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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  December 20, 2016 12:30am-1:00am GMT

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a track has been driven into a christmas market in berlin. —— truck. nine people were killed and up to 50 injured. police have arrested the apparent driver of the truck, who'd earlier fled the scene and whose nationality is not known. russia's ambassador to turkey, andrey karlov has been shot dead by an off duty police officer. russian officials have described it as an act of terror. and this video is trending on bbc.com: the us electoral college has cleared the way for donald trump to become the next american president. they ignored a 5 million—signature petition urging them to defy tradition and choose mrs clinton, who received over two million more votes than mr trump. that is all from me. stay with us on bbc news. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. reading the political mood inside
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iran is notoriously difficult. there are so many competing interests and pressures. after last year's nuclear deal, it seemed the relatively moderate president rouhani was in the ascendancy. but my guest today has reason to see things differently. homa hoodfar is a canadian—iranian academic recently released after 112 days locked up in the notorious evin prison. why did a respected anthropologist become an enemy of the iranian state? homa hoodfar, welcome to hardtalk.
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thank you. you have had the most extraordinary experience inside iran recently. now, thank goodness, you are out of evin prison, out of iran. how are you feeling? you had a lot of health problems. how are you feeling? yes, ifeel much better. i mean, i'm still not really recovered, because my health really got very poor while i was there, but it is getting better every day. and your spirits must be...? my spirit is very high. i told my colleagues i have never smiled so much in my life. so, despite all the pain, i continue to smile. now i appreciate life and freedom in a completely different way. we'll get back to that, what it has meant to you, the experience and getting away from that experience. but let's take this chronologically. why were you in iran early this year?
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i know you're iranian, you have citizenship, but you study and work in canada. what took you back to iran? i had gone to visit some school friends, who were supposed to come with me, and we were supposed to be travelling a little bit in iran, especially in the turkish area, which i had always wanted to go to, but because i have no family there, i was hesitant to go. so she encouraged me to go. a very political time in iran, because they had parliamentary elections. yes. well, she said if you come with me, i'm going to visit my family, and then there's also parliamentary elections, then you can also observe. because i had never been in iran during parliamentary elections. i guess the point is the anthropologist in you felt that there was an opportunity, notjust to have a nice visit to iran, but to do some research work as well? well, i was going to do some research work, but my research work
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for my project was archival work, so i did go to the parliament library and got some documents, because, essentially, when the iranian constitutional had happened... but once once you are an anthropologist, you are a researcher at all times. you can never take the lenses off, being an anthropologist. so any interaction you have with people is a form of anthropology. i'm fascinated by that, but i wonder whether now that you are here, having had the whole year of experience, whether you would concede you were extraordinarily naive, maybe complacent and naive, to think that you could go to iran during a politically tumultuous time, ask questions of people on the street about how they are feeling about politics, and to think that the authorities, giving your canadian citizenship, might not wonder what on earth he were doing. no, i was not naive. i had been going back and forth before. the presidential elections
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are actually the most important elections, but it is also the time people discuss... but also, i didn't... i had not intended to ask questions. i didn't ask questions from people, i was just listening mostly, and i was reading newspapers. because when you read, you walk in the street, you see the posters, you read the various newspapers, because each have their own perspectives. it gives you a different take on the issue, although i could read the newspapers sitting in montreal. the bottom line is you upset people. one way or another, there were people inside the government who decided that your presence in iran was a problem. how did the events unfold that saw you ultimately locked up inside evin prison? because you weren't locked up immediately but byjune, i think of 2016, you were a prisoner. during the elections, things were fine. i was happy to be in iran,
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and i thought i had a sense of what parliament meant for women, because a lot of the candidates are disqualified, like 65% of all the women who had registered to be a candidate, and had met the qualifications outlined on the conditions, were actually disqualified. 50% of men who had applied to be a candidate, including some who had been mps before, were disqualified. so i had never thought parliaments were that important in iran anyway, because it is the appearance of democratic elections. but not really a representative democracy as we know it. i want to come back to your take on iranian politics and particularly the role of women in iran later. but, for people who do not know your story, evin prison is notorious around the world, is a pretty tough place to be.
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you, if you don't mind me saying, are a woman who is not used to that sort of condition, and yet, for all of your protestations of innocence, byjune, the iranians were determined to lock you up. they accused you of "dabbling in feminism" and challenging them on security issues. so my question is, how come you could not persuade them that you were just an innocent anthropologist? well, that has got a lot to do with internal politics, domestic politics of iran. the point is that interest of yours, in the way women are politically represented in muslim societies, worried them. yes. i just want to know... i suppose frankly what i want to know is when you were put inside evin and locked up, sometimes in solitary confinement, how desperate did you feel, how scared did you feel? i didn't feel scared because,
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of course, if you are iranian and you are involved in social science... social sciences are considered a criminal activity. a lot of iranian colleagues who would do research and then publish their work, if it contradicts the state ideology, then they are going against the national security, they are given five or six years, sometimes ten years in jail. so you kind of always know that threat is there. i was not feeling frightened, but i was feeling very disappointed because i had thought through my scholarship i had been always fair. i was one of the people who, "yes, i'm a feminist, yes, i am a secularist, yes, i disagree absolutely with compulsory hijab," which was one of their concerns, but i have no hesitation to give, say, when something positive has happened in iran, to talk about it all right about it.
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they interrogated you for many hours at a time. i think at one point they said, "you may well leave here dead. you might be here for 15 years." yes, at some point they told me... well, i got them engaged a lot of discussion. i think sometimes i found that they were interested in what i had to say, but then, when they were trying to intimidate me... because that's part of the technique. they tell you, you are going to get ten or 15 years. and, at your age, by then you are dead and we will put you in a casket and send you back to canada. and i said, well, as long as you don't bury me like that here. but also, at my age, i am 65 years, i have lived the life i have chosen, i have achieved many of my goals, and that's more than most people can claim, therefore if the last ten years or five years of whatever is left of my life i am
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spending in evin prison, so be it. i don't know whether you would use the word torture, but there are some things about what they did to you that strike me as psychologically something akin to that. for example, i think they found the music that was played at your husband's funeral, because he died not so long ago. and they played that to you in an effort to sort of break your spirit. well, notjust about me, but i observed also with other women who later were my cell—mates, that they were trying to make them cry. i guess this was one thing that they had not been able to do to me. because i accepted my fate from the day they locked me in. i said ten years. 15 years, five years. anyway, i accepted that fate right away. so what else could they intimidate me with? so then they played the music, saying, "we wanted you to remember canada." and i asked them to stop. i said, i always remember canada and my family, you don't need to play the music.
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they said, "no, we want you to hear." they continued, as i argued i did not want to. and in the end, i got so frustrated, i told them, i guess this is part of the islamic human rights. because they continuously told me, we don't need international human rights, we have islamic human rights. but once i said, "i guess this is part of islamic human rights," they stopped. on another occasion they came and brought a picture of my mother looking very sad, standing at my father's graveyard, in london. they said, "oh, we brought a picture from your family so it reminds you of them." i said, "i do not need a picture, my family is in my mind. i do not need pictures for it to remember them." but they said, "anyway, we have brought it." i was behind a one—way mirror. i could not see them, but they pushed the picture for me and i saw what it was. i mean, i knew what they were doing to me, but nonetheless
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it was upsetting. did you try to record the nature of the conversations you had with your interrogators? after the third day, i was in the cell, blindfolded, going downstairs in the basement for interrogation. then i actually did decide, while i am here, i'm an anthropologist. participant observation is the main method of anthropologist, that is what distinguishes us from sociologists. it is not the fieldwork i would have chosen to do, and i could not do it anyway even if i wanted in this method. so i started to make mental notes, and then when i would come back to the cell, because i could not sleep there and they refuse to give me a sleeping pill, but all i had was my toothbrush and the walls of the cell are marble stone because they don't want prisoners to carve on it. so i started to just write
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on the wall, just pretending i was writing, just like writing on the board. so i continued making notes every day. i had headings and subheadings and i would come the next day, a new thing would happen, i would think about it and maybe revise my note and i continued... so, in a way, you were trying to empower yourself by turning this awful experience into a form of anthropological research? idid... not trying, i did turn it into... but, yes, now when i think of it, yes, i did empower myself in that way. basically they were using their power over me, but i empowered myself by doing the same thing to them. we know, and it comes back to this point i suppose about the context in which you found yourself in prison, we know that quite a number of dual nationals, canadians, americans,
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and indeed british citizens, who also have iranian citizenship, have been imprisoned on charges which many critics regard as without merit. made up. now, one of them, which is a case that has become very well—known in the uk is that of nazanin zaghari—ratcliffe. she's a young woman in her 30s with a child in iran. she'd been there visiting family. she was arrested. the child is now currently staying with the grandparents in tehran. you met her. yes, i spent one night with her in a cell. i was in solitary confinement. i guess there were people coming to inspect the prison so they moved me from solitary to a room where nazanin and two other women were. i had heard of her name. i knew that she was british—iranian. that night we were there, we chatted mostly about her daughter and how she felt. and the next day they moved her from that cell. how was she?
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she was, of course, very upset. i know that she missed her daughter terribly. and she was quite confused about why they have held her, but they kept promising her they would let her go and free her, and they asked her to sign documents, which i guess she had, but they had also told her not to talk about this to other cell—mates, so she was a bit hesitant to tell me the whole story. but i met her also on the day that i went to court. she had got initially ten years. that was the day they took me to court with her. we could see each other. we said hi, but we were not allowed to talk to each other. so she is now convicted. five years for spying. we understand from her family that when you were released in september, she, for a short time, believed that might be a signal that she too might be on her way out.
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now, of course, that hasn't happened. can you imagine what she must be feeling like right now? well, i know from other cell—mates that had met her, before my release, that she has been very upset. she cries a lot. she has gone through, i think, maybe depression. she really misses her daughter and she is worried because her home and her husband are here. for a country and state that claims the family is the most important unit and they respect it and encourage people to have children, in fact, one thing they have against me is i did not have a child of my own. when they released me, i actually thought they were releasing nazanin. and on the tail of her freedom they are releasing me. i was quite surprised when i finally got to the jet and saw
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that she was not there. you talk about your situation and as though you were a pawn in a political game. i want you to reflect on this. there have been other prisoners in iran, i am thinking of one americanjournalist who ultimately was released. it was clear, the us was quite open, there had been negotiations and a sort of deal done that involved some financial transactions as well between the iranian and us governments. when you were hot news in canada and there was a campaign of your colleagues and friends and supporters demanding... or a campaign on your behalf from the canadian government, the government said, we want her out, the iranians must release her, but we will not do any sort of deal to get her out. what is your feeling now on whether there is any legitimate grounds for negotiation and deal—making when it comes
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to these situations? that's a hard question. i was not actually of much value to the iranians in terms of negotiation. for one thing, i had accepted my fate, for the other thing, i guess they would have loved for me to be an american or british citizen. iwas... of two other nationalities, irish and canadian, which, in terms of international politics of iran, does not play a major role. so that was one aspect. but also i know that because we have an elected body of government, which is usually the president and the minister, and non—elected bodies, which is the supreme leader and then the judiciary and the revolutionary guard police, radio and television, which are the monopoly of the state in iran, and, of course, some very huge charity organisations. the revolutionary guard especially has been unhappy about the deal, even though the supreme leader
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obviously had agreed, because without his agreement, no deal would have been finalised. but they are trying to embarrass their elected body. are you guessing, or do you know this? well, it is not only me. in my case, there is but are baquer namazi and siamak namazi, but who are dual national american iranians. baquer namazi is 80 years old and he has been a unicef employee and working in various countries in the middle east. there are many others, other dual nationals. they keep them in terms of, especially say nazanin, if she was an ordinary prisoner, after her court case was finished, she should have been
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transferred to prison, not the detention centre, but she is locked away in a detention centre. she is in a special part of the evin complex. let's get back to the big picture which you touched upon earlier when you talk to about the way in which, over the years, you — you believe — have always shown great respect to iran and you have not been one of its fiercest critics and you have tried to place the role of women, for example, in a context in iran. you haven'tjust been out right critical of everything they do. do you now look at iran and think, maybe i got it wrong, maybe i was too soft on them, maybe i've misjudged how hard line and how ideological the iranian government is ready to be? what has happened is that in more recent years, the revolutionary guard and conservatives, especially hardline conservatives, have lost ground, and they have lost the legitimacy maybe they carried for decades, they are now a bit desperate to hang onto power, to create fear. i am wondering, in today's iran, when you look at the role of women,
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which is one of the specialisms of yours, do you see things getting better or worse? well, it depends which class you talk. a lot of the traditional women, who then because of their religious beliefs, theirfamily would not let them engage. they go to the university and get jobs, or be independent. they have had that much right. but even they don't want the compulsory hijab. the fact is whether they cover you by law, you take the veil off, or you put the veil on, the choice is taken away from you. let's bring it back to the personal before we close. you are an iranian citizen, but now, of course, having had the experience you'vejust had in evin prison, i would imagine it is pretty
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unlikely you will be going back to iran any time soon? well, i am not planning to go back. do you think you will ever go back to the home... it is your native land. well, one never knows the future. at the moment, i retired because i have a lot of writing project to finish. and now, of course, i'm going to write about my experience and research in anthropology of interrogation, which i call my research project in evin. i'm going to write about that. i'm just interested in what is in your heart. i think you said to somebody after you came out that you felt so brokenhearted that your own country could have behaved in this way. i wonder, in a sense, why you were so surprised, given everything that we know about iran since the revolution. because i felt the question of women, and talking about that, and working with the constitution
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of iran, which, thank god, i knew more about the constitution of iran than my interrogators knew, so i could defend myself. it gives that right of people to dissent. i mean, when i am in iran, i put the scarf on, but i talk about the fact that i oppose it. it is the law, but i have the right to campaign to change the law. they cannot take away this right from people. i felt... because they continuously claimed when they interrogated me, that they have to to defend the revolution, and ifelt all the way a revolution betrayed, because the revolution that happened was not about... the major demand was about democracy. and, yes, independence, too, but it was not about some other institution, institution to force their will on the rest of the population. the similarity of their approach to what it was at the end of the shah's time, which was, you know, claiming more opposition and therefore claiming, commanding more resources
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and putting more people injail. and becoming ever more authoritarian. therefore the alienation of the population from the state increased. it is happening again. you say that now you see similarities between the end of the shah and the current state of the islamic republic. in a word, are you optimistic about iran's future, or not? i am optimistic about iran's future. not necessarily about iran as a state, but if you walk in the streets of tehran and other major cities, as i hearfrom my colleagues, that the citizens know their rights. and once the citizens know their rights and the possibilities, they are not going to just put up with a lot of oppression, and that makes me optimistic. but i am not sure where the state is heading. we have to end there, but homa hardfar, it's great to see
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you in the studio and thank you for being on hardtalk. thank you for the invitation. hello there. our weather is set to undergo a marked change to conditions over the next 36 hours to take us through the rest of the week, with wet and windy spells set to work in. pushing this change is a jetstream that is now roaring into life out of north america, charging across the atlantic towards us. and with some pretty high speeds in amongst thatjetstream it will whip up some deep areas of low pressure very
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close to the uk late this week and to take us into the christmas weekend, one system after another. we will keep you updated, of course, on all those details as we get closer. out there today, though, it is still a fairly quiet, benign picture. to the south and east of the front, it is largely frost free, with patchy rain and drizzle on the front. we start the day in scotland and northern ireland with the chilly conditions, widespread frost, and some patches of mist and fog. much of scotland will be fog free but lots of frost around. lots of sunshine too. first hints of a change as the breeze picking up in the hebrides. winds in northern ireland to begin with. they will shift later as the breeze picks up. not too much problem with the wind across england and wales. fairly light winds here. but compared with recent days, not as misty, a few breaks in the cloud for central and eastern england. to the west, around here, cloudy outbreaks of rain. that will be around that same areas all day long. away from that, central and eastern england, more sunshine than recent
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days but heavy showers on the south coast. still some brightness for eastern scotland through the day. turning wetter and windier for northern ireland and western scotland. gales or severe gales developing here to finish the day. wet and windy weather into england and wales into wednesday morning. that will open the door to cold air and clear skies with showers for wednesday in scotland. and along the little front on wednesday the wind will pick up. that could cause a few travel issues. if you are heading out, gales, severe gales at times as wind accompanies the showers, dropping snow notjust on the hills but at lower levels at times in the far north. on wednesday, northern england, the midlands, wales, dry and bright. fairly cloudy in the south with occasional rain. that will clear into thursday. better weather on thursday, less breezy. chilly, especially further north, with a noticeable breeze. and some further showers at times. then stormy weather into the end of the week. and as christmas approaches, a deep area of low pressure pushes north.
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if you are planning to travel, keep tuned to the weather forecast. i'm rico hizon in singapore. the headlines: death on the streets of berlin. nine people are killed after a truck is driven into a christmas market. german police say the apparent driver of the vehicle is under arrest while a passenger is killed. i'm kasia madera in london. russia's ambassador to turkey is shot dead by an off—duty policeman. moscow calls it an act of terrorism. the un votes to allow monitors into aleppo, as more civilians and fighters are able to leave the beseiged part of the city. live from
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