Iran Democracy Monitor No. 41, April 30, 2007

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By Ilan Berman, American Foreign Policy Council

Getting Ready for Gasoline Rationing

After months of deliberation and delay, the Islamic Republic is poised to implement a controversial economic measure designed to reduce its vulnerability to international economic sanctions. According to Mohammadreza Ne’matzadeh of the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC), gasoline rationing will take effect nationwide on May 22nd. Iranian officials hope the measure will help to considerably reduce Iran’s dependence on foreign petroleum imports. Currently, nationwide consumption stands at some 81 million tons, of which domestic production accounts for some 60 percent. With a rationing plan, however, annual Iranian consumption is expected to decrease by 25 percent, to 60 million tons. (Tehran Mehr, April 21, 2007)

Iran’s Fashion Police

With summer just around the corner, Iran’s morals police are renewing their on-again, off-again campaign against female immorality. Hossein Sadjedi-Nia, Tehran’s deputy chief of police, has announced plans for a summer crackdown in the Iranian capital city. The target? Women who are “dressed up like models,” wearing tight-fitting clothing, short coats, and inadequate headscarves. “The arrested women will be taken to four centers,” Sadjedi-Nia has detailed. “They will have to give a written engagement not to repeat the offense and can then leave when their family brings the appropriate clothing.” An important secondary target of this year’s campaign, according to the police official, will be men “who wear clothes with offensive slogans and chains with certain insignia.” (Nicosia Middle East Times, April 17, 2007)

A New Tool for Outreach

The Islamic Republic is moving forward with plans for an indigenous English-language broadcast news outlet. The new satellite channel, named PressTV, will be tasked with “giving a positive image of the Islamic Republic” to both domestic and foreign audiences, regime officials have said. Currently, the station is slated to begin broadcasting in June. (Rome AKI, April 19, 2007)

The Islamic Republic’s War on Women

Human rights activists are raising the alarm over deepening regime persecution of women in Iran. In late April, Iran’s judiciary convicted six women’s rights activists of violating the country’s Penal Code by “acting against national security” for their roles in public demonstrations against the discriminatory treatment of women which took place last summer. All six have received prison sentences of varying lengths. “The Iranian Judiciary is using national security laws to imprison women’s rights activists for peacefully protesting against legally sanctioned discrimination,” says Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of persecuting women’s rights activists, Iran’s government should scrap laws that discriminate against women.” (Human Rights Watch, April 27, 2007)

A Legislative Slap At Ahmadinejad

Iran’s parliament is again signaling its displeasure with the country’s radical president. A new measure approved by the majles in late April has approved the extension of parliamentary terms by seven extra months. Simultaneously, the new bill will cut four months off the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ostensibly, the step is intended to cut election expenses, shifting the two polls to the same day. But observers say that the measure – the second such attempt in a year – reflects mounting parliamentary dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad’s failure to address legislative concerns about runaway inflation and profligate government spending. (London BBC, April 22, 2007)

American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, DC