Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, DC – June 30, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included
the US House of Representatives introducing a resolution condemning the
Iranian government’s repression of religious minorities; reports that
the State Department may open a US Interests Section in Iran; EU
nations approving new sanctions against Iran; Tehran’s mismanagement of
increased revenue from oil; the US presidential campaign; problems in
the Iranian Football Federation; the incarceration of many young
Iranian men because they can’t pay the dowry, a part of the prenuptial
agreement; Iranian performers and athletes visiting the US; the closure
of Tehran Emrooz newspaper for criticizing President Ahmadinejad’s
policies; and interviews with Deputy Assistant Secretary Jeffrey
Feltman on bilateral relations and UN sanctions on Iran; Assistant
Secretary of State Goli Ameri on bilateral exchanges with Iran; with
Robert Satloff, the Executive Director of the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy, on ways the US and Israel can work together to change
Iran’s behavior on the nuclear issue; with journalist and blogger
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi on the early days of the Islamic Revolution; and
for a special edition of Late Edition focusing on the documentary Come
Walk in My Shoes, interviews with filmmaker Robin Smith, Congressman
John R. Lewis (D-GA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Minority Whip Roy Blunt
(R-MO), prominent civil rights activist Robert Zellner, Rev. Cletus
Kiley, President and CEO of the Faith and Politics Institute, and
Sayyid Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America.
Late Edition June 27 announced that VOA/PNN is launching a giveaway of gray silicone wristbands – symbolic bracelets as a gift for Persian News Network viewers. Within one hour of the announcement, VOA/PNN had received over 200 e-mails from audience members around the globe embracing the idea. Late Edition also received e-mails from almost every major city of every province in Iran as well as small towns far removed from Tehran. Some viewers requested more than one wristband, saying they needed more for family members and friends. The VOA/PNN awareness bracelet is based on the LIVESTRONG wristband of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. One viewer from Tehran wrote, “Thank you for creating a gift for your viewers. It is a very good idea that all your viewers connect and find each other through this symbolic bracelet. Please send me one. Thank you.” VOA/PNN will begin mailing the bracelets in July.
News and Views June 28 reported that the US House of Representatives has introduced a resolution condemning human rights abuses in Iran. HR1310 says the Government of Iran’s lack of protection for internationally recognized human rights creates poor conditions for religious freedom in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The resolution calls for the release of all religious prisoners in Iran. It asks the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor and demand compliance with the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion or Expression. Further, the resolution encourages the UN Human Rights Council to continue to use its procedures to maintain oversight conditions for freedom of religion or belief in Iran. The resolution singled out the especially harsh treatment of Baha’is, Sufi Muslims and evangelical Christians. This bill, which was introduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) is in the first stage of the legislative process. It has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for further action.
News and Views June 25 reported that Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry Official as saying Tehran would consider a US request to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran. State Department officials have neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of opening a US Interests Section in Iran. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the US has established several Iranian watcher posts, including one in Dubai. “We want to try and give ourselves a greater insight into what’s occurring in Iran and to try, of course, to also find ways to get more Iranian people to have some exposure or some experience in the United States.” Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told VOA/PNN this is not the first time the possibility of opening direct communications has been discussed at the State Department. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany have been insisting Iran halt its nuclear enrichment program for 1½ years. Ambassador Feltman said P5+1 cannot wait forever for Iran’s response to its incentives package and should it be negative, Chapter 7 of the UN Charter provides the guideline for further action: increased pressure on Iran. He described the incentives as beneficial to Iran and stressed the benefits the Iranian people would enjoy should their government accept the package. Mr. Feltman reiterated the US is not opposed to Iran having a peaceful nuclear program, adding that it is Iran’s right provided it is in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He said Iran’s earlier proposal had interesting elements but was more a propaganda tool for the non-aligned movement and other regional blocs. He said it did not seriously address the one issue at the core of the dispute: suspension of uranium enrichment. Mr. Feltman stressed suspension is the key to opening talks, adding that he hoped hints in Iranian media reports that the door to negotiations is open reflect the Iranian government’s position.
with You June 24 featured Assistant Secretary of State for Cultural and
Educational Affairs Goli Ameri on US-Iranian cultural ties. Ms. Ameri
said her office recently facilitated a three-week training opportunity
for Iranian athletes to come to Las Vegas. The group later competed in
Colombia at the Junior World Weightlifting Championship and Iranian
Saeed Shahedi June 19 won a bronze medal. Earlier, en route to Berlin,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States wants more
Iranians to visit the US, adding that she particularly favors cultural
exchanges such as visits by artists and athletes.
Stay Tuned for Ping-Pong Diplomacy: VOA/PNN July 2-5 will report live from Las Vegas on the 2008 US Open Table Tennis Championship. Iran is sending a nine-member team, made up of men and women, to compete in the international field. VOA/PNN is sending both a male and a female reporter so that gender won’t impact coverage.
lyrics, composes, sings, produces and mixes his music in Iran. Homay and The Mastan Group will perform in the Washington, DC area at Strathmore Concert Hall on July 20. Tickets for the tour are selling briskly, with some shows already sold out. The group’s newest CD, Forbidden Journey, will be released July 22.
Late Edition June 28 reported that Homay and The Mastan Group will perform for the first time outside of Iran at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on July 3. Musician Saied Jafarzadeh, also known as Homay, founded The Mastan Group in 2005. His ensemble, which consists of eight highly proficient musicians, is one of Iran’s prominent traditional Persian music groups. Homay, who is in his 20’s, writes his own
News and Views June 24 reported that the European Union’s sanctions against Iran go into effect today. The sanctions, based on UN Security Resolution 1803, add individuals, companies and institutions to the EU sanctions list. The EU also approved the freezing of assets in the three European branches of the Melli Bank of Iran in London, Paris and Hamburg. EU entities also are not allowed to transact with any Bank Melli branches within Iran nor with the branch in Moscow. In other developments, both the Washington Post and the Washington Times newspapers are reporting that the State Department has been debating opening a liaison office in Tehran to facilitate the issuance of visas for Iranians wanting to travel to the United States. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she will not comment on what is considered an internal matter. But she pointed to the US consular office in Dubai which issues visas for Iranians, noting that she is aware that traveling to Dubai is difficult for some Iranians. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Switzerland has been looking after US interests in Iran since the 1979 hostage taking in Tehran, and said he doesn’t expect anything to be decided any differently in the near future.
Panelists on NewsTalk June 27
debated whether President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that someone
wanted to kidnap or kill him was real or an imaginary threat for
political purposes. Mr. Ahmadinejad made the claim while in Rome to
attend the UN hunger conference earlier this month. VOA/PNN’s reporter
in Rome, Ahmad Raafat, said the Food and Agriculture Organization had
no information on the matter, while the Italian Interior Ministry said
it didn’t consider this claim credible or worthy of comment. However,
the story had enough merit to become the brunt of jokes in Italian news
and entertainment. From Irbil, PNN reporter Ali Javanmardi said Iraqi
forces have arrested 190 insurgents in southeastern Maysan province, 87
of whom came from Iran or trained in Iran. He said Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki has granted insurgents a 10-day reprieve in which to lay down
their weapons. Critics say the reprieve is a mistake because it halts
the military operation, giving the insurgents the time to hide or leave
the country. VOA/PNN sports correspondent Ali Emadi reported that
archer Najmeh Abtin has been named the third Iranian woman who will
participate in the Olympics. To date, Iran has 52 athletes attending
the games, the highest since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
News and Views June 23 reported that European Union nations approved new sanctions against Iran on Monday, including an assets freeze of the country’s biggest bank. The EU said it will also be announcing additional financial and travel sanctions – effective immediately – on several Iranian companies and “senior experts” linked to Tehran’s nuclear program. Washington welcomed the EU decision, and a State Department spokesman said these sanctions are another indicator that the Iranian government is increasingly being isolated, adding that the UN and EU are both serious about increasing pressure. Der Spiegel reported that Damascus and Pyongyang helped Iran to develop its nuclear program through the construction of a suspected nuclear site in Syria that Israel destroyed last September. But the German newsweekly also is reporting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is considering withdrawing his support for the Iranian program, Der Spiegal says that German intelligence reports indicate a joint plan by Syria, North Korea and Iran for a nuclear reactor for military use was to have been developed at the Al-Kibar site in eastern of Syria.
Roundtable with You June 27 focused on soccer in Iran – and how corruption, cronyism, nepotism and religious fanaticism have wreaked havoc with one of the country’s most prized passions and pastimes. Sports commentators/analysts Ali Sarshar in Washington and Iraj Adibzadeh in Paris reviewed the successes enjoyed by Iranian soccer in the past, providing insight into the lack of planning and the mixture of politics and religion in sports in Iran today, particularly soccer. They said the Iranian government is afraid of international success for Iran’s soccer team because victory will lead to mass celebrations, and mass celebrations could lead to civil unrest, which in turn could jeopardize the government’s hold on power. Mr. Sarshar said, “Soccer in Iran need not worry about foreign rivals. It should fear the daily barrage from within against its success and legitimacy.” In response to a caller who asked what the Iranian national soccer team needs to do in order to succeed in the 2010 World Cup games, Mr. Sarshar said the Iranian national team has an abundance of talented and capable players. He said what the team is missing is serious, legitimate and powerful leadership at the helm of the Iranian Football Federation.
On June 28 and 29, PNN reported that dozens of demonstrators were arrested Friday by riot police in Mashad and Tehran during major protests over Iran's deteriorating economy.
Roundtable with You June 23 focused on Iranian-Canadians with Manoo Missaghi, a founder and member of the Board of Directors of the Iranian-Canadian Congress. The ICC is a not-for-profit, non-partisan and non-religious organization that is committed to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He said there are three groups of Iranians the international community experiences with regard to Iran: Iranians who live in Iran, the Government of Iran, and Iranians who live abroad. Mr. Missaghi said the ICC’s mission is to uphold the interests of the Iranian Canadian community and their well being in social, economic, political and cultural spheres. He said one the benefits of having an organization with ICC’s outreach is that he was able to have a meeting with Canada’s Immigration Minister to discuss ways of making it easier for Iranians to travel to Canada. Mr. Missaghi suggested Canada increase its staff at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran so that Iranians won’t have to wait so long for visitor, work and study visas. He also suggested the expanded staff handle permanent resident visas, so that Iranians won’t have to travel to Syria to process their immigrant visas.
Roundtable with You June 26 focused on how Iran has chosen to distribute the revenue from its windfall in the current oil market. Economist Jamshid Asadi, who teaches at the American University of Paris, provided an overview of oil revenue management, and the fact that in many countries, oil revenue is used to pay for economic forecasting while in Iran, oil revenue is performed using a portion of revenues, whereas in Iran, oil revenue is spent on today’s budget as opposed to future interests. Mr. Asadi said that even with oil revenue included in Iran’s budget, “economic expansion there has only been 5%. In contrast, China and India, which trailed Iran for many years, have now surpassed it.” Mr. Asadi said though crude oil prices are soaring on a daily basis, in Iran – the world’s second largest oil producer – a worker’s salary only meets 45% of his monthly expenses. One caller identified himself as an employee of the Iranian Oil Ministry and stated that for the past four months, he has not been paid. He said the reason given to him was that “the Ministry is unable to pay you because of the economic sanctions against Iran.”
Roundtable with You June 25 focused on the Mahrieh, or dowry. This prenuptial agreement has become another reason many young Iranian men are incarcerated. It also destroys marriages in Iran. A member of the Iranian parliament recently stated that “throughout her life, a woman depreciates, and therefore, ought not to receive a hefty dowry, because she is not as valuable as she was once the agreement was put in place with her husband.” Roundtable’s guest, Mehdi Haeri, is a cleric and expert on Islamic law. He unequivocally rejected the legislator’s comment, saying such a notion is “shameful” and “inhumane.” Mr. Haeri pointed out that thousands of men are in jail for not paying the dowry. He said the mixture of today’s civil laws combined with fanatic ancient traditions has created a mess which is good for neither men nor women. In response to a series of questions from Iranian callers, both men and women, Mr. Haeri said although a dowry is an ancient part of marriage in Iran, it is not be used as a measure of “value” or putting a “price tag” on a woman. In the past, Mr. Haeri said, a dowry was given to the woman because she did not earn money outside of the home and the dowry was her safety net in case of divorce. “A marriage is a civil agreement between two individuals,” Mr. Haeri said. “Yet, in Islamic law, if a man knows that he will never be able to fulfill his part of the deal to pay the dowry, and still signs that agreement, that marriage is null and void.”
News and Views June 24 interviewed Robert Satloff, the Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is recommending the United States and Israel set up a high-level forum to coordinate strategy and policy on ways to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Mr. Satloff, who served as a co-convenor of the Institute’s Presidential Task Force on the Future of US-Israel Relations, said “the United States needs to see the Iranian nuclear problem in its totality and the threat it poses not only to Israeli and US interests but also to the prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation.” Mr. Satloff said the task force’s proposal has been endorsed by key policy advisors of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the presidential candidates of the two major political parties. Former Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross, who is currently a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also served as a task force co-convenor. The Task Force says the first item on the agenda of the forum should be a discussion of each side’s views regarding current and potential efforts to compel a change in Iranian behavior on the nuclear issue. This covers the entire range of policy options, and preventive military action. In its final report the Task Force said, “The central argument is that preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear-weapons capability is not special pleading for America’s ally Israel – it is vital to America’s own security.”
Today’s Woman June 23 reported that the Press Oversight Committee of Iran’s Ministry of Islamic Guidance closed the Tehran Emrooz newspaper. Journalist Isa Saharkhiz, who is a member of the Committee for Protecting Journalist Freedoms in Iran, told VOA/PNN that Iranian authorities shut down the newspaper because of a recent article, published on the third anniversary of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency that criticized the president’s policies. Mr. Saharkhiz also noted that the closure of the newspaper was processed illegitimately, that it was constitutionally illegal, and that the paper’s editor has been summoned to court. The main difference now compared to past media censorship, Mr. Saharkhiz suggested, is that publications used to get banned for a period of time but now authorities are going further and permanently closing the media property. He said the closure of Tehran Emrooz also resulted in 150 people losing their jobs.
Roundtable with You June 29 focused on the week’s top stories with London-based political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh. He dismissed a story in this week’s New Yorker magazine by Seymour Hersh, saying it is not credible. He also accused Mr. Hersh of exaggerating. According to Mr. Hersh, the Bush administration has launched a “significant escalation” of covert operations in Iran, sending US commandos to spy on the country’s nuclear facilities and undermine the Islamic republic’s government. The New Yorker story said that the US Congress had authorized up to $400 million to fund the secret campaign, which involves US Special Operations troops and Iranian dissidents. Moving on, Mr. Nourizadeh said that Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani made a serious error by threatening to leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty if P5+1 countries don’t reach some sort of accommodation with Iran. He added that Iranian leaders are following the US presidential campaign very closely. “Iranian leaders had been leaning toward Senator Obama, but after he spoke at AIPAC’s annual conference and gave his unconditional support to Israel, they have reconsidered their favorable view of [the Democratic candidate].
News and Views June 24 reported that Republican presidential candidate John McCain is defending his position to end a ban on offshore oil drilling as he seeks votes in environmentally conscious California. In appearances in coastal Santa Barbara and inland Fresno, Senator McCain said the change in his position is the right decision at a time of record-high gasoline prices, and that this proposal would add one million to two million barrels a day to global oil supplies. Some 21 billion barrels of proven oil reserves are left untouched in the United States because of a federal moratorium on offshore exploration and production. His rival, Democratic Senator Barack Obama, opposes lifting the ban, saying development of the new wells could take 10 years, by which time global demand is expected to be at least 100 million barrels per day, about 15 million bpd above current levels. Recent polls by Zogby International indicate that 74% of Americans support Senator McCain’s position on this issue.
VOA/PNN correspondent Siamak Deghanpour hosted 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. Ms. Smith, who joined Mr. Deghanpour in studio for the one hour special, talked about different aspects of the film such as the nature of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, the philosophy behind non-violence, legislative challenges in getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 adopted, the role of the media and the influence of Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson. They aired clips from the film as well as interviews conducted with congressional leaders. Congressman Lewis said, “I was very moved to see this work come alive….If I had to go back and relive my participation in the movement, I would do the same thing all over again.” His only regret was not spending more time with Martin Luther King, Jr. “I thought Dr. King would be with us much longer and I feel when I see him in the film and hear his voice or see him in action I only feel so sorry for myself and for others and for our nation and for our world because of what we lost.” Mr. Lewis appealed to people around the world to “take a lesson from the civil rights movement; take a page out of the book of actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. – the way of peace, the way of love, the way of non-violence. As I said in the movie, hate is too heavy a burden.” Congressman Lewis said, “Without the civil rights movement and without Martin Luther King, Jr. there would be no Barack Obama.” The Majority Leader of the US Senate, Harry Reid (D-NV), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who is House Majority Leader, and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) all had effusive praise for Congressman Lewis, telling PNN he lived the message of non-violence despite being beaten over and over again in the pursuit of equal rights. PNN also talked with Robert Zellner, a prominent white civil rights activist who was the first white to work at the Southern Christian Education Fund; Rev. Cletus Kiley, President and CEO of the Faith and Politics Institute; and Sayyid Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America.
News and Views June 27 reported that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) said critical questions remain unanswered in North Korea’s nuclear declaration and that it is crucial for Congress to review it. In a statement, Senator Obama said US sanctions on Pyongyang should only be lifted “based on North Korean performance.” He said their declaration was a step forward but other steps need to follow. His rival, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), was equally cautious, but also said that “obviously the six party talks have yielded some results here.” Meanwhile, several key members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have expressed concern that the AQ Khan network in Pakistan might have transferred designs for smaller, more sophisticated nuclear warheads more widely than previously believed, allowing states like Iran to more easily produce smaller nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles. They said this would significantly increase the potential nuclear threat from Iran to Israel and our European allies. These congressmen said an Iran with nuclear weapons capability is one of the gravest national security threats facing the United States and our friends and allies. Also, a group of Jewish congressional Democrats lambasted Senator McCain for voting against 2005 legislation that would have toughened sanctions against Iran. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said, “McCain tries to give the impression that he’s tough on Iran, but when it came time to stand up to party leaders and big oil, John McCain stood down.” The Senate passed a $162 billion war spending plan, sending to President Bush legislation that will pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until the next president takes office. The package, approved 92-6, includes a doubling of GI Bill college benefits for troops and veterans. Also, Senator Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) made their first joint public appearance since the divisive Democratic primary race ended, making a display of unity in a carefully staged rally in Unity, New Hampshire.
Today’s Woman June 26 focused on the close parallels between the worker, student and women’s rights movements in Iran. The program noted that half of all university students in Iran are women, so the overlap of interests between the student and women’s movement is a natural one. The interests of the women’s movement also coincide with those of workers, in large part because women workers in Iran are not paid the same wage for the same work as a man. The last segment acknowledged that overall, the worker, student, and women’s rights movements in Iran are part of a broader movement toward democracy and a demand for legitimacy from the government. Callers noted that women students from Mazandaran University are staging a sit-in to protest inadequate dormitory conditions in Iran. Another caller, from the University, said the participants are not political activists. They just want their problems – like the inadequate facilities – to be resolved.
News and Views June 26 interviewed the former head of the Iran University Press, Nasrollah Pourjavadi, while he was in Washington to deliver a lecture at the Library of Congress. Mr. Pourjavadi said Iran’s publishing industry has never compared particularly well to other countries because of its colonialist past, but he said there were some publishing houses which were independent and institutes which had quality research. He said one of the best examples of this would be Iranian submissions to the Journal of the Franklin Institute, a journal with a reputation for publishing high-quality papers in the field of engineering and interdisciplinary mathematics. Mr. Pourjavadi these limited pursuits continued after the Islamic Revolution, noting that the Franklin Institute has published 28 texts in various scientific fields under his supervision.
Today’s Woman June 27 focused on Kurdish women in Iran and Iraq with Iraqi lawyer and human right’s activist, Fatima Muhammad. Ms. Muhammad, who has lived in Irbil for seven years, discussed improvements in the lives of Kurdish women in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. She said many of the women who survived Saddam Hussein are now widows. “They continue their lives and are persevering even if they are alone. After the freedom of Iraq, Kurdish women have become much more liberated and active. New laws and budgets funded by non-governmental and governmental organizations are serving the Kurdish people of Iraq, and particularly serving the women with lawful protection against domestic violence.” Ms. Muhammad said more Kurdish women are attending universities and more universities are being built in Iraqi Kurdistan. “Classes are taught in English as well as Kurdish, and foreign professors are coming to teach at the universities. The United States has been very instrumental in improving conditions for Kurdish people of Iraq.”
Roundtable with You June 28 talked with journalist and blogger Roozbeh Mirebrahimi about the series of interviews he conducted with Abbas Amirentezam, a key player in the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Mr. Amirentezam was the spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister in the interim cabinet of Mehdi Bazargan, the Islamic Republic’s first Prime Minister. Within two years, in 1981, Mr. Amirentezam was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of spying for the United States, a charge critics suggest for retaliation against his early opposition to theocratic government in Iran. He is now “the longest-held political prisoner in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Following the orders of Prime Minister Bazargan, Mr. Amirentezam set out to rebuild the relationship between the United States and post-revolutionary Iran. He established diplomatic contacts with the US embassy, advocating for normalization of bilateral relations. Mr. Amirentezam has always denied the allegations against him. Mr. Mirebrahimi said that those who come to power are the ones who get to write the history of their times, adding that leaders of the Islamic Revolution are no exception. “They portray events the way they want them portrayed and that means a lot of distortion,” he said. Mr. Mirebrahimi said Mr. Amirentezam was definitely complicit in the excesses of the Islamic Revolution when it came to power, but said he had time to reflect on his role in paving the way for the clerics once he found himself in prison. “The historical textbooks that are used in Iranian schools are all full of myths to glorify the revolution. They are far removed from historical fact.”
News and Views June 23 reported that British and Australian officials are condemning what they call government-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe that caused opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from the presidential run-off scheduled for June 27. Britain’s Africa Minister Mark Malloch-Brown urged the international community to agree on tough new measures against President Robert Mugabe’s government, and noted that many key figures in the regime have global bank accounts that he said could be “choked off.” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told his country’s parliament that the government is looking to increase sanctions against Zimbabwe, and he called on African nations to do more against what he called the “brutal” Mugabe regime. The White House said senseless acts of violence against Zimbabwe’s opposition by what it called the Mugabe regime must stop. A statement said the US is prepared to go to the United Nations Security Council to explore additional steps. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the circumstances that led to Mr. Tsvangirai’s withdrawal do not bode well for the future of democracy in Zimbabwe. In Brussels, Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said Mr. Tsvangirai’s withdrawal was understandable and that the elections have become “a travesty of democracy.” Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, the current SADC chair, said the run-off should be postponed because Zimbabwe has failed to meet the regional bloc’s election standards.
News and Views June 29 reported that Israel’s government planned to later in the day on a proposed prisoner exchange with Lebanon’s opposition Hezbollah group. Under the deal, Hezbollah will hand over Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. They were kidnapped by the group in 2006. In return, Lebanese prisoner Samir Kantar is to be released. He has been serving a life prison sentence for the 1979 killing of a man and a young girl in northern Israel. Israel also is to hand over the bodies of 10 Lebanese fighters. Meanwhile, Israel says it will reopen border crossings with the Gaza Strip to allow commercial goods into the Palestinian territory. An Israeli military spokesman (Peter Lerner) says the Karni and Sufa border crossings will reopen Sunday. He said about 80 truckloads of goods will be allowed to enter Gaza. Israel closed the crossings after an Islamic Jihad rocket attack on Tuesday. The group says the attack was revenge for the death of one of its West Bank commanders who died in a firefight with Israeli troops. The West Bank is not included in a nine-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militant leaders of the Gaza Strip.
News and Views June 26 reported that Israel says its border crossings with the Gaza Strip will remain closed Thursday in response to Palestinian rocket fire that breached a fragile truce. Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza fired three rockets into southern Israel Tuesday. Gaza’s Hamas rulers say the border shutdown violates the terms of the truce, which went into effect last week. Under the agreement, Israel committed to gradually increase the flow of basic supplies into Gaza, which has been under an Israeli blockade for a year. In another development, an Israeli official (Ofer Dekel) is due to meet with Egyptian mediators in Cairo for talks on the possible release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas two years ago. Israeli officials say Egypt has pledged to keep its Rafah border crossing with Gaza closed until a deal is reached on the soldier's release. Hamas has agreed to release Shalit if Israel frees some 350 Palestinian prisoners. Israel has agreed to release 70, but has refused to free top militants accused of planning deadly suicide bombings.
News and Views June 25 reported the Israeli military has shut down border crossings in response to rocket fire on Tuesday in violation of an Egyptian brokered ceasefire deal. Meanwhile, in Israel, hundreds of people gathered in Jerusalem to protest what they said was the slow pace at which the Israeli government was negotiating the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In other news, an Israeli police officer committed suicide Tuesday at Ben Gurion International Airport during a departure ceremony for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. An Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, called the suicide a “separate event,” not a terrorist attack. He said, “A shot was heard in the background and immediately security guards moved in to make sure that there was nothing going on, an incident, a major incident, which at the beginning it seemed to be. Within moments, the French president was taken to the airplane itself, and the prime minister and president were taken to vehicles that were waiting nearby. We immediately started to search the scene to see what had taken place and we can confirm that unfortunately this was a separate incident where a bodyguard committed suicide. He was actually involved in the outer circle of [President Sarkozy’s] security approximately 200 meters away.”
News and Views June 27 reported that North Korea has followed through with its promise to destroy the cooling tower at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex. Media organizations from nations involved in the talks – the United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea, as well as China – were on hand to record the event. Sung Kim, the State Department’s Korean expert, was also on hand to verify the demolition. President Bush responded to the North’s nuclear declaration by removing Pyongyang from a terrorism blacklist, and easing some trade sanctions. Mr. Bush welcomed the declaration, but cautioned that North Korea continues to constitute a threat to US national security due to its possession of weapons-grade nuclear materials. US officials say Mr. Bush’s actions are largely symbolic, as most sanctions were lifted in 2000. Foreign ministers from the world’s eight richest nations released a statement urging North Korea to quickly return to the six-nation talks aimed at ending the isolated regime’s nuclear activities. Their statement condemned the violence leading up to the presidential run-off vote in Zimbabwe. The ministers also called on Tehran to cooperate in negotiations over its nuclear enrichment activities, and to act more responsibly in the Middle East. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, “We would hope that Iran would see the advantage of working with the international community to resolve the nuclear issue there just as good-faith actions by the North Koreans have been met by good faith actions by the other members of the six-party talks.”
News and Views June 26 reported South Korea says North Korea has submitted a long-awaited declaration of its nuclear programs, nearly six months after it was due. Speaking in Seoul, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said the North submitted its declaration to Chinese officials in Beijing. A State Department spokesman said if the declaration is submitted, Washington would drop long-standing trade sanctions against the regime and remove it from the terrorism blacklist. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Kyoto, Japan the declaration is “a natural step” on the path to ultimately verifying Pyongyang's activities, only after which the US will live up to its commitments. Meanwhile, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani commented on the news that the State Department has reportedly been debating opening a liaison office in Tehran. He said this is just a deceptive rumor, and if the US was sincere in its actions, it would have accepted an Iranian proposal of two years ago to allow an Iranian airliner to land on US soil.
Today’s Woman June 28 began with a news brief highlighting recent television programming in Iran stating the serious possibility of an American attack on Iran. In response, Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. Next was an update on Europe’s attempt to end unlawful executions in Iran, especially those of children under the age of 18. And last, the increase in student suicides in Iran due to arrests and stress resulting from inappropriate hejab and interactions with the opposite sex. The program then turned to Massoum Montakhab, appearing on the show from San Diego, California. She talked about her new book, Emancipation, Revolution and Oppression: A True story of Perseverance and Hope. A seamstress at the age of nine, she was married off at fourteen. “I was born into a very religious family. When mandatory hejab was first lifted, I knitted a hat for myself and wore it, and out of that act, was forced into an unwanted marriage which resulted in my three dear children.” Dr. Montakhab worked full-time and attended night school while raising her three children. Majoring in biology, she was valedictorian of her graduating class at Tehran University and received a scholarship to attend graduate school in the United States. She earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University and returned to Iran where she founded Iran’s first nursing school in 1971 and a four-year allied health college in 1972. “Achieving my goals, given my circumstances, was very difficult....My whole life was ups and downs, but I was persistent. Nobody could stop me from achieving my goals, but I wasn’t rebellious. I accomplished everything very peacefully and quietly. And because my mother realized her mistake in marrying me off, she took up responsibility of my children and home. She did this until the day she died and it allowed me to get my education and work. Then my children and I became companions: I went to high school with one of my daughters and attended Michigan State with the other.”
Today’s Woman June 24 talked with Swedish filmmaker Nahid Persson about directing the documentary, Prostitution behind the Veil. According to research conducted by Professor Donna Hughes at the University of Rhode Island, prostitution in Iran increased by 635% between 1995-2003. Her research showed that 95% of girls who run away from home in Iran end up becoming prostitutes. One official Iranian report indicates the average prostitute waits only three-five minutes before getting picked up. Ms. Persson said she was not planning to produce a film about prostitution until she returned to Iran after 17 years and realized what a prevalent problem it had become. Although prostitution occurs in other countries, she said prostitutes in Iran run an extra risk since women who have premarital sex may get stoned to death. One way around this is the temporary marriage, or seeghe, which is permitted in order to sanction prostitution. Ms. Persson also said prostitution’s frequent companion is drug use. The film’s two main characters worked as prostitutes. They also were drugs addicts who were first exposed to drugs by their husbands, who then recommended they work on the street to earn enough money to pay for their habit.
This week’s History Channel segments included profiles of Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Dickens, Lech Walesa, and Katharine Hepburn as well as the first segment of a three-part series called “Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower.” Segment One was a profile of Mahatma Gandhi, considered the father of his nation – India. For 350 million Indians, he was the leader who brought them to independence, fighting a revolution without guns . . . without violence. He left a legacy: the principle of passive resistance. His people called him Mahatma, or man of pure soul. Segment Two profiled Charles Dickens, one of the most original, influential and prolific writers if the 19th century. His tragic, deprived boyhood included watching his father confined to debtors’ prison, and a year as a child laborer in a blacking factory – yet pain only served to fuel his ambitions. By his early 20’s, he already had achieved popularity as a writer of “serials,” leading to worldwide fame of near superstar proportions, heretofore unheard of in Victorian England. Segment Three profiled Polish labor leader Lech Walesa, who led a movement which liberated a country, going on to found Solidarity, the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995. Segment Four 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. Segment five was the first part of a series on the Mayflower, whose English passengers were forced to land in New England by harsh December weather in 1620. Only half of the 100 colonists who survived the harrowing Atlantic crossing died of starvation and exposure that first winter.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – again answered questions that VOA/PNN receives over and over again. The questions: What are the official policies of VOA/PNN? And, is VOA a vehicle of the US government? Some wonder how VOA can defend US policy if it broadcasts views that are in opposition to the US government. Mr. Mahmoudi says VOA/PNN must be bringing in an increasing number of new audience members who haven’t heard his previous explanations – or his previous explanations have been unclear. The Persian News Network operates under the VOA charter. We are a broadcasting organization. We are not policymakers nor are we obliged to defend any given US policy. Our job is to report the news. We broadcast views of both sides of a debate without taking sides. There are many satellite television networks that represent or reflect a particular political point of view. VOA’s mission should not be mistaken with theirs. If we have to defend anything it is the truth. We are effective when we ourselves refrain from pros and cons, though we are obliged to present diverse opinions. Some viewer e-mails say VOA/PNN is charged with a mission to use propaganda to prove the US government’s point of view. Those charges are wrong. Our practice is neutrality, balance and the presentation of both sides of an argument. VOA/PNN employees might have their own philosophical and political opinions, but these beliefs are not reflected in our programs.
Week nine of Late Edition’s Book Club highlighted A Thousand Splendid Suns, the follow-up novel to Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling debut, The Kite Runner. The 2007 book received favorable pre-publication reviews, made it to number two on www.Amazon.com’s bestseller list before its release and made the New York Times bestseller list after being published. Mr. Hosseini, an Afghan, uses his story-telling talent to depict relationships between mothers and daughters, and the plight of women in Afghanistan. He also explains the political and social changes in Afghanistan during the past 30 years by illustrating the points of view of men, women and different social classes through the eyes of his characters. The Guardian said, “Hosseini does not challenge the usual western view of Afghanistan, but he does enrich it – he adds greater knowledge and understanding to it, and makes the Afghans come alive as loving, feeling individuals.”
PNN’s question of the week was “Will the visit to Iran by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki result in an end to Iran’s interference in Iraq’s affairs? Out of a total of 5,886 respondents, 16% said yes, 81% said no, while 3% said they did not have an opinion.
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.
a viewer in Qazvin: “#1 – Power cuts are intentional. They could be a
pretext to prove Iran’s need for nuclear power. Only last year, the
government said Iran was self-sufficient in electricity, and even
exported electricity to other countries. #2 – Our government says Mr.
Palizdar’s statements are false and based on rumors. If so, why do the
authorities act so frustrated, arresting him and others? [Editor’s
Note: Mid-level government official Abbas Palizdar became a
whistleblower several weeks ago, charging scores of senior-level
Iranians of corruption, including allies of President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He was arrested June 11 on
charges of embezzlement.]
From a graphic designer in Iran: “I hope Today’s Woman accepts this logo that I have designed for you. It is a token of my appreciation for your efforts.”
From a viewer in Fars:
“I would like to point out that that Iranians suffered from gas
shortages during the winter. Now, in the summer, they are facing
frequent cuts in water and power. This is very hard to bear, especially
in the southern parts of the country where the temperature goes up to
From a viewer in Iran: “Thanks for your series about the Kurdish political parties. We Kurds have always felt that we are strangers in our own land. But now I feel that I am an Iranian. We hail democracy and are proud to be Iranian.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “[Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei claims that the West is against development in Iran. However, the incentive package proposed by the West guarantees the most sophisticated of light water nuclear plants. So we conclude that Khamenei underestimates the wisdom and intelligence of Iranians.”
From a viewer in Iran: “One of the problems faced by members of the ruling class in Third World countries (including Iran) is the “imaginary conspiracy”. These people always think others are conspiring against them. Now they are targeting a man called Master Iliad because they consider him a threat, enough so to arrest him. [Editor’s Note: Iliad is the leader of a small, new sect in Iran whose beliefs are similar to those of Sufism. Authorities reportedly are not fond of Iliad or his publications. VOA/PNN received more than 100 e-mails about Iliad this past week much like this one.]
From an Iranian living in the German city of Bayrouth, located in northern Bavaria: “First and foremost, I would like to start this e-mail by saying how much I admire the work that you all are doing everyday! I am currently a doctoral candidate in the field of Political Sociology at the University of Bayreuth. My supervisor is Professor Michael Zoeller and the working title of my thesis is ‘The Sound of Freedom: An Analysis of Non-Conformist Elements in Iran.’ My research includes an analysis of the daily programs of VOA/PNN. I am planning a research trip to Washington, DC in September or October 2008. I was wondering if it would be possible to meet the staff of VOA for a couple of interviews. It would be a great pleasure to meet you personally and to discuss my questions concerning your work in more detail.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Thank you for your useful programs. I watch almost all the Today’s Woman programs. With regard to the program you had on prostitution in Iran, I have to inform you that economic difficulties aren’t the only element leading women into prostitution. I know women whose husbands’ infidelity drove them into prostitution out of revenge. The cheating rate among men is very high due to the fact that they are much freer than women”
From an Iranian viewer: “I would like to suggest that you introduce more successful Iranian women on Today’s Woman – young women like Azadeh Maghsoodi, a 15-year-old violinist who lives in Germany. She has worked hard and has already achieved success, playing with the likes of [renowned British violinist] Nigel Kennedy. Success stories such as hers are encouraging to women in Iran and all over the world.”
From a viewer in Iran: “I am 24-years-old and play soccer in a women’s league in Iran. Our team has won the league championship two years in a row now. You interviewed [filmmaker] Ayat Najafi [the director of the documentary, Football Undercover] on June 22. I watched the program that day, but I had no access to the Internet at home so could not e-mail you right away. I speak English and I’m also a tour guide in Iran. I want to get in touch with Mr. Najafi. Perhaps he can help me become an international player. Is it possible for you to forward this e-mail to him? Thank you very much.”
From a viewer in Karaj: “Almost no one in Iran has a bright future, no matter the person’s age. The problems are so many. Voice of America is our hope and happiness. Our voice is silenced with a gun pointed a tour head. Please help our voice be heard in the world. Thank you for enlightening our homes every night.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Several of the weblogs linked to the One Million Signatures Campaign have been filtered, including the site, www.change4equality.com. Please reflect this news on Today’s Woman.”
From a viewer in Tehran: “I’m a 31-year-old architect and sometimes watch Today’s Woman. I have a suggestion that might improve your program. Your logo is too large and is poorly designed. And your names are always in chyron on the screen. Believe me, people will. remember your names forever, so don’t repeat them so often. And why don’t you change your studio décor once in a while? Haven’t you learned this from other famous talk shows in America?”
From a viewer in Iran: “What happened with Dr. [Hassan] Madadi, [Vice President] of Zanjan University is nothing new in Iran. The only new thing is that it was wisely documented. However, I’d like to tell you of another story that happened a couple of years ago, this time at Qazvin Azad University. In this case, the person guilty of sexual harassment was even nude when he was caught. A few years earlier, he’d asked to be transferred to Tehran Azad University, but his request was denied. After the scandal, his punishment was to be transferred to Tehran Azad University. What do you think will happen to Dr. Madadi? Let’s wait and see.”
From a viewer in Sanandaj: “Hello to you all at Today’s Woman. I’m a 28-year-old woman and I live in Sanandaj, Kurdistan. Please send me the addresses of some women’s rights web sites. I have been married for one year now and I feel like I am my husband’s slave. I do not have the right to make any decisions. I am really depressed. Please help me.”
From a viewer in Iran: “Yesterday the Islamic Republic arrested another member of the One Million Signatures Campaign. Her name is Mahboubeh Karami. I’m attaching the contact information for her mother so that you can interview her if you are interested. Thank you! [Editor’s Note: News and Views broadcast an interview with Ms. Karami’s mother, Sedigheh Mosaedi, on June 21.]