Iran. The parliamentary elections on February 20, with a
second round of elections in some constituencies on May 7,
marked a strong advance for the country's conservative
clergy. Conservative candidates secured at least 195 of the
250 seats in the majlis (parliament) while reform loyalists
with President Mohammad Khatami took 48 seats. The turnout
was just over 50% and in Tehran only one third of voters
voted. Before the election, the powerful Guardians' Council,
made up of priests and Islamic-schooled lawyers, had banned
some 2,500 politicians from running for office, including
almost all prominent reformers. Therefore, in protest of the
Council's decision, more than a third of the members of the
outgoing Parliament had already left their seats three weeks
before the election.
CountryAAH, the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, caught up
in February Iran with a type of nuclear centrifuge that the
country had not previously allowed to dispose of. Iran argued,
as in previous cases, that the equipment was intended only
for the development of nuclear energy. The IAEA, which also
found evidence that Iran secretly produced the radioactive
substance polonium that can be used in nuclear reactions,
issued several resolutions criticizing Iran for lack of
cooperation during the year.
A resolution of 18 September demanded that Iran temporarily
suspend its enrichment of uranium, otherwise the issue would
be transferred to the UN Security Council. In mid-November,
Iran announced that it would suspend enrichment in accordance
with an agreement negotiated with France, the United Kingdom
The Guardians' Council surprisingly approved a law
banning torture in the country on May 9. One month later,
the US human rights organization Human Rights Watch reported
that torture and arbitrary arrests had become more common in
Iran. According to the report, the new torture ban was
ineffective as long as the violation of the ban was not
The death sentence against university teacher Hashem
Aghajari for blasphemy was upheld in February. In July,
Aghajari was sentenced instead to five years in prison. An
employee of the country's intelligence ministry, who has
been put on trial for killing Canadian detained Canadian
freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi in 2003, was released in
a July trial. Lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize, represented Kazemi's mother at the trial,
saying the case had been handled in an "unacceptable"
In August, the Ministry of Defense announced that the
country's defense had successfully tested a new version of
the Shahab 3 missile. According to the ministry, all of
Israel was within the scope of the new missile.
Two Japanese oil companies were reported in February to
have signed an oil extraction agreement in the Azadegan
fields in southwestern Iran. The deal was worth $ 2 billion.
At least 320 people were killed on February 18, when a
large number of railway trucks loaded with chemicals and
gasoline came rolling out of a station and derailed in the
city of Khayyan in northeastern Iran.
The number of deaths at the Bam earthquake in December
2003 was adjusted down to 26,271 in March. Earlier higher
figures were said to be due to the fact that some victims
had been counted twice.
The turnout in the June presidential election was low
(67%), but Khatami was re-elected with 77% of the vote. He
defeated 9 rivals of which 8 were anti-reformists. In
previous years, the government had been able to reduce the
country's dependence on oil revenues, and at the same time
reduce inflation, which in April was 12.6% - the lowest in
the last 10 years. Nevertheless, a number of sectors were
dissatisfied with economic development. The low turnout was
primarily explained by the rising poverty, the middle-class
financial problems, and the inability of the president to
keep the radicals in check, who continued to control the
strong intelligence and judiciary.
Both reformists and radicals went on the streets in
protest in January 2002 when US President George W. Bush
labeled Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the axis of evil that
supports terrorism and seeks to acquire weapons of mass
destruction. On his first visit abroad after Bush's
accusations - in Vienna in March - Khatami declared that no
country had the right to characterize another as malicious.
On the contrary, all countries should work together to fight
the "real evil of the world": poverty, injustice, terrorism
The following year, the United States invaded Iraq,
triggering a strong reaction from the Iranian government,
declaring that the Bush administration could be sure of a
violent future if it did not leave the region: "The United
States will run into serious problems if it decides to to
prolong its presence in Iraq, ”Ayatollah Alí Khamenei
Iran faced other problems during 2003. In September,
Iran's building of a nuclear reactor was criticized by
several international agencies, prompting concern in several
Western countries - particularly in the United States.
Following complicated diplomatic negotiations, Iran agreed
that IAEA inspectors could inspect the Iranian facilities.
They concluded that the Iranian nuclear program had no
military targets, and this punished the United States'
The election of Judge Shirin Ebadi as recipient of the
Nobel Peace Prize that year was another source of discontent
among the most conservative circles in Iran. The appointment
was interpreted partly as support for President Khatami in
his fight against the conservative Khamanei, and partly as
support for a country designated by the United States as
part of the "axis of evil".
In November 2003, Iran cut off cultural and trade
relations with Argentina after the former Iranian ambassador
to the country, Hadi Soleimanpour, was arrested in London.
The arrest took place at the request of the Argentine
judiciary, which suspected Soleimanpour of being involved in
the attack on the Jewish institution AMIA in Buenos Aires in
1994. The two countries again approached each other when the
ex-ambassador was released for lack of evidence.
In February 2004, the city of Bam was hit by a violent
earthquake, which killed about 40,000 people. Even the
United States is sending aid to the earthquake zone after
otherwise discontinuing all relationships for 25 years.
After the Guardian Council has excluded approx. 2500
reform-friendly candidates from the Iranian parliamentary
elections in February call for the reform-friendly
opposition to boycott the election. The election is won by
the conservative forces - the only ones allowed to stand.
50% boycott selection - the same boycott rate as in the US.
The election results in protests and 10 people subsequently
die in clashes with security forces.