This week we saw the arrest of the notorious Saeed Mortazavi following a very public power struggle on the floor of the parliament between the speaker, Ali Larijani, and the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad joined the ranks of those on the receiving end of flying shoes during a trip to Egypt. And amidst worries about the economy and more crippling sanctions Tehran celebrates the Tribal Voices festival.
Ahmadinejad’s Adventures in Cairo: Red Carpet, Criticisms, and Shoe-Attack!
As The Washington Post [en] reported, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt on Tuesday for the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than three decades. It was a turning point for the two countries, after years of less than friendly relations. The visit was the latest sign of efforts by Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi to improve relations with Iran, which have been cut since Iran’s 1979 revolution.
First, Morsi greeted Ahmadinejad with smiles and a red-carpet ceremony at the airport. Then things got tense, The New York Times [en] reported. Ahmadinejad went to a key Sunni site of scholarshi, the Al-Azhar mosque and university, where he faced heavy criticism during a news conference. They accused Shiites of interfering in Arab countries and discriminating against Sunnis in Iran.
Then things got even worse. After the news conference, a protester tried to hit Ahmadinejad with a shoe. Reports said the assailant was a Syrian, presuming anger with Iran’s support of the Syrian government. Watch the video here. These are what happened in only a day and given the fact that the visit has been planned to be a three-day trip, it is quite likely that Ahmadinejad’s adventures in Cairo are not over yet.
Mortazavi Removed, Mortazavi Reappointed, Mortazavi Arrested, Mortazavi Freed
Controversial former Iranian prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi has been at the center of power struggle between the country’s president and head of parliament. The parliament tried to remove Mortazavi from his post in Social Security Organization, but failed to do so and he was reappointed in the post. Time passed and his name came to the surface again on Sunday, when president Ahmadinejad went to the parliament to defend his Minister of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare Abdolreza Sheikholeslami against impeachment. In the session, Ahmadinejad played a recorded conversation between Mortazavi and Ali Larijani’s brother and accused the Larijani family of corruption. Only a day after, Mortazavi was arrested and moved to Evin Prison. No reason was given for the arrest of Mortazavi. However, Fars News Agency [fa] reported that it might be related to crimes in Kahrizak Prison, when Mortazavi was the chief prosecutor in Tehran. And finally, Mortazavi was freed from jail as a show of brief settlement in Iran’s political arena. The main question after this strange case is: “Who is Saeed Mortazavi really?!”
Most Wanted: Interpol after Khavari
Interpol has placed former head of Iran’s Bank Melli Mahmoud Reza Khavari on its wanted list, Fars News Agency [fa] reported. A top judiciary official, Nasser Seraj, told Fars News that Interpol issued the verdict in order to bring a prosecution against Khavari. Earlier, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei called on Interpol to arrest and hand over Khavari, who fled Canada after the $2.6 billion financial fraud case was uncovered.
The name of another ex-chairman of Iran’s banking system was in the headlines as well. The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that a man caught last month trying to enter Germany with a check worth about $70 million was Iran’s former central bank chief, Tahmasb Mazaheri. He was the governor of the Central Bank of Iran until 2008. On Tuesday, Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela said that the check was going to be used by an Iranian company for its expenses while building public housing in Venezuela.
Iran-America Dilemma: Promising Talks or New Crippling Sanctions?
Speaking at the Munich security conference on Saturday, US vice-president Joe Biden said that the United States is prepared to hold talks with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. He stated that “The ball is in the government of Iran’s Court” to show that the negotiations will be held in good faith.
On Wednesday 30 January, Shargh Newspaper [fa] dedicated its cover page to the head of the parliament Ali Larijani who believes that negotiation with the United States is no longer a “red line.” However, there is news of a new wave of sanctions designed to prevent Iran from receiving its oil revenues; sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to make arrangements for barter. While this news puts the “good faith” under question, Radio Farda [fa] and Radio Zamaneh [fa] reported on one new fighter plane and two new tanks designed by Iran. David Cenciotti of The Aviationist blog comments that the plane does not seem air-worthy. So, we should wait and see!
Tribal Voices: A Festival of Colors, Traditions, and Music
Since Saturday, Tehran has been hosting the festival “Tribal Voices.” The festival is an introduction to traditions and costumes of Iranian tribes. Tehran’s streets have been filled with color, costumes, signs of sub-cultures, and tribal music. Amid the sanctions, executions, and air pollution, the festival is a big relief. Enjoy some lively photos here.
Do your part to lift the pain of sanctions on Iranian families.
Dear Catherine Ashton:
We, the undersigned, are concerned about the effects the implementation of sanctions are having on average Iranians. We are particularly concerned that items that are not sanctioned, such as medication and humanitarian goods are not reaching the people in Iran.
This is a time of great suffering in the region. We want to ensure that we are not further contributing to the suffering because of the denial of access to a payment channel for humanitarian items. We know the intention of the sanctions is to put pressure on Iran’s ruling elite. We worry that this is not the reality.
The brunt of the suffering falls on women and children and the most vulnerable in society. They suffer the consequences in very real ways. They lose their incomes, their homes, and their access to life-saving medication. Some of this suffering can be alleviated by facilitating the seamless implementation of the existing humanitarian exemptions. These include financial transactions related to medications, basic needs, and other items that are currently not sanctioned.
We ask the European Union to create a payment channel to accept transactions from Iran. This channel should be closely scrutinized. This will allow much needed financial transactions for medications and basic needs to take place.
It is crucial at this time when the people of Iran are desperately trying to make their own voices heard that we show we are listening. They went to the polls in an attempt to show their own government that they wanted reform and better relations with the outside world. We need to show we are listening.
Please help to avert a humanitarian disaster. Allow Iranians access to the international banking system to purchase medications and humanitarian goods.