Week of October 7th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here
- Iranian Women Enter Azadi Stadium
- Protests Shake Western Iranian City
- Rouhani Feuds with Guardian Council Over Parliamentary Election
- Iranian Oil Tanker Attacked in Red Sea
- Iran Opposes Turkish Incursion in Syria
- Khamenei Reiterates Opposition to Nuclear Weapons
- Zarif Welcomes Diplomacy with Saudi Arabia
On October 10th, for the first time in nearly 40 years, Iranian women were allowed inside Azadi stadium in Tehran to watch a soccer match. Roughly 4,000 women attended the game, which was a World Cup qualifier between Iran and Cambodia.
Even though the number of tickets allotted for women was limited, the number of women attendees outnumbered men. Four seating sections in the stadium were reserved for women, and a fifth was opened as the match began.
During the game, some female spectators chanted slogans in support of the “Blue Girl,” or Sahar Khodayari. Read more about her self-immolation and the outrage it spurred in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered.
Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, said the administration supported women going to soccer stadiums. He stated: “We must try to increase our experiences in this regard that result in societal changes.”
On October 1st, residents of the Chenar-e Mahmudi village in Western Iran protested outside of their county’s governorate building. The protesters said that a local physician used syringes infected with HIV to conduct blood-sugar tests and spread HIV in the village.
The next day, judicial authorities in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province took into custody a physician from Chenar-e Mahmudi and opened a judicial case. However, government authorities subsequently strongly denied that infected syringes had spread HIV in the village.
Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesman, denied the claim that infected syringes were used in the village, stating: “I totally deny that any infected syringes were used by a Health Ministry physician. This claim is not correct in any way.”
Rabiee added that the arrested physician, whose name has not been made public, was being kept in custody for his own safety. However, he claimed the physician’s original arrest contributed to the ensuing unrest. He asserted that the source of the eventual unrest was that a physician in the village had ordered tests to diagnose why a patient had a weak immune system.
Rabiee said: “Events went astray when one of our good health workers, without any questions asked of him, was arrested by the judicial authority in the province.”
Rabiee claimed that “incorrect news” started from this point and that the physician was now being held for safety reasons. After the physician’s arrest, Health Minister Saeed Namaki wrote a letter to the Justice Minister and said the cause of HIV infections in the village was not infected syringes, but “addicts that inject and people with undesirable relations.”
Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, a member of the parliament’s health and treatment grouping, said that the Chenar-e Mahmudi village had a population of roughly 1,800, with 26 diagnosed with HIV. Eqbal Abbasi, the governor of the province also said that less than five percent of the village’s population were afflicted with HIV.
Many residents in the village were not convinced and called for the resignation of the health minister. In protests, they chanted that they were “insulted” by the government response.
In response, provincial governor Abbasi stated: “We are seeking to resolve the issue and asked the people to trust officials and health teams and be certain that this issue will be resolved.”
He added: “Strong and standardized drugs have been prepared and will be supplied … no one intended to insult the people of this region. If insults have occurred, I apologize to the people.”
Abbasi further blamed “social media” campaigns for stirring unrest, stating: “Scientific experiment show that the statistics that are being spread on social media are not correct. They highlight these things to make people hopeless and to incite them into protesting. People should not pay attention to these statistics.”
However, protests continued and on October 5th, protesters gathered outside governorate building in the city of Lordegan, close to the village. They clashed with security forces, damaged the governorate building, and set fire to the office of the city’s Friday Prayer leader. According to official outlets, several of the protestors were arrested.
President Rouhani has said that Iran’s first post-revolutionary parliament was the “best parliament” and its election was the “best election.” This parliament was elected in March 1980 and was comprised of a wide-range of political groups, including the National Front, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, and other groups that were eventually excised by the Islamic Republic.
Rouhani said of the first post-1979 parliament: “Everyone from different factions came and registered. Even the munafiqeen (the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK) registered in that election. So did other groups like the Freedom Movement and the National Front. The best election and the best parliament were the result of this.”
Rouhani mentioned that the Guardian Council—which vets candidates running for office—did not exist at that time. He stated: “[At that time] supervision did not exist like this [today]. Even the Guardian Council or all these supervisory offices did not exist and everyone from different factions participated.”
Rouhani said that for Iran’s upcoming February 2020 parliamentary elections, all political factions should be allowed to participate. He said: “We have to allow all factions to feel victorious. We have to allow everyone the opportunity to participate in this assembly.”
Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council, strongly censured Rouhani for his remarks. He said that Rouhani was “ignoring the constitution” and was making a “call to not abide by the law.”
Under the current Iranian constitution, the Guardian Council vets candidates seeking political officials, approves the results of elections, and approves the date of elections. The exception is elections for city councils.
In past elections, the Guardian Council has disqualified many candidates, especially reformists and those critical of the ruling political system. During the 2016 parliamentary election, widespread disqualifications forced reformists to run lesser known and independent candidates.
The National Iranian Tanker Company has reported that one of its tankers in the Red Sea has been attacked. In a statement, the company said the tanker was likely hit by two missiles. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said Iran is investigating the attacks on its ships in the Red Sea and the “factors” that are involved.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has released a statement opposing any form of Turkish military incursion in Syria. The statement read: “If such an action happens, not only will it not resolve Turkish security concerns, but it will also cause widespread human and material costs and for this reason, the Islamic Republic of Iran opposes any potential military operation.”
The statement also said the presence of U.S. troops in Syria was “illegitimate” and U.S. forces should have been withdrawn from Syria “far sooner.” It added that Iran was “closely” following the “worrying news” of a potential Turkish military incursion into Syrian territory.
The statement also called for “immediate contact between Turkish and Syrian officials.” Before the statement was released, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke on the night of October 7th.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Cavusoglu-Zarif call covered the “most recent developments in northeast Syria.” The Iranian foreign ministry said the 1998 “Adana Agreement” was an “appropriate” basis for renewed Syria-Turkey talks.
The “Adana Agreement” was reached between Turkey and Syria on October 20, 1998. Iran and Egypt mediated the negotiations at the time.
Based on the Adana Agreement, Turkey and Syria agreed to prevent “terrorist groups” from entering each other’s territory. Under the Adana Agreement, Turkey also has the right to enter within five kilometers inside Syrian territory to confront terrorist groups.
Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated his opposition to Iran building nuclear weapons. He declared in a speech: “Even though we could have taken steps in this path, based on the rules of our dear Islam, we have declared the use of this weapon to be definitely forbidden according to Sharia (Islamic law). As such, there is no need to pay costs for producing or maintaining weapons that are categorically forbidden to be used.”
Khamenei added: “The courageous and absolute position of the Iranian government is not pay costs for building nuclear weapons.” Khamenei made a similar remark in May.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif expressed openness for negotiations with Saudi Arabia but stressed the Saudis must stop “killing people.” He stated: “In the current situation where the Saudis are interested in negotiations with Iran, if they put regional issues on the negotiating table rather than killing people, they will definitely have the Islamic Republic along with them.”
Zarif added: “The Foreign Ministry has always been ready for cooperation with our neighbors for regional security, and has official announced this.”
Recently, the Houthis in Yemen stated that if Saudi Arabia ceases its attacks in Yemen, they will also end their missile and drone attacks inside Saudi territory. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman stated that he viewed this proposal positively.