Thursday, January 14, 2010

Iranian diplomat in Norway confirms he resigned to protest regime's actions

For two weeks the Iranian government and official media outlets have claimed that news of the resignation of an Iranian diplomat in Norway in protest to the Islamic regime's crackdown is a lie.

But this evening, Mohammad Reza Heidari, Iran's former consul in Oslo, gave an interview to Norway's NRK channel (video and translation at the end of this report) and set the record straight: He has indeed resigned in protest and it appears that it was the Islamic regime that has engaged in spreading falsehoods. Other reports signal broad dissatisfaction among Iran's diplomatic corps and the resignation and defection of at least 27 diplomats.

News of Heidari's resignation began surfacing on January 5 and was initially based on the claims of the Norweian-Iranian Support Committee, an opposition group. At the time, NRK stated that it had spoken to Heidari and that he had defected. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry declared that it was unaware of the situation.

The Islamic regime riposted by saying that the news was disinformation spread by enemies of the state. Various explanations were engineered by the Islamic Republic: that Heidari's term had simply ended, that he was on vacation... Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the following, as recently as two days ago, minimizing Heidari's role at the embassy, providing a lesson in diplomatic relations and offering a veiled warning to Heidari:

The Foreign Ministry spokesman added the following about the individual who has been described as Iran's head consul in Norway and has been said to have requested political asylum...

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast:
We have an embassy in Norway. In places where we have embassies, we cannot have consulates. So these things that are mentioned in the news -- sometimes they speak of the Islamic Republic's ambassador or the chief consul -- well, this is incorrect information. Mr. Heidari is a consular employee and his mission has come to an end. He has a problem with his child's academic life. He would like to stay there a bit longer in order to resolve issues concerning his child's university. I think that he is wiser and wilier than to take the wrong path with respect to the fabrications of some people who oppose the revolution and the regime.

The ensuing NRK news report, prepared by Iranian-Norwegian journalist Mina Ghabel, is mostly in Norwegian, but the sections in Farsi have been translated below. The footage shows Zohreh Moini of the Norwegian-Iranian Support Committee coming to Heidari's house to give him a bouquet of flowers. She tells Heidari, 'I congratulate you on your return to the people's freedom-seeking movement.'

Mohammad Reza Heidari:
I was constantly conflicted during the past seven months and asked myself, 'Why should these events take place in my country? What are my people seeking, after all?' On Ashura Day (NB December 27, commemoration of the 7th-Century martyrdom of Imam Hossein, a key figure in Shiism. For several reports and videos on what occurred during protests on Ashura, click here), the blood of my countrymen was shed only because they wanted freedom and what is referred to in the West as democracy. My conscience could not stand those images. I declared that I was resigning so that the people could see that we were with them.
They said that if I denied this news, I would be able to return. I know that my decision is the right one. My conscience is clear. I hope that my friends around the world, who are listening to me and seeing me and know me, will also stand alongside the people and that they will spurn personal interests and think of the nation's interests.

Rahman Saki, spokesman for the Support Committee in Germany, spoke to the Voice of America's Newstalk program, and gave additional information this evening. Saki rejected all of the Islamic Republic Foreign Ministry spokesman's allegations, except for the fact that Mr. Heidari is indeed wise. 'Mr. Heidari had not come to the end of his mission in Norway. He had eight months left. Furthermore, Mr. Heidari's son is still in high school and he will not be going to university for some time,' Saki said. 'The Islamic Republic has dispatched a three-man delegation to Norway to meet with Mr. Heidari. They have made all sorts of promises to him, if he retracts his resignation and gives an interview at Tehran airport, saying that he never resigned. Mr. Heidari has refused to meet the delegation, which is still in Norway as we speak.'

In the same program, VOA's journalist in Rome, Ahmad Rafat, reported that he had personally spoken to three Iranian diplomats in Europe who had stated that the country's diplomatic corps was riven with dissatisfaction. 'One diplomat told me that he was preparing to resign [...] and that 27 diplomats in Europe, but also in countries in Asia, had resigned,' Rafat said. These resignations have occurred in recent weeks, particularly after the violence against protesters on Ashura, Rafat reported from Rome. Not all of these individuals have become refugees, but some are thinking of coming to Europe to ask for political asylum.