Covering the elections as a reporter for Newsweek, Bahari witnessed bloodshed on June 20 2009 as widespread demonstrations broke out. “As a teenager in 1979 in Tehran, I was in these very same streets witnessing the Revolution” Bahari told the audience “Then 30 years later, in 2009, with the tension amongst supporters of Mousavi, the same things occurred in these same streets until the crackdown by Revolutionary Guard”.
Bahari was arrested at his mother’s house the next day, June 21st, and taken to the notorious Elvin prison.
In a bizarre Kafka-esque scenario, he was detained and relentlessly interrogated for weeks. He was informed that the Iranian authorities knew that he was a spy, and that furthermore, they knew he was a spy working directly under orders from four separate agencies; the CIA, Israeli Mossad, British MI-5 and Newsweek. He was informed by his captors that “all American magazine editors are put in place by the CIA”.
Bahari’s work for the BBC and Newsweek were used as evidence against him. The Daily Show conducted an interview with Bahari in a coffee shop in Tehran. Despite the fact that the show of Comedy Central is a satire program, the interview was used as “evidence” against him.
Bahari describes his time in captivity as an attempt by the paranoid, totalitarian Revolutionary Guard trying to find a scapegoat for the failings of their government and system of control. He never informed on innocent people as the Revolutionary Guard tried to force him to do
Eventually enough international pressure was exerted upon the Iranian government and US diplomats successfully negotiated his release.
In addition to his own personal story, Mr Bahari gave a brief history of the Iran/U.S. relationship over the last 60 years.
While the U.S. was worried about communism and growing Russian influence in Iran, the British were actively working to weaken and destabilize the current government. The Iranians were attempting to capitalize on America’s concerns
The CIA instigated the 1953 Coup de Tat and backed the Shah, who was seen as the figurehead of the American Empire (the newest in a long line of imperialist occupations) by Iranians
This was the start of a long history of human rights abuses and torture. The Shah became almost megalomaniacal in his totalitarian control over all forms of expression, and he began his mission to build up the Iranian Army into the biggest & best in the world. The U.S. simply wanted Iran as a launch pad for operations, and were not overly concerned with the actions and activities of regime
Eventually it all exploded with the infamous 1979 revolution. The Shah was removed from power and Iranian/American relations were radically altered.
In addition to the brief history of Iran/U.S. relations, clips from Bahari’s BBC doc were shown, and excerpts from his book were shared with the audience. Afterwards a Q&A session was held.
One gentleman asked about the hypothetical results of an Israeli attack. Bahri conjectured that the inherent nationalism in Iran would bring people together to rally around the government. The sense of national identity is so strong that even internal dissidents would be active in fighting on behalf of the Iranian nation.
Poverty in Iran was another topic discussed briefly.The discussion concluded with Bahari’s assessment on the positions of the U.S. in regards to Iran, and does the current situation mean inevitable war? Bahari essentially said that in his estimation, the Pentagon & State Department were “not hungry for war” with Iran, and that there were still plenty of avenues to be taken in diplomatic relations.
Let’s hope he is right.
- Maziar Bahari on the Iranian Jailers Who Tortured His Family (kambiz.wordpress.com)
- Iran ‘harassing’ relatives of journalists working for BBC Persian Television (guardian.co.uk)