Omid Memarian

Monday, December 25, 2006

Election Backlash Against Ahmadinejad

Here is my piece in World Press, on the latest election in Iran.

"...In Iran, Tehran's city council elections are considered one of the most significant, after the presidential and parliamentary elections. It is believed that the political party which controls the city council has a better chance of sending its candidates to the parliament and to the top office, since they have greater access to the capital's financial resources. Ahmadinejad was the mayor of Tehran before his presidential election in June 2004..." (
(Photo: Arash Ashoorinia, )

Iran: Interview with Omid Memarian, Blogger and Human Rights Activist

Here is my interview with Mr. Hamid Tehrani in the Global Voices Website.
"HT: In your opinion is the content of political blogs written in Iran
different from political blogs written by Iranians outside the

OM: In Iran we can see how blogging has become a way around limitations, restrictions and lack of freedom of speech. In the United States, for example, we are not facing this issue. In Iran, political bloggers are at risk of prosecution, torture and jail. But in the United States, bloggers don’t feel that by writing about the politics they can change their lives in a terrible way. Blogging in Iran is not recognized as a serious medium by organizations and newspapers. But in this country there are many bloggers who professionally do blogging as a project. They are paid and they are committed to meet a set of standards. And some famous bloggers are also journalists. In Iran the restrictions in the political atmosphere mean bloggers, like
journalists, suffer from self censorship and also many consideration and fear of being prosecuted. Although many of them bravely talk under these circumstances their writing style is sometimes like poetry.

Readers should know how to interpret it. When I first started studying journalism at UC Berkeley journalism school it was very hard for me to change my style to be clear, direct, summarized and to the point. Now it has gotten better because of all the classes I took and mostly because I am really passionately keen to write in English and journalism school was the best field to develop my skills in writing.

Compared with the American blogs, many of the Iranian political blogs deal with domestic issues but not global events. The main concerns of the blogs are topics about the internal politics. However it reflects another characteristic of many political journalists who use the local factors in the analysis and comments."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ahmadinejad: Wrong Man, Wrong Place, Wrong Time!
(Published in

The mocking of Ahmadinejad's picture by students during the President’s unexpected visit of Amir Kabir University last week reflects a political trend of frustration in the Iranian society. "Down with the Dictator" and similar slogans were heard for the first time during the president’s speech a few days ago in Tehran; these messages are unlike other dominant messages typically utilized by the government’s modern propaganda machine.

Tehran is becoming more and more frustrating for President Ahmadinejad. Just last week, his followers lost the City Council elections in major cities including Tehran. Miscalculating the President's popularity, his supporters branched off from the conservative camp nominating their own candidates, who only resulted in a huge defeat; they only received 3 percent of the entire votes.

Ahmadinejad, who still thinks he is campaigning for the presidential office and is taking regular trips to different provinces, had promised to change people's lives after coming to power. He increased subsidies, expanded student loans, injected oil revenue into the market and focused on short term investments rather than long term ones. However, things have gotten progressively worse. Injecting money into the economy has caused inflation, more than 15 percent officially, over 18 percent unofficially.

Since the June 2005 presidential election, the press has been shut down dramatically, civil society has been suppressed strongly and activists arrested, interrogated and greatly intimidated. Since then, by choosing a harsh rhetoric on an international level, he has marginalized Iran more than ever, has provoked other countries against Iran and has drawn a grotesque picture of the country.

His actions have never stopped people from their struggle to achieve freedom, and have only painted a clearer picture of who President Ahmadinejad is! Now, just after one and a half years, Iranian youth who are eagerly seeking change and a better life, feel more desperate than ever.

Ahmadinejad's main agenda of developing nuclear technology, denying the Holocaust occurred and wiping off Israel from the map, have not brought any positive change to people’s lives. I was talking to one of my friends in Tehran who is from a middle class family... Meaning what? He generally shouldn’t have any real concerns about his living expenses. But he does. He told me how inflation has gone up quickly since last year. “But the oil revenue has doubled?”, I told him. “So perhaps it has changed life for Hamas or Hezbollah, but nor us”, he answered ironically.

It was not just him. I was chatting with a friend of mine, better to say my ex-colleague, who is from a religious family and lives nearby Azadi square, a poor to middle class district. He was somebody who believed that Ahmadinejad is a “clean” man. Meaning that, he is not corrupted. “But he is crazy”, she said. “He thinks people are brainless by saying stupid things about his connection to God or making nonsense statements about other countries,” he added.

As a journalist, I normally can not use what he said. It is not appropriate to call a president “crazy” or name his allegations “nonsense”. But that’s the way it is. Thankfully, I write sometimes in some places that I feel free to talk about what I hear in my daily life even from Berkeley, California.

It seems, Ahmadinejad’s populist campaign is becoming more and more limited. Harsh rhetoric against the international community has not brought any changes within the country. Even though this behavior buys him more time for a short while, he ultimately should deal with what he does and what he says. It is time for the former Mayor to learn what it sounds like when people speak out in anger.

Ahmadinejad is the wrong man, at the wrong place-- in the worst time: a rebel with a misguided cause, he does not belong in the president’s office, and even if he were ever to take on such a role, it should have been in the very beginning phases of a revolution in its infancy stages. As fate would have it, he took on the presidency just as the backlash of twenty-seven years of the Islamic government’s oppression is welling up

The short, noisy President of Iran has to think about the Post-Populist era…He has to present another miracle.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Still Working on a TV Piece....!!

I have been working hard on a TV piece at the Journalism School during the last few months. Now, my colleague and I are close to finishing. We spend lots of time at the TV lab to edit the piece. It is about the Iranian people living in California. I can not explain more about the subject now. But I think it is going to be finished in a couple of weeks and then, I will write more about it.

The above photo shows me in the editing room, 4 a.m. The longest night ever….we had to finish the script and provide a rough cut! It really took alot of time. I was exhausted and the next day I was sick with the bad flu. However, this was no reason to stop working. We hope to find somewhere to air our piece…..

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Trial….Postponed Again!
Still, officials responsible for the arbitrary detention and alleged torture are free!!!

“On December 3, branch 1059 of Tehran’s Judiciary commenced a trial against four men, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, Omid Memarian, and Javad Gholam Tamimi, on charges of “participation in formation of groups to disturb national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “dissemination of disinformation to disturb public opinion by writing articles for newspapers and illegal internet sites,” and “interviews with foreign radio broadcasts.” The court has held one closed-door session, and the trial is scheduled to resume on December 17.”

Yes, it has postponed again, because the judge was sick. I don’t know when this story will finish, but it is getting so frustrating. Going to trial for months and months is a tiring game for journalists and activists in Iran. It wastes their capabilities badly… Still far from home, again, I feel the solitary confinement atmosphere, living under the light for a week and the other nasty things, even here in Berkeley.

Here is a part of Human Rights Watch letter to condemn Iran’s judiciary to continue abusing us:

“The detention of the men by Iranian security forces has been fraught with allegations of serious abuse. In September and October 2004, Tehran’s prosecutor general, Saeed Mortazavi, orchestrated the secret detentions and alleged torture of 21 bloggers and staff of internet news sites known to be critical of the government. Following domestic and international protests, the authorities ordered the release of all the detainees. But the release order came only after Mortazavi had personally coerced the four bloggers now on trial to sign written confessions as a condition for their release, they said. While the Judiciary dropped the charges against the 17 others, it prosecuted those four.”

(I have talked this picture in January 2005 out of the court. Dr. Shirin Ebadi (left) and Nasrin Sotoudeh, attorneys who represent bloggers’ case are discussing about our meeting with the judge. Shirin Ebadi is the 2003 Noble Peace laureate, is asking me some deatail question about detention and people I visited in detention. I took this picture with my cell phone.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is American Support for Middle Eastern Dissidents the Kiss of Death?

Here is an article by Michael Rubin in Middle Eastern Outlook Online. It basically talks about different approaches about the US support to Iranian dissidents. During the last years, I've written a few articles and commentaries about this topic.