I was one of the thousands of protestors who gathered in front of the United Nations on September 23 to say NO to Ahmadinejad and yes to democracy in Iran. We were not 400 people as CNN claimed. There were thousands of us, from different groups that had gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, from the Mojahedin and the royalists to the green movement supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi and Karroubi and independents like me, who came together or rather, appeared at different stages to show our support for a righteous cause, to support our people’s quest and struggle for democracy.
I stayed on in NY City the next day in hopes of getting an interview with Ahmadinejad. I knew that it was a futile attempt but I am a persistent person. As a journalist you have to be. After I emailed and talked to two people at Iran’s UN mission, the first person was polite and said he would try his best but the second person who was his press attaché was not so nice. He told me on the phone, “why do Iranians always wait until the last moment, why don’t they do things right?!!” Granted, that is a valid argument (though why doesn’t the Iranian regime do things the right way) but in this case it probably would not have mattered. Though later on, Mr. M.sent me an apologetic email, writing in bad English, that maybe an interview could take place some other time. When I asked Mr. K., the person who was in charge of sending invitations, to attend the special dinner in “honor of his Excellency Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”, he said that this dinner was only for “think tankers”! Is this a new word in the English language? Mr. M. said that the mess (sic) media had requested interviews with him many months ago. Did they or Ahmadinejad know that he would be the President for a second term! Well, my guess is that yes, they did, since the outcome of the elections was clearly predetermined.
I was hoping that as an Iranian journalist, I could tag along with my friend Stephen Kinzer, a journalist who did attend the dinner, and act as his interpreter. But to my dismay, the first person’s reply on that morning was a firm “NO, sorry; this is only for think tankers!” The invitation clearly stated that the event was for the members of the press as well.
In my pursuit to still see for myself what was happening at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel, I roamed around 48th St and Lexington Ave. I saw many Iranian men, some shaved, and others unshaven. Every time I approached them and asked them what they were doing, they were too petrified to talk to me. I took photos, lots of them. They tried to hide or turn their backs. One guy said he had come from San Diego to interpret; the other one, a chubby fellow, was belligerent. I found out from an American gentleman who was getting to leave on his bike that he was a member of the Iranian parli ament. The American man had been in the room with the representatives of the U.S. think thanks. The chubby man did not want to be questioned by a woman. From the look on his face, if I had not been in NYC among dozens of policemen and security guards, he could have slapped me for being too intrusive and inquisitive. In fact, I was just trying to bug them. They both went back into a very tightly secured hotel. No one could enter the hotel unless their names were on a sheet. I joked around with two young American security guards at the entrance. When one of them noticed my green bracelet which said “democracy for Iran”, he told me, “Well maybe you should have hidden that if you ever wanted to get in.” I said it still would not have worked; they were funny, pleasant and polite.
I noticed that three men asked a few of the many NYC policemen standing in the corner to have their pictures taken. I guess they wanted it as souvenirs! When I approached the men and asked to take their photos, they were condescending and reluctant and again very scared to talk to me, trying to get away as far as they could. I told them, I am a harmless woman! (Not really) And when I asked what they were doing there, they all said we are just drivers! I told them whatever you do, you are being paid with blood money. I wanted to give them a guilty conscience. Sorry!
I saw another bearded man taking stacks of food inside the hotel, maybe for Ahmadinejad and his entourage. When I asked him if he was Iranian, he reacted frightened, said yes and went through security in a rush.
Then the chubby man and the interpreter came out; as soon as they saw me, they went back in. Again, they looked scared. Why were they scared of a woman just holding a camera and asking questions unless they were doing something wrong?
I guess they are not sure how this regime will end up. Will it survive even after all the brutalities of the last four months or will it go on with more arrests, more repression? I finally left w ith little hope that I would ever get into the premises. I was disappointed that I was not allowed an audience as an Iranian to question the “President” about the recent coup and all the jailing that followed. I wasn’t going to make a scene like the last time I was there four years ago. I was going to be polite!
I was disappointed that many Americans and not just “think tankers” were allowed and not an Iranian woman. I guess they are afraid to face reality, afraid that all those who support this regime will one day end up as losers, having to answer to the Iranian people. After all, if the June elections were not rigged, why did they have to counter the peaceful demonstrators with torture, rape and murder and false confessions?
The moral of the story is that many of the men of the Islamic Republic have no respect for women. They have proven this time and again. Their actions show it, as do their words and their replies to one’s emails. At the end of the day, in front of the UN, Neda Agha Soltan’s statue was being unveiled. Her gentle face is the face of every courageous Iranian woman who has been shunned b y the Islamic Republic of Iran.
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