Iran Protesters Continue To Take To The Streets Iran's pro-reform movement has been dealt a serious blow since the June 12 presidential elections. Thousands of people have been arrested and detained in a government crackdown to suppress the opposition. Bahman Kalbasi of the BBC's Persian Service offers his analysis of the state of the opposition movement in Iran.
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Iran Protesters Continue To Take To The Streets

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Iran Protesters Continue To Take To The Streets

Iran Protesters Continue To Take To The Streets

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

For more on Iran's opposition movement, we're joined by Bahman Kalbasi. He is a Washington correspondent for the BBC's Persian service. Welcome to the program.

Mr. BAHMAN KALBASI (Correspondent, BBC): Thank you.

SIEGEL: And at first, help us put today's demonstrations into context. What has the opposition movement in Iran been up to since the summer when we saw so many mass demonstrations after the Iranian elections?

Mr. KALBASI: Well, this is a movement that is evolving as it marches ahead. The first week obviously was mainly a spontaneous reaction to the results of the election, massive protests that gave more sense to the movement itself of how much power it has. But it wasn't as planned as it is now - but as the crackdown obviously occurred and it was clear to everybody that the government is using all tools available to it to control the population and the crowds, they have been strategizing their moves to see how they can proceed without paying too much of a political and social price, you know, networking via social media and using every available tool that is to organize for a next move.

SIEGEL: How have the Iranian officials - how have the authorities reacted to that use of social media and the Internet generally to organize protests?

Mr. KALBASI: Well, I think their first and foremost priority is to make sure that these demonstrations don't happen, which seems to not have been working as much as they like. So, the tool to do that is mainly cut off communication. The first move - the very first days, they were under this illusion, in fact, that if they arrest the leadership that this will not be able to organize itself, and that failed. But the next step obviously was to make sure that the people, the youth, the ones that are actually forming these protests can't communicate, can't organize.

So, some of it has been through blocking almost every Web site that outside the country is part of the Green Movement or - and for weeks, the text messaging was cut off. The last three days, the Internet has been very, very slow, to the level that some people cannot connect at all.

SIEGEL: And yet it seems as though a great many people are out on the streets, nonetheless.

Mr. KALBASI: True. The interesting part about it, that while they're using the very sort of cutting-edge technology, Internet and other ways, to try to get the message out, they used the very traditional ones as well. So, you know, as this - the chanting over the roofs at 10 p.m. that basically the whole city is hearing, the sense of solidarity is there and everybody knows that something is to come up. So, that chanting happened last night. Everybody knew there was a protest to be held today.

SIEGEL: I want you to tell us about one other case, the mysterious death of a whistleblower in Iran, the young doctor who came out and said that the government was torturing protesters. Tell us about that case.

Mr. KALBASI: Well, he was one of the doctors that who was at the sites of the jail that now is known as Iran's Guantanamo. And the allegations of rape surfaced by the - one of the leaders of their movement, Mr. Karoubi. He apparently was working as a doctor there and had valuable information for the parliamentarians, who were looking into this and a small committee that was formed in the judiciary. So, there seems to have been a push to make sure that that information is suppressed, that they came out and strongly denied the allegation of rape.

A doctor would have been perhaps the key witness to people who had been raped and perhaps, you know, transferred to his clinic. He - his emails that were sent out the day or two days before his death was very forward-looking, talking to his friends about meeting up soon. And obviously the death's very suspicious.

SIEGEL: It is suspicious. Bahman Kalbasi, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. KALBASI: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Mr. Kalbasi is a Washington correspondent for the BBC Persian Service.

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