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March 2000, Week 1
|Iran Film Festival in France Scrapped Over Threats||Mar. 04|
|Congress Passes Iran Sanctions Bill||Mar. 03|
|Iran Women Look To Build on Freedoms||Mar. 02|
|Iran Officials Say Polls "Free and Fair"||Mar. 01|
Iran Film Festival in France Scrapped Over Threats
NICE, France, (Reuters) - A scheduled festival of Iranian films in the French Riviera was called off on Wednesday after anonymous threats were received from abroad, organisers said.
Odile Chapel, director of the cinematheque of Nice, the main city on the French Riviera, told reporters some of the threats were against her directly. She gave no further details. |
"Our role is solely artistic. If programmes are used to settle political or religious accounts, then I believe it is better to call the event off rather than risk disturbing public order or leading to acts of violence," she said after filing a complaint with police.
The festival, scheduled for March 7 to April 2, was to include the screening of some 30 Iranian films, with a special tribute to director Abbas Kiarostami who won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.
Congress Passes Iran Sanctions Bill
By Jim Abrams|
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON -Russia could lose U.S. financial backing for its space program under an Iran nonproliferation bill the House and Senate both passed without a dissenting vote.
The bill, which now goes to President Clinton, bars the United States from making "extraordinary payments in connection with the International Space Station" to the Russian space agency unless the president confirms that companies linked to the agency are not helping Iran's weapons programs.
"It is time for the U.S. government to send a clear and unambiguous message to Russia that we will not tolerate cooperation with Iranian weapons programs by the Russian government or any Russian entities," said Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
He noted that the administration has proposed paying Russia $650 million beyond the original amount pledged for Russia's space station participation.
Clinton in 1998 vetoed a somewhat stronger Iran sanctions bill, electing instead to take administrative action against some 10 Russian companies accused of transferring weapons material and technology to Iran.
The White House has said the legislation is not needed and complicates international nonproliferation efforts, but has not renewed its veto threat. The House on Wednesday voted 420-0 to approve the Senate bill passed last week by 98-0.
Unlike the 1998 bill, the legislation gives the president the authority to impose sanctions on groups from Russia and other countries that offer Iran weapons material or technology, but does not require him to do so.
It does require him to report to Congress twice a year on foreign persons or groups identified as supplying Iran with weapons materials. The president has the power to prohibit U.S. purchases from that person or country, or bar the sale of items on the U.S. Munitions List.
In both the Senate and House debates lawmakers said they were heartened by the success of reformers in the recent Iranian elections, but stressed that Iran was still a dangerous, terrorist-supporting state.
Rep. Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee, said that "in no way is this bill meant to undermine the Iranian people's brave fight for democracy ... we have no quarrel with the Iranian people; rather, our disagreements are with the policies of the hardline regime."
Iran Women Look To Build on Freedoms
By Vijay Joshi|
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran -For two decades, the billowing black chador has symbolized the restraints imposed on Iranian women by the religious men who rule Iran.
But the truth the chador hides is that women in Iran enjoy more freedom than many of their counterparts in the region who are not allowed to drive, vote or work. Unlike in many other Muslim countries, women in Iran can hold public office, preach in mosques and become lawmakers.
Activists hope Iran's new reformist parliament elected Feb. 18, which includes nine women, will build on these freedoms, rectifying discriminatory laws. The parliament takes office in June.
"We are not asking for advantage. But we don't want to be disadvantaged either," said Jaleh Shadi-Talab, a social science lecturer at Tehran University whose research focuses on Iranian women.
"We are expecting some change from the new parliament," she said.
Under sharia, or Islamic law, women in Iran still face many restrictions. They need their husbands' permission to travel or work and can inherit only half of what their brothers get. Men can divorce their wives at will and are favored in custody battles. Fathers can legally promise their infant daughters in marriage and hand them over as brides when they turn 9.
In a court of law, one man's word is worth two women's testimony, and adultery by women is punishable by stoning to death.
Still, the ruling Islamic clergy has improved women's status, particularly in education. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, the late leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, decreed it was the "religious duty" of every man and woman to be literate.
Today, about 90 percent of girls enroll in elementary schools. In 1999, about 58 percent of university freshmen were women, compared to 52 percent the previous year. Many will enter the job market in the next five years and could change the sex ratio in the work force, currently only 13 percent female.
"I go wherever I want. I have never felt limited," said Rositta Amiri, a reporter for the Farsi daily, Khorasan. "Of course there is discrimination, but a smart lady can get her rights."
Ironically, authorities attribute the increased participation of women in public life to the strict Islamic rules enforced after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The restrictions ended Western freedoms in Tehran and other Iranian cities and harshly punished any behavior considered threatening to a woman's chastity.
With the strict laws, men felt more comfortable allowing their daughters and wives to go out in public, usually in the floor-length chador that covers all but their hands and face.
The unwieldy garment, which literally means tent, requires constant clutching by one hand to hold it in place. In restaurants, women are sometimes seen clenching a corner of the cloth with their teeth while serving themselves food from a buffet.
In cities, many women have replaced the chador with a gown, known as a manteau dress, and a head scarf, which also meet the Islamic requirement of head-to-toe covering, known as hijab.
The head scarves often slide back to show hair, a reflection of the relaxation in social norms brought by the reform programs of President Mohammad Khatami, who took office in 1997.
Many women would likely wear the hijab even if it were not the law, as they do in other Muslim countries. Even moderates, who have come to control the parliament for the first time since the revolution, are not talking of doing away with hijab.
"Iran is an Islamic republic that has its own limitations, its norms," said Elaheh Koolaee, the director general of education affairs at Tehran University and a member of the new parliament.
When the 290-member Majlis, or parliament convenes in June, reformists will likely face opposition from hard-liners who want only the strictest interpretation of Islam in applying it to penal and civil codes.
Previous conservative parliaments took only a few steps to give women more rights: Part-time women workers were given benefits such as pension, insurance and social security. A 1997 law made the amount a man must pay during divorce more equitable.
When Khatami took office, he appointed Iran's first women Cabinet member, a vice president for environment and a presidential adviser. Zahra Eshraqi, granddaughter of Khomenei and Khatami's sister-in-law, wants that trend to continue.
"This is year 2000 and the world is progressing. These unnecessary restrictions on women should be stopped," she said.
Iran Officials Say Polls "Free and Fair"
TEHRAN, (Reuters) - The Iranian government on Sunday defended Iran's February 18 parliamentary polls as free and fair and said that any irregularities had had no material effect on the outcome. |
Mostafa Tajzadeh, a deputy interior minister and confidant of President Mohammad Khatami, told a news conference a partial recount was under way at the request of one of the losing candidates in the race for Tehran's 30 seats.
But he said the results, which saw conservative standard- bearer and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani claim the final place by the narrowest of margins, were expected to stand. "There may have been some mistakes because of the manual count, but they can be rectified easily. The final count came from our computers...and not one vote was changed. "There is a possibility of mistakes but we do not think they are material," said Tajzadeh, one of the government's most powerful reformists.
The fate of Rafsanjani has preoccupied the pro-reform press since preliminary counts first showed him in danger of failing to win a seat in the first round. A series of delays in releasing the final results amid an earlier recount of more than 100 of the 3,111 ballot boxes in the capital, fuelled speculation among Rafsanjani's critics that votes were manipulated to ensure his place in the assembly.
All other places were won by reformers allied to the president, capping a strong showing in the provinces that has put a pro-reform majority within reach. Sixty-five contests have gone to a run-off, expected in April. Ali Akbar Rahmmani, a reformer who placed just behind Rafsanjani in the race for the final at-large seat, has protested against the result, saying a number of his votes were given to a namesake among the 860 candidates from Tehran. As a result, a new count was ordered for some 35 ballot boxes. Tallies from that count are expected within 48 hours.
Elections officials have vigorously defended the polls, seen as a referendum on Khatami's reforms. "We held free and fair elections without any kind of tension or problem," said Tajzadeh. "We are keeping the trust and covenant we have with the people...We promise the people we have not allowed even one vote to be manipulated," he said.