Paris, 23 July (IPS) As international and national indignation about the abject farce shown on Iranian television last week continue unabated, it was revealed that the so-called documentary entitled “On the name of democracy” was suggested by a well-known interrogator and approved by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic.
The so-called documentary produced by the leader-controlled Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic (VVIR, or Iranian Radio and Television), a bad and poor imitation copy of those usually produced by the BBC, was an amalgam of short phrases and sentences extracted from lengthy “confessions” extracted in custody from Mrs. Haleh Esfandiari and Mr. Yahya Kian Tajbakhsh, two Iranian-born American academics arrested on May 2007 on charges of “conspiring against the State”.
It was Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, a high-ranking intelligence officer who suggested to Mr. Khameneh’i the idea of the sinister documentary
The picks were interjected with video clips of the so-called “Velvet” and “Orange” revolutions in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine and commentator concluding that the United States and President George W Bush were not only behind the political changes in the three countries, but also fomenting same process for Iran.
The clips and comments on the pictures apparently tried to connect the Wilson Centre and Soros Institute to the developments in Eastern Europe and central Asia, indirectly charging Esfandiari and Tajbaksh with having had the same aim in Iran.
“It was Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, a high-ranking intelligence officer specializing in the interrogation of political and intellectual dissidents who suggested to Mr. Khameneh’i the idea of preparing a documentary based on the confessions obtained from the detainees”, a source close to the Office of the Leader told Iran Press Service of condition of anonymity.
Mr. Shari’atmadatri, known among his victims and friends as “Brother Hoseyn”, is also a close and trusted advisor to the Leader, whom appointed him as Chief Editor of the hard line daily “Keyhan”, has a very long experience in obtaining confessions from political and intellectual opponents, being in charge of a number of confessions aired on Iranian televisions a decade ago.
In an article written day after the second part of the programme, Mr. Sharia’atmadari openly described the academics as “agents of the American and Israeli secret services” who, in the documentary, had “revealed small parts of their nefarious activities against the Islamic Republic”.
But contrary to what was expected, neither of the scholars offered any confession to the espionage charges brought against them by the Iranian judiciary.
"Five months have passed since I have been in Iran. An opportunity has now become available for me to talk about these things", the 67 years-old Mrs. Esfandiari, who heads the Middle East programme at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars told the viewvers, covered in neat Islamic dress and looking wrecked, eyes haggard, lips trembling, sitting in a comfortable looking apartment room.
She said that she and other individuals were involved in creating a network between foundations and research institutes in the United States and Iran.
"I have reached the conclusion that myself and these people created links in a chain of foundations and research institutes, in the name of democracy, in the name of empowering women, in the name of dialogue”, Mrs. Esfandiari added.
"These networks would have ultimately resulted in some very fundamental changes inside the Iranian system, meaning, in reality, to destabilise the regime", echoed Mr. Tajbakhsh, an urban planner, has worked for the Open Society Institute of US billionaire George Soros, which has been accused by Iran of seeking to topple its clerical rulers.
"Their philosophy was to establish an open society and with this they wanted to create a gap between the government and the people", Tajbakhsh said in the programme, stressing: "This would have resulted in creating a Western-style democracy in Iran by empowering non-government organisations.
"This would have meant creating a gap between the regime and the people through local civil society".
A third “participant” – dubbed by some as “Judah”-- at the sinister show, Mr. Ramin Jahanbaglou, an academic who has a Canadian citizenship detained on April 2006 on similar charges, helped the programme by insisting on Mrs. Esfandiari as being the one who introduced him to the conferences organized by the Wilson Woodrow and Soros centres “at which also were present American and Israeli intelligence agents”.
“As the detainees have clearly confessed, the United States has made efforts to foment chaos in the country, an act which can legally be pursued and through international institutions including the United Nations", Press TV, the new, all in English Iranian news channel commented.
Myself and these people created links in a chain of foundations and research institutes, in the name of democracy....
“The program's message was sinister and obvious: Washington in recent years has been manipulating the politics of many nations, including Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, working to spark velvet or soft revolutions in these countries. According to the documentary, that's the U.S. agenda for Iran as well — and that's what the Iranian Americans in custody have confessed to”, Press TV commentator concluded from the documentary.
However, most Iranian analysts agree that “as in the past, the so-called “documentary|” has backfired.
“These kind of confessions have a long history in the Islamic Republic. The Government, facing very hard times both at home and abroad, is hungry of diverting the public’s attention from bad economic and political situations. Contrary to what the authorities had wished, the documentary has made a tremendous propaganda for the colourful revolutions”, Mr. Ramin Ahmadi, a professor at the Yale University to the Persian service of the Voice of America.
“Every one knows that three academics can not be a danger for the regime. They also realize that this is just a ploy by the Government to increase its crackdowns. They ask themselves if this regime is so fragile as to fear three innocent people, why not try to emulate other colour revolutions?”, he added.
Ali Afshari, a former student’s leader and Mohsen Sazegara, a former high-ranking official, both explained the “inhuman” methods interrogators uses to coerce detainees into confessions.
“One is cut from outside word for months, no access to anything. Subjected to long hours of insomnia, to continued wrong information and news, even faked newspapers, to all kind of threats, mock executions, newspaper items reporting the death of loves ones, unabated psychological and physical pressures…. To the day the prisoner is finished, exhausted, ready to sign any thing against his release”, Mr. Afshari told the same Radio station, recalling from his own experience as prisoner.
“The documentary has created a wave of indignation in the international community against Iran, especially because the authorities have targeted innocent scholars like Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh, none of them involved with any anti-regime operation of any kind”, Mr. Sazegara commented.
Breaking the silence imposed by the authorities on the issue, the pro-reform daily “Hambastegi” (Solidarity) on Saturday criticised the interviews, saying: "We must accept that the era of televised confessions is over".
"If these people are spies then why are the ones who gave them classified information not introduced and detained? Would it not be better if the national media introduced these people as opponents of the Islamic republic after their intentions to oppose and overthrow have been proven in court?" it asked.
“The regime feels itself encircled, desperate, hence mass public executions in Tehran and in other major cities, stoning, the arrest of 16 students described as thugs and trouble-makers, massive crackdowns on women and young boys in the name of preserving islamic social behaviour, abduction of Mr. Mansour Osanlou, (the leader of the Tehran Bus Company’s drivers and personnel), alleged smashing of several espionage rings etc..”, wrote the pro-reform internet site “Roshangari”.
Faced with domestic and international outcry, supporters of the Government rallied behind Keyhan: “Confessions of three US agents proved Washington is after launching soft and velvet coups' not only in Iran, but also in many other independent countries. Those confessions have enraged the US statesmen and press, prompting them to react angrily”, hard line Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in his Friday sermon, adding that “this is an indication that the VVIR had perfectly hit its target: denouncing American soft and velvet plots”.
“This (the documentary) also shows that students, intellectual and feminist circles as well as the press had become the places from where to penetrate”, th e cleric warned, echoed, a day after, by Mr. Qolamhoseyn Elham, the official spokesman for the Government, -- who is also the Justice Minister, Chief of the President’s Bureau and Head of Anti-Drug Operations HQ -- stating that “They (scholars) had committed a criminal act against the security of the State. With their actions, they were intending to change the structures of the system from within”.
“For those who say that the statements were made under pressure, their appearance shows that they were natural comments", he told reporters, adding: “This was to show that we are not the kind who uses violence with our enemies and opponents. Giving the accused a hard time and pressuring them is not our policy. But it was necessary that the nature of the cultural onslaught was exposed".
He also denied US allegations the statements were made under pressure, pointing to the comfortable surroundings in which Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were filmed.
Mr. Ali Shakeri, a human rights campaigner, Parnaz Azima, a journalist for Radio Free Europe's Persian service Radio Farda and a Franco-Iranian, Ms Solouki, are all in Iranian prisons.
But Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer for Mrs. Esfandiari said ever since the scholar had been arrested, she had not been allowed to meet her. “This is totally illegal and therefore whatever she had said or would say are not to be considered as evidence against her”.
In an interview with the London and Paris-based internet newspaper “Rooz”, winner of the Noble Peace lawyer quotes Mrs. Esfandiari as to have told her ageing and sick mother in a telephone call at the end of In the Name of Democracy: ”I don’t know what else to do. I’m exhausted. Please, save me from here”. ENDS TV CONFESSIONS 24707