Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. December 22 – Major stories this week include responses from PNN viewers who were asked “What would you say to Iranian leaders?”; an in depth look at digital filtering and censorship practices by the Iranian regime; and a frank three-part discussion with 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi as the Iranian government shuts down two human rights organizations in Tehran.
PRESIDENT BUSH MEETS WITH MAHMOUD ABBAS TO DISCUSS PEACE PLAN
News and Views December 19 – President Bush met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Washington today to discuss the latest on the Middle East peace process. They discussed the current conflicts in Gaza and the refusal of Hamas to extend the truce with Israel. The Quartet on the Middle East – the U.S., Russia, European Union, and the United Nations – has called on Hamas to respect and extend the ceasefire. The Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Sean McCormack, said that the interests of the people of the region are best served by peace along the border area between Gaza and Israel.
News and Views December 17 – Senior diplomats from the P5+1, which is comprised of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, met with representatives from seven Arab countries to discuss Iran’s nuclear policies and its political ambitions in the region. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that, due to the importance of the consultations, participants of yesterday’s meeting agreed to continue meeting on a regular basis. In another development, the UN Security Council passed a resolution regarding the Middle East peace process declaring the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations to be “irreversible.” The Security Council voted 14 to zero to approve the resolution and Libya abstained from the voting. The resolution stresses a two-state solution and calls for full implementation of Israeli and Palestinian commitment.
AN IN DEPTH LOOK AT THE DIGITAL CENSORSHIP PROCESS IN IRAN
48 Hours December 21 – In continued coverage of Iran’s attempts at digital censorship, PNN spoke with Babak Namdar and Siavash Mahjoob. Mr. Namdar is an IT manager for a large media firm. Mr. Mahjoob is an IT expert in Iran. Mr. Namdar said that "the Islamic Republic regime generally mounts two forms of attacks against Iranian opposition servers. One attack involves mounting “Denial of Service” campaigns. Denial of Service attacks can be thought of as a traffic overload that causes the server to crash – knocking service offline. The second type of attack involves finding vulnerability in outside servers and attacking them. According to Mr. Namdar, "The Islamic Republic was first to initiate cyber-attacks agasint Iranian opposition sites and the opposition community returned the favor by defacing various regime websites. We’ve asked that Iranians with technical know-how register their discontent with the regime by means they feel is appropriate and they’ve responded by defacing some high profile regime sites including those belonging to Ahmadinejad," he added. Mr. Namdar said, "Based on what we have seen thus far, the Islamic Republic uses both domains based and keyword based search filtering for websites.” Domain filtering denotes websites that remain on the regime’s ‘black list.’ Any attempt to visit sites on the ‘black list’ will be greeted with a page Iranians inside Iran are very familiar with: This website is restricted. Mr. Namdar noted, “The Islamic Republic also uses keywords or phrases to restrict access to websites. There are lists of keywords and phrases that will trigger filtering software to prevent access to that site.” He explained further, “As an exercise I used a proxy server located in Iran and I googled ‘Khamenei democracy secular’ and instead of seeing the search results I received the: “This website is restricted” page. I then did a search for ‘Khamenei’ and the results page was displayed normally.” It should be noted that the filtering technology the Islamic Republic has deployed was developed by an American company. The regime also uses text-mining technology to gain valuable information by monitoring network traffic. He concluded by saying, “There are many sites that offer lists of public proxy servers to use to bypass the regime’s filtering, but the site owners forget that all the Islamic Republic has to do is add their domain to the ‘black list’ and Iranians will be unable to view that site anymore to get the latest lists of proxy servers.” Siavash Mahjoub, who joined the discussion via phone from Iran, said that Iranian leaders are bent on exacting a heavy cost from political activists who use the Internet to spread their message. Mr. Mahjoub added that "5 million sites have been blocked recently by Iranian authorities who deem them as subversive. They use religious values and national security as a pretext to shut down Web logs.”
Newstalk December 18 – Newstalk followed up on recent PNN reports regarding censorship in Iran. PNN ran a seven-part series over the last year that included interviews from authors and literary figures inside and outside Iran on the regime’s continued crackdown on books and cinema. Today’s show featured journalist and film critic Houshang Assadi from Paris and Berlin-based writer Abbas Maaroufi. Mr. Assadi stated that Iran, like other ideological regimes, is inherently against intellectuals, and that ideological regimes aren’t in freedom of speech. Mr. Maaroufi talked about Iranian underground literature saying it is primarily focused on citizen’s feelings toward the regime. Mr. Assadi explained that cinema in Iran has been censored over the past three decades, and that the regime is also cracking down on literature. He paralleled the regime’s current actions to Taliban censorship in Afghanistan.
BILL RAMMELL SPEAKS OF A BRITISH PLAN FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE
News and Views December 21 – PNN aired an exclusive interview with Bill Rammell, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonweath Office of the United Kingdom. During the interview, he spoke about his country’s plan to establish peace in the Middle East. He said, "The UK is looking toward establishing a comprehensive peace in the Middle East between all 22 Arab states and Israel.” He also said that the government of the United Kingdom is very concerned about Tehran's questionable atomic activities and its support of terrorist and extremist groups in the Middle East. Speaking for a moment on the importance of human rights, he voiced his disappointment over the execution of 229 citizens in Iran during 2008.
CORNELL PRESIDENT PROMOTES ACADEMIC EXCHANGES WITH IRAN
News and Views December 19 – PNN interviewed Cornell University President David Skorton about his recent trip to Iran. Mr. Skorton began by saying that his experience visiting Iran as part of a delegation of U.S. university presidents was very positive. "The Iranian people everywhere were warm and welcoming,” he said. He stated that the purpose of the trip was to enhance people-to-people exchanges and “to join hands and look for ways to move ahead on a number of fronts, especially in the field of sciences.” Mr. Skorton touched on the invitations the delegation extended to Iranians to come and visit the United States. His hope is that such exchanges will lead to more cooperation between the two countries. On the question of whether these academic exchanges could serve as a catalyst for normalized relations between Tehran and Washington, he said, "I'm not a diplomat, but more academic exchanges would lead to better understanding between the people of both countries. I don't see any reason why we cannot increase these exchanges while some of the issues between Iran and the United States remain unresolved.” He added that he did not know Iranian culture well enough, but was pleasantly surprised and gratified that women make up more than 60 percent of Iran's student body. "I was pleased to see women being represented in advanced levels, especially in sciences," he said. "The real exchange has to happen between individual faculty members of one university here in the United States and its counterpart in Iran. We hope our trip has been able to serve as a facilitator in this area," he said. "I've great personal and professional interest in the areas of stem cell research, and I was able to learn that in Iran they have the same kind of challenges that we face here on moral and religious grounds in doing research on stem cells," he concluded.
McCAIN OFFERS HIS THOUGHTS ON THE ISSUES FACING PRESIDENT-ELECT
News and Views December 15 – President-elect Obama tackled domestic and foreign issues in his final workweek before traveling to his home state of Hawaii for the holidays. The President-elect is scheduled to hold a news conference late Monday to formally announce his environmental and natural resources team. He selected Steven Chu as the next energy secretary, Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Carol Browner as his energy and climate "czar," and Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. President-elect Obama's transition office said the focus of the meeting is to discuss opportunities and challenges around the globe and the office is designed to help the new administration hit the ground running on Inauguration Day, January 20. Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain pledged Sunday to work with his former Democratic rival on economic and national security issues. The Arizona senator said he would disagree sometimes with Obama on important issues, but that the nation's problems are too daunting for political divisiveness. Senator McCain, who voted against the auto bailout plan rejected by the Senate, last week, said he could support an economic stimulus plan proposed by the President-elect for early next year. He also rejected Republican attempts to link the President-elect to the scandal surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mike Duncan, accused President-elect Obama and his transition team of not fully addressing contacts with Mr. Blagojevich concerning the Senate seat vacated by Obama. The prosecutor in the U.S. state of Illinois issued fresh calls on Sunday for the disgraced Governor to resign. State Attorney General Lisa Madigan described him as 'incapacitated', and lawmakers geared up for a session that could lead to his impeachment.
VILSACK AND SALAZAR ARE SLATED TO BECOME NEXT CABINET PICKS
News and Views December 17 – The President-elect continued his commitment to begin his Presidency with a functioning Cabinet. Democratic officials familiar with the selection process discussed President-elect Obama’s plans with the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement has not yet been made. Mr. Obama plans to appoint former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as the next Secretary of Agriculture and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar to lead the Department of the Interior. Transition officials said more announcements were likely this week, before President-elect Obama heads to Hawaii for Christmas vacation with his family. First elected governor in 1998, Mr. Vilsack, 58, carved out a reputation as a political centrist. He balanced Iowa's budget and resisted raising taxes but was willing to spend on such priorities as education and health. He argued that pushing alternative energy sources was key to bolstering rural sections of the nation that are struggling economically. Mr. Salazar will head a department that oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands and manages the nation's parks and wildlife refuges. Mr. Salazar is expected to try to balance the protection of natural resources while tapping the nation's energy potential — an approach Obama has said he wants. The Colorado senator opposed drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and objected to the Bush administration's efforts to lease Western lands for oil shale development. It will be up to the Obama administration whether to go ahead with leasing. If Mr. Salazar is confirmed as interior secretary, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (D) will name a replacement to serve out the final two years of Mr. Salazar's term. Before being elected to the Senate in 2004, Mr. Salazar was Colorado's attorney general. He also headed the state's Natural Resources Department from 1990-1994.
OBAMA NAMES CHICAGO SCHOOL CHIEF TO HEAD EDUCATION DEPT
News and Views December 16 –President-elect Barack Obama is to announce Arne Duncan, the head of the Chicago school system, as education secretary Tuesday. "When it comes to school reform, Arne is the most hands-on of hands-on practitioners," the President-elect said, making the announcement at a school he said has made remarkable progress under Mr. Duncan's leadership. Mr. Duncan stood nearby, the latest member to be named to the Cabinet of the President-elect. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. President-elect Obama combined his announcement with a brief news conference in which he refused to say whether he supports the idea of a special election to fill the Senate seat he recently vacated. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has the power to make the appointment, but he was arrested last week and charged with, in effect, trying to enrich himself by appointing a new senator who could help him financially or politically.
NEW TIMELINE FOR TROOP WITHDRAWALS FROM IRAQ ON THE TABLE
News and Views December 18 – According to the New York Times, a plan for troop withdrawals from Iraq was described in broad terms this week to President-elect Barack Obama. The plan however falls short of the 16-month timetable outlined by the President-elect during his election campaign. The plan was proposed by the top American commanders responsible for Iraq, General David H. Petraeus and General Ray Odierno. The plan represents their first recommendation on troop withdrawals under an Obama presidency. While President-elect Obama has said he will seek advice from his commanders, their resistance to a faster drawdown could present the new president with a tough political choice between overruling his generals or backing away from his goal. The plan, completed last week, envisions withdrawing two more brigades, or some 7,000 to 8,000 troops, from Iraq in the first six months of 2009. This would leave 12 combat brigades in Iraq by June 2009. While declining to be more specific, the officials made it clear that the withdrawal of all combat forces under the generals’ recommendations would not come until after May 2010, which falls outside of the President-elect’s target date.
News and Views December 18 – Today, President-elect Barack Obama defended his choice of Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. The selection brought objections from gay rights advocates who say they are troubled by Pastor Warren’s support for a California ballot initiative banning gay marriage. The initiative was approved by voters last month. The President-elect told reporters in Chicago that America needs to “come together, “even when there’s disagreement on social issues. He also said that it is “no secret” that he is a “fierce advocate for equality” for gays and lesbians. The President-elect pointed out that he was invited to Pastor Warren’s church to speak a few years ago, despite their disagreement on some issues. The President-elect says a “wide range of viewpoints” will be presented during the inaugural festivities.
News and Views December 17 – President-elect Barack Obama called the high U.S. school dropout rate "economically untenable." He said making schools more competitive would be a top priority of his education secretary. Mr. Obama said the road to jobs and growth begins in the classroom. President-elect Obama announced Chicago Schools Chief Arne Duncan – a longtime basketball partner and friend – as his choice for education secretary. The selection is hailed as an excellent choice.
News and Views December 16 – Insisting on the need to develop new forms of energy, President-elect Barack Obama chose a Nobel physics laureate who is a major promoter of alternative fuels to head the Energy Department. The President-elect named Steven Chu, the winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics who was an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change, to head the Department of Energy. Dr. Chu will work closely with former Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner, whom the President-elect named to a new post that will coordinate White House policy on energy and climate change. Meanwhile, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, is pursuing the Senate seat of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has been nominated for Secretary of State. In addition, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts is expected to take over next month as chairman of the influential U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Kerry, 65, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, would replace fellow Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who will become President-elect Obama's vice president on January 20, 2009.
News and Views December 16 – The U.S. Secretary of State some international counterparts to discuss progress on the Middle East peace process. Envoys from the UN, EU, United States and Russia discussed the draft of a resolution initiated by the U.S. and Russia, calling on all parties to support the peace process. Today, the UN Security Council will hold a session to decide the fate of the resolution. The draft resolution has already gained support from European countries. Secretary Rice also meets with other top diplomats to discuss issues regarding Iran. Today, the P5+1 members will meet with representatives from Arab states regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Iraq, Jordan and some members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are involved in Tuesday’s meeting. Regarding Iran’s influence in Iraq during recent months, Secretary Rice said in an interview that Iranians find themselves “unable to operate as effectively in Iraq” since the U.S. has been very aggressive against Tehran's interference in Iraq.
IRANIAN OFFICIALS SKIP AFGHAN CONFERENCE OVER SARKOZY’S REMARKS
Roundtable December 16 – PNN reported that Iranian officials decided against attending a conference on Afghan security organized by France because of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s remarks about the Iranian president. President Ahmadinejad attacked President Sarkozy today, calling him a ‘pharaoh’ which has the connotation in Iran of one who is an arrogant and oppressive ruler. President Ahmadinejad also remarked, “Whoever wants to negotiate with Iran should know that Iran will never recognize the Zionist regime [Israel].” Roundtable discussed the fallout from President Ahmadinejad’s words with French journalist Iraj Fatemi. Mr. Fatemi also discussed whether Iran can play a constructive role in stabilizing Afghanistan.
MIDDLE EAST BRIEFS
Newstalk December 16 – Guests today debated the ways in which U.S. foreign policy towards Iranian nuclear plans could change with the advent of the new presidency. In studio guest Sohrab Sobhani and London-based analyst Nasser Mohammadi doubts that things are likely to change. Mr. Sobhani remarked, “The Iranian nuclear plan is not transparent and for that reason the international community cannot trust Iran.” He spoke about the long term effects of relying solely on oil income. Mr. Mohammadi also spoke briefly about the P5 meeting at the UN and stated that this is a “new chapter” in the fight to derail Iran’s nuclear plans. Both guests spoke of the need for Arab countries to support the West in their efforts to control what some say are emerging security threats from Iran. Mr. Mohammadi touched upon the fact that many Iranians openly admit that the Palestinian problem should not be the country’s first foreign policy priority. In closing, Mr. Sobhani spoke about VOA’s programs and suggested that Iranian leaders participate in a free debate to answer the questions of the Iranian people.
Newstalk December 17 – PNN was joined by journalist Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh from London and PNN contributor Dr. Mohsen Sazgara in studio. They discussed the recent UN P5 meeting concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Dr. Sazgara believes that Russia may be using its support of Iran’s nuclear plan to get some concessions from Western countries. However Dr. Sazgara also reminded viewers that Russia is hesitant to jeopardize its relations with Arab countries in the region due to its support of Iran. Dr. Nourizadeh spoke about how the UN P5 meeting was an important turning point in the strategy towards Iran. He stated, “Now Europe, the U.S., and important Arab countries are unified in confronting Iran's nuclear plan.”
News and Views December 17 – PNN interviewed Mansour Kashfi, a petroleum consultant, about the current situation of OPEC. He stated that OPEC is slated to announce a decrease in production during their third meeting that is scheduled next month in Algeria. The production decrease is expected to affect all member countries. In other news, Iran’s official news agency reported that gold reserves in Iran have decreased by 24%.
News and Views December 17 – Dr. James S. Robbins joined PNN to discuss the diplomatic talks between the P5+1 and Arab states. He serves as the Director of the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence at Trinity Washington. He is also a Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council. Dr. Robbins is a former special assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and he writes a national security column for National Review Online. He said that "in recent years a number of Arab states have announced plans to develop nuclear programs for civilian purposes and P5+1 countries want to make sure that Iran's nuclear program doesn't touch off an arms race in the region. P5+1 wanted to allay their fears and also to assure Arab states that they will maintain pressure on Iran to scale down its nuclear ambitions." On the Obama Administration's policy shift toward Iran and its pledge to hold direct talks with Iran without any precondition, he said that "we shouldn't be stymied by what has occurred in the past between Iran and the United States and instead put our focus on what both sides can get out of these direct talks in the immediate future. I'm sure the suspension of enrichment is going to be a tough pill for Iranians to swallow as a precondition, but on the other hand if Iran does not budge an inch in these talks on its nuclear program, it's going to be a foreign policy setback for Obama," he added. "Both sides need to be flexible and make some concessions in order to ensure success of these talks," he said. "There is a small window of opportunity for an opening in the early days of the new administration, but this window is not going to last long."
News and Views December 17 – Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) said the President-elect should work to overthrow the Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once he assumes the presidency next year. "I believe that there will never be peace in Iraq, there will never be peace in the Middle East as long as the present regime in Iran is in place," Mr. Tancredo said during a teleconference before the Iran Policy Committee Tuesday morning at the National Press Club. Mr. Tancredo told a reporter he advocated trying to force an overthrowing of the government of Iran, but said that he doubted the incoming administration would take such a position. "I see absolutely nothing that would lead me to believe that they are willing to change their designs on the Middle East," added the Congressman. Tancredo is rumored to be considering a run for the next Senate seat or as the next Governor of Colorado.
Newstalk December 19 – Newstalk examined the differing media reactions to President Bush's farewell visit to Afghanistan and Iraq. Political Science Professor Aram Hesami from Montgomery College joined PNN to discuss the latest UN Security Council resolution on Iran. He also touched on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent comments on the P5+1 negotiations with Iran.
Newstalk December 21 – Today’s show included a wide range of topics on Iran with Berlin-based journalist Elaheh Boghrat, Tehran-based attorney Mohamad Saifzadeh, and Alireza Haghighi, who is a teacher at Toronto University. Ms. Boghrat and Mr. Haghighi blamed President Ahmadinejad’s policies and the oil-dependent economic structure of the regime for the current economic crisis. Mr. Haghighi followed up by remarking, “When the government of Iran cannot solve the people's problems, they instead confront the people.” Still people in Iran continue to voice their dissent. Ms. Boghrat reported how “Labor demonstrations in Iran are expanding. That means the government has closed other avenues for labor to make their requests.” She was critical of the election process and stated, “Iran's regime is not the only regime that has elections just to show that there are elections. The problem is that elections without freedom of speech are not legitimate, democratic elections.” The show then touched upon the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. Saifzadeh gave his thoughts on the recent closure of the Center for Human Rights in Iran by police and said the center will continue its work despite the government’s closure of the office in Tehran.
A TALK ON HUMAN RIGHTS WITH NOBEL PRIZE WINNER SHIRIN EBADI
News and Views December 17 – PNN’s three-part interview with 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi began with a discussion on a written proposal to the United Nations asking for the establishment of an “International Convention for Poverty.” She strongly believes that military spending and bureaucratic corruption are two of the largest underlying reasons for widespread poverty, especially in third world countries. According to Mrs. Ebadi, the military expenditure of any single country should not be more than the total of its education and health expenses. Mrs. Ebadi was in London for the 60th anniversary of the U.S. ratification of the UN Human Rights Declaration.
News and Views December 18 – in the second part of her exclusive interview with a VOA correspondent in London, Shirin Ebadi said that the Islamic Republic of Iran as a member of the United Nations and its six branches has an obligation to adhere to UN guidelines under international law. International law is generally unenforceable, except through actions by the Security Council. The inability to force members to adhere to international conventions can be a frustrating element of international law. Mrs. Ebadi spoke about gender laws in Iran and the discriminatory nature of some laws. She believes the UN needs to find a mechanism to force Tehran to change its internal laws and make them compatible with it international obligations.
News and Views December 19 – In a final interview with the Nobel Peace Prizewinner, Shirin Ebadi, she addressed each of the previous four UN Security Council resolutions against Iran. She spoke of Iran’s internal problems and touched upon how the country is suffering because of economic sanctions. Mrs. Ebadi stated that in this situation, it is better for the government of Iran to “temporarily suspend the enrichment of uranium.” She concluded by saying, “After temporarily suspending the enrichment of uranium, there is only one criterion for resuming it again: when resumption serves the preservation and enhancement of Iranian national interests.”
HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION IN IRAN RAIDED AND CLOSED BY POLICE
News and Views December 21 – Iranian police raided and closed the office of a watchdog group led by Iran's Nobel peace prizewinner Shirin Ebadi on Sunday. The raid was shortly before a celebration to mark International Human Rights Day. Iran's judiciary confirmed the closure of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, saying it was involved in "illegal" activities. Narges Mohammadi, deputy head of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, maintains that the raid was illegal. Police also raided the Center for Participation in Clearing Mine Areas. "The collective activities of the human rights activists in Iran have angered the Iranian authorities so much that they have illegally ordered the closing down of two non-governmental organizations". He also said authorities had no written justification for Sunday’s raid of the Human Rights offices in Tehran. Mr. Mohammadi told PNN how dozens of police officers, including plainclothes security agents, entered the office without a search warrant. The raid came hours before the centre was to hold a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day, which fell on December 10.
News and Views December 22 – in a PNN follow up, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry said that the Defenders of Human Rights Center was closed under judicial orders because it did not have a permit. According to IRNA, Iran's state-run news agency, "Carpenters, grocers, bakers and even lawyers need to have legal work permits," stated spokesman Hassan Qashqavi. "By the same token, an organization such as the Defenders of Human Rights should also have a legal permit for its activities. “ The fact that this center has been working for several years without a permit is testimony to the tolerance of the Islamic Republic." PNN spoke with Mohammad Seyfzadeh, a lawyer from the center in Tehran about the IRNA report. He spoke about the work of the center and the assistance they provide the United Nations in compiling reports on human rights in Iran. He referred to the following statement by the center, “Many international organizations quoted our reports, including the report by the [UN] Secretary General, which resulted in a resolution against the government of the Islamic republic of Iran.” He concluded by saying that the center’s closure will not stop him and his colleagues from carrying out their work.
AN ACID-ATTACK VICTIM SPEAKS OUT ABOUT RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
Today's Woman December 20 – The first of a two-part series on Ameneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman who had acid thrown over her head began with Ms. Bahrami’s case history. The show included a phone interview with Nasrin Sotudeh lawyer and activist for Ms. Bahrami from inside Iran. Ms. Sotudeh discussed Ms. Bahrami decision to seek ghesas, a decree permitted under Sharia law that permits equal retribution. Last month, an Iranian court verdict ordered Ms. Bahrami’s attacker punished by having acid dropped into each of his eyes. Ms. Bahrami contended that although she does not wish to harm anyone, her decision was a preventative measure to illustrate the consequences of such a horrific action. In response to those who oppose her decision of ghesas, Ms. Bahrami said that people do not understand her situation. In a phone interview, activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh commented on the legal aspects of ghesas. New York-based Iranian filmmaker, Amir Sabori, discussed his documentary on Ameneh Bahrami’s case. In Part two of our series focusing on Ms. Bahrami, the show included several reactions from viewers’ email. The show also featured contributions from Dr. Khosrow Matini,,a plastic surgeon based near Washington DC. Dr. Matini discussed the effects that reconstructive surgery can have, but said that in Ms. Bahrami’s case, full reconstruction is not possible. He also discussed the implications of general cosmetic plastic surgery procedures.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND IRAN’S INTERNATIONAL LAW OBLIGATIONS
NewsTalk December 15 – PNN continued its discussion on human rights and the treatment of minorities in Iran during today’s show. Guests Elaheh Hicks and Lily Mazaheri, both human rights activists, discussed how human rights in the Middle East are an important component of U.S. foreign policy. Mrs. Hicks spoke about the process by which the U.S. State Department monitors human rights violations in Iran and how the results are reflected in its annual report. She also stated that the pressure against minorities in Iran is increasing. Ms. Mazaheri followed up by explaining how religious minorities are also being targeted. In closing Mrs. Hicks urged Iran to respect human rights. She reminded viewers that Iran has an obligation under international law to uphold the human rights policies it has agreed to in its signing of international agreements.
MOSCOW-TEHRAN RELATIONS IN POST-SHAH IRAN EXAMINED
48 Hours December 20 – PNN looked at the history of Iran-Soviet relations with John W. Parker, the author of Persian Dreams. Mr. Parker is the chief of the Division for Caucasus and Central Asia in the office for Russian and Eurasian Analysis at the Bureau of Intelligence within the U.S. State Department. Mr. Parker said the Iranian revolution and the April 1978 coup in Afghanistan were viewed as blows against American influence in the region. The aim was not that the USSR and Iran become good allies, just reasonable neighbors.” On the nuclear issue, he said Russia awkwardly tried to lead Iran toward better behavior strategies, presumably calculating that its “kid-glove” treatment would strengthen long-term influence in Iran against other historical suitors. Mr. Parker concluded by saying that Iran is playing for more time in which to develop its nuclear enrichment capabilities and missile delivery expertise. He believes that Iran sees Russia's policy of slowing and watering down American and European pressure as useful. He added that, “The Islamic Republic might be a prickly regional actor with no particular fondness for Russia.”
LIVE FROM IRAQ
News and Views December 15 – PNN’s Iraqi stringer reported that Iraqi leaders had positive words for President Bush’s policies and efforts in Iraq. The Iraqi media condemned the act of Al-Baghdadiya journalist Montazer al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush. Meanwhile, a bomb explosion killed 10 people and injured 14 others in Baghdad. The attack targeted Iraqi police officers.
News and Views December 16 – Iraqi media condemned the act of Al-Baghdadiya’s journalist, Montazer al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at U.S. president George Bush. The Iraqi Journalist League announced that Mr. Al-Zaidi does not represent Iraqi journalists. A Saudi millionaire said he would buy the shoes for $10 million. The brother of the journalist, Durgham al-Zaidi, said his brother was beaten by Iraqi security forces and has suffered broken ribs and legs. The Iraqi police have dismissed his brother’s claims as baseless. In other news, the Iraqi government is reevaluating its budget for next year, as oil prices are declining worldwide.
TURKISH ACADEMICS APOLOGIZE FOR ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
News and Views December 18 – PNN reported that Turkish intellectuals are making efforts to apologize for the Armenian genocide of 1915. PNN spoke with Professor Touraj Atabaki of Leiden University in the Netherlands about this surprising move. Professor Atabaki stated that these efforts have been underway for many years among the epistemic community in Turkey. He referred to Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink who was killed last year for openly stating that the events of 1915 were genocide. Professor Atabaki also alluded to Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel prize-winning author, who said that a million Armenians were killed "in these lands" and no-one dared talk about it. "This statement was much less of an indictment against Turkish political elite than an effort to challenge the official denial and provoke discussion in Turkish society about what happened during World War I," Prof. Atabaki added. "Turkey sees itself as the rightful inheritor of the Ottoman Empire and does not wish to have anything that is a blemish on that legacy. If they admit to this genocide, they may have to pay reparations to the Armenian survivors of this catastrophe," he concluded. Part of the apology read: “My conscience cannot accept the ignorance and denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and - on my own behalf - I share the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers - and I apologize to them."
ART, LITERATURE AND SOCIETY
Roundtable December 17 – PNN paid tribute to Reza Arham Sadr, a "master of critical comedy," who passed away on Sunday. His funeral was held yesterday in his hometown of Isfahan. Many viewers shared their feelings and sentiments about their beloved comedian and thanked PNN for paying tribute to Mr. Sadr. Roundtable also examined the status of artists in Iran today.
Late Edition December 18 – PNN profiled musical artist Omid Pouryousefi, who was in the European Parliament on December 10 to protest against the Islamic republic of Iran. The rap star spoke about the human rights situation in Iran in various panel discussions with EU parliamentarians. His band, Tapesh-2012, is also a grass roots organization aimed at fostering democracy, peace and prosperity in the Middle East.
Late Edition December 20 – The bestselling nonfiction travel novel "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace, one School at a Time" was highlighted in this week’s book review. Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin wrote the book about Mr. Mortenson's journey from mountain-climber to humanitarian activist. Mr. Mortenson’s humanitarian journey started with an awareness of the lack of schools for children in the villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through his mountain climbing trips and contact with local villagers, he realized the need to build schools where none existed so children especially girls could receive an education and hence reduce poverty. Mr. Mortenson believes that in long term, extremism can be extinguished through collaborative efforts to improve access to education thus reducing poverty. A literary critic from the New York Times wrote that Mr. Mortenson’s plan is an alternative approach in fighting terrorism and makes a comparison to President Bush's use of military force. The book has been the New York Times bestseller for months and was TIME magazine's Asia Book of the Year.
This week on the History Channel – The week began with a profile of the legendary White House reporter, Helen Thomas. Ms. Thomas broke ground for women in journalist. She was known for keeping presidents on the defensive with her probing questions and coverage. Also, a look at one of the most historical figures in the modern Middle East: former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. He was born in the Tala district of Egypt. After becoming President, he temporarily assumed the post of Prime Minister (1973-4), after which he sought settlement of the conflict with Israel. He recovered the Suez Canal Zone from Israel and established close relations with the United States. He met the Israeli premier, Menachem Begin, in Jerusalem (1977) and later at Camp David in a historic attempt to settle long held animosities. Because of these efforts, that same year he and Mr. Begin were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadat's initiative led to the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979. Following bitter criticism by other Arab statesmen and hard-line Muslims, he was assassinated in Cairo by extremists. Switching gears, the History Channel aired the follow up segment on American tycoon Donald Trump. The celebrity millionaire is a modern phenomenon: love, loathed, and rich. His personal life is fodder for gossip columns, and his business dealings are routinely subjected to intense scrutiny. Viewers caught an inside look at the life of a man who wears many hats as a businessman, builder, gambler, author, and a high-profile headline-grabber who symbolizes wealth. Katherine Hepburn was the final biography of the week. Biography's profile of Katharine Hepburn takes a detailed, first-hand look at the life of this extraordinary woman. Exclusive interviews with several Hepburn intimates highlight the program. She has been a star of the first rank for sixty-four years, and has won four Academy Awards. Her life had its roots in an extraordinary family - a family shrouded in tragedy and mystery. Her tumultuous relationships with men such as Howard Hughes, John Ford, and, of course, Spencer Tracy fascinated the public - and she has served as a role model for generations of American women. The final feature of the week was an examination of the historical development of technological tools that help science mitigate nature's fury.The feature 'Disaster Technology' is 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.
Also on PNN…
December 21 – In response to comments regarding the shoe throwing incident during President Bush’s speech in Iraq, PNN invited television viewers and website visitors last week to share views about Iran's leaders. PNN stated, “Last week an Iraqi journalist expressed his feelings by throwing his shoes at the leaders of Iraq and the United States. Tell us what method would you choose to express your views and feelings?” Nearly 500 people responded, with all but a handful saying they would like a change in the current regime.
The comments are posted at http://www.voanews.com/persian/shoecomments.cfm. Some responses include: "Our represented officials are not elected in free elections, and their votes do not determine the outcome of the government's actions," one person wrote. "Learn a lesson from history. Your dictatorial rule will soon crumble. Soften the impression about your crimes by respecting freedom of expression and conducting free elections," said another. And this: "My dear country has been occupied by you all; we would like to be free, so leave our country. We cannot bear you more than this; we will kick you out in the near future." PNN’s acting director explained the reason behind this practice in freedom of speech principles."We provided an open and anonymous forum for Iranians to express their true feelings about their leaders," said Alex Belida, PNN's acting director. "With Iran's presidential elections looming next June, we thought it would be informative to see what the Iranian people think of their own leaders." Iran has been an Islamic republic since 1979 when the monarchy was overthrown, replaced by conservative clerical forces who established a theocracy. Ultimate political authority is vested in Supreme Leader Khamenei, who is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts. President Ahmadinejad was inaugurated in 2005 after conservatives reestablished control over Iran's elected government institutions. Below are longer excerpts of responses received by PNN:
1. I would stand in front of them and say: Dear Lord! My basic wish is for the theocracy of Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be uprooted and gone forever. Amen.
2. [To Khamenei] Over the last 3 years, 10 members of a two-faced cabinet that you supported were impeached, which goes to show that this is an immoral and illegal government. Your support of a baseless entity, as a result, becomes questionable and puts you and your position under question. Islam is not what you and your followers have forced on the people.
3. A skilled physician or surgeon studies for years, studies lessons that are much more difficult than the things that you and other mullah’s study in religious schools. Can they, based on that claim to represent God? God’s representative should be elected by a godly person, not by 12 clergymen, 6 of whom are directly chosen by you. Mr. Khamenei, someday you will receive a shoe too, only that shoe will be different than the one thrown at Mr. Bush.
4. In Imam Ali’s government (Massud: Shitte’s believe Imam Ali became the leader of the Moslems after the Prophet dies.) he said that people should be able to speak to their rulers without a stutter. We don’t even know how to talk to a mid-level manager, or an office clerk. Do we dare? We can’t even say that we exist. People, from government employees to teachers, cabdrivers, doctors, soldiers etc… everyone is in the service of the Leader. His servant and slave. A teacher from Mash’had (Northeast of Iran).
5. The price of shoes, eggs and tomatoes are so expensive in Iran that no one can afford to throw them at the gentlemen in question.
6. (This message was posted in English) This is only for khameniyee and his gangs. How long did you really think you can lie and get away with it? Why don't you freeayatullah Boroujerdi and make things easy on yourself. Because of what you have done, there will come a time to face your crime, not only the crimes against the Iranian nation, but the world. We all know what you are up to. You are nothing but a big time liar and fraud master, and a thief and a killer. You are nothing but a loser. Your time has come. See you in hell, where you belong.
7. (This message was posted in English) I would tell the Leader that people are tired from your injustices and before they become enough angry to revolt against you please let us have a free referendum to see how many people would give positive vote to Islamic Republic and the leader himself. If you win you should keep the power but if the majority wins then everyone in Islamic Republic shall resign including basiji and pasdaran forces (the Revolutionary Guards) except the uniformed police and armed forces to run the country until a new and democratic Constitution is written and free election begins. All people who served under the Islamic Republic shall be forgiven from all their sins even if one or two has committed a crime. This new plan will unite and save the country and the nation peacefully plus Iran will give lifetime protection for those who have served the Islamic Republic one way or another. I am an Iranian. David from Turkey.
PNN’s question of the week was “Do you agree with the governor of the Central State that Tehran’s pollution is merely “journalistic bullying”? Out of 5,316 respondents, 193 or 4 percent said yes, 5,032or 94 percent said no, while 91 or 2 percent 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 newsbreaks 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
Taghi from Tehran writes: “I would like to thank you Ms. Aramideh that you explored the life of Ms. Ameneh Bahrami for whom all Iran is in pain. I got very sad when I heard the violence against this girl, whoever is doing such thing is not called human, but he is an animal. Let’s put hands together and try to help this girl financially to be able to go for her next face operation. We appreciate how Mr. Saboori as an Iranian helped her out, but if Saboori is a proud Iranian, what is the name of the man who put acid on Ameneh’s face! Please advise us how we can contribute financial aid to Ms. Ameneh so she can feel that all Iranians are not the same.”
Jawid from Fola-Shaher writes: “With my regards, I am very sorry to see that a young Iranian man allowed himself to put acid on face of an Iranian woman and ruin her face. I hope that Ameneh and her family accept my deep sympathy with their child. I think Ms. Aramideh and Ms. Rahimi has good logics of punishment laws, but I would like to mention that retaliation [Islamic way of eye for eye] is very sensitive issue not logic. It won’t stop other crimes neither it is can compensate what is being lost. Such punishment requirement is linked how they are raised in their family and how they judge different situations.”
Sahand writes: “With my regards, I watch your shows time to time and this time your show really made me to cry. I am glad that you are bringing voices of human rights activists such as two Kurdish sisters who are arrested, but who will pay attention to cry of Azerbaijan’s women. The Turks situation in Iran is worsening day by day. If you call yourself a neutral news agency, why don’t you look into lives of Azerbaijani women?”
A Today’s Woman viewer writes: “Ms. Shahnaz Ghulami on Nov 17th 2008 was abducted by security forces from her residence along with beating her up. The security officials robbed her personnel properties including her phone diary, bank accounts, ID card, passport, computer case, cell phone, and her books. Currently Shahnaz Ghulami is suffering among prisoners such as murderers and addicts. She has worse situation in Tabriz prison and has no warm clothing. She has chains in her feet and she has severe pain in her legs and waist. The only charge against Ms. Ghulami is her report about civil society in Azerbaijan which is not crime anywhere in the world. Ms. Ghulami has a daughter and old mother and nobody knows about their situation. Ms. Ghulami has been severely tortured in prison both physically and psychologically. Taghi Mahmood will probably accept her case to be her lawyer to look into this case.”