Archive for June 2009
John Simpson shows how the dramatic events and social eruptions in Iran have even touch previous supporters of the theocratic regime:
“He’s done some pretty dreadful things in his life, from attacking women in the streets for not wearing the full Islamic gear to fighting alongside Islamic revolutionaries in countries abroad.
And yet now, in the tumult that has gripped Iran since its elections last week, he’s had a change of heart.
He’s become a backer of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate who alleges fraud in the elections. He’s saved up the money to send his son to a private school abroad, and he loathes President Ahmadinejad.
He’s not the only one.
I had to leave Iran last Sunday, when the authorities refused to renew my visa. But before I left, another former senior Revolutionary Guard came to our hotel to see us.
“Remember me,” he pleaded. “Remember that I helped the BBC.”
I realised that even a person so intimately linked to the Islamic Revolution thinks that something will soon change in Iran.
The 11 extraordinary days I spent there was my 20th visit in 30 years. I’ve been reviewing the material we recorded, taking a second look at what was really going on.
I think that these last weeks may turn out to be as momentous as the Islamic Revolution I witnessed there 30 years ago.
The Revolutionary Guards with second thoughts illustrate some of the deeper forces driving a crisis which I believe could change Iran forever. “
Selma in Tehren wrote this:
“Don’t let this fire die …
June 23, 2009 by From Tehran, with love!
I’m not a political activist or a theoretician. I judge the situation based on what I see and read in the news. And I’m stuck here with a proactive frightened feverish head that I can’t stop.
Last night nursing my bruised shoulder, I was thinking …
If we get the chance to stand up, if this movement is not suppressed at this stage, if things continue as they are… What I fear most is that, we get used to it.
That the world loses interest and this new shiny strange toy loses its novelty and glamour… then… like what happened to many other struggles for freedom in other places of the world, people would no longer even bother to follow the news, let alone supporting the cause…
We need to have a plan … we need stronger, more experienced leaders for the movement … we need the world to hear our voice and put pressure on the government to accept the will of the Iranian people.
Don’t let this fire die … let everyone know what goes on here …
“Newspaper Roozonline has an interview (in Persian) with one of the young plainclothes militiamen who have been beating protesters.
UPDATE: Robert says the man is paid 2m rial per day, which would be about £1220 for ten days of work. A hefty fee, even by UK standards. A reader writes: “You can imagine what that kind of money means to a villager from Khorasan”.
The Guardian’s Robert Tait sends this synopsis:
The man, who has come from a small town in the eastern province of Khorasan and has never been in Tehran before, says he is being paid 2m rial (£122) to assault protestors with a heavy wooden stave. He says the money is the main incentive as it will enable him to get married and may even enable him to afford more than one wife. Leadership of the volunteers has been provided by a man known only as “Hajji”, who has instructed his men to “beat the counter-revolutionaries so hard that they won’t be able to stand up”. The volunteers, most of them from far-flung provinces such as Khuzestan, Arak and Mazandaran, are being kept in hostel accommodation, reportedly in east Tehran. Other volunteers, he says, have been brought from Lebanon, where the Iranian regime has strong allies in the Hezbollah movement. They are said to be more highly-paid than their Iranian counterparts and are put up in hotels. The last piece of information seems to confirm the suspicion of many Iranians that foreign security personnel are being used to suppress the demonstrators. For all his talk of the legal process, this interview provides a key insight into where Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, believes the true source of his legitimacy rests.”
“The restrictions on journalists
Since 13 June, thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest against an election perceived to be fraudulent. The resulting restrictions on foreign journalists are intended to prevent the protesters from disseminating information inside Iran that will reach global audiences. While there have be no attempts to censor the words of reporters, they have been banned from attending the ‘unofficial’ demonstrations.
These limitations have been felt in several ways. Channel 4’s Lindsey Hilsum reported as early as 13 June for Channel 4’s ‘Snowmail’ blog, that journalists were being prevented from leaving their hotels. The BBC’s John Simpson was briefly arrested, Tim Marshall reporting for Sky News had his Press Card revoked, and the BBC’S John Leynes was ordered to leave the country.
Another form of blocking the international media soon emerged, as the flow of information became obstructed in both directions. Peter Horrocks, Director of BBC’s World Service explained the disruption experienced by BBC viewers as being caused by “heavy electronic jamming of one of the satellites the BBC uses in the Middle East to broadcast the BBC Persian TV signal to Iran. Satellite technicians have traced that interference and it is coming from Iran”. It is clear that the Iranian government was doing all it could to prevent foreign journalists from covering the election protests for the outside world.
The result of these limitations has been that the information being presented to audiences in the UK has come largely from Iranian citizens themselves, who have been documenting events as they happen with the technology available to them. This reliance on ‘citizen journalism’ has implications for the way news is read and viewed by UK audiences.”
Flesh is Grass’s coverage is much more in-depth and informed than my feeble efforts:
“In Iran things are the opposite of subsiding. We learn that the election was rigged, with more than 100% turnout in many regions. This assessment is based on the Iranian government’s own data. They are a living insult to their people, and they are not even attempting to hide this:”