ISLAMIC REPUBLIC ACCUSES FRANCE OF PLOT AGAINST PLAYERS
PARIS 17TH JUNE (IPS) By protesting the showing of the movie "Not Without My Daughter", and threatening to withdraw the Iranian team from the ongoing World Football Cup in France before its much awaited play against the United States on Sunday, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is defending the concept of "oneness" of religion, politics, cultural and social events, has politised one of the world's greatest and most mediatised mega spectacle.
Given the "absurdity" of the Iranian action and noting that none of the players would have known that the film was to be shown nor would have they watched it, since all TV sets have been removed from their rooms, analysts here immediately interpreted the move as being a "continuation" of the merciless struggle raging in Tehran between the reformist camp of president ayatollah Mohammad Khatami and the conservative clan represented by the lame-duck ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.
The saga started after the Iranian head of the Iranian soccer team, Mohammad Khakpour, read a communiqué to protest the showing of the controversial "Not Without My Daughter" by a French TV station popular among the younger generations and which had the originality of not programming any of the football games.
The Iranians accused France that by showing this "string of lies which has insulted their feeling" was fomenting a "plot aimed at sabotaging and destabilising the moral of the Iranian players before their match against the United States by insulting their sacred religious values and their national pride".
The 1990 film made by Brian Gilbert and starring Sally Field is based on a novel written by Mrs Betty Mahmudi, an American married to a secular and westernised Iranian doctor in the US, becomes a fundamentalist Muslim expecting his wife and little girl to behave as Muslim women who after they return to Iran under the rule of the ayatollahs and back among his religious, largely uneducated family.
She eventually escapes from Iran with the help of Iranian friends, bringing her daughter as well. A soap drama of no special artistic or cultural value, the film, as well as the novel, based on a personal experience, depicts the danger of a fundamentalist religion like Islam and for this reason was denounced from the outset by the Iranian clerics as an anti-Islamic plot.
The Islamic Republic Embassy in Paris had, as usual, protested to M-6, a private TV station popular with the younger generation and which had the originality of not showing any of the soccer games in full and live. Speaking to the IPS, Ms Michele Lourdelle, a spokeswoman for the station said the matter had been settled after M-6 accepted to embed to the film a warning to the effect that the movie was subject to protest from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic which is "contesting seriously the authenticity of the related events".
For his part, Mr Yves Dutrieux, the senior spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry told IPS that he was not aware of any official protest from Iran to France. "Not only the government has no authority to tell the media what to do or not to do, but M-6 is a private channel", he observed.
The affair, which has made the Iranian team the laughter of the international media as well as among other players and which is likely to have a negative effect of their moral erupted at a time that the Iranian players positively impressed all soccer and sports critics for both their fair play and tactics as seen during their match against superior Yugoslavs.
"Sure, many orthodox clerics and hard liners back in Tehran did not appreciated the national string which accompanied the play, nor the fact that the thousands of the Iranians who had come from Iran itself as from all over the world did encouraged their boys like supporters from other countries, chanting, dancing, painting their faces with Iranian colours and waiving the Iranian traditional flag of Green, White and Red" noted an Iranian analyst in Paris.
The protest also coincides with president Khatami very warm words for the soccer players. Receiving an Iranian Mountain team which had successfully climbed the Everest, the president praised the Iranian climbers for their success and encouraged the football players despite their set back against Yugoslavia.