoir written by Scott McClellan, who served as Press Secretary to President Bush from 2003-2006. In the book, Mr. McClellan criticizes the Bush administration regarding its actions in Iraq. He claims that through political
have expressed his reservations while in office. The book has been on the New York Times propaganda, President Bush misled the public on the reasons for going to war in Iraq. He also blames some top officials as having allowed him to unknowingly mislead the public about these matters at his briefings with reporters. The book has provoked strong negative reaction from other former officials, who have said they presumed he would be a faithful aide, one who should bestseller list since it was released three weeks ago.
PNN’s question of the week was, “ Will the mounting criticism of Ahmadinejad inside Iran result in his dismissal? ” Out of 8,393 respondents, 24 % said yes, 72% said no, while 4% said they did not have an opinion.
The Persian News Network’s television programming complements its radio broadcasts. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four Iranian households tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs also are streamed on www.voapnn.com.
PNN’s 7-hour program block opens with Today in Washington, a brief look at the latest news developments in Washington, as well as the content of PNN’s upcoming programs. Then we present cultural programming translated into Farsi from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of news breaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, PNN’s newest program, had its debut September 27, 2007. The one-hour program features influential women from around the world discussing a full spectrum of topics, including social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, is now 2 hours in length, and features live news coverage of the latest headlines from Washington, Iran and across the globe. Roundtable with You is a talk show with expert guests, featuring discussion of current events, politics, popular culture and global health. Viewers and listeners from Iran and around the world participate in the show via phone calls and e-mails.
Late Edition begins with a wrap up of the day’s news and a close look at the day’s top story. Targeted to a younger demographic, the show also features segments on health, technology, sports, entertainment and culture. NewsTalk is a new journalists’ roundtable discussion program that features a news update followed by an examination of the day’s top stories and an in-depth look at issues relating to Iran.
PNN INSIDER – VIEWER PERSPECTIVES
From a viewer in Ahwaz: “Although the price of oil has soared drastically, no change has trickled down to the Iranian people.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I’d like to express my appreciation to the staff of Voice of America. Your voice resonates the suffering of the Azerbaijanis. The world needs to know that we people of Azerbaijan, along with all other Iranians, want to safeguard the territorial integrity of Iran.”
From a viewer in Rasht: “Emigrants from a rich country like Iran – with the exception of Bahais – are cowards. If you are proud enough to call yourself an Iranian, you need to come home to fight for freedom in your country. If you are not ready to die for it, you do not love it enough. Nothing is free or cheap. Freedom is expensive, and your blood and mine are a part of the cost. So there is no need to have a World Refugee Day [on June 20]. Maybe there could be a Refugee Day set aside for the poorer countries of Africa. I invite Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi to be a leader and to come back to Iran – if he has the guts. I am quite sure he would get a bigger crowd at Mehrabad [International Airport in Tehran] than Khomeini had for his homecoming.
From a viewer in Farooz, a small town in Khorasan province: “If we do vote in general elections, the government cancels the election; if we do not vote, then a person like Ahmadinejad pops up from the ballot boxes! The result: our miserable life.”
From Dan Hosseinzadeh in Dubai: “ I would like to thank you for your comprehensive reports on the world news every night. I must say I have lived in the US for 26 years and never watched the Iranian programs more than few minutes every week. Now that I am on an assignment in Dubai I have been watching your program and other programs VOAPNN every night. Thanks and keep up with a great program!”
From an Iranian viewer in Denmark: “Thank you very much for your meaningful report about the Kurd refugees between Iraq and Jordan. Two points: 1) Do you know if the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan is aware of this group. Maybe Ali Javanmardi, your reporter from Irbil, is the best option for telling the local government there about these poor people. 2) How is it possible for us to help this group?
From a viewer in Iran: “Thank you for your terrific programs which are increasingly attracting more Iranian viewers. But I’d like to recommend you rearrange your schedule:
5-6 Today’s Woman one hour
6-7 History Channel one hour
7-8 News and Views one hour
8-9 Roundtable with You one hour
9-9:30 News and Views 30 minutes
11–9:30 -NewsTalk 1:30 hours -Viewers for this program go to bed after 11pm
12- 11 Late Edition one hour
From a viewer in Naqadeh, capital of West Azerbaijan province: “Do you think Iran is isolated? I don’t think it is. As long as representatives from countries such as Comoros, Senegal and others that Iranians haven’t even heard of come to Iran begging for help, we shouldn’t be considered isolated.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “For the last 30 years we have heard Iranian authorities, from Khomeini to Ahmadinejad, blame an elusive enemy for their incompetence, inefficiency and mismanagement, but they have never tried to correct their own faults.
From a viewer in Iran: “Your web site has been filtered. How can I view your site?”