By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, January 21, 2015
I visited Iran for a third time in December last year, participating in the international UN-endorsed conference, WAVE – World Against Violence and Extremism.
I gave interviews to some ten agencies and media but the longest was this exclusive one by a passionate and very professional 24-year old Iranian journalist, Kourosh Ziabari, for the esteemed Iran Review.
The distorted image of Iran
TFF has been engaged with an in Iran the last three years. We believe that the general image in Western media – covering almost only Iran’s nuclear program, human rights violations and Iran as a threat to the world – is neither objective nor fair.
It conveniently omits the harmful effects on the Iranian society of Western policies since the days of the US-UK coup d’etat against the democratically elected President of Iran, Dr. Mossadegh, in 1953.
Whether intended or not, this type of media coverage risks contributing to deeper conflict and legitimise future violence – rather than mutual understanding and peace.
It is therefore imperative to go there and see for yourself. More about that in the next TFF PressInfo.
What TFF tries to do in Iran
TFF has these aims with its work in Iran:
a) Fact-finding: to simply learn first-hand about its history, culture, people and how they think on all levels; by traveling around and interviewing people, as many and different as possible.
b) To influence the image in the West of Iran in a more balanced direction through analyses, debate articles, interviews and photography.
c) To create confidence and develop co-operation with institutions in Iran at government level as well as in civil society and facilitate visits and exchanges in the academic and cultural spheres – and thereby promote better people-to-people understanding.
d) To explore the interest with relevant Iranian parties in establishing inter-cultural academic peace and conflict education and research at university level.
The interview with Iran Review
In this interview, Kourosh Ziabari’s approach provided me with a unique and much appreciated opportunity to say a few things in a straightforward manner.
Among them the ethics (or lack of it) of killling, terrorism, the Iranian nuclear program issue and negotiations, militarism, why nonviolence is stronger than violence, how to reform the UN system, what realism is and the role of the academic.
The interview ends with a discussion of the importance of struggling for free scholarly professionalism independent of government and corporate influence. And of speaking up even when it is politically incorrect.
Peace: Freedom of expression without a resource base
Little did I know back in December that that theme would gain additional relevance with the generalised European freedom-of-expression interpretation of the horrific terror attack at a weekly in Paris.
Freedom of expression should not only be for those who have the funds, the education and channels to disseminate their views – such as governments and those who support warfare and other violence.
A world society that wastes US $ 1700 billion annualy on the military and war propaganda and about half a billion on peace-making is not a society with genuine freedom to express the wish of peace.
Having the freedom of expression is fine, better than not having it of course. But what if certain opinions lack the resource base to practise that freedom and to be heard?
Such as when they argue for nonviolence as an alternative to violence – the UN Charter norm that “peace shall be created by peaceful means”?