FrontPage Interview’s guest today is Roozbeh Farahanipour, an Iranian journalist, democracy activist, former political prisoner in Iran and head of Marze Por Gohar Party (MPG), an Iranian opposition party seeking the establishment of a secular republic in Iran. He was a student leader in the 1999 uprising, just one year after creating MPG.
FP: Roozbeh Farahanipour, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
There was a major participation of Iranians on Neda’s 40th day memorial. To remind some readers, just in case, Neda Agha-Soltan is the young Iranian woman who was shot and killed during the Iranian election protests. The video of her death has become a rallying point for the Iranian freedom movement.
Tell us about it.
Farahanipour: Opposition groups, such as Marze Por Gohar, invited people to engage and show their opposition to the Islamic regime. The regime really tried to prevent his from happening. For example, they pressured Neda’s mother not to attend the memorial. In an internet-based interview, she revealed that due to unknown reasons (read pressure from the regime) she will not attend her own daughter’s memorial.
She also mentioned that the people of Iran should consider Neda as their own child. But she was quick to mention that she will not accept any responsibility if people attend the memorial. Again, this shows how bad the pressure is when a mother is not able to attend to her daughter’s memorial. In a joint effort of the opposition, however, inside and outside Iran, people managed to overcome the heavy pressure of the regime and spread the word of the date and the places where people could gather.
As we predicted, this day turned out to be a nightmare for the regime. People once again took the streets and took a step further in their anti-regime protests. On this day we heard slogans like “Independence, freedom, Iranian republic”( as opposed to “Islamic republic”) and “down with Islamic republic.”
It is important to mention that during the 1979 revolution the slogan “Independence, freedom, Islamic republic” was the main slogan of the pro-Khomeini activists.
When people replace the “Islamic republic” with “Iranian republic” it clearly shows the intention of the Iranian people. It is the proof of what we have been saying all along: the Islamic Republic is an occupying force which is undermining the Iranian identity, interest and future. To replace “Islamic” with Iranian” in the slogans shows that people want everything that the Islamic Republic is not.
FP: Describe the scene when the Islamists came to power in 1979.
Farahanipour: Sure, the first thing they did when they came to power was change the name of “Iran” to “Islamic republic of Iran” in the United Nations. The national flag of Iran was replaced with a flag with Arabic scripts and logo. Soon after, they attempted to destroy major historical remains such as “Persepolis,” since they announced that everything pre-Islamic in Iran should be considered worthless.
In a public display of anti-Iranian hatred, Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, announced the historical name of “Persian Gulf” to be changed to “Islamic Gulf.” In another speech he declared nationalists as infidels and nationalism as a sin. He further explained that there should be no such thing as an Iranian nation but an “Islamic Ummah.” During Khatami, the regime officially applied to be a member of the Arab League and they even accepted to be an observer without a vote.
In an Islamic world conference that Khatami attended as president and head speaker in Tehran, the Iranian capital, he started his speech in Arabic and not Persian. During the past 30 years, the regime has pursued a policy where everything pre-Islamic has been undermined while the Islamic ideals have been enforced. This has even been executed in social areas where Iranians are given a hard time when they are naming their new born with Iranian names. Indeed, they are encouraged to use Islamic names. In the schools, the second language is Arabic and attending Islamic classes is mandatory in order to graduate.
In geo-politics too, the regime has applied the same system. According to international protocols, 50% of the Caspian Sea belongs to Iran but in order to keep Russia close they are discussing to reduce Iran’s share somewhere between 11.5 % to 20%. When this agreement is signed it must be known that the Iranian people do not recognize such agreements and consider them null in the future.
It is also a fact that while most Iranians live under the poverty line, the regime spends billions of dollars to support Islamic terrorist organizations outside Iran. The people of Iran are very aware of this and in the past we have witnessed slogans such as “let go of Palestine, think of us” or in the very recent events, such as the Friday sermon two weeks ago, people chanted “Down with Russia and China” while the sermon’s slogan leader said “down with America and Israel.”
To say “Iranian Republic” instead of the “Islamic republic” is a rejection of the regime’s occupying nature by the people who want it gone.
FP: Currently we are witnessing the mass trials of people arrested during the recent uprising. What is happening in this regard?
Farahanipour: This is theatrical and by the way nothing new. We have witnessed such events many times before in the past thirty years.
The regime has used such illegitimate trials to execute more than 100,000 people in such phony courts. To produce fake confessions is a trade mark of this regime and this time we have a wide spectrum of political prisoners facing the same treatment.
According to regime’s court documents, the arrested are from across the political spectrum. They are representing the Iranian people with different ideologies. There are various activists presented and three specific parties are mentioned, the so-called reformists/moderate Islamists, MKO and Marze Por Gohar (MPG).
When the regime prosecutes parties who are representing the Iranian people. it shows that it is prosecuting the Iranian nation and that the whole nation is against the regime.
FP: Tell us more about the MPG on trial.
Farahanipour: There are the regime’s theatrics and dramatic televised trials that are contrived to detract from and undermine the sweeping uprising for liberty and freedom by the very children of these glorious frontiers. The Prosecutor Mortazavi states the following in regards to Mr. Majid Saeeidi in the trial of opposition protestors:
Majid Saeedi the son of Naser, one of the arrested photojournalists has stated:
“I was present during the “illegal” demonstrations which took place at Enghelab Square, Azadi Square, Hafte Tir Square, Vali Asr Square and Baharestan Square. I took pictures during these “illegal” protests and sent the pictures to an anti-Revolutionary group Marzeporgohar in United States, Getty Agency in England and Office of Sipah in France.”
FP: Who is Majid Saeedi?
Farahanipour: Majid is a friend of mine and we used to do journalistic work together. He was born in Tehran-Iran on 28/02/1974 and has an education in Art. His work experience included heading photo departments for nine newspapers in Iran since 1998 in different periods. He was a photographer for Time Magazine in Afghanistan in 2001. He was also the founder of Fars News Agency and was the head of its photo department in 2004.
Majid was the photographer for Getty images since 2004. He was also selected seven times as the best photographer of the year in Iran in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001. In addition, he was the winner of the second prize for an international art festival in 2005. Majid received 4 gold medals from Asahi Japan in 2000, 2005, 2006 and 2008. He was the winner of the 3rd prize of Poy –USA 2007 and he was the first person in Iran who got a permit for a photo news agency.
FP: What do you think of the charges against him?
Farahanipour: According to the court, his crime was taking pictures. Majd is a known and recognized photographer and he was doing what photographers are supposed to do, take pictures.
A photographer cannot be biased in what he does. If an uprising is going on then he takes pictures and he has limited ability to change what he sees. In this case, Majid recorded history taking place.
The fact that the regime dislikes journalism does not make journalism a crime. In the eyes of Iranian people and the international community, reporting history is a duty; in the eyes of the Islamic Republic, it’s a crime.
FP: What is the Getty Center’s response to this charge?
Farahanipour: On Aug 01, 2009, Getty Images issued this statement on response to the Islamic Republic’s charges against Majid Saeedi:
Getty Images rejects the charges against freelance photographer Majid Saeedi by Iranian prosecutors. Majid is simply a diligent and committed photojournalist who documented the reality he observed. He is being charged for merely doing his job.
Getty Images, a respected and well-regarded news organization, and our editorial photographers have a long-standing tradition of adhering to a strict set of professional principles, including responsibility, independence and integrity.
FP: What would you say to arrested Iranians right now if they could hear you?
Farahanipour: The Marz-e Por Gohar party emphatically states that the entire round of confessions, testimonies and claims made by the Islamic Republic regime of occupiers is based on lies and deceit. It is all a complete fabrication concocted from their usual conspiracies.
The Marz-e Por Gohar party reminds the brave warriors of the uprising that the regime reigning over our nation will make a futile effort to defame them. On their phony television shows, they paint our chivalrous and noble warriors as ignoble and unworthy. But the people know the truth.
We regard these young advocates and warriors as paladins from the ranks of Shahnameh. Like the young hero Siyavash, they will triumph over the occupying regime’s scorching oppression and relentless propaganda. They will continue their battle more courageously and more powerfully than before and emerge into victory.
The gallant people of Iran, whose recent sacrifice has cleansed Iran’s image of the dark stain of the global disrepute of the Islamic Republic, have salvaged and restored Iran’s honor. The Iranian nation knows very well how to embrace, cherish and protect her chained lions in her compassionate, loving bosom and how to utilize the mockery of torture-driven confessions as tools to humiliate and invalidate the occupying regime itself.
The Marz-e Por Gohar party honors our chained lions and sends this message to them:
Do not imagine for a moment that the forced confessions under torture detract even an iota from your honor and credence among us.
The country needs your strength, iron will and your renewed experience. Iranian people’s battles extend beyond a given period of time.
Use every ounce of energy and every faculty within you on the streets and in prison and protect and preserve your beliefs and will for the opportune time.
Boundless salutations and tribute to the political prisoners in Iran.
FP: What do you expect from the international community?
Farahanipour: We expect that the world should support a nation in their struggle for freedom and secularism.
People arrested, tried and killed should be the conscience of the all the freedom-loving people of the world. We believe in non-violent change, like the one in India and in South Africa. The international community of nations should stop trading with this regime and should expand its divestment efforts. Those who claim that divestment and sanctions hurt the Iranian people and not the regime should listen to the people of Iran who started their sanctions on their own.
According to the regime and the international media, the sales of Nokia and Siemens in Iran has dropped dramatically due to their role in supporting the regime with electronic spy equipments. There are even lawsuits planned against Nokia in the Unites States. The slogan “Down with Russia and Dhina” is another sign that the people of Iran are ready to support wider sanctions on the regime and its allies.
We will take advantage of every opportunity to show our opposition to the Islamic Republic and this will go on until we have a free and fair election, where we can replace the Islamic Republic with an Iranian Republic.
We have paid a heavy price in this battle and we will not rest until we honor our fallen heroes, such as Yaghub Mehrnahad and Kasra Vafadari in their struggle for an independent, free and Iranian Republic.
FP: Roozbeh Farahanipour, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.