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Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Iran outcry over rowdy conference
Demonstration
Anti-reformist sentiments are strong in Iran
A political furore has broken out in Iran following the broadcast by the official television station of a film showing a meeting of liberal Iranian figures attending a recent conference in Berlin.

Over 140 members of Iranian parliament have denounced the 'Iran after February election' conference as "counter-revolutionary" and insulting to the Iranian nation.

The conference, sponsored by a foundation associated with the German Green Party, was aimed at examining the political situation in Iran in the aftermath of the February general elections in which the reformists scored a sweeping victory.


Conference
Hecklers attacked the Islamic system
A number of prominent Iranian liberal journalists and intellectuals travelled from Tehran to take part.

Two nights after the Berlin gathering ended, Iranian television, which is controlled by the conservatives, showed extensive footage of the stormy opening session last Saturday.

Stormy conference

It was noisily disrupted by Iranian exiles believed to be from a radical communist faction.

The conference broke up in disarray when the opposition exiles refused to stay quiet even after they'd been allowed to have their say.

To make matters worse, one woman dressed indecently by Islamic standards started performing a provocative Oriental dance. Later, another woman stripped to her underwear while a man took all his clothes off.


Fight
There were brawls during the conference
These images and the speeches made by hecklers, in which they attacked the Islamic system, caused uproar after their broadcast by Iranian state television.

A hundred and forty MPs signed a letter to the Supreme Leader bitterly condemning the reformists for taking part in the conference.

They accused them of advocating "US-style reforms" and called on the Iranian judiciary to bring to justice those Iranians who went to Berlin to attend the conference.

Right-wing newspapers accused them of treason for consorting with the enemies of the regime, and a hard-line cleric was quoted as demanding their death for "undermining Iran's revolutionary principles".

According to Iranian radio, Tehran Bazaar will be closed on Thursday in protest at the Berlin conference.

Reformists embarrassed

Reformists themselves, clearly embarrassed by the affair, were outraged by the broadcast.

They accused state television of trying to create conditions, which would make it impossible for the new reformist-dominated parliament to take over at the end of May.

The Islamic Revolution Mojahideen Organization, one of the leading reformist groups, said that the hardliners are "seeking to justify an anti-reform coup".

Moderate President Mohammad Khatami and his allies want to loosen the strict Islamic laws and social restrictions that have been in place since the 1979 Islamic revolution brought the Shiite clergy to power.

The most visible sign of Khatami's reform program has been the emergence of an outspoken press that has questioned the actions of the hardliners.

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See also:

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Iran's unique election
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21 Feb 00 | Middle East
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21 Feb 00 | Middle East
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