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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK

World: Middle East

Iranian newspaper banned

Women in Iran are becoming more politically active than before

A liberal newspaper in Iran has been banned after carrying a message by the widow of the former Shah.

Pam O'Toole: A further crackdown on Iran's liberal media is predicted in the press
The paper's owner, a daughter of ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani, is to be put on trial for publishing the message.

Tehran's revolutionary court ordered her to cease publishing the paper called Zan, which means woman.

The moderate newspaper infuriated conservatives by running part of a New Year message from Farah Diba, widow of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who was toppled by the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The former empress said in her message: "In the coming third millennium, our ancient Iran will begin a new glorious period by efforts of its worthy children."

The shah and his family have been reviled in Iran's media since they left the country as the revolution unfolded. The shah died in Egypt soon afterwards and his widow settled in the United States.

The newspaper also published a cartoon ridiculing Iranian laws about women.

Zan is run by Faezeh Hashemi, who is an MP and a leading advocate of women's rights.

Resisting the ban

Zan was launched in August 1998 with the aim of promoting the role of women in politics, social and cultural activities.

[ image: Farah Diba, widow of the late shah]
Farah Diba, widow of the late shah
Employees said it was determined to resist the ban.

"The newspaper plans to defy the order ... because we do not believe the revolutionary court is qualified to rule in this matter which should be dealt with by the press court," a staff member said.

Correspondents say the power struggle in Iran - between the moderate president and conservative factions - has led to the closure of a number of newspapers and the arrest of several editors.

The cartoon showed a man telling a thug to kill his woman companion rather than him because her diya, or blood money paid to her family if she dies, would be less.

Under Islamic law, the family of a dead man receives twice the money from the killer than the family of a dead woman.

Zan was banned for two weeks late last year for publishing articles accusing a police chief of being involved in an attack on a minister and a former minister.

Iran's press has enjoyed inceasing freedom since moderate President Mohammad Khatami took office in 1997.

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