Dogs symbolize the west in Iran

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2007:

TEHRAN–Radio Free Europe on September 14, 2007 amplified
and elaborated upon accounts circulating for more than six weeks that
Iran has embarked upon an intensified campaign of harassment against
dog keepers.
“Since the creation of the Islamic republic in Iran in 1979,”
Radio Free Europe said, “the acceptability of dog ownership has been
debated by the authorities. Friday prayer leader Hojatoleslam
Gholamreza Hassani, known for his hard-line stances, was quoted a
few years ago as saying that all dog owners and their dogs should be
“In the past,” Radio Free Europe recounted, “dog owners
have received warnings or were forced to pay fines for having a pet
dog. Despite such harassment, dog ownership has increased,
especially among young people in Tehran.

“One of them,” Radio Free Europe said, “is 23-year-old
Banafshe, whose dog was recently detained in Tehran for 48 hours and
then released on bail. Banafshe says she was walking her young
puppy, Jessica, when Iranian police snatched the dog and took her
to a dog jail. The dog’s crime was ‘walking in public.’ Banafshe
claims the police insulted her, but out of fear for her dog, she
didn’t protest. She said she told the police that Allah says in the
Koran that nothing bad has been created in this world.”
“We want to get rid of Western culture,” Banafshe said she
was told. “They said, ‘You live in an Islamic country. It’s not
right to have dogs. Are you not Islamic? Why does your family allow
you to own a dog?’ They insulted me. They even told me that they
hoped my dog would die. But there was nothing I could do but cry.
You can’t imagine how badly I was insulted.'”
Radio Free Europe alleged that, “The new clampdown on dogs follows a
recent order by the head of Tehran’s security forces, Ahmad Reza
Radan, who said it is against the law for dogs to walk in public.”
“If we want to speak about symbols of Western civilization
then maybe wearing a suit is also Western,” Society to Defend the
Rights of Animals secretary Reza Javalchi told Radio Free Europe.
“Based on our research,” Javalchi said, “domestic dogs were kept in
Iran for hunting and guarding maybe long before it became widespread
in the West.”
Accounts similar to that of Radio Free Europe have circulated
since August 3, 2007, when animal welfare organizations in Iran as
well as abroad scrambled to try to verify and respond to an Adnkronos
International Iran (AKI) news service item headlined “Search for lost
dog leads to arrest.”
Reported AKI, a web news site that covers Iran from Italy,
“A young Iranian who was searching for his lost puppy in a Tehran
neighborhood has been arrested and ordered to stand trial for ‘moral
corruption.’ According to the Tehran daily Etemad Melli,” AKI said,
“the young man was caught while putting up a notice in which he was
promising a reward to anyone who found his dog.”
Tehran police spokesperson Mehdi Ahmadi was said to have told Etemad
Melli that, “Looking for a lost dog indicates the spread of a
corrupt culture, which indirectly popularizes keeping a dog at home,
something that is completely foreign to the Iranian culture and
Islamic tradition. In arresting this young man, we wanted to send a
very clear message to our young people to steer away from the corrupt
culture imported from the west.”
Etemad Melli reportedly then cited Hadith 4:539, from a
collection of the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed as posthumously
remembered, compared, and often debated by his closest associates:
“Angels (of Mercy) do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or a
picture of a living creature (a human being or an animal).”
Hadiths 4:539 through 4:542, each contributed by a different
disciple, are widely interpreted in the Islamic world as forbidding
keeping dogs for any purposes other than farm work and guarding
livestock, along with Hadith 3:515, which includes a similar
admonition recalled by one of the same men, but also allows the use
of dogs for hunting.
Questions about both the linguistic evolution and context of
these passages have been raised for more than 50 years. Some
scholars believe they originally referred specifically to Mohammed’s
imposition of a quarantine in Medina, Saudi Arabia, to stop a
rabies outbreak.

WSPA is cautious

As international blogs and e-mail lists heated up with
denunciations of the Iranian government based on the AKI report,
World Society for the Protection of Animals director general Peter
Davies advised caution, pending verification, and recommended that
if the AKI story was verified, comment should be solicited from the
Centre for Islamic Studies in London.
“WSPA needs to have authoritative comment from them before we
make our deep concerns public,” Davies said.
Reported WSPA Middle East projects director Trevor Wheeler,
“I have had some communication with our member society, the Iranian
SPCA. Their president was aware of the story and had contacted the
police about this. The police were very rude to him, but did point
out that apparently the person concerned was putting his missing dog
posters in an area where posters etc are banned. The SPCA still sent
a letter to the newspaper which ran the original story and it was
printed, but with some modifications.
“I have explained that our concern is principally the
statement from the police which intimates that looking for your lost
pet is ‘Westernized corruption,'” Wheeler said. “The president is
going to see what else he can find out, but I don’t think there is
much else the Iranian SPCA can do without causing themselves
Radio Farda, which like AKI serves an audience including
many Iranian expatriates, several weeks later broadcast a report
similar in outline to that of the later broadcast from Radio Free
“Nowadays a new project which is called the Moral Security
Project is being operated by police in Iran,” translated Center for
Animal Lovers founder Fatemeh Motamedi, who is currently living in
the U.S. “If the police sees someone with a companion dog, walking
or in a car, the dog will be captured and jailed, but the owner is
released. There is a special jail for these dogs that Dr. Javid
Aledavud from the Iran SPCA has visited. He says it is in very bad
condition. Most of the impounded dogs are small, have had a strong
bond with their people, and separation traumatizes and severely
depresses them.”
Aledavud’s remarks were incorporated into the Radio Free
Europe report, with credit given to Radio Farda reporters Mohammad
Zarghami, Keyvan Hosseini, and Azadeh Sharafshahi.
Founded in 2002, Radio Farda is, like Radio Free Europe,
heavily subsidized by the U.S. government. Radio Farda received $7
million from the U.S. government in 2006, according to SourceWatch,
a project of the Center for Media & Democracy, whose information
page about the station mentions a September 2006 U.S. Defense
Department report recommending that U.S.-supported broadcast media
reaching Iran should air more critical material about the Iranian
Center for Media & Democracy founders John Stauber and
Sheldon Rampton, though focused on other issues, have been friendly
toward animal advocacy in several of their six books, including
Toxic Sludge Is Good For You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public
Relations Industry’ (1995), Mad Cow U.S.A. (1997), and Trust Us,
We’re Experts! How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your
Future (2001).
The Radio Free Europe, Radio Farda, and AKI allegations
have apparently not been echoed–at least not prominently–by other
international news media reporting from Iran.
Prior to the Etemad Melli and Radio Farda reports, most of
the recent news about dogs from Iran indicated some easing of the
official hostility toward dogs which has prevailed since the January
1979 overthrow of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
“On May 23, 2007,” Motamedi relayed to ANIMAL PEOPLE,
“volunteers from Vafa Animal Shelter [founded by the Center for
Animal Lovers] encountered an incident of dog killing by the City of
Hashtgerd. As soon as the volunteers heard the shots, they started
walking toward the sound. Finally, they found the city employee who
was shooting stray dogs, and asked him to stop until they could
speak with the Mayor of Hashtgerd about alternative solutions.
“Volunteers Lida Esnaashari, Kamiar Kashani, and Farah
Dakhili offered Mayor Asgari the alternative of capturing the dogs
alive, sterilizing and vaccinating them, and then either releasing
them back to the streets or finding homes for them. The city asked
the Vafa shelter to come up with a written proposal and plan. The
Vafa shelter proposed in preliminary talks to assume responsibility
for capturing of the dogs and performing the necessary surgery. The
city, in return, will provide the shelter with free food for the
dogs and possibly vaccines,” Motamedi said.
The agreement was to be finalized after the shelter carried
out a pilot project.
“This agreement has not been finalized,” Motamedi told
ANIMAL PEOPLE in mid-July 2007. “Further talks are scheduled to take
place. But, they agreed to do the project for a month and if it was
successful, then finalize it. Some of our volunteers have already
begun the project by capturing dogs and bringing them to the shelter
for vaccination and spay/neuter operations.”
The Vafa shelter at last report housed about 150 dogs.
“If this partnership with the government turns out to be successful,”
Motamedi hoped, “it can open many other doors to us. This is a big
project,” she said, “and the shelter needs financial support.”
[Contact the Vafa shelter c/o Kamiar Kashani, P.O.Box
14335-1451, Tehran, Iran; 0912-3107670.
Contact the Center for Animal Lovers c/o Fatemeh Motamedi,
<>.] One week before publishing the first report about the claimed
Iranian crackdown against dog-keeping, AKI reported that, “Iran’s
Islamic authorities have issued a fatwa, or religious order,
allowing people to breed crocodiles for their hides and other
purposes,” but prohibiting human consumption of crocodile meat and
wearing the hides of crocodiles or other reptiles during prayers and
other religious ceremonies.
AKI said “The edict also permits the use of crocodile bone
for medical purposes including the treatment of cancer, while the
reptile’s flesh could be used as food for domestic animals such as
cats and dogs,” according to an aide to Iranian supreme spiritual
leader identified as Hassan Alemi.

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