Iranian Reporter Tells The Other Side Of The Story
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
In early June, the State Department instructed U.S. embassies to invite Iranian diplomats to July 4th festivities around the world, but after the violent crackdown on Iranian protestors, this hot dog diplomacy has been withdrawn. The international press was thrown out of Tehran after the election and government leaders have been refusing interviews.
But this week we were able to reach Marzieh Hashemi in Tehran. She reports for Iran's English-language Press TV and supports President Ahmadinejad. She was born in New Orleans and says she moved to Iran last year. She believes that much of the world has a distorted view of popular opinion in Iran.
Ms. MARZIEH HASHEMI (Press TV): The majority of Iranians have been very, very upset with what has happened, and I can say upset at basically everything falling apart right after the election and not accepting the result. What is shown many times in the West, for example, when people saw that there was a very large demonstration supporting Mr. Mousavi, people got the feeling that the country was falling apart and that the majority of Iranians actually supported Mr. Mousavi. No, the majority of them did not, and the other side of the spectrum has not been shown as much, I believe.
SIMON: But when you say the majority of the country supports President Ahmadinejad, is that based on the result of the vote, which is in dispute?
Ms. HASHEMI: Yes. I think it's, one - definitely, one, the result of the vote. Based on - any time you have a dispute or you're trying to discredit something or you disagree, you have to give concrete examples of why you think that something is or is not legitimate, is or is not just.
In general, I think the overall perspective in Iran is that Mr. Mousavi or Mr. Karoubi have not been able to prove that there was any widespread cheating or anything like that. I don't think that they have been able to prove that. And I think that the majority of Iranians, and this is from being out and going out and talking to people in the various cities, are very turned off by what they have seen from Mousavi and are very upset at the violence and, unfortunately, the loss of life that was caused because of the aftermath, what happened after the election.
SIMON: As I understand it, the constitution of the Islamic Republic allows for peaceful protest.
Ms. HASHEMI: Uh-huh.
SIMON: Why has there been - to be neutral about it - a forceful crackdown?
Ms. HASHEMI: Well, I think, of course, I'm not in a, you know, part of the government to make a decision on that. From what I understand, basically it was a security issue. The Islamic Republic is 30 years old. All the eyes are on Iran all the time. And we have to say that there have been many, many incidences over the 30 years of trying to destabilize the government. So when you have a very sensitive situation, sometimes you have to make that choice, based on the security of the country.
In the initial days, there was no crackdown on the demonstrators. They were allowed to demonstrate. And they were requested at that time to let it be solved through the legal processes. Also at the time there were a lot of things that just did not add up as far as a natural Iranian reaction.
And I will say, for example, there was the day that there was a suicide bomber inside of the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum. And Iranians don't kill themselves like that. I mean, it just doesn't happen. So there was a lot of things that did add up and that there was some foreign intervention behind it and that it was going to, you know, explode. And I witnessed demonstrations that were demanding security forces to actually crack down. They were saying give us, you know, we want security.
SIMON: What convinces you, Ms. Hashemi, that there was foreign intervention or foreign elements at play in the demonstrations?
Ms. HASHEMI: Well, one of the things - I just mentioned suicide bombing. It's just very incongruent with the mentality of the Iranians. Two, for example, being in the media, I will say that the role of the media, just so unbelievably biased reporting for no reason, unless they're trying to cause some instability and just trying to put it that, you know, the regime is coming apart, the regime is falling, there is no freedom, everyone is frustrated, 30 years of frustration. And it's like, okay, 30 years of frustration, 30 years they've been against it; however, 85 percent of the electorate voted.
SIMON: So you don't feel freedom of expression is being stifled in Iran?
Ms. HASHEMI: I think freedom of expression - I think the average Iranian feels very free to express themselves, okay? But I think that within the framework of the laws in this country, and each country has its own rules and its own law. So there's certain times, especially in emergency situations, difficult situations, that governments all around the world are going to make certain decisions.
Now, perhaps in a regular situation, regular times, no, that decision would not have been made. But they felt that it was necessary to do what they had to do in order to have the country, you know, secure and to have stability in the country.
SIMON: Ms. Hashemi, I thank you for all of your time.
Ms. HASHEMI: You're welcome.
SIMON: Marzieh Hashemi reports for Iran's Press TV. And to hear an extended conversation, including why Ms. Hashemi says the international press was thrown out of Iran, you can go to NPR.org/Soapbox.
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