TV AIRS ANTI-REFORMIST DOCUMENTARY ON BERLIN CONFERENCE

By Safa Haeri

PARIS 19TH Apr. (IPS) Rapidly but clearly, the pieces of the puzzle the conservatives have imagined to discredit President Mohammad Khatami and to checkmate the reformists falls in place and the Iranian Television program on the Berlin Conference that was aired Tuesday night is considered as one of the last pieces of the dangerous play.

In a maliciously edited documentary, the State-run television that is under the direct control of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i showed a beautiful Iranian girl undressing except for her scarf in the packed grand auditorium of the Berlin's Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt (House of World' Cultures), a man, completely nude, gesticulating with pictures of some Iranian clerical leaders, a woman dancing Iranian sexy dances, protesters shouting noisily "death to Islamic Republic" or "akhound go to hell", or "down with mercenaries".

The so-called documentary was produced by the Iranian Television from scenes shot at the recently held conference on "Iran After the Election" organised by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, an independent cultural institute close to the Germany's Green Party that had invited 17 leading Iranian reformist personalities of all walk to take part at the event.

"Everything was done to shock the zealot viewers. That pretty girl who takes her clothes off while a cleric is looking on, that man completely nude who shouts against the Islamic Republic and it's clerical leaders, that woman who do not stop dancing sexy dances Iranians have not seen in the past 20 years… and then the speeches…all critical to the Islamic regime that some speakers described as mentally retarded child while others would insist on the necessity of applying reforms or normalising relations with America or recognising Israel" explained one journalist who had seen the program.

The Conference was marred by strong and very noisy demonstrations staged by a few hundreds anti-regime protesters led by the Iranian Communist-Workers Party who jolted most of the participants, denouncing them as mercenaries of the regime.

"It was a repeat of the Hoviyyat serials", said another, referring to a series of programs prepared by the Intelligence Ministry under Mr. Sa'id Eslami, the mastermind of the November 1998 Chain murders and aired by Television several years ago aimed at discrediting Iranian intellectuals and political dissidents.

The program was aired deliberately at a time that religious fervours among Iranian zealots are running very high because of the period known as tasou'a and ashoura, a historic episod that led to the beheading of Hossein, the third and most respected imams of the Muslim Shi'as.

As expected the documentary stirred controversy: The conservatives-controlled Guild of the Capital's huge and sprawling Bazaar decided to close shops on Thursday in sign of protest against those who participated at the "degrading and insulting" Conference and in support of the leader's last Friday speech.

Conservatives ringleaders, both clerical and civilians, have called for "exemplary punishment" of those who participated at the Berlin Conference, accusing them of "betrayal of the Islamic Republic" and "collaboration with enemy".

In the Majles, 140 conservatives MP wrote a petition to Mr. Khameneh'i, urging him to decide action against this "big shame suffered by the Islamic Republic and Islamic Revolution". One MP went even further and reminding the removal of Mr. Abolhasan Banisadr, Islamic Republic's first elected President by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, openly called on Mr. Khatami to distanciate himself from the reformists and explain what does he means by reforms and civil society.

Writing in the hard line "Keyhan", the mouthpiece of the Intelligence Ministry, Mr. Hossein Shariatmadari, an interrogator appointed as Editor of the paper by the leader advised the President to get away from his supporters, "those real enemies who poses as friends".

Mr. Khameneh'i is expected to meet Thursday with representatives of the Basij, a force made of young zealots, the great majority of them illiterate villagers and whom the leader calls them his children as they, alongside of parts of the Revolutionary Guards, form one of his strongest power base.

But the reformists have not remained idle either. The Government's representative at the Television's policy making body lodged a strong protest with Mr. Ali Larijani, a former commander of the Guard's Intelligence Department who was appointed to this sensitive post by Mr. Khameneh'i, warning him that he would bear all the consequences of such a machiavellian decision.

Reformist publications and personalities have accused the conservatives of provocation and fanning tension in the country in order to cancel the results of the last parliamentary elections that were swept by the reformists.

As the Director of the first channel expressed astonishment, describing the incident contrary to the organisation's general attitude, informed sources told Iran Press Service that the airing of the controversial documentary had angered many employees, journalists and even some directors.

Meanwhile, the leader-controlled Council of Guardians continue with its work of rejecting one after another reformists candidates who have already been elected, replacing them by conservative ones and this at the price of demonstrations and protests by both the people, the reformists and the government.

Now we can see unfolding the sequences of the scenario in a clear light.

"Act one: Ayatollah Khameneh'i deliver a speech in which he legalises lawfull violence. Act Two: The Revolutionary Guards issue an unprecedented statement in which they warn the President and the reformist of a "lightening coup". Act Three: The Majles approves the controversial Press Bill aimed at curtailing press and expression freedoms. Act Four: The Television airs the anti-reformists documentary about the Berlin Conference.

Remains the last Act, which normally must culminate in the removal of the President, imprisonment of all leading reformist and moderate personalities, shutting down of the independent press and the cancellation of the elections.

"If I would be Mr. Khameneh'i, I would hesitate to play that last Act, for, though it is true that the reformists are politically weak, have no real structured organisation, are very divided and have no other arms but their press, but they have the people firmly behind them", one Tehran Sociologist pointed out. ENDS SCENARIO UNFOLDS 19400