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Court order against a reformist newspaper, April 24, 2000

Anger & despair
Possible reactions to the political crisis in Iran

April 24, 2000
The Iranian

The following are fictional interviews about recent events in Iran, particularly the closure of reformist newspapers by the conservatives.

Alireza, 36-year-old real estate agent living in Los Angeles:

Q: What's your reaction to the latest news from Iran?

Alireza: What news?

Q: More than a dozen newspapers and magazines have been shut down.

Alireza: I'm not surprised. First of all, these so-called reformist newspapers are run by people who believe in the regime anyway. So I don't really feel sorry for them. The regime is doomed. The mollas have been lying to the people from day one. Anyone who has criticized the Islamic Republic has been killed or thrown into jail. The regime has revealed the true face of Islam for all to see. The people are sick and tired of the mollas and they'll never forgive them.

Ahmad, journalist, Tehran:

Q: Many believe that Khatami's policies have failed. Do you agree?

Ahmad: I believe that governments can only survive if they allow people to criticize them. Governments need to hear criticism in order to reform themselves. Freedom brings strength, not weakness. Governments must be elected by the people and must be answerable to the people. Or else they will not last.

Q: But if Khatami's enemies succeed, he will not last for long.

Ahmad: Khatami's enemies may succeed against him. But they will not succeed against the people's aspirations for freedom. People paid a heavy price during the revolution and the war. They fought for freedom and their faith. And they shall succeed.

Zahra, 35-year-old housewife, Tehran:

Q: What is your opinion about recent events?

Zahra: I fully support our leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Q: Don't you think freedom of speech is important for progress?

Zahra: Progress toward what? These so-called reformists want to overthrow the Islamic Republic and establish a democracy. The Islamic Revolution was not about democracy. We are an Islamic country. We are Muslims. If these traitors want democracy, they should go to America. But if they continue to spread lies and insult our beloved leaders, we'll teach them a lesson they'll never forget.

Parvin, 25-year-old architect in Frankfurt, Germany:

Q: Do you think President Khatami will be able to survive the current crisis?

Parvin: What Khatami has tried to do is make some superficial changes. But even that's been unacceptable to Khamenei and Rafsanjani and all the others with real power. Khatami was the regime's last card. Now the people understand what kind of animals they're dealing with.

Q: Do you think the people will rise up and overthrow the Islamic Republic?

Parvin: Of course. Do you think they'll sit and let these vicious, inhuman bastards rule over them forever? There'll be another revolution bloodier than the first. And if one molla escapes execution, he'd be really lucky.

Daryoush, 44-year-old engineering professor in Boston:

Q: What do you think about the recent actions against reforms in Iran?

Daryoush: It's sad. Extremely sad. After the Majlis elections, I was very optimistic about the situation. I thought the reformists were finally gaining real power and that Iran was going to become a more or less democratic country.

Q: What do you think is going to happen now?

Daryoush: I don't really know. I'm confused. I thought Khamenei was indirectly in favor of Khatami's reforms. But obviously he has sided with the ultra-conservatives. There have been so many actions against reformists in recent days. I wonder if they're going to go all the way and get rid of Khatami too.

Maryam, 22-year-old student, Tehran University:

Q: Are students planning any protests against the closure of the reformist newspapers?

Maryam: We're very angry at what has happened. After the uprising last summer, a lot of the student leaders are afraid of taking radical action. But conservatives are leaving us no choice. Nothing will stop me from protesting against a ban on free speech. That's my God-given right. It's a right enshrined in the constitution of this country. I will not allow a bunch of power-hungry thugs to destroy the country.

Q: Do you still have faith in non-violent change?

Maryam: I think it is becoming less and less possible. If I'm not allowed to speak freely or to criticize the government in a peaceful and secure environment, what can I do? If you hit me in the head, I'll hit you back; have no doubt about it.

Karim, 31-year-old doctor, Washington, DC:

Q: Have you heard the news?

Karim: Yeah. It's killing me. I should have sold my Microsoft stocks last month. I've lost tons of money.

Q: I meant the news from Iran. Nearly all reformist newspapers have been banned.

Karim: Oh. I don't follow news about Iran that much. I don't really understand what's going on over there. Seems like there's always something bad going on. I feel sorry for the people there. But I can't do anything to help. And frankly, I'm not interested.

Shahla, 41-year-old government worker in Shiraz:

Q: Do you think people are going to protest anti-reform actions by the conservatives?

Shahla: Nobody likes the conservatives. But I don't think people are going to pour into the streets and start a revolution. Some students might demonstrate for a while. But I have three children to feed. Who's going to pay my rent? The reformists?

Q: So you think if Iran become a dictatorship the people will not fight for democracy?

Shahla: I don't know. I'm not a political expert. All I know is that I and a lot of people want the country to be free. Everyone wants Iran to be strong and prosperous. I hope it will be that way. I just don't want to see people dying for nothing. We've had so many years of chaos. Enough is enough.

Morteza, 46-year-old taxi driver, Tehran:

Q: What do you think about the latest events?

Morteza: I think the conservatives are digging their graves. They will succeed in pushing back reforms and they might cancel the Majlis elections. They might even force Khatami to resign. But believe me, this is the beginning of the end of the mollas.

Q: Why do you think so?

Morteza: It's obvious. Everybody hates them. Everybody. When Khomeini was around, a lot of people were executed. Newspapers were shut down. People were harassed. But a lot of people still trusted him and thought he was sincere. He said Islam and the revolution were in danger and a lot of people believed him. And we were fighting a war with Iraq and we didn't care if the country was not run the way it should be. But now, nobody trusts these Khomeini wannabes. People have had it with the mollas.

Saeed, 28-year-old electrical engineer, San Francisco:

Q: Do you hear about the newspaper closures in Iran?

Saeed: Yeah, it sucks.

Q: What do you think is going to happen?

Saeed: I don't know. I'm worried about what's going to happen to Khatami. He's was trying hard to make Iran a better place. Now they are trying to reverse everything he's done. And the Revolutionary Guards might stage a coup. It's a big mess over there. What are you doing this weekend? Let's hit some balls.

Fereshteh, 35-year-old Mojahedin Khalq supporter, Paris:

Q: What's your reaction to recent events in Iran?

Fereshteh: The whole world is witnessing the true nature of the Islamic Republic. The whole world sees that so-called reform movement was a big joke. The Mojahedin had warned from the very beginning that people should not be fooled by Khatami's nice words. The Mojahedin had in fact insisted that Khatami is a puppet president working to preserve the mollacracy.

Q: What's going to happen now?

Fereshteh: The mollacracy has lost all legitimacy inside and outside Iran. It has finally reached a dead end. The masses will soon rise up and crush the most tyrannical regime in the history of our country.

Sadegh, 19-year-old member of the Basij, Shiraz:

Q: Do you agree with the closure of newspapers?

Sadegh: I think those newspapers that have been writing lies and propagating anti-Islamic ideas should be closed down. The so-called reformist journalists are nothing but traitors. They are misleading the people and corrupting the youth.

Q: What do you think of President Khatami?

Sadegh: I think he's a good man but he has not been firm against agitators. He must follow the policies set by the Vali-e Faqih or else the country will go down the wrong path. And the followers of the revolution will not allow that.

Reza, 33-year-old Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Mashhad:

Q: Do you think Iran in a serious political crisis right now?

Reza: Yes it is. I think some leaders have gone too far in suppressing those who are sincere in their criticism. The way things are going right now, the people will lose their faith in the Islamic Republic and its leaders.

Q: What is the ideal government in your view?

Reza: The ideal government should allow people to voice their opinion. It should allow people to free, just like it says in the constitution. Some say freedom is against Islam. But that's not true. Islam is not a religion of violence. Islam is not intolerant towards people who have different points of view.

Mahvash, 52-year-old mother, Dallas:

Q: They closed down the opposition newspapers in Iran. What's your reaction?

Mahvash: So what's new? Whenever something good appears to be happening, the mollas quickly put a stop to it.

Q: Do you still have any hope that things will improve?

Mahvash: With these guys in power? Never. Reedan to mamlekat. Tamoom shod raft.

Mohammad, 62-year-old mosque prayer leader, Kashan:

Q: Are you worried about recent events?

Mohammad: I certainly am.

Q: What are you worried about?

Mohammad: I have been a clergyman since I was a young man. I have been the imam of this small mosque for almost 30 years. My goal in life has always been to serve God and the community. I have tried my best to stay away from politics. I have never done anything to harm any human being for any reason whatsoever. But a lot of people disrespect me. I can feel it. They see me as a symbol of this government. They think if a handful of clergymen are running the country in a bad way, I'm also responsible. I cannot blame the people from feeling this way. But at the same time, it makes me very sad. Very very sad.

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