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The Trials of Mamdouh Habib

“The Trials of Mamdouh Habib”

Dateline, SBS Television. July 7th 2004

Broadcast in 2004, this story was one of the first comprehensive investigations into the arrest and detention of Australian man Mamdouh Habib. It was also one of the first journalistic exposes of “extraordinary rendition”,  the Bush Administration policy of “outsourcing torture” which later became an international scandal.  This story contains on the ground reporting and investigation from Australia, England, the United States, Pakistan, Qatar and Egypt.

TRANSCRIPT

The Trials of Mamdouh Habib

July 7, 2004

Of the two Australians held in Guantanamo Bay by the Americans, the case of Mamdouh Habib has been the least publicised but possibly the more disturbing. Habib was arrested in Pakistan in October 2001. Soon after he was handed over to American custody and then taken, for reasons unknown, to Egypt. For six months he was left at the hands of his Egyptian interrogators. According to him and other witnesses in tonight’s report, Mamdouh Habib was severely tortured there before being delivered to Guantanamo Bay where he remains to this day without charge. His case raises a series of questions for the Australian Government. Who sent him to Egypt and why? Did the Australian Government know and what steps were taken to ensure that his most basic rights were protected? Later, Mark Davis will be putting these questions and others to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock but first Bronwyn Adcock reports on how one Australian has fared under American justice.

REPORTER: Bronwyn Adcock

This suburban bowling club in western Sydney might seem like an unlikely venue for a discussion of international war and politics. But for Maha Habib, the US Government’s declared war on terror is very close to home. Her husband, Mamdouh, was arrested in the early days of the war. He’s been detained by America in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for over two years. Extraordinary world events have thrust her into a very public spotlight.

MAHA HABIB: Thank you very much everybody for being here. To be honest, I came to a stage where I thought I was fighting alone the campaign, but it looks like, having everybody here, I’m not by myself. I really thank you all for being here.

Maha and Mamdouh Habib’s lawyer is Stephen Hopper. In another sign of the unusual nature of this war, he’s never been allowed to meet or speak with his detained client. The information blackout means that mystery surrounds many aspects of Mamdouh Habib’s detention, but new information is emerging.

STEPHEN HOPPER, MAMDOUH HABIB’S LAWYER: A week or so ago Maha and I travelled to London and then to Manchester to speak to two people who’ve actually been in Guantanamo Bay and were released.

The two men had seen Mamdouh Habib in Guantanamo Bay and provided the first eyewitness account of his physical and mental state.

STEPHEN HOPPER: Mamdouh couldn’t walk properly and he couldn’t walk with his eyes open. When we came back, Tarek asked him about that, and he said, “Why can’t you open your eyes? What’s wrong? Why are you so unsteady?” He said, “Well, when I was in Egypt I was blindfolded for the entire time. I was electrocuted by them, I was beaten regularly and tortured.”

The two British men were released from Guantanamo Bay without any charge. They’re not facing any charges at home either. Despite this, Tarek Dherghoul wanted his identity disguised for this interview, because he’s scared of being vilified in the street.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: To me he was a nice guy. He spoke good words. And I could relate to him. He spoke about his family constantly.

Tarek claims that in Guantanamo Bay he saw Mamdouh Habib being dragged around in chains and bashed. He also says American interrogators told Mamdouh his family is dead and that Mamdouh firmly believes this.

MAHA: “Darling, take care of yourself and children. Say hello to everybody.”

For Maha, this explains why Mamdouh has not written to her since March last year.

MAHA: I said “It’s just not him, you know, there must be something wrong.” I mentioned that and I said that so many times. But when we went to London after speaking to Tarek and Jamal, it made sense to me as to why he hasn’t been writing, because they said he believes that his family’s been blown up and they don’t exist.

Perhaps the most disturbing allegation, though, concerns what happened to Mamdouh in Egypt, where he was detained for around six months before Guantanamo Bay. Tarek met Mamdouh in the hospital shortly after he’d come from Egypt.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: Very confused, dizzy. Dazed. Weak. Slow – he spoke very slow – he spoke in riddles. I couldn’t really make out, I mean, like he was telling me stuff about Egypt, he’d been taken to Egypt.

Mamdouh explained he’d been brutally tortured.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: He told me he’d been electrocuted, put in water, electrocuted, he’d been stripped, been punched, kicked and punched, used as a punching bag. He said something about a dog being put on him as he was naked. Cigars put out on his body. Blindfolded.

MAHA: “Allah is with you.” God is with you, that means.

Some hint of what he’d experienced had already been received in his letters home.

MAMDOUH: “I’ve been blindfolded for eight months. I never see the sun, but I see you and the kids every minute. I never forget you or forget my children. They took me to Egypt and they say they want to bring you in Egypt and the kids and I was suffering to not let these people bring you in Egypt and I hope you are still in Australia.”

It was only after the British men’s allegations were made public that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs revealed Mamdouh had, in fact, made similar allegations to them two years ago.

IAN KEMISH, DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE: To give you a complete picture, I think it’s important to say that on the first Australian visit to Mr Habib in Guantanamo Bay, which was only 10 days after his transfer there from Egypt, Mr Habib made some serious complaints about maltreatment during his time in Egypt.

To find further evidence about the authenticity of these claims, Dateline travelled to the Gulf state of Qatar. I’m here to see a man who says he has inside knowledge of Mamdouh Habib’s time in Egypt. Dr Najeeb al-Naumi is a lawyer and the former minister for justice in the government of Qatar. He has impeccable contacts in the Arab world. Dr Najeeb says that towards the end of Mamdouh Habib’s time in Egypt, he received information about the Australian.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI, FORMER MINISTER OF JUSTICE, QATAR: They said he will die.

REPORTER: Tell me more specifically what you were told from your sources about what happened to Mamdouh Habib in Egypt.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Well, he was in fact tortured. He was interrogated in a way which a human cannot stand up.

REPORTER: And you know this absolutely?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Yes. We were told that he – they rang the bell that he will die and somebody had to help him.

REPORTER: And again, did your sources tell you what kinds of things he was saying in Egypt to his torturers, to his interrogators?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: My sources did not say exactly what dialogue but they say that he accepted to sign anything.

REPORTER: So he was talking lots?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Yes – “Whatever you want, I will sign. I’m not involved. I’m not Egyptian. I’m Egyptian by background but I’m Australian.” But he was really beaten, he was really tortured.

REPORTER: Do you think…

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: They tried to use different ways of treating him in the beginning but in the end of that they thought he was lying and that’s why they were very tough.

There seems little doubt now that Mamdouh Habib was tortured in Egypt, but why was he ever sent there? He was arrested in Pakistan and despite being born in Egypt Mamdouh Habib has been an Australian citizen for two decades. He travelled on an Australian passport, even getting tourist visas when he went to visit his parents in Egypt in the past.

STEPHEN HOPPER: What we believe happened is that he was handed over to the US authorities by the Pakistan Government at the request of the US authorities and the US authorities took him to Egypt and they took him to Egypt because, firstly, it was convenient, because they could have a cover story, because he was born in Egypt, so they could just try and smooth over why he was there.
The second reason why they took him to Egypt is because they knew he’d be tortured there and they wanted to get whatever information Mamdouh might know that would be useful to them out of him. I want to know under whose authority he was transferred to Egypt.

To answer this, we need to go to Pakistan, to the beginning of Mamdouh Habib’s journey. According to his wife, Mamdouh Habib came to Pakistan in July 2001 looking for a sea change for the entire family. The Habibs’ life in Sydney had turned sour. They’d been traumatised by the murder of one of their son’s young friends, a business deal had gone wrong and Mamdouh was facing animosity from some members of the Muslim community in Sydney, who accused him of being a CIA spy.

REPORTER: So was he feeling a bit disenchanted with life in Australia?

MAHA: Yes. What really also encouraged us – you know, we sat down and we talked and we thought if we go out of Australia, maybe a couple of years or something, away from all the headache that we had, maybe – we applied for different countries to go. We haven’t heard anything from anybody, but one of those countries was Pakistan. And we got the visa. But we thought it would be more wiser if he goes himself and check, because it was going to cost us a lot of money.

According to Maha, he was here on a 3-month visa, checking out potential business opportunities and looking for a school where his children could get an Islamic education. Mamdouh was also suffering from depression.

MAHA: He was on medication. He was seeing, you know – treated for that. And when he left he was still on medication.

REPORTER: When he left for Pakistan?

MAHA: Yes.

REPORTER: Were you worried about him?

MAHA: Of course I was worried about him, yes. He’s my life. Him and my kids, they’re my life, you know.

Halfway through his journey, the attacks of September 11 occurred in America. Almost overnight, the situation on the ground in Pakistan profoundly changed. The Pakistani President, General Musharraf, threw his support behind America and a period of unprecedented American and Pakistani cooperation began. Dr Najeeb al-Naumi was one of the first lawyers to represent people arrested in what he says were joint Pakistani and FBI operations.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: They would start arresting people where they are known as students coming to Pakistan or religious schools where they are teaching learning as well or charity workers. These groups start picking up on these people.

REPORTER: So how big was the FBI involvement in this?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: They were totally involved in all the arrests. All the arrests, they were aware of it. They were making databases. They were collecting all information.

Much of this activity centred on the province of Baluchistan closest to Afghanistan. In early October, Mamdouh Habib was in the capital, Quetta. It was from here he called his wife.

MAHA: Then he made another phone call saying that he’s on his way back home. He left it on the answering machine. And I never heard from him since.

On October 4, 2001, Mamdouh Habib came here to Quetta bus station. He was on his way home. It was here he met two German nationals – Ibrahim Diab and Bekim Ademi. Dateline has seen copies of the interviews these two men gave German police when they returned home. They said they met Mamdouh here and upon discovering they were all trying to get to the city of Karachi to fly out, agreed to travel together.

BEKIM ADEMI: He talked to us because we were Europeans. We found out we had the same way as far as Dubai. We bought a ticket to Karachi. The Australian lent us the money.

The two German men were fleeing from Afghanistan. While in their police interviews they both gave frank admissions about their time spent in al-Qa’ida training camps, neither of them said they saw Mamdouh Habib in Afghanistan. Under intensive questioning, they did not incriminate him in any terrorist-related activity.

GERMAN POLICE INTERROGATOR: What could you tell us about the Australian?

BEKIM ADEMI: First I know he’s called Habib. Later I know Mamdouh. He comes from Sydney and has four kids. He said he had great problems in Australia and he wanted to immigrate to Pakistan. The trip was about seeing whether it was suitable for the family to come. He said he liked Pakistan.

600km into the journey, the bus was stopped at the town of Khuzdar. Pakistani police arrested all three men. Dateline asked the Pakistani Interior Minister why Mamdouh Habib was arrested.

REPORTER: Was he arrested because he was under surveillance, or was he merely caught by chance?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT, PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER: We’ve gone through a long process of investigation as far as this was concerned. And without any doubt, let me confess and share with you that there is certainly a very strong linkage of this gentleman and, as I already mentioned to you, some other people also who were actively involved with this gentleman, in assisting the extremist element, the terrorist element, at that point in time.

But despite the assertion of terrorist links, later in the interview the Minister suggests that Habib was arrested merely for being in the restricted province of Baluchistan without the correct visa documents.

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: If you are not allowed to go to Baluchistan, if you haven’t got visa to visit Baluchistan, obviously you become a suspect. That is a non-denying fact.

REPORTER: So foreigners in Baluchistan in 2001 were automatically considered suspects?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Yes, certainly, yes.

REPORTER: Could it be possible that someone was there who wasn’t involved in al-Qa’ida or terrorism?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: If a person is not involved in any of these activities, why should he or she be in such a sensitive area, in such a sensitive place? There has to be strong suspicion regarding anyone’s involvement in that respective region.

REPORTER: Suspicion, but not necessarily evidence?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: It always starts with suspicion. Suspicion eventually leads you to a certain amount of evidence and we have evidence to that effect.

However, there are some who cast doubt on the veracity of Pakistani intelligence.

YASSER AL-SIRRI, (Translation): I think Pakistani authorities sell illusions to the Americans.

Yasser al-Sirri is an Egyptian Islamist wanted by the Egyptian Government. He’s exiled in London where he heads the Islamic Observation Centre. He says that Pakistan often exaggerates the importance of people they arrest in order to win favour with America. He’s investigated the case of Mamdouh Habib and believes this is what’s happened to him.

YASSER AL-SIRRI, (Translation): In fact, all I know about him is that he used to be a businessman or used to be involved in trade. His name was definitely not known as a member or a leader in al-Qa’ida. This is an exaggeration of his case and he could be just an ordinary Muslim whose bad luck put him in the way of the Pakistanis.

In Qatar, Dr Najeeb al-Naumi argues that the sweep that picked up Mamdouh Habib was not based on good intelligence.

REPORTER: But how could an intelligence service like the Pakistanis and the FBI make such big mistakes?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: No, they know what their idea is. Their idea is, “Let us pick them all up and find out which one is belong to al-Qa’ida and which one is actually a supporter or a member or associate.” But in the end, all of them are actually in Guantanamo.

After his arrest, Mamdouh Habib was taken briefly to a prison in Quetta. Then he was moved here to Islamabad. Pakistani authorities did not tell the Australian High Commission that they’d detained an Australian citizen. But someone did tell the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, ASIO, because they turned up in Islamabad and visited Mamdouh Habib in prison three times. Mamdouh Habib’s lawyer wants to know how Australian intelligence got involved and what they knew about Habib’s detention in Islamabad.

STEPHEN HOPPER: Now they’ve seen him in a prison in Pakistan, what are they up to? They would have heard Mamdouh’s story and they would have been in contact with other intelligence agencies on the ground there, such as the CIA. And then they would have reported back to their political masters in Canberra. So there seems to be a chain that leads all the way back to Canberra. We’d like to know what the Prime Minister knew, what the Attorney-General knew and what the Foreign Minister knew about this.

The Australian Government has told Dateline that their officials found no evidence that Habib had been mistreated. The two German men arrested with Mamdouh Habib were released into German custody after several weeks and flown home. Dateline understands they were interrogated by the FBI before they left. Mamdouh Habib, however, remained.

STEPHEN HOPPER: What the German Government did was quite simple. They just put a bit of pressure on the Pakistanis and said, “We’re not going to tolerate you holding our citizens and we’re not going to let the US interfere with our citizens. We want them back”. It’s as simple as that. Now the Australian Government just didn’t try hard enough.

REPORTER: Did the Australian Government ask to have Mamdouh Habib deported to Australia?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No, they did not.

The High Commissioner in Islamabad, Howard Brown, told Dateline that he vigorously attempted to get consular access to Mamdouh Habib but was denied. He said he wasn’t told Habib was being sent to Egypt and only found out after he’d gone. The High Commissioner was told by Australian law enforcement authorities.
So who organised and authorised the removal of Mamdouh Habib to Egypt? A source who’s spoken to Pakistani intelligence told Dateline that after Pakistan finished interrogating Mamdouh Habib he was handed over to the FBI. They interrogated him here at Chakalala airport in Islamabad. Then, the source says, the US sent him to Egypt.
We pursued this allegation with the Pakistani Interior Minister.

REPORTER: And who sent Mamdouh Habib to Egypt?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: You see, now you are transgressing into some very sensitive areas, you know. This is an area, unfortunately, we cannot simply share the outcome of the investigations with anyone.

REPORTER: Was it a Pakistani decision?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Obviously it’s a Pakistani decision initially, because if anyone is caught on Pakistan soil, it’s Pakistan’s decision, it’s Pakistan’s prerogative, certainly.

REPORTER: So, just to clarify, it was a Pakistani decision to send him to Egypt?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: It’s not exactly a Pakistani decision. You know, a person who is caught in Pakistan – let me also clarify this. If he or she is of Pakistan origin, certainly they do not go out of Pakistan. If that person is of foreign origin, then if he or she is wanted by a foreign government – any government – they put in a request to Pakistan and the arrangements which we have on a reciprocal basis, on a bilateral basis, even with some countries on a multilateral basis, if we feel that their request is valid and genuine, then we do accede to that request.

REPORTER: Which country are you talking about?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: I’m talking about all the countries. The US, the European Union, Egypt, you know, all these countries.

REPORTER: So are you implying that Egypt request…

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No, Egypt did not request us.

REPORTER: Egypt definitely did not request Mamdouh Habib?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No.

REPORTER: So did the United States request him?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Yes, they did request it, yes.

REPORTER: The United States requested that he be sent to Egypt?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: The US wanted him for their own investigations. We are not concerned where they take him.

REPORTER: You don’t see it as Pakistan’s issue?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No. As far as we are concerned, we were satisfied with our own investigations at that point in time. Once that was over, once we were satisfied with our own investigations, certainly we had no problem handing him over to another ally of ours.

REPORTER: The Americans?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Yes, that’s right.

It’s clear, therefore, that at the time Mamdouh Habib was sent to Egypt, he was in American custody. It’s also clear that Egypt did not request his extradition. So why did the Americans send him?

STEVE WATT, CENTRE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS IN NEW YORK: Egypt has a long history of use of torture on persons in detention and we believe that Mamdouh was sent there for the express purpose of interrogating him under torture.

Steve Watt is with the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York. He represents many Guantanamo Bay inmates in America, including Mamdouh Habib.

STEVE WATT: What this is, is state-sponsored abduction and that’s a violation of international law.

This is a serious allegation, but not an isolated one. Although there’s been little discussion in the West, the Arab world is on fire with talk of an American policy called rendition, essentially farming out detention and interrogation. There are dozens of documented examples of this happening, not just in Egypt.

STEVE WATT: We represent Maher Arar, a Canadian of Syrian descent, who was rendered by US authorities to Syria, a country with which he had had no connection for 17 years. He’s a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen, but had left there when he was very young with the rest of his family. He was sent back to Syria and he was interrogated under torture and the ambassador to Washington, the Syrian ambassador to Washington in an interview said they took Maher as a favour to the United States Government and that they shared all the information they gleaned from Maher, including information under torture, with the United States, and that they were communicating with the United States throughout his detention, a detention which lasted one year.

Montaser al-Zayat is a leading Islamist lawyer here in Egypt, where the practice of rendition was pioneered. While he says he knows of one case in the last few years where Americans were actually present during the interrogation, the normal practice is for the locals to do the job for them.

MONTASER AL-ZAYAT, ISLAMIST LAWYER: (Translation): The United States or its security organisations would prepare memos for the Egyptian authorities that include the names of the persons and the type of information required about such persons. The Egyptian authorities would then interrogate these people and supply the Americans with information about them.

It’s alleged there are also thousands of cases where suspects are picked up and interrogated purely to provide intelligence for the Americans.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Qatar, Philippines, Thailand – they’re detained because they were requested by the Americans. They were interrogated on behalf of the Americans, with some people sitting on the back side and getting the information, the questionnaires, because they can have a database from Guantanamo.

The policy of rendition started well before September 11, but since then it’s become much more widespread as America’s need for intelligence has increased.

YASSER AL-SIRRI, (Translation): After the events of September 11, these regimes were forced to cooperate fully. Not some cooperation, but full cooperation. Whether they liked it or not, they had to cooperate. As I said, there’s Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Jordan cooperates strongly and there’s repression in its jails on behalf of the Americans. In Morocco about 23 persons were handed over but they were placed in a secret prison in Morocco and nobody knows anything about them. This information was leaked by former detainees in that prison.

Here in Egypt, torture in prisons is endemic, as seen in these pictures painted by torture victims themselves. It’s no accident that the countries used for rendition by the US have such a reputation. According to Tarek Dherghoul, a former inmate of Guantanamo Bay, US interrogators use rendition as a direct threat – “Talk to us or be tortured overseas”.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: I was first of all in Bagram. I was beat up by an interrogator and told that they would kill me and told that I would be sent to Morocco or Egypt. That was my first – first time I had been threatened with being sent to Morocco or Egypt. The next time was in Cuba and then again by an interrogator – threatened to be sent to Morocco or Egypt.

Dateline approached the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Council, Centcom, the State Department and the Department of Defence to talk about rendition and Mamdouh Habib. They all refused to comment. However, in the hearings of the 9/11 commission a few months ago, a former State Department intelligence official said renditions were a key counter-terrorism strategy.

CHRIS KOJM, US STATE DEPARTMENT 1998-2003: We will first discuss the CIA’s support with renditions. In other words, if a terror suspect is outside of the United States, the CIA helps to catch and send him to the United States or a third country.

Ex-CIA director George Tenet was even happy to acknowledge that 70 people were rendered prior to September 11.

GEORGE TENET: There were – you know, I’ve testified there were over 70 renditions.

STEVE WATT: It’s a policy – I mean, former director of the CIA again, George Tenet, testified to that fact. He said it’s a policy of the United States. They use it and they’ve used it effectively and they’re proud of what it achieves.

Proud of the intelligence, but not necessarily the methods used to extract it. The official position of the United States is that it does not condone or use torture.

GEORGE BUSH, US PRESIDENT: We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.

But in the Arab world and among lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay inmates, this is not accepted. In fact, they regard rendition as the deliberate outsourcing of torture to give the US some deniability.

STEVE WATT: Particularly so when the United States has signed up to the Convention against Torture and said that it would never do this kind of action. Also in light of the fact that there is an act of Congress which makes it United States policy that it will not send persons to countries where there’s substantial likelihood they’ll be subject to torture. So that makes it all the worse that they are actually doing this entirely outside the law and in flagrant violation of their international and domestic obligations.

After around six months in Egypt, Mamdouh Habib turned up here at Bagram, the US base in Afghanistan. This was the first time that the United States publicly admitted he was in their custody.

STEVE WATT: Bagram Air Force base is under the complete jurisdiction and control of the United States military, so it’s them that would have had to authorise the plane that touched down. And from the information that we have, Mamdouh was taken to Egypt by the Americans and he was flown out of there by the Americans.

By May 2002, he was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and it seems a safe assumption that any intelligence gathered from his interrogation in Egypt would have come with him. Stephen Hopper says this kind of evidence is massively flawed.

STEPHEN HOPPER: It’s been proven over hundreds and hundreds of years of the development of the common law and our legal systems it just cannot be relied on. People will say anything to stop pain or psychological torture. Just because they say it doesn’t mean it’s true in those circumstances.

Three years after he was arrested, Mamdouh Habib has still not been charged with anything, though the American administration has indicated recently he’s likely to be listed for a military tribunal soon. The Australian Government is convinced that Mamdouh Habib, like the other Australian detained at Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks, does have a case to answer.

PHILLIP RUDDOCK, ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And, in fact, we know, because we’ve received advice on these matters from the United States, that the charges that will ultimately be brought evolve around their training with al-Qa’ida and Lashkar-e-Taiba and their involvement with those organisations has been of a very significant order.

STEPHEN HOPPER: I would say that’s bullshit. Mamdouh Habib wasn’t training with Lashkar-e-Taiba. It’s very funny that this allegation wasn’t raised until Lashkar-e-Taiba was proscribed in November last year. Now come on. The Australian Government has to put up or they’ve got to shut up. What is the evidence? What is the evidence that a 47-year-old overweight man trained? I don’t believe there is any evidence. I believe that Mr Habib was picked up in a general sweep in Pakistan in the lead-up to the war in Afghanistan. I believe that perhaps his documents weren’t in proper order and he was taken in for further questioning. At this stage either Australian intelligence officials or the CIA got involved and life went downhill dramatically for Mr Habib at that stage.

Just how far downhill is probably best judged by his deteriorating mental health. Psychiatrists who deal with torture victims say treatment is essential. According to recent reports to the Australian Parliament, Mamdouh Habib is still spending periods in solitary confinement. He’s also at times refusing to take his medication for depression.

IAN KEMISH: Mr Habib has not been communicative. And he only provides feedback on his welfare in response to direct questions. He does not always answer them. He can be belligerent in discussion with our Consul General, but for the most part is simply reluctant to communicate.

In May this year, US authorities conducted an evaluation of his physical and mental condition and said follow-up care was not needed. However, based on conversations with other recently released inmates, his American lawyer is concerned.

STEVE WATT: Extremely concerned. They were actually housed in cages beside Mamdouh Habib for a number of months and just two weeks prior to their departure from Guantanamo in March, they said that Mamdouh couldn’t even recognise them. They also said that he looked physically unwell. They said he’d fallen down in his cage at one point. He’d been mistreated by the guards. And he told a whole litany of horrors that he had been subjected to during interrogation. So he’s in a very bad way physically and mentally.

MAHA: Will he listen to a 3.5-year-old?

Maha Habib is continuing her own campaign to have her husband released. Today she’s waiting outside a TV station in Sydney. The Prime Minister is inside and she wants to hand him a letter on the way out.

MAN: He won’t be stopping the car. The car will just be going past, OK? You can understand he’s the PM of Australia. He’ll travel out of the studio and keep going, OK? I’ll definitely hand him the letter…

MAHA: What’s so special about Prime Minister? I’m here for my husband’s right, for my family.

MAN: OK, I can appreciate that.

This day, Maha Habib is unsuccessful. However, she’s vowed to keep trying to bring her husband home.

MAHA: My husband never committed no crime – the crime has been committed against him and against us, OK? If he has committed any crime, alright, bring him here, let him see justice. But if he hasn’t done, just let him go home, let him see his family – almost three years. 29 July, he will be away from us for three years now.

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Ahmadinejad’s Iran

“Ahmadinejad’s Iran”

Dateline, SBS Television. 4th April 2007

This report from inside Iran canvasses the views of everyone from the Iranian Foreign Minister, high profile economists, down to the man on the street. What we find is overwhelming support for  Iran’s nuclear program but growing unease at the parlous state of the economy and the confrontational style of President Ahmadinejad.

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TRANSCRIPT

REPORTER: Bronwyn Adcock

Ever since Iran elected a new president nearly two years ago I’ve been applying for a visa to come here.

REPORTER: So do I need anything in particular to get this press pass, just my passport?

MAN: They just take a photo of you, that’s all, and you have to fill out one or two forms.

On my last trip five years ago the nation’s slogan was “dialogue among civilisations”. Now, thanks to Iran’s nuclear program, it’s facing sanctions and the threat of war. The man leading the country on this apparent collision course is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While he was voted in on the promise of bringing wealth to the poor, it’s the nuclear issue he’s since embraced, taking on perceived Western hypocrisy.

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, (Translation): They pile up their own arsenals of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, yet when it comes to the desire of other nations to develop nuclear energy for peaceful technological and scientific purposes, they start shouting slogans about global security.

Here in the city of Karaj, many Iranians have come to give their President letters containing their personal concerns. This is a hallmark of this self-styled man of the people. He’s apparently received 5 million letters since he became President. But how closely is he reading their concerns?

REPORTER: One sign that President Ahmadinejad’s popularity could be on the decline came in local council elections in December. Across the country, Ahmadinejad and his supporters suffered heavy defeats. Here in Tehran, they won only 2 out of 15 seats in the local council.

These losses in Tehran are particularly significant for a man who was once the mayor of this city. I’ve come to Friday prayers at Tehran University, a good place to gauge what the conservative, religious elements in Iran are thinking. I’m only allowed to film from the women’s section and can’t see today’s speaker, but it’s Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – an influential cleric and former president. He’s delivering a message to the West about Iran’s nuclear program, a message that’s almost a mantra in Iran nowadays.

AKBAR HASHEMI RAFSANJANI, (Translation): We’re prepared to give you our complete assurance, that if we can sit at the negotiating table on terms of complete equality, then Iran will prove to you that it has no objective other than the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Under Ahmadinejad, Iran seems prepared to risk everything to achieve their aim,

REPORTER: At what point, though, will you question is it worth a very high price to pay? Mottaki:

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The only price which we are not going to pay, and definitely we will not pay, is to ignore for the right of our nation. We cannot accept this discrimination approach in the international relations.

REPORTER: But will it have such a tangible benefit for the Iranian people that it will be worth…?

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI: We are going to spend tens of billions of dollars for production of 20,000 megawatts of electricity in our country through nuclear power plants. It is our national interest for our nation.

Back outside, after Friday prayers, ordinary Iranians are embracing this political message.

MAN 1 (Translation): We don’t intend to use it for mass murder. We want to use it for medical advancement and nuclear advancement.


MAN 2: The nuclear issue is one of the science issues in Iran and all over the world. And all the people of the world, has the right, the equal right, for reaching to this point, and it is part of the scientific effort of the Iranian nation.

From an Iranian perspective, there’s a deep sense of outrage that they’re being denied what other countries have.

MAN 2: More than 70% of the energy of France comes from atomic power, and we have the right.

PROFESSOR SADEGH ZIBAKALAM, POLITICAL ANALYST TEHRAN UNIVERSITY: Many Iranians feel that, think that the West is against us. Not for the nuclear program per se, but the West is against Iran not to advance scientifically. This is something that many Iranians believe.

Until the Islamic revolution of 1979 that removed the American-backed Shah and installed Ayatollah Khomeini in power, this compound was the United States Embassy in Tehran. These murals tell the Iranian history of American interference in their country. For many, the nuclear debate is seen in this context.

MAN 3 (Translation): Iran has always had a proud history. And you must also know it’s always been the case that some have tried to impede our national progress. If you look at the Quajar or Pahlavi dynasties or even the early days of the revolution, countries like Russia, England or America have always tried to divide us.

REPORTER: Are you a supporter of President Ahmadinejad?

MAN 2: Me?

REPORTER: Yes.

MAN 2: All these people are like Ahmadinejad, every of them is one Ahmadinejad.

REPORTER: What is it that you like about President Ahmadinejad?

MAN 2: Everything!

REPORTER: Can you give me some examples?

MAN 2: He is the most brave man in the history of the Muslim world.

MAN 4 (Translation): Ahmadinejad is equipped with the weapon of both faith and science. And he’s now resurrecting the weapon of “Allah is great” that Imam Khomeini used to win the revolution. God is great.

PROFESSOR SADEGH ZIBAKALAM: Because he has been acting as the champion of resisting US pressure. And, in a way, he has identified himself very much with Iran’s nuclear program. So in a sense, if you go after him, you look a bit unpatriotic.

Despite having the power of patriotism on his side, people are speaking out against Ahmadinejad, an extraordinary thing in a country where free speech has both limits and consequences. I’m heading to the north of Tehran to see one of his critics. Dr Ebrahim Yazdi was Iran’s first foreign minister after the revolution. He soon fell out with the leadership though and became a dissident voice who’s faced arrest many times.

DR EBRAHIM YAZDI, IRAN FREEDOM MOVEMENT: You know, when I was not here five years ago and the security forces came and they took many of my pictures with Khomeini and now I don’t have them. I have some in my office, but now I don’t have it.

Ahmadinejad says that he wanted to refresh, or rearrange everything, in accordance with the first days of the revolution. This is impossible. The generation of the revolution is different than this generation. Therefore when he is talking everybody look around like he is talking nonsense.

While Dr Yazdi supports in principle Iran’s right to nuclear technology, he thinks the issue is being manipulated by a populist president.

DR EBRAHIM YAZDI: Many governments, like Iranian Government, in the world, when they have failed to give the proper services that people expect, then they try to bring in a foreign threat, replace it with a foreign threat. I’m afraid that even today the Bush Administration play the same game. Exaggerating the foreign threat. The same thing in Iran.

Dr Yazdi accuses the President of exaggerating the nuclear issue to disguise the fact he’s failed on his key election promise of reducing the gap between rich and poor. To find out more, I take a trip to Tehran’s main bazaar, the economic heartbeat of the country. Despite it being the lead up to Iranian New Year, the owner of this decorations shop, Saeed, tells me business is slow.

SAEED: I think most of my customers are… do not they are not optimistic for the future, they feel worried about the future. Therefore, as you know, our items are decorations and when they do not feel secure they do not buy some decorations, they prefer to pay for something basic, for example food and something like this.

The story is the same in this cosmetics shop.

REPORTER: How bad has it been compared to other years?

MAN 4 (Translation): I can confidently say in previous years our sales exceeded 10 or 12 million toman. Now it’s about 4 or 5 million. Maybe people want to hang on to their money in case there’s a war or something.

REPORTER: How is business now?

MATTAVI: It’s not good, it’s not good.

Mattavi owns and runs a plastics business. He tells me he can only afford to pay his sole employee around US$140 a month. I soon discover what a sensitive issue the economy is.

REPORTER: What do you think is the reason for the economy being bad?

MATTAVI: You see, it’s the politics problem of course, just that. Economic problem is just politic problem.

REPORTER: You were saying the problem is politics, what do you mean by that?

MAAAVI: I cannot be talking about that, it make problem for me, take it easy. Any of the persons in Iran cannot talk about politics so much. It make problem for them, take it easy, miss.

REPORTER: OK, no problem at all.

It’s little wonder ordinary Iranians are scared of speaking out when you consider what’s happened to those further up the food chain. Economist Saeed Laylaz says the President personally had him sacked from his government job for criticising his economic policies.

SAEED LAYLAZ, ECONOMIST: There are a lot of people, there are a lot of people who have to leave their jobs because of their warning and publishing their opinion about the economy or about the politics and so on.

REPORTER: Why do you think it is that the President is so sensitive about the economy?

SAEED LAYLAZ: This is because he failed in his economic policies, I believe. Frankly speaking, honestly, there is not one policy which has been successful by him since the past 16-17 months ago.

The biggest problem according to economists like Laylaz is the President’s spending spree. On entering office he took billions of dollars from Iran’s Oil Stabilisation Fund, a reserve of excess oil revenues. He spent up big on infrastructure projects, subsidies to the people, new government jobs, and salary increases. This dramatic expenditure led to a surge in inflation.

SAEED LAYLAZ: Everybody is worried, especially the Supreme Leader, personally is supervising the situation and because of this inflation rate which is increasing very fast.

Economists are warning that uncontrolled inflation could lead to disaster.

SAEED LAYLAZ: I believe the main reason is the huge gap between the social classes in the society. There are a lot of poor people who cannot save themselves in a potential wave of inflation. In this case there are a lot of people who cannot receive enough money even for continuing their life. And because of this there will be unrest and social turbulences in the country.

This dire prediction is being heard. Despite the warm welcome the President received in parliament last month, there is serious discontent here. In an unprecedented move, 150 members of the conservative dominated parliament, or Majiles, signed a letter criticising his economic policies. Significantly, the discontent is not coming just from his political opponents.

PROFESSOR SADEGH ZIBAKALAM: They are actually coming from his own rank. A number of senior conservative figures, particularly in the Majiles, have actually been highly critical of Ahmadinejad’s mainly economic policies.

Ahmadinejad has also come under fire for some of his other contentious forays into foreign policy, such as publicly questioning the truth of the Holocaust, and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. Dr Afarideh is a reformist member of parliament and keen advocate of Iran’s nuclear program. However, he thinks the issue has been mishandled. The fact a member of parliament is prepared to speak out is an indication of the mood here.

HOSSEIN AFARIDEH, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: In my opinion the President brought some argument that was not necessary, he mixed some argument to the nuclear issue. For example, the time the Iranian case was discussed in the UN, he started to talk about the Holocaust. This bring big damage to Iranian benefit.

DR EBRAHIM YAZDI: What does it have to do with our national security? It has brought up more negative response, increased the pressure on Iran. It is not a wise policy to say and do things to solidify the front against Iran. You know, foreign policy basically, the mission is, or the function is, to reduce foreign tension.

One of the most damaging critiques came from a newspaper called ‘Jomhuri Islami’. This is not just any newspaper. It’s seen as close to the Supreme Leader and the semi-official voice of the hardline clerical establishment. In an open letter to the President it said: “We acknowledge your endeavours to campaign for Iran’s rights to develop nuclear energy.” However, it went on: “What is the need for such aggressive rhetoric when it can only provide a pretext for the bullies to exert further foreign pressure. The way you have been presenting the nuclear debate would lead the listener to form the view that you are exaggerating the significance of the issue in order to divert the public’s attention from other failures of your government.” This editorial led to speculation that Ahmadinejad may have lost the support of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. If so, it’s a sure sign of political death in Iran.

PROFESSOR SADEGH ZIBAKALAM: We cannot say definitely or categorically that the Supreme Leader has withdrawn his support for Ahmadinejad. What we can say is the Supreme Leader is no longer willing to give him carte blanche, to give him absolute support, to give him point-blank support.

REPORTER: Would you agree that there is some domestic concern in Iran now about the conflict situation that is developing? There are some critics who are saying the President has been too defiant, too confrontational.

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI: If you are talking there are different opinions, for daily life, economic, politics and the others, we have an alive society, a very active society, even politically, and that is quite normal and natural. The people are deciding here, and the nuclear issue is a consensus issue in the country.

While considerable unease about Ahmadinejad does exist in Iran, there is still comprehensive political support for the nuclear program. The Foreign Minister warns any outsiders not to place their hopes on any disunity within Iran.

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI: We do not have any problem among ourselves, inside the country. Those who are going to invest on this possibility, they will lose, they will not get benefits.

Nevertheless, there have been strong rumours that the numbers are being gathered in parliament to impeach the President.

REPORTER: Do you think that’s a real possibility?

PROFESSOR SADEGH ZIBAKALAM: I don’t think it’s a real possibility for the time being. I think in a sense maybe the nuclear issue is a god-sent issue to help him, because obviously even a school child will tell you that it’s very unwise to impeach him while Iran is under so much pressure from outside on this nuclear issue.

Ironically, it could be pressure from the West that saves Ahmadinejad’s political skin. It could also gain him support from the people. It’s early morning at Tehran’s bazaar, and Hussein Hadad is opening up his shop. Hussein is a metalworker. I met him early on in my trip at Friday prayers. A politically conservative and religious man, Hussein begins his work day by reading the Koran. He didn’t support Ahmadinejad in the presidential elections. In fact, he campaigned on behalf of his main rival. But that has now changed.

REPORTER: Even though you didn’t vote for him in the last election, do you now call yourself a supporter of Ahmadinejad?

HUSSEIN HADAD (Translation): Yes.

REPORTER: Why, what’s changed?

HUSSEIN HADAD (Translation): We don’t trust global imperialism.

The threats from America have convinced Hussein to now support the President.

REPORTER: Does the majority of the bazaar still support President Ahmadinejad?

HUSSEIN HADAD (Translation): The victory of the revolution proves that everyone supports it and this is what we’re seeing in Iraq now. American soldiers breaking into people’s homes by force. Can we really trust the Americans?

PROFESSOR SADEGH ZIBAKALAM: Millions of Iranians, millions and millions of Iranians would rally behind the Islamic regime if it is attacked by the United States or any other foreign power. It is one thing for me to criticise Ahmadinejad, but if Ahmadinejad is attacked by the United States, I am the first person who will defend Ahmadinejad, who will rally behind Ahmadinejad, I have no other choice.


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Iran’s Jews – Shalom Saalam

“Iran’s Jews – Shalom Saalam”

Dateline, SBS Television. 16th May 2007

Synagogues and Kosher cafes are not what you’d expect to find in the Islamic Republic of Iran, but the country is in fact  home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East, outside of Israel. This story gives a rare insight into this community, who as you’ll see live with both freedom and fear.

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TRANSCRIPT

REPORTER: Bronwyn Adcock

It is Thursday night in central Tehran and inside this unmarked, nondescript building a special event is under way. Some of Iran’s 25,000-strong Jewish community are celebrating the festival of Purim, commemorating the ancient tale of a plot to kill all the Jews of the Persian Empire. It’s a story of survival that shows the deep Jewish roots here going back more than 2,500 years.

HAROUN YASHYAEI, JEWISH COMMUNITY LEADER, (Translation): Iran is, in fact, the cultural homeland of Judaism. It’s interesting to note there are even more sites relating to Jewish history in Iran than there are in Israel.

For almost 30 years though, Iran’s Jewish community has lived in an Islamic State. Synagogue board member Robert Khalder believes the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was good for their faith.

ROBERT KHALDER, COMMUNITY LEADER, (Translation): I think that a positive outcome of the Islamic revolution for the Jewish community is that most Iranian Jews in Iran have become more religious. Obviously, living in a religious environment is more conducive to becoming religious than a non-religious environment.

Robert Khalder is one of few people here who agreed to speak with me.

ROBERT KHALDER: She is my mother.

Iranian Jews prefer to keep a low profile, and are uneasy about foreign journalists constantly asking what’s it like to live in an Islamic state.

ROBERT KHALDER (Translation): I don’t know why it’s so important to the people of the world. We are comfortably doing everything we want to do here. We can perform all our religious, cultural and traditional celebrations. Our schools, our holy days, we have all those in complete freedom. But as I said, maybe this is not projected in the West.

The existence of a Jewish community here has long fascinated the West primarily because of the Iranian Government’s hostility towards the Jewish state, Israel. And Iranian Jews recently came to international attention when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as a myth. For Iran’s only Jewish Member of Parliament this was too much. Maurice Mottamed describes himself as Iranian first and a Jew second, but felt compelled to speak out.

MAURICE MOTTAMED, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, (Translation): When Mr Ahmadinejad, in his capacity as President of Iran, denied the appalling tragedy of the Holocaust, I issued a statement which was distributed worldwide, objecting to his assertions about the Holocaust because the Iranian President attempted to deny and reject the most awful tragedy known to human history. And I publicly declared there and then that this was a huge insult to all Jewish people around the world.

Despite the controversy caused by Ahmadinejad’s comments, Maurice Mottamed says the President was not supported by other Iranian politicians, and later appeared to modify his views.

REPORTER: Holocaust denial is frequently linked with anti-Semitism. Did the President’s comments make you feel insecure about the position of the Iranian Jewish community?

MAURICE MOTTAMED, (Translation): Fortunately there was never any threat to the safety of the Jewish community. The main reason for this is that the general policy of the Iranian Government has never entailed anti-Semitism and hopefully that will continue to be the case in the future.

In modern-day Iran there are virtually no cases of anti-Semitic violence of the kind you hear about in some parts of Europe, indeed all indications are that Jews and Muslims live harmoniously. Nowhere is this better illustrated then here, at this Jewish hospital in southern Tehran. It’s one of only four Jewish charity hospitals in the world and reputedly one of the best hospitals in the country. I’m shown around by a Muslim man who’s worked here for two decades.

MAN: Intensive care unit.

Staff here are Muslim and Jewish, as are patients. Farangis Hassidm, a Jew, is in charge of administration.

FARANGIS HASSIDM, HOSPITAL ADMIN: Whoever comes to our hospital we are asking, “What is your pain? What is your suffering?” We are not asking what’s their religion, or how they think, or what’s their ideology, no. And most of the patients, more than 95 patients that we are treating in this hospital they are not Jewish.

The hospital runs primarily on donations from Jews both in Iran and abroad, though recently the government of President Ahmadinejad made a donation of 25 million tomans, or A$32,000.

DR SIAMAK MORSEDEGH, DIRECTOR OF HOSPITAL: 25 million tomans is not a significant payment, a significant amount according to our costs. But in the other hand, as a part of this donation, it have a cultural effect on us and says that government wants the hospital to persist and to work and to serve Iranian population.

REPORTER: So it was a positive message as well actual..?

DR SIAMAK MORSEDEGH: Yes, it is a positive message. This message say to us that conditions is not very bad and there is not a specific problem between Iranian Jewish society and Ahmadinejad Government.

All around Tehran there is a significant, albeit discreet, Jewish presence. Inside this building is a Jewish library with books in Hebrew and in Persian, where pictures of Islamic revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini and Moses sit side by side. There’s a kosher butchery where kosher meat is served up by Muslim butchers. And there is also at least one kosher restaurant. It’s here I try and talk to some young Iranian Jews who believe their country is misunderstood in the West.

WOMAN, (Translation): They think Iran is undeveloped and backward but that is not the case.

But before we get too far, our interview is stopped by a member of the Jewish community.

MAN, (Translation): You should stop filming now. That’s enough. Stop, please. You only have a permit from our council.

INTERPRETER, (Translation): But we got the permit.

MAN, (Translation): They gave you a permit to film in the synagogue, that’s all. Please stop, we have problems. If our members happen to say the wrong thing by mistake. This woman is very cluey. I’ve listened to her. She’ll go to the other side of the world, something will be printed and we’ll get in trouble for it.

Free speech is limited for everyone in Iran, so this incident is not necessarily evidence that Jews are being singled out. However, a US State Department report has noted that Jews here are reluctant to talk about mistreatment, fearing government reprisal. Moses Baba, a well-known Tehran identity and antique dealer, is a good example of the fact that Iranian Jews enjoy a degree of freedom that would surprise many in the West. In recent years, Jews like Baba have been allowed to freely visit Iran’s archenemy, Israel.

MOSES BABA, (Translation): They came to our synagogues on Saturdays and told us, “You can go to and from Israel as you please.” They promised we would have no problems. Every year, I first go to Turkey. Turkey, then Israel, then the US, then back to Turkey, then Iran.

While many Iranian Jews are now travelling freely, statistics show that the number leaving for good is actually falling. Despite the fact he has children and grandchildren in Israel, Moses Baba says he isn’t going anywhere.

MOSES BABA, (Translation): Because I love Iran. I swear to God. Each time I go abroad, I stay 20 days, then run back. There are some fantastic Muslim people here, unique in the world. They are faithful, God-fearing, they respect me a lot.

Amazingly it was the Islamic revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who paved the way for the protection of Jews in the Islamic state. Haroun Yashyaei is a Jewish community leader who was in contact with Khomeini back in 1979.

HAROUN YASHYAEI, (Translation): The Imam’s clear and unequivocal view was that Zionism is a political ideology and of course he was opposed to Zionism. Judaism is a religion, which he respected. And Iranian Jews, as he stated in one of his speeches, are citizens of Iran, and their rights as citizens are respected just like those of all other Iranians.

Iranian Jews have certainly fared better than some other religious minorities in Iran, such as the Baha’i. But Maurice Mottamed, the Jewish Member of Parliament, says discrimination does exist.

MAURICE MOTTAMED, (Translation): But if you want to compare the rights of religious minorities with those of mainstream Muslim populations, we have to say that there are some glaring differences. We have successfully abolished some of them and continue to pursue solutions to our problems.

These problems include a law that says if one member of a Jewish family converts to Islam, then they will inherit over the other members. There’s also discrimination in the workplace – Jews can’t take sensitive positions in the armed forces or intelligence and have problems rising to higher levels of management in some government departments. Down the road from the synagogue a mural celebrates armed attacks on Israel.

REPORTER: Does it trouble you that the Iranian Government, at the very least, verbally support groups that attack and kill Jewish civilians in Israel?

MAURICE MOTTAMED, (Translation): As representative of the Jewish community in the House I have always opposed violence and bloodshed towards innocent people on both sides, Palestinians and Israelis.

For Mottamed, or any other Iranian Jew, supporting Israel is absolutely out of the question.

MAURICE MOTTAMED, (Translation): Currently, Iranian foreign policy is opposed to recognising the state of Israel. Politics may dictate, from time to time, flexibility, and at other times it may dictate aggression. In any case, we are a section of this community and must be in agreement with Iranian policies.

Perhaps to Westerners used to the scenes of conflict between Jews and Muslims in Palestine, the concept of Jews living happily in a Muslim state is a strange one. But here in Iran it doesn’t appear unusual.

HAROUN YASHYAEI, (Translation): No-one says “I’m a Muslim and you’re a Jew.” Iran’s cultural link with its Jews is stronger than the link with its Muslims. You see, the common points of agreement between Judaism and Islam are a lot closer than with other religions. Jewish theology is in complete harmony with Islamic theology.


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