Iran bans Western haircuts, eyebrow plucking for men

May 09, 2007

* Iran to expel one million Afghans: western media silent
* Ahmadinejad accused of immodesty for hugging his schoolteacher
* IHT defends decision to run Iranian nuclear ads

This dispatch contains items related to Iran.



The first concrete evidence that Alan Johnston, the BBC’s missing Gaza correspondent, has been kidnapped, has emerged this morning. Al-Jazeera has received a video tape from a Palestinian group called Jaish al-Islam, or Army of Islam, claiming to be holding Johnston, who went missing on March 12. The tape includes footage of Johnston’s BBC ID card.

In a message on the tape, the group demands that Muslim prisoners in Britain “and other infidel countries” be freed in exchange for Johnston’s release, according to Al-Jazeera.

This is the first time demands have been made by Johnston’s purported kidnappers.

Interestingly, the BBC website story this morning on the Al-Jazeera tape omits the demand to release Muslim prisoners in Britain. The BBC never shies away from running long reports about demands to release Muslim prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, in Israel and elsewhere.

-- Tom Gross

UPDATE: A few hours after my criticism of the BBC for not mentioning the Muslim prisoners went up on this website, the BBC added a sentence about it. Senior BBC executives subscribe to this list.



1. Reformist and conservative students clash at Iranian universities
2. Ahmadinejad accused of immodesty
3. Holocaust-denial documentary series on Iranian TV
4. Iranian authorities arrest former nuclear negotiator
5. Report claims Pakistani scientist helped Iran
6. Iranian film responds to “insulting movie” 300
7. Iran bans western haircuts
8. IHT sees nothing wrong in running Iranian government advert to build nuclear reactors
9. “Iran defends plan to expel one million Afghans” (Reuters, May 1, 2007)
10. “Herald Tribune defends Iran nuke ad” (Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2007)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Iranian university campuses have been the scene of violent clashes between reformist and conservative students in recent days. This has barely been reported in the western media.

The reformists are protesting a number of recent laws that they claim illustrate the lack of freedom in Iran. Among these is the recent measure against those wearing clothing deemed to be immodest.

At Teheran’s Amir Kabir Polytechnic, at least 10 students were hospitalized with stab wounds and other injuries. Clashes also took place at Lorestan University, in the Zagros Mountains.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been accused of “indecency” after he publicly embraced and kissed the hand of an elderly woman who used to be his schoolteacher. The kiss and hug were filmed by Iranian state media at a ceremony prior to Iranian teachers’ day.

The ultra-conservative Hezbollah newspaper, (which is not connected to the terror group in Lebanon by the same name) criticized the Iranian president on its front page: “The Muslim Iranian people have no recollection of such acts contrary to Sharia law during Islamic rule [since the 1979 revolution] This type of indecency progressively has grave consequences, like violating religious and sacred values.”

Even though the elderly woman was wearing gloves and a headscarf, so Ahmadinejad avoided any skin contact with her, he was criticized since Iran’s Sharia law forbids a man having any physical contact with a woman who is not a relative.

This is not the first time Ahmadinejad has been criticized by those even more extreme than himself. Last year he was attacked for not severely punishing one of his vice presidents who had allegedly watched a woman dance at an official ceremony in Turkey.


On May 2, on Capitol Hill in Washington, MEMRI hosted an event for congressmen on Holocaust denial in the Arab and Iranian media. (MEMRI President Yigal Carmon and other senior MEMRI staff are longtime subscribers to this email list.)

Among the material shown were translated segments from a 13-part Iranian documentary series titled “Merchants of the Myth,” which ran on Iranian TV’s Channel 4 from October 2006 through January 2007. The series featured notorious Holocaust deniers, including French writer Georges Thiel, also known as Gilbert Dubreuil, and French revisionist “historian” Robert Faurisson.

Among the lies broadcast on Iranian TV:

* “Today, 70 percent of the press is in the hands of the racist Jewish bankers such as Robert Murdoch.” [By Robert, they presumably mean Rupert TG]

* “Hollywood is a great machine for producing and distributing Holocaust productions. Most of the films, such as Schindler’s List, are created in order to spread this myth.”

* “The film Schindler’s List is based on a novel of that title. What is interesting about this book is that in the first edition, on one of the first pages, it says: ‘The plot of Schindler’s List is imaginary and fictitious.’ In subsequent editions, however, this key sentence was removed.”

* “Fred Schuster, an American gas chamber engineer, chose locations in Auschwitz where gas chambers were said to have existed, in order to conduct his experiments. He proved that this place was not used for this purpose. Not a trace of the cyanide compound could be found on the walls at Auschwitz.”

* “The German Nazi regime would have had to last 75 years in order to kill six million Jews.”


Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator, has been arrested. According to the semi-official Fars news agency (which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guards), Mousavian could face espionage charges. He has been taken to the notorious Evin prison in Teheran.

An unidentified official was quoted as saying that “The probable charge of espionage activities may be raised against him... Mousavian was arrested because of connections and exchange of information with foreign elements.”

Mousavian was part of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team until 2005 and prior to that served as Iran’s ambassador to Germany. Ahmadinejad replaced the nuclear negotiating team when he came to power two years ago.

He was a close ally of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, considered Ahmadinejad’s main rival within Iran. The arrest may be part of a larger power struggle.

A few days ago, Ahmadinejad told a crowd in Kerman, about 650 miles southeast of Teheran, that “Our nation will not give up its right even an iota... the important nuclear issue.”


The London-based think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), has claimed in a new report that Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan “provided Iran with centrifuges, technical designs, components, and an ‘address book’ of suppliers” and also says that parts of Khan’s network could still be in operation.

Iran has denied that Pakistani nuclear scientists aided its nuclear program. The report suggests that “at least some of Khan’s associates appear to have escaped law-enforcement attention and could, after a period of lying low, resume their black-market business.”

Khan, who is still a national hero in Pakistan, publicly confessed to running a nuclear proliferation network three years ago. The report accuses Khan of selling and trading nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea, and Libya, as well as offering information to Iraq in 1990.

“Some details concerning exactly what Iran received [from Khan] are still uncertain. What is clear is that Khan’s sales helped Iran to make significant advances in its clandestine nuclear programme,” said IISS’ executive director John Chipman, in the introductory statement to the report, titled “Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the rise of proliferation networks.”

The report also adds that Iran “remains the most active customer in the international nuclear black market.”


The following note is an update to the first article contained in the dispatch Islamic fury at Palestinian lesbian conference in Haifa (& Arab praise for kidnapped BBC man) (March 14, 2007).

The new Iranian documentary, “Glory of Persepolis,” has been hailed in Iran as a film that reflects the dignity of Persepolis, and that it is an appropriate response to the “insulting” Hollywood movie “300”.

The film is aimed at informing visitors about the ancient monument of Persepolis. Film critic Reza Dorostkar, who attended one of the first screenings of the new film, said “Today, we need to produce films aiming to revive our historical monuments that will provide the opportunity to observe historical facts and at the same time get introduced to the history.”

Iran has claimed that the movie “300” was an insult to Persian civilization. The Hollywood move is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Frank Miller. It is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae.


Iranian police have ordered barbers not to offer Western-style haircuts to their male customers. They have also been warned not to pluck men’s eyebrows.

The news was splashed across the front page of the reformist daily Etemad: “Western hairstyles... have been banned.”

Many hairdressers for men in Teheran offer cuts in the style of Hollywood movie stars and western pop stars. Those who do not follow the new rules face closure for a month and could lose their operating licenses.

In recent weeks Iranian police have clamped down on the growing number of women wearing skimpier clothing to suit the springtime weather. Under Iran’s Sharia law, imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes. Women that do not obey can receive fines, prison terms and lashes of the whip.

For more on the dress code crackdown, see here.


I attach two articles below. The first, from Reuters, reports that Iran has “defended its plan to repatriate one million Afghans living illegally in the Islamic Republic and said 50,000 had been sent home since the campaign was launched.”

The Afghan government has urged Iran to suspend the move because it lacks the resources to resettle so many people. The mainstream Western media have been almost silent on this development.

The second article, from the Jerusalem Post, is an update to the dispatch, NY Times-owned Herald Tribune runs Iranian government advert to build nuclear reactors (May 1, 2007).

The International Herald Tribune has defended its acceptance of an advertisement seeking bids for two large-scale nuclear reactors in Iran which appeared in its April 20 edition. (The ad also ran in the Financial Times on April 25.)

Asked whether accepting such an advert was appropriate, an IHT spokesman wrote: “We believe that advertising should be as free and open as the dictates of honesty and decency allow. In our view, advertising is an essential ingredient in the broad concept of a free press.”

This is ironic as The New York Times, owner of the IHT, has on several occasions refused to run ads by pro-Israel groups.

-- Tom Gross



Iran defends plan to expel one million Afghans
May 1, 2007

Iran on Tuesday defended its plan to repatriate one million Afghans living illegally in the Islamic Republic and said 50,000 had been sent home since the campaign was launched 11 days ago.

The Afghan government on Sunday called on neighbouring Iran to suspend the repatriations because the country lacked the resources to resettle them.

After neighbouring Pakistan, Iran accounts for the largest number of Afghans who have left their home country during three decades of conflict about two million. Many work in the construction sector or as domestic help.

But Iran says about half of them, or one million, have illegally entered and will be sent back.

Iran’s Interior Ministry issued a statement in response to Afghanistan’s concerns, stressing that refugees with valid documents could stay, the official IRNA news agency said.

“Each country has sensitivities about the presence of illegal citizens on its own territory which has different political, social, economic and security consequences,” the ministry said.

Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi was earlier this week quoted as saying 500,000 Afghans would leave Iran in the first half of this year, with the rest being repatriated during the second half. The Iranian year starts on March 21.



‘Herald Tribune’ defends Iran nuke ad
By Michael Lando
The Jerusalem Post
May 3, 2007

The International Herald Tribune newspaper has defended its acceptance of an advertisement seeking bids for two large scale nuclear reactors in Iran. The ad appeared on April 20, including in the edition of the IHT distributed with the English version of the Haaretz daily.

Inviting bidders to help in the construction of two pressurized light water reactors in the Bushehr province, the ad also ran in the Financial Times on April 25.

This despite growing concern over Iran’s nuclear proliferation program, particularly in the light of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated threats of destruction against Israel.

“The Nuclear Power Production and Development Company of Iran (NPPD), an affiliate of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, invites sealed bids for contractors/companies for the Design, Supply of Equipment, Construction and Commissioning of two large-scale units (1000-16000 MWe each) with third generation nuclear power, pressurized Light Water Reactor in the Bushehr Province of Iran,” the ad says.

Iran announced on April 15 that it is seeking bids for two additional reactors to be located near Bushehr for producing electricity. The announcement came as Iran and Russia remained at loggerheads over funding for the first plant in the same region.

David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said in response that bidding on light water reactors “violates the spirit” of Security Council Resolution 1737, which prohibits all states from the supply, sale or transfer of goods and technologies which could contribute to Iran’s enrichment related processing or heavy water related activities of nuclear weapons delivery systems.

“It’s a bad idea, and I don’t think Iran should be sold reactors now,” he said. “The spirit of the Security Council is to grandfather certain existing reactors, but not to allow new ones.”

An IHT spokesman, asked whether accepting such an ad was appropriate, wrote: “We believe that advertising should be as free and open as the dictates of honesty and decency allow. In our view, advertising is an essential ingredient in the broad concept of a free press.”

Asked about the ad running in a newspaper published in Israel, which has been threatened by Ahmadinejad, a Haaretz advertising manager was quoting as saying that the newspaper does not see the International Herald Tribune material most of the time until after it is printed, and that Haaretz would likely not refuse to publish material from the International Herald Tribune.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.