Skip to comments.Another NYTimes Article On Iran: Velvet Hand, Iron Glove
Posted on 05/15/2004 12:19:40 AM PDT by F14 Pilot
I had just about convinced myself that Iran is not a police state and then the authorities detained me for a second time.
The first time was in Isfahan, for committing journalism. The police apologized and let me go after 30 minutes when my papers were found to be in order. The second time was at Tehran's airport as I was trying to leave, and this time the interrogation was tougher.
"Have you ever been to Israel?" Gulp, yes.
"Are you working for the Israeli government?" Of course not.
"Are you working for the American government?" I tried to explain that my views make me unemployable by either the Bush or Sharon administrations, but the interrogators were weak on both subtlety and humor.
After hinting for 90 minutes that I was a spy and a liar, and that they might hold on to me indefinitely, the interrogators finally let me board my plane. Indeed, toward the end, they seemed worried principally by my threat to write about the encounter.
That episode crystallized an impression that had been forming during my trip through Iran: if it were an efficient police state, it might survive. But it's not. It cracks down episodically, tossing dissidents in prison and occasionally even murdering them (like a Canadian-Iranian journalist last year). But Iran doesn't control information partly because satellite television is ubiquitous, if illegal and people mostly get away with scathing criticism as long as they do not organize against the government.
The embarrassing point for us is that while Iran is no democracy, it has a much freer society than many of our allies in the Middle East. In contrast with Saudi Arabia, for example, Iran has (rigged) elections, and two of its vice presidents are women. The Iranian press is not as free as it was a few years ago, but it is now bolstered by blogs (Web logs) and satellite TV, which offer real scrutiny of government officials.
I was astonished that everywhere I went in Iran, people would immediately tell me their names and agree to be photographed and then say something like, "There is no freedom here."
All this means, I think, that the Iranian regime is destined for the ash heap of history. An unpopular regime can survive if it is repressive enough, but Iran's hard-liners don't imprison their critics consistently enough to instill terror.
Pet dogs, for example, are strongly discouraged in Iran as dirty and contrary to Islam, and traffic police regularly arrest dogs and their owners. But the number of pet dogs is multiplying, and Tehran now has dozens of veterinary clinics.
Many Iranians believe that the Iranian leadership is pursuing a "Chinese model," in which the authorities tolerate personal freedoms but rigidly control politics. But it won't work. In China, the greatest expansion of personal freedoms was followed, in 1989, by the biggest antigovernment demonstrations in Chinese history.
In one country after another (including Iran in 1979), repressive governments have tried to buy time by easing up a tad, and dissidents have used that as leverage to oust the oppressors. I'm convinced that Iran will be the same (although I should acknowledge that my Iranian friends, who know the situation much better, tend to be more pessimistic).
The crisis in legitimacy even manages to create nostalgia for the repressive shah. "Everybody longs for the good old days of the shah," said Amir, a peasant in a village north of Isfahan. "Prices were cheap, and he was good at building the country. If the shah built a road, it would still be good after 30 years. Now if they build a road, it cracks and falls apart in a few years."
Young people constantly told me how they scolded their parents for backing the Islamic Revolution in 1979. As a young woman, Sogand Tayebi, put it, "Those who backed the revolution are now sorry about that."
In the end, I find Iran a hopeful place. Ordinary people are proving themselves irrepressible, and they will triumph someday and forge a glistening example of a Muslim country that is a pro-American democracy in the Middle East.
I treasure a memory from the airport: after I was detained, a security goon X-rayed my bags for the second time and puzzled over my computer equipment. He snarled at me, "American reporters bad!" The X-ray operator, who perhaps didn't know quite what was going on, beamed at me and piped up, "Americans very good!"
NYTimes Articles by 'Nicholas Kristof' on Iran so far:
Wonder how he views their nuclear program?
My advice to Kristof about practicing journalism in Iran: quit while you still have a head!
US warns citizens of dangers traveling in Iran
15 May 2004
WASHINGTON - The US Department of State on Friday warned US citizens that travel to Iran could be dangerous.
The State Department renewed earlier warnings that citizens carefully weigh the risks of travel to Iran and check the departments security updates before going.
Due to ongoing tensions in the region, particularly along the border with Iraq, US citizens may be at higher risk of harassment or kidnapping, the State Department said in a statement.
The war in neighboring Iraq as well as tensions between the US and Iranian governments have increased the potential threat, the State Department said.
Some elements of the Iranian government and population remain hostile to the US, the statement said.
American citizens may be subject to the possibility of harassment or kidnapping.
Some areas of the country, including the Baluchistan border area near Pakistan and Afghanistan generally, are not safe for tourism.
The Kurdish northwest of the country and areas near the Iraqi border are not considered safe either, the statement said.
The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, it said, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to American citizens in Iran.
Only a fool would write that statement, making it sound like Iran is over-rated as a threat. Again, Kristoff has missed the whole point.
Iran is the core terrorist state. Most of the terrorism against the West started there with the advent of Ayatolla Komenni (sp?). All the terrorist groups of the world seem to have their "home offices" in Iran. Current Iranian leaders have said they can nuke Israel and destroy it before Israel has a chance to strike back at them. Iran is developing and building THAT nuclear weapon. They intend to use it on Israel. (They say THAT is a peaceful purpose.) But, I digress....
Kristoff was allowed to get on a plane and leave. For that he is so grateful (and blind) that he says Iran is not so bad. Kristol needs to have his head examined....soon.
"The embarrassing point for us..."
That line struck me also. Why should we be embarrassed?
The fact that Iranian people may live better than people in N.Korea, has nothing to do with their "axis of evil" status".
You're right. The regime invites, condones, supports and practices terrorism.(whether they have 2 woman vice-pres. or not).
It's refreshing to see the types of reports that Mr. Nichols has written about Iran and it's people, however.....he omits some aspects of life there, glosses over others and doesn't quite see or understand yet, some of the subtleties in the way the regime cruelly runs the country. For example, I don't recall him discussing the very high rate of unemployment, amoung young people,especially, or the problems of drug addiction and rise in prostitution. I don't believe he gave an accurate depiction of life by talking to people in cafes.
He also doesn't recognize the intentional cruelty and psychological affects of the regime "crack(ing) down episodically". It means a young couple can walk holding hands one day, and not be harrassed, and the next day be arrested and sentenced to 50 lashes for the same thing. Safer and mentally healthier to know "the rules". But this is how this regime has run things. So, you can be watching your satellite T.V. for months and months thinking everything is just fine...and one day someone comes and destroys it and arrests you and maybe beats your family or arrests them too. They lull the people into a false sense of "freedom" and then pull the rug out from under them. That's sadistic.
And he should remind his readers, that people are "stuck there." Travel (if one can afford it), is limited. And visa's to other countries are tightly controlled.
All in all, I've enjoyed Mr. Nichols' articles on Iran, but I've read enough to know that while refreshing, his vision seems obscured or 'veiled' much of the time.
Very well said, nuconvert!
Thanks for the ping!
Let Freedom Ring ~ Bump!