In an open letter
addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a group of Iranian-born academics based in the United States and in Europe have warned of the spread of superstition in Iran by state officials.
They say the spread of superstition has reached its "climax" in the Islamic republic since the coming to power of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in 2005.
The letter's signatories -- including professor Abbas Milani, head of Iranian studies at Stanford University, and other prominent academics and researchers such as Iranian-Canadian professor and author Ramin Jahanbegloo -- point to comments by Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who said last month that adultery increases the risk of earthquakes
They say Sedighi's comments "reflect ignorance and religious prejudice at a scale that is even beyond the expectation of the Islamic republic regime."
Excerpts from the letter, as posted on Farsi news websites:
"On one hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran wants nuclear technology; while on the other, the high-ranking clergy claims that sexual relations with women can shake the earth. The question is whether the rein of Iran's nuclear ambitions can be handed over to these uninformed fanatics that are afflicted with superstitions.
"The destructive consequence of this superstitious ideology levels the ground for violation of women's rights and suppression and negation of freedom, particularly the freedom of women in Iran. We recommend to the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Ali Khamenei to officially prevent such unacademic statements by his senior advisers.
"As long as the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to openly violate the human rights and the rights of women; as we see the arrests, imprisonment, torture, and execution of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, it is not befitting that the Islamic Republic of Iran should have representation in international bodies including the UN Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Women's Affairs."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari