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IRAN FILES: Bugged Phones, Nuclear Nuance, Stray Dogs

Dial with care
Dial with care
Ahmad Shayegan

Listen closely
An Iranian parliamentarian reminded his colleagues — if they needed reminding — that all their mobile telephones were very likely bugged, Radio Free Europe's Radio Farda website reported, citing several Iranian newspapers. Tehran Member of Parliament Ali Mottahari told a Dec. 9 student gathering in Tehran that his own office was bugged, with listening devices having been found inside the air conditioning. He speculated that the move may have been for the meetings he had held there with relatives of dissidents or liberal activists. He did not specify who had bugged his office. The newspaper Arman said that Mottahari had crossed a "red line" by revealing that legislators were being spied on.

Holy death penalty?
Iran’s Judicial Chief defended the death penalty in Tehran, saying it was not a violation of human rights as Western states allege, but sanctioned by religion, the daily Shargh reported. Top judge Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli-Larijani told a public gathering that it was "really, very strange that certain countries that have exploited other nations for centuries and looted their resources" now spoke of rights violations. Opposing the death penalty he said, was “really opposition to religious commandments," observing that the Koran sanctioned the law of talion, or retaliatory execution. He vowed Iran's judiciary would do its work, regardless of "irrational words and lies" uttered against it.

Subtle shifts on nuclear weapons
Iran Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has offered new insight on how the current administration views the nuclear issue. "We know that given the region's strategic conditions, nuclear weapons do not create security for us," he said at a conference Wednesday on international relations at Tehran University.

Zarif said "certain people" were concerned that once Iran assures the world it is not after nuclear weapons the "international fear mongering" toward Iran would cease to be effective.

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Iran Foreign Affairs Minister Zarif — Photo: Max Talbot-Minkin

Any deal with Iran would have to include the viewspoints of both sides, he said later, adding that the U.S. and Israel were not the decisive powers in the world — but that "God is the only thing that is the absolute power in the world."

Zarif's words come days after he used all his charm and media savvy on a visit of four of the six Gulf States, trying to cement links between the countries and alleviate the concerns voiced by Iran’s Arab neighbors over the nuclear deal. Learn more about Zarif's trust-building tour on this Süddeutsche Zeitung/Worldcrunch article.

Parental pardon
While murderers can expect to be executed in Iran, a victim's family may pardon a killer and settle for compensation and a prison term, as recently happened in Tehran. A 25-year-old woman's parents-in-law agreed to wave her execution, after she was convicted of stabbing to death their son — her allegedly abusive husband — in a marital fight in late March 2013, Shargh reported on Dec. 12.

Women and drugs
Drug abuse is a growing concern in Iran, and recently women addicts have been garnering particular attention. The head of the nation's Anti-Narcotics Agency told a Tehran seminar on Dec. 11 that there were some 1.3 million addicts in Iran. Nearly 90% of addicts were men, he said, while the 10% female addicts had apparently turned to drugs in response to marital problems. Four days later, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli reported that the "number of female addicts has doubled" and that addiction was "widespread" in Iran in spite of police efforts to curb the flow of drugs, the daily Arman reported. The Interior Minister said that female addiction should raise "all the alarms" as women were at the "core of family education and preservation."

In Darvazeh Ghar, one of Tehran's most deprived neighborhoods, Doctors Without Borders teams work with city hospitals and local organizations to assist women struggling with drug addiction and infectious diseases such as HIV.

The head of Iran’s social workers association, Hasan Musavi-Chalak, told ISNA news agency that the number of Iranians infected with HIV had increased from 3,400 in 2000 to currently about 27,000. He was presumably referring to diagnosed cases. Speaking on Dec. 16, Musavi said that since 1986, authorities attributed some 70% of HIV infections to drug use and infected needles, and 12.5% to unprotected sex. Iran recently announced it would open 15 HIV testing laboratories in universities.

Turn down the heat
Officials recently chided Iranians for wasting gas when heating homes and shops, and warned “wasteful” homes could have their gas cut off. The head of the National Iranian Gas Company Hamidreza Araqi said on Dec. 15 that domestic gas consumption reached a "new record" of 432 million cubic meters in the previous 48 hours, following the arrival of a cold front into a large part of the country. Araqi said gas supplies to industry were restricted in recent days and gas imported from Turkmenistan did not cover demand, Arman reported.

Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri issued a directive “asking” all ministries and state bodies to turn down the heating on their premises. Offices, he wrote, should be kept at 18-21 °C (64-70 °F) and corridors at 18 °C.

Meanwhile, there are also related health and safety issues, as Mehr news agency reported another “record” of 132 people taken to Tehran hospitals on Dec. 13, for "suffocation, poisoning" and gas-related incidents.

Staving off droughts
Deputy Chief of Iran's Environmental Protection Organization Ahmad Ali Keykha warned that 40 of Iran’s 250 registered areas of natural marshland, or about one million hectares of marshland, were drying up or had already dried, Arman reported. Keykha warned that environmental changes meant Iran was moving toward endemic drought, while Iranians were extracting 110 times more underground water than 40 years ago.

Putting down dogs
Some 9,000 stray dogs have been rounded up from the capital’s streets over the past year — about 750 or month — to be put down, Shargh reported on Dec. 12.

Rahmatollah Fazeli, a Tehran city councilman, said they were put down under the supervision of the state environmental agency, using "defined, standard methods" he did not specify, but were not shot.

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[*Tarifit, Northern Morocco]

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