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crackdown on Iranian protestors, the so-called "hotdog diplomacy" is off the table and the invitations have been withdrawn.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 that she moved to Iran last year. She believes that much of the world has a distorted view of popular opinion in Iran. Below is a partial transcript of the interview. A shorter version airs on Weekend Edition today.
Scott Simon: Why throw out the international press?
Marzieh Hashemi: According to what the government has said, they felt that a lot of the media was you know fanning — adding fuel to the flame. And so... they felt that first of all they had to put out the flame, you have to save the building at all costs.... they made that call that there was more harm coming out of the international press than good.
You know, right or wrong or whatever, this was their call. And it was a call that was made — there was a lot of pressure being put on the government by a lot of the average Iranians who felt that the security was deteriorating rapidly. And they wanted them to crack down, they wanted their country secure. And they wanted life to get back to normal, you know, whatever the government felt it would take, within reasonable limits, they wanted them to do it.
And you know, if throwing out the foreign press... if that's what it took to get the country back under control and stability and life back to normal, then so be it. And so I think that the average Iranians you would talk to right now, for example, now that life has turned back to normal, it's like Ok, fine, you know if that's what it took or whatever it took, within reasonable limits, it's fine, because they wanted life to turn back to normal.
Scott Simon: And human rights organizations, I don't have to tell you — - around the world are alarmed at the arrest detentions of people identified as politicians and journalists and bloggers and human rights activists. I realize those are all different categories, but why is it necessary to arrest people like that?
Marzieh Hashemi: Well once again, I'm just speaking on my own, I don't know what was in the minds of those who made the decision or whatever, I'm assuming that they felt that again, that it was a security issue. There are individuals that they felt that were masterminding a lot of, for example — it wasn't just demonstrations, it was total destruction. I think that a lot of people don't know the other side of the spectrum, is that buses were being burned, ordinary people were being beaten, ATMS, banks were being burnt down.
It was very, very destructive, and what was happening. So, if they felt that these individuals, via emails, through blogging, via whatever, that they were behind it or organizing it, then they detained them. You know, rightly or wrongly, I don't know how many of them have been charged, I don't know how many of them have been released right now, whatever. But I'm just saying the reason behind the arrest was because they felt that it was them adding to insecurity in the country.
Scott Simon: So you don't feel freedom of expression is being stifled in Iran?
Marzieh Hashemi: I think the average Iranian feels very free to express themselves, ok? But I think that within the framework of the laws in this country — and each country has its own rules, and its own laws. So freedom of expression, I think that through time, 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.