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Iran Report: April 15, 2002

15 April 2002, Volume 5, Number 13

WASHINGTON ASKS TEHRAN TO RESTRAIN HIZBALLAH... U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has asked Tehran and Damascus to rein in Hizballah military activities due to concern that they will escalate regional violence, according to Tehran radio on 10 April. "America's request has been conveyed to Syria directly, and with respect to Iran, this has been done through a third party," Powell explained. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met with Hizballah Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah on 11 April, Beirut's Hizballah-affiliated Al-Manar Television reported on 12 April, but apparently he did not convey Powell's message.

On 12 April, according to Al-Manar, Hizballah attacked three Israeli outposts in the Shabaa Farms and Kfar Chouba hills, namely Rouseit al Alam, Rouseit al Karan, and Samaqa. This is not the first such attack. Hizballah fired Katyusha and Grad rockets at Israeli outposts in Rouseit al Alam, Rouseit al Karan, Samaqa, Ramata, and Zibdine, according to Lebanese police and Hizballah sources cited by DPA on 10 April. A Hizballah statement said the attack on Rouseit al Alam was meant to "salute the brave strugglers in Jenin and Nablus who managed to inflict heavy casualties among the ranks of the Israeli troops." In response, Israeli artillery fired on the hills of Kfar Chouba and Bastara, and Israeli aircraft fired missiles at targets in the hills of Kfar Chouba. Moreover, Katyusha rockets hit Kiryat Shemona near the Israel-Lebanon border on 10 April.

Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah had said on 8 April that the attacks on the disputed Shabaa Farms would continue. "It is an open front in Shabaa Farms," Nasrallah said, according to DPA, adding, "This is occupied Lebanese land and it is our right to liberate it." The governments in Beirut and in Tehran share this viewpoint. Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Ali Sobhani said during an 8 April meeting with Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri that it is Beirut's right to have full control over the Shabaa Farms, IRNA reported the next day.

Nasrallah also said, according to DPA, "Nobody can stop the invasion of the West Bank [by Israel],... but a war of attrition and resistance must continue. There will also be easier targets if the occupation forces remain there," he said, reiterating the necessity of supplying the Palestinians with arms and money. Nasrallah called for greater regional unity and support, saying, "The streets should not be quiet, demonstrations should fill the streets each day in the Arab world." (Bill Samii)

...AS FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR CONTINUED RESISTANCE... Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi arrived in Beirut on 11 April and met with Hizballah Secretary-General Nasrallah and other Lebanese officials. In a press conference that day, Kharrazi called for continued resistance against Israel and condemned the U.S. "First of all, the resistance should continue and then the necessary pressure must be exerted on America to change its policies. Since as long as America supports the occupying regime of al-Qods [Jerusalem], this regime has no fear to go on with its policy of murder," he said, according to a 12 April IRNA dispatch. Kharrazi called for "care and self-restraint in order to prevent the Zionist regime from causing intrigue in the region," IRNA reported, and he expressed concern that "Israel may spread the war to other countries."

Kharrazi was asked if his call for self-restraint includes the "resistance operations at the Shabaa Farms." Kharrazi explained: "The call for self-restraint in my previous statements refers to the Israeli provocation. This is because Israel is the party that seeks to expand the circle of war and seeks provocation in this regard. The Lebanese resistance in the rest of the occupied Lebanese areas is considered a legitimate right for Lebanon," according to Tele-Liban TV on 12 April.

From Beirut, Kharrazi went to Damascus. He met with his Syrian counterpart, Faruq al-Shara, and they discussed "consultation and coordination" in their countries' support of the Palestinian uprising, Syrian state radio reported on 12 April. Iranian Ambassador to Damascus Hussein Sheikholeslam also attended the meeting.

A delegation led by the Palestinian Authority's Faruq Qaddumi arrived in Tehran on 13 April. On his arrival in Tehran, Qaddumi said that "the only solution to the Palestinian crisis is a holy struggle [jihad] and resistance," IRNA reported. In an earlier telephone conversation with Qaddumi, Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi "reaffirmed the support of the Iranian nation and government for the Intifada as a symbol of the justice-seeking struggles of the Palestinian nation," "Bonyan" reported on 11 April. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has provided Washington with documents that it claims connect Palestinian Authority chief Yassir Arafat with terrorist attacks by Palestinian militants, "The New York Times" reported on 12 April. Some of the documents were found in the office of Fuad Shubaki, who has been linked with the captured shipment of arms from Iran (regarding the "Karine-A" incident, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 February 2002). Nevertheless, National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency spokesmen refused to comment, while anonymous "American officials" said Tel Aviv is trying to win support for its military actions. (Bill Samii)

...IRANIAN DIPLOMAT WARNS OF NEW FRONTS... Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Ali Sobhani warned in an interview that appeared in the 9 April issue of Beirut's "Al-Nahar" that, "If the sinful Israeli aggression, which enjoys full American support, continues, no one can guarantee that the Arab borders with Israel will remain secure and stable." Sobhani went on to blame the U.S. for Israeli activities, saying: "This usurper entity [Israel] receives full American support for all its brutal practices.... [T]here is no doubt that the United States is an accomplice to the atrocious crime that is being committed against the Arabs and Palestinians in Palestine. U.S. calls for the withdrawal of the aggressor Israeli army are not serious." Sobhani repeated his warning that if the situation continues, "We cannot guarantee the continuation of calm on any of the Arab borders with occupied Palestine." Sobhani said on 8 April that Iran will continue to support Lebanon in its quest for control in the south, IRNA reported the next day. (Bill Samii)

...AND IRANIAN LEGISLATORS DEMONSTRATE. Iranian legislators and members of the public on 9 April marched from the parliament's main entrance to the Palestinian Embassy in Tehran, IRNA reported. Reformist Deputy Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, who is the secretary-general of Iran's "Support for the Palestinian Intifada" conference, told the rally that the U.S. is backing the Israeli crackdown. He also urged legislators from other countries to follow the Iranian example and "take practical measures to stop the crimes of the Zionist regime," "Entekhab" reported on 10 April. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN-ANKARA TIES SURVIVE TERRORISM FLAPS. Iranian presidential adviser Ataollah Mohajerani and Turkish Ambassador to Tehran Salahatin Alpar met on 8 April and discussed the expansion of relations between their countries, IRNA reported. And in Ankara on the same day, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad-Hussein Lavasani and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan also discussed the state of relations between the two countries, according to IRNA. Nevertheless, recent reports about the detention of Iranian-trained Islamists and about the alleged presence in Iran of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leaders have put some strains on the relationship between Ankara and Tehran.

Four alleged members of the Imams Union (Imamlar Birligi) were detained in Bursa and Istanbul, Anatolia news agency reported on 7 April. The Imams Union provides Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda with logistical support and, according to a statement from the Bursa Security Directorate, the detainees underwent political and military training in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Istanbul's NTV reported on 1 April that Turkey formally requested that Iran extradite PKK Chairmanship Council members Cemil Bayik and Halil Atac. Turkish intelligence claimed that Bayik crossed into Iran the previous week with $1.4 million in his possession. After some initial denials, Iranian officials acknowledged that Bayik and his men were in Urumiyeh and subsequently detained them, NTV reported on 3 April and "Hurriyet" reported on 4 April.

Nonetheless, extradition of the PKK members to Turkey remained uncertain. Tehran has long-standing ties with the Kurdish terrorists, NTV reported on 5 April, and PKK activists threatened to undermine Iranian policy in northern Iraq and to agitate among Iran's Kurdish population. Istanbul's "Milliyet" added on 5 April that Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security and its Islamic Revolution Guards Corps objected to the extraditions. The U.S. State Department's annual report on global terrorism noted that in 1999 and 2000 the IRGC and MOIS "continued to be involved in the planning and execution of terrorist acts and continued to support a variety of groups that use terrorism to pursue their goals."

Then, Iranian Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani on 7 April said the reports about Bayik were "baseless" and that Tehran had demanded documentary evidence, according to IRNA. And Ambassador Lavasani said on 8 April that Bayik was not in Iran and had not been captured there, according to Anatolia news agency. In his comments he hinted at the need for reciprocity regarding the PKK and the terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization. In the past, Iranian agents have killed MKO members in Turkey, according to the U.S. State Department. (Bill Samii)

IRANIANS DETAINED IN PAKISTAN. Two alleged Iranian terrorists �- Junaid and Qasim �- as well as the wife and two children of one of them were sent to the Adiala jail in Pakistan on 4 April, Karachi's "Dawn" reported the next day. The Iranians were detained in Islamabad on 16 March, when they were discovered near the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office while carrying hand grenades, pistols, and maps of sensitive installations in the capital. One day later �- on 17 March �-five people were killed and more than 45 people were injured when grenades were thrown into an Islamabad church frequented by members of the diplomatic community. Police say that Junaid and Qasim have been living in Pakistan since 1979, according to "Dawn." (Bill Samii)

ISLAMABAD DEMANDS EXTRADITION OF PAKISTANI TERRORISTS. Islamabad has decided to ask Tehran to extradite seven members of the defunct Sipah-i Muhammad organization, Karachi's "Ummat" reported on 4 April. "Highly informed sources" said the seven terrorists are hiding in Iran and are running a terror network from there. These individuals are Reza Imam, Maulana Zulqarnain Haidar Naqvi, Rashid Ali, Mureed Abbas, Qaisar Reza, Ali Haidar, and Imran Zaidi, "Ummat" reported, and they were involved with subversion in Baluchistan, Karachi, and Punjab. (Bill Samii)

IRAN AND AFGHANISTAN SIGN AVIATION AGREEMENT. Mehdi Aliyari, the deputy managing director for international affairs and development of Iran's Mahan Airlines, announced that his company will begin direct flights to Kabul on 15 May, IRNA reported on 13 April. Originally, the flights were scheduled to begin on 21 April, according to Mashhad radio's Dari service and IRNA on 1 April.

Iran and Afghanistan on 1 April signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding twice-weekly cargo and passenger flights between Tehran and Kabul, and they signed another MOU on cooperation in technical, training, and commercial matters. Mehdi Aliyari signed on behalf of Mahan Airlines, while Managing Director Jahad Azimi signed the MOU on behalf of Afghanistan's Ariana Airlines. Aliyari said the agreement had been delayed due to concerns over safe flight routes. Travelers from Europe can stop over in Tehran on a 72-hour visa and then go on to Kabul after obtaining an entry visa. The fares will be kept low to encourage Afghans migrants to go home, Aliyari added. (Bill Samii)

AFGHAN REFUGEE REPATRIATIONS INTERRUPTED. Iran currently hosts some 1.4-2.0 million Afghan refugees, and as it became clear last autumn that Afghanistan would be the site of an attack on the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda guests and Afghans would seek refuge across the border, Iran set up camps for them inside Afghanistan. Tehran, Kabul, and the High Commissioner for Refugees signed a tripartite agreement on 3 April to facilitate repatriations, but just six days later one of the border crossings was closed due to fighting in Afghanistan.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Ruud Lubbers), the Afghan interim administration minister of repatriation (Enyatulah Nazir), and the Iranian Interior Ministry's bureau of immigrant affairs director signed the agreement in Geneva. Its objective is sustainable returns, meaning that once across the border the Afghans would not want to go back to Iran. They are therefore allowed to take all their possessions with them, and they also receive money, blankets, clothes, and tools. Although the UNHCR is keen to see voluntary repatriations, it warned that Afghanistan still is a dangerous place and has a limited ability to absorb people, AP reported.

Iranian Interior Ministry official Mohammad Salehi said the repatriation project would begin on 9 April in Fars Province, Isfahan Province, Kerman Province, Khorasan Province, Markazi Province, Qom, Sistan va Baluchistan Province, Tehran, and Yazd Province, IRNA reported two days earlier. But on 10 April, the official in charge of foreign nationals in Sistan va Baluchistan Province, Safar Islami, said the repatriations from Zabol's Milak crossing have been suspended. Islami explained that conditions in Afghanistan's Nimruz Province are unsafe, ISNA reported. According to "informed, responsible Afghan sources," forces in Farah and Nimruz provinces clashed over control of a smuggling route.

Armed conflict is not the only danger. "The return issue is a disaster," Duccio Staderini of Medicins du Monde said in "The Guardian" on 4 April. "We know people's places of origin are not safe in terms of food security, and health provision is zero. But the international community is pushing to have people back home." The larger aid agencies, such as the World Food Program and the International Organization for Migration, are running the repatriations, and they are accused of succumbing to pressure by Western donor governments and the interim administration. Another European charity's representative said, "The planting season is over in many areas. People will have to borrow money to buy food. Yet many are already in debt after mortgaging their few assets to get food last year and then pay the fare to get their families to Maslakh camp." An Afghan returnee told "The Guardian" that his family sold the blankets it was given so it could buy food.

Luubers came to Tehran on 13 April and met with President Mohammad Khatami, Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari, and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, according to IRNA. According to a UNHCR press release, Lubbers was scheduled to travel from Tehran to Mashhad, and from there he would go overland to the Maslakh camp in Afghanistan. (Bill Samii)

'JUST SAY NO' DOESN'T WORK IN AFGHANISTAN. Afghan interim administration chief Hamid Karzai told Radio Free Afghanistan recently that he wants opium cultivation in his country to end. "From any perspective you look, from the perspective of religion, from the perspective of the country's national interest, from the perspective of the country's agriculture, Afghanistan must end poppy production, no matter what," Karzai said.

And there is an immediate need to end opium cultivation. UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP) spokesman Kemal Kurspahic told RFE/RL that unless the harvest is prevented, the level of Afghan opium production will approach that of the mid-1990s. Kurspahic described the UNDCP's early assessment this way: "The estimated level of production for 2002 ranges between 1,900 and 2,700 metric tons of opium, which is approximately the level of the mid-90s. It is less than the record year of 1999, which was 4,600 metric tons, but it is at the high levels of the mid-90s."

Coming on top of what are estimated to be sizable stockpiles of narcotics, these figures are troubling. And the trade in Afghan narcotics already is noticeable in neighboring states. Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) seized 1,200 kilograms of Afghan hashish in a raid near the Roghani refugee camp in Baluchistan, Islamabad's "The News" reported on 8 April. Russian border guards on the Tajik-Afghan border seized about 15 kilograms of heroin on 13 April, Interfax reported the next day.

Afghan farmers and regional merchants, however, are not so keen to see the end of opium. Farmers near the Pakistani border on 9 April blocked roads and pelted vehicles with rocks after a shootout with local officials resulted in dozens of dead and injured, Rory Carroll of "The Guardian" reported on 10 April. In southern Helmand Province on 7 April, furthermore, security forces fired on a 2,000-person rally and killed at least eight people.

The interim administration has offered to compensate farmers for not planting poppies, and it has offered rewards for destroying the crops (about $1,236 per hectare). Afghan officials said this amount exceeds what could be earned by growing wheat, the "Financial Times" reported on 6 April. Yet farmers could earn many times that amount by harvesting the opium, and the amount of money offered by the government does not match the cost of fertilizer, seeds, water, and labor (about $1,977 per hectare in total). Another major disincentive is that farmers accumulate debts that they pay off through the sale of opium. In reaction to the eradication drive, furthermore, opium prices have increased tenfold.

There also are political reasons for the reluctance to end opium cultivation. Haji Sultan, who heads the Nur Zai tribe, said that before they came to power officials in the current government "made it clear" that if the southern provinces ended their support of the Taliban, "the government would look the other way if opium was grown," the "Financial Times" reported on 10 April. Haji Pir Mohammad, the top assistant to the governor of Helmand Province, said, "We are powerless to stop it," "The Chicago Tribune" reported on 4 March. "Everyone I know is involved in this trade -- tens of thousands of people," he explained, going on to say, "We can't throw a whole population in jail. There are not enough jails in the world to hold all of them. And if we throw just one of them in jail, we will have a revolt that we cannot handle."

There are other practical reasons for the reluctance to end cultivation. The head of the drug control department in the Afghan interim administration's Interior Ministry, Haji Sultan Muhammad Quraishi, told RFE/RL in early March: "Due to the long-imposed war upon the people of Afghanistan, communication networks and irrigation systems have been ruined. Hospitals and addict treatment centers have been destroyed. Our farmers feel a deep need to have these reconstructed." A Zabol Province farmer named Abdul Majid said he was forced to chop down 400 of the trees in his orchard so he could sell them for firewood, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 21 February. Kandahar Police chief Zabit Akram said he has neither the funds nor the personnel to do much more than make radio announcements discouraging opium farmers and drug dealers, "The Washington Post" reported on 16 March. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN SUPPORTS AFGHAN COUNTERNARCOTICS EFFORTS. Tehran also is eager to seen the end of Afghan opium cultivation, as Iranian officials describe the existence of some 1.2 million drug addicts and a prison population that is swollen with drug offenders. Iranian envoy to Kabul Mohammad Ibrahim Taherian reassured Karzai in an 11 April meeting about Tehran's support in fighting drugs, Bakhtar news agency reported.

Tehran supports this effort in several ways. Crop substitution is an aspect of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Iranian Minister of Agriculture Jihad Mahmud Hojjati and Afghan Minister of Agriculture Hussein Anwari in February. The deputy head of the Uzbek Drug Control Headquarters, Kamol Dustmatov, expressed his country's willingness to cooperate with the crop substitution program when he met with the Iranian counternarcotics chief, Mohammad Fallah, Mashhad radio reported on 24 February. "Resalat" on 2 March recommended that Iran guarantee that it would purchase these substitute products, so it should work with the Afghan Agriculture Ministry to determine the most suitable crops.

When Hamid Karzai visited Tehran in February, law enforcement was one aspect of an MOU regarding cooperation in counternarcotics that he signed. Iranian Anti-Narcotics official Brigadier General Mehdi Abui said on 18 March that Iran is ready to train Afghan drug-enforcement personnel, IRNA reported.

Law enforcement is a major aspect of Iran's counternarcotics effort, too, and the official Iranian news agency and broadcast service publicize almost every drug bust. The January-February Val Fajr operation in Sistan va Baluchistan Province was an example of this trend (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 January 2002).

The Val Fajr operation resulted in an impressive amount of arrests and drug seizures, but it also revealed that bureaucratic rivalry and conflicting institutional priorities impinge on drug-control activities. Law Enforcement Forces official Javad Khazrai said in an interview that appeared in the 17 January "Hayat-i No" that Val Fajr was an LEF and Basij operation. He said the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the army were given responsibility for security in the province, but insecurity actually increased. Since the LEF already had experience in the province, it was given the job of restoring order. Khazrai added that the static defenses along the border (such as trenches) were strengthened.

Yet for all of Tehran's much ballyhooed drug-interdiction activities, most of the smuggling efforts succeed. A portion of what enters Iran is consumed locally. Antonio Mazzitelli, the head of Tehran's UNDCP office, said in the 28 February "Seda-yi Idalat" that the Iranian market could absorb 700-800 tons of opium for internal consumption.

And the drugs that are not consumed in Iran go on to Turkey or to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. For example, security forces in Gaziantep on 12 April seized 20.5 kilograms of heroin, according to Anatolia; on 3 April they seized 36 kilograms of morphine in northwestern Bolu Province, Anatolia reported; and on 17 February, police in Istanbul seized 115 kilograms of heroin, "Radikal" reported.

It is not surprising that smaller shipments such as these make it through Iran and across the border. But on 1 April, Turkish and American counternarcotics personnel seized 7.5 tons of unrefined morphine, which can be processed into heroin, in Turkey's largest bust ever. It is surprising that such a huge shipment made it across the Iran-Afghanistan border, went through Iran, and then made it across the Turkish border, all without being intercepted, while little shipments are so frequently seized. A skeptic might suspect that corruption among Iranian officials may play a role. (Bill Samii)

ACTIVIST'S TRIAL BEGINS AFTER A YEAR IN SOLITARY... The closed-door trial of national-religious activist Habibullah Peyman, who is the leader of the Militant Muslims Movement (Junbish-i Musalmanan-i Mubarez), began in Tehran on 7 April, and three days later Peyman was released after posting bail of 1 billion rials ($574,000 at the official rate, $125,000 at the open rate). Peyman spent more than one year in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, and he faces charges of subversion. Defense lawyer Abdolfatah Soltani said the documentary evidence was compiled in two big volumes, but the defense team was given just one of those dossiers, "Bonyan" reported on 7 April. In an interview with RFE/RL's Persian Service, Soltani added that the defense team was not allowed to hear the taped speeches that are being used as evidence against Peyman. Soltani told RFE/RL's Persian Service that because the charges against Peyman are political, he must be tried in a public court with jury. (Bill Samii)

...AND ANOTHER'S IS DELAYED. Out of the 14 nationalist-religious coalition leaders who were arrested in March 2001, only Taqi Rahmani remains in jail. Nargis Mohammadi, Rahmani's wife, said in the 11 April "Noruz" that her husband's trial was scheduled to begin on 10 April. Although the judge, the defendant, and the defendant's lawyers were present at the given time, according to Mohammadi, the judge said the hearing could not begin because of the public prosecutor's absence. Mohammadi said the trial was originally slated for late February and this is the fourth time the trial has been postponed. Lawyer Abdolfatah Soltani, who is representing Rahmani, told RFE/RL's Persian Service that the court is violating legal norms with its frequent delays. (Bill Samii)

IRANIAN WOMEN ON ROAD TO PRISON... There are about 5,000 women in Iranian prisons, out of a total prison population of 170,000 people, Prisons Organization chief Morteza Bakhtiari said last year (IRNA, 20 August 2001). Within the total population, most of the prisoners are held for drug offenses (100,000), passing bad checks (16,000), or fraud (2,500), Bakhtiari added. With the Islamic revolution and the imposition of Islamic law, women now are imprisoned for acts that were not criminal offenses before, such as un-Islamic dress or sexual relations outside of marriage. From 1981 to 1992, there was a 300 percent increase in imprisonment for sexual offenses, and from 1986 to 1991 the rate of female imprisonment almost doubled (from 25/100,000 to 45/100,000).

University of Tehran's Soheila Sadeghi-Fassaei and University of Southampton's Kathleen Kendall examined the pathway to imprisonment for Iranian women in an article published in "Women's Studies International Forum," vol. 24, no. 6. In 1994-95, Sadeghi-Fassaei conducted interviews with 101 of the 498 women being held in Tehran's Evin Prison in an effort to determine what traits the women had in common and what led to their incarceration. Sixty percent were from rural areas or small cities, although 95 percent of them had lived in Tehran at some point. Seventy-four percent of the female prisoners did not complete high school, 97 percent were or had been married, and 92 percent had children. Forty-one percent of the prisoners did not complete their education either because their parents thought it unnecessary or because they had to work to contribute to the family's welfare, and 26 percent discontinued their education because of marriage at a relatively young age.

All the interviewees were employed at the time of arrest (80 percent of the general prison population was unemployed at the time of arrest). Seventeen percent of the prisoners were in the civil service (teaching or government), while 83 percent worked in the private sector (for example, as servants, bricklayers, carpet makers, garment workers, hairdressers, secretaries, merchants, or factory owners). Of the women that Sadeghi-Fassaei interviewed, 46 percent were in prison on drug charges, 22 percent for sexual offenses (prostitution, brothel keeping, adultery, relations outside of marriage), 25 percent for fraud, theft, and forgery, and 8 percent for violent crimes (homicide, manslaughter, grievous bodily harm). Sixty-five percent of the women were in prison on their first offense.

The prisoners had common experiences of "marginalization, which often included the following: financial deprivation, incomplete education, substance abuse, lone parenthood, early marriage, and violent or volatile relationships." Yet their paths to prison varied on the basis of their individual circumstances. "Given the limited options available to them under structural and interpersonal constraints, the women's criminal actions can be understood as rational responses and, therefore, as expressions of agency," Sadeghi-Fassaei and Kendall assert.

Sadeghi-Fassaei and Kendall found that the women with higher education and greater income were more frequently imprisoned for forgery, fraud, and violent crimes. The women of "lower class status" were involved in sexual and narcotics offenses more often. All of the violent offenses occurred in the context of intimate and often abusive relationships. The fraud and bad-check offenses, according to the case studies cited by the researchers, were linked with unsuccessful business ventures or the inability to repay home loans. And in some cases, "the women came from families rich in criminal histories."

Sadeghi-Fassaei did not avoid interviews with female political prisoners intentionally, but "prison officials stated that no such women were incarcerated when the research was being carried out [1994-95]." Prisons Organization chief Bakhtiari gave a possible explanation for this a few years later. According to the 29 October 2001 "Aftab-i Yazd," he said, "From the legal standpoint, so long as political crimes remain undefined, we cannot say precisely whether we have any political prisoners or not -- even though it might be supposed by some that, for instance, those convicted on account of press offenses are prisoners convicted on political grounds." (Bill Samii)

...AS OTHERS GET OUT. Prisons Organization chief Bakhtiari said last year that there are about 170,000 people imprisoned in Iran. Bakhtiari went on to say that plans to reduce the prison population by one-third include forced payment of cash fines, floggings, and internal exile, IRNA reported on 20 August 2001.

Speaking more recently, Bakhtiari said that about 20,000 prisoners will receive pardons from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by 20 April, which would reduce the total prison population to about 157,000. He added that individuals imprisoned for drug addiction will be transferred to camps for occupational therapy and training as of 21 March, IRNA reported on 17 March.

(Hojatoleslam Qahremani, the director general of the Judiciary's amnesty department, said these figures are only unofficial estimates, "Bonyan" reported on 8 April. In fact, Prisons chief Bakhtiari's powers extend to a relatively small number of Iran's penitentiaries, and Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi has described some 600,000 in prison; see the 22 January 2001 and 19 February 2002 "RFE/RL Iran Report.")

Moreover, more than 1,200 people imprisoned on manslaughter charges were to be released on the eve of the Iranian new year on 21 March. Office to Help Vulnerable Prisoners chief Assadollah Julaei said his organization collected donations to cover the court-imposed fines ("diyeh" or blood-money) that the prisoners themselves could not pay, "Iran Daily" reported on 18 March. The blood-money (150 million rials; $86,000 at the official exchange rate or $18,750 at the open rate) must be paid to the family of the victim before the offender can be released. Julaei said there are some 3,000 such prisoners. (Bill Samii)

DEALING WITH THE LEGACY OF THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR. Iranian POW and MIA Commission chief Brigadier General Abdullah Najafi said a delegation from Iraq would visit Tehran by 20 April to continue discussions about missing servicemen. Speaking on 25 March, the day commemorating POWs and MIAs, Najafi said that through such discussions 98 percent of the two sides' contending claims on POWs have been resolved, Tehran radio reported. Baghdad responded officially and in writing that 2,644 people about whom Tehran had evidence that they were still prisoners are not being held in Iraq. Tehran provided a similar response about 2,593 people that the Iraqis claimed are prisoners.

Brigadier General Mohammad Nabizadeh, from the Iranian Army's ground forces, said during a 25 March visit to Khorramshahr that army personnel have cleared Iraqi mines and explosives from about 7,000 hectares of land in Ilam, Kermanshah, and Khuzestan provinces. He added, according to IRNA, that 3.217 million antipersonnel mines, 914,000 antitank mines, and 4,236 miscellaneous munitions have been defused. The land is now under cultivation or is used for residential purposes, Nabizadeh said.

And speaking on the same day, IRNA Managing Director Abdullah Nasseri-Taheri said the national media has an important part to play in transferring wartime values to future generations, according to IRNA. As he toured the battlefronts near Abadan and Khorramshahr, Nasseri-Taheri said the two cities symbolize the Iranian nation's resistance and courage. (Bill Samii)