Iran News ...


Tehran: Life amidst Fire

By Masoud Behnoud, Tehran
Translated By: Roya Monajem

During daytime, Baghdad TV, whose programs can be watched in Southern and Western Iran, broadcasts films that show the fortifications set up in the streets of this city and the people whom by burning American flag try to prove their fidelity to Saddam Hussein, Iraq's dictator. But in the Eastern Iran, within a few kilometers away from the frontiers watched carefully by Iranian Pasdars (revolutionary guards), one of the greatest military headquarters is under construction by Americans who settled there after the fall of Taliban.

Throughout the region that extends from European frontier in Istanbul to Hindokosh mountains near Chinese frontier, from cold southern Russia to hot African deserts, America has a live news-making presence that is defined by oil and gas, in everywhere except Iran where throughout the past quarter of the century the cry of death to America has been loud. Both in Washington and Iran, it is still said that after Iraq it will be Iran's turns.

In a coffee shop situated in the skirts of snow covered mountains of north of Tehran, a retired professor of history is holding Time magazine showing an article to the mountaineers in which it is written that CIA coup against Dr. Mosadegh's state is the first coup after the WWII plotted by American Intelligence Service. A photograph of Shah returning to Iran after the coup decorates the article.

Asghar Kashani, who is 74, believes that although half century has passed, but nothing has changed. In 1974 Americans conducted that coup against Mosadegh's state with the excuse of the threat of communism and now with the excuse of the threat of terrorism they are launching a military attack against Iraq.

A few meters away from where the old mountaineers are listening to Kashani's memories of Mosadegh, a group of university students carrying bread and cheese and a few textbooks in their sacs are talking about a protest that is to be held as a demonstration against the imprisonment of one of their friends, a student arrested by special forces during the protest against the recent verdict of death-sentence passed on Aghajari's case.

In the early hours of a winter morning in the polluted mountain skirts of the north of Tehran, middle aged men wearing sport outfit returning from their mountain climbing are talking about economics while eating their breakfast, a hot cup of tea with hot bread with great appetite. On the other side, a group of women who have covered themselves thoroughly to protect themselves both against the cold and the guards watching hejab (Islamic covering for women) are talking about the programs of a theater festival in which, for the first time, two women have acted without the official hejab for Iranian women.

These three age groups have no interest in the daily news about the crisis in Iraqi-American relationship. Most of them think about the reformation movement that started five years ago in Iran and has been struggling hard against the fundamentalist and extremist defendants of Islamic Republic.

This is a general and miniature picture of Iranian society in the neighborhood of Afghanistan and Iraq that has tried to keep itself away from the crisis in the past fifteen month. But the situation of Islamic Republic government is not as simple as what the young generation interested in political progress imagine. The crisis going on in a region where Moslem fundamentalists are in majority might not give religious government of Iran the chance to stay sound amidst this fire and continue its slow, tiring and step by step practice of democracy.

Two millions Afghanis taking refugee in Iran as the result of the long internal war of Afghanistan against the fundamentalist Taliban state are in the same state after the American invasion of Afghanistan and fleeing of Taliban, and their number has not decreased. At the same time Iranian government has set up a camp near the western frontiers for the one million refugees that is foreseen to flee to Iran in case America attacks Iraq. And this is only one of the sparks of the Middle East fire that might find its way into Iran.

Intensification of Iraqi-American crisis has put foreign policy of Iran in the same difficult situation that it found itself during the last year's British and American attack on Afghanistan. In the war against Taliban and Al-Qaedeh led by America and her allies, Tehran tried to participate in the celebration of the fall of the traditionalist Sunni government of Taliban without clapping for its great enemy America. The foreign minister of Iran was the first to congratulate Hamed Karrzai, without giving up the slogan of death to America and joining American allies.

Naji Sabri, Iraqi foreign minister who was supposed to travel to Iran for the second time could not make this trip because the MPs, who have lost at least one of the members of their family in the war with Iraq, threatened that if the representative of Saddam Hussein comes to Tehran they will impeach the foreign minister. The same MPs advised the government to extend its relationship with Europe in order to bypass America.

The government's attempt to extend relations with Europe, surrendering to the conditions that Europeans have suggested on the subject of human rights in Iran, is among the policies adopted to keep the country away from the crisis going on around the frontiers.

Liberation of Ayatolah Montazeri the loftiest dissident clergy from his five years sentence in his private house, the verdict of life sentence and long terms of imprisonment passed by the military court on the case of those secret service agents who brutally killed four of the anti-government activists five years ago, the relative pause in the activity of the courts set up with a lot of great clamor against journalists, political activists and students defending political reformation in the past few years, are all in line with the course of action taken to please European states on the threshold of the trip of their high authorities to Tehran.

In the evening news program of Iranian TV, that these days begin with a few announcement in relation to the anniversary of Islamic revolution and the establishment of Islamic Republic, films of extensive demonstrations held in Europe in protest against American military attack on Iraq and magnification of anti-American slogans are shown. But Tehran is the only capital where the young people do not show any interest in protesting against such a military attack.

Most of the streets and alleys of Tehran still carry the name of the martyrs killed in the war started by military attack of Saddam Hussein against Iran in 1980, and recently the news of the death of one of the high war generals, who was wounded by Iraqi chemical bombs and had spent the whole past twenty years in pain and agony, was announced.

Despite all this the question that occupies the mind of Tehran's politicians and decision- makers most of all is whether after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the fire set up on September 11th by Islamic fundamentalism burning Taliban with some of its sparks, would extend to the other oil countries with an anti-American position or not. This is the question that everybody in Tehran has a different answer for.

Would the foreign minister of Iran who will travel to London next week receive an answer for this question from Tony Blair?

... Payvand News - 3/3/03 ... --

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