Ten things about the Non-Aligned Movement

Nicolas Maduro Moros, Sheikh Hasina, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attend the closing session of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran. (Behrouz Mehri, AFP)

Nicolas Maduro Moros, Sheikh Hasina, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attend the closing session of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran. (Behrouz Mehri, AFP)

1. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was founded in 1961 by a group of countries that refused to take sides in the Cold War and proposed a “third way” between Western capitalism and Soviet communism for developing nations. Its founder, Yugoslavian strongman Josip Broz Tito, was trying to escape the iron grip of the Soviet Union, but he got Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia and India to join too. Leaders such as Nasser, Nehru and Nkrumah gave the movement considerable prestige in its early years.

2. Its 16th ­summit took place in Tehran, Iran, over two days at the end of August. Representatives of 120 nations attended.

3. Iran did its best to make the summit a diplomatic coup for the country. “To watch Iranian state television,” wrote Guardian correspondent Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “you’d think the country was hosting the Olympics. Rolling television coverage included reporters at the airport covering the landing of diplomats as if they were top athletes …”

4. Since the end of the Cold War, the movement has been regarded as outdated ­— or just a club of nations that basically have a beef with the West. “Has the NAM become a sham?” asked the Huffington Post, and Al Jazeera wondered: “Did the NAM summit backfire on Iran?”

5. The chief items on the agenda were the Syrian crisis, nuclear disarmament and human rights. Iran supports the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and is fending off United States sanctions because of its nuclear programme, which it insists is peaceful, so it is probably not surprising that the summit barely got to the issue of human rights (see 8, 9 below).

6. United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon was at the summit and met Iran’s president and supreme ayatollah, to whom, said Al Jazeera, he “expressed concerns about Iran’s human rights record”.

7. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi criticised the Assad regime and declared “solidarity with the Syrian people”. The Syrian delegation walked out (see 10 below).

8. Amnesty International called on the Iranian government to release all political prisoners, after about 130 were freed under an Eid al-Fitr amnesty this year. It named nine prominent people who remain in jail, often in bad conditions, including trade unionists, lawyers and Christian and Baha’i religious leaders. On August 23, Amnesty expressed concern about writer Arzhang Davoodi, jailed since 2003, whom it feared had been tortured. Davoodi faces charges of “enmity against God”.

9. The main resolutions of the summit were to condemn US sanctions against Iran, support the Palestinian struggle and combat Islamophobia and racism globally.

10. A row blew up when Iranian state TV mistranslated Morsi’s speech on Syria (7 above) in its broadcast. Iranian translators substituted “Bahrain” for “Syria”, later claiming it was a mistake.

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