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Opinions

North Korea and Other Stories

August 9, 2017
Weekly Roundup
3 min read
North Korea and Other Stories

Dear friends 

President Trump’s harsh warning to punish North Korea’s recalcitrance has shocked everyone around the world. The Iranian government hasn’t commented yet, but it will most probably condemn the threat against North Korea, its ally for the last four decades. IranWire looks at the history of their relationship and how isolation brought these two countries with two very different cultures and histories together. 

The main news in Iran over the last few days has been President Rouhani’s inauguration and “selfie-gate.” Ten presidents, two prime ministers and many other high-ranking foreign officials from around the world attended Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration ceremony at Iran’s majles, the parliament. But it was only Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, who got real media attention. Ms. Mogherini’s appearance at the Iranian parliament reminded many people of Monica Belucci in the 2000 film Malena, in which a beautiful widow becomes the subject of lust and jealousy in a village in Sicily during World War II. 

Even with her shawl firmly wrapped around her hair, Ms. Mogherini has been the least-hijabbed woman to ever be in the Iranian parliament. So the presence of a strong blonde woman in a place full of patriarchal men generated some controversy. Many Iranian women detected a unique lustfulness in the eyes of the men who were taking their pictures with Mogherini. To these women, who expressed their anger on social media, the way Ms. Mogherini was treated in parliament is very similar to the sexual harassment suffered by women on the streets of Iran every day. To give some background, I’m linking to an article we published previously about sexual harassment

Ms. Mogherini went to Rouhani’s inauguration to show her solidarity with Iran with regard to the nuclear deal. There are as many people against the nuclear deal in the Iranian parliament as in the American Congress. The hardliners accuse Rouhani’s government of kowtowing to the West, and comprising Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary ideals. 

Of course, one of Khomeini’s most important dreams was the destruction of Israel. It’s of course a monstrous, and unachievable, dream, but it doesn’t stop the Iranian government from doing whatever it can to delegitimize Israel. Since the beginning of the 1979 Revolution, Iranian athletes have been banned from playing against Israeli athletes. Some Iranian athletes have even lost medals because of this ban. So it was astonishing to see two Iranian football stars, playing for Panionios, a Greek football club, defy this ban and play against Israeli team Macabi Haifa. It was a bold move, once again exposing the sheer ridiculousness of the taboo. Iranian officials have condemned the two players, but won’t be able to punish them. According to FIFA, the world’s football body, any punishment of these football players would be regarded as “political interference in football,” an act that will have repercussions for the Iranian government. 

According to many Israeli foreign policy experts, the Netanyahu government is failing miserably to communicate with the people of Iran. A couple of years ago, Netanyahu falsely accused the Iranian government of arresting young people who were wearing jeans, and a few months ago the prime minister sent an inept Facebook message to the people of Iran that received no traction whatsoever. But the recent Israeli foreign ministry’s Persian language Twitter account celebrating the footballers’ decision was the most bizarre act of Israeli public diplomacy in recent years. Official tweeters at the ministry got into a personal argument with some hardliners and called them “less than animal” and called one “a miserable soul.” The tweets were deleted later. We have full coverage of the gaffe on the site. 

But take heart. There are always inspiring stories coming out of Iran, and this week we look at Fatemeh Hamami, an accomplished artist who has charmed thousands and thousands of Iranians. Born with severe physical disabilities, Hamami has made a name for herself by drawing and painting some of Iran’s and the world’s biggest celebrities. Her latest portrait of Cristiano Ronaldo has gained her even a greater following, and praise from the football star himself. 

As always, please let me know if you have any comments. 

Warm regards 
Maziar 

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