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Iran Shuts Leading Reformist Paper

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By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
The Associated Press
Monday, August 6, 2007; 12:53 PM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's leading reformist newspaper was shut down Monday for the second time in a year after publishing an interview with a poet who called for greater gender equality, authorities said.

The daily Shargh, or East, was founded in 2003 and first shut in September 2006 for publishing a cartoon deemed to have made fun of Iranian government hard-liners. It was allowed to reopen in June.

It published an interview Saturday with opposition poet Saghi Qahraman, who said that gender roles should be less restrictive and men should play a bigger role in household activities like taking care of children.

This interview "with an anti-revolutionary figure, who is famous for promoting anti-morality materials, is the main reason behind the closure of the paper," said Ali Reza Malekian, a Culture Ministry official, according to the official IRNA news agency.

But the paper's editor, Ahmad Gholami, said the interview was a pretext for silencing one of the few remaining voices pushing for democratic reforms in Iran.

The judiciary has shut down more than 100 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities.

The crackdown began amid a confrontation between reformers and hard-liners during the tenure of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who was replaced by hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.

"Publication of an interview is not a plausible justification for banning a newspaper," Gholami said.

The paper nonetheless apologized to readers Monday for its interview with Qahraman, an Iranian poet who says on her Web site she lives in Canada.

Many of Shargh's writers are well-known reformists whose previous newspapers were banned in recent years by the hard-line Shiite Muslim clerics who have imposed strict interpretations of Islamic rules.


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