'Iran After the Elections' Conference

Iran After the Elections
Berlin Conference Poster.jpg
Poster of the event
Native name Iran nach den Wahlen
Date7–9 April 2000 (2000-04-07 – 2000-04-09)
VenueHaus der Kulturen der Welt
LocationBerlin, Germany
Also known asBerlin Conference
TypePanel discussion
Organised byHeinrich Böll Foundation

Iran After the Parliamentary Elections: The Dynamic of Reforms in the Islamic Republic (German: Iran nach den Parlamentswahlen: Die Reformdynamik in der Islamischen Republik; commonly known as the Berlin Conference in Iran) was a three-day conference about future of Iran after landslide victory of the reformists in 2000 legislative election, organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and held in Berlin in April 2000. The conference was less notable for its proceedings than for its disruption by anti-regime Iranian exiles, and for the long prison sentences given to several participants upon their return to Iran.

The conference[]

Venue of the event

The conference was held by the Heinrich Boll Institute, "an independent German cultural organisation close to the Green Party," in the wake of a sweeping victory by reformist candidates in the Majlis elections of February 2000,[1] It was attended not only by "reformist intellectuals" from Iran, but also by "banned and exiled Iranian political activists."[2] Unfortunately, the organizers did not anticipate the large political gap between the exiles and the more conservative Iranian reformists.[citation needed]

On the second day of the conference, hundreds of Iranian exiles stormed the Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt (House of World Cultures) and "staged protests both against the participants and the political situation in Iran."[3] Shouts of "death to the Islamic Republic" and "Mercenaries, go home" prevented the participants from speaking, while according to anti-regime Iran Press Service, "a girl appeared on the main tribune and stripped to almost her last piece except for an Islamic scarf, and later a man climbed on a chair and fully undressed, exhibiting pictures of the clerical leaders of the regime" [4] for the benefit of television viewers in Iran where the conference was being televised. The BBC also reported the protesters "included a man removing his clothes and a woman dancing with bare arms."[5]

Hardline elements in Iran were infuriated by the broadcast of the protests, and following the conference "at least ten" [2] Iranian participants were arrested, tried and sentenced to several years in prison after their return to Iran for crimes such as "insulting the former Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic system."[6]


Speakers of the conference had different backgrounds and belonged to a wide range of political groups. The panel included intellectuals and activists with reformist, nationalist-religious and secular leanings, namely:

Chair of the panel on the first day was Ahmad Taheri.[8]


Among the attendees were members of two political organizations of Iranian exiled dissidents, the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WCP) and the Berlin Exiled Women of Iran Against Fundamentalism (BEWIAF), who had schemed to disrupt the conference.[8] On the first day, they tried to prevent the conference from starting by chanting slogans such as "Death to the Islamic Republic" and "Akhund (cleric) get lost!", the latter referring to Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari who was going to speak.[8] When some other in the audience attempted to stop the chanting members of the WCP and the BEWIAF, a brawl occurred between the two parties and police was called up to the venue, leading to escort of BEWIAF leader Shadi Amin outside.[8] The organizers accepted to announce one-minute silence in "in memory of the thousands of victims of the Islamic Republic" before starting the conference, which BEWIAF had asked.[8]

The second day started with more interruptions, when WCP protested that they have not given a voice in the conference. The organizers gave Mina Ahadi of the WCP fifteen minutes to talk at the rostrum, but it soon became evident that they were interested only in disrupting the meeting.[8] Ahadi said they will "disrupt anyone who defended Khatami" and are only willing to "who had not been among the leaders of the Islamic Republic", and then started chanting "Death to the Islamic Republic" followed by some in the crowd. Some of the speakers were unable to fully deliver their speeches as a result of constant disruptions.[8]

On the third day, the organizers did not allow members of the WCP and BEWIAF into the building of the conference. Entry cards were issued for the rest of participants and the speeches were made without disruptions.[8]


Prison sentences for participants[]

Among those sentenced were:

Protest of sentences[]

The German foreign minister Joschka Fischer expressed his "profound concern" over the sentences to the Iranian ambassador.[5] Human rights groups campaigned against the sentences.[6] [2]

The imprisonments were thought to have been part of an anti-freedom-of-expression clampdown by hardliners directed against reformers. The Amnesty International delivered a statement on the prosecution:

"In April 2000 around 20 newspapers were closed by the Press Court. Also, other journalists including Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Emadeddin Baqi and publisher Hojjatoleslam Abdollah Nouri have been imprisoned in connection with newspaper articles they have published."[6]

Criticism of the conference[]

The Iranian judiciary, which is often described as dominated by anti-reformist "conservatives," condemned the Conference as "organised by the 'Zionists' who control Germany’s Green Party to which is affiliated the Heinrich Böll Institute" that organised the conference. However, conference attendee and political prisoner Akbar Ganji has cast doubt on this charge, pointing out that Iranians could not go to the conference without the authorities permission, and that the authorities themselves had received the leader of the allegedly Zionist-controlled Green Party, Joschka Fischer.

If the

Intelligence Ministry, the Judiciary, the authorities knew that the organisers were Zionist and let us go to Berlin attend the meeting, they have then encouraged us to commit an offence

and asking why

officials can talk to Zionists and not ordinary citizen? How come that out intellectuals and scholars and sportsmen can exchange with the Americans with who we have no relations but not with German counterparts?[17]

Others more sympathetic to the reform movement, such as Iran Press Service, have described the conference as "a good idea that backfired." The Service complained that organizers Thomas Hartman, Mehdi Ja'fari-Gorzini, Bahman Nuroumand "were unaware of the weight, importance and complexities of the task," and lacked "any experience or skill for such a highly sensitive and touchy diplomatic performance."

Visiting Iranians were "visibly shocked" at the un-Islamic irreverence and ridicule of the protestors, while the expatriates were "astounded by the low level of general knowledge, the lack of sophistication, low degree of education" of visiting Iranians, such as the newly elected MP Mrs. Jamileh Kadivar. [1]

See also[]


  2. ^ a b c d "Iran: Trial for Conference Attendees". Archived from the original on 2008-11-15. Retrieved 2007-11-21.
  3. ^ a b c "Iran: Further information on Prisoners of Conscience". Archived from the original on 2006-04-30. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
  5. ^ a b c Germany's 'concern' at Iran verdicts
  6. ^ a b c d Iran: Further information on torture/ill-treatment/prisoner of conscience - Akbar Ganji Archived 2007-11-15 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Eshkevari, Hasan Yousefi; Mir-Hosseini, Ziba; Tapper, Richard (2006). Islam and Democracy in Iran: Eshkevari and the Quest for Reform. I.B.Tauris. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-84511-133-5.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Eshkevari, Hasan Yousefi; Mir-Hosseini, Ziba; Tapper, Richard (2006). Islam and Democracy in Iran: Eshkevari and the Quest for Reform. I.B.Tauris. pp. 148–150. ISBN 978-1-84511-133-5.
  9. ^ Urgent Action Appeal (Petition)
  10. ^ Khalil Rostamkhani's interview with Berliner Zeitung (updated)
  11. ^ "Two journalists threatened with death penalty, another journalist on hunger strike after suffering torture". Archived from the original on 2002-05-08. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  12. ^ Berlin Conference: Four journalists sentenced to four to ten years' imprisonment[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Ezzatollah Sahabi et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,
  14. ^ Iran's Top Journalist Accuses Authorities of Torture
  15. ^ shahla sherkat or extraordinaire
  16. ^ 2/6/05 Iranian dissident cleric Eshkevari released after 4 years in jail
  17. ^ GANJI IDENTIFIED FALLAHIAN AS THE "MASTER KEY" IN CHAIN MURDERS Archived 2013-05-10 at the Wayback Machine

External links[]