RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
_________________________________________ ____________________
RFE/RL Iran Report
Vol. 8, No. 24, 20 June 2005

A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Regional Specialists
of RFE/RL's Newsline Team

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HEADLINES:
* AS WINNERS HEAD FOR RUNOFF, LOSERS COMPLAIN OF FRAUD
* WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS ON IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
* IRANIANS GET 'NONVIOLENT-CONFLICT' TRAINING
* RICE SAYS ELECTION NO HARBINGER OF REFORM
* CLERICS ENCOURAGE VOTERS
* MILITARY PREPARES FOR ITS ELECTION ROLE
* SECURITY PROBLEMS IN TEHRAN AHEAD OF ELECTION
* WOMEN CALL FOR RIGHTS AHEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
* EXCESS OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WORRIED HARD-LINERS
* CENTER-LEFT CLERIC GETS ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT
* PROFILE: THE MAN BEHIND MOIN
* IRREDENTISTS CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR IRAN BOMBINGS
* TEHRAN-BAGHDAD FLIGHTS IN THE WORKS
* IRAN TO CONTRIBUTE $180 MILLION TO HYDROPOWER PROJECT IN
TAJIKISTAN
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AS WINNERS HEAD FOR RUNOFF, LOSERS COMPLAIN OF FRAUD. Two of the
losing candidates in Iran's ninth presidential election on 17
June have complained of military interference in the election, with
one calling on the country's supreme leader to intervene and
another warning of a fascistic trend in the country's politics.
The overall process has resulted in a first for the Islamic
republic, where a presidential runoff is required because none of the
candidates earned more than half of the votes cast. Expediency
Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani is slated to
face Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the runoff scheduled for 24
June.
But voter turnout was better than in many other presidential
elections, and this could have a tremendous impact in the runoff.

Third-Place Challenge

The purported third-place finisher, Hojatoleslam Mehdi
Mahdavi-Karrubi, complained on 18 June about the behavior of the
Guardians Council, which is supposed to supervise the election, the
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and the Iranian Labor News Agency
(ILNA) reported. He called on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
to appoint a special team to investigate the vote-counting process.
"Had the Guardians Council had the authority, it would have ordered
Ahmadinejad to be elected without even considering the votes,"
Mahdavi-Karrubi said. Mahdavi-Karrubi said he spoke with Interior
Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari and urged him not to extend the
polling hours because of the possibility of fraud. Musavi-Lari
reportedly shared this concern but said he was under pressure to keep
the polls open.
Mahdavi-Karrubi also referred to alleged interference by the
military in the election, IRNA and ILNA reported. "We will prove that
the heads of the [Islamic Revolution] Guards Corps had delivered
speeches in many places in support of certain candidates,"
Mahdavi-Karrubi said. Referring to Basij Resistance Force commander
Mohammad Hejazi, he said, "If Mr. Hejazi wants to form a party and
make Basij his party, he should become the secretary-general of
Basij."

Moin Also Protests

Elaheh Kulyai, who is the spokesman for fifth-place finisher
Mustafa Moin, also complained on 18 June that Basij personnel
interfered with the vote counting, IRNA reported. After the
preliminary election results were announced, Moin released a
statement in which he described interference in the election process,
ILNA reported.
"A powerful will entered the arena bent on the victory of a
particular candidate and the elimination of the other candidates and
opened the way to the organization of some military bodies and the
support of the election supervisory apparatus, so that the
self-evident rights of the other candidates could be targeted," Moin
said in his statement. "Today, anyone can clearly see the effect of
this organized interference on the election results."
"The warning bell has sounded for our fledgling democracy,"
Moin cautioned. He warned that such events will "lead to militarism,
authoritarianism, and narrow-mindedness in this country," and he
mentioned "the danger of fascism." "Organized military and
supervisory interference in the elections has consequences beyond the
violation of the rights of people who voted for me and the likes of
me," he said, adding, "I declare that this is a threat to the
people's choice and free elections."
Moin's main backers also expressed their disgruntlement.
The Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization is one of the
main pro-Moin parties, and central council member Seyyed Hashemi
Hedayati said the presence of Basij personnel near the ballot boxes
was alarming, ILNA reported. "Since a few days ago we have witnessed
the systematic organization of the police and Basij and in such a
situation we have the right to doubt the outcome of the presidential
election," he added.

Final Results?

The Election Headquarters at the Iranian Interior Ministry
announced the results on 18 June. None of the candidates secured the
minimum of 50 percent-plus of the votes that are required to win
outright. Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who secured 6,159,453 votes (about 21
percent), will face Ahmadinejad, who secured 5,710,354 votes (about
19.5 percent), in next week's runoff.
Then came former parliamentary speaker Mahdavi-Karrubi with
5,066,316 votes; former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf
with 4,075,189 votes; and former Science, Research, and Technology
Minister Moin with 4,054,304 votes. Trailing far behind were former
state radio and television chief Ali Larijani with 1,740,163 votes,
and Vice-President for Physical Training Mohsen Mehralizadeh with
1,289,323 votes.
The election results are not final until the Guardians
Council announces them. Council spokesman Gholam Hussein Elham said
on 18 June that candidates have three days to lodge their complaints,
Mehr news agency reported.
It is unlikely that Karrubi's entreaty or any other
complaints will resonate with Supreme Leader Khamenei, who one day
before the election urged Iranians to vote. An 18 June statement from
Khamenei praised Iranians for their participation in the election,
Mehr News Agency reported. This foiled enemy plots against Iran, he
said. Referring to a 16 June White House statement that criticized
the election process, Khamenei said, "You, the dear nation, you, the
committed and enthusiastic youth, you, the faithful men and women,
through your wise and epic presence, made [U.S. President George W.]
Bush's insults backfire and showed your strong dedication to the
country's independence, the defense of Islam, and Islamic
democracy."
According to the Election Headquarters on 18 June, a total of
29,439,982 votes were cast in the election. There are 46,786,418
eligible voters, so this puts turnout at almost 63 percent. This
turnout equals that of the 2001 election and surpasses that of the
1985, 1989, and 1993 elections, implying that calls for an election
boycott fell on deaf ears.
Further breaking down the turnout figure, the election
headquarters counted 29,317,042 correct ballots and another 1,221,940
spoiled ballots (approximately 4 percent). Casting spoiled or blank
ballots is a traditional form of protest by individuals who are
compelled to vote. Election-day photographs showed military personnel
at polling places, and this suggests that voter intimidation could
occur or the vote counting could be manipulated. In the absence of
independent observers, however, it is impossible to determine whether
fraud occurred. It is extremely unlikely that anything will come of
the allegations of fraud, because nothing has come of previous
allegations.

Looking Ahead

The more important issue now is to determine the outcome of
the 24 June runoff. The pro-Moin Islamic Iran Participation Party
announced on 18 June that it is undecided. Nevertheless, it is very
unlikely that supporters of the reformist candidates will back the
hard-line Ahmadinejad. If turnout remains the same, then
Hashemi-Rafsanjani will gain the 10,409,943 votes earned previously
by Karrubi, Mehralizadeh, and Moin, giving him a total of 16,569,396.
Ahmadinejad will presumably earn the 5,815,352 votes that went to
Larijani and Qalibaf, for a total of 11,525,706.
It is extremely unlikely that overall turnout will remain
flat. Voters who stayed home for the first round -- either out of
apathy or because they were consciously boycotting the election --
might be inspired to vote in an effort to preclude Ahmadinejad's
victory. This would ensure a Hashemi-Rafsanjani victory. On the other
hand, the Guardians Council's apparent favoritism and
interference by the Basij could make voter behavior irrelevant. (Bill
Samii)


WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS ON IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. A 16 June
statement from President George W. Bush noted the advance of freedom
across the Middle East and predicted, "as a tide of freedom sweeps
this region, it will also come eventually to Iran," Radio Farda
reported (see also,
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/06/20050616.html). It
said Iran's rulers "suppress liberty at home and spread terror
across the world." The 17 June presidential election is consistent
with a pattern in which "power is in the hands of an unelected few
who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the
basic requirements of democracy." The statement said the United
States backs Iran's territorial integrity and the Iranian
people's right to determine their future. It concluded, "As you
stand for your own liberty, the people of America stand with you."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi told
Al-Arabiyah television on 16 June that Bush's statement is not a
serious one and ignores the realities of the country. Assefi accused
the United States of having a double standard. "As you know, this is
the election night," he added. "We will tomorrow know who will win
and who will lose." Assefi predicted that the new president could
have a major impact on Iran-U.S. relations, saying that he is
important in determining foreign policy. "If the United States
changes its policy," Assefi said, "we will certainly change our
policy." He continued, "If the United States maintains its hostile
policy toward Iran, then none of the [presidential] candidates will
adopt a positive stand toward the United States, which speaks in an
impolite manner."
Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam
Ali Yunesi said on 17 June, "I am actually happy that Bush made these
comments because it will lead to more participation," Radio Farda
reported. "Our people are a special nation, in defiance to the evil
nature the enemies are showing, the [Iranian people] become more
determined... A real democracy exists in Iran that can be a model for
all countries. The Americans are very concerned...[that] an Islamic
democracy also exists." (Bill Samii)


IRANIANS GET 'NONVIOLENT-CONFLICT' TRAINING. According to
ft.com on 16 June, exiled Iranian oppositionists are being trained in
nonviolent conflict by an organization based in the United States.
The Washington-based International Center on Non-Violent Conflict is
conducting the workshops. Persian-language copies of "Bringing Down a
Dictator," a documentary about civil society organizations'
success in overthrowing Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, were
sent to Iran.
According to the center's website
(http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org), "In a nonviolent conflict,
disruptive actions such as strikes and boycotts are used by
civilians, who are part of a movement struggling for rights or
justice, to constrain and defeat their opponents." It listed
petitions, parades, walkouts and mass demonstrations as means of
mobilization. Resignations and civil disobedience can undermine
government operations. It also described as "the weapons of
nonviolent conflict" sit-ins, economic sabotage, and blockades. (Bill
Samii)


RICE SAYS ELECTION NO HARBINGER OF REFORM. U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice has said the Iranian presidential race cannot be
viewed in the same positive light as other recent political openings
in the Middle East.
Rice told reporters on 16 June that Iran's political
process is headed in the wrong direction. She said moves in the last
two years by conservative-dominated bodies to remove moderates from
the parliament and presidential candidate lists raised serious
doubts.
"When you have a system in which somebody arbitrarily sits
and handpicks who can run and who can not run it's a little hard
to see that producing an outcome that is going to lead to improvement
in the situation. We've always said that this is also an issue of
the behavior of the Iranian government," Rice said.
Rice said U.S. officials would wait to see whether the
Iranian elections lead to meaningful changes. She said Washington
will be looking for a settlement of the dispute over its nuclear
program, which the United States believes masks a weapons program.
She also called for end to Iran's support of Hizballah in Lebanon
and for positive behavior toward its neighbors Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Secretary of State spoke ahead of her trip on 17 June to
U.S. allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. She will confer on
antiterror efforts as well as press the Bush administration's
pro-democracy agenda in the region.
The United States has faced criticism for not pressing its
allies to adopt more sweeping political reforms. Rice said the United
States would be looking for Egypt to follow through with plans for
multiparty presidential polls. But she stressed that democracy is a
process, "not a single-day event." (Robert McMahon)


CLERICS ENCOURAGE VOTERS. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said
in Tehran on 15 June that Iranians will "do their religious duty" and
vote for a new president on 17 June, and "counter" the plans of
"malevolent enemies" who have sought to deter them from voting, ISNA
and the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on 15 June. He
rejected "the claims of American and Zionist media" that Iranians are
merely "learning democracy," and chided unnamed people in Iran who
"try to give parties a role similar to parties in America and certain
European countries," ISNA reported. Iran has a "real democracy," he
said, while Western political parties "decide for the mass of people"
through backstage "political and economic deal making," and expect
electors to "blindly" vote for candidates they present to them, ISNA
added. He said any electoral "bitterness" must end on voting day, and
whoever is elected, "everyone must cooperate with him." The next
president, he said, must forget "verbal quarrels," and work to
resolve "the people's problems." Khamenei said he would "as
always, follow up" presidential activities to ensure they meet public
and state "expectations," ISNA reported.
Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel-Lankarani said on 16 June that
it is necessary for people to participate in the election, state
radio reported. Grand Ayatollah Hussein Nuri-Hamedani described
voting as a religious obligation. Grand Ayatollah Nasser
Makarem-Shirazi said participation is a divine and national duty.
Hojatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar, a prominent pro-reform cleric
and university lecturer, announced on 14 June that Iranians should
vote, state television reported. He added that "The participation of
the people in elections is effective and will have serious influence
on the country's major and international policies."
Former Isfahan Prayer Leader Ayatollah Jalal Taheri has
announced that he will vote and expressed the belief that the system
can be reformed, "Eqbal" reported on 13 June. A commentary in the 13
June "Resalat," a hard-line daily, asserted that Taheri met with
center-left candidate Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi and reformist
candidate Mustafa Moin's running mate, Mohammad-Reza Khatami.
Taheri subsequently said he supports Karrubi and Moin, and the
commentary criticized him for supporting Moin.
Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri said during an 11 June
meeting with nationalist-religious activists in Qom, "I have never
boycotted elections and, on the whole, I believe that voting or not
voting is a personal decision." He expressed support for the
democracy and human rights front that is backing Moin, "Etemad"
reported on 12 June.
Noted Islamic intellectual Abdolkarim Sorush has not endorsed
any of the candidates in the Iranian presidential election, the head
of his office, Javad Dabbagh, said on 15 June according to IRNA.
"Etemad" reported the same day that Sorush described Hojatoleslam
Mehdi Karrubi as the best choice because Moin would face the same
fate as Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami. (Vahid Sepehri, Bill Samii)


MILITARY PREPARES FOR ITS ELECTION ROLE. Islamic Revolution Guards
Corps spokesman Masud Jazayeri announced on 13 June that the majority
of the force's personnel will vote in the 17 June presidential
election, Fars News Agency reported. "The vast majority of Guards
Corps personnel and Basijis [members of the Basij Resistance Force]
understand their civic responsibilities, which emanate from the lofty
values of Islam and the revolution," he said. "Thus they will
participate in the elections with all their might and they will vote
for the best candidate." Jazayeri dismissed speculation about
military interference in the election process. He added that the
Basij will do its utmost to ensure the fairness of the election.
General Mohammad Hejazi, commander of the Basij, said his
personnel will try to increase the number of people voting,
"Siyasat-i Ruz" reported on 12 June. Hejazi went on to say that
Basijis may serve as election officers in polling stations.
Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi-Kermani, Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Guards Corps, told
Basij personnel in an undisclosed location what kind of presidential
candidate they should elect, "Kayhan" reported on 13 June.
Mujtaba Reshad, who heads the election headquarters,
announced in a circular to all the country's governors that they
should immediately report violations of election regulations by
military personnel, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported on
16 June. Reshad listed the regular armed forces, the Islamic
Revolution Guards Corps, and the Basij. He added that the ban on
election interference also applies to police personnel. Mohammad
Atrianfar, a leader in the Hashemi-Rafsanjani campaign, told Radio
Farda on 16 June that military personnel supporting the candidacy of
former Guards Corps air force commander Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and
Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadinejad are behind the vandalism of the
candidate's publicity materials.
Military involvement in the election process is worrying the
candidates. Reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin told the 15
June issue of "The Guardian" that he would consider quitting the
presidential race if sporadic violence against his supporters
continues. He said violent attacks by unidentified thugs, as well as
a recent string of bombings, may be part of calculated moves designed
to discourage Iranians from voting or make them vote for a candidate
with a military background, guardian.co.uk reported. "If they create
tense circumstances," he said, people might think of voting for a
"military candidate" to ensure "peace and stability." A prominent
liberal politician and Moin supporter, Ibrahim Yazdi, was beaten up
in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, on 11 June, "The Guardian" added.
In a letter last week to Interior Minister Abdolvahed
Musavi-Lari, Hashemi-Rafsanjani's campaign headquarters
complained about the interference of military personnel in the
election process, Radio Farda reported on 14 June. The Interior
Minister, in turn, met with Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud
Hashemi-Shahrudi and asked him to prevent this.
Musavi-Lari told the press on 15 June that violent incidents
in the elections "are the work of those who cannot tolerate other
people's views, but fortunately they are not frequent," ISNA
reported the same day. "Yesterday evening [14 June] we had another
incident in Kerman," in southeastern Iran, he said, without
elaborating. He added that the police and judiciary are cooperating
well to deal with the incidents.
The same day, President Mohammad Khatami instructed the
interior and intelligence ministers in a letter to deal with an
"organized movement" trying to undermine the electoral process by
"disrupting meetings, beating individuals, distributing pamphlets,
and spreading lies to basely discredit respectable personalities" and
candidates, ISNA reported. Khatami added that such attempts including
"sinister terrorist acts" will not "weaken the resolve" of Iranians
to vote, ISNA reported.
Musavi-Lari agreed that those responsible for the recent
bombings "were looking to the elections," and trying "to create
fear," ISNA reported. He estimated that "more than 55 percent" of
eligible voters will vote, and the election will need two rounds. The
"information we have received" indicates that no candidate can expect
more than 50 percent of the vote, he said. (Bill Samii, Vahid
Sepehri)


SECURITY PROBLEMS IN TEHRAN AHEAD OF ELECTION. Police dispersed on 16
June about 300 people who were participating in an unlicensed rally
in Tehran's Mellat Park, ILNA reported. Some of the
demonstrators, who were chanting against the election and the regime,
were arrested. Some 5,000 police officers patrolled Tehran the day
before the presidential election, police commander Morteza Talai said
on 16 June, IRNA reported. On election day, 17 June, 20,000 police
will guarantee security, he said.
Policemen beat and arrested demonstrators gathered on 15 June
outside a Tehran prison in sympathy with detained dissidents, Radio
Farda reported the same day. The demonstrators, including rights
activists and families of detainees, were holding a sit-in outside
Evin prison to protest the detention conditions of Nasser Zarafshan,
currently on the ninth day of a hunger strike. His wife, Homa
Zarafshan, told Radio Farda that uniformed policemen temporarily
arrested an unspecified number of protesters, violently beating those
who resisted.
Masumeh Shafii, the wife of another detained dissident, Akbar
Ganji, witnessed the violence as she sought in vain to enter Evin to
see her husband, who she says is also on a hunger strike. She said
Ganji is currently in solitary confinement and is not allowed to
receive visits or see a lawyer, Radio Farda reported. She has written
to the judiciary chief asking him to send a team to check on her
husband's condition. "These gentlemen want these matters to be
kept quiet now, with all the election news, and silence over the
state of those on hunger strike will worsen their condition every
hour," she said.
Two bombs exploded in Tehran near the Imam Hussein Square on
the evening of 12 June, killing at least two people, the IRNA
reported. Later that evening, there was an explosion on Taleqani
Street, but there were no casualties, IRNA reported. In yet another
incident, a stun grenade went off in front of an unnamed cleric's
house.
Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi
said on 13 June that the explosion of a garbage can at the Imam
Hussein Mosque may have been an "accident," IRNA reported.
A man identified as Ahmadvand and referred to as the
military-political director of the Tehran Governor-General's
Office said on 13 June that the investigation of the Tehran bombings
is continuing, Fars News Agency reported. He added, "No individual or
group has taken responsibility for last night's bombings. No one
has been arrested with respect to the Tehran explosions either." He
advised against jumping to conclusions about the guilty parties,
saying, "We should not analyze or judge the recent Tehran and Ahvaz
incidents hastily."
Fars News Agency reported on 13 June that after the previous
day's bombings there were many hoax bomb threats to government
agencies and public services such as the Tehran metro, Fars News
Agency reported. As a result, bus and metro service was disrupted and
the residents of one residential building were forced to evacuate.
The Pounak Square shopping center in northwest Tehran was
evacuated on 15 June because of a bomb threat, IRNA reported. The
police bomb squad did not find a bomb. (Vahid Sepehri, Bill Samii)


WOMEN CALL FOR RIGHTS AHEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Technically,
all that's preventing Iranian women from running in the
country's presidential elections is the interpretation of a
single word.
"Rejal," which comes from Arabic, means "personalities."
Iran's constitution says the president should be elected from
among "religious and political personalities."
Many argue that "rejal" also includes women. But Iran's
Guardian Council, which has the authority to interpret the
constitution, says the word refers exclusively to men.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi told Radio Farda that
the interpretation deprives women of their right: "Unfortunately,
according to the Guardian Council's interpretation, the world
'rejal' is only limited to men; therefore, women are deprived
(of the right) of being elected. This is one of the major problems of
Iran's presidential elections: half of Iran's population is
deprived of a social right."
During the campaign leading up to the 17 June vote, 89 women
defied a ban and registered to run for president. But all were
rejected on the basis of gender, including a conservative member of
parliament and the daughter of a prominent cleric.
Women's groups and activists reacted by staging a protest
on 2 June. The protesters said that "when women, half of the
country's population, cannot be elected as president, they should
not be expected to participate in the elections vastly either."
Fariba Davudi- Mohajer, a journalist, was among the
protesters in Tehran: "After women registered, Mr. Jahromi, a
Guardian Council deputy, said in an interview that since women lack
the necessary understanding and discernment, we cannot get them
involved in important state affairs. The question that came to our
mind was: how come women were good when they were sending their
children to the fronts; women are good enough to vote for these
gentlemen; but when it comes to being elected, they lack
understanding and competency? When they don't recognize our
identity, we don't recognize them either."
An Iranian website devoted to women's issues
(www.womeniniran.org) recently published a list of women presidents
around the world. It says: "This list includes women who as president
have served their people in many countries. Why should Iran be an
exception?"
Women played a major role in the election of President
Mohammad Khatami, who had promised more rights for women. During the
current presidential campaign, most candidates have expressed support
for women's rights. But there is concern that the promises of
more rights and equal opportunities will be forgotten soon after the
polls.
Several prominent women, including Shirin Ebadi and Simin
Behbahani, whom many consider Iran's greatest living poet, have
said they will not vote.
Davudi-Mohajer, who has also decided to stay away from the
polls, says many women activists have decided not to endorse any of
the candidates: "We came to the conclusion that we will not have a
stance toward any of the candidates. We have announced our demands
for years through the press, media and websites. Because of that you
can see that all of them have an advisor on women's issues, they
have appointed women as their spokespeople, and that's because of
the social pressure created by the women's movement. It has
forced them to become sensitive regarding women's demands."
Women's demands are not limited to their right of being
allowed to stand in the country's presidential elections.
Women know that any president -- regardless of gender -- can
do little to change their status in a country whose laws discriminate
against women. Women need the permission of their father or husband
to travel. A woman's testimony in court is considered to be half
the value of a man's. Women's divorce rights are not equal to
those of men.
So activists are calling for a change in the country's
constitution, which they say does not ensure equal rights for women.
Davudi-Mohajer: "For example, Article 19 of the constitution
says that all people of Iran are equal regarding their color,
ethnicity and language. But it doesn't say that the people of
Iran are equal regarding their gender. In fact, we can come to a
logical conclusion that in Iran's constitution, women and men are
not equal. We think that the reform of the constitution can bring
structural changes."
On June 12, up to 1,000 women and men staged a protest in
front of Tehran's university. They chanted slogans in favor of
women's rights and called for the country's laws to be
changed to conform to international human rights agreements.
Women's rights advocates have said they will continue
their peaceful protests until their demands are met. (Golnaz
Esfandiari, Nazi Azima)
(Originally published on 14 June 2005.)


EXCESS OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WORRIED HARD-LINERS. With just days
to go before Iran's ninth presidential election, two factors
promised to have a profound effect on the final result. First of all,
out of some 46 million eligible voters, how many people will turnout
on 17 June? And second, will any of the hard-line candidates withdraw
from the race? This first issue may not worry the hard-liners much,
but the relatively high number of hard-line candidates in the race --
four out of eight -- undermined their chance of achieving a clear-cut
victory.

Polls And Popularity

Early polls indicated there would be a low turnout on
election day. Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani on 24
April cited a survey that said some 42 to 51 percent of the Iranian
public planned to vote, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
reported. There are several reasons for this lack of interest.
Elected officials' inability to achieve results has led to
general apathy, and since 1997 this has resulted in falling voter
participation figures. Furthermore, some student groups and political
activists have called for an election boycott (see "RFE/RL Iran
Report," 6 June 2005).
Several Iranians told state television on 14 June why they
would not vote. A young woman said, "It is obvious who will win," and
a young man said, "It is clear from the beginning to the end." A
middle-aged man said, "My vote doesn't count."
Two more recent surveys painted a brighter picture. A poll of
46,034 people in 25 provinces conducted by IRNA found that 54.8
percent of eligible voters will definitely vote and another 15.5
percent say they will "almost certainly vote," state radio reported
on 11 June. In a late-May survey commissioned by the Fars News Agency
and conducted by an unidentified polling service, 68 percent of the
respondents confirmed that they would vote and another 16.3 percent
said they probably would vote, "Kayhan" reported on 6 June.
The regime can use a high turnout figure as a sign of its
legitimacy and an indication of public support for the system. Low
turnout would benefit the hard-liners, whose supporters are more
easily mobilized. High turnout, on the other hand, could yield a
surprise, as it did in 1997, when more than 80 percent of the
electorate voted and a reformist dark-horse won the race.

Too Many Candidates

The bigger concern for the hard-liners is that they have too
many horses in the race. Out of eight candidates, four are firmly in
the hard-line camp and are referred to as principle-ists
(osulgarayan) -- Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadinejad, former state
broadcasting chief Ali Larijani, former police chief Mohammad Baqer
Qalibaf, and Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai. Another
candidate, Expediency Council Chairman and two-term president
(1989-1997) Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, can be considered
a center-right candidate, but he is insufficiently conservative for
most hard-line activists.
For any candidate to win outright, he must secure more than
50 percent of the votes. If nobody earns this amount, there will be a
runoff on 24 June.
Hashemi-Rafsanjani is the name most frequently mentioned by
prospective voters, and he also has topped recent surveys (see
"RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 June 2005). Coming in behind him have been
Qalibaf and former Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa
Moin, who is a reformist.
In the most recently reported survey (14 June), which was
commissioned by Fars News Agency, the majority of the 16,751
respondents said they backed Hashemi-Rafsanjani (22.27 percent).
Following the front-runner were Qalibaf (20.08 percent), Ahmadinejad
(15.53 percent), Moin (10 percent), Karrubi (7.87 percent), Larijani
(7.49 percent), Mehralizadeh (2.83 percent), and Rezai (2.23
percent).
The presence of so many hard-line candidates is diluting the
vote, and there have been calls for some of the candidates to stand
down (on conservative differences, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 March
and 9 May 2005). The hard-liners started a new round of negotiations
on 12 June in the hope that Larijani, who is backed by the
Coordination Council of Islamic Revolution Forces, would be chosen as
the ultimate candidate, Mehr News Agency reported. Only the
candidates would participate in this meeting, "Farhang-i Ashti"
reported on 12 June.
The "Aftab-i Yazd" daily reported on the same day that
Ahmadinejad and Rezai would announce their intention to withdraw in
Larijani's favor. A leading member of the Islamic Coalition
Party, Hamid Reza Taraqi, noted the "high probability" of some
withdrawals in the coming days, and Tehran parliamentary
representative Hamid Reza Katouzian predicted Ahmadinejad's
withdrawal. The newspaper quoted a senior official in the Tehran
municipality, Seyyed Abdolsaleh Jafari-Kermanshahi, as saying that
Larijani was second to Hashemi-Rafsanjani in recent surveys. However,
Mehdi Chamran, who heads the municipal council and is a leader in the
right-wing Islamic Iran Developers Council, dismissed the possibility
of Ahmadinejad's withdrawal.
One day later, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported that the discussions
were continuing, and it quoted Speaker of Parliament Gholam-Ali
Haddad-Adel as saying that a consensus before the election is
unlikely. The newspaper added that Ayatollahs Mohammad Reza
Mahdavi-Kani, Ali Meshkini, and Abolqasem Khazali were applying their
energies to the issue.
Former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Rezai
insisted that he would not withdraw from the race. "I will be
standing till the end and I will not withdraw under any
circumstances," Rezai said on 13 June. Fars News Agency reported. On
15 June, however, he announced his withdrawal. Mamessani
parliamentary representative Ali Ahmadi, who is the spokesman for
Rezai's campaign headquarters explained the withdrawal, ILNA
reported on 16 June. Ahmadi said, "Rezai cited the current situation
in the country, desire to prevent dispersion of the public vote and
requests by some of the sources of emulation as reasons for his
decision to quit the presidential race." Ahmadi said Rezai was not
withdrawing in favor of one of the other candidates, explaining,
"Rezai believed that there was no-one with a consolidated program for
administering the country in the long-run and he therefore did not
withdraw in the interest of any particular candidate."

A Call For Consensus

The conservative effort to achieve consensus is not confined
to the backrooms of party politics. Leading hard-line figures have
addressed the issue in the media. "Kayhan" editor-in-chief Hussein
Shariatmadari has written many editorials in which he calls for
hard-line unity, as the "Financial Times" notes on 14 June.
Shariatmadari wrote in the 13 June "Kayhan," for example,
that most partisan voters have already made up their minds, and it is
almost too late for the principle-ist candidates. He urged them to
choose a candidate. And on 8 June, Shariatmadari wrote that according
to the polls, total support for the four hard-line candidates exceeds
support for any other candidate. People therefore support
fundamentalism but no single candidate. He continued, "if the four
fundamentalist candidates withdraw from their candidacy in favor of
one from among themselves, the victory of the sole candidate will be
certain, or his chance to win the election will be so much higher
than the chance of other candidates that it can be regarded as a near
certainty." Shariatmadari dismissed suggestions that the votes would
go to any but the other hard-line candidates.
Deputy speaker of parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar, who is
involved with the Islamic Revolution Coalition Forces, also has
expressed concern. He reportedly said that if the principle-ists do
not win the election then they would lose everything, "Etemad"
reported on 7 June. He expressed concern that such a loss could lead
to the conservatives' irrelevance.
A week later, Bahonar predicted that there will be a runoff,
"Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 13 June. Bahonar, who is serving as
Larijani's campaign manager, said his candidate and Qalibaf are
closing in on Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
It is easy to dismiss the relevance of the Iranian
presidential election. Under the current constitution, elected
officials' actions are subordinate to the decisions of unelected
officials. Nevertheless, the elections can be viewed as a window on
Iranian's sentiments towards their political system and a measure
of their hopes for the future. (Bill Samii)
(Originally published on 15 June 2005.)


CENTER-LEFT CLERIC GETS ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT. The Democracy Party
(Hezb-i Mardom Salari) has endorsed the candidacy of Hojatoleslam
Mehdi Karrubi, the Fars News Agency reported on 13 June, citing a
statement from the party. The Guardians Council rejected Democracy
Party Secretary-General Mustafa Kavakebian's application to be a
candidate. The 14-party Front for Consolidation of Democracy also
backed Kavakebian, and it announced that it does not advocate an
election boycott despite his rejection, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12
June. The Democracy Party called on the Guardians Council to explain
the disqualification of its secretary-general and other candidates,
"Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 29 May. The party explained its
decision to participate in the election "as a principled solution and
belief that quitting the arena, political passivity, and lack of
political involvement by a political current and a party has never
been agreeable, and at this juncture will only serve to benefit the
conservative faction." (Bill Samii)


PROFILE: THE MAN BEHIND MOIN. Former Minister of Science Research and
Technology Mustafa Moin's placing in recent surveys on the
Iranian presidential election scheduled for 17 June is improving,
although he usually trails behind Expediency Council Chairman
Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and former national police
chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. As Moin was initially disqualified by
the Guardians Council and reinstated only after the Supreme Leader
issued a decree to this effect, it is a bit surprising that he is
doing so well. Some of his success is almost certainly due to the
role played in his campaign by reformist ideologue Said Hajjarian,
the man behind reformist dominance of the sixth parliament (2000-04).
Hajjarian served in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security
in the 1980s, and he later headed the political bureau of the
executive branch's Strategic Research Center. He served as
publisher of the "Sobh-i Imruz" daily. In Iran's first municipal
council elections in 1999, he was elected in Tehran. In March 2000
Hajjarian was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt by
individuals connected with the Ansar-i Hizbullah pressure group. He
now walks with difficulty and is rarely in the limelight. However,
Hajjarian has continued his activities with the Islamic Iran
Participation Party, which is backing Moin's candidacy.
Hajjarian's early reaction to the election and to
Moin's candidacy was hardly enthusiastic. He said in late May
that turnout will not surpass 45 percent, and Moin only has a 9
percent chance ("Iran Daily," 22 May 2005). But soon thereafter
Hajjarian began encouraging voters and backing Moin.
Many student activists have called for an election boycott,
and some urged Moin not to remain in the presidential race after his
reinstatement. At a late-May meeting of the Office for Strengthening
Unity student organization that Hajjarian attended, he encouraged
their participation and told the audience that reform requires
pressure from the top and from the bottom. However, the majority of
the student activists felt that Moin should not compete in the
election ("Eqbal," 28 May 2005).
A number of other reformist activists met in late-May to
discuss whether or not Moin should stay in the race ("Aftab-i Yazd,"
"Eqbal," "Etemad," and "Mardom Salari," 28 May 2005). Participants in
the meeting included Behzad Nabavi of the Mujahedin of the Islamic
Revolution Organization, who recommended participation in the
election. Mohammad Reza Khatami of the Islamic Iran Participation
Party, who would go on to become Moin's running mate, said even
in the current restrictive electoral environment an opportunity like
this would contribute to democratization.
But it was Hajjarian who made the biggest impression. He
entered the hall in casual clothing, saying that he is dressed this
way because he is on the way to medical treatment and adding that he
does not feel the need to dress formally when he meets with his
friends. His speech was interrupted frequently with cheers and
applause. Some of the other audience members referred to Hajjarian as
a "victim in the path of reform." Even though Moin is a candidate
because of the supreme leader's decree, he said, we must remember
that we are reformers. "The difference between reformers and
revolutionaries is that reformers make use of even limited
opportunities for advancing their goals," he added. Hajjarian went on
to say that there should be another reform movement, even if this
requires shedding blood.
In early June state television began broadcasting campaign
films made by the candidates. Hajjarian had a leading role in
Moin's film, which was shown on the evening of 9 June. The film
consisted of a fast-paced interview between Moin and a
wheelchair-bound Hajjarian, and it was clear that Hajjarian spoke
with difficulty and could not move his hands easily.
Moin emphasized that he intends to continue the reform
movement that began eight years earlier with President Hojatoleslam
Mohammad Khatami's election. Asked about the relationship between
his proposed reforms and those pursued by the reformist 2nd of
Khordad Front, Moin responded: "I think the reforms are still alive,
and therefore, I will follow that path. I will stand on the shoulders
of the previous reforms and will look, from a higher platform,
towards the future." Moin also addressed young people -- "living a
crisis," "many questions but no answers" -- and women -- "in our
country, the rights of women have been violated because religion has
been interpreted wrongly."
Exile journalist Masud Behnud wrote afterwards, "It was the
first time the ruling current has allowed the people to see Hajjarian
through the porthole of the so-called national media" ("Eqbal," 14
June 2005).
Hajjarian continued his efforts on the candidate's
behalf. He said at a conference on the election late last week, "A
ballot paper is ... the nation's blood that is dropped in the
ballot boxes." He and other speakers at the conference urged the
public to vote ("Etemad," 11 June 2005).
Iranian newspapers are prohibited from publishing any news
articles, analyses, op-eds, photographs, or advertisements relating
to the campaign on 16 June, the day before the election. This will
give members of the public time to consider whether or not they will
actually vote and they will vote for. If turnout is sufficiently
high, Moin has a good chance of being the runner-up, on the basis of
survey data that is currently available. He will owe much of his
success to Hajjarian's efforts on his behalf. (Bill Samii)


IRREDENTISTS CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR IRAN BOMBINGS. Three Arab
irredentist groups have taken credit for a series of 12 June bombings
in Ahvaz, the capital of Iran's southwestern Khuzestan Province,
ISNA reported on 13 June. The groups are the Arab Martyrs of
Khuzestan, the Arab People's Democratic Front, and Afwaj
al-Nahdah al-Musallahah Al-Ahwaz (The Armed Renaissance Group of
Ahvaz), according to Deputy Governor Rahim Fazilatpur.
Mahmud Ahmad, coordinator of committees of the Democratic
Front for the Ahvaz People, denied responsibility for the 12 June
bombings, Al-Jazeera satellite TV reported on 12 June. He added,
"Certainly the regime knows well that nobody supports it in Ahvaz. It
has no supporters, neither in Ahvaz nor in any area where non-Persian
ethnic groups live in Iran."
The four explosions in Ahvaz occurred within 20 minutes of
each other, news agencies reported. All the Ahvaz explosions targeted
government facilities or officials. Interior Ministry official
Mohammad Hussein Motahar said, "Two bombs were hidden in toilets
within the building of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
and at the Office of Construction and Civil Engineering. The third
bomb exploded in front of the house of the governor of Khuzestan
Province. All three of these explosions were in the city center of
Ahvaz. Another bomb was hidden in the doorway of the house of a
[state] radio and television official in Ahvaz. The bomb went off
when the door was opened," Radio Farda reported, citing state
television. State television reported that the bombings killed at
least eight people and injured another 70.
The Interior Ministry's Motahar connected the bombings
with the unrest that occurred in Khuzestan in mid-April (see "RFE/RL
Iran Report," 18 and 25 April 2005).
Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi
announced on 13 June in Tehran that security forces have tracked down
the individuals responsible for the previous day's bombings, IRNA
reported. He said there have been some arrests. He described the
Ahvaz bombings as terrorist acts, and he said all of the "terrorists"
are under control and that they cannot undermine the presidential
election.
Also on 13 June, an anonymous judiciary spokesman said six
people were arrested, state television reported.
Supreme National Security Council official Ali Aqamohammadi
said on 12 June that counterrevolutionaries are behind the bombings
in Ahvaz, the Mehr News Agency reported. Referring to the explosion
of a stun grenade in Qom a few days earlier, he said, "After the
explosion in Qom a few days ago it became clear that several
counterrevolutionary groups in Iraq had been dispatched to Iran from
the region where the Americans and the British are deployed; some of
these terrorists have been arrested."
The Party of the Arab Al-Ahwazi Movement (aka Hizba al-Nahdah
al-Arabi al-Ahwazi) has taken credit for the 12 June bombings in
Ahvaz, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society website (ahwaz.org.uk)
reported on 13 June.
However, British Ahwazi Friendship Society spokesman Nasser
Ban-Assad dismissed on 13 June the ability of a small organization to
carry out such an attack, ahwaz.org.uk reported. Instead, Ban-Assad
said, the Iranian military set up the blasts in order to justify a
preelection crackdown and the suppression of Arabs. He dismissed the
possibility that the United States or United Kingdom would assist any
Arab irredentists militarily. He added that it is unlikely that the
Mujahedin Khalq Organization, an Iranian opposition organization
based in Iraq, is behind the attacks. Ban-Assad referred dismissively
to claims of responsibility for similar attacks in the past made by
the Ahvaz Arab Renaissance Party after similar incidents in Iran in
the past.
Sabah al-Musawi, who heads the Ahvaz Arab Renaissance
Party's political bureau, said on 12 June that the bombings have
nothing to do with the election, Al-Jazeera reported. Nevertheless,
he called for an election boycott. Responding to the
interviewer's question about civilian deaths in the bombings,
Musawi said, "These people came from outside Ahvaz. These are
settlers.... They came to Ahvaz and they must bear the consequences.
The regime must bear its responsibilities towards the people it
brought as settlers to Ahvaz." (Bill Samii)


TEHRAN-BAGHDAD FLIGHTS IN THE WORKS. Iraqi Transportation Minister
Salam al-Maliki announced in the Iranian city of Ilam on 14 June that
Tehran-Baghdad flights will resume within two months, IRNA reported.
Direct passenger flights between the two countries have not taken
place for two decades. (Bill Samii)


IRAN TO CONTRIBUTE $180 MILLION TO HYDROPOWER PROJECT IN TAJIKISTAN.
At a meeting in Dushanbe on 15 June, President Imomali Rakhmonov and
Ebrahim Sheibani, who heads the Iranian Central Bank, discussed an
agreement between Iran and Tajikistan to construct the Sangtuda-2
hydropower plant in Tajikistan, Khovar reported. Under an agreement
that energy ministers from the two countries signed in Tehran on 11
June (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 June 2005), Iran will contribute
$180 million and Tajikistan $40 million. Work on the project, which
is slated to take four years, will begin this summer. (Daniel
Kimmage)

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Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.

The "RFE/RL Iran Report" is a weekly prepared by A. William Samii on
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