Sprint Long Distance

The Iranian


email us

Sprint Long Distance

Flower delivery in Iran

Fly to Iran

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

    News & views

Iran reformists challenge press laws

By Guy Dinmore
Financial Times
September 13, 2000

Mojtaba Vahedi cuts an unlikely figure as editor of Iran's latest pro-reform newspaper. But with powerful political connections, Mr Vahedi, who is also a private businessman in the cement sector, may survive where others have failed.

The birth last weekend of Aftab-e-Yazd (Sun of Yazd) was eagerly awaited by Tehranis thirsty for news following the closure since April of about 25 reformist publications by the hardline judiciary and the arrest of about a dozen writers and editors. Circulation of the daily began at 50,000 and has already doubled.

"We are absolutely a reformist newspaper," declared Mr Vahedi.

Its provenance is clear. The editorial offices occupy the same building as Bayan, banned in June, and before that Salaam, whose closure a year ago triggered student protests that led to a week of civil unrest in Tehran. The mostly youthful staff on Aftab-e-Yazd are drawn from various deceased pro-reform publications.

Mr Vahedi, 37, says his editorial line is based on the promises made by Mohammad Khatami, the moderate president, namely honesty with people, transparency and an insistence on democracy. Yazd, where the paper began as a local daily, is the president's home province.

The new daily intends to adhere to the political and religious precepts of the Islamic Republic's constitution as well as the strictures of the current hardline press law, one of the last acts passed by the outgoing conservative-dominated parliament.

"But this does not mean we will remain silent," adds Mr Vahedi.

Iranian media had reported the managing editor would be Mehdi Karrubi, the new speaker of parliament and a close ally from the Islamic left of Mr Khatami. Not so, says Mr Vahedi, but he does admit that he is the speaker's "cultural" adviser. "I have some connections with Mr Karrubi," he says.

The daily's first editorial defended Mr Karrubi's visit to New York this month, to attend an international gathering of parliamentarians, where he had a long discussion with four US Congressmen, including two Jews. Diplomats in Tehran saw the meeting, described by Mr Karrubi as a chance encounter at a reception, as a significant moment in the slow thaw in relations between Iran and the US. Hardliners within the Iranian establishment were appalled, however.

The appearance of Aftab-e-Yazd comes at a critical moment in the power struggle between supporters and opponents of the president. The only other mainstream reformist daily, Hayat-e-No, appears in danger of joining the purge. Hadi Khamenei, its managing editor, has been summoned to the Special Court for the Clergy.

Hadi Khamenei, a cleric and reformist member of parliament, is also the brother of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. Ayatollah Khamenei, perhaps, as some analysts believe, acting under pressure from arch-conservatives, ordered the new reformist-dominated parliament last month to abandon plans to pass a more liberal media law. His intervention provoked an outcry among reformists and focused debate on his powers.

Mohsen Kadivar, a cleric fresh from serving a two-year jail sentence for his dissident views, was attacked two weeks ago by Islamist vigilantes in the western town of Khorramabad, where he had been invited to address a national congress of pro-reform students. Several days of violence ensued. One policeman was killed and the provincial governor was beaten up at the funeral.

Undeterred, Mr Kadivar spoke in Tehran last week at a mosque packed to overflowing. Outside, large numbers of police, their lesson learned from the unrest in Khorramabad, kept back Islamist militants.

The gathering was in memory of Ayatollah Mahmood Taleghani, a popular leftist cleric who died shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Quoting the ayatollah, Mr Kadivar said the leadership of the Islamic system should be elected by the people and the limits of their powers should be clearly defined.

"Freedom is the best divine and human gift. Ayatollah Taleghani said we would never tolerate having one dictatorship replaced by another," Mr Kadivar said.

The crowd reacted with a standing ovation to his speech. The men there were of all ages, many clean-shaven, unlike the bearded militants across the street. Well known "religious-nationalist" figures were among the audience, declared adherents to Islam but opposed to unbridled clerical rule.

In the ebb and flow of Iran's power struggle, it is never quite clear which faction has the upper hand. Attempts to assert total control struggle in a system of parallel power structures.

Akbar Ganji and Emadedin Baghi, two prominent journalists, are in Evin prison but the books and articles that got them there are still on sale in Tehran bookshops.

The Circle, a film about the oppression of Iranian women directed by Jafar Panahi, last week scooped the Golden Lion top award at the Venice Festival. The film had been barred from public view in Iran but an official confirmed on Tuesday that the Ministry of Guidance and Islamic Culture, headed by a reformist ally of the president, had lifted the ban.


 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.