Who’s Who in Iranian Politics
Ali Akbar Javanfekr
Born in 1960 in Tehran, Ali Akbar Javanfekr is the General Director of IRNA, the president of Iran Publication Institute, and the media and press advisor to Mahmood Ahmadinejad, both during his presidency and prior, when he was Mayor of Tehran. Before he held these positions, he was one of the mid-ranking directors of the Islamic Republic News Agency. But when Abdollah Nasseri was IRNA's General Director, Javanfekr resigned from his position there and was introduced to Mahmood Ahmadinejad— during the first days of his mayoralty— by his old friend at IRNA, Ahmad Khadem Almellah.
Following the Islamic Revolution, Javanfekr was employed at IRNA, and was later in charge of this press agency's offices in the cities of Yasuj and Abadan. He was then dispatched to Spain to establish IRNA's office in that country. When Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa with regard to Salman Rushdie was issued, he participated in a radio program defending this decree. His statements were considered a threat to commit murder and, while creating enmity against Iran, they led to the non-renewal of his visa by the government of Spain. After returning to Iran, he was IRNA's representative in Ayatollah Khamenei's office during the latter’s presidency and subsequent Supreme leadership, maintaining this post until the year 2000. Javanfekr was also the author of a column entitled “The Mirror Column" in Iran newspaper. During the administration of Mohammad Khatami, he was in charge of IRNA's Madrid office for the second time.
On November 20th, 2011, Ali Akbar Javanfekr was sentenced to six months in prison due to articles he published which were against Islamic principles; six more months for publishing pictures which were against public chastity—a combined one year in prison and also a three year ban on publishing activities.
Among the other reasons for Javanfekr’s conviction was his interview with Etemaad newspaper regarding the performance of the judiciary and statements made by the General Prosecutor of the country, and also insults to Islamic Hijab in the special Khatoon edition of Iran newspaper.
The accusation regarding "the publication of articles against Islamic principles" refers to a special issue of Iran newspaper about Islamic Hijab, which was published in the summer of 2011.
Following the publication of the 258 page-long special issue of Iran newspaper called "Khatoon Nameh 1" on August 2011, a number of conservatives accused the people in charge of this special issue of questioning "the black chador", which the Islamic Republic of Iran deems the "superior Islamic Hijab".
The most talked-about article in this special issue of Iran was an interview with Mehdi Kalhor, in which he stated that the black color of the chador was an imitation of the black dresses of western men and women in "Europe's night parties" during the Nassereddin Shah era, further stating that "based on the philosophical aspect of the hijab, mentioned in the Quran, where women should cover themselves from the lustful look of men, the black chador is certainly the worst covering, because it frames the woman's face."
In reaction to the publishing of the special Khatoon edition of the paper, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi (one of the eminent Shiite scholars residing in Qom) said, "According to informed sources, these measures are taken to attract people's votes in the election, thus, we should denounce any position which is gained through such dirty tricks.”
Following the harsh reactions of some religious scholars—particularly Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi— with regard to the published article about hijab, Javanfekr wrote a letter to Ayatollah Shirazi.
While stating in this letter that "this publication is prepared through the collective efforts of religious and Hezbollahi forces", Javanfekr mentioned that it contained numerous quotations from religious scholars, including Makarem Shirazi himself, in approving the hijab, saying that "it is possible that my colleagues and I in the special Khatoon edition will be sentenced to death in our absence for an uncommitted sin, but we do not fear anybody or anything except God."
Another case of accusations against Javanfekr was his interview with the reformist Etemaad newspaper in November 2011. In this controversial interview, he said: "Was the Intelligence Ministry under our control after the events following the election? If it was, we would not have agreed with the resignation letter of Moslehi (the Intelligence Minister). Ejeie (the former Minister of Intelligence) was not our minister. Our beliefs, behaviors and interpretations are different from those of the conservatives who oppose the government. We do not approve of their behavior. The Principalist faction has not realized that it has lost its political ground. Mashaei (the President's Chief of Staff) has not been interrogated but they do not allow him to have any political movement. How many innocent people have been arrested because of being close to Mashaei? Since the people like Mashaei, they try to destroy him. Why did they keep Malek Zadeh (the secretary of the High Council of Iranians Living Abroad and an Ahmadinejad advisor) in solitary confinement for 60 days? Why did they release him from prison? His physical health deteriorated in confinement. His wife lost her baby. Who is going to answer for this oppression? Is solitary confinement legal? Mr. Ejeie has officially invited Ahmadinejad to a debate; it means that Ahmadinejad and his former Minister of Intelligence will debate each other; do these incidents mean that the game is drawing towards its last round? Due to his commitments, the President cannot discuss 60 to 70% of what’s on his mind with the people, thus, his participation in such a debate is not logical. Who is Mr. Ghalibaf (Tehran’s mayor)? A person who previously worked in the Police force. How much of an expert is he in municipal issues? He was a military man. Look at the city! It is filled with iron and concrete walls. His military thinking shows itself in his municipal management. What monetary corruption? Didn't they accuse us of being psychics? Then, why didn't they prove it? Didn't they say that we embezzled 150 million tomans? Where is the evidence? They contacted me and asked me to remove the news of the acceptance of Moslehi's resignation. I asked them, “who are you?” They said, “we are asking you to remove it and this is the opinion of the Leader. It is better for Mr. Mottaki (the Foreign Minister during Ahmadinejad's first term) to remain silent. If the curtain falls, the people will learn many things."
Following Javanfekr's sentencing to one year in prison, he protested against the verdict in a press conference held on Dec. 10th, 2011 in Iran Publishing Institute, and repeated his statements in the interview with Etemaad.
On the same day, security officers of the Tehran Prosecutor's Office arrested him at the institute. Attempts to arrest him were met with the resistance of some of the staff of Iran newspaper. During this incident, Mosayyeb Naemi, Editor-in-Chief of Al-Wefagh newspaper, and more than 30 reporters and employees of Iran, were arrested.
Tehran’s Prosecutor General, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, made the following statement with regard to Javanfekr's arrest, "Following Javanfekr's interview, on Saturday, with one of the country's newspapers and after making false and tension-creating statements, we were informed that he was planning to repeat these statements in a press conference on Monday. Based on reports we received, he has unfortunately resisted the judicial order and the officers' measures, despite claiming to obey the law, and by making telephone contacts and being present among the employees of this institute, has incited the staff and created disorder in the working process of the paper. On the Prosecutor's order, the officers left the premises after these incidents."
Javanfekr later said, "The measures taken by these officers angered my colleagues in Iran newspaper. They threw tear gas inside the building and attempted to enter the premises. They arrested several of the journalists of the paper and took them away. They administered electric shock to one of my colleagues, who is not in a good state right now." Javanfekr was released after Ahmadinejad's protest.
In an interview with the Mehr News Agency regarding the arrest and imprisonment of Ali Akbar Javanfekr, one of the President's advisors (Amirifar), while calling the judiciary’s verdict with regard to Javanfekr unjust, said, "This measure, by the judiciary, was taken exactly at a time when the president was in New York and while he was giving a speech to the UN General Assembly. This is while the judiciary could have arrested him after the president's trip, and then there would have been no problem. Unfortunately, the method used to arrest the President's advisor was inappropriate. Security officers went to his house with loudspeakers and escort vehicles, which was not appropriate. I have known Mr. Javanfekr for many years. He was IRNA's representative in Spain, later being deported from this country for his defense of Imam Khomeini's decree with regard to Salman Rushdie. He was also IRNA's representative in the Leader’s office, which shows his obedience to the leader."
In a press conference held in October 2012, and in response to a question with regard to Javanfekr’s arrest, Mahmood Ahmadinejad said, “Why are you asking me? Ask the people who have arrested him. We are sorry that this incident has happened." He then continued, "There must have been a strong necessity for him to be arrested 10 minutes before the president's speech was over, and for this to then become breaking news. Following this news, we were forced to respond to questions from reporters asking what was going on in Iran, instead of revealing the crimes committed by arrogant powers."
Ali Akbar Javanfekr was arrested in October 2012 (less than a month ago), while two of the children of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (Mehdi and Faezeh), were also arrested and imprisoned at almost the same time.
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