14 March 2010

Criticism of Iran's regime works

An interview with Mohammad Reza Heydari in Aftenposten 16 February 2010, the day before he was granted political asylum in Norway.

Criticism of Iran's regime works

By JOHN Harbo

- Iranian diplomats abroad are loosing confidence in the regime. 27 envoys in Asia and Europe have resigned from their positions, but the regime has prevented this from coming out.

It’s Mohammed Reza Heydari who says this. He was consul at the Iranian embassy in Oslo until the end of the year when he quit his post in protest against the developments in Iran where the authorities now are cracking down on the popular opposition.

- 27 of my colleagues in Asia and Europe have resigned from their positions, but the regime has prevented them from coming out with this, says Heydari to Aftenposten.
Heydari openly criticized the regime after he broke with the embassy, and this triggered harsh reactions from the Iranian side.

- Before I went out publicly they threatened me. A delegation was sent from Tehran to talk to me. They wanted me to publicly deny everything I had said.

- You did not do it. Was it a difficult decision?

- Yes, they wanted me to tell them that everything I had said was a lie. Originally I wanted to resign and go home silently, but colleagues in Tehran told me to stay in Norway and speak out. But it was difficult. My family, especially my wife's brothers are under enormous pressure.

- Does your decision and the fact that colleagues in other countries also want to break with the regime, mean that it is now losing support?

- Yes, also in Tehran colleagues, regular employees in the Foreign Service, have taken part in demonstrations on the people's side. 32 were arrested, and 12 are still in prison.

- How should the West react to Iran?

- It is important for the Iranian people that you condemn the actions. These condemnations must continue. Now the U.S. and EU for the first time condemn Iran for human rights violations rather than criticize the nuclear program.

- Are political protests enough. Would not economic sanctions be more effective?

- The most important thing is to stop the regime’s terror and violence. Economic sanctions must not harm the people, but those in power and the regime. My suggestion is that Western countries do not give representatives of the regime entry permits and do not have talks with them. Bank accounts in Western banks may be blocked. And it is very important that the EU and other countries do not allow children of those in power to come to the West to study when Iranian students are being thrown out of universities, abused and killed in the street.

- You talk about those in power. The religious leadership and the Revolutionary Guards are the two power factors today. And the Guards control important parts of the Iranian economy. Is it possible to target the them directly?

- Several companies that are controlled by the Revolutionary Guards are operating in the United States and Europe. They do not do this openly, but it is up to western intelligence to figure out who they are, and shut them down, block bank accounts and not give entry permits to the Revolutionary Guards people. They buy equipment that are meant for civil purposes, but use it for military purposes.

Heydari broke with Iran in protest against the oppression, and he regards Mir Hossein Mousavi who lined up in the presidential election last summer as an important person in the current situation.

- But what does the opposition want. How many want change within the framework of the regime, and how many want to remove it?

- The opposition who are gathered under the green movement, include all strata of people, and democracy is the goal: release of political prisoners, free speech, free political parties, prevention of human rights violations, securing women's rights, free press and free elections under international control.

- Free elections must mean that there will be a regime change?

- It does. The Iranian people no longer want a religious regime.

- Will the Revolutionary Guards remain loyal in a settlement between the regime and the opposition?

- It has a small but powerful leadership, and many soldiers and members among ordinary people. Those who are further down in the system, will not be loyal when it comes to a settlement, says Mohammed Reza Heydari.

Facts abount Mohammed Reza Heydari:
  • Iranian diplomat. Broke with the regime at the end of the year.
  • Born in Tehran in 1966.
  • Educated at the Iranian Foreign Ministry's university.
  • Has served at various stations abroad for 20 years.
  • Is exited about the clear support for the Iranian opposition, and has applied for a residence permit in Norway.

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