Published in “Der Spiegel” on November 30, 2009

By Ulrike Putz, Beirut

Iranian woman during a demonstration in Tehran: A new generation of exiles (REUTERS)

They flee accross the green line of the theocratic state, in permanent fear that their relatives at home might have to answer for it. Since after the elections, thousands of progressive Iranians have gone into exile. In Berlin, Paris and London they try to make a new start; their future is uncertain.

Mirta went into exile on labyrinthine paths. In cold nights, she walked accross the mountains to reach the Iranian-Turkish border. From there, smugglers took her to Turkey on a horse. Hiding behind the load of a truck she reached Istanbul, where she got herself a forged passport. With this passport, the 23 year-old Iranian traveled to Germany where she applied for political asylum. How long she will be able to stay is uncertain. The only thing the journalist knows for sure is that there is no going back to Iran, probably for a very long time.

Following the disputed election of 12. June and the birth of the new Iranian protest movement against the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a wave of migration to the West. In the past months thousands of progressive, reformist Iranians emigrated for political reasons, more or less of their own will, either by airplane or, like Mirta, on secret paths. Others who happened to be abroad during the elections did not even return home for fear of reprisal. Thus, a new generation of Iranian exiles has come into being that is now trying to settle down in Berlin and Paris, in London and in the major cities of the USA.

Most of those who venture to try to make a new start are young and well educated. Students, journalists, political activists: Iran is losing its best brains due to the tense political situation. According to “Reporters without borders”, more than 100 Iranian journalists have reached Europe after the elections, many others have fled to Turkey or Iraq where they are now waiting to get a visa for a Western country. In Paris alone, one of the traditional strongholds of Iranian exile, hundreds of new Iranian exiles were registered since last summer, says a Western diplomat. More or less the same is true for Berlin.

Mirta left her country because she was threatened. She was one of 293 Iranian journalists who signed an appeal in mid August to protest against the crackdown on the election protests in Iran. After the appeal was published, most of the signatories were summoned by the intelligence service, among them was Mirta. “I did not go, and then the threatening phone calls started”, she said during a conversation in a northern German reception camp for asylum seekers. One after the other, the signatories of the appeal were detained. The wave of arrests is still continuing – last Sunday they came to arrest the journalist Sasan Aghai – he too had signed the appeal.

Family, boy friend, social life – all this now belongs to the past
For fear of also being imprisoned Mirta did not sleep at home for two weeks, until friends made contact with a smuggler. “I had to leave behind my family, my friends, my beloved Tehran. I had to flee my own country with just a backpack and my memories of 23 years.” Mirta could not even tell her parents about her plans, for fear of causing difficulties for them. Only after she reached Germany, where she has a brother, she called home. “I don’t know when I will see my parents again”, says the journalist. She had to pay 10.000 dollars for her escape.

The new exiles are supported in making their new start by Iranians who left Iran a long time ago. One of them is Sohrab Mokhtari, a contact person for newcomers in Berlin. Mokhtari, 24, has been living in Germany since 2003. His family name is known to almost everyone arriving here these days. Sohrab’s father Mohammad was a well-known Iranian writer. He was abducted in December 1998, his body was found one week later. He was a victim of the so-called chain murders, supposedly committed by state security forces. The family made efforts to have the case investigated and was under permanent observation. For a couple of years they managed to withstand the pressure, however, eventually they left Iran.

One day after the disputed elections in Iran, Mokthari and his Iranian friends in Berlin founded the “Network of young Iranians in Berlin”. “We wanted to show our support for the protest movement at home”, the student explains. For many supporters it was not an easy decision to join the group, for it meant to burn their bridges. If members of the network return to Iran, they face the risk of being arrested on their arrival at the airport.

“When I arrived in Germany I was not able to feel any happiness”
“Many of my Iranian friends in Berlin have become expat Iranians over night”, says Mokhtari. Even in Berlin the activists can feel the effects of having fallen from grace with the regime in Tehran. “Almost all of them receive phone calls from strangers who immediately hang up.” The mother of one member of the network in Berlin was called and threatened.

The “old” and the “new” expat Iranians assume that every phone call with the family in Iran is being eavesdropped, every e-mail is being read. It is impossible to talk openly about how the children abroad or the parents back home get along. “That’s hard”, says Mokhtari.

“I always loved traveling”, says Mirta, who will still have to deal with all the routine errands a newcomer has to go through. Looking for flat, first shopping tours at Ikea, later the language class at the “Volkshochschule” [evening classes for adults]. Before she can begin her life in Germany, she must be released from the reception camp first, her [residence permit] status needs to be clarified. “None of us who left Iran after the elections hoped to find a better job in Europe”, she says. She and all the others were forced to save their own lives – otherwise they would have stayed. “When I arrived in Germany I was not able to feel any happiness”, she explains. She says it feels like someone locked her memories up in a box, “and then took the key away from me”.

Published in “Der Spiegel” on November 29, 2009,1518,663573,00.html

Blindfolded, interrogated, kept in a tiny cell: Because he took pictures of a demonstration, the German student and blogger Florian Witulski was detained in Iran for days. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE he talks about the conditions of his detention.

Photo: Florian Witulski,

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr Witulski, on November 8 the Iranian news agency announced that two Germans were released from prison. You were one of them. What had happened?

Witulski: I was in a taxi, near a demonstration on occasion of the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy in Tehran. I was pulled out of the car, because I had a camera with me. I had been taking pictures of the demonstration before.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who pulled you out of the taxi?

Witulski: They were two members of the paramilitary Basij militias.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What happened afterwards?

Witulski: I was blindfolded and put into a car. I kept trying to explain in English that I was just a tourist and did not do anything illegal, but they just took my belongings and did not tell me anything. After that, we were in the car driving for about one and a half hours, and I was put into a cell.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Was your cell part of a larger prison complex?

Witulski: All I know is that it was a small solitary cell.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did they treat you?

Witulski: They did not beat me, but it was pretty rough. It started already in the car, when they kept pushing down my head, practically I was blindfolded the entire time, and they kept jostling me. I could take breaks and rest, but the numerous interrogations carried out by constantly changing people were pretty exhausting indeed.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What did your cell look like?

Witulski: There was a rug, nothing else. They gave me water and small portions of rice, but hardly any information. One of the wardens spoke some English and he told me that I would soon be released. That was all I found out.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Were you scared?

Witulski: Definitely. The cell really gave me an uneasy feeling. The wall was splattered with blood, the atmosphere was frightful.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What did they want from you?

Witulski: Information. They kept asking me why I was in Iran, why I took pictures, why I travelled to Iran now of all times, for whom I was working.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What did you tell them?

Witulski: I told them that I was in Iran as a tourist, that I was interested in the demonstrations. I assume they considered me to be a spy. I had a notebook with me, with notes, sketches, phone numbers. They asked me a lot of questions about that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did you see other inmates and how they were treated?

Witulski: No, but for a short time I was in another prison that belonged to the regular police, where they kept Iranian inmates. I don’t know whether they got beaten. But many of them were injured, had wounds in their faces, and black eyes.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Were you really just a tourist?

Witulski: Yes, I only came to Iran for traveling.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Have you been formally charged or convicted?

Witulski: After two days they handed me over to the police, where I was again interrogated. Then they took my passport and my camera, and I was allowed to return to the hotel. A couple of days later they took me to court, where they asked me questions again, but in the end it seems I was released, and they returned my passport to me.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you know who the second German citizen was?

Witulski: No, I have no idea.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Were your Iranian acquaintances whose addresses you had with you bothered in any way?

Witulski: I had a few phone numbers of Iranians with me indeed, and the authorities in those cases did carry out investigations. They were interrogated, the house of one of them was raided. I phoned them all afterwards, nothing worse has happened to them.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Was the German embassy able to help you?

Witulski: The police did not even report my arrest to the German embassy. I myself notified them after my release. They did their best, but they could not really help me. They just advised me to leave the country as soon as possible.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And that’s what you did. Where are you at the moment?

Witulski: I am in Lahore, Pakistan.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So your adventure trip continues?

Witulski: Yes. But after Pakistan I will return home.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are you going to travel to Iran again?

Witulski: I will try. It was nevertheless a fantastic journey. You have to accurately distinguish between the regime and the population.

Interview: Yassin Musharbash.

Published in “Neues Deutschland” on November 28, 2009

Translator’s note:
I am aware that most of my readers might not be overly surprised by what Ms Parsa has to say about the elections and the green movement. Of course, opinions like this can be heard in- and outside Iran, and the content of this interview does probably not present anything new to informed readers.
The reason why I decided to translate this interview is another one. This interview presents the green movement to German readers in a certain light, meaning that it has a whatever small influence on how the green movement is perceived in Germany. For example, an average German reader will be captured by Ms Parsa’s remarks about Zahra Rahnavard and the hejab issue. Comparing wives to cars is something that immediately arouses objection in almost every reader, it subtly creates consent and thus legitimizes the rest of the interview in the average reader’s mind.
Therefore, I consider this interview to be part of the things going on outside Iran that the movement inside Iran might want to be aware of. – When I was thinking about whether and why to translate this article for germantoenglish, I consulted some friends, and after one minute we found ourselves in a lively and also controversial discussion, discovering that there are always important points to talk about, even though you believe that you basically agree on everything. Articles like this might be annoying, but they give us an opportunity to grow and stay alert.


Nasrin Parsa, a publicist living in Germany since 1985, about the Iranian opposition

ND: Ms Parsa, did you travel to Iran, the country where you were born, for reasons of your curiosity as a journalist only?
Parsa: The Western countries have vehemently supported the “Green Wave” (editor’s note: this is how Parsa refers to the green-clad demonstrators against the government). The support was so strong that I asked myself “who are they?” In the West, and, as I observed, also in Germany, masses of posters with the slogans of the defied presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi were spread prior to demonstrations of the opposition, most of them were printed abroad. And I think it was not cheap to have them printed.

So how “green” is the country?
I had seen pictures of the demonstrations on CNN before, and talked to friends and realatives in Iran, and I have to say that many families are divided. The media in this country always show just one side, the oppositional side. But there are demonstrations of supporters of the other side as well. I attended some of the rallies in Tehran, and I felt reminded of the times of the block confrontation. One side was chanting “Death to Russia! Death to China!” The other side was responding with “Death to America! Death to Israel!”, and also “Death to Palestine”, because people are told that it is Iran’s support for Palestinian opposition groups that plunges Iranians into poverty. Only then came the call for freedom and the demands of the social movements. There truly are enough reasons for the people to stand up, but I saw “foreign interests” dominating “our demonstrations”.

How do you explain the protests against Russia?
They reflect the views of “foreign broadcasting stations”. Both Washington TV and Voice of America (VoA), both broadcasting in Persian, are financed by the US government. These media feel obliged to confront China and Russia. For them, Russia is a synonym for Stalin, China for Pol Pot [sic]. And many people believe it. They also are anti-Russia because Russia was one of the first countries of the world to acknowledge Ahmadinejad’s re-election, and because Iran and Russia have a nuclear cooperation. All this is repeatedly mentioned on VoA. However, it is worthwhile remembering the original reasons for the demonstrations: It was about the results of the presidential elections and the question whether Ahmadinejad is the legitimate winner of the election or not. And the Iranians have used the elections, and then the demonstrations, also to express their dissatisfaction with the development over the past 30 years.

For example what?
After the Islamic Revolution, certain groups of the population were stigmatized and oppressed. The first group to be tackled by the new regime in this way was the women. After the women, the critical student movement was targeted by the state. And in the 90ies, there were ominous serial murders of oppositional journalists and writers. Iran is suffering from corruption, inflation, unemployment, and organized crime. Thus, there were manifold reasons to protest against the government. In my perception, a large majority nevertheless voted for Ahmadinejad.

Who, in your opinion, supports Ahmadinejad, and who is opposes him?
To make it short: I think that the “greens” got the votes of large parts of the middle class, especially in Tehran. It was above all the Bazaris, the tradespeople, who supported the “Green Wave”: by management and promotion. Whereas for Ahmadinejad voted above all the poor people, the lower middle class and the socially deprived. When you leave Tehran and go to smaller cities and villages, you will notice that hardly anybody talks against Ahmadinejad – on the contrary. Many still remember the years of the American presence. Their nightmare is to be bombed by them, and in the face of this trauma of new threats they consider Ahmadinejad to be the fist against the USA.

What does the middle class expect from the opposition?
One example: I know a wealthy family who now is supporting the “Greens”, they are old friends of Ayatollah Khomeini. In his lifetime they gave him “zakat”, the charity tax which is one of the basic duties of every Muslim. Today they say that they do not want the system to be changed, however, they want their rich foreign customers back that they do not have right now.

What about all the young people who demonstrate against the government?
Many of them are unemployed and have no perspective. On TV they barely watch anything other than music channels like MTV. Therefore, they are very fixated on the West that they know only as the “golden” one from what they see on TV.
Other than the generation of the revolution, they are barely shaped by ideology. This year already 250 book stores had to close – not because the government banned them, but because they did not have enough customers. Unfortunately, a growing number of Iranians does not read books and hardly ever reads newspapers.

Maybe they would like to read different books?
I don’t think that this is the main reason. There are far fewer restrictions in Iran than people in Germany believe. For example, many bookstores in Tehran display the Communist Manifesto in their windows, and you can buy posters of Che Guevara. When I talked about this with a young woman, a student of literature, she asked me: “Who is Che Guevara?” She did not know him.
And this is the real problem of Iran. On TV, everything is about religion. Literature? Zero. Art? Zero. Children and adolescents barely learn anything except religion.
When I was 15, I wrote my first critical essay. Afterwards my father and I were summoned to the Savak, the secret police of the Shah. Only at home, through my father, I learned something about politics, social equality and things like that. Now, however, people have other opportunities. You can not compare it with the ruling of the Shah until 1979. At that time, that I experienced myself, people were killed when it was discovered that they possessed the Manifesto. Today everyone can read it in Persian. And we have many translations of other marxist and socialist writings. The best address for this kind of books is the University Street in Tehran.
Foreign influence on the media today takes place first of all via electronic media. However, the main reason why Iranians prefer foreign media is that their own, Iranian programs are so boring.

Let’s go back to the Iranian women. You said that the women were the first to suffer from the Islamic Revolution.
That’s true. Nevertheless, the women have fought to get back a piece of their freedom. Inch by inch, they have “shifted” their headscarves. Over the years, the headscarf has moved “backwards” about 30 centimeters. And in case the controllers do indeed find faults with the fit of the scarf, they simply say “oh, it slipped just now”.
Outside Tehran they are more strict though. The enforced compliance with religious codes today is first of all a tool to discipline the people and force them to keep still.

Rallies of the opposition still take place, but noticeably less than in the summer. Is the wave of protests gradually subsiding?
The confrontations will go on, because the problems have not been solved. And the people are no longer afraid to take to the streets. Many have started to believe in themselves again, and that they actually can bring about a change. Moreover, an idea was born: We want green! However, the problem of the mouthpieces of the “Greens” – Mir Hossein Moussavi and his supporter, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani – is that they do not have a program for the country. Most “Greens” do not specify their goals. In my mind I call them bio-islamists, because I believe that many of their slogans will expire soon.

And some of them take liberties with their former lives. Look at Zahra Rahnavard, for example. She was the first female Iranian to become a chancellor of a university after 1979, and she is Moussavi’s wife. In this country she is presented as a “woman of the revolution”. However, once she wrote the book “A veil for the muslim woman”. In this book, the problem is presented approximately like this: Imagine you buy a new car. You will certainly park it under a roof in order to protect it. The situation for a veiled woman is very similar. She ought to protect herself from the harmful environment by a veil…

The woman who wrote this is now regarded as the spearhead for women’s rights? Once she called for gender segregation in public. Today she walks in with a colorful headscarf and in tights. It was especially CNN who presented her like that. During the interview, she constantly adjusted her headscarf, moving it to the front of her head , because it was so colorful. I say: headscarf is headscarf, no matter if colorful or not.

The political struggle highlights the differences between both camps. Are there actually positions in which Ahmadinejad and Moussavi agree, for example the nuclear issue?
The opposition does not talk about this. Moussavi, though, said we do not need atom [literal translation of “wir bräuchten kein Atom” – “atom” is not specified]. I assume that Moussavi, if he was president, would meet the wishes of the West.
Right now we see that every Iranian who does something that attracts international attention is awarded a prize – as long as it can be assumed that he supports the opposition. Why? We did have excellent artists before, but they were barely noticed. Since two years ago this has changed. A photographer, for example, received a Golden Bear in Rome. She came in green clothes. This makes art look suspicious.

This will probably last until the end of the presidency of the incumbent. Do you actually believe that he manipulated the election results?
Everything can happen in Iran, so of course everything can happen in the elections. But it is impossible to manipulate 11 Million votes. However, I suppose that without a fraud there would have been a second ballot. That’s what the hardliners were afraid of.
One thing, however, is certain: A social movement has started in Iran that can not be stopped!

Interview: Roland Etzel

Nasrin Parsa lives in Frankfurt/Main, where she studied media sociology after leaving Iran, the country of her parents, in 1985. That was right in the middle of the war. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had attacked his neighbor Iran in 1980 in order to annex the province of Khuzestan in south-eastern Iran that is populated mainly by Arabs, hoping to be able to do this without encountering significant resistance from Tehran that was weakened after the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The war ended in 1988 with the defeat of Iraq. At that time, Parsa was already abroad – fortunately, since in the last year of the war the invaders temporarily were in her home town Kermanshah as well – and in its wake, a part of the Iranian opposition in exile.

Today, the core of this opposition is barely weaker, but much farther away. In Germany, this core is also represented strongly, even more, loudly. They call themselves National Resistance Council Iran (NWRI), also known as the Mojaheddin of the People, and are considered to be the voice of Iranian exiles.

Before, during, and after the presidential election in Iran, the NRWI organized numerous demonstrations, hunger strikes, panel discussions, and other public events. The Iranians in exile all over the world really have left little undone to make it clear that they consider the result of the elections of 12. June in their former home country to be manipulated; rigged by the former and current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nasrin Parsa has been more a little more cautious from the beginning, also concerning the Iranian opposition’s allegations of electoral fraud. But she wanted to have a closer look and therefore travelled to Iran herself.

Addition by the translator:
For complementary reading and insight into Nasrin Parsa’s views. Interview with Nasrin Parsa from 2007 about the problems of Iranian women in Europe (Farsi)

Published in “Der Spiegel” on November 27 2009,1518,663956,00.html#ref=rss

Bitter controversy about a high tribute: Tehran denies to have confiscated Shirin Ebadi’s Nobel Peace Prize. Ebadi accuses the regime of lying. Her medal was stolen, her bank account is blocked, she says. Ebadi was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights activities.

London/Tehran – She fights for democracy and human rights in Iran, for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. However, a bitter controversy is taking place around the prize that was awarded to her in 2003. On Friday, Iran denied to have “purposefully” confiscated her medal, however, acknowledged that the government has blocked her bank account with the prize money, amounting to an equivalent of 870.000 Euro.

According to Mehr news agency, a spokesman of the Foreign Ministry in Tehran had declared on Friday that a confiscation had been carried out with Ebadi on order of the judiciary, as it is common in tax affairs in Iran. He did not specify what exactly was confiscated by the authorities.

Ebadi struck back at he government in Tehran. “They are not telling the truth”, she told the British broadcasting station BBC in London. “They have blocked my bank account and also stopped my pension payments.” The same happened to the bank account and the pension of her husband. In addition, her bank box with her Nobel Prize and the medal of the French Legion of Honor in it had been cleared, said 62 year old Ebadi.

“If the Islamic Republic is annoyed by publications of human rights reports, they rather ought to improve the human rights situation”, said Ebaid according to the Farsi website of Radio Farda. “The Iranian authorities by this behavior are trying to put me under pressure, but it won’t work.”

The lawyer Ebadi appealed to UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon to get a picture of the human rights abuses in Iran.”No Iranian judge dares to hear my complaints”, she added.

Struggle for democracy and human rights
On Thursday, Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere had said he was “shocked”. It was the first time that authorities of a country confiscated a Nobel Peace Prize. He summoned the Iranian ambassador in Oslo to protest against the actions and express his concern about the well-being of Ebadi and her relatives.

Ebadi had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. The lawyer was detained several times, and even after she became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, she had to face harrassments of the authorities who even went as far as to close her office.

Ebadi, who has been travelling abroad a lot in the past years, has not returned to her home country since the unrests following the disputed re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 12. Juni. She faces the risk of being detained again for her strict opposition against Ahmadinejad when entering the country.


Published in “Der Spiegel” on November 25, 2009
Source (German):,1518,663666,00.html#ref=rss

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ebadi: Diploma and medal confiscated by Iran

Iranian authorities have confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize of human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. The laureate has repeatedly been facing harrassments from her country in the past. The Norwegian government is outraged.

Oslo/Tehran – Iranian authorities have confiscated the diploma and the medal of lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi’s 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. This was confirmed by Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in Oslo on Thursday. Støre summoned Tehran’s diplomatic representative and protested on behalf of his government.

Ebadi, a lawyer, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. She was detained several times, and even as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate she was repeatedly harrassed by the authorities to the point that her office was shut down.

According to the information provided by Norway, the entire content of one of Ebadi’s bank boxes now was confiscated, including the Nobel awards. Norway’s Foreign Minister Støre stated, “It is the first time that a state confiscates a Nobel Peace Prize. We are shocked and do not have the slightest understanding for this.”

Along with the medal and the diploma, Ebadi had also received the endowment of ten million krones (about 1 million Euro).

Six year prison sentence for a dissident
An Iranian opponent to the mullah regime in Tehran was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday. The former Iranian Minister of Industry and deputy president of parliament, Behzad Nabavi, was accused to have played a major role in the demonstrations following the disputed presidential elections on 12. June. This was reported on websites of the reformist movement on Thursday.

The former Minister was released on bail and may now lodge an appeal. The Revolutionary Court has charged him for turning against the Islamic establishment. Nabavi himself has never acknowledged the charge of pursuing an overthrow (of the regime).

Last week, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the former deputy of ex-president Mohammad Khatami, was also sentenced to six years in prison.


Published in “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (Switzerland) on November 26, 2009
Source (German):

Iranian authorities have confiscated the medal and diploma for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize of lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. This was confirmed by Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stre in Oslo on Thursday.

(sda/dpa) Stre summoned Tehran’s diplomatic representative and protested on behalf of his government. Ebadi, a lawyer, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. She was detained several times, and even as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate she was repeatedly harrassed by the authorities to the point that her office was shut down.

According to the information provided by Norway, the entire content of one of Ebadi’s bank boxes now was confiscated, including the Nobel awards. Norway’s Foreign Minister Stre stated, “It is the first time that a state confiscates a Nobel Peace Prize. We are shocked and do not have the slightest understanding for this.”

Along with the medal and the diploma, Ebadi had also received the endowment of ten million krones (about 1,8 million Swiss francs).

Published in “Der Standard” (Austria) on November 25, 2009

Human rights groups report on massive confrontation of university students prior to the Iranian National Student Day on 7. December.
London – According to reports of a human rights group, mass arrests of students are going on as the National Student Day is approaching. The state is massively confronting students in order to prevent the protests that are expected for December 7. This was reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in London on Wednesday. The arrests are not only a violation of the young peoples’ human rights, but they also affect their studies and their family lives.

60 students arrested
Arrests and suspensions of students from universities are also reported by oppositional Iranian websites. So far 60 student leaders have been arrested, according to the reformist website Norooz. Iran regularly dismisses accusations of human rights violations.

Opposition groups accuse the state of having rigged the presidential elections of June 12 in favor of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which the government denies. Because they are prevented from staging their own demonstrations, the reformist powers have called on their supporters to participate in the official rallies on occasion of the Student Day on 7. December.

On November 4, during the rallies commemorating the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy in Tehran, security forces clashed with supporters of the defied presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi.

Published in “Der Spiegel” on November 23, 2009
Source (German):,1518,662845,00.html

Journalist Pajooh: A generation struggling for freedom

No access to her lawyer, no charge: Journalist Fariba Pajooh has been detained in the notorious Evin prison since August.

When the intelligence agents called, Fariba Pajooh knew that something bad was going to happen. We want to talk to you, they said. An informational talk.

A couple of days later, the men came to get her. It was the 22. August, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan. Fariba Pajooh had been home with her mother all day, they had been preparing the feast for the night. She briefly went outside to get some sweets. When she returned home, she was accompanied by three men.

They were polite, her mother says. For an hour they searched drawers, closets, computers. Mother and daughter were allowed to break the fast together, trembling with fear, with dates and tea. Then they said that Fariba had to come with them, just for an hour. They promised her mother to treat her daughter as if she was their own child. It was a lie.

Since then, Fariba Pajooh, 29, a delicate woman with a beautiful, maidenly face, has been detained in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, in department 209 which is controlled by the intelligence. She is one of more than one hundred journalists and bloggers arrested by the regime following the bloody crack down on the demonstrations against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s elctoral fraud. Only few of them have been held as long as Fariba Pajooh, though. Her case clearly illustrates how cruelly the regime is dealing with journalists.

In her detention she is suffering from severe depression and cardiac arrhythmia caused by stress. In the first month her parents were not allowed to see her, later they were allowed visits on Mondays, but were nevertheless sent back home many times. Her current lawyer was not allowed to talk to her even once. Only after two months she learned what her client is accused of: first espionage, then “propaganda against the regime”.

Fariba Pajooh belongs to the generation of Iranians that has been struggling for freedom since their youth. At the age of 18 she was arrested for the first time. She became a journalist, wrote for reformist newspapers, for state run news agencies and newspapers – not about big politics, but about the social problems in Iran.

She was arrested a second time when she was about to travel to the USA to attend the presidential election. When the protests against the regime shook the country this year, she worked round-the-clock, also as a translator for a Colombian correspondent, which made her look even more suspicious to the authorities. She told friends that she was aware of the danger she was in, but she wanted a better future for Iran.

“The pen is the enemy of ignorance”, she wrote in her blog, only a few days before she was arrested. “My pen is the friendliest of the friendly. I have conspired with my pen.”

The first month of her detention she spent in a “grave” – this is what Iran’s prisoners call the tiny underground dungeons in Evin, the prison situated on a hill overlooking Tehran from behind high walls, almost a city on its own. She is not in one of the departments controlled by the Basij militias from where word on torture and rape is getting out. But the loneliness of the solitary confinement wears down the spirit. Several times a day the detainees are summoned for interrogation, they get beaten and their bodies are frisked.

After a while they learn to distinguish their interrogators by their shoes that they can see despite their blindfolds, and by the extent of their aggressiveness. They insult, they threat, they beat the prisoners, and then they lure them: if they finally confess, they might soon be released.

After one month, Fariba Pajooh is transferred to the upper part of the prison. Now she has a cell mate, Hengameh Shahidi, a journalist like her. In late October, both start a hunger strike, after five days both are transferred to the hospital ward: Hengameh Shahidi is released, Fariba Pajooh is moved into another cell.

Now she is dwelling in a room of about 10 square meters, light is coming in only through a tiny hatch. At night the temperature in the cell drops to the freezing point. She has to take eight pills each day, three for her heart, three anti depressants, two sleeping pills.

Farideh Pajooh, her mother, says that Fariba is still being interrogated daily, sometimes until 11 at night. Her daughter’s hair, despite her youth, has white strands, and she is in a distressing mental condition.

Her mother has been wandering back and forth between offices, she has been put off and given promises many times. Human rights organizations got involved, but nothing happened. Allegedly, the hearing of evidence was finalized several days ago, but still no date has been set for the trial.

Last Wednesday her family out of despair staged a sit-in protest in the Revolutionary Court, for eight hours. Eventually they were allowed to talk to Tehran’s senior public prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi. He said he would take care of it. Another promise.

Published on German TV channel “ARD”/news broadcast “Tagesschau”, on November 22, 2009
Source (German):

Abtahi (3rd from right) was the deputy of president Khatami from 1998 - 2005

The former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi for his role in the protests following the disputed presidential election was sentenced to a six year imprisonment. His lawyer Saleh Nikbakht said that Abtahi is charged with having fuelled unrests to overthrow the system. However, according to reports of news agency IRNA he has been released on a bail equivalent to 470.000 Euro and is expecting an appeals hearing.

Human rights groups and opposition circles talked of a show trial against Abtahi. After his arrest, he was showed on TV admitting to the charge of inciting unrests. His family and political friends say that he had been under pressure during his confession in early August. He was possibly even tortured. Abtahi is said to have lost a lot of weight in detention.

The news agency Fars at that time reported that Abtahi called the oppositional politicians Moussavi, Khatami and Rafsanjani “close-knit allies”. Literally, it read: “I tell all my friends that the fraud issue was a lie and served as a pretext for the riots.”

More than 100 arrests and 5 death sentences
Abtahi is one of more than 100 moderate politicians who were arrested after the presidential election of June 12. He was known to be a commited reformist and critic of the conservatives. Abtahi had been Iran’s vice-president under the liberal president Mohammad Khatami.

Spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei despite massive fraud allegations had recognized the victory of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, whereupon the most widespread protests since the Iranian revolution of 1979 took place. The government responded by a mass trial against oppositional politicians who are charged with instigating an overthrow of the system by means of a “velvet revolution”. So far, five death sentences have been issued in those trials. Khamenei has stated that it was a crime to question the legitimacy of the June 12 elections.

Moussavi: The Green Movement will carry on
Meanwhile, Moussavi called on the government in Tehran to stop their policy of intimidation against different-minded people. On his website “Kalame” it says that the so-called green movement will carry on with its commitment and is ready to pay a high price. The officially defied presidential candidate launched this appeal on occasion of a meeting commemorating the assassination of Iranian opposition members 11 years ago.

Published in “Der Spiegel” on November 22, 2009
Source (German):,1518,662707,00.html#ref=rss

Convict Abtahi: 'Confession' on TV?

The Iranian TV showed Mohammed Ali Abtahi confessing to have incited his fellow countrymen to riots in the context of the protests against the disputed presidential election – he had been pressured, says his family. Now the reformist politician is facing 6 years in prison.

Tehran – Former Iranian vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi has been sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the protests following the controversial presidential election. His lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said on Sunday that Abtahi is charged with fuelling unrests aiming at an overthrow of the regime. He said he will file an appeal. Human rights groups and opposition circles talked of a show trial against Abtahi.

On Sunday, Abtahi was initially released on bail. According to the news agency IRNA, Tehran’s prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi announced that Abtahi was released on a bail equivalent to 470.000 Euro.

Abtahi had been arrested shortly after the controversial re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and has since been detained in the notorious Evin prison. In his hearing that took place in mid August, he had withdrawn previous statements and stressed that there had not been any fraud in the presidential elections. Apart from that, he made a “confession” that was broadcasted on TV, announcing that he had been wrong. His family and his political friends said that Abtahi had been under pressure during the confession. He is one of more than 100 moderate politicians who were arrested after the presidential election of June 12. Abtahi had been Iran’s vice-president under the liberal president Mohammad Khatami.

Spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei despite massive fraud allegations had recognized the victory of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, whereupon the most widespread protests since the Iranian revolution of 1979 took place.

The government now responds by a mass trial against oppositional politicians who are charged with instigating an overthrow of the system by means of a “velvet revolution”. So far, five death sentences have been issued in those trials. Khamenei has stated that it was a crime to question the legitimacy of the June 12 elections.


Published on German TV channel NDR / media and politics November 22 2009 11:30 p.m.
Source (German):

Repression: Iranian journalists flee abroad
Intimidation, abduction, arrest – freedom of the press in Iran is and will remain mere wishful thinking. Since president Ahmadinejad manipulated the elections, the situation has become unbearable for journalists. For many of them, the internet is the last opportunity to report freely. However, they will now be deprived of this opportunity by the regime – with the help of a special unit for monitoring e-mails and websites. More than 100 bloggers and journalists are already imprisoned in Iran. Escape is their only way out.
Author: Stefan Buchen

She left everything behind. All she had on her when she arrived in Cologne some weeks ago was her backpack. Mitra Khalatbari was a journalist in Iran – an awarded one. Now she had to leave because the intelligence service was threatening her. This is how Mitra Khalatbari describes how she got out of Iran: “I did not leave Iran legally, but secretly, just like many other journalists did. It was an escape.” In her articles she spoke out against death penalty and for human rights. She published her articles in reformist Iranian newspapers. After the re-election of the hardliner Ahmadinejad on June 12, the situation for critical journalists like her became increasingly dangerous. As Mitra Khalatbari explains: “After the elections, one representative each of the public prosecution office and the censorship board supervised our work in the editorial offices of the reformist newspapers. They defined which articles would be published and which would not.” It was mid June, the time of the mass protests against the re-election of Ahmadinejad, when millions of people chanted “Death to the dictatorship”

Beating up the protesters
The regime felt threatened. Mitra was there, she took pictures although it was forbidden, she saw the courage that ordinary people took to stand up against the regime. Although she could not capture the brutal behavior of the security forces against the protesters – that would have been way too dangerous. But she witnessed it: “I saw how a boy got beaten up by three or four security forces. He was skinny and lank, 17 years old at the most. I felt powerless because I could not do anything.” After her newspaper, which supported the protest movement, was banned in August, she and many other journalists signed an appeal addressed to the leaders of the reformist movement and liberal clerics, calling on them to vigorously stand up against Ahmadinejad. The intelligence responded by massively threatening the signatories, among them was Mitra Khalatbari. “Just like they did with many other journalists, they intimidated me and summoned me by phone. But it got around that it is not a good idea to actually show up at those hearings, because it is possible that you simply vanish and get locked up, with nobody knowing anything about your whereabouts”. She secretly left the country, just like more than 100 other Iranian journalists. A real wave of escape is underway, as confirmed by Reporters without Borders. Dietrich Schlegel, member of Reporters without Borders, describes the situation as follows: “This is unprecedented. I would in fact call it an exodus. This extent, caused by this kind of repression which is imposed on the journalists, is unprecedented, even in other countries.” The regime is determined to violently suppress the unrests. Dozens of demonstrators already died, thousands of them were arrested. Reporters without Borders is trying to gather as much information as possible about the detained journalists. Dietrich Schlegel: “As far as we know, right now 24 journalists and bloggers are still in prison. They are mostly charged with attempts to overthrow the Islamic system or working for the United States, for the evil Satan, or for the Western powers.”

Propaganda show in a small-talk style
Pro-regime journalists staged a poor propaganda show on state-run TV stations. The former vice-president and mastermind of the reformist movement, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, dressed in his prison garb, was forced to confess and express regrets with the cameras running. The journalists in the courtroom had come to terms with the situation, had already become part of the coercive apparatus. And then, the tasteless encore: Abtahi and a fellow inmate have to give an exclusive interview, in a seemingly relaxed ambience. Mohammad Ali Abtahi in this interview said, in a coerced attempt of sounding casual: “I was treated really well in prison”, adding “I even became friendly with the interrogators.” The reporter asks: “May we believe this?” Mohammad Ali Abtahi’s answer: “Yes, the interrogators have been very empathetic.”

Mitra Khalatbari knows the colleagues who work for the state TV. She says: „Many journalists who work for the state-run TV stations are convinced of what they do, and it doesn’t even cross their minds that the public does no longer believe in all this acting.” In Germany, Mitra wants to raise public awareness for the scandalous situation, she has started giving lectures. Since the increase of censorship and the mass escape of journalists, only amateur pictures of the banned demonstrations in Iran are available. Mitra Khalatbari describes the situation of the courageous citizens in Iran: “After the elections all citizens have become journalists. Everyone has a camera, everyone is reporting, spreading news on the internet, on weblogs. The people try to compensate the loss and do the job of the journalists themselves.” Mitra wants to make those voices heard, at least in Germany, so the flow of information about the people’s uprising in her country will not be stopped.

Published in “Der Standard” (Austria) on November 22, 2009
Source (German):

Jalal Talabani traveled to Tehran, according to media information

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, according to media reports is seeking to prevent execution of Iranian Kurds

Suleimaniya – According to media information, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani has traveled to the neighboring Iran on Sunday in an attempt to prevent the execution of Kurdish citizens. As reported by the internet issue of the newspaper “Awina”, Talabani met the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday, pleading to save the lives of Iranian Kurds who have been sentenced to death. According to Talabani’s wishes, Ahmadinejad should call on head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani to not execute these convicts. Talabani is a Kurd himself. Until now, the report has not been officially confirmed by the Iraqi side.

Demands to abolish death penalty
Last week, deputies of the Kurdish minority in Iran had demanded the death penalty for members of their ethnic group to be abolished, warning of rifts between the Iranian Kurds and the government in Tehran in case the death penalty would continue to be applied. As reported by the news agency ILNA, the Kurdish deputies also addressed Larijani in a letter after the Kurdish citizen Ehsan Fatahian had been executed despite protests of the members of parliament. The Iranian province of Kurdistan, situated on the border with Iraq, is mainly inhabited by Sunnis, while the majority of the entire population of the country are Shia. The Kurds make up about seven per cent of the 70 million population of Iran.

Published in “Die Zeit” on November 22, 2009

The former Iranian vice-president and reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi has been sentenced to six years in prison. In a show trial he had to make a fabricated confession. Following his sentence he was released on bail.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi defending himself in a courtroom in Tehran

By Martin Gehlen

With dark rings under his eyes and fear in his face, dressed in a badly fitting grey prison garb – this is how the public last saw Mohammad Ali Abtahi, when the state TV presented him in the Tehran show trial months ago.

Now the 15. Revolutionary Court sentenced him to six years in prison and temporarily released him on a bail amounting to an equivalent of 480.000 Euro. This was reported by the state news agency IRNA.

The verdict is not final. According to his daughter, Abtahi was convicted of “conspiracy against the country’s security, propaganda against the government, insulting the president, participating in an illegal demonstration and possession of secret documents.”

The 51 year old cleric, who in the West is also know as “the blogging mullah”, is one of the major masterminds in the reformist camp in Iran. For three years he was the deputy of the prominent president Mohammad Khatami, which so far makes him the highest-ranking defendant to be punished after the protests against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The new head of Iran’s judiciary Sadegh Larijani, as one of his first acts, had stopped all television broadcasts of the show trials. Since then he has been trying behind the scenes to bring the negative judicial row against approximately 140 defendants to an end – with an arbitrary mixture of toughness and grace. Last week, the administration of the judiciary announced that so far five young protesters had been sentenced to death, 81 more inmates had received sentences of six months to 15 years. All these judgements, like Abtahi’s, have not yet become final.

This is while the campaign adviser of reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, former mayor of Tehran Morteza Alviri, and the Canadian-Iranian Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari were released on high bails without judgements. Bahari left the country the same day and flew to Canada via London. The French language teacher Clotilde Reiss was also released from prison and has since been living in the French mission. Last week she again had to make a court appearance, but without getting any clarification about her fate.

The judgement that was pronounced against Abtahi in the first instance was comparatively mild regarding the framework of the political legal practice of the Islamic Republic. This could mean that the regime does not want to risk a culmination in the confrontation with the leading figures of the opposition – Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami.

In Evin prison, however, the former vice president of Mohammad Khatami was put under so much pressure that in the televised show trial he read a fabricated “confession”: “I am telling all my friends and all those who hear us: The allegation of electoral fraud was a lie and had been designed to fuel unrest in Iran. Iran was supposed to become like Afghanistan and Iraq in order to damage it”, the former vice-president read from a piece of paper.

His wife later reported that during his detention he had been given pills that caused disturbances of the memory, so he could not remember many things. Before he was arrested, Abtahi led an institute for inter-religious dialogue and published daily columns in his popular blog, that has since been shut down. “It was a big fraud” was the headline of his last entry that the politician wrote in the sleepless night following the election day, and 72 hours prior to his arrest.

Published in “Der Standard” (Austria) on November 22, 2009
Source (German):

Former vice-president Abtahi, here shown while leaving a cabinet session in 2003, has been sentenced to six years in prison.

Former vice-president Abtahi released on bail – Moussavi demands to end intimidation

Tehran – The former Iranian vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi who has been sentenced to a six-year imprisonment is not going back to prison for the time being. According to the official news agency IRNA, the reformist politician remains free on a bail amounting to 7 billion Rial (about 466.000 Euro) for the duration of the appeals procedure. According to press reports published on Sunday, Abtahi is charged with fuelling the protests and unrests following the disputed presidential election in June. He was informed about the verdict the day before, it says. Abtahi together with dozens of other representatives of the reformist camp had been arrested after the election.

During the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, Abtahi had been the vice president of the Islamic Republic from 1997 – 2005. He would be the highest ranking reformist to be sentenced to prison in the context of the protests.

Electoral fraud
After the re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the opposition had accused the government of massive electoral fraud. The leadership in Tehran rejected the allegations and confronted the protesters violently. Several people died, thousands were arrested. The unrests were the severest to take place since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi called for an end of the intimidation of government opponents. The opposition will continue its work and is ready to pay any price, Moussavi was quoted saying on his web site “Kalame” on Sunday. The statement was published shortly before a scheduled rally of moderate forces to commemorate the assassination of a dissident couple in 1998. Security forces had called on the opposition to abstain from protest activities.

Published in “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on November 20, 2009

Cairo – An Iranian physician who had witnessed torture of opposition supporters in prisons has possibly been murdered. After Ramin Pouranjani [sic, correct name will be used in the rest of the translation] had made it public that he saw dead and injured torture victims in Tehran’s Kahrizak detention center, it is now claimed that he committed suicide. As reported by relatives and oppositional media, the explanations provided for the death of the 26 year old physician are contradictory. Initially, officials spoke of a car accident. After that, both intoxication and heart failure had been claimed to have caused his death. Finally, there was talk about suicide. His family has not seen the dead body, and there has been no autopsy, according to oppositional internet sites. The Judiciary now announced that the case is being investigated.

Previously, Pourandarjani had revealed to a parliamentary committee of investigation that he had been forced to forge the death certificate of a torture victim. The cases of death and alleged torture of several opposition supporters detained after the demonstrations against the presidential elections in June had caused an outcry from oppositional and conservative circles. Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi had denounced cases of detainees being raped; revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released order to close the Kahrizak detention center. Later, the government stated that there had been no cases of rape, and the Mehdi Karroubi would be called to account by the Judiciary. Human rights activists have been routinely denouncing torture in Iran for decades.ave

Published in “Die ZEIT” on November 19, 2009

Iran’s hardliners have canceled the uranium compromise with the IAEA, which is provoking sanctions of the West. The opposition in Iran could benefit from the rigid approach, though. A commentary.

by Martin Gehlen

Iran's regime is again basking in its favourite role: Alone against the rest of the world

The cat is out of the bag: The uranium compromise between the Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and the Islamic Republic is history. The intermezzo of a diplomatic convergence in Geneva and Vienna has evaporated. And the draft contract that was negotiated by Iran’s representative under the auspices of outgoing IAEA-chief Mohamed El Baradei only four weeks ago ended up in the bin.

If the draft had been turned into a signed treaty, the major part of the low-enriched uranium would have been sent to Russia and France for further processing into fuel rods for the medical experimental reactor in Tehran. The Vienna deal would have served both sides: Iran would have been provided with operative civil nuclear technology, and the international community could have been certain that Tehran for lack of fissile material will not construct a bomb any time soon. The nuclear conflict would have been alleviated – at least for a certain period of time.

But this will all come to nothing now. Following heated discussions within the conservative circles of power in Tehran, revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei apparently ended the internal struggle by an unusually sharp attack against the USA on the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the American embassy. And meanwhile all sides are back in their old trenches. Iran’s regime is again basking in its favorite role – alone against the world – while the West is openly preparing for a fourth round of international sanctions.

President Barack Obama has announced that the USA already in the coming weeks will be forcing the pace. France, Germany and England are tired of Iran’s endless hide-and-seek. While Russia’s rhetoric remains wavering and conciliatory, the Kremlin now seems to be more open-minded about possible sanctions than it had been a year ago. Thus, Moscow recently once more postponed the commissioning of the civil reactor in Bushehr and the supply of the required fuel rods, ignoring the protest of exasperated Iranian engineers. The SS-300 missiles to defend possible air strikes, urgently wanted by Iran’s military leadership, remain stored in Russian depots.

Only China continues to be the dark horse in a possible UN-boycott scenario. Sanctions of the Security Council against the Iranian energy sector are unlikely to be supported by China, since Beijing would not want to jeopardize their profitable oil treaties and major projects in the expansion of Iranian refineries.
This is, among other reasons, why the West is now concentrating on the banking sector and the boycott of Iranian shipping lines.

The green opposition against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, is the only one to benefit from the international turn to the worse. A great concern of the opposition leaders was that by reaching a nuclear compromise the West would be induced to de-facto acknowledge the controversial president, quietly filing away and forgetting human rights issues, democracy, detention and torture of politically unwanted persons, repression and censoring of dissidents. But since the nuclear issue will remain on the table, the power struggle has now also again become an open-ended question.

Published in “Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ)” (Switzerland) on November 19, 2009
Source (German):
English translation (of excerpts): Elli

New offer from Tehran may represent a compromise in the internal power struggle
Iran has agreed to compromise with the West over the nuclear issue only if the proposed exchange of uranium takes place on its own territory.
Jürg Bischoff, Beirut

The Iranian foreign minister Mottaki declared that Iran would not ship its 3.5 percent enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment. Responding to a suggestion of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he instead proposed an exchange for higher enriched uranium (ca. 20 percent) on Iranian territory.

Mottaki also called for new technical talks to determine which quantities of each type of uranium can be exchanged. According to Mottaki, these proposals have already been deposited with the IAEA. His comments reveal the mistrust that the IAEA’s proposal, according to which 70 percent of Iran’s uranium would have been sent to Russia, has created in Tehran. The Russian ambassador in Iran has repeatedly tried to alleviate these concerns by reassuring that the IAEA’s plan was not a trick, and that Russia would – contrary to some rumours – stick to its commitments.


Over the last weeks, president Ahmadinejad has been campaigning for the nuclear deal, declaring it a victory for Iran in every respect. For example, he claimed that the West had given up its demand to halt uranium enrichment, and that Iran might participate in a global bank for nuclear fuel. Ahmadinejad’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, assured that Iran could now exert all its nuclear rights, thanks to its dynamic foreign policy.

Unusual fronts
The fronts in the debate over the uranium deal correspond to those of the regime’s internal power struggle. What seems paradoxical is that the populist and revolutionary hardliner Ahmadinejad is speaking in favor of the agreement, whereas traditional conservatives – by the way, in accordance with prominent reformers like Mir Hossein Mousavi – speak against it. Ahmadinejad apparently hopes that a settlement in the nuclear issue will strengthen his domestic position, which has been tarnished after his doubtful reelection in June. In contrast, his opponents hope for further weakening of his position if the deal is thwarted.

Mottaki’s new ideas seem to be the fruit of a typical Iranian compromise. However, it seems unlikely that the West can see a benefit in it.

Published on “Deutschlandradio”, culture section, on November 18 2009

This leading position can not possibly please the leadership in Tehran: Among the developing nations, Iran is topping the list of the so-called “brain drain”, meaning the emigration of academics. According to a study conducted by the International Monetary Fund, about 180,000 well trained Iranians leave the country every year. Most of them emigrate to the USA, according to the study which is being quoted by Iranian newspapers. The Foreign Ministry in Tehran refuses to speak about a “brain drain”, though. A spokesman declared that after all most emigrants do not entirely cut relations with their home country.

Published in weekly magazine “Focus” on November 17, 2009

Following her arrest on leaving Iran four months ago, the trial against 24 year old French citizen Clotilde Reiss was continued today. She is accused of disseminating information about the protests of the opposition.

The espionage case against the young Frenchwoman Clotilde Reiss has again been tried at the Iranian Revolutionary Court on Tuesday. About four months after her arrest, the 24 year old woman had to appear before the court in Tehran. After the trial she was allowed to return to the French embassy, according to the French Foreign Ministry in Paris. Reiss has been under house arrest in the French embassy since mid August.

In the past weeks the Iranian Judiciary had not been specific about whether Reiss after the trial would be allowed to return to the embassy or sent back to the notorious Evin prison. Bernard Valero, spokesman of the Paris Foreign Office, said that there is still no verdict in the case, and the Court would soon summon her again. According to her father, Rémi Reiss, she is well and in good spirit. After a phone conversation with his daughter, he told the french broadcasting station France-2 that there were new positive developments, however, he was not able to tell whether a release could be expected any time soon.

Clotilde Reiss was arrested at the Tehran airport when she was about to leave the country in early July following the mass demonstrations against the results of the Iranian presidential elections. She is being accused of disseminating information about the opposition protests. In early August she had appeared in Court for the first time in a mass trial held against about 100 opposition figures. In response to international pressure, she was released from prison on 16 August and transferred to the embassy. Prior to that, Reiss had been teaching French at the University of Isfahan for five months.

The original article in English was published in The Guardian on November 16, 2009

The German translation was published in the Berlin daily “Der Freitag” on November 17, 2009