AFP: A hardline Iranian daily on Monday launched an attack on former reformist president Mohammad Khatami who it said had publicly shaken hands with women while on a visit to Italy last month.
TEHRAN, June 11, 2007 (AFP) – A hardline Iranian daily on Monday launched an attack on former reformist president Mohammad Khatami who it said had publicly shaken hands with women while on a visit to Italy last month.
“Recently a video has been circulating on the Internet showing a former top official visiting Italy, shaking the hands with several women and young girls,” said the Siasat-e Rouz daily, one of Iran’s most ultra-conservative papers.
“We do not want to publish the address of the Internet site where this film can be seen, in order to avoid propagating corruption in society,” it added.
The paper carefully avoided naming Khatami although he is the only “former top official” to have visited Italy in recent months. Khatami’s trip at the start of May saw him meet Italian leaders as well as Pope Benedict XVI.
According to Islam’s sharia law, it is forbidden for a man to have any physical contact with a woman to whom he is not related. Pictures circulating on the Internet show Khatami shaking hands with several female tourists.
Whether at home or on trips abroad, Iran’s officials studiously avoid handshakes with female foreign dignitaries and, at most, place their right hands on their hearts to express gratitude.
Even Iran’s conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was accused of “indecency” in the hardline press last month after he publicly embraced and kissed on the hand an elderly woman who used to be his school teacher.
It is not the first time Khatami has found himself in hot water with the hardline press since leaving office.
In September last year he was the target of a bitter personal attack in the hardline newspaper Kayhan for “siding with” arch-foe the United States on his landmark tour of the country.
Khatami has devoted his energies since leaving office in 2005 to his centre for the dialogue of civilisations, frequently making foreign trips but rarely making comments on day-to-day politics.