Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each WeekWashington, DC – October 16, 2006 . . . Major stories this week included coverage of North Korea’s apparent nuclear test and subsequent UN sanctions, the upcoming vote at the United Nations on Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, and ongoing human rights abuses in Iran.
VOA Persian’s programming provided up to the minute coverage of breaking developments in North Korea, from the apparent nuclear test, to North Korea’s statement that it will consider pressure from the United States to be a declaration of war, to protests in South Korea, to a convening of the UN Security Council to discuss punitive action. President Bush said the Security Council’s unanimous vote to impose sanctions on North Korea shows that the world is united against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also praised the vote, saying Japan is considering imposing additional unilateral sanctions. Reaction from China, Russia and South Korea as well as Iran and Pakistan was also included in VOA Persian’s coverage.
John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, warned that the United States would pursue additional penalties against North Korea if it fails to abide by the council’s demand that it agree to destroy weapons of mass destruction.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Christopher Hill, said not even North Korea’s neighbors would accept an armed Pyongyang, and that the Security Council was working on a set of measures that would make North Korea regret what it’s done, and more importantly, that will protect us from what they’ve done.
Representative Jim Leach (R-IA), chairman of the International Relations subcommittee, said the North Korean action will lead to several things: reconsideration by Japan of its no-nuke policy, an emboldened Iran and increased difficulty to monitor North Korean marketing of its nuclear technology. Former Representative Newt Gingrich said the US administration should undermine the rogue government in Pyongyang by funneling aid to the North Korean people through unconventional channels.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Washington is seeking immediate UN sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program now that North Korea’s apparent nuclear test has rallied support for such penalties. Mr. Burns said Iran can return to talks at any time, although it missed an August 31 deadline to comply with UN resolutions.
At a news conference October 11, President Bush said the North Korean and Iranian nuclear issues should be resolved by diplomatic means, pointing out that action was taken on Iraq only after all diplomatic attempts had failed.
One day after North Korea announced its nuclear test, Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said his government expressed its opposition to the production and use of nuclear weapons on numerous occasions. However, Mr. Elham did not specifically condemn North Korea. Instead he said the North Korean action was rooted in the policies, behavior and stances of oppressive powers, especially those of the American government.
Babak Yektafar, editor-in-chief of Washington Prism, an online political and cultural journal in Persian, told News Talk that diplomacy is the only way to resolve the dispute with North Korea and that China plays a key role in any talks.
Atomic expert Bahman Aghai Diba said South Korea also plays a key role in North Korean talks as Seoul and Pyongyang have developed closer relations over the past several years.
London-based political analyst Ali Reza Nourizadeh told VOA he hopes the apparent North Korean nuclear test serves as a wake-up call for Europe as to what Iran is doing with its own nuclear program. The Iranian regime is working full steam ahead on developing nuclear power, he said, has good relations with Pyongyang, and has obtained nuclear technology from North Korea.
Southeastern University professor Morteza Anvari said there are numerous differences between North Korea and Iran. He said North Korea crossed the “red line” a long time ago and unlike Iran, North Korea has no natural resources.
Nader Entessar, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of South Alabama, said contrary to North Korea, Iran has never claimed it wants to build a nuclear arsenal, nor have international observers ever found anything to prove them wrong.
Upcoming UN vote on Iran
Northeastern University economics professor Kamran Dadkhah told VOA Persian that when the chips are down, China and Russia will take the side of the United States and the United Nations will impose sanctions on Iran. Mr. Dadkhah said the Chinese have a huge trade surplus with Washington and will not jeopardize that relationship over trade with Iran, which in comparison is quite negligible.
Political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh says Iran needs to be aware that it may face severe sanctions from the United Nations if a country like China, considered a close ally to North Korea, can join the international community in condemning Pyongyang.
Israel Radio commentator Menashe Amir told VOA Persian from Los Angeles that Iranian officials are following the North Korean actions – and reaction – very closely. He said if the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany are not adamant about a firm stance toward North Korea, Iran will be bolder on the nuclear issue.
Nearly 500 people have registered to become candidates for the Assembly of Experts elections scheduled to take place December 15. Eligible candidates must pass a theological exam as well as a thorough vetting of their backgrounds. Iran’s conservative clerics have used this vetting process to weed out anybody who might upset the status quo. Political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh said despite the non-democratic nature of the Assembly, its elections are an indicator of the future direction of Iran’s regime because the Assembly is empowered to select and supervise the supreme leader.
The Department of State released a statement October 11 condemning the Iranian government’s ongoing abuse of the rights of the Iranian people, calling on the judicial system to hold Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi accountable for his involvement in the 1988 execution of several thousand political prisoners and the serial killing of dissidents in 1998. Since being appointed Minister of the Interior by President Ahmadinejad in 2005, the statement said Mr. Pour-Mohammadi has continued to help orchestrate a campaign to limit rights of the Iranian people.
Ayatollah Kazemeini Boroujerdi told VOA Persian – in an interview taped one day before his arrest – that “we would like the United Nations to pass a resolution and call on Iran to respect freedom of religion and worship. People’s religious beliefs should be free of government interference.”
Political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh commented on a recent crackdown by the Iranian government on the Gonabadi Dervish group, saying the Islamic regime fears religious gatherings even more than political gatherings. He said it is this fear that leads to a ban on such assemblies.
Human rights activist Roya Teymouri, who lives in southern California, told VOA Persian that young people in Iran need to rise up and demand their basic human rights because after 27 years, one cannot expect the Islamic Republic to “mend” its ways. She said the Iranian diaspora will stand with them shoulder to shoulder, but that such a revolt has to be home-grown. She said the first thing needed is to raise the awareness of ordinary Iranians who do not have access to information because they lack computers and satellite dishes.
VOA Persian was scheduled to interview student activist Kianoosh Sanjari October 8 by phone from Tehran. But his distraught mother told us he was arrested that very same day and that she was not yet aware of his whereabouts. Mr. Sanjari has previously been detained and tortured by the government.
Political activist Shahram Kholdi talked with VOA Persian from London on the origination of terminologies such as Islamic fascism. Many think the term originated with President Bush. But Mr. Kholdi said the term Islamic fascism originates with Ayatollah Murtaza Mutahhari, who was a significant figure in the movement which brought the Islamic Republic of Iran into being. Ayatollah Mutahhari, a student of Ayatollah Khomeini and particularly close to his mentor, had broad theoretical concerns regarding religion, society and economy. Mr. Kholdi says Ayatollah Mutahhari published a book at the beginning of the revolution saying Islamic fascism is the fundamental element of the Iranian government, that the word of the rulers of Iran should be heard and obeyed.
Documentary filmmaker Jahanshah Ardalan talked to VOA Persian about his new documentary “Beyond Words,” which was mostly shot in Iranian Kurdistan. The film, which focuses on the Ghaderi order of Derwishes or Sufies in Kurdistan, was shot over a period of eight years. “I went back to Kurdistan to gather more footage of these seemingly ordinary men,” he told VOA. “There was no political aspect to their worship. It’s entirely cultural. There is Kurdish music, but this is not about Kurdish political aspirations.” Their dance, he says, is a celebration of discovering the divinity within.
Shahrnoush Parsipour, whose tales are written in the style of magic realism, talked with VOA Persian about her work and how it fits within Iranian history. Ms. Parsipour, who currently lives in exile in the United States, was imprisoned several times in Iran for her writing, and to this date, her books are banned in Iran. She said the Constitutional Movement of 1906 had a huge impact on women and gave them a stake in society. Ms. Parsipour’s words and tales are said to be a testimony to how Iranian women turn their imagination into a weapon to confront, resist, threaten and at times transform their repressive society.
Pulmonary specialist Lila Bahadori told VOA Persian from our Washington studio that air pollution is not unique to Tehran, that it is present in all major world cities. But she said Tehran is unique in the sense that there has been a lot of talk by officials that air quality needs to be improved with no concerted action to roll it back. She said Tehran has expanded so much and the population increased at such a rate that improving air quality has become more and more problematic. She said leaded gasoline is the main culprit. In addition to creating breathing problems, leaded gas can retard cognitive development in children.
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News Talk, an hour-long program featuring a panel of experts discussing the day's top news stories, had its debut on October 8. News Talk opens VOA's daily four-hour Persian-language television block every day with a brief recap of the day's top headlines. It features in-depth discussions of the issues of greatest concern to Iranians and closes with a segment on worldwide media coverage of Iran. After News Talk comes News and Views, Roundtable with You, and Late Edition, all one-hour shows that constitute a four-hour daily block of Persian-language television broadcast by satellite to Iran. News and Views, which debuted in 2003, features correspondent reports, interviews, and the top news stories from Washington and around the world. Roundtable with You, which debuted on television in 1996, takes calls from viewers and features a wide variety of guests discussing issues ranging from popular culture to politics. Late Edition, a youth-oriented program which first aired in July, looks at major world events and issues of interest to young people.
VOA's Persian television shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio broadcasts and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. VOA's Persian language Internet site is at www.VOANews.com/persian.