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Saturday, May 20, 2006 

Lining them up and knocking them down: Lies about Iran's "dress code".

It's sometimes difficult to ascertain whether a news story is pure propaganda, designed to harm and misinform, or whether it's based on a tiny amount of truth and then embellished further along the line. This is further complicated when it involves a country such as Iran, where correct translation is everything. While the latter could be the case in this instance, with the Canadian National Post printing on its front page that Iran is "eyeing" badges for Jews, it seems a lot more likely that it's the former.

What makes the story seem almost like the latter instance of the above is that is based on a small amount of fact. Amir Taheri states that the law replaces an original one from 1982 that dealt with women's clothes. That is exactly what this one also does. As Juan Cole points out, this much is true. The law is meant to further restrict women's clothing, and what is regarded as "un-Islamic" dress. Already police have been ordered to crackdown on those who wear their headscarves with too much hair showing, or on men with "outlandish" hairstyles. Apparently dog-walking is also considered a no-no.

Where the report gets into inaccuracy, and is downright misleading, is that it says that the law establishes a dress code. It does not. Nor does the law even mention "badges" or identifying marks for different religious denominations, as the only Jewish Iranian MP has come out and made clear. What makes the report seem so terrifying is in its parallels with Nazi Germany. Not only would the Jews have to wear a piece of material identifying them, but the material would also have to be yellow, exactly the same colour as the star which was imposed on them by the fascists. All this ties in exactly with what some politicians and commentators are increasingly doing; comparing Iran, and Ahmadinejad himself directly with Hitler. George Bush and his aides themselves now do this, according to a former senior intelligence official.

Not that comparing the next rogue state with our favourite historical enemy is by any means a new thing. Before the Iraq war we were constantly reminded of the dangers of "appeasement", the failed policy pursued by Neville Chamberlain. That Iraq had been bombed for twelve years, that there were UN-imposed no fly zones, that the country had no air force and that the longest range missiles it had were being destroyed was still no obstacle to this comparison. With Iran, the country is nowhere near such a miserable state. Hence why the propaganda against the Iranians and Ahmadinejad is coming on even heavier than that which we saw before the battle for Baghdad.

Amir Taheri himself, is as you might expect, a partisan figure. The end of the National Post's article mentions that he's a member of Benador Associates. A quick trip over to their website reveals that other members of Benador include James Woolsey and Richard Perle, both signatories and members of the Project for A New American Century. Another member was the recently deceased A.M. Rosenthal, an ex-executive New York Times editor, who supported the Iraq war and who supposedly suggested that other "rogue" nations should be given a 3-day ultimatum to reveal the truth about their WMD programmes after which bombing would commence. Taheri's other recent articles include his analysis of Ahmadinejad's letter to George Bush, which he claims shows that:
the present regime in Iran is the enemy of the current international system and is determined to undermine and, if possible, destroy it.
Another recent article, this one for our very own Torygraph, claims that Iran's lust for a nuclear weapon is err, all about the hidden Imam, stoopid.

As increasingly happens in the 24-hour news environment, the story was quickly gobbled up with gusto by those on the right, who seemingly didn't bother to check it before going to air or print. Taheri himself repeated the claims for Murdoch's New York Post, while his Faux News also reported the story. The Drudge Report, ex-scourge of Clinton, had the story up for 6 hours before it was removed with no explanation. Harry's Place, everyone's favourite bomb 'em and see what happens next repository also posted the story up, now with a disclaimer saying that it may well not be true. The National Post itself now has an article up reporting that experts are casting doubt on their original claims.

The most worrying thing about the whole episode is that everyone is prepared to believe the worst about Iran. Despite the disaster which has taken place in Iraq, which Ghaith Abdul-Ahad today shockingly reports on in the Guardian, we seem to be willing for the same thing to happen again. It needs urgently repeating that Iran is not Iraq. The situation could not be more complicated, but military action at any stage is only likely to make everything even worse. That Iran was earlier this week mocking the latest attempt at a deal from the EU shows that we may have left the carrot and stick diplomacy too late. With the enrichment having started, a light water reactor isn't good enough for the Iranians. Hard bargaining may yet happen, but the problem certainly isn't going to go away. With the propaganda against the mullahs not yet reached fever pitch, we may yet have a lot more debunking to do, or in the long run, accepting that Iran has gone nuclear and that any action now is more dangerous than the status-quo.

(Thanks to both Lenin's Tomb and Juan Cole for some of the sources on this piece.)

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so pleased to see this. I am really disturbed by some of the recent rhetoric concerning Iran. I have been searching for some stuff that contradicts this report ever since I read http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2006/05/speaking-of-nazis-why-oh-why-is-bbc.html. Another fine example of right-wing reactionary tendencies. If only once they would stop and question what they believe is the truth, maybe they wouldn't make fools of themselves quite so often. But then, where's the fun in that?

I have been looking for sites like this for a long time. Thank you!

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