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Sue Lloyd-Roberts And 'Anti-Israel Day' in Iran
Last uploaded : Tuesday 10th Dec 2002 at 23:45
Contributed by : The Editor


News (Picture at right: Sue Lloyd-Roberts)

Well, you loyal readers of this site may have been wondering what has happened to the prolific editor who writes with such profusion and variety.

To be honest, I have been in such dismay at various aspects of the news in the past few weeks that I have been at a loss as to what I could tackle. This is one of the advantages of being Senior Editor of a site: nobody dares yell at me.

Many events in the past few weeks have caused me despair but I have not been inspired to write: only one -- the fisticuffs that erupted at the Charlotte Street Hotel between the Scottish film distributor and his American client -- is likely to have some space in these columns in a few days? time.

However, the courageous BBC journalist Sue Lloyd-Roberts, next to whom I was privileged to sit some while ago at a sad event -- the funeral of a dear friend?s mother-- reported tonight from inside Iran on the BBC primetime programme ?Newsnight? and duly inspired me to write this new column.

Sue was, according to anchor Jeremy Paxman, summarily expelled from Iran but managed to salvage her tape. Her report was a chilling indictment of the repressive regime administered by the mullahs and Ayatollahs.

Sue Lloyd-Roberts reported that on the day she was able to film in a public square, the commemoration being observed by the crowd was -- wait for it -- ?ANTI-ISRAEL DAY.? In Britain there is Remembrance or Poppy Day, in America there is Thanksgiving but in the Islamic Republic of Iran they have Anti-Israel Day. Lloyd-Roberts did not editorialise on this but painted a picture of a society in which women are particularly vulnerable to scrutiny and punishment.

Lloyd-Roberts related the story of women who had been accused of ?socialising? with the opposite sex and showed pictures of the effects of eighty lashes each. She was able to smuggle out images of women hideously scarred from self-immolation; the incidence of suicide attempts is high in Iran. There have been four hundred public hangings in Iran this year and dissidents are summarily executed. Photographs -- albeit from behind -- of the effects of death - by - stoning on females accused of adultery or premarital relations were shown, as well as more images of people disfigured by beatings and lashings.

The atmosphere of fear was palpable amongst the women Lloyd-Roberts encountered in the streets and interviewed in clandestine locations. Repression is the order of the day in Iran. One final moment in the report brought a smile to my face -- a young man said he was more interested in the latest news of fashion than politics although he was obliged to honour such events as Anti-Israel Day.

This brings me back to the concept of Anti-Israel Day itself. Israel does not have capital punishment; the only exception made was to accommodate the execution of Adolf Eichmann. Israel provides a vibrant culture in which girls may grow up as independent, educated women. As everyone will know by now, I do not entirely buy the notion that Israel ?represses? the Palestinians. Stories of corruption in the Palestinian Authority have proliferated in the past year and as I have said before in these columns, Israel spent countless hours and taxpayers? shekels (as did the United States) hammering away at a peace deal when nobody was being repressed, and yet we have a deadly Intifadah to show for all those tax dollars and dignitaries? valuable time. Israel does not punish its press for outspokenness: it has one of the most vibrant media cultures in the world and the authorities would never think to execute a reporter for criticising the government.

The one instance in which religious extremism seriously damaged the fibre of Israeli democracy in its fifty-four-year history was the incitement leading up to the death of Rabin. All in all, however, Israel is light years away from the repressive regimes it suffers as neighbours, and I despair every day that women in these countries must live as they do. Instead of holding an ?Anti-Israel Day,? the Iranians could do well to look to Israel for enlightenment on a long list of practices that would bring joy to its female -- and male -- citizens.

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