Iranians say “no” to the Islamic regime in Iran, Twitter Spaces sessions

From the session event, which aired on Twitter Spaces on May 15. 

Iranians say “no” to the Islamic regime in Iran 

Rachel Brooks

May 18, 2021 

Leveraging the power of Twitter Spaces to connect, Iranians have spoken out against the Iranian regime and its extensive human rights abuses. NO to the Islamic Republic meets via Twitter Spaces, a new radio app feature of Twitter. On May 15, the group met to discuss the media propaganda that continues to shape a favorable western opinion of the Iranian regime and thus keeps the Iranian people in shackles. 

The session was later published on YouTube on May 16. It lasted for approximately one and a half hours and featured experts in the Iranian social lifestyle as opposed to the western perception of this lifestyle. 

The event moderators opened the floor to experts. They called on Meysam Nouri to explain his background in psychology and engineering and to give his point of view on the Iranian lifestyle. 

“Good evening to the audience that can hear my voice from the U.S. My name is Nouri, I have a background in psychology and engineering,” said Nouri. 

“Like any other Iranian, I closely watch Iran politics. I am Iranian-American. I live in the US more now. Unfortunately, I cannot return to Iran now. I left Iran during the 2009 election, and I cannot go back due to the political situation that we are all aware of.” 

Nouri then explained that many citizens of Iran, whether directly or indirectly connected to the IRGC-controlled government, are dependent on the government due to the harsh conditions within the nation. Nouri gave insights into the psychological toll this has on the Iranian people. 

“People could be very susceptible and weak to what they should do. They can compromise. Always in the higher level of hierarchical needs. When people feel that their physical needs, safety, and security, when they feel that these basic needs are in danger, they sacrifice their psychological health,” he explained. 

“People start to have two faces. One face in the home, and their official one that they need to maintain outside.”

The moderator then directed the question toward the media’s portrayal of Iranians as happy and satisfied citizens. 

“The media tries to show Iranians as happy people. They want to say that Iranian people chose this lifestyle and they are happy with it, which is not true. Regarding your remarks, I would like to hear from you, because you are living in the US, when you talk to American people who have never been to Iran even for one hour, what are those people’s opinions about the Iranian regime’s propaganda?” said Sara Eismann, one of the event moderators. 

“I would go with facts,” said Nouri. 

Nouri then gave his background in analytics and how this shaped his view of the living status of the Iranian people. 

“My work and my interest are on analysis. I would go to the root cause and analysis usually, whenever I have the opportunity to share. I have lived in five years in the last 11 years so far. Iran, for American citizens, Iran in general, the way I look at it, is not a top priority topic. I haven’t heard a lot of talk in American society about Iran. Many people don’t even know the difference between Iran and Iraq. If you ask me about the common people, 70-80% don’t follow Iranian news,” said Nouri. 

Next, the moderators turned the comments over to Bita Joorabdouz, the editor and host of Azadi TV.

Nouri’s statement that Americans don’t think about Iran is right. What people think is affected by what the media says,” said Jourabdouz, as she noted that the assessment on the impact of Iranian propaganda is accurate.

“We should work on going to the mainstream media and make the media to choose to say what we want them to say. I will give you an example. Four or five years ago, the media, even the Farsi ones, would not report news about average people, because they portrayed them negatively. I don’t want to repeat what they say,” she noted that they would say the exact opposite of it.

“We saw in the last few years, we saw that average activists made them listen, and made them say what they wanted them to say. I’m going, to be honest about it. I will say it again. It is not something that one person can do, but we as a team, we as the opposition, yes, we can do it. I see that there are groups in opposition that are trying to do it, but the problem is that we are a bit late, but we are trying to do it.”

The discussion then turned to specific acts of human rights abuse.

Regarding the human rights abuses against LGBT+ Iranians, Eismann noted statistics.

“There is an estimated that 100,000 LGBT+ persons have been executed since the Khomeini revolution. She noted that the state funds sex assignment surgery to force LGBT+community in Iran to be assigned the surgery to avoid the persecution of the state. The LGBT+ community is under great persecution in Iran and has only one choice, and that is to leave the country,” said Eismann.

“If there is even one western politician that doesn’t know this, we know that the LGBT+ issues are so sensitive in the western communities too, and they cannot be ignorant of it. If there is even one that does not understand it, then it shows that the Iranian organizations did not do their jobs popularly. We cannot expect one person to do everything. We have to work directly with organizations,” she added. 

Jourabdouz regarded this as a litmus test of the depth of the breaking within Iranian society as a whole.

“Our society is broken, it is a fact. Because we didn’t have the education to be a healthy society. We should work on it on our own, working with small groups. We have wasted enough time. We should ask the organizations to do the right thing, and we should do it now.” said Jourabdouz.

“Thank you, Bita. We do have a lot of work to do. We need a lot more people to join us and help us with this, because of the oppression. I would like to speak about the freedom of religion,” said Eismann. She then turned the discussion to abuses of religious freedom. She opened this segment of the discussion by citing numbers of varying Iranian religious beliefs which stand in direct contrast to the regime’s Shia Islamist public profession. 

“Before that, I would like to refer to a survey. The Iranian regime presents us as a Muslim nation to the world. I would like to bring to your attention a survey from Gamaan, the non-profit research foundation. Iranian attitudes toward religion, that cannot be discussed due to oppression.

The survey was conducted in June 2020. Over 50,000 respondents were surveyed, and around 90 percent lived in Iran. While 32 percent of the population identifies as Shia Muslims, 5 percent are Sunni. Around 9 percent identify as atheist, 8 percent as Zoroastrian, around 22 percent identified with “none” ” said Eismann. 

She also noted that some followed Sufism, Judaism, Christianity, Bahai, and other religions. 

“I highly encourage everyone to check out Gamaan.org to learn more about this survey in the English and Persian language,” said Eismann. 

The survey gave insights into how the regime severely oppressed religion within the state.  

Jourabdouz followed up with the reality of religious expression suppression in Iran. 

“As you know, religious freedom is at zero in Iran. There is nothing in the law, there is nothing that says you cannot change your religion, but the regime paints it as a crime, and they go with that. 

As you said, there are a lot of people who are atheists, agnostics, they have all other ways of thinking, which may even not be religions. Even though oppression is so hard, it cannot stop people from thinking. We should show this to the world,” said Jourabdouz. 

She noted that there are organizations that show the conversion of Iranians to other religions or non-religious world views.

“They cannot be heard because the mainstream media doesn’t want them to be. That’s why I say we should go for the mainstream media. We should force them to,” said Jourabdouz.

This Twitter Space aimed to break the censorship. Access was promised via YouTube so that Iranians can share it with their non-Iranian friends.

Nouri was then called on. He began his new scenario by discussing what has been happening in the media.

“The reason, I think, is that news related to Iran has been reflected in the western democratic media falsely,” he began. 

He then gave some opinions regarding the western perspective and agenda in Iranian coverage. 

“We have had enough experience to not be unrealistic that only human rights are the main focus. 

Does the western country media have a balanced understanding of all of these factors? By saying that, I can compare from the last three decades. When I compare how the media covered this for 30 years, I believe that the coverage was much better at least 25 years ago,” said Nouri. 

“All of the victims of the regime are on a scale ten times more than what occurred in 2009,” Nouri noted.

“The meaningful way of the reflection of religious belief has decreased. I have a different scenario for what happened in the last decade. I want others to think with mutual mind, not just with conspiracy but with fact, what happened in the last decade. If you agree with me, we need to get together to understand that something changed. I am really with my people to say that we should think and we should do whatever we can to impact the media,” said Nouri.

He then spoke on how there is not a moderate government.

“Our role, many of our average and ordinary people are doing, is that we are saying to the media that the assumption there is a moderate government is wrong. That it is impossible for there to be a moderate government under the current system, despite elections,” he said. 

Nouri called the oppression of religious freedom systemic oppression. 

“They don’t allow Sunni people to be promoted, I have documentation for that, they don’t allow them to be promoted for higher positions in the government. There are many, many facts that we can review,” said Nouri. 

“I think, in general, the tendency to religion everywhere in the world is decreasing. The same thing in the U.S., but the diminishing rate in the world is much less in the average world than in Iran. A portion of the religious decrease is natural, as this happens in the world, 

“People are passionate for ancient Iran,” said Nouri. 

Adel Sharifi spoke next, bringing on a guest who would speak in Persian, which was translate into English for a broader audience.

Sharifi brought on Mr. Vahedian Shahroudi, the political prisoner who is one of the signatories of the letter to Khamenei to step down, on the phone line. 

“Tonight, I want to speak about why the Iranian people are not enjoying the standards that the western world is enjoying. I want to show the real picture of what Iranian society has to face within Iran,” he said. 

“The Islamic Republic, through its lobbyists, have worked to paint a picture about Iranian society that is not at all true. A picture that shows that Iranians have a high quality of life. Yet the reality is that now they cannot even afford to buy rice. Tonight I want to speak about millions of people living in the outskirts of Iran who cannot afford to rent a place, so they are living, together with their families, in pits.” 

“As a political prisoner, I want to speak about the regime’s jails. Human rights are not followed there, and the crimes that are happening there. This is a genocide against people who oppose the regime.” 

He described executions, mass killings of youths opposing the regime, and extreme poverty. 

“The majority of the people in Iran are under the genocide and suppression of the minority regime.” 

“The western world may not want the regime to be overthrown because of the overflow and influx of immigrants that may flow to the U.S. and Europe, which would create a crisis,” said Shahroudi.

The panel then discussed how the regime used moderators and late-night television shows too, with a comedic atmosphere.

Talking points included the following, which was noted by Ardeshir. 

“When you look at the audience, you have people with much more openly worn hijab, not usually the way with the black veils that the regime wants this to be. As the show goes on, and the show attracts more viewers, more conservative people are sitting there. If they are called on the stage, they have the image that the society wants, the dress code.” 

The shows likewise rarely have religious names, and they usually have Iranian names.” 

This was a focus of the many different ways in which the regime uses television to shape a perception of Iran that is false. 

Walton Martin of the Iran Information Project joined the session late and made suggestions for solutions in the discussion segment. He stressed the great importance of forming an anti-regime lobby in Washington, D.C., and that the opposition of the Iranian regime should have a Washington presence that contrasts NIAC. He then made suggestions for an adequate candidate for this purpose.