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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  June 28, 2018 12:30am-1:01am BST

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the headlines: there's been world cup shock in russia as south korea knock germany out of the tournament. south korea thrilled fans with a dramatic 2—0 win, ending reigning champion germany's hopes of defending their world cup title. germany have won the tournament four times and this is their earliest exit since 1938. police in malaysia say they've seized items valued at about 270 million dollars from six residences allegedly linked to the former prime minister, najib razak, and his wife. and this video is on bbc.com. prince william continues his tour of the middle east. he crossed into the occupied west bank where he's been to a health centre and met the palestinian president, mahmoud abbas. he is the first british royal to officially visit israel and the palestinian territories. that's all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk.
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i'm stephen sackur. since the beginning of this year, the iranian government has locked up a number of environmental scientists and campaigners. one respected conservationist was found hanged in his cell, in what the authorities said was a suicide. what on earth is going on? well, my guest today is kaveh madani, a scientist invited back to iran from an academic post in london to be deputy head of the environment department. he got caught up in the crackdown and fled iran in april. why has environmental activism become so dangerous? kaveh madani, joining me from california,
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welcome to hardtalk. it's a pleasure to be here. let's start with a pretty simple question. just a year ago, a bit less than a year ago, you were heading to tehran full of optimism, because you'd just been appointed to a very important and senior post inside the government, inside the department of environment. can you understand quite what has gone wrong in the months since then? i was going with optimism but it — i knew that the chance of success might be low. i wanted to give it a try, and i was hoping to be able to create hope in the months to come. in the months afterwards, there was a lot happening and i —
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what i learned was that there are radicals and hardliners around the world who don't like the people who can break down walls because having walls is essential to their existence and survival. that includes the hardliners and radicals in iran, the united states, israel, the rest of the world... well, let's stick with iran. i just want to get a clear picture of the basis upon which you went back. obviously, you were aware of the nature of the regime even though you were an academic in london, but you still followed closely the affairs inside iran. you knew that that president rouhani had made a real effort to reach out to iranians living abroad the world and tried to convince them that it was worth coming back, trying to build anew iran. did you get any sort of assurances, any promises about the way you'd be treated and the job that you would be allowed to do? when they offered me this,
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there was only one response from me. i never asked how much authority i have, how much i'm getting paid, there was only one thing i said, go check and make sure that i don't get into trouble. i don't want to be in prison, and make sure that i get approved. the clearance worked at the beginning but there was a lot of fear and concerns about me, and that is what got me into trouble because the system could never trust me, and the main reason was that i never could answer this question well, like, why would someone return home after 13 years and leave a good job to come in the middle of chaos and try to do something? and the system always thought that anyone who does that must be a spy, or be involved in corruption and trying to make money or something. let me stop you for a second. you said soon after going back to tehran, quote, "if i succeed, many more may come back to help the government." do you think you were being used in some ways, and do you think you were extraordinarily naive? i don't think i was being used, i — i knew that the chance of success was low. the interview you're referring to is the interview in which i said that i have good reasons
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to make this, you know, decision, based on calculated risk. i wanted to give it a try and, and see if i can succeed. i was the first example of trying in a0 years. they reached out to someone from my generation, it's a generation that was born after the revolution of 1979 and have — are passionate about their country and want to do something. i — i really wanted to try and make sure that i can do my bit and pay my dues to my country and try to do something. but i come back to this question about being naive because we should explain to everybody, you're an expert in water management. you were there in the department of environment, but particularly tasked with trying to solve what has become a massive crisis for iran in terms of its water resource and water management. there simply isn't enough water in iran. and clearly, you must have known that by tackling some of the vested interests in the system, we're talking here now
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about the water management system, you would be ruffling feathers. you must have thought carefully about whether you had the authority and the power base to take on some of the vested interests in iran? yes, i — and i think when it comes to work and the things i was trying to do, we were pretty successful. i turned my section into one of the most successful and productive, and i would say, efficient sectors. this was on the worksite, talking to people, i was in charge of working with ngos and doing outreach, and those things were going quite well. i don't think they were very nervous about my solutions and the things i was trying to do, what they were nervous about was my connections to the west and being a westerner who's returning home and now becoming popular, and a westerner who might be promoting the western values that the country has been questioning forever. so, so i knew that there were things, there were threats, but i never thought that right at the beginning,
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upon arrival in tehran, i would be arrested and interrogated at the airport, and they would break into my accounts and go in through my e—mails, and thinking that i'm a spy. being a spy was the last thing i thought of when i made this decision. well, we'll to those espionage charges in a minute because they're very important, butjust one more brief point about this work you were doing. i mean it seems to me your message is — and i'm looking at the figures and it's extraordinary. some figures suggest that more than 90% of iran is experiencing drought to some degree. many of the lakes have been reduced massively in terms of water volume, there is intense farming,
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which is taking far too much water out of the system, the dams that have been built have not been effective. all of this stuff, you were raising questions about, and as i understand it, the powers that be, including the revolutionary guard corps, which has a finger in pretty much every pie when it comes to the management of iran, they were not happy with some of the solutions you were coming up with. true, and — and i was talking about those even before getting into office. and of course, there are people who have stakes and they are unhappy about someone sitting in london and prescribing solutions, so i was given a chance and i thought that if i can take it to a high levels, and that's what i was doing, it's great. plus, i was not only in charge — i mean i was not commissioned to do water as the only thing. i was in charge of outreach, education, and raising awareness, and that's actually what i was very proud of and very excited about because i believe that you cannot really change and make reforms in a country unless the public know
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about the things that are wrong and what must be done, and that's where i was trying to invest in. i knew that in four years, no one, no one on earth can solve and address environmental problems, no matter where they are, and i knew that i could not change that, but i knew that i could affect people's minds and perceptions and values, and that's what i was trying to do, without... well, yeah. that's what you say you were trying to do, and now we need to get to the nub of the matter, which is the conviction of particularly the intelligence department of the revolution guard corps that you and a handful of other scientists, a dozen or so of you altogether, were in the end conducting your environmental campaigns and your scientific work in a way that was, in effect, a coverfor espionage in the pay of the united states and israel. is it true? and the — and the uk. of course not, i mean we — like at the beginning, i was laughing when i was reading these things and over time,
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i realised how serious these things are. like, you know, those accusations are coming from a small percentage of a group, who unfortunately are powerful. but i ran for the people of iran and i think the people of iran were never convinced that these accusations are valid. so i'm proud of this decision and i think i would do the same if i go back in time, with the amount of information i had back then. you were briefly detained, weren't you? what happened ? did you go to the now notorious evin prison? were you — did you spend time there? no. i was detained but i was not — because i was a government official, my situation was different.
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what happened to you? there were questions and a lot of things, and for the sake of those who are right now in trouble, i think it's not good to disclose every detail about that incident. i don't want to jeopardise things further for those people. not only were you briefly detained, but it seems somebody hacked into your personal data and released photographs of you, it seems at a party, at a table drinking wine, which of course for some in iran is something which is not acceptable. you... i mean, i was at a table where there were wine glasses on the table, but there was no photo of me drinking. theyjust guessed that i was drunk because i was too happy and i was smiling, as i'm doing right now. but the point is this was released onto the internet and the iranian media called you "debauched" and a whole bunch of other things. at this point, were you getting seriously scared for your safety? so, to give you more background, so those were photos from 2013 in california and they — they sold it as photos of me throwing a party at the iranian
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embassy in malaysia and serving alcohol, which was absolutely wrong and people realised very soon. and yes, they broke into my accounts right after my arrival in tehran. so i knew they had all my records, 14 years of e—mails and everything, all the details of my life, and i stayed in the office because i knew that they cannot ever prove that i'm spy, based on facts. but when they came to a point that they released the photos that they got through my e—mails, i realised that the only thing they want is me out of office and that's — and all the threats and everything and putting pressure on my family. so i decided to step down because i knew i can continue helping my country, even from faraway, because what i want is a more informed society. so yes, they wanted me out of office, they won that battle but i think they didn't win the larger battle against the people of iran. and we'll come back to larger battle that you still say you're engaged in, but it's important to tease out a little bit of the detail here because i referred to roughly a dozen scientists, environmentalists and campaigners in the field who have at one time or another been arrested. some of them, as you say, are still in detention, so we have to respect their interests. but sadly, one individual, his case is no longer current because he's dead.
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and that is, of course, the case of the canadian iranian conservationist, who was found hanged in his cell after being taken to prison. he was a man who did a great deal of work on, i think, the endangered iranian cheetah. now, can you tell me anything about his particular case? so it, it — you know, to be accurate, we have been told that he was found in that situation. we still don't know details of that incident, and there are no, i think records, films or anything like that to prove that. but this is what we have been told. he was among those activists who are passionate about their country, and now, he's being accused of working for — for the intelligence service of israel and others and being... did you...
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i have to ask you this, did you ever meet kavous seyed—emami? because it is said, again by the hardliners using their mouthpiece in the iranian press, that you and he were linked in an espionage network. i have met a lot of iranians that, especially those with passion about the environment, including kavous seyed—emami. and indeed, last summer, i was invited by kavous seyed—emami to give a lecture on iran's water problems at the university that he was a professor of. and i remember that, like you know, we were walking out asking why he is teaching at that university? and he was very proud of his impact and the fact that he can have an impact and, you know, try hard for the well—being of the iranians. i don't think, overall, in my life,
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i might have been in meetings with him or places for a few hours in total, so i can't reallyjudge everything about him, but i was always getting positive vibes and i felt that he's a guy who cares about his country. i have to ask you, you're talking to me from obviously an undisclosed destination in california, which is where you are currently. to some, watching this in iran, particularly those in the regime, they will say oh, look, he's gone to america. he had an academic post in britain, but he hasn't gone back to britain. it is interesting, they will say, that he is now in california. what is your response? i mean, what are you doing in california? i've been moving around since i got out of iran. i can't go back to the uk, come back to the uk, because of the visa rules of the united kingdom, which requires people whose visa has
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been cancelled or curtailed to stay out of the country for a year, which is called the cooling off period, which is a sad thing. so i'm on a leave of absence from imperial and will need to wait until january next year. so despite the fact that they claim — like the iranians claim that i have a dual citizenship, i don't and i don't even have a visa to return to the uk. i have been going to some conferences, including meetings in the united states, and that's what i'm doing right now. i got my education here, did both my phd and post doc here, at the university of california system, and that's why i'm here having a lot of scientific meetings. what are your conclusions, having considered what has happened to you over the last nine months, what are your conclusions about the power balance in tehran today? you've already referred to what you see as a struggle between the hardliners and the more perhaps pragmatic, you could say moderate elements
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in the iranian government. now that you've experienced what's happened to you, what's your conclusion about what is going on? we have an invisible government as well, which does not want the current government to succeed. of course, things are relative. so compared to each other, the one which is officially in power is supposed to be more of a reformist, and the other ones are the hardliners and radicals, who don't wantjcpoa to succeed, they don't want people like us to be good citizens of the world and be friends with the rest of the world. so i think that's what they are concerned with when they see environmental activism. and, and this is what is actually creating a lot of problems for the people of iran.
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so they have the same voice as trump and others, and they don't want the current system to function well because they are threatened by, as i said, breaking down the walls and any sort of diplomatic success. and that is sad, because at the end of the day, who loses are the people of iran. and that breaks my heart, that, like, you know, the people of iran are the ones who have got caught in the middle of this battle between the world's powers. right, but then what is the most helpful thing to do, given what is happening in iran today? i mean, donald trump, you referred to thejcpoa with the acronym for the nuclear deal which trump has just walked away from, backed out of, and the us is reimposing very tight sanctions on iran. i mean, do you support sanctions or, like a lot of other people who analysed sanctions from outside, do you think they're counter—productive? it's... you know, so there are trade—offs. no one, i think, can say for sure
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that sanctions don't work or, you know, if they would work. but what we have learned over the years is that that system has been able to function, they find ways around things. but once you put sanctions on a country, they use more of their resources. and what has happened to iran is environmental destruction, economic destruction, and a lot of problems for the people of iran. the system has been able to function and go longer and longer, but who's losing are the people that those who impose sanctions claim to be trying to protect. this is the problem i'm having with the type of things that are happening. and the other thing is, if you go in and negotiate a deal, whether good or bad, you walk away in a year or two from it, what does it — what does it tell the world? that you cannot trust the united states, you cannot trust the west, and all these things. and again, this causes
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problems for the iranians. why? because now if they're out on the street and they want to have any sort of peaceful demonstrations, they will be told that you are in the same — you are in alliance with those who want the regime to be overthrown. kaveh madani, i hear in your voice all the passion, the care you have for the people of iran, that was why you went back to iran last september, but the truth is you've ran away. and i wonder what your advice now is to other smart, educated iranians living abroad, who might like you consider whether there's something they can offer to the country in terms of going back and trying to build a better iran? would your advice to them today be to forget about it, not do it, or should they go for it and give it a try? listen, we need to — we need to slow down things. the country is going down in every angle, and if we just say that
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kaveh madani didn't succeed, let's not go back, we'e ignoring the fact that there are a lot of people who have gone back into the business world, into the private sector, and they're helping the country. so if we all leave that country and just sit in, i would say, you know, our offices and houses abroad and just blame the system and blame the country, we are not doing anything for the country. so... but with the greatest respect, and with all due reference to the hardships you've face, that is exactly what you're doing right now. what am i doing? i'm saying we shouldn't go back? well, no, but you yourself have spoken with your own behaviours. i mean, you got to a point where you felt so threatened that you walked away, and i'm guessing you have no intention of going back. i cannot because, you know, i think it's not rational to go back and go in prison and die.
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but i would say that it's not like every person should not go and take a political position. i think in my case, my case shows that going back and taking a political position is not a wise option, but the thing is that i could push back some boundaries. and if there were, like, 100 of us going back and trying to do things, they cannot accuse every one of us for being a spy and doing things like that, like, you know, working forforeign services. this is our generation. 0ur generation, like, 70% of the population, finally we have to have a role in the government, and we should be able to serve the people of iran and serve our country. and yes, of course, we want to stand on our own feet. we want to be friends with the rest of the world, and i think a lot of people of my age and my generation think that way, and they have suffered a lot and they want this
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situation to change. but if we all leave the country and wait for, i don't know, a foreign power to break down the country, i don't think this would work. the people of iran are the ones who need to decide, and those of us who are abroad should help. if we can't go back because of security threats, at least we have to work on offering solutions, rather than nagging, nagging, nagging, and blaming the system and just waiting for a better world. all right. we're out of time, so we need a yes—no answer. do you think you, kaveh madani, still in your 30s, still smart, still a lot to offer iran, do you think you will ever go back and live and work in your country? if i have... yes. i wanted a one word answer and you gave it to me. kaveh madani, thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk. thank you. hello there.
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it's a bit of a case of deja vu with the weather forecast at the moment. day—on—day we're seeing those temperatures building, lots of sunny and dry weather during wednesday. top temperatures reached 32 at porthmadog in north wales. we could see a similar story i think during the day on thursday. so high pressure well and truly driving the weather, keeping things dry and settled, with generally gentle breezes around. this was the picture in workington, cumbria during the day on wednesday, not a cloud in the sky there. i think we'll have one or two areas of cloud around through thursday, especially in the east, down towards lincolnshire, east anglia, some cloud around the coast that should thin and break during the day, but anywhere you could see fairweather cloud. as we draw in the breeze from the north—east, looking a little bit cooler around the eastern coasts but for central and western parts of the country,
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temperatures widely in the high 20s with some seeing top temperatures of 30 or 31, particularly for central scotland, but those temperatures could kick off one or two isolated showers. if you do catch one, could be a bit pokey, but most places will avoid any of those isolated showers through central parts of scotland. hot again through northern ireland, england and wales with a decent, dry and bright day. lots of sunshine with just that gentle breeze coming in, keeping things cooler around the east. on friday, high pressure still with us, drifting further north. a similar day on friday. the best of the sunshine will be to the north and west. most places seeing clear blue skies but in the east, with that breeze coming off the sea, it will be a little bit cooler and perhaps cloudier at times. the warmest weather through the day on friday will be further south—west, not quite as hot as thursday in scotland and northern ireland but further south, cardiff, bristol, for instance,
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we could so 29 or 30 degrees. looking to the weekend and saturday, we still got the warm air mass with us through the day, that's going to be bringing a fine weekend. through the weekend, again, mostly warm and sunny, just the small chance of one or two of us seeing some isolated showers. most places will avoid those showers. through the day on saturday it does look dry really across—the—board to start the day. later on could see a few showers creeping into the far west of scotland, perhaps western parts of northern ireland, not as hot as recent days but still a beautiful day. temperatures of the further south could be 28 or 29. dry for most places on sunday but notice these showers to the south, could creep into south—western parts of britain. top temperatures once again, 29 or 30 degrees. i'm sharanjit leyl in singapore. the headlines: auf wiedersehen, germany. south korean fans celebrate
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as they push the reigning champions out of the world cup. floodwaters hamper efforts to find 12 teenagers and their football coach missing for five days in a thailand cave. i'm babita sharma in london. also in the programme: campaigning is underway in pakistan elections. we take a look at the major contenders in this crucial poll and the politics behind it. joe jackson, the father and former manager of michaeljackson and the jackson five, has died at the age of 89.
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