Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: Local journalist Mahdieh Amiri speaks of the hardships of practicing journalism in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr. Amiri has been working as a journalist in Bushehr for years. Since 2007, she has been the editor-in-chief of a few local websites, biweekly and quarterly magazines. She is now the editor-in-chief of hamooniran.com website and Ava-ye Dashtestan biweekly.
Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee’s letter to parliament deputies about the articles in which he exposed financial corruption in Ahmadinejad’s administration5 January 2012
Khabarnegaran- info-Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee, critical journalist and author of two economics books, The Political Economy of the Islamic Republic and How the Islamic Republic’s Men Became Technocrats, was arrested during the unrest after the 2009 presidential elections and has been held in Evin prison since then. The most important accusations against Mr Ahmadi-Amouee are based on articles in which he had criticized the Ahmadinejad administration’s economic performance and financial corruption in some of the institutions affiliated with it.
In a recent letter to members of the Majlis, written from inside Evin prison, Mr Ahmadi-Amouee has pointed out that what has been presented as ‘evidence’ against him are the same accusations of corruption that are now being raised by members of the Majlis against the Ahmadinejad administration, and investigated by the Iranian judiciary.
Here’s the full text of Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee’s letter, which has been made available to Kalame news website:
Who gave Ahmadinejad a blank check, and why?
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Majlis
I have had to struggle with myself a lot to decide if you are in position and status where you could be addressed, and whether I would not be admonished by my colleagues, friends and co-thinkers for having addressed you.
At the outset, I should point out that I have spent nearly 28 months in Evin Prison’s Ward 350 because of my journalistic activities, writing critical articles about the Ahmadinejad administration’s economic performance and, of course, the editorship of the critical website, Khordad-e Now (New Khordad).
Last week, I wrote a letter to my spouse, Jila Bani-Yaghoub, who is also a journalist, which you are unlikely to have read. In that letter, I spoke of the imprisonment of ordinary citizens for having written slogans on walls in protest against economic problems. It might interest you to know that a few days ago, they brought two men into the prison who are so old that instead of the judicial and security officials, I feel ashamed of their incarceration. It might be necessary to inform you of the details of their arrest.
Occupation: house painter and van driver. Crime: writing a few slogans on the walls against the country’s authorities.
They had arrested one of the two in his pyjamas, outside his house. I asked them why they had written slogans. One of them said: ‘I was sitting at home, watching television, when I heard the news reader talking about unemployment and inflation and claim that the conditions in the country had improved. Then Ahmadinejad appeared on the screen and spoke as if people like me were living in paradise, and did not know it. I felt sick with myself and my life, and the only thing I could do was to go out and write a few sentences on the walls, asking the public if there was anyone who cared about what we had to say. Did we exist, at all?’
As a result, since the popular Islamic Republic government has agents everywhere, they were arrested and sent to prison.
After this introduction, I would like to say that it might not be a bad idea for you and me to review the trajectory of Mr Ahmadinejad who now heads the 10th administration [of the Islamic Republic]. At the beginning, you were on his side and I moved in another direction. Like many people, I was the subject of widespread and comprehensive attacks by the intelligence and security forces and suffered imprisonment and torture. Let us see what each of us has done in the meantime and where we stand now.
Ahmadinejad’s presidency which began in 2005 had been founded on massive financial misappropriates at Tehran municipality which had been under his management [as Mayor of Tehran]. Only 325 billion toomans [about $325m, at the official rate of exchange] of that corruption was exposed, but the regime’s senior officials decided to file that case away for another, fateful day. Based on the government’s claimed rate of inflation, today that figure must exceed 1,000 billion toomans ($1bn).
The government’s violation of the third and fourth five-year development plans, and undermining the role of the Majlis from the very beginning by the President himself. According to the country’s laws, the implementation of the development plans and its compatibility with the country’s ’20-Year Perspective’ must be reported to the Majlis every year in July and November. This has not been done.
Spending the annual development budget for 1385 (2006-2007) in six months and asking for a budget supplement for the first time in about ten years, a move which signalled the beginning of extensive lack of discipline and very large financial violations by Mr Ahmadinejad.
Ordering the irrational, unjustified and ill-conceived reduction in the rate of interest, in spite of repeated warnings. The most easily predictable outcome of this move was the use of the banking system’s reserves and liquidity by those close to power, so that today the stolen three thousand billion toomans ($3bn) is only one tip of the iceberg of corruption the foundation for which was laid at that time.
Sudden and persistent changes in the banking system in order to reduce its decision making and analytical abilities and increase the banks’ reliance on political lobbies and influential groupings.
The destruction of the country’s expert planning system, concentrated in the Plan and Budget Organization, which had been capable of monitoring the performance of executive officials in all areas. The closure of this organization and the destruction of its monitoring function must be considered as one of the most highly planned actions of Ahmadinejad’s administration, with no other purpose than the destruction of the country’s economic, industrial and intellectual infrastructure.
Increasing the liabilities of the country’s banking system to a level several times higher than in 2003. As a result, the government’s treasury has been emptied in the interests of powerful and influential groups. The many cases of financial corruption that are being investigated today by the General Inspectorate Organization, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Judiciary and the Majlis Research Center today are only a small part of the corruption that has leaked out.
The explicit instruction of Ahmadinejad’s office (during his first presidential term) for the payment of a 400 billion tooman ($400m) loan to an individual close to the government. This case has not yet been addressed and is probably being kept in storage as a means of political bargaining in the future.
Illegal manipulation of import tariffs, which in the case of mobile telephones alone led to revenues of more than 725 billion toomans ($725m) for some who were close to the government. The documents on this case have been collecting dust at the General Inspectorate Organization for years.
Constant, unjustified changes in the ranks of the country’s industrial and economic managers, as a precursor to the Mongol-like invasion by a certain group which is determined to destroy Iran. Since decision making in Iran is mostly conducted by the specialists who are scattered in various government institutions and organizations, the Ahmadinejad administration focused its efforts on destroying this process, a move which amounts to the destruction of reason and thinking in Iran.
Failure to present any information on the expenditure of more than $500b of oil revenues since Ahmadinejad came to power. Compare the ignorance of the Iranian public and even the Majlis deputies in this regard with the ambiguous status of Iraq’s oil revenues during the American occupation.
The destruction of the country’s economic infrastructure and its tourism potential which could have been a great help to the country’s economic and social development. The figures on this could be easily obtained by considering the numbers of incoming tourists and their countries.
The loss of markets in Iran’s civilization field in Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Destroying the country’s agriculture through extensive imports of agricultural products.
Destroying the country’s national potential for production, increasing dependence on imports, and reducing the country’s index of food security.
Creating the most corrupt government in Iran’s history and linking Iran’s economy to global economy and global corruption, resulting in the rule of supra-legal and mafia-style groups over the country’s entire affairs.
Increasing the reliance of the country’s economy and the government’s budget to oil revenues, in violation of all of the country’s laws and regulations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Majlis
Ever since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assumption of power, I as a journalist, aided by my colleagues and supported by patriotic and competent experts in the country, time and again reported all that has been pointed out above and presented a picture of today’s conditions, which was predictable then. As a result of these revelations, I have been imprisoned and tortured, suffered more than 90 days in solitary confinement, been subjected to insults and slander and received the illegal sentence of five years and four months imprisonment.
What I wrote in numerous articles was the same as what you refer to every now and again today, and the same as what is being pursued by the Judiciary through the prosecution of many cases of financial corruption. What you and the Judiciary speak of occasionally these days is the same as what I and several other critical economic journalists wrote and talked about during and after Ahmadinejad’s first four years.
What I listed above briefly is only an abstract of some of my critical articles in the newspaper, Sarmayeh [Capital], my personal website, and the website, Khordad-e Now. The interrogators have used printouts of these articles to interrogate me for long days and then thrown me into solitary confinement. They have then used the same printouts as evidence against me in court. On the basis of the same articles, I have been sentenced to five years imprisonment. These days, I read and hear that you and some of the country’s officials are speaking about the same topics because of which I have ended up in prison. Isn’t that strange, Messrs deputies?
Ladies and Gentlemen, Majlis deputies
You remember that some said the names of the deputies in the 7th Majlis had been chosen by Imam-e Zaman [the Shi’ite Moslem’s expected Messiah]; that you were referred to as members of the best term of the Majlis. You are still celebrated and glorified. Do you really believe these exaggerated descriptions and titles?
There’s only one way to describe the path that you began to travel along with Ahmadinejad and the condition in which you find yourselves today: at the beginning, you sat around the feast of power with him, kept him company, and applauded whatever he said and did. Now, you are trying to part ways with him. Your relationship with Ahmadinejad today is a pale reflection of our relationship with him all those years ago.
Have you forgotten the passionate speeches with which you supported Ahmadinejad? Don’t you think that your support, or even your silence, means that you have been accomplices in all his financial and administrative violations and all of his mismanagement, and that you must be answerable because of that?
It is likely that if you have the slightest sense of responsibility with respect to the seats that you are occupying today, you will never forgive yourselves. I don’t know what religious or rational justifications you can find for your coquettishness during the honey moon with Ahmadinejad, and your sulking and unpleasantness these days. That is something to be settled between you and your God – if, of course, you believe in Him.
But as Majlis deputies, in addition to being answerable to your own conscience, you must answer to the nation and history too. The developments in the region have such a fast pace that you may not be able to understand them. But it would be enough for you to open your eyes and see a few steps further away from your own houses. Will that not put a shiver down your spines? Which one of you is ready to answer on the day which will soon arrive? That day is closer than you think. If you listen carefully, you will hear its sound. The prelude to those developments has already reached the doorsteps of your houses.
Whatever happened to all the bravado with which you were calling for a fight against high prices and corruption, for a fight against discrimination, for the appointment of selfless managers, and clean, brave and popular statesmen? Have you ever thought about that? What mark are you going to leave behind?
I remember very well one day in solitary confinement when I had to undergo interrogation by a man who considered himself an expert and a university professor under the ‘blessed rule’ of Ahmadinejad’s government. ‘It won’t be long,’ I said, ‘before we see Ahmadinejad’s friends, and maybe himself, in these same cells.’ That ‘cultured’ man of the Islamic Republic laughed and considered what I had said another example of the hallucination, ignorance, stupidity and dependence that I had demonstrated in my other sayings and writings.
Today, Ahmadinejad is stuck between two possible outcomes: staying as president or going to prison. There is no third option. Maybe one of these days his security detail will bring him here to prison, rather than take him to the presidential palace on Pasteur Avenue. No doubt, if you ask him how he feels, he will lie to you as ever. But you can see the anxiety in his eyes.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Majlis deputies
Is it not time for you to ask yourselves why Ahmadinejad received all the legal, illegal, security, intelligence and military support that no administration had enjoyed either before or after the revolution, and from whom did he receive all that? What services was he meant to provide in exchange for that blank check? What figure was written in the check as the fee for those services?
These days, you will be going to the people, hoping that with their support you will once again lean on the seats which have been the source of so many privileges. What answers do you have for the people whose votes you will be seeking? Were you not meant to improve their conditions and elevate them to global management position? You had promised these people an ‘Islamic Japan’.
Have you not placed them in a far more inferior position than before? In the midst of this catastrophe, where do you stand? Do you think you will have a chance in the near future to review your behaviour?
Evin Prison, Ward 350
Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: How is life for Iranian journalists after prison? Does their attitude toward their journalism – the profession that put them in jail – change? Are they more conservative than before? Or bolder?
Khabarnegaran – Niki Azad: He has been put in jail three times for his journalist writing, though he says that jail has not made him feel disappointed with the profession of journalism.