Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda
(Washington, DC -- August 9, 2007) Radio Farda covered breaking news of the arrest of labor leaders at the home of jailed Tehran Bus Company union president Mansour Osanlou, aired interviews with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and Congressman Brad Sherman, and covered the banning of the prominent newspaper "Shargh" as well as the sentencing of labor activists arrested while trying to mark the May Day workers' holiday.
>> Radio Farda reported on August 9 that five members of the Tehran bus drivers union had been detained by security forces before entering the home of the union's jailed leader, Mansour Osanlou. Those arrested include the vice-president of the board of directors of the Syndicate (Union) of Workers of the Tehran Bus Company, Ebrahim Madadi, along with syndicate members Yaghoub Salimi, Davoud Razavi, Homayoun Jaberi and Ebrahim Gohari. The union had issued a statement on August 4 inviting workers, journalists and supporters of workers' rights, justice and civil rights to gather at Osanlou's home to call for the immediate release of Osanlou and Mahmoud Salehi, the spokesperson for the Organizational Committee to Establish Trade Unions and former head of the Saqez Bakers' Union. The gathering was part of a worldwide day of action to free the two men (http://www.radiofarda.com/Article/2007/08/09/f7_Iran_arressting.html; http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/08/3FD173CC-FDCF-4FE2-8023-1A7DF4BCA36C.html).
Also on August 9, Radio Farda interviewed Fereshteh Osanlou, the sister of jailed union leader Mansour Osanlou, who confirmed the arrests in front of Osanlou's home. According to Osanlou, security forces beat up whoever approached the house in order to prevent them from entering. The streets leading to his home, Ms. Osanlou told Radio Farda, are blocked by security forces and plainclothes agents: "Mansour Osanlou's house has now turned into a prison and no one is allowed to enter or exit it" (http://www.radiofarda.com/Article/2007/08/09/f2_Osanlou-update.html).
>> On August 6, Radio Farda's nightly "Midnight Magazine" program aired an interview with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch. Emphasizing that the U.S. is very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, Welch told Radio Farda, "Now there is such a focus on Iran because of the nuclear threat that, some times, our voice and those of others [concerning human rights-eds.] are drowned out a bit by the intensity of that concern." Welch told Radio Farda that he found the recent U.S.-Iran talks in Iraq unproductive, but said it was important to meet and put issues on the table, "so the people on the other side will hear our concern." Welch said he hoped the Iranian government would take action on the concerns expressed by the U.S. (http://tinyurl.com/ywrj4j).
>> Radio Farda reported on August 6 that eleven workers who were arrested on May Day in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province were sentenced to 91 days in prison and 10 lashes. The court charged the workers with "disrupting public order through participating in an illegal assembly and making commotion."
In an interview that day with Radio Farda, Union of Dismissed and Unemployed Workers of Iran spokesman and board member Jafar Azimzadeh said that police forces had been deployed before the May Day rally started in Sanandaj, ready to attack demonstrating workers, so it cannot be said that the workers' assembly disrupted anything and only then did police attack them. Azimzadeh called the "disrupting public order" charge faced by the workers a "threadbare" accusation thrown at civil activists who hold demonstrations to secure their rights in Iran. Issuing lashing sentences to workers is unprecedented in Iran, Azimzadeh told Radio Farda: "They want to lash workers whose backs are already bent under poverty and work pressures... This is a medieval sentence" (http://www.radiofarda.com/Article/2007/08/06/f7_Iran_Lashes.html).
>> Radio Farda reported that, on August 6, the Press Supervisory Board of Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned the daily newspaper "Shargh" for the third time during its 5 years of publication. Citing ISNA, Radio Farda reported that the paper's license holder and managing director, Mehdi Rahmanian said the reason for banning this time was the publication of an interview with female expatriate poet Saghi Ghahreman, whom the hardline daily newspaper "Kayhan" referred to as a "counterrevolutionary fugitive" and the head of an "Iranian homosexual organization." Ghahreman told Radio Farda that she only talked about the difference between feminine and masculine language in literature with Shargh.
In an interview that day with Radio Farda, journalist Isa Saharkhiz said there is nothing in this interview which can justify the banning of "Shargh." The theme of this interview, Saharkhiz told Radio Farda, is women's literature, esp. poetry. Saharkhiz also said elections to fill the position of Chairman of Iran's influential Assembly of Experts may be another reason for banning "Shargh," "considering the close ties of this paper and its journalists with Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is himself a candidate" for the chairmanship (http://www.radiofarda.com/Article/2007/08/06/o1_shargh_banned.html; http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/8/0F016EFF-2083-4721-A79D-F7613EB16741.html).
>> Radio Farda's nightly "Midnight Magazine" on August 1 aired an interview with U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) on the adoption the previous day of the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act (H.R. 2347). Rep. Sherman told Radio Farda the purpose of the bill is to show Iranians that their government's effort to develop nuclear weapons may damage hopes for the country's prosperity. "The goal is not to hurt Iran's economy, but to change Iran's behavior," stressed Sherman. Rep. Sherman also told Radio Farda he considered the bill to be an effort to change the behavior of Europe-based multinational corporations. "This bill sweeps away some legal arguments and some excuses, so that those who manage pension plans in the U.S. and mutual funds and public sector pension plans... can divest themselves of those particular European companies that have chosen to invest 20 million dollar in the Iranian oil sector or who have lent money to the Iranian government or who are selling weapons to the Iranian government," Rep. Sherman said (http://tinyurl.com/2dazyq).
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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