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Iran's Culture Minister defends decision to honor 'agents of velvet coup'

Source: Mehr News Agency, Tehran

The Iranian minister of culture and Islamic guidance has responded to a Persian daily and two MPs that have censured the ministry for presenting 'grade one medals to two agents of the velvet coup.'

Behruz Gharibpur is accused by hardliners of being an "agent of the velvet coup"

"No one has been presented with any art medals," Mohammad Hosseini said on the sidelines of a press conference for the 18th International Holy Quran Exhibition on Sunday.

"What has been granted are art certificates of grade one, grade two, grade three, grade four, and grade five, which are equivalent to a range of academic degrees from A.A. to Ph.D.," he added.

"Presenting such certificates is an administrative duty... (Experimental) artists apply for these certificates from the Culture Ministry. They are interviewed about their skills, regardless of their political views," Hosseini explained.

"Certificates have recently been granted to 270 people out of whom one may have a different perspective or may have had an interview on a foreign radio station, but these things do not prevent us from doing the task assigned by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution," he noted.

Eighteen Iranian artists, including Davud Rashidi, Behruz Gharibpur, Mehdi Azarsina, and Maryam Zandi, were awarded art certificates of grade one and grade two by the Culture Ministry last week.

Photographer Maryam Zandi (center) another Iranian artists
accused by hardliners of being an "agent of the velvet coup"

The Persian press and news agencies took the certificates to be medals and the Culture Ministry's program was severely censured by the conservative daily Kayhan, which branded former Iranian Artists Forum director Gharibpur and photographer Zandi 'agents of the velvet coup.'

Conservatives called Mir-Hossein Mousavi's 2009 presidential election campaign a 'velvet coup' and the series of demonstrations that occurred in the aftermath of the election 'waves of sedition.'

Iranian MPs Zohreh Elahian and Laleh Eftekhari have also criticized the Culture Ministry for granting the certificates to the artists.

Elahian asked Hosseini to take the 'medals' back in an interview with Kayhan.

"Otherwise, I will officially demand an explanation from the minister about the program," she said.

In addition, Eftekhari demanded that the organizers of the program be dismissed from the ministry.

"Instead of isolating the supporters of the waves of sedition, nowadays, they are being honored," she stated.

... Payvand News - 08/03/10 ... --

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