Cyrus on: PRI’s The World (June 11, 2010)

Dear Friends,

My piece on the one-year anniversary of last year’s controversial election in Iran is airing today. In the piece, we hear from two young Iranians who talk about their frustration with what’s happened since June 12, 2009, and from Mohammed Sadeghi, the Iranian-German behind Mousavi’s Facebook page and from Golnaz Esfandiari, the Iranian-American reporter with Radio Free Europe in Prague.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM –
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM –
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM –
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM –

You can also likely find it on your local public radio station, and The World’s site later in the day and also on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my friend and colleague, Clark Boyd from The World’s tech desk at his new home in Brussels, Belgium.

Lemme know if you hear it!


Cyrus on: PRI’s The World (February 11, 2010)

Dear Friends,

My piece on watching the 22nd of Bahman protests with Austin Heap, Roozbeh Pournader and Behrang Barzin live from Parisoma will be on today’s show.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM –
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM –
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM –
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM –

You can also likely find it on your local public radio station, and The World’s site later in the day and also on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!


Mousavi: “In the green movement, every citizen is a media outlet.”

Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi was interviewed by reformist website Kalame earlier this week, which was translated by Khordad88, and included this notable quote that likely will be championed by the blogosphere. I’m still unconvinced as to how much long-term difference all of the reformists’ online activity will make (remember, we’re coming up on eight months of Ahmadinejad’s second term), but it’s still interesting nonetheless.

The caption on the above image reads: “We will make the 22nd of Bahman, 1388 (February 11, 2010) green!”

Mousavi says he will continue fight for reform
February 2, 2010

آیا شما نماینده و سخن گویی در خارج دارید؟

در جنبش سبز هر شهروند یک رسانه است و راه سبز هیچ نماینده و سخن گویی در خارج ندارد. یکی از زیبایی های فضای سبز آن است که همه حرفهای خود را می زنند و این حرکت در یک فضای تعامل گسترش می یابد. بنده هم به عنوان یک همراه نظرات و پیشنهادات خودم را در این فضا مطرح می کنم.ا

Do you have a representative or a spokesperson outside the country?

In the green movement, every citizen is a media outlet. But the green path does not have a representative or spokesperson outside the country. This is one of its beauties. Everyone can talk about their ideas and the movement expands within a collaborative environment. As one of the members of the movement, I, too, will express my comments and suggestions in this environment.

Newsweek: 118 Days, 12 Hours, 54 Minutes

I’m a little behind, but I just read Maziar Bahari’s account of his 118 days in an Iranian prison in Newsweek. It’s frightening to say the least, and confirms similar accounts I’ve heard by others who have had the pleasure of Evin Prison’s hospitality.

Robert Mackey in The Lede blog writes:

Mr. Bahari’s account of his 118 days in captivity offers a fascinating insight into the government’s attempts to understand and stifle the dissent that followed the election. It is often a harrowing read, but his description of being pressed about the meaning of his appearance on “The Daily Show,” in addition to being absurd, points to the apparent difficulty his interrogators had in distinguishing between the work of spies and the work of journalists. Mr. Bahari, who calls his main interrogator “Mr. Rosewater” because of the cologne he wore, recalls:

I saw the flicker of a laptop monitor under my blindfold. Then I heard someone speaking. It was a recording of another prisoner’s confession. “It’s not that one,” said the second interrogator. “It’s the one marked ‘Spy in coffee shop.’ ” Mr. Rosewater fumbled with the computer. The other man stepped in to change the DVD. And then I heard the voice of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

Only a few weeks earlier, hundreds of foreign reporters had been allowed into the country in the run-up to the election. Among them was Jason Jones, a “correspondent” for Stewart’s satirical news program. Jason interviewed me in a Tehran coffee shop, pretending to be a thick-skulled American. He dressed like some character out of a B movie about mercenaries in the Middle East—with a checkered Palestinian kaffiyeh around his neck and dark sunglasses. The “interview” was very short. Jason asked me why Iran was evil. I answered that Iran was not evil. I added that, as a matter of fact, Iran and America shared many enemies and interests in common. But the interrogators weren’t interested in what I was saying. They were fixated on Jason.

“Why is this American dressed like a spy, Mr. Bahari?” asked the new man.

“He is pretending to be a spy. It’s part of a comedy show,” I answered.

“Tell the truth!” Mr. Rosewater shouted. “What is so funny about sitting in a coffee shop with a kaffiyeh and sunglasses?”

“It’s just a joke. Nothing serious. It’s stupid.” I was getting worried. “I hope you are not suggesting that he is a real spy.”

“Can you tell us why an American journalist pretending to be a spy has chosen you to interview?” asked the man with the creases.

Also, for the record, Jason Jones is Canadian, not American.

Karim Sadjadpour: Iran After the Election (Oct. 1, 4 pm, UC Berkeley)

My cousin and Iran analyst extraordinaire, Karim Sadjadpour, will be speaking this Thursday on the UC Berkeley campus to discuss:

the impact of Iran’s elections on the balance of power within Iran and on its foreign policy. Sadjadpour will also assess the implications of recent events on US policy options.

The Travers Lecture Series on US Foreign Policy is co-sponsored by the Institute of International Studies and the Institute of Governmental Studies. Throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, the IIS and the IGS will co-sponsor a continuing series of lectures and seminars on the foreign policy challenges facing the Obama Administration.

Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He joined Carnegie after four years as the chief Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group based in Tehran and Washington, D.C. A leading researcher on Iran, Sadjadpour has conducted dozens of interviews with senior Iranian officials, and hundreds with Iranian intellectuals, clerics, dissidents, paramilitaries, businessmen, students, activists, and youth, among others.

October 1, 2009
4:00 pm
Barrows Hall
Lipman Room, 8th Floor

Cyrus speaking in Grand Rapids, MI (Oct. 6, 2009)

I have the honor of speaking at the “Emerging Technologies & Media Mythologies” conference at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Tuesday, October 6, 2009.

I’ll be the Tuesday lunchtime speaker, where I’ll be talking about the Iranian Internet, before and after the recent election — I’ll be drawing from my forthcoming book, “The Internet of Elsewhere,” (Rutgers University Press, 2011).

I’m truly flattered to be invited to take the place of Iranian journalist and human rights activist, Akbar Ganji who was unable to attend.

I’m not sure I have any readers in Michigan, but if so, please don’t hesitate to come say hi!

World Politics Review: Iran’s Long History of Online Opposition

Cyrus Farivar | 01 Sep 2009

On June 20, 2009, as she watched demonstrators at an Iranian reformist protest gather on Tehran’s Kargar Avenue, Neda Agha-Soltan, 27, was suddenly shot in the chest and killed, ostensibly by a nearby Basij militiaman. Had this tragic incident taken place just a few years earlier, it might have been lost to history. As it happened, however, two separate amateur videos of Neda’s shooting and subsequent death were quickly posted online, where they spread virally around the Internet.

If bearded ayatollahs were the iconic image of Iran’s 1979 revolution, the tragic killing of this young Iranian woman has become the symbol of the 2009 post-election demonstrations. Her death instantly became a rallying cry against the violent government crackdown on protesters and reformists in Iran. It even spurred international efforts, including one called NedaNet, to help Iranians gain more unfiltered access to the Internet.

In the immediate aftermath of the Iranian election, Internet users around the world found themselves glued to their computers, transfixed by the slow but steady stream of information trickling out of Iran. Many Iranians inside Iran suddenly found themselves transformed into accidental citizen journalists, passing on information through Twitter, Facebook and other social networking Web sites.

This explosion of online activity could not have happened to the same degree, or in the same way, anywhere else in the Middle East. Indeed, according to CIA statistics, with 23 million Internet users, Iran has the 14th highest number of people by country online, just behind Canada. As importantly, Iranians have had a lot of practice dealing with government constraints placed on new technology.

“If you look at all the technology that’s come into Iran, there’s always been some sort of struggle towards it,” says Shahram Sharif of “When the telegraph entered Iran, it was against the law; you couldn’t use it. Later, its use became OK. And then the fax, no one could fax anything. Then video cameras were against the law, and then they became available.”

With regards to the Internet, these constraints ranged from more basic filtering to the regime’s co-opting of the medium itself. What unfolded in Iran in the weeks following the election was just the latest chapter in a long story of the struggle between a young, educated and wired population butting heads with a theocratic state.

For more, click here.

Sadly, World Politics Review has a paywall, but you can get a free trial by signing up here, or if you email me, I’ll send you a copy of the whole piece.

Thanks for coming to BayFF last night!

Thanks to all who showed up (and participated online!) at BayFF last night to talk tech, Iran and all kinds of other stuff. It was a pleasure to speak with Danny O’Brien again and meet Jacob Appelbaum of Tor for the first time. Thanks also to David Farris, Alex Farivar and Nate Cardozo for coming and supporting me.

Also big ups to Sean Savage (who I’ve written about before, and first met six years ago!) and PariSoMa for organizing this event and making their space available to us.

If I met you last night and I didn’t give you a business card, but you want to contact me, do so here. My email is in the upper right of this page.

Finally, I’m giving away five green wristbands like these:

to the first five people who email me, leave a comment on Facebook, send me a Twitter message or otherwise get in touch with me with the word: #freeiranwrist


Update (8:28 am Pacific): We’re down to four!
Update (10:00 am Pacific): Three left!
Update (12:06 pm Pacific): Two!
Update (10:44 am Pacific, August 5): All gone! Thanks!

Update (10:30 am Pacific): Full video of the event is here and after the jump:

Read more“Thanks for coming to BayFF last night!”

AP: Wife: Iran Reform Politician’s Confession Forced

If you can, spare a thought for former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who I had the pleasure of meeting in November 2007 here in Oakland, as seen above.

The Associated Press:

BEIRUT (AP) — The wife of a prominent pro-reform Iranian politician said Monday her husband was forced into confessing he helped fuel post-election riots as part of a plot to topple the government and said he appeared drugged days before the trial.

The contention by Fahimeh Mousavinejad came as opposition groups claimed the government’s prosecution of about 100 activists for leading protests of the disputed election results was a propaganda show.

Mousavingejad’s husband, former Vice President Mohammad Abtahi, looked gaunt and disheveled when he confessed in a televised broadcast during the opening session of the mass trial on Saturday.

Mousavinejad said she was under pressure from authorities not to talk about her husband’s trial — or, if she spoke, only to support his confessions. Still, she denounced his testimony as coerced and said he appeared drugged when she saw him two days before the trial.

”No one anywhere in the world would believe the confessions of someone whose lawyer hasn’t seen him even for one moment, or someone who has been in solitary confinement for 45 days,” Mousavinejad, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The broadcast confessions, plus a warning Sunday that opposition figures who criticize the trial will be prosecuted, were seen as an effort to intimidate the reformist movement led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to be the rightful winner of the election. The claim that the confessions were staged also undermined the credibility of the trials.

PBS MediaShift: Century-Old Groundwork Fuels Internet Interest in Iran Today

I just penned this for PBS’ MediaShift:

by Cyrus Farivar, August 3, 2009

A couple of years ago, while browsing in a Philadelphia bookstore, I found a small red hardback book. Its worn woven cover was used, but in decent condition. The side of the book, in a matching faded red background, had a small vaguely Islamic curved label that reads in gold lettering: Mission for my Country / His Imperial Majesty Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi Shahanshah of Iran.

This was the Shah’s autobiography, published by Hutchinson & Co. in London, in 1960. I happily paid $10 for it and took it home. But I never read it. It was a curiosity more than anything. Plus, the color photo of the Shah on the title page, dressed in a light gray suit with a red tie, reminded me of one of my great uncles. His dark bushy eyebrows framed his eyes that stare squarely back off the page, while his black and gray hair still showed echoes of his youth at the age of 41.

The opening line of the book, which I’ve read many times, verges on the ridiculous:

I still clearly remember an incident when, as a young Crown Prince, I was at school in Switzerland. Our milkman asked me one day which I came from, and when I told him Persia, he said: “Oh yes, I have heard of Persia. That’s in America!”

I love that in a single sentence, Pahlavi manages to evoke two lofty images at once — that he was a “Crown Prince,” and Switzerland, a safe, quiet Alpine country where international royalty stow away their cash and their children. But as silly as this episode may seem now, the Shah, as a Crown Prince, was helping to foment the beginnings of Iran’s reputation in Europe and North America: he was one of many Iranians who were initially educated in Europe — especially France and neighboring francophone Switzerland.

The Shah himself is part of an unacknowledged groundwork of reputation that has been laid between the West and Iran. And it’s precisely for this reason that many Iranians and non-Iranians in America today are so compelled by what’s going on in Iran in a way that would be unlikely if such post-election turmoil was going on in another country in the region. We’ve been primed.