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Iran Report: January 9, 2006

9 January 2006, Volume 9, Number 1

IRAN UNENTHUSIASTIC OVER RUSSIAN FUEL PROPOSALS... The West grew increasingly concerned in early January by Iran's stated intention to resume potentially sensitive nuclear-research activities, but it will find little consolation in Iran's apparent disdain for a recent Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory. The proposal is an ostensible safeguard measure, intended to allay Western concerns over possible misuse of enrichment activities for military purposes.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on 24 December that its embassy in Tehran had forwarded its proposals to the Iranian government, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi denied on 25 December that Iran had received any concrete proposal, according to news agencies. Assefi said Iran will "consider positively any...proposal that recognizes [its] rights and approves Iran's right to enrich uranium on Iranian soil," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 26 December.

On 26 December in Tehran, Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hussein Elham also rejected the proposals, but said Russia "can, like other countries, participate in Iran's peaceful nuclear activities within the framework of our declared principles," IRNA reported the same day. Elham said Iran's "firm position" is to enrich uranium inside Iran, with the provision of "objective guarantees to the international community" that such enrichment is "for peaceful purposes within the framework of international laws," IRNA reported. He said Iran considers fuel production a "commercial" endeavor and is "ready to accept foreign investment in these activities."

On 28 December, one of Iran's leading negotiators, Supreme National Security Council deputy head Javad Vaidi, struck an ambivalent note. He told ISNA that Iran might "seriously and enthusiastically" consider the proposal "based on the formation of a joint Iranian-Russian company on Russian territory to enrich uranium," if it implements Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) stipulations on technology transfers. "We believe that the Russian proposal can implement some of the neglected regulations of the NPT on technology transfer to states that do not have them, and break the existing scientific monopoly in this regard," he said. However, Iran will not forego any treaty rights on fuel production. "Iran precisely wants all its rights within the NPT, and stands by all its commitments in this framework," Vaidi said. Whatever the "meaning" of the Russian proposal, he said, "it will not signify any regulations beyond the NPT nor deprive Iran of its treaty rights."

Other officials have said the proposal has problems Tehran needs to discuss with the Russians. Mohammad Saidi, deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said on 3 January that the proposal "has numerous ambiguities and flaws," which Iranians would have to discuss with a Russian delegation scheduled to visit Iran on 7-8 January, ISNA reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi said the same day that Russia had merely proposed an "idea," which Iran would consider, but "bear in mind that examining the proposal is not the same as accepting it," ISNA reported. "We will talk with [the Russian delegation arriving on 7 January] to see what the plan is that they have in mind, which we have not yet received." If "that enrichment should only be in Russia, we have already said such a plan is not acceptable," he said. (Vahid Sepehri)

...WHILE LEGISLATORS DISTRUST RUSSIA. In comments published on 3 January in the daily "Aftab-i Yazd," Iranian legislators expressed distrust of Russia and its fuel-making proposal. Mohammad Nabi Rudaki, deputy chairman of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said enrichment will have to take place in Iran, given the country's intention to build several power plants. Fuel production "has turned into a national wish" and a "red line," for Iran, he said.

Boinzahra representative Qodratollah Alikhani told the daily, "We do not take a very optimistic view of the Russian proposal, and prefer negotiating with the Europeans." The plan, he said, is a proposal that "[U.S. President George W.] Bush and the Americans support. Generally if the Europeans make a deal, they tend to honor their pledges more than Russia. History has shown that we have not been able to work with the Russians, and Russia abandons us at the halfway point."

Bushehr representative Shokrollah Atarzadeh said Russia "has not dealt with us in a straight and transparent manner." He added, "We should expand the scope of our relations" with the EU, and seek relations with "all countries with technology." (Vahid Sepehri)

IRAN INTENDS TO RESUME NUCLEAR RESEARCH... Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in writing on 3 January of its intention to resume unspecified nuclear research work on 9 January, AP and Reuters reported the same day, citing remarks made on state television by Iranian Atomic Energy Organization deputy head Mohammad Saidi. IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei told IAEA board members that he would ask Iran to explain what exactly it intended to do, Reuters reported on 3 January. Saidi said research will be "on the technology of nuclear fuel," has "no relation to the production of nuclear fuel," and will be "under [IAEA] supervision," ISNA reported on 3 January. The West wants Iran to abandon fuel production for its contested nuclear program. Saidi said that "no decision has been made yet on" fuel production, but that the suspension of research for over two years has greatly harmed the country and its researchers.

The same day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi told reporters in Tehran that "research has nothing to do with [uranium] enrichment [or] production of nuclear fuel, and I stress that also not one of the subjects of negotiation," IRNA reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

...BUT FAILS TO ELABORATE.... Iran heightened Western concerns over its program when its diplomats failed to meet as scheduled with IAEA Director-General el-Baradei in Vienna on 5 January to elaborate on research Iran has said it will resume, news agencies reported the same day. El-Baradei met on 4 January with Iranian IAEA representative Mohammad-Mehdi Akhundzadeh, who did not give details of planned research, Reuters reported, but a meeting was set for 5 January. The meeting "never took place," AP quoted IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming as saying on 5 January. An unnamed Western diplomat told AP this was an "unusual" rebuff, and possibly a reaction by the Iranians to criticism of Tehran's activities by el-Baradei in the 4 January meeting and his firm demand that Tehran cooperate more with the UN agency. He was not expecting a rescheduled meeting, AP added. (Vahid Sepehri)

...WHILE U.S. THREATENS RESPONSE. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington on 5 January that if "it is clear negotiations are exhausted," the United States is ready to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for any apparent violation of nonproliferation commitments. "We have the votes, there is a resolution sitting there on the Security Council, we'll vote it," AFP quoted Rice as saying. Iran is to resume talks with the EU over its dossier on 18 January, "The News York Times" reported on 4 January. (Vahid Sepehri)

ENVOY EXPLAINS IRAN'S PLANS IN DAMASCUS. Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Reza Baqeri was in Damascus on 5 January to explain Iran's nuclear plans and discuss regional politics with Syrian officials, including President Bashar al-Assad and Faruq al-Shara, IRNA reported the same day. "It was necessary to come and provide our friends, and the [IAEA], with explanations. I gave explanations today to our Syrian friends who are [IAEA] members," he told reporters. He said he gave al-Assad an unwritten message from Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, praised Syria's "firm" positions, presumably in support of Iran, and said that "Iran, as always, stands by Syria." In all "regional issues, whether political, economic, social, and cultural, we coordinate ourselves, and are thinking together over what is going on these days in the region and in Syria." He said Iran, Syria, and Lebanon have continuously consulted with each other to "mitigate the crisis in relations between Syria and Lebanon." In his meeting earlier with Baqeri, President al-Assad said Syria supports Iran's right to "have nuclear science," IRNA reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

BOOK ALLEGES MISTAKE EXPOSED U.S. SPIES IN IRAN. "The New York Times" reporter James Risen writes in his new book -- "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration" -- that a Central Intelligence Agency officer in the United States exposed an entire spy network when she sent a secret message to an agent in Iran in 2004. The Iranian was a double agent, and the information was used to arrest and imprison members of the agency's network in Iran. The fate of some agents is unknown. This incident may explain why a nine-member panel appointed by President Bush, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, found in March 2005 there is inadequate intelligence on Iran's suspected weapons program, and White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said around the same time that "intelligence in Iran is hard to come by" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 March and 4 April 2005). The identification of U.S. assets in Iran, furthermore, may explain repeated hints by Iranian officials that they identified and fed false information to individuals spying on Iran's nuclear program. (Bill Samii)

PRESIDENT DENOUNCES ISRAEL, WESTERN CHARGES AGAINST IRAN... Speaking in Qom on 5 January, President Ahmadinejad denounced Israel and its Western supporters, and said regional states cannot tolerate that "rotten state" in their midst, ILNA reported the same day. "When you cannot tolerate this rotten regime beside yourselves," he said, addressing unspecified Western states, "how do you expect regional nations to tolerate that regime. Not just Palestine, but other Islamic states will not tolerate" it.

For "60 years now," the "occupiers murder [Palestinians] every day, he said, adding that if Jews were mass murdered in World War II, "who did this other than your own governments," so why should Palestinians pay for it, he asked.

Ahmadinejad also rejected Western charges of Iran's disrespect for human rights and alleged attempt to produce nuclear weapons. "Those who are oppressors cannot call for...justice," he said. "Where there is war, occupation, and violation of the rights of nations, these presumptuous people are there, participating in the killing and aggression...but [then] speak of peace and justice," ISNA quoted him as saying. "The record of these self-styled defenders of human filled with injustice, crimes and blackness," he said. "We say, those who support the criminals ruling Palestine have no right to speak of human rights, those who have built secret prisons, who snatch their opponents and secretly jail, torture and torment them, have no right to speak of peace and security," he said.

He suggested Iranian monitors examine the state of human rights in Europe and the United States. Those states that have used "arsenals full of nuclear and chemical weapons," he continued, now want Iran to forego nuclear technology. "They say we have no evidence of your deviation, but doubt your intentions. We say we...are certain of your rotten intentions," ILNA reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

...AND HOPES ISRAELI LEADER DIES. Seemingly not one to omit vitriol from his speeches, President Ahmadinejad said in a separate speech to a gathering of clerics in Qom on 5 January that "you heard today, and God willing it is correct, that the criminal of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors, and God willing, the rest of them will join him soon," ISNA reported on 6 January.

He was referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was in intensive medical care following a massive stroke on 4 January. Sharon as Israeli defense minister directed Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. That indirectly led to the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut by Israel's Lebanese Christian allies. An Israeli commission of inquiry found Sharon indirectly responsible, as Israeli soldiers occupying Beirut did not intervene to stop the killing.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington on 5 January that Ahmadinejad's remarks were "hateful and disgusting," and "a window into the true nature of this particular Iranian government." The remarks, he added in statements reported on the State Department website, are "part of the continuing stream of hateful invective that has come from this president." (Vahid Sepehri)

LIBERALS DISENCHANTED WITH AHMADINEJAD GOVERNMENT. The Iran Freedom Movement, a liberal political party, has criticized the Ahmadinejad government in a statement, saying it is hostile to civil liberties and meritocracy at home, and has isolated Iran abroad, Radio Farda reported on 5 January. Ahmad Sadr Haji-Seyyed-Javadi told Radio Farda that "Mr. Ahmadinejad...has no idea of the depth of the disaster among the people, that is the lack of freedom...of freedom of speech and thought." He said the Freedom Movement wants people to be able to "state their opinions and speak out," and even though the president has promised "kindness" with Iranians, "what is seen and what people notice is that none of the people's problems have been solved." Haji-Seyyed-Javadi was briefly justice minister in the provisional government that followed the fall of the monarchy in 1979. (Vahid Sepehri)

GOVERNMENT DISMISSES EAVESDROPPING CONCERNS. Government spokesman Gholam-Hussein Elham told journalists on 26 December that the government is neither eavesdropping nor recording Iranians' phone calls or text messages, contrary to concerns expressed by some legislators, as such practices would be illegal, IRNA reported. The legislators were reacting to a Telecommunications Ministry statement that citizens' "short messages" are recorded and might "if necessary, be given to relevant officials with a judicial permit, confidentially," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 26 December. Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Suleimani previously said that officials investigating the recent crash of a military transport plane might be given recordings of the conversations of passengers on the plane (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 December 2005), according to "Aftab-i Yazd."

Legislator Abdullah Husseini said on 25 December that "any eavesdropping or recording of...calls or messages is without a doubt [unconstitutional], and even if a judge permits [this], it has to be in specific cases and based on evidence," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. Elham said the government considers it its "legal and religious" duty to implement "in its entirety" the Iranian Constitution, which protects private conversations against "any violation," IRNA reported on 26 December. (Vahid Sepehri)

OFFICIAL URGES IRAN TO PREPARE FOR WTO ENTRY. Deputy Trade Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari told ISNA on 25 December that Iran must increase its bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with selected states, as it moves to adhere gradually to World Trade Organization (WTO) guidelines. He said Iranian diplomats talked to trade representatives from 10 countries with which Iran wishes to enhance trade ties on the sidelines of the WTO summit in Hong Kong that concluded on 25 December. "Bilateral and multilateral pacts are the world today, so for our country to be present on the world stage, we need to move toward increasing such pacts," Ghazanfari said. A meeting on the sideline of the summit, he said, concluded that Iran currently has the "least number" of "multilateral, bilateral, and regional agreements," ISNA reported. Iranian envoys had "constructive talks" with envoys from Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iraq, and other states, he said. Iran, Ghazanfari added, must identify its "relative advantages" and exportable products, and needs a "national strategy" on joining the WTO, after which "we have to choose which industries we shall support." He urged changes to domestic laws to cut production costs. (Vahid Sepehri)

TEHRAN BUS DRIVERS STRIKE OVER WAGES, ARRESTS OF ACTIVISTS. Tehran bus drivers went on strike on 25 December to protest over wages and the recent arrest of 14 bus drivers' association leaders, news agencies and Radio Farda reported on 25 December, apparently causing traffic chaos in the capital. Tehran-based journalist Arash Irani told Radio Farda on 26 December that the strike "paralyzed Tehran" by depriving it of about 1,000 buses.

On 22 December, authorities arrested association leaders including Mansur Osanlu and Mansur Hayat-Gheibi, though the latter was released on 24 December, Radio Farda reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 September and 26 October 2005). The strike followed a 24 December meeting of bus-company officials, driver representatives, and police, with "no tangible results," deputy association head Ibrahim Madadi told Radio Farda on 25 December. He said four more association leaders and an unspecified number of members were arrested on 25 December, although there was little violence with police, after some early scuffles.

The strike received statements of support from the Office for Strengthening Unity student group, the Association of Iran Writers, and workers from state-owned car manufacturer Iran Khodro, Radio Farda reported on 26 December.

Late on 25 December, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf persuaded striking drivers to resume work the next day, promising to address wage demands, and work for the release of arrested activists, Radio Farda reported on 26 December, quoting Ibrahim Madadi. Qalibaf informed a crowd of 3,000-4,000 people around midnight on 25 December that the mayor's office would thenceforth oversee the Tehran bus company's affairs, and he pledged to "make the utmost efforts" to secure the release of several arrested union leaders and strikers, Madadi told Radio Farda. In response to the promises, he said, "We decided to announce an end to the strike," given the widespread need for Tehran buses, "especially by weaker groups." He added, "[We] are waiting...for our first demand, the release of detainees, to be met."

On 3 January, "thousands" of Tehran bus drivers and sympathizers gathered in a Tehran stadium to hear Qalibaf speak, but also to call for Osanlu's release. He was reportedly then the only bus-related activist still detained, Radio Farda reported on 3 January, citing Ibrahim Madadi. He told Radio Farda that the crowd also called for the right to form a representative trade union, which he said is recognized by Article 26 of Iran's constitution. He said drivers' association representatives talked with the Tehran judiciary and asked them to allow Osanlu's wife and child to visit him in Tehran's Evin Prison. He also expressed concern over Osanlu's health, observing that he has an ailing heart and unspecified eye problems; the judiciary has asked to see medical papers to prove this, he added. (Vahid Sepehri)

SECURITY OFFICIAL WANTS TEHRAN RID OF ADDICTS AND VAGABONDS. Abdullah Roshan, the deputy governor of Tehran Province for security affairs, said on 26 December that Tehran and its environs must "be cleansed as soon as possible of the most visible drug addicts and vagabonds," adding that police have arrested more than 93,000 "addicts, traffickers, and people involved in drug sales and distribution" in the nine-month period from 20 March, when the current Persian year began, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 27 December.

Drug seizures in the greater Tehran area during that period included 700,000 ecstasy pills, 1,205 kilograms of hashish, and 557 kilograms of heroin, Roshan said, citing Tehran police sources. He expressed concern that most drug deals take place in or around the capital and that most drugs coming from Iran's eastern provinces end up in the same area. Heroin use has increasingly given way to the use of crack, or "compressed heroin...which is far more destructive than heroin," "Aftab-i Yazd" quoted Roshan as saying. The price of crack has "also fallen sharply since the start of the year," Roshan said.

Separately on 6 January, Drug Control Headquarters Secretary Fada-Hussein Maleki said in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, that the Ahmadinejad government is "seriously determined to fight the sinister phenomenon of drugs," IRNA reported the same day. He told a press conference that the agency and the president agreed at a meeting that all "state institutions coordinate themselves in their response to drugs, treatment of addicts and prevention." He said that as drugs are a problem across the whole region, "we have especially...held numerous meeting with certain European states with an essential role in...Afghanistan, and are trying with international coordination to prevent" drugs from coming to Iran. (Vahid Sepehri)

IRANIAN SECURITY BODY BLOCKS PRIVATE SATELLITE CHANNEL... Iran's Supreme National Security Council has blocked the intended launch of an independent satellite channel by former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karrubi, news agencies reported on 26 December. Saba TV was to broadcast news and factual programs in Persian but was "temporarily" ordered closed after authorities informed Managing Director Behruz Afkhami that the network is illegal, the BBC and AFP reported on 26 December. Afkhami told the BBC that Iranian security agents prevented the transfer of Saba's first recorded program from Iran to Dubai, whence the network was to broadcast. Karrubi and Afkhami are postponing broadcasting, citing the uncertain position of their staff, but have said they will take the Supreme National Security Council to court, news agencies reported.

Broadcasting is a state monopoly in Iran. The council informed Iranian media on 21 December, when the channel was to start broadcasting, that Saba was illegal and they could not advertise it, while the Intelligence and Culture ministries informed Afkhami personally of the ban, he told the BBC. Reporters Without Borders deplored the ban in a 27 December statement and called this "one more example of the battle by [Iranian] media for freedom of expression." (Vahid Sepehri)

...AND BROADCASTER BLAMES COUNCIL CHIEF. Mehdi Karrubi said in Tehran on 28 December that Saba will start broadcasting, and "if its programs are not better and more useful" than those of state television and radio, "I am prepared to be whipped in public," ISNA reported the same day.

He dismissed fears that his network could threaten state interests. "Everybody knows I have never gone beyond...the constitution and [political system], so why should I be restricted today? If they will not tolerate us, who will they tolerate?"

Karrubi ran for the presidency in June and was speaking at the opening of the central office of the National Trust Party that he recently founded. "We had asked" the authorities to allow Saba to broadcast for two months before reacting, he said, "but there was no patience."

Karrubi blamed Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani for being "the main instigator and responsible" for the ban, ISNA reported. Larijani had asked the Guardians Council, a body of unelected jurists, to rule on the legality of Saba, and they decided it was unconstitutional. Karrubi said that "nowhere does the law have what these gentlemen have said," ISNA reported. (Vahid Sepehri)

FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS IRAQ BOMB ATTACKS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi condemned in Tehran on 5 January the "continuation of terrorist acts in Iraq" and "the terrorist act today" near the Imam Hussein Shrine in Karbala, and said coalition forces in Iraq are "incapable and incompetent" in ensuring security there, ISNA reported the same day. He deplored how "those who do not want peace and security" in Iraq are acting to "create insecurity and killing innocent people," but Iran "expects Iraq's government to take firm measures to identify, arrest, and act against those responsible for this terrorist act, and maintain the security of pilgrims." Coalition forces, he observed, are mandated by the UN to maintain Iraq's security, but are "incapable and incompetent in creating security" there. Four Iranians were apparently killed in the Karbala attack, according to ISNA.

Iran's senior coordinator of pilgrimages to Mecca and the Iraqi Shi'ite shrines, Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammadi-Reyshahri, also condemned the attacks in Karbala on 6 January, and said the perpetrators were trying, in vain, to sow "discord between Shi'ite and Sunni brothers," IRNA reported the same day. (Vahid Sepehri)

FORMER IRANIAN PRESIDENT URGES REGIONAL UNITY. Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani met with Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Tehran, Usama bin Ahmad al-Sanusi, on 3 January, telling him Middle Eastern states should avoid discord that would open the way for foreign intervention in the region, ISNA reported the same day. "Some of the recent positions the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council has taken against Iran" regarding islands claimed by Iran and the United Arab Emirates are "removed from the truth," ISNA quoted Rafsanjani as saying (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 December 2005).

"The Persian Gulf has always been a target of the greed of the great powers, for its immense energy reserves and strategic position," and regional states have a duty "with unity and by avoiding mention of divisive issues, to prevent the opportunism of such powers," he said.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have a duty to help Iraqis "take over their own destiny, and create security and [Iraq's] political and economic progress," while Lebanon and Syria "need the help of Islamic states," he added without elaborating. (Vahid Sepehri)

IRAN, INDIA DISCUSS GAS PIPELINE. Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Hadi Nejad-Husseinian led a seven-member delegation to New Delhi on 27 December, for technical talks on a proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline to supply gas to India from 2010, news agencies reported on 28 December (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 and 23 March 2005).

Nejad-Husseinian told IRNA on 28 December that he expects the oil ministers of Iran, Pakistan, and India to sign an agreement on the pipeline in the Persian month to 20 March 2006. He said the Iran-India Joint Working Group on 28 and 29 December discussed the pricing of gas that Iran would sell India, "factors affecting pricing," the formulation of an agreement to be signed later by oil ministers, and two proposed scenarios for the project's implementation.

One option would be for each country to finance and build the portion of the pipeline on its territory, and the other would be to refer the project to one or two international consortiums, he told IRNA. The joint working group is scheduled to meet again in Tehran in January, after studying the latest proposals, Nejad-Husseinian said. (Vahid Sepehri)


By Golnaz Esfandiari

A group of Iranian Kurds has formed a movement that aims to "peacefully" demand rights that they say have been neglected or denied Iran's sizable Kurdish minority.

Kurds account for about 7 percent of Iran's population of 68 million, making them one of the country's largest ethnic groups. Most live in Iran's western provinces, amongst the least developed in the country.

The group claims to have the backing of Kurdish activists, NGOs, and several thousand supporters.

Speaking to RFE/RL, Bahaeddin Adab, the founder of the Kurdish United Front, said that democracy and equal rights are key aims of the group. "There is very little freedom in areas with a Kurdish population, and democracy for all Iranian people -- especially for Kurds -- is a necessity," he said.

"The second issue is equal rights," he continued, claiming that "Kurdish areas suffer from discrimination and [official] contempt in all political, economic, social and cultural areas of life. Kurds have no share in the distribution of power or regarding economic development; the four Kurdish provinces of our country are not developed and are deprived. They face limitations in their cultural activities, which is preventing cultural development."

Adab blames inequality and neglect for a "social problems that never before existed in Kurdish areas. Divorce, suicide, and [drug] addiction, for example, are widespread now."

He also linked these problems to violent clashes with the authorities seen in several Kurdish cities in the summer of 2005. In July, the shooting in Mahabad of a Kurd, Shavaneh Qaderi, by security forces led to demonstrations and dozens of arrests. The unrest spread to other cities -- including Baneh, Sanandaj, and Sardasht -- and reportedly resulted in the deaths of several civilians and police officers.

Adab sees a lack of representation as a major contributory factor in the unrest, which he believes demonstrated the need to create the Kurdish United Front. "Because such issues are brought up and pursued individually, there are no results. That leads to the use of violence by the government," he contends. "That has a high cost for the nation and that is not, we believe, in the interests of the people or of the government because it widens the gap between the people and the establishment."

Iranian authorities blamed the unrest on "hooligan and criminal elements" and charged that "public and state-owned buildings, including banks, were damaged."

A number of rights activists and journalists were imprisoned after the killings, some of them for long terms. Human-rights organizations have called for their release and for an investigation into the deaths. Adab, who said the summer's violence "offended the majority of the people," promised that the front would work within the framework of law and would eschew violence.

The Kurdish United Front says a recent opinion poll in areas with Kurdish population showed that most people supported the creation of a front that would enable them to pursue and assert their legitimate rights.

Adab insists that the movement is not an official party or a nongovernmental organization. Such groups require the state's permission to meet, advertise, and register new members. A number of Kurdish parties are banned in Iran.

The front plans to help Kurdish representatives gain seats in city councils and in the national parliament, as well as to raise Kurds' awareness of their rights.

In August, the UN's special rapporteur on housing and land rights, Miloon Kothari, concluded at the end of a 12-day visit to Iran that minorities in Iran, including the Kurds, face discrimination when it comes to gaining access to housing, civic services, and land.

While Adab is optimistic that his group will be able to achieve positive results, other Kurdish activists in Iran express doubt. "Our current president [Mahmud Ahmadinejad] also talks about the same issue. He says he wants justice for all Iranians," said Mohammad Sadegh Kabudvand, head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan. "Mr. Adab also says the same thing, or he talks about democracy. The reformists also spoke of democracy. But do the Kurdish people have democracy and justice? No."

Kabudvand is similarly skeptical about the prospects that Kurds' language rights will be observed. "Mr. Adab says we will work within the framework of law. The law says ethnic languages can be taught. These laws have been in place for the past 25 years, but will the government let them be applied? No step has been taken in an issue as basic as this, let alone regarding the other rights that Kurdish people are demanding."

Kabudvand instead sees the formation of the Kurdish United Front as a personal political vehicle for Adab and other members of the movement. "Most activists believe that this front wants to gain a share of power once more. That is all," he told RFE/RL.

Adab, an outspoken former member of parliament, was barred from running again for parliament in 2004 after the Guardians Council, which oversees elections and vets legislation, disqualified him from the race, along with thousands of other independent and reform-minded candidates.