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As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at http://wwwdamavandsafa.blogspot.com

The Lesson Authoritarian Leaders Should Learn

Published Friday, May 26, 2006



La Herradura (Spain) 26 May (IPS) The case of Iranian Majles, or Parliament, having adopted a law requiring minorities wearing special badges on their dress aimed at facilitating the Muslims to immediately identify them should serve as a very good lesson not only to the ruling Iranian theocracy, but all authoritarian regimes, proving their vulnerabilities towards information and its twin, disinformation.

The story, -- one that now every one, except some hard core anti-Iranian elements and groups opposed to any friendship between the Israelis and the Jews with other nations and religions, including most of the original newspapers that reported it -- was “planted” by Mr. Amir Taheri, a talented but highly controversial Iranian-American-Franco-British journalist and author.

Iranian authorities were slow in reacting, not realizing the explosive charge of the incriminated badge and the ensuing Holocaust that the Fundamentalist President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad had questioned the veracity.

According to Mr. Taheri’s latest sensational story, the Iranian Majles has passed a law that forces all Iranians belonging to (officially recognized) religious minorities such as the Jews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians -- the 350.000 Baha’is, an offshoot of Shi’ism, are not recognized as an official minority and are subject to ruthless pressures—to display identification badges, with yellow given to the Jews.

Mr. Taheri is a member of Benador Associates, a public relations firm that lists a large number of leading neo-conservatives, including American Enterprise Institute associates Richard Perle, David Frum, Michael Ledeen and Joshua Muravchik, among its clients and has a strong firm close to the Neo-Cons establishment.

The article in The National Post was accompanied with the picture of a Jew wearing the yellow Star of David that all Jews living anywhere under the German occupation had to display prominently on their dress was also produced in The Jerusalem Post of Israel, a paper that also belong to Mr. Murdoch’s empire.

As the story, now distributed by all major international news agencies and therefore getting an international reverberation, the Iranian authorities, generally not in tune with the working of a free press and its impact on the public opinion, true to their habits, were slow in reacting, not realizing the explosive charge of the incriminated badge and the ensuing Holocaust that the Fundamentalist President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad had questioned the veracity.

Another reason for the Iranian authorities to overlook the impact of the article was that that since it simply did not existed, it therefore was not worthy of reacting.

In fact, what the Parliament was debating since quite a longtime, -- brought forward by a conservative female lawmaker --, was an old idea of the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, to give Iranians, -- but all Iranians without distinction --, a so-called “national dress”, like one that distinguishes the Arabs, the Kurds, the Balouchis, the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Red Indians, the Eskimos, the Malays, the Westerners etc…not realizing the Iranians, a “melting pot” incorporating different races, ethnics and religions, in their long story, had never any national dress, different components of the nation wearing their own dresses, including the Western one that had came with modernity and slowly becoming the “general dress” for the great majority of the population.

Not generating any enthusiasm among the people, the previous parliament, controlled by the reformers, shelved it politely and the idea felt into oblivion until the come back of the conservatives in both Legislative and Executive elections of last year.

The action of the conservative lawmakers that controls the Majles was to satisfy the leader’s desire and also in response to the alarming path with which many Iranian women, mostly young girls in major cities and most particularly in the Capital used to ignore Islamic dress code, coming out in outfits seen in the streets of Paris, London, Madrid, Rome, Berlin or Prague, tight jeans, chic T-shirts, colourful scarves and tops created by world leading fashion houses like Armani, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Valentino, Ungaro, Cavalli, Tod’s, Hogan etc..

The “national dress” bill would call on Iranian fashion designers to devise dresses, for both men and women, inspired from Islam and Iranian traditions capable of reconciling youngster’s aspirations for wearing “corrupt and depraved” Western models with the religious sentiments of the majority of the population.

The Lesson Authoritarian Leaders Should Learn-Body

“Never the idea of creating badges for religious minorities surfaced during the debates”, stressed Emad Afrouq, the Chairman of the Majles’ Cultural and Social Committee.

“This (article) is a total lie, completely unfounded, tendentious aimed at provoking tensions”, confirmed an outraged Maurice Mo’tamed, the sole representative of Iran’s 25.000 to 30.000 Jewish community, the largest in the Middle East and in any Muslim nation in the world, not only enjoying full rights of exercising their faith, attending Talmudic schools and synagogues, but also some other rights forbidden for Muslim like drinking alcohol.

Of course, under Islamic Canons that prevails in Islamic Republic or the majority of Muslim countries, non Muslim are not equal with Muslims and like women, are considered second class citizens.

The official denials were however lost amidst plenty of declarations from fundamentalist rabbis, representatives of hard line Jewish groups and even Iranians in the United States and Canada opposed to the Islamic Republic who, crying wolf, would remind that with a man like Ahmadi Nezhad who want to “wipe off Israel” and denies Holocaust “everything is possible and thinkable”.

The National Post published an apology. But the harm had been made and the goal achieved: another bad blow to the credibility on the leaders of the Islamic Republic and more blackening of an image already quite black.

It was after strong protests lodges by the Iranian diplomacy against Canada and Australia who had joined the chorus of defenders of the Iranian Jews in the one hand and also some veteran Israeli experts on Iranian affairs who ridiculed the story that The National Post published an apology. But the harm had been made and the goal achieved: another bad blow to the credibility on the leaders of the Islamic Republic and more blackening of an image already quite black.

The Canadian Press reports that the National Post, a conservative newspaper in Canada, announced Wednesday that the story, which stirred memories of the Holocaust, was wrong.

The Iranian officials were surprised at the speed and scope the badge story made the round of a world that, since the generalization of mass media, particularly internet, has become a “small village”. Used to be adorned and adulated by sycophants that their only business is to make sure that they are living in their ivory towers, used to dictate their will, used to impose their decision and implement them without any consultation, used to hide everything from the population and the press, they were astonished to see even ordinary Iranians doubt the denials.

The big and important lesson that not only the leaders of Iran, but all other authoritarians should learn is that in such a world, a seemingly unimportant piece of information or a well-made disinformation can easily shake the very foundation of their systems, no matter how powerfull their armies and their ideologies and when they discover their fragility, there is no one to help them. ENDS BADGE 26506

The Iranian officials were surprised at the speed and scope the badge story made the round of a world that, since the generalization of mass media, particularly internet, has become a “small village”. Used to be adorned and adulated by sycophants that their only business is to make sure that they are living in their ivory towers, used to dictate their will, used to impose their decision and implement them without any consultation, used to hide everything from the population and the press, they were astonished to see even ordinary Iranians doubt the denials.

Juan Cole, president of the US Middle East Studies Association (MESA), described the Taheri article and its appearance first in Canada's Post as "typical of black psychological operations campaigns", particularly in its origin in an "out-of-the-way newspaper that is then picked up by the mainstream press" - in this case, the Jerusalem Post and the New York Post. A former US intelligence official described the article's relatively obscure provenance as a "real sign of [a] disinformation operation".


The big and important lesson that not only the leaders of Iran, but all other authoritarians should learn is that in such a world, a seemingly unimportant piece of information or a well-made disinformation can easily shake the very foundation of their systems, no matter how powerfull their armies and their ideologies and when they discover their fragility, there is no one to help them. ENDS BADGE 26506

 

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As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at http://wwwdamavandsafa.blogspot.com


The Lesson Authoritarian Leaders Should Learn-Main
Iranian authorities denied the story that they are imposing identification badges for religious minorities



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