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June 2000, Week 1
|Smithsonian Highlights Book of Kings||June 4|
|Iran Journalist Union Campaigns for Lifting Press Closures||June 3|
|Report: New Iran Speaker Forecasts Leniency for Jewish 'Spies'||June 2|
Smithsonian Highlights Book of Kings
By Carl Hartman|
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - A 1,000-year-old poem, lavishly illustrated over the centuries and still at the heart of Iran's troubled politics, goes on show Sunday at the Smithsonian Institution's Sackler Gallery.
With nearly 60,000 verses in ornate script, the Shahnama or Book of Kings may be the world's longest epic. In writing it, the poet Firdawsi, regarded as Iran's greatest, combined history, legend, fighting, feasting, hunting and politics.
Massumeh Farhad, co-curator of the show, visited her homeland recently.
"The book is just as important as it always was," she said. "Like Shakespeare in England or Homer in Greece."
At least one scholar thinks one story may be the distant ancestor of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Another tale recounts how Shah Bahram V went hunting on a camel with his harpist Azada. She challenged him to shoot an arrow that would pin the hoof of a wild ass to its ear. His first shot grazed its ear, and when the animal raised a hoof to scratch it, his second arrow pinned ear and hoof together.
The shah's feat failed to impress her, causing him to shove her from the camel and the beautiful harpist was trampled to death. A yellow and green tile, borrowed from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, depicts the story.
Firdawsi was a Muslim; professing another faith in the Iran of 1010 might have cost him his head. But his loyalty seems to have been lukewarm to the religion that Arab conquerors brought to his country. Though the Book of Kings is in Arabic script, like Iranian writing today, he made a point of rhyming in pure Iranian, using few of the Arabic words that now pervade the language.
The poet was denied burial in a Muslim cemetery and his suspected heresy makes him less than popular among the fervent Islamists who now rule Iran.
"They tried to change the name of the university called after Firdawsi," said Dr. Mansour Panah, who now practices in Bowie, Md. "But it was as if someone tried to change the name of George Washington University. After a few years they went back to the old name."
Jon B. Alterman, who specializes in Iran at the United States Institute of Peace, said that when revolutionaries overthrew the last shah in 1979, they were looking to Islamic revolutions in a series of countries. Now he sees young Iranians looking more toward the nationalist ideas symbolized by the Book of Kings.
"To this day the poem is considered a potent expression of Persian literary and national identity," says the Sackler Gallery's introduction to the show.
Successive conquerors of Iran sought to legitimize their rule by commissioning elaborately illustrated editions of book. The pictures would typically show earlier conquerors, such as Alexander the Great, in Iranian garb and performing Iranian deeds.
The illustrations are among the best work of Iranian art and form the core of the 38 works in the exhibit: "The Heroic Past: the Persian Book of Kings." It will be open through Oct. 29, Admission is free.
Iran Journalist Union Campaigns for Lifting Press Closures
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An Iranian guild of journalists has launched a campaign to reopen 19 publications shut down by hard-liners cracking down on reformist press, a guild official said Wednesday. |
One month after the media crackdown by the conservative-controlled judiciary, more than 1,000 journalists remain out of work, said Karim Arqandehpour, deputy head of the Journalists' Guild Association. "We have made an appeal to the judiciary to respect and protect the legal rights of journalists, and we insist on our call to lift the illegal suspension order against the newspapers," Arqandehpour said.
Arqandehpour, editor of the now-banned reformist daily Mosharekat, denounced an order by the Tehran Justice Administration that would require papers provide a list of employees when applying for a press license. Reformist journalists said the order could be used to prevent people with liberal opposition views from working in the press. In the recent media crackdown, hard-liners in the judiciary have ordered the arrest of several leading journalists and the closure of 19 publications since April. Hard-liners -- who control the judiciary, broadcast media and the military -- oppose the social and political reforms spearheaded by President Mohammad Khatami as incompatible with the country's Islamic principles.
The guild has also started lobbying the new reformist parliament to revoke a law amendment that grants greater powers of prosecution against writers and publishers, Arqandehpour said. The amendment was added last month in the last session of the outgoing parliament, which was dominated by hard-liners. Lawmakers in the new parliament, which was inaugurated Saturday, have said lifting press restrictions was a priority.
Report: New Iran Speaker Forecasts Leniency for Jewish 'Spies'
LONDON (Reuters) -- The newly-elected speaker of Iran's parliament was quoted Friday as saying the 13 Iranian Jews on trial for alleged spying for Israel would be treated leniently.
"Because of Islamic compassion and national interests, harsh sentences will not be imposed, as far as I know," speaker Mehdi Karroubi said in an interview with Britain's Financial Times newspaper.
The case has sparked international concern, and severe sentences could set back reformist President Mohammad Khatami's growing relations with the West. The paper said Karroubi declined to define what he meant by "harsh" but said the international community should not fear a miscarriage of justice at the closed-door revolutionary court trial in Shiraz, nor interfere in Iran's affairs.
Judge Sadeq Nourani is expected to issue his verdict within two weeks after defense lawyers submit their final arguments next week. The Financial Times said Karroubi noted that some of the accused had confessed in court to espionage, but he also expressed sympathy with lawyers who have questioned the fairness of a judicial system in which the judge also acts as investigator, prosecutor and jury. The suspects were held more than a year without access to lawyers or relatives before their trials. Their confessions, broadcast on television while the case proceeded, were obtained during that period under unknown circumstances.
Iran says eight Moslems, including military officers, also have been charged with collaborating with the alleged spy ring, but they have not been named or tried so far.