Khatami slams campus magazine for playing into hands
of Iran conservatives
Also responses in Persian from: * Khatami
Nuri * Mohajerani
TEHRAN, Sept 27 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami slammed a
campus magazine late Sunday for playing into the hands of conservative
opponents of his reforms after it published an "offensive" play
which outraged Islamic hardliners here.
"The publication of offensive articles is a great injustice for
the revolution but also for the reform projects of the government,"
Khatami told his cabinet in a clear allusion to the play published by the
The reformist president called on journalists and writers "to avoid
giving any excuse to those have no scruples about exploiting matters of
religion to attack the government and its reforms."
Khatami made clear that he shared conservatives' anger about the play
which mocked the belief of Iran's Shiite Moslems in a hidden 12th imam
or Mahdi who will return to usher in an age of justice.
The president condemned what he described as "these offences against
the people's beliefs" and called on the security forces to investigate
the matter "in all its dimensions."
Khatami expressed particular concern that the play had been published
in a Tehran Polytechnic University review just as students returned to
college after a campus protest over press freedom sparked six days of bloody
riots here in July after it was attacked by police and Islamic hardliners.
The president urged the intelligence ministry to find out "why
a provocative article was published and vastly circulated just on the eve
of the reopening of the universities."
"It seems as though a certain group wants to create a haze across
the country with a particular ambition," Khatami charged without elaborating
on the identity of the group he suspected was behind it.
The president also expressed alarm that a play which was originally
published in a small circulation magazine should have been given such widespread
publicity causing offence across the country.
How was it that a play which was initially "published with a very
limited circulation was later widely reproduced across the country?"
Earlier Sunday more than 170 MPs from Iran's conservative-dominated
parliament signed a petition calling on Khatami to put an end to what they
described as attacks "by the press and cultural circles against Islam
and its sacred values."
"We call on you, who are also a member of the clergy, to pay more
attention to cultural affairs," the MPs told the president.
Parliament's conservative speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri singled out two
leading reformers -- Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani and Higher Education
Minister Mostafa Moin -- for blame over the Moj publication, accusing them
But Mohajerani fired back insisting that his ministry had no powers
over the licensing of campus magazines, the official IRNA news agency reported
Reformist supporters of Khatami have been swift to distance themselves
from the Moj article.
The pro-Khatami Islamic Student Association at Tehran Polytechnic quickly
announced the the suspension of the magazine and apologised to "the
people and to the believers."
The Moj article came as conservatives stepped up a clampdown on the
fledgling reformist press which has been one of the most tangible achievements
of Khatami's two years in power.
So far this year the conservative-dominated courts have closed down
no less than four leading pro-Khatami newspapers and arrested or interrogated
dozens of journalists.