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.
According to CountryAAH, the total population in Iran is 83,992,960 people in 2020. 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 and Germany.
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 punished.
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” manner.
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 and violence.
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 predicted.
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’ charges.
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.