BONN 14TH NOV. (IPS) "Routinely, the Iranian president talks about dialogue between civilisations, and recently in the United Nations, he proposed that the year 2002 to be named the Year of Civilisations but at home, he himself denies the most elementary rights of others to live in freedom, like the hundreds of thousands of Iranian of the Baha'i faith", observes the ayatollah Mehdi Haeri-Khorshidi.
Talking to the IPS during a protest meeting organised Saturday on his initiative in front at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic in Bonn, the dissident ayatollah said the goal of the demonstration was to denounce the harsh policies of the Islamic government of Iran against minorities, the arbitrary arrest and detention of political and religious dissidents as well as calling for the freedom of the grand ayatollah Hoseinali Montazeri, one Shi'iate Muslim's most prominent clerics.
More than 200 Iranians of all walk, men and women, Communists to Monarchists, defying the cold and heavy rain, chanted slogans against the ruling Islamic regime of Iran and urged the authorities to free all political prisoners, to end limitations imposed on the grand ayatollah Montazeri, to end the present apartheid system as well as segregationist policies against women and minorities.
Since the coming to power of the new Social Democrat-Greens coalition government in Bonn two weeks ago, this was the first time that Iranians from Germany and some neighbouring countries demonstrated against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Bonn and Tehran are at loggerhead over the case of Helmut Hofer, a 54 years-old German businessman jailed in Iran and condemned to death by an Islamic court for having sexual relations with a 26 years-old Iranian Muslim woman.
Informed Iranian sources are of the opinion that the reason the Iranian authorities arrest Mr. Hofer is to exchange him against Kazem Darabi, a high ranking Iranian intelligence officer sentenced to life imprisonment in April 1997 by a Berlin High court for masterminding the savage assassination, in September 1992, in Berlin, of 4 political leaders of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.
Mr. Haeri noted that in order to secure the release of Darabi, the agent who co-ordinated the murder of 4 leading Iranian Kurds in Berlin, the Islamic authorities in Iran, by reverting to sheer blackmail methods, have arrested an innocent German businessman and Mr Khatami, this champion of civilisations remains silent.
"Now it is one full year that the grand ayatollah Montazeri is placed under house arrest, deprived of the right of meeting his closest friends and family members, including his sons and daughters, denied access to proper medical care despite poor health conditions and president Khatami, in his capacity as the chairman of the Supreme Council for National Security, is approving", added Mr. Haeri.
iGrand ayatollah Montazei was attacked, beaten up by thugs and placed under house arrest last October after, during a speech, he strongly criticised the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the regime for his "arbiatrary" rule, his megalomania, his "kingly" way of life and his gross interfering in the state's affairs.
Mr. Montazeri had also urged the president "not to yield" to pressures from Mr. Khameneh'i and the hard liners since he had the support of 20 millions of young and dynamic voters. "If you have difficulty, go to the people, tell them the truth", he had advised the new president.
According to Mr. Haeri, contrary to what is perceived in the West, president Khatami is not a reformist nor willing to seriously implement freedom of expression and political activities, the rule of law or his famous civil society.
Mr. Haeri noted that the ruling ayatollahs, "including the president himself" are systematically eradicating from the vocabulary all references to Iranianism or to Iranian nationalism.
"They changed the name of the National Majles (parliament) to Islamic Majles, the National Iranian Radio and TV to Voice and Visage of Islamic Republic, the Iranian National Army became Armies of Islam. Mr. Khameneh'i he never refer to nationalism, but to Islam, as he was not born in this country. Just some days ago, the ayatollah (Mohammad) Yazdi, Head of the Judiciary said all those who adopt Iranian names are against Islam", Mr Haeri said.
"Under no other presidents in the post-Khomeiny era so many dissidents had been thrown in jail without sentence", he said, citing the cases of Mr. Mohsen Sa'idzadeh, a cleric who is in jail because of his denunciation of a controversial law segregating all medical services between men and women, describing it a Taleban bill or that of Mr. Amir Entezam, who was imprisoned after having described in detail and denounced inhuman torture methods in Iranian prisons.
A former Deputy Premier under Mr. Mehdi Bazargan, the first post-revolutionary Prime Minister, Mr. Amir Entezam was kept in prison for 16 years on espionage charges and subjected to most savage methods of tortures, some of them dating back to the early times of Islam without ever being sentenced.
"Or take the case of tens of journalists and intellectuals, some his friends, others his supporters, arrested without any explanation by the authorities. Think of the closure of so many independent publications, most of them accused by the ruling fundamentalists to support the views of Mr. Khatami and all with the benevolent contentment, if not approval, of the president himself", Mr Haeri pointed out, referring to the shutting down of the influential newspapers Toos, considered of defending the position of the president and the imprisonment of its director, senior editor, owner and publisher.
He also denounced the government for not recognising the right of the Iranian Baha'i to worshipping freely their faith. "Why should hundreds of thousands of fellow Iranians be denied all basic rights, including that of a decent, open life, just because they follow another religion?" he asked.
Not recognised by the ayatollahs as an official religion like Judaism, Christianism or the Zoroastrians, the Baha'i are ruthlessly suppressed under the present Islamic rule, their temple burned down and destroyed, their situation being similar of that of the jews in Hitler's Germany. Tens of Baha'i have been executed or hanged, some of them as recently as a month ago.
ENDS DEMO BONN 14119823