Mark the Faces of Your Friends – Report of an Iranian Blogger

2009/07/10

Published on TV-site “Tagesschau”
Source: http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/iran638.html
(translated into German most likely from Farsi, this is not indicated in the source)

Report of an Iranian blogger
“Mark the Faces of Your Friends!”
The situation of anti-regime-protests in Iran is about to move out of the world’s focus of attention – regardless of continuing massive intimidation, arrests, and censorship. An Iranian blogger living in German “exile” reports on the day-to-day repressions in his home country. All names have been changed. The name of the author, due to concerns about his and his family’s safety, is not being released.

Some time has passed now since the elections in Iran. Again and again I was tempted to return to my home country, and again and again my mother pleaded on the phone not to do it: “Stay there, it is safer”. She is right. Most of my friends have been released on bribary or are still in detention, their families still remaining without notice from them.

Numerous chats are being monitored
While I am here in Germany I get notice of Ashkan – a friend from Sweden – having returned to Iran. I call him. On recognizing my voice on the phone, he says: “Dear Poorya, I still have your books but will return them to you soon.” Then the connection breaks. I e-mail him, and we arrange a chat meeting. I remind him that neither yahoo messenger nor skype are safe, so we use google talk.

Intercepted at the airport
Ashkan tells me that one week after the election he decided to travel to Iran. On arrival at Tehran airport, his passport is confiscated. The officers provide him with an address which he is supposed to call for his passport. When doing so, he is checked all over his body, and he has to deliver personal items and his mobile phone. In a waiting room he joins dozens of other people who are in a similar situation.

“How many demonstrations did you attend?”
Several hours later he is called in. In room 34 two officials wait for him. One asks “How many demonstrations did you attend abroad?” Ashkan replies: “None!”. The younger officer says “You are very stupid!” They present him with photos of a demonstration in front of the embassy in Stockholm, many of them showing Ashkan’s face marked with a red circle. “Now take this pen and mark the faces of your friends, and tell us their names.”

“Did you say farewell to your mother?”
Ashkan says he went there on his own, whereupon one of the men punches his knee into Ashkan’s back, says: “Did you say farewell to your mother and father before coming here?” Another officer says: “Listen, boy, much tougher nuts than you have told us everything here. We stop at nothing when it comes to preserving law and order in this country, so don’t waste our time, and don’t put your health at risk”.

“Tell us your password!”
Ashkan marks seven faces on the photo and writes down their names. Suddenly one of the officers asks: “Why did you change your name and photo on facebook?” He shows him some prints of the closed facebook page. The officers demand that he reveals the password of his facebook account; then he has to leave the room.

“You don’t know your best friend?”
Half an hour later he is called in again. They present him with prints of facebook pages containing lists of photos and names of his facebook contacts. Ashkan has to write down their names and everything else needed for their identification. 15 persons are marked in red, the officers want more information about them. One of them is Ashkan’s best friend in Iran. He tries to just skip this face, but an officer notices his attempt: “You honestly want to tell me that you don’t know your best friend?”.

Aiming at body and soul
Ashkan tells me in our chat that in the 20 years of his life he has never been humiliated like that. At this point, our chat connection suddenly breaks down. Since then, Ashkan has disappeared and does not respond to my e-mails. I often think of him – is it his fault that the regime was able to identify some of their opponents? He is not to blame – it is the system which relentlessly smashes Iran’s youth. In the streets they aim at their heads, but in secluded rooms they go after their bodies and souls.

Intimidation by all means
The far reaching effects of intimidation are obvious when you look at the latest publications of the Iranian news agency “Fars”. Fars supports Ahmadinejad and is controlled by a group tightly interwoven with the Revolutionary Guard. They took close-up pictures of protesters in Tehran and published them under the headline “Pictures of some of the troublemakers”! The Website “Gerdab”, belonging to the Revolutionary Guard, uses exactly these pictures, marks the faces and encourages visitors to the site to provide information to help identifying those persons. Other pictures are captioned “identified”.

Encountering sites and pictures like that in the net, I always think of Ashkan and of how people in Iran at present are indoctrinated with fear and intimidation. I try in vain to call Ashkan on his mobile phone. There seems to be no connection. At his home, his sister answers the phone. “So you are Mr….?”, she asks cautiously. And then she tells me in a very low voice that Ashkan was arrested while taking part in the protests.

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