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Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Aerospace Force
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Aerospace Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, says Turkey should expect "deformed children and incurable diseases" as the result of NATO’s planned missile shield.

Tehran has previously made clear its displeasure at Turkey's agreement to deploy an early warning system for missiles, part of the NATO shield structure, on its soil.

Iranian officials have said the plan will be used as an "eye" for Israel by giving it greater surveillance over countries in the region.

The shield is intended primarily to counter perceived threats from Iran and North Korea, although Turkish officials have said the system is not aimed at any specific country.

The claim by the Hajizadeh, which he did not back with any scientific data, is the latest in a series of warnings Tehran has issued against the plan.

Hajizadeh warned last year that his country could target the relevant installations in Turkey if faced with a military attack.

"We have prepared ourselves if any threat is staged against Iran," he was quoted as saying last November. "We will target NATO's missile shield in Turkey and will then attack other targets."

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, however, dismissed the threats and reassured Turkey that they are not Iran's official policy, according to reports by Turkish media.

Iran and Turkey have also been at odds over Tehran’s main regional ally, Syria.

Ankara has been vocal in the international condemnation of the government crackdown in Syria, while Iran appears to be determined to continue supporting the Bashar al-Assad government.

Earlier this month Iranian officials sharply criticized Turkey for hosting a conference on the Syrian crisis.

Despite the recent tensions, Turkey has also played an important role as a facilitator for nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
A dog makes his getaway in this file photo from Tehran.

The Iranian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals (SPCA) says that 20 pet dogs were recently arrested in a park in Tehran.

The dogs were reportedly being walked by their owners in the Pardisan Park last week when security forces took the canines away and transferred them to what appears to be a detention center.

The SPCA has posted on its website a video of the arrested dogs inside a cage. The group warns that the dogs are being kept in “unhygienic and difficult conditions” and that their owners have not been yet able to secure their release.

Reza Javalchi, the SPCA spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that the dogs will likely be kept in the detention center for a while and then released after their owners sign a written document promising not to walk their dogs in public.

But every day in confinement is dangerous for the animals, Javalchi says.

“Unfortunately, because these dogs are being kept together, they often become sick and they’re not being given enough food. There have been some cases where some of the dogs have died during their detention."

This isn't the first time that security forces have cracked down on dogs and their owners in the Islamic republic, where dog ownership has always been a sensitive issue. In 2007, a number of dogs in the Iranian capital ended up in a “dog prison" after police forces took them away from their owners who were walking them in the streets.

Dogs are considered dirty by Iranian clerics, who have denounced dog ownership as morally corrupt. In recent years, police officials have issued warnings against dog owners. Dog owners and their pets have been harassed, detained, and forced to pay fines. That hasn't stopped Iranians in Tehran and other big cities from keeping dogs as pets, however.

Javalchi says there are no legal prohibitions in Iranian law against it.

“We’ve asked police forces not to act against the laws in many cases. We’ve written many letters and we’ve also prepared a complaint. It is due to be processed in the name of some of those people whose pets have been hurt as the result of these actions. We‘d like to ask the judiciary to prevent security forces from breaking the law," he said.

One woman who owns a small terrier told RFE/RL that dog ownership is becoming increasingly difficult in Iran.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “Instead of solving people’s economic problems, the [authorities] harass us for having dogs.”

-- Golnaz Esfandiari with Radio Farda's Mohammad Zarghami

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About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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