Category Archives: Iran

#Iran: He’s Back! Ahmadinejad to run for president in May

AMIR VAHDAT and JON GAMBRELL
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday stunned the country by unexpectedly filing to run in the May presidential election, contradicting a recommendation from the supreme leader to stay out of the race.

Ahmadinejad’s decision could upend an election many believed would be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal with world powers. Though Rouhani has yet to formally register, many viewed him as a shoe-in following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recommendation in September for Ahmadinejad to stand down and conservatives’ inability to coalesce around a single candidate.

Ahmadinejad’s firebrand style could prove appealing for hard-liners seeking a tough-talking candidate who can stand up to U.S. President Donald Trump. His candidacy also could expose the fissures inside Iranian politics that linger since his contested 2009 re-election, which brought massive unrest.

Associated Press journalists watched as stunned election officials processed Ahmadinejad’s paperwork on Wednesday. Asked about Ahmadinejad’s decision, one Tehran-based analyst offered a blunt assessment.

“It was an organized mutiny against Iran’s ruling system,” said Soroush Farhadian, who backs reformists.

Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013. Under Iranian law, he became eligible to run again after four years out of office, but he remains a polarizing figure, even among fellow hard-liners.

Two of his former vice presidents have been jailed for corruption since he left office. Iran’s economy suffered under heavy international sanctions during his administration because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009 sparked massive protests and a sweeping crackdown in which thousands of people were detained and dozens were killed.

Internationally, Ahmadinejad is more known for repeatedly questioning the scale of the Holocaust, predicting Israel’s demise and expanding Iran’s contested nuclear program.

The memory of the 2009 unrest likely sparked Khamenei’s comments in September. At that time, he recommended an unnamed candidate not seek office as it would bring about a “polarized situation” that would be “harmful for the county.”

Ahmadinejad described comments by the supreme leader suggesting he not run as “just advice” in a news conference shortly after submitting his registration.

“His advice does not prevent me from running,” he said. “There is extensive pressure on me from dear people of different walks of life as their small servant to come to the election.”

There was no immediate reaction from the supreme leader’s office.

Ahmadinejad said his decision to run was intended to help former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, a close confidant. Baghaei, who was imprisoned for seven months after he left office, registered alongside Ahmadinejad on Wednesday. So did Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, another of the former president’s close allies.

More than 120 prospective candidates submitted their names as candidates on the first day of registration Tuesday, including six women and seven clerics. Registration remains open until Saturday.

Under Iran’s electoral system, all applicants must be vetted by the Guardian Council, a clerical body that will announce a final list of candidates by April 27. The council normally does not approve dissidents or women for the formal candidate list.

The May 19 election is seen by many in Iran as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear agreement and other efforts to improve the country’s sanctions-hobbled economy. Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Since the deal, Iran has signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with airplane manufacturers Boeing Co. and Airbus. The benefits have yet to trickle down to the average Iranian, however, fueling some discontent.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Dubai contributed to this report.

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Bahrain says Trump better understands Iran and the region

Bahrain’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump understood the region and the threats posed by their common adversary Iran better than Barack Obama.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters at his office in the capital Manama, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said the staunch US Gulf ally was confident the new administration would soon clarify its stances on foreign policy.

The Sunni-ruled kingdom accuses Iran, a Shia theocracy across the Gulf, of radicalizing and arming some members of its Shia Muslim majority population, and Gulf monarchies say Obama did not do enough to tackle perceived meddling by Iran in Bahrain and in wars raging throughout the region.

Tehran denies any meddling in the island kingdom.

Trump has pledged to deal forcefully with the Islamic Republic and criticized a landmark international deal to curb its nuclear program inked under Obama in 2015 as a concession to a state the United States considers a sponsor of terrorism.

“We see … a much clearer understanding from the White House of the threats we are facing here in the region and especially the ones that are coming from the Islamic Republic,” Sheikh Khaled said.

“The last few years, there was a policy that we think it was better for them to correct, and we advised them it should be corrected.”

Sheikh Khaled last month met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has spoken by telephone with senior US officials, including Trump after his election in November.

Sitting astride one of the world’s key oil shipping lanes, Bahrain is a key ally of Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Neither country were among the ban Trump is seeking to impose on travelers from Iran and five other Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and Africa.

Some critics of the Trump administration fear it is prioritizing the fight against militancy and Iran over promoting human rights among American allies, but the foreign minister said the US shift acknowledged the region’s harsh realities.

“CLARITY IS COMING”

Sheikh Khaled said his country welcomed a decision by the White House to pursue a $5 billion sale to Bahrain of 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and related equipment which was held up last year by concerns about human rights.

He said Trump’s style may have distracted some from the merits of his views, but all administrations had growing pains.

“They’ll get in order … every new administration will always start in a way that will seem unclear, but clarity is coming,” he said, speaking in his green and wood-panelled office adorned with pictures of past and present Bahraini monarchs.

“Maybe when you see the difference in the personality of the president, maybe that’s kind of giving an overwhelming picture of the situation. Things are working in America.”

Since 2011 Arab Spring protests led by Bahrain’s Shi’ites were crushed with the help from some Gulf Arab states, Bahrain says Iran has stepped up a campaign to undermine security there and bring about the downfall of the ruling al-Khalifa family, of which Sheikh Khaled is a member.

“It’s a whole project we are facing and it will not stop until this regime changes its course from the way it is now – hegemonic, theocratic, theo-fascist – to a regime that would answer the aspirations of its own people.”

“Until that moment we will have to defend ourselves.”

Human rights organizations have criticized an escalating government crackdown since the main Shi’ite opposition bloc was shuttered last year, several prominent activist were arrested and the top Shi’ite spiritual leader had his citizenship revoked on corruption charges.

Bahrain says it has acted to reform its security services and that it genuinely seeks dialogue with the opposition in a way that is rare in the mostly closed and authoritarian region.

“We feel like we are being pressured and punished for no reason, just for sticking our neck out and addressing issues that every country has,” Sheikh Khaled said.

Iran: Women, before and after the Islamist Takeover

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Respect for women’s rights in Iran dates back to the ancient Persian Empire where it was common practice for women to serve as monarchs, army commanders, or naval officers. However, when the great empire was occupied by zealous followers of Islam in the seventh century A.D., Iranian women lost many of their privileges and were relegated to a status inferior to men. Some were even condemned to live as slaves. In recent times, the practical struggle of Iranian women to regain their status began with playing a great role in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905. Further, that struggle continued in the efforts of the citizenry during the former monarchical government in Iran.

Iran before the Islamic Revolution (1979)

Reza Shah the Great, founder of the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran, courageously initiated the greatest challenge of his era (1925 – 1941): the abolishment of the hijab (veil) for Iranian women on Jan. 6, 1935. The policy of “Kashf-e-Hijab” banned a very basic Islamic law, the covering of the whole woman’s body except the eyes and hands. However, avoiding hypocrisy, he commenced this task with his own family– namely his own wife and daughters.

His policy of forced un-veiling was a catalyst in the advancement of Iranian society and in ending women’s slavery. By doing that, Reza Shah the Great aroused a deep animosity in fundamentalist clergies who had practically ruled the country during the previous Qajar Dynasty for 136 miserable years. He rightfully considered the hijab the emblem of an obsolete tradition which aimed to hinder Iranian women from equal life opportunities. His wholehearted efforts encouraged women to pursue higher education and to work outside the home.

His successor, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, continued to respond positively to the aspirations of Iranian women for a full emancipation in 1962. The late Shah of Iran implemented one of his greater policies, “The White Revolution,” which among other achievements, ratified very impressive women’s rights measures, ahead of all other Middle Eastern nations and even sooner than a few European countries.

The White Revolution introduced the massive “Family Protection Law” that was absolutely designed in favor of Iranian women: the right to be elected in various government ranks and posts, the right to divorce, the restriction of polygamy, and the increase in marriage age for girls from 15 to 18. In short, Iranian women up to the Islamic Revolution enjoyed a high degree of equality with men. There were female ministers, ambassadors, mayors, college professors, judges, parliamentarians and even military officers.

In the last parliamentary elections during the monarchical government in 1978, a year before the Islamic Revolution, millions of Iranian women voted. Out of 99 female candidates, 19 were elected to the parliament (Majlis) and two to the Senate. Women were also appointed to the government in new posts as Minister of State for Women’s Affairs and Minister of State for Education. Women were playing an increasingly active role in public life through obtaining higher education, which enabled women to acquire better jobs. They were entering the job market in a much wider range of fields and at higher levels of skill and competence.

Most of the present clergies’ animosity toward the Pahlavi monarchs resulted from these policies, which emancipated Iranian women who had been deprived of basic human rights for almost 14 centuries since the Muslim conquest. The Islamic theocracy perceived such actions as an affront against the sanctities of Islam.

Iran after the Islamic Revolution

With the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, clergies in Tehran immediately and severely curtailed the laws established under the White Revolution, including the Family Protection Law in favor of women, which was repealed. Today in Iran under Islamic law, gender equality is practically non-existent. Women are required to obey the Islamic law of wearing the hijab, otherwise they are subject to the severe punishment of lashing and days in prison. Islamic law specifies that women are banned from wearing perfume or shaking hands with males. Women who wear lipstick are detained and their lips are cut with blades or broken glass. Many women’s faces have been permanently scarred by acid, thrown in their faces by Islamic fascist secret police. Women have been barred from judging positions. Islamic laws consider legal testimony by women to be half as valuable as legal testimony by men.

There is absolute segregation of the sexes in any place out of the home, including schools. Education in grade school for girls overly emphasizes moral and religious teaching. In any gathering at colleges and universities, female students must be seated in the back of lecture halls, or else curtains may often divide lecture rooms. A female student must pose her question to the instructor in writing so as not to be heard by male students or male instructors, who may be “excited” by the voice of the female students.

The dark-age institutions of polygamy and temporary marriage have also been reinstated. Islamic law allows a man to have four “permanent” and as many “temporary” wives as he desires, and of course without his first wife’s permission. The legal age of marriage for girls has been dropped to 9. Women have forfeited the right to unconditional divorce, while a man can divorce his wife whenever he wishes to do so.  The custody of children, regardless of their age, is always with the father.

These grave injustices of the Islamic clergies in Iran toward women began a few days after they seized control of the country and brought the first deaths of brave Iranian women, such as Dr. Farokhroo Parsa, Minister of the State of Education, who was accused of corruption for allowing Iranian educators to teach and promote the awareness of their natural rights to millions of young Iranian girls in schools. She was put in a sack and brutally beaten and stoned to death by the Islamic fundamentalists who carried out the so-called Islamic Revolution. Many thousands of female journalists, administrators, college professors, civil servants, etc., were discharged, arrested or executed.

Despite all the hostilities expressed by the Islamic governing system, Iranian women have not compromised their aspirations; they teach their daughters that no one can force them to live under the hijab, and they do not yield to the false role of a second-class citizen who is inferior to men. The resilience and constant rebellion of Iranian women under 38 years of the cruelest Islamic dictatorship is truly due to their knowledge of and admiration for the accomplishments of their predecessors. This psyche originated in the exalted status of women of ancient Persia and was rejuvenated in the Pahlavi era by Reza Shah the Great when the law of un-veiling was nationally instituted (the 6th day of January, 1935). Not surprisingly, the clerical regime has a hard time appeasing Iranian women by comparing their condition to that of women living in Saudi Arabia. The regime often prides itself on being more progressive than the latter government, but Iranian women remember their past rights and accomplishments during the Pahlavi monarchs’ system of governing.

 

Mansour Kashfi, Ph.D., is President of Kashex International Petroleum Consulting and is a college professor in Dallas, Texas. He has over 50 years experience in petroleum exploration, primarily about Iran. He also has authored more than 100 articles and books about petroleum geology, the oil and gas industry, and market behavior.