Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – April 28, 2008 . . . Major stories this week included another Iran fast boat incident with a US ship in the Persian Gulf; second-round parliamentary elections in Iran; live coverage from Pennsylvania of Senator Hillary Clinton’s victory over rival Senator Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primary; Iran allowing the IAEA to investigate allegations it has tried to develop nuclear weapons; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice making a surprise visit to Baghdad; Iraq’s neighbors meeting in Kuwait to discuss their support for the Baghdad government; the State Department dismissing President Carter’s visit with Hamas as advancing the peace process; interviews with My Uncle Napoleon author Iraj Pezeshkzad (in his first TV interview in 35 years); with economic consultant Hadi Zamani about the global food crisis; with defense analyst Anthony Cordesman on the Iraq War; with international oil consultant Parviz Mina on Iran and the world oil market; with the Boroumand Foundation’s Ladan Boroumand on women’s rights in Iran; with journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin on the Iranian government’s use of hired media; with Dr. Pardis Sabeti about her work as one of the leading researchers at the Harvard / MIT Broad Institute; with Reza Moridi, the first Iranian-Canadian legislator, on the Ontario Assembly formally recognizing Norooz; with activist Nasrin Sotudeh on proposed legislation on sentencing for child crimes; with Essence magazine’s former editor-in-chief Susan Taylor on women’s empowerment; with Stockholm-based women’s rights activist Maria Rashidi; with blogger Arash Sigarchi on censorship; with environmentalist Hamid Arabzadeh on Earth Day; and with artist Parastou Forouhar, who integrates the brutal 1998 murder of her dissident parents, Dariush and Parwaneh Forouhar, into her work.
Today’s Woman April 23 began with a news brief that discussed the results of the Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania. Correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour reported live from Pennsylvania with the results, saying Senator Hillary Clinton’s gender was one of the main factors in her victory. The win is very significant for Senator Clinton’s presidential campaign, giving her the momentum to carry on when many were asking for her to quit the race. He provided demographics of voter turnout and discussed what’s next in the campaign for the Democratic nomination – primary elections in North Carolina and Indiana on May 6. Many observers say Senator McCain is the real winner of the Democratic primary – meaning every day the Democrats continue to battle for the nomination is another day Senator McCain wages a general campaign unopposed.
News and Views April 21 interviewed Ahmad Zaydabadi, a prominent journalist and political analyst in Tehran, on US presidential candidates and Iran. He said Iranian officials, particularly conservatives, “are in favor of Senator Obama because he favors direct talks with the Iranian regime.” But Mr. Zaydabadi said Senator Obama’s position toward Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear program is growing closer and closer to the views expressed by Senator Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Zaydabadi said he expects nothing will change with regard to US policy toward Iran no matter who wins the presidential race, the Democrat or Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.
Roundtable with You April 23 focused on Tuesday’s Pennsylvania presidential primary with VOA/PNN political analyst Shayan Samii. Although the much-anticipated balloting was won decisively by Hillary Clinton with a 10-point lead, it still doesn’t indicate who the Democratic Party will choose as its nominee in November. Mr. Samii said the election didn’t substantially reduce Senator Barack Obama’s delegate lead, making the interminable battle for the nomination continue. Correspondent Siamak Dehghanpour reported live from Pennsylvania on the state’s historic role in US politics, demographic information on those who supported Senator Clinton and those who supported Senator Obama, and the effect of primaries on the economy of each state. Mr. Samii said the Democratic nominee will likely be decided by the party’s super delegates, allowing the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, to campaign for the next few months without the distractions of a primary contest.
News and Views April 23 reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency – the UN nuclear watchdog – said Iran has agreed to allow the agency to probe allegations that Tehran has tried to develop nuclear weapons. IAEA Director-General Mohamed El-Baradei called the agreement a positive step. He told reporters during a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina Wednesday that he is hopeful Iran will be able to clarify the nuclear weapons allegations by May. In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran is in favor of dialogue to resolve the nuclear dispute. But he told a rally of thousands in the western city of Hamedan that Iran will not yield to pressure to halt its program. Switzerland has frozen the assets of a further 12 Iranian companies and 13 individuals related to that country’s nuclear program and banned delivery of “dual-use” materials, in accordance with UNSC resolution 1803.
News and Views April 25 interviewed defense analyst Anthony Cordesman, author of over fifty books on the Middle East and US policy toward the region, as the top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus was promoted to head Centcom. Mr. Cordesman, who also is an advisor to Senator John McCain, talked about strategies employed during the Iraq War and current handling of the war, saying “There is no particular difference between the new team and the old.” Mr. Cordesman said the past five years have been full of mistakes and slow responses. “We need to see what comes up in the next five years to be able to judge the past years in a better way. There are a lot of lessons we can learn.”
The man responsible for My Uncle Napoleon made his first television appearance in 35 years on Roundtable with You April 27. Famous for his aversion to the media and giving interviews, Iraj Pezeshkzad joined VOA/PNN from Paris to talk about his most famous novel and other works. First published in Iran in the 1970s, and adapted into a hugely successful television series, My Uncle Napoleon is now banned in Iran. The book, which is one of the best-selling in Iranian history, became a cultural reference point and its characters national icons with its timeless and universal satire of first love and family intrigue. Mr. Pezeshkzad said that unlike the hero in the book, he doesn’t think the British have a hand in everything that goes on Iran. “You cannot deny that the British Empire in its height did try and was successful in controlling events in Iran, but that does not necessarily mean that now we need a foreign hand to bring about democratic change inside Iran,” he said. Mr. Pezeshkzad said, “The idea that every major change in Iranian history had its origins in London (and other western capitals) has the potential to paralyze us as citizens.” Until the Iranian people believe they can take their own destiny in their own hands, he said, they will continue to believe they are victims of foreign intrigue and machinations. “The future of Iran is imperiled so long as Iranians believe nothing can happen in Iran unless it is the wish of the West.”
Roundtable with You April 24 talked with London-based economic consultant Hadi Zamani about the global food crisis. The head of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, warned in a London news conference of a “silent tsunami,” in the works, adding “This is the new face of hunger,” and “The world’s misery index is rising.” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the current food crisis and hunger a moral challenge for the globe’s citizens, characterizing the crisis as “a threat to the political and social stability of the poor nations around the world.” Food prices continue to jump higher in and there have been protests, even riots, in many countries such as Cameroon, Mozambique, Peru, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti and more. Twenty-four people were killed in Cameroon in February during a protest over a sharp rise in food costs. Six people were killed in Mozambique and related protests brought down the prime minister of Haiti. Mr. Zamani said the crisis was triggered by soaring food prices – up 55% from June 2007 to February 2008, including an 87% hike for rice in March – and dwindling global food stocks due to more world food consumption than production. One option is increased emergency food aid, but many experts believe the aid will come too late to prevent tens of millions of people from sliding into abject poverty and hunger.
Roundtable with You April 21 featured Paris-based oil consultant Parviz Mina on Iran and the world oil market. Formerly the Managing Director of the National Iranian Oil Company, Mr. Mina said the price of crude oil has reached a record high $117 per barrel because of a weaker dollar, the aggressive presence of China and India as energy consumers, a new generation of online energy speculators, worldwide inflation, geopolitical factors, and more. But he also pointed out that the windfall profits of exporting countries such as Iran could cause those countries greater double-digit inflation and thereby nullifying the profit of high priced oil. Mr. Mina also said Iran’s situation is exacerbated because of US and international sanctions and an aging oil facility infrastructure that is deteriorating and in desperate need of modernization. He said that without adopting some prudent new policies, it will be very difficult for Iran to maintain its current levels of oil production and oil export.
News and Views April 23 reported on a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors in Kuwait April 22. In a final communiqué, top regional leaders and world diplomats reaffirmed support for Iraq’s national unity, territorial integrity and right to freely determine its political future. They applauded Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s crackdown against militias loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and they agreed to hold the next “Iraqi neighbors conference” in Baghdad. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the Iraqi government for making progress toward national reconciliation, but she said Iraq requires regional and international support to succeed. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner emphasized that European countries also need to establish normal relations with Baghdad. Delegates to the Kuwait meeting said they recognize their countries’ roles and potential in the reconstruction of Iraq, although no new pledges of aid were announced.
News and Views April 24 reported that the Bush administration's second-ranking diplomat told the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Asia that a boycott of the Beijing Olympics over China’s crackdown in Tibet could aggravate the situation. John Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State, said “An Olympic boycott or sanctions could inflame tensions and polarize attitudes. Let me assure you that this administration will continue to take the opportunity, before, during and after the Olympics, to urge improvements from the Chinese on Tibet and human rights.” The Dalai Lama’s special envoy, Lodi Gyari, said the situation is very explosive, while Subcommittee Chairwoman Senator Barbara Boxer urged China to hold meaningful dialogue with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a meeting with her Georgian counterpart said the US is firmly committed to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. Later, during talks with Secretary Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank is the biggest obstacle to the peace process. Mr. Abbas wants a framework peace agreement by January 2009 with timetables and specifics leading to the creation of a Palestinian state and not just a “declaration of principles” as suggested by some Israel officials. Both President Bush and Secretary Rice are expected to travel the Middle East next month.
News and Views April 21 reported on developments in the Middle East, beginning with Kuwait saying it is looking to reopen its embassy in Baghdad for the first time since Saddam Hussein invaded the small, oil-rich country in 1990. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier appealed for greater regional diplomatic and economic support for Iraq as she headed to the Middle East. On Sunday, she made an unannounced visit to Iraq where she praised officials for government-led assaults on radical militias. The Secretary met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talibani and other top officials. She told reporters she saw signs that Mr. al-Maliki’s assaults on militia forces last month have brought sectarian and ethnic groups together in an unprecedented way. Her visit, she said, was to promote new Sunni and Kurd support for the US-backed Shi’ite government.
News and Views April 22 reported that the State Department says Palestinian militant group Hamas has shown no change in its policy toward Israel following former President Jimmy Carter’s recent talks with its leaders. State Department spokesman Tom Casey downplayed Mr. Carter’s suggestion that Hamas was prepared to accept Israel as a neighbor if certain conditions are met. Mr. Casey said the Palestinian faction still does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has refused to renounce terrorism and violence. The Bush administration and Israel have criticized Mr. Carter for meeting with Hamas, which both countries consider a terrorist group. But Mr. Carter says peace in Israel is impossible without engaging Hamas. He met recently with the group’s exiled leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria.
News and Views April 27 reported that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has escaped unharmed from a Taliban attack on a high-profile government ceremony in Kabul. The president, along with other senior government leaders and foreign dignitaries, ducked for cover as bullets hit the reviewing stand where they were gathered to watch a military parade. Afghan officials say three people were killed in the attack, including a member of parliament and a 10-year-old boy. At least eight other people were wounded. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault, saying it was intended to show that the Taliban can operate anywhere in Afghanistan.
Today’s Woman April 22 focused on human rights in Iran. Ladan Boroumand, founder of the Boroumand Foundation, joined the program from London. Her family’s foundation is dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran. One of their projects is to translate human rights and women’s rights texts into Farsi and make them available online for people in Iran. Ms. Boroumand said the foundation recently translated three articles from a women’s studies textbook written by prominent women feminists. She said, “Entitled Women’s Rights are Human Rights, these articles were written by feminists Charlotte Bunch, Elisabeth Friedman and Elissavet Stamatopoulou. The translated articles were released in commemoration of International Women’s Day and aspire to better inform Iranian women of their universal rights.” Today’s Woman also discussed a recent bill present to the Iranian parliament regarding the sentencing of child crime in Iran. From Tehran, children’s rights activist Nasrin Sotudeh, said Iranian law still maintains that children under the age of 18 can be executed. “According to Sharia law,” she said, “the allowable age for execution for girls is 9-years-old and for boys is 15-years-old. The bill presented to the majlis has deficiencies. It permits judges more flexibility in determining punishment and permits background checks on children who could receive death sentences.”
Today’s Woman April 25 focused on the second round of parliamentary elections in Iran, the UN Development for Women, or UNIFEM, and on the use of the Internet by women in Iran. During the first round of elections in March, 208 members of the Majlis were selected. An additional 82 seats were to be determined in today’s balloting. Twelve remaining candidates are women, whose ranks in the Majlis have decreased over the past several years. The program’s next segment focused on UNIFEM, which is the UN agency that provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies that foster women’s empowerment and gender equality. Established in 1976, actress Nicole Kidman now serves as UNIFEM’s Goodwill Ambassador. She recently spoke about UNIFEM’s campaign to end violence against women, Say No to Violence. For every signature in support of the campaign, she said, the United Nations will donate one dollar to the campaign. So far, 210,000 signatures have been collected via the campaign’s website at www.saynotoviolence.org. The last segment discussed the increased use of Internet websites and weblogs by Iranians as key source for communication and information. The program highlighted popular URLs among Iranian women: www.womeniniran.com, www.gayegizi.blogspot.com, www.khorshikhanom.com, and www.zanan.Iran-emrooz.net.
News and Views April 22 talked with the spokesman of the Association of Iranian Journalists, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, about the Islamic Republic’s increasingly tight stranglehold on the media in Iran. Speaking from Tehran, Mr. Shamsolvaezin said, “During the last two years, we have heard the most insulting and humiliating words against the media from Culture Minister Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi.” He said the government is promoting hired media – people who are not journalists but who are loyal to the government. “These people obtain official permission to publish a newspaper or magazine,” Mr. Shamsolvaezin said. “And then they have two choices. They can either hire journalists or can ‘lease their permission’ to non-journalists.”
Late Edition April 23 talked with Dr. Pardis Sabeti about her work as one of the leading researchers at the Broad Institute, a research collaboration involving faculty, staff and students from the MIT and Harvard academic and medical communities. Dr. Pardis, who has a medical degree from Harvard and is on the faculty there, developed an algorithm which helped to establish the effects of genetics on the evolution of human diseases. She said her work now focuses on finding how the human genome is evolving and has evolved in fighting infectious diseases, particularly malaria and tuberculosis. “I do what I love and that is why I work a lot,” Dr. Sabeti said. She is only one of three women who have graduated with the highest honor of Suma Cum Laude from Harvard’s medical school. To balance things out, she also is a guitarist and lead singer in the alt-rock band, Thousand Days.
Late Edition April 26 interviewed Reza Moridi, the first Iranian-Canadian elected to Canada’s federal legislature. Mr. Moridi has represented the Richmond Hill district of Ontario since 2007. Mr. Moridi recently proposed that the government of Ontario formally recognize the first day of spring as Norooz, the Persian New Year, and the Assembly passed the resolution. “This was a dream for t he Iranian community, and in 2003 and in 2005, they tried to propose an act to the Ontario government, but it was rejected until now,” Mr. Moridi said. “This is a great day for the Iranian community in Canada.” He said passage of the legislation builds confidence in the Iranian community and gives them stronger roots in Ontario while it also helps government officials to become more familiar with Iranian traditions and culture.
Late Edition April 25 talked with Arash Sigarchi, a young Iranian journalist and blogger, who left after spending time in prison for writing articles critical of the Islamic regime and different aspects of life in Iran. He served 14 months of a sentence that began at 14 years but was eventually reduced to three years. Mr. Sigarchi, who is now in the United States to receive medical treatment, said he is sure systematic censorship in Iran won’t last forever. “This is a sad day for Iranian journalists though,” he said, “and the work atmosphere is so disappointing. Most Iranian journalists have chosen to remain silent, and press agencies are under strict surveillance and scrutiny by the public prosecutors and censorship organizations.” Mr. Sigarchi said, “This is a systematic censorship and the Islamic regime regularly issues warnings to newspapers about topics they should not write or talk about.” But he said he “is certain the Internet and the media will bring about major transformations in this society and we will achieve freedom and democracy in Iran.”
Roundtable with You April 25 focused on the second round of parliamentary elections held in Iran for the 82 remaining seats where candidates didn’t get enough votes in the first round. According to the early reports, polling stations in most places were empty, with few people showing interest in the face of double digit inflation. London-based political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh talked about the election as well as the controversy caused by the public dispute and name-calling between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Gholem Ali Haded-Adel, speaker of the parliament. Mr. Nourizadeh said President Ahmadinejad’s so-called solution for Iran’s economic problems is “increasing the martyrdom capacity of the people.” Other topics touched on included the US video of Syria’s nuclear plant, expulsion of Iran from an arms exhibition in Malaysia, and the latest incident between an American ship and Iranian fast boats in the Persian Gulf.
News and Views April 22 interviewed environmentalist Hamid Arabzadeh, a lecturer at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of California-Irvine, on Earth Day: “There are always political and economic considerations when it comes to the environment,” he said. “The Middle East – and especially Iran – is among the most polluted areas in the world. In fact, at a conference about the environment in Brazil, it was said that Brazil doesn’t want to become a ‘second Persian Gulf.’” Mr. Arabzadeh said that education is an important tool in developing countries. “Recycling is something that is in the culture, religion and habits of Iranians and in some of the countries in South Asia. Education and programs by governments and non-governmental organizations should help raise awareness about this extremely important issue.” Mr. Arabzadeh said international broadcasting programs, such as News and Views, also will help raise awareness about “this vital global problem.”
VOA/PNN April 27 interviewed political activist and former political prisoner Monireh Baradaran about the recent uprising wave of whippings in Iran. She said even drivers are punished by the government with lashings. Ms. Baradaran, who resides in Germany, said she believes this to be the obvious sign of a crime against mankind. She also considers some of the sections of Islamic criminal justice under the same category.
VOA/PNN April 27 interviewed Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University, on comments Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently made questioning the authenticity of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Mr. Boroujerdi said President Ahmadinejad could just take one look at the web site www.september11victims.com to be proven wrong. He added that this is another denial of an obvious tragedy and that Mr. Ahmadinejad is repeating this pattern – after also having denied the Holocaust – with the aim of distracting the Iranian people from the overwhelming financial problems they face.
Today’s Woman April 23 also focused on women activists, one in the United States, the other in Iran. In an interview with VOA/PNN, Susan Taylor, the former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, discussed the importance of women’s empowerment. She said, “When women are given a seat at the table, the needs of everyone are addressed. However, if there are only men at the table, then only one perspective is being represented.” Ms. Taylor said she didn’t have a college degree when she began her career at Essence. But she is a strong believer in the importance of education and returned to college to obtain her degree. Ms. Taylor said two keys to women’s empowerment are self-confidence and financial independence. She said, “When you have self-confidence, then the sky is the limit.” She also said financial independence is crucial – without it, women lose power and their free will. Today’s Woman also profiled Maria Rashidi, an Iranian woman residing in Sweden who is a women’s activist and former victim of violence. Airing the second part of an interview Ms. Rashidi gave to VOA/PNN, the program focused on the work of her foundation, Association for Women’s Rights, displaying the URL at www.womansrights.org. Ms. Rashidi said the web site includes information on how Iranian women can get advice on divorce and custody. Ms. Rashidi also uses her foundation to reach out to other women who have suffered from domestic violence, providing them with encouragement and support.
Today’s Woman April 21 talked with artist Parastou Forouhar about political art. Born in Tehran in 1962, Parastou studied art the University of Tehran from 1984-1990 before moving in 1991 to Germany, where she still resides. She is the daughter of murdered Iranian dissidents, Dariush and Parwaneh Forouhar, who were brutally killed in their Tehran home in November 1998. For years, both of them had fought for establishing the foundations of a democratic government and they had campaigned for the separation of state and religion. Parastou said, “All of my art is based on contrast, because all of life is based on contrast. I want viewers to understand how contrasting things can coexist.” She discussed her recent work, including an exhibit at the House of World Culture in Berlin and drawings published in GeopoliticArt Magazine. A companion article by Eefje Blankevoort put it this way: “Following the horrific murder of her parents, politics increasingly became an intrinsic part of Forouhar’s life. Since 1998 she has battled to bring the case to court, continuing to investigate the murders and struggling to keep the memory of her parents alive. It became the focal point of her life. Forouhar was forced to redefine herself as an artist as well. She had to find a way to either integrate the political murders into her work as an artist or to leave them out. She decided to integrate them.” In her interview with VOA/PNN, Parastou said art connects humanitarian and political issues. “I strive to make work that doesn’t have a direct political message, but that does provoke conversation and dialogue about political issues.”
Today’s Woman April 26 focused on macular degeneration, the environment and tourism in New York City. The program provided information on early signs of macular degeneration, symptoms and how to treat the disease. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that older people who carry certain genes are more susceptible to a loss of their central vision. The disease presents itself differently people depending on their gender, race and age. The program then moved on to ecological concerns as June 3rd Environment Day approaches. Iran is 54th in a list of 57 countries with destruction of jungles. Panelists discussed the advantages of going green, including a report on planting trees in West Virginia where 50 volunteers plant 7,000 trees to mark Earth Day. Today’s Woman then turned to tourism in New York, where Europeans are investing in housing due to the value of the euro above the dollar. Many tourists find New York a place to have as well as a place to make a living while enjoying the amenities of a global city.
Today’s Woman April 24 looked at cultural stereotypes in art and the media as well as discussing issues relating to fear. Panelists discussed several television programs and films in Iran that have been criticized for stereotyping groups and providing incorrect information. They talked about what obligation artists have to be culturally sensitive or whether they should have the freedom to create whatever they wish without consideration for its impact on others. The next segment talked about societal pressures and restraints in Iran leading to increased fears. Panelists suggested greater restraints in a society are linked to greater fears. They said what happened in the past to make someone fearful is in the past and should not cause the person to fear the future. “The outcome of our future is up to us,” one said, “and fear should not stand in the way.” Panelists said artistic expression is one way some people overcome fear. They highlighted the work of several artists that addresses the issue of fear, including those of Spanish painter Francisco Goya and Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Today’s Woman also talked about AIDS, and the way society perceives and addresses the issues of AIDS.
Roundtable with You focused on the Afghanistan of today with the governor of Kabul province, Din Mohammad. According to Oxfam, Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries. Years of war and political instability have left much of the country in ruins and dependent on foreign aid. President Hamid Karzai recently complained that foreign aid rarely reaches its intended recipients, saying the Afghan people are getting poorer and poorer. Last year was one of the most violent since the fall of the Taliban seven years a