Boars, Bored Matadors, and Ebtekar
Since her appointment as Vice President of Iran and head of Environmental Protection Organization, Massoumeh Ebtekar, one of the few Iranian women at senior management levels of the government, has been a favorite target of conservatives’ attack. Her quarrels with the hardliners have mainly revolved around the issue of air pollution in Tehran. Yet the new controversy that emerged early this week comes from a rather odd topic: wild boars.
The hardliner Fars News agency launched the new wave of attack against Ebtekar on Saturday, with a short report on Spanish hunters freely “roaming” the forests of Mazandaran, Iran’s green Caspian province to hunt boars. The group of hunters left Mazandaran for its neighboring province of Guilan to “further test their chances to slaughter Iran’s wildlife” the report continued, adding to its terse criticism gory pictures of the game.
Mehr, another news agency run by Principlists, also covered the news. The website interviewed Esrafil Shafiezadeh, director of Jasmin Safari, the tourist agency who had guided the Spanish hunters, who claimed that the hunters had received licences from the Environmental Protection Organization’s general directorate for hunting and poaching. “Boars ... damage farmers’ crop” Shafiezadeh explained to Mehr news agency.
Young Journalists’ Club (YJC), affiliated with the state-run TV, chose a more sensational headline: “Matadors Searching for Boars in the Jungles of North”, since they are apparently “bored with bullfighting.” The report however quoted a local environmental authority who said that the license was issued only for hunting a limited number of old boars and that environmental inspectors fully supervised the hunting process. Fallah, the local official, added that due to their high rate of reproduction, boars face no threat of extinction due to hunting.
Massoumeh Ebtekar was expectedly quick to respond to criticisms on Twitter, her main media platform. “The 11th Administration [Rouhani’s cabinet] has stopped issuing hunting licenses for quadrupedes in 2014 and 2015” read her tweet, though for boars it had been issues for a limited number and following complaints about their increasing population she said.
On Sunday, Esmaeil Kahrom, reputed environmentalist and advisor to Massoumeh Ebtekar, interviewed ISNA news agency to further clarify the issue. Kahrom argued that hunting licences for boars, whose meat is forbidden in Islam, are regularly issued for Armenians and other members of the Christian minority in Iran, plus foreign citizens. He also reiterated arguments about the damage inflicted upon farmers’ crop by boars and their number which is on rise due to extinction of their natural predator. Ali Teymouri, newly-appointed official in charge of managing hunting and poaching activities also supported the issuance of licences, addressing the ecological imbalance and threats against life of other local wild species created by boars.
On Monday, the Reformist Arman Daily also covered the story, reminding the readers that licences for hunting and using the game of the wild boars are strictly issued only for non-Muslims, who are not allowed to sell the meat to Muslims due to religious restrictions.
Ebtekar made a stronger comeback in Twitter on Monday, asking the audience not to “be deceived by delvapasan”, the Concerned, sarcastic label used by the Reformists against hardliners and their assumedly phony concerns. Far beyond Ebtekar’s responsibility, Iran’s grave environmental hazards are legacy of years of environment-blind development plans and lenient conservation and preservation laws. Yet this will not be the final confrontation between the 55-year old head of the environmental department and her critics.