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Parliament Postpones Controversial Bill on NGOs

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TEHRAN, April 16 (ICANA) – The Iranian Parliament has temporarily shelved a bill that would give the government unprecedented power over non-governmental organizations. MPs had already approved 26 articles of the bill titled "Establishment and Supervision of Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations."
Saturday, April 16, 2011 10:22:19 AM
Parliament Postpones Controversial Bill on NGOs

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the bill needs further review by the Social Commission. According to Larijani's announcement, the repeated changes made to the articles passed so far have affected the bill's later articles. He gave the social commission a couple of months to review the bill and return it to the parliament.

Following Larijani's statements, the chairman of the Economic Commission, Mohammad Kazem Delkhosh, called for a three-month hiatus for the bill, which drew criticism from a number of MPs.

Sari MP Alireza Yousefnejad maintained that the parliament has reviewed this bill at length, saying: "It is not dignified to take up the Parliament's time and then return this bill in another few months for further reviews."

Zohreh Elahian, Tehran MP and a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said: "The parliament might not be able to review this bill again in the months remaining in its mandate, and this may be exploited by the foreign media to hatch their ominous conspiracies to take advantage of NGOs."

Elahian, who helped initiate the bill, said: "Foreign media have been very unhappy over the adoption of this bill in parliament and in the Islamic Republic. This is because the seditionists planned to use the NGOs to confront the regime and circumvent it but they failed."

The Iranian establishment refers to the protests that erupted following allegations of fraud in the 2009 presidential elections as "sedition."

Larijani responded to the criticism, noting that the Parliament will only have to vote on the remaining articles when the bill returns. In the end, MPs approved a three-month hiatus with a vote of 20-10.

It was last year that the Parliament first discussed the plan for a law that would create a government supervisory board to monitor NGOs, and the review of its individual articles was left for April 2011.

Under the proposed bill, the establishment of NGOs and civil organizations would require the approval and clearance of the ministry of intelligence and a government board comprised of members of the judiciary, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Endowment Affairs Organization, the Basij, and the Islamic Propagation Organization.

Existing NGOs would also be required to apply for a license from this board, which experts say could spell the end of some civil organizations in Iran.

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