The current politics of Iran are quite bad enough without the need for fake stories.
There's a story going the rounds that the Iranian government has passed dress-code laws which will force Jews to wear yellow strips on their clothes, and Christians to wear red ones.
Since it got publicised in Canada's The National Post by the otherwise well reputed Amir Taheri, it's got widely taken up. Melanie Phillips reproduces it here. The Jerusalem Post also ran it on Friday.
Now the National Post has published a detailed refutation of its own story:
Hormoz Ghahremani, a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa, said in an e-mail to the Post yesterday that, “We wish to categorically reject the news item.
“These kinds of slanderous accusations are part of a smear campaign against Iran by vested interests, which needs to be denounced at every step.”
Sam Kermanian, of the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation, said in an interview from Los Angeles that he had contacted members of the Jewish community in Iran — including the lone Jewish member of the Iranian parliament — and they denied any such measure was in place.
Mr. Kermanian said the subject of “what to do with religious minorities” came up during debates leading up to the passing of the dress code law.
“It is possible that some ideas might have been thrown around,” he said. “But to the best of my knowledge the final version of the law does not demand any identifying marks by the religious minority groups.”
Ali Reza Nourizadeh, an Iranian commentator on political affairs in London, suggested that the requirements for badges or insignia for religious minorities was part of a “secondary motion” introduced in parliament, addressing the changes specific to the attire of people of various religious backgrounds.
Mr. Nourizadeh said that motion was very minor and was far from being passed into law.
That account could not be confirmed.
Meir Javdanfar, an Israeli expert on Iran and the Middle East who was born and raised in Tehran, said yesterday that he was unable to find any evidence that such a law had been passed.
“None of my sources in Iran have heard of this,” he said. “I don’t know where this comes from.”
Mr Kermanian does give an instance of a genuine example of discrimination against non-Muslims in Iran:
Jews in Iran still face widespread, systematic discrimination. “For example if they sell food they have to identify themselves and their shops as non-Muslim,”
But that's a very long way from the hoax story, which so obviously evokes the spectre of the Jews under Nazi occupation being forced to wear the yellow star.
The Jerusalem Post tonight carries official Iranian denials, along with a substantial part of its earlier coverage. Given the distrust most readers feel over current Iranian denials that it has a weapons programme, that may appear less than convincing. It's a pity the JP doesn't fully report the National Post's retraction or the more convincing evidence from Iranian bloggers who can be relied on not to carry Iranian propaganda.
As Farid of Webgardesh remarks, the west is often all too ready to pass up on the need to check out the facts before taking on stories from Iran on trust. From whatever source.
UPDATE: Camilla Batmanghelidjh, a psychotherapist, one of the guests on this morning's BBC Radio 4 news review programme Broadcasting House, repeats the hoax story to demonstrate how destructive the process of typecasting people can be. The programme presenter, Matthew Bannister remarks how disturbing the story is, with its links to the history of the Holocaust. Camilla subsequently, in passing, includes the comment "if this is true", but the story is otherwise treated as if solid fact. I send in an email to say the story is a hoax.The programme moves on to other business and finishes without further reference to the story.