Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Article excerpt

Iranian Professor Wins Reduced Sentence

A professor at Tehran's Teachers Training University whose death sentence provoked nationwide protests has been sentenced by an appeals court to just under four years in jail, according to the July 14 Turkish Daily News. Hashem Aghajari, professor of history, was also barred from running for office or occupying government posts for five years, and had a previous sentence of 74 lashes revoked.

Aghajari was initially sentenced last November for insulting Islam and questioning clerical rule in a June 2002 speech in western Iran. That sentence condemned him to death, banned him from teaching for 10 years, and proposed he be exiled for eight years to three remote cities-in addition to the lashes. Both the Iranian parliament and President Mohammad Khatami denounced the death sentence, which provoked the biggest student protests in Iran in three years, and which was lifted by the Supreme Court in February.

Iraqi Refugees End 13-Year Exile

On July 30, over 200 Iraqi refugees returned to their homeland after 13 years in a Saudi camp, according to the following day's Gulf Daily News. When asked to describe his emotions upon crossing the Umm Qasr border in southern Iraq, former refugee Ali Salman said, "I feel like my soul has returned to my body...I just can't believe it."

The 240 refugees were transported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from the Saudi frontier camp of Rafha in a five-bus convoy via Kuwait, and were welcomed by excited relatives. The returnees were among a group of 5,200 Iraqis in Rafha who held sit-ins and hunger strikes to pressure Saudi authorities and the UNHCR to repatriate them. Remarking on the crossing, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane said, "Today marks the beginning of the end for the Rafha refugee camp...We hope to repatriate everyone as soon as possible."

Iraq Civilian Toll Over 6,000

According to the July 9 Arab News, previously unavailable information from remote parts of Iraq has pushed the civilian death toll in the U.S.-led war to well over 6,000. Iraq Body Count (IBC), an Anglo-American research group, based its latest figures on media reports and several independent counting projects both in and outside Iraq. IBC's minimum number of civilians dead as of early July was 6,055, with a maximum of 7,706. …

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