Nicole Sadighi is a freelance journalist who lives in London. Born in Iran, she moved to England when he was three years old. From there she acts as a member of the Committee of the Student Movement for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI), an organisation which is trying, on a pan-national level, to fight for a free, secular and democratic Iran. Many of the students involved in the demonstrations that took place a few days ago are part of this organisation that was founded in 1997. We interviewed Nicole after she attended the presentation of the annual report on the death penalty by the NGO Nessuno Tocchi Caino. It is a report that this year included Iran in its list of countries under special observation.
So Nicole, in Europe Kathami has been seen as, and is often still considered to be, a reformer. In the light of what was said in the Nessuno Tocchi Caino report and especially in the light of the events that have unsettled Iran during the last few days, what are your thoughts on the Iranian President? Is he on the side of the regime or the students who are asking for reform?
Kathami is nothing but the regime’s puppet. He was elected by a large majority to introduce reform but so far no one in Iran has seen these reforms. On the contrary, capital executions have increased, lynching and stoning has increased, and the number of prisoners being tortured has increased. Since he came to power more than one hundred newspapers have been closed; it doesn’t even need saying that they were all pro-reform. The youth of Iran are frustrated but they are not alone. The majority of Iranians can no longer put up with this situation.
Iranians are protesting, Bush has expressed his solidarity, Europe has remained silent and the Regime has not hesitated to accuse the USA of arranging the demonstrations. What is Iran’s perception of the world? And of Europe in particular?
The USA is the only country that is trying to listen to us Iranians. Clearly we are happy about this. It reminds me of the apartheid situation in South Africa. Until the USA took up a position, threatening sanctions against South Africa, the international community did not acted in a concrete way. The USA, thus, has historically had a considerable weight at international level but they cannot and must not be the only ones to oppose the theocratic regime that is governing Tehran. No one in Iran shares the guilty silence of Europe. Europe must take sides; it must take some responsibility. If it does not express support for the students it must de facto be allied to the regime. It is clear that the economic links between Iran and Europe are among the causes of this ambiguous foreign policy; it is well-known (1) for example that Germany is providing support to those in the Iranian government who are leading the surpression of revolt. But the economy does not justify this position: the money that the Iranian regime collects, also through the oil trade, ends up in the hands of terrorist groups. Europe would be wise to bear that in mind. The Old Continent should also remember that sooner or later Iranians will have their reform. I am sure of it. And when that day comes they will not want to know those who supported a murderous regime.
The American and British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are not far from Iran’s borders. How important has ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ been for your movement?
It has been important in the sense that it brought the Middle East to the attention of the world’s media. It has been a good opportunity for us to get our voices heard across the world. I am sure that the key to resolving the thorny issue of the Middle East lies in Iran. My country has always had a very influential role. In a certain way it has also been a leader for all the other countries in the region. Iran became the first democratic state in the Middle East in 1906. It was the first state to initiate nationalisation of oil. However, Iran has also played a key role in a negative way. With the Revolution in 1979 the might of Islam started up again across the Middle East. I believe that a real democracy in Iran could shape the course of events not only in the Middle East but even across the world. This, at least, is what history suggests.
What role has the media played in the recent uprisings? What are your thoughts on a free ‘information bombardment’ for the populations of dictatorial regimes?
I would like first of all to underline how disappointed and perturbed I am about the conduct of the ‘free world’s’ media with regard to what has been happening in Iran recently. I do not understand why, for example, a few individual cases, tragic of course, are under the spotlight (the case of Amina Lawal for example) when just as tragic a situation for a hundred thousand Iranian Amina Lawals is being kept quiet. I actually feel that the media have the power to do a lot for the people of Iran. They should, for example, start by doing something about the gap in communication that exists between the Iranian media and the rest of the free world. The Regime manipulates all the foreign news and discussion of internal and international issues is zero. An ‘information bombardment’ via satellite, via radio, via computer and between independent newspapers could be the non-violent way of overthrowing the murderous regime of the Mullah.
(1) Ed: café babel has not been able to verify this.