On the eve of Iran's Presidential elections, I tracked down Mr. Behi in Teheran. (For consolidated blog coverage of the elections from within Iran – including election coverage from Hoder – as well as analysis from without, Iran Scan is a must-read.)
Adventures with Mr. Behi is written by an anonymous man who says he is a recent university graduate living in Teheran, working as a consultant in the “science and technology field.” He does not want to reveal his identity given that some Iranian bloggers have recently gone to jail. Despite the risks, he believes it's important to tell the English-speaking world to understand how Iranians like him see their country and the world. The picture on the right is the “face” he shows on his blog… and he says it's also the mug he drinks coffee from while blogging.
Mr. Behi told me that by blogging he “can report events and ideas that are not actualy covered by regular media here. Media from Iran report what they want and what the government says. And reporters from different parts of the world who come to Iran occasionally, they can't really get a good sense of whats going on in the minds of Iranians sometimes. So I try to make my role in bridging this gap by getting people in the U.S. informed about regular people in Iran, how they think.”
We spoke briefly via skype but the dial-up phone connection made it hard. Some bits are hard to hear but here is my brief skype chat with Mr. Behi (MP3, about 3 mins., 1.6MB). We then continued the conversation through online text chat:
EDITED SKYPE CHAT TRANSCRIPT:
(Mr. Behi requested a few things be removed to prevent him getting in too much trouble.)
Rebecca MacKinnon says: how is the mood among you and your friends? are people going to vote or will a lot of people stay away?
Mr.Behi Himself says: there are many in doubt
they like reform but do not think they can change the spirit of the system
Rebecca MacKinnon says: but will staying away from the polls make future reform more or less likely?
Mr.Behi Himself says: I do not think we can see the huge turn out that we got for Khatami eight years ago
We were hoping that eight years ago
but the thing is that president has little powers
Khatami was badly defeated by the conservatives who are selected not elected
when most of the power is in the hand of the leader
and you can not even question him in your blog
what would be the reason for choosing some one minor
last time we I voted
we hoped that Khatami with that much back up from people
can make the leader questionable
Continue on to read more:
Rebecca MacKinnon says: but you were badly disappointed.
Mr.Behi Himself says: and the selected powerful positions of the government, under control
and leader, after that big turn out
appeared on TV and said again his words against “enemies of nation” and proudly presented the results of election and a manifestation of Iranian support for the system (him)
I LOVE the idea of reform
very much agree with the idea that we need gradual change rather than another revolution
very much like the reformist campaign these days and what they present
what makes me in doubt is that how this can materialize
Rebecca MacKinnon says: must be very frustrating.
Mr.Behi Himself says: indeed
but one thing is there that might force me to go and vote for the reforms anyway
Rebecca MacKinnon says: what's that?
Mr.Behi Himself says: My choices for movies, books, concerts etc
in the next fall
would be very much dependent on who will be president
Rebecca MacKinnon says: wow
Mr.Behi Himself says: the cabinet and they way they implement the Islamic notation
of the Islamic republic
It may look simple cause it is hard to understand how they can pressure you socialy with their own perception of the rules
Rebecca MacKinnon says: so which candidate is more likely to result in better cultural freedom and choice for young people? Many bloggers seem to like Moin.
Mr.Behi Himself says: sure
I like him
his team is great
He is honest
I met him with other bloggers as you linked to that
yes that was a great post.
oh, you think so
glad to hear that:)
Rebecca MacKinnon says: :)
Mr.Behi Himself says: The thing is that marching against the leader is a taboo
and Khatami did not have the courage doing that Moein does not look like being able to do so
Rebecca MacKinnon says: so i guess the question is whether he would have more or less power than Khatami did to actually change anything? Or whether Rafsanjani has more sway?
Mr.Behi Himself says: Mr.Behi Himself says: rafsanjani is a nasty lier
he is doing whatever these days to get more votes
things that he does not belive
and he proved it in his ruling time
his care for democracy is below zero
Rebecca MacKinnon says: yes the reports about girls on rollerskates helping rafsanjani campaign are very interesting. but hoder was saying most of the young people working for him may not vote for him.
Mr.Behi Himself says: some people say that rise of Khatami was the result of his economic reforms
But that is big cities
I fear that in rural areas they may vote for the most common faces they have seen and rafsanjani is the most repetative ugly face we had the ad chance to see in our life time
I am hopeful for Moeein
I hope he wins
by all the limitations that will be the only partly ok candidate
Rebecca MacKinnon says: it sounds like he has a better chance of winning if the people who were going to boycott change their minds and vote, right?
Mr.Behi Himself says: right
I think so
Rebecca MacKinnon says: so are people like you trying to convince their friends to vote?
Mr.Behi Himself says: I know that this number has risen in the last few days but not sure
This is difficult
I have freinds in University
old frieds from university time who were beated by the police in university dorm
Moeen was at that time the minister of higher education
his best action was to resigh
and Khatami could not make his way to heal the pain
apart from his nice words
those who did that action (police and military militia supporting the leader) never apologized
and the leader pretended he did not know anything about it
how would you vote if you were like him?
Khatami was our hero
but he liked Islamic Republic more than his supporters
who are actually supposed to be the owners of the republic
Rebecca MacKinnon says: i can see why people would be feeling very cynical, and very resentful.
..and a little trapped.
Mr.Behi Himself says: kind of that is right
eight years ago, there were people who were aginst voting
and in support of revolution
but we were trying to convince them that reform is better
but I am not sure how we can do that today
I vey much hope that those not decided, will vote
I may myself
at least to takle hashemi
Rebecca MacKinnon says: If hashemi rafsanjani wins, what will that mean for your life in the future?
Mr.Behi Himself says: see
he was beated by the people of Tehran in sixth parlimentary election
the one before this one when reformists won the parliment
it wa vey humilating for him
people of the capital made him down
and he is rude enough to get president again
maybe just to heal himslef
that see I am back
Rebecca MacKinnon says: will he go for revenge or will he go for healing?
Mr.Behi Himself says: he is trying to heal himself
see. he is actually downgading himself from the position he is taking now
I do not think he can do much in case of human right improvment
cause he does not know what it is and is not really up to that
one sign that is he is not a good one
if you read his interview
with different papers
you will see that when he talks with conservative papers, he is in favor of the leader
and when he appears in reformists gathering, he talks about limiting him
his is economically very corrupted
Rebecca MacKinnon says: hmm… so if the next administration (whoever it is) ends up failing to reform much, like this one, will the frustration of iran's young people boil over into the streets at some point? will people totally lose patience?
Mr.Behi Himself says: they may
you can not say yes or no
one year before 1978, no one would say a revolution may come
Rebecca MacKinnon says: is there anything people outside iran can do to help you guys … assuming you don't want “regime change” assistance from certain countries?
Mr.Behi Himself says: US should try not to help the oppositions in Iran for GOD sake
Rebecca MacKinnon says: yes that would taint the opposition, wouldn't it?
Mr.Behi Himself says: because here the first reason to go in jail is have US/CIA realation
Rebecca MacKinnon says: yep.
Mr.Behi Himself says: and this much pressure on Iranian government for this niclear issues
Rebecca MacKinnon says: does the nuclear pressure make the hard-liners stronger?
Mr.Behi Himself says: that is it
they make this a fact for national pride
and convice people that west is our enemy
Rebecca MacKinnon says: sounds like a vicious cycle.
Mr.Behi Himself says: One reason I blog
is to tell peole hey, we do not think as our goverment does
and this is not done in my word
republican or democrat are you?
Rebecca MacKinnon says: i voted democrat.
Mr.Behi Himself says: I hate Bush administration
and their way of thinking
they are similar to the conservatives here
our leader says US is devil and Bush calls us axis of evil
Rebecca MacKinnon says: extremism is flourishing around the world.
Mr.Behi Himself says: mixing religion with state is insane
and I like my country and yours get to be freed from it
Mr.Behi Himself says: That is my reason in bloggoing
I was wondering first if anyone would even read that
Mr.Behi Himself says: there is one stupid idea I see that someone who does not like mullas in Iran and is pro-west in culture and way of life and likes democracy that means loving bush
I want to say this is not true
I do not like anyone who wants to build the world as he wants
I want people to decide
what is good for them
Rebecca MacKinnon says: many americans assume that if people in a country don't like their government, that means they like america and want the u.s. to save them from their government.
Mr.Behi Himself says: I do not like to look at the US as a savior
unfortunately many people in Iran are like that
Rebecca MacKinnon says: is that a large group?
Mr.Behi Himself says: I can not say exactly but I think many who are living outside are in favor of this
Once, the idea in the US government was to help anyone fighting the soviets
ehatever they do to their people was fine
and finding cheap oil and be friend with the owners regarless of the way human rights are observed with them
then finally, they got hit in 9/11 from the old friends and realized they need democracy to spread in the world
now they are imposing democracy and suggesting it
forgetting that democracy is a culture to be thought from the childhood
and when Bush says, you are with me or aginst me, he gives chance to enemies of democracy
to brainwash the youth of theri contry
Rebecca MacKinnon says: sigh…
Mr.Behi Himself says: I belived Iran is the country where the govenment is much more anti-american than the people
in contrast to friends of US in the region in which the govenrment is pro-US and people dislike it
Rebecca MacKinnon says: yeah. like in pakistan.
Mr.Behi Himself says: right
Rebecca MacKinnon says: so the challenge is to match up the government with the public opinion, which i guess you can only do with democracy.. but that democracy may or may not be pro-u.s.
Mr.Behi Himself says: then you should respect their opinion and prove to them that you are not their enemy
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I have found some truly disconcerting images of punishment and death against non-heterosexual men in Iran. Can this issue be discussed in the media or do we just simply ignore it as it affects only a believed minority?