Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda
(Prague, Czech Republic � June 15, 2006) Radio Farda's major stories this week included an interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, continuing reaction to the incentive package offered to Iran to give up nuclear enrichment, assessment of the "Retribution Law," coverage of a rally for women's rights in Tehran, and a political protest staged at Iran's first World Cup match in Germany.
>> U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answered questions from a Radio Farda Washington correspondent after a briefing for Senators on Capitol Hill June 13. In the interview aired that day, she told Radio Farda Iran has "weeks, not months" to respond to the incentive package offered by China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany. Rice noted that the congressional briefing was mostly about Iraq and that: "it is important that Iraq's neighbors act in a transparent way. It's important that Iraq's neighbors act in a way that contributes to the stability of Iraq, not detracts from that stability" (http://www.radiofarda.com/iran_article/2006/6/23d50998-66bb-4b9b-8836-8427d2a94a81.html; a full transcript of Rice's remarks can be accessed at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/67883.htm).
Tehran�s initial reaction to the incentive package was the subject of a special half-hour program aired on Radio Farda June 12. Participants in the panel discussion, moderated by Radio Farda's Mossaddegh Katouzian from Prague, were university professor and political adviser Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh in Tehran and Iran policy analyst Mohsen Sazgara in Washington. They agreed that Iran and the United States have both modified their initial positions and that the two sides are better placed than at any time in the past to reach a solution on large-scale nuclear enrichment. But Sazgara, a former political prisoner in Iran, cautioned that "if Washington agrees to give the Islamic Republic security guarantees, ignoring human rights and democracy violations, the United States will become unpopular with the people of Iran."
Radio Farda earlier aired a program on U.S. congressional reaction to the incentive package. A Radio Farda Washington correspondent interviewed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) who criticized the offer to Iran, saying "we are rewarding Iran, instead of punishing it for illegal behavior." Lehtinen has sponsored a bill proposing sanctions for Iran. Representative Vic Snyder (D-Arkansas) told Radio Farda he supports a diplomatic solution to the stand-off and that historically, Iranians and Americans have a strong bond with "shared values... and a lot of interest in commerce." Representative Curt Weldon (R-Pennsylvania) said the U.S. should pursue every opportunity for a dialogue with Iran. He said he is "troubled by the (Iranian) leadership, but I don't think the leadership reflects the will of the Iranian people."
>> Radio Farda's weekly "Viewpoints" debate focused June 13 on the controversial "Law of Retribution." This week marks 25 years since it was reintroduced by Iran�s post-revolutionary Islamic parliament with the support of clerics and against the protests of lawyers and jurists. Participating in Radio Farda's Prague studio was Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent human rights lawyer from Iran, now living in the United States, and by phone from Tehran, journalist Emadeddin Baghi, head of the "Right-to-Life Defenders" human rights group. Baghi, who spent four years in prison (from 2000 to 2004) for criticizing the law, said open debate of the Shariya law in Iran is difficult because of religious and political implications. He said debate on the issue should not be politicized and that his effort to conduct a dispassionate exchange of ideas on the issue has contributed in some instances to re-interpretation backed by reformist clerics in Qom. Kar said a few clerics have attempted to revise the inherently discriminatory Law of Retribution because of problems in enforcing and implementing it. But, she said the thinking of most clerics in positions of power in the Islamic Republic of Iran is still largely within the frame of the unrevised Law of Retribution.
>> Iranian police brutally dispersed a women's rights gathering of more than 100 protesters in Tehran June 12, beating participants and arresting more than 70 people. Radio Farda spoke to an eyewitness as people were assembling on Tir 7 Square. He said there were a lot of young women on the square, as well as a large number of uniformed police and non-uniform security forces waiting in nearby streets. The interviewee said he has to be careful not to be seen talking on a cell phone or he could be arrested for "spying for an enemy radio." Keyvan Rafi, spokesman of a new group called Human Rights Activists In Iran, told RFE/RL that police and security forces outnumbered the protesters and attacked the peaceful gathering: "police -- especially armed female officers with batons -- suppressed the protest," Rafi said. Another eyewitness told Radio Farda that female police used pepper spray, beat protestors with batons and �they dragged women on the ground by their hair into waiting buses" (http://www3.radiofarda.org/iran_article/2006/6/7cb0b632-6b22-4b5e-b8c6-2145d5cf5de8.html).
The night before the rally, Radio Farda interviewed one of the organizers by phone who said leaflets had been distributed a week earlier and that many men, as well as women supported the demand for equality. She also said the authorities were harassing activists with threatening phone calls and they were switching off their cell phones during the day. On the morning of June 12, Radio Farda was no longer able to reach the activist. Her husband said she had been arrested when she got to work that morning. In another program about the rally aired June 12, Radio Farda contacted Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi who pointed out that two thirds of Iran's university students are women and that gender discrimination laws are especially intolerable in a society where women are better educated than men. On June 8, Radio Farda broadcast an interview with another activist who said Iranian women are working together for equality and that "they have accepted that a social movement has its price, and they have to pay for it" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/06/b80b8cee-f7b7-44f3-8822-84c508c1e24e.html).
>> Radio Farda's sports correspondent in Germany is filing live reports from the World Cup games several times a day in response to intense interest among many Iranians. June 11, he was in Nuremberg to cover the Iranian team's first World Cup match, with Mexico. But shortly before the game, Radio Farda's focus was on politics, not sport, as an estimated 1,000 people rallied close to the Nuremberg stadium to protest Iranian government policies. The report from Radio Farda's correspondent said Iranian dissident groups in exile, along with German Jewish groups, and local politicians took part in the demonstration in central Nuremberg to denounce Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denials, anti-Israeli statements, and human rights violations. Earlier, Radio Farda broadcast a plea to the media by Iran's coach Branko Ivankovic to stop asking him about Ahmadinejad's statements on Israel and the Holocaust.
For more on these and other stories about Iran, please visit:
http://www.radiofarda.com -- Radio Farda's Persian-language website
http://www.rferl.org/reviews/farda.aspx -- "Focus on Farda" bi-weekly review
http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/default.asp -- "RFE/RL Iran Report" weekly analysis
http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/iran.html -- RFE/RL English-language coverage of Iran
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