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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  September 30, 2022 4:30am-5:00am BST

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this is bbc news. the headlines: a huge rescue effort is taking place in florida in the wake of hurricane ian. fears are growing about the death toll, at least ten deaths have been recorded since the storm struck. president biden said ian could prove to be the deadliest hurricane in florida's history. to officially incorporate occupied areas of ukraine into russia. but the us has warned moscow it will never recognise russian claims to ukrainian territory. president biden has called the recent referendums russia staged in four occupied areas an �*absolute sham.�* britain's prime minister has responded to widespread criticism of her plans for the economy. she's defended her government's
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policies to try to boost the uk economy, despite the turmoil it's created in the markets. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. two weeks ago, 22—year—old mahsa amini died in iranian police custody. she'd been arrested for allowing strands of hair to escape her headscarf. since then, iran has been rocked by protests led by women demanding freedom and equality. it could be the most serious threat to iran's theocratic leadership since the islamic revolution. for my guest, it's a new phase in a long struggle. masih alinejad began an online movement demanding women's rights from exile.
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it's made her a regime target. is hers a struggle that can be won? masih alinejad in new york city, welcome to hardtalk. thank you so much for having me. it's a pleasure to have you on the show. now, you have been campaigning for women's rights in iran, both from inside the country and from exile in the united states, for decades. have you been surprised by the speed and the scale of events in the last couple of weeks?
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to be honest, i knew the anger. i have been publishing the videos of iranian women, for eight years, practising their civil disobedience, many of them bravely filming themselves while telling the police, the morality police, "it's none of your business. i don't want to cover my hair." most of them are the true leaders of the change within the society. they're leading a movement against compulsory hijab. so for me, now, the brutal death of mahsa amini, for millions of iranian women, becoming a turning point. and it is a tipping point for the islamic republic. believe me, this isjust the beginning of an end, the end of the...regime. well, you have an extraordinary reach, thanks to social media. millions of iranians see your social media platforms and they... many of them communicate with you. so, what are you seeing right now in terms of
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the continuation of the public protests, of women's determination to have their voices heard? look, i have to say that social media is like a weapon, not only for me, for millions of iranians inside iran. if they didn't dare to make videos of the brutality of the police, the world would'vejust, you know, closed their eyes and ignored iranians. but now they cannot because... look across iran — people are taking to the streets. you know what? they even know that they might face guns and bullets. some of the young women, they video themselves, they video themselves before going to the protests. one of them actually was hadis, only 20 years old. she filmed herself, saying that "i hope the day that i see a free iran "is the day i'm going to be proud of myself "that i was part of the protest. "i'm going to the protest because of mahsa."
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she got killed herself. so, many of the young people, they are like tiktok generations, you know? they're so young, they have nothing to lose, so they take to the streets. and they have simple demands — "we want freedom, dignity." and they don't want to have islamic republic making decision for themselves. now, teachers came out. they asked for national strikes. university professors came out, and they're saying that, "why our students are in prison? "they peacefully took to the streets "because you killed their classmates, "you killed an innocent person." masha got killed just because of a bit of hair. i'm not sure whether you really understand this, how frustrated we are. just a bit of hair — like, that much hair — can kill a person in 21st century. and iranians are now seeing, finally, that they are being heard by the rest of the world, which is important. will it make any difference
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if the iranian authorities do indeed launch a credible investigation? because the case of mahsa amini is undoubtedly tragic and terrible, but we don't know the full truth of why and how she died in police custody. we know why she was picked up by the morality police, because of the exposed pieces of hair, but we don't know exactly what happened in detention. if there is an investigation which iranians could believe in in some way, would that make a difference? not at all. i mean, honestly, you trust the killers to do an investigation about the killing of mahsa amini? no. iranian people, they don't trust ebrahim raisi, khamenei. they don't trust anyone in islamic republic to do "investigation". what kind of investigation? right now, they're killing people in the streets. like, you just check the videos, that... how innocent women getting
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killed just because of removing their hijab. people are getting shot in the chest right now. people are getting shot in the head by security forces. but... masih, masih, masih, you know... yeah, you know the cost, the terrible cost, that iranians who take to the streets are paying. you, it seems, are still encouraging them to take to the streets. i mean, do you think that there is a danger, particularly with young iranian women, who are so passionately angry and upset right now, that your voice, which is an important voice, may be putting them in more danger? you know, that breaks my heart. what put people in danger? it's not me. it's the islamic republic who hang people, who kill people, who throw acid on their face, who beat up mahsa amini. i didn't ask mahsa amini to come from saqqez, from kurdistan to tehran,
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for a vacation. mahsa came on her own. so that created a huge anger within the society, believe me. this is the time that the western media, western politicians, who keep asking me the same question and putting the blame on me, to understand that iranian women have agency. many of them ask me to be their voices. let me give you one example. shima was only 2a years old, one of the women who joined my campaign white wednesdays four years ago, and then she was interrogated, and she was told that, "masih alinejad is using you." you know what she told to her interrogator? she said, "i'm using masih alinejad "until the day that i have a voice inside my own country." not only her. iranian regime telling the mothers of the victims, mothers forjustice, that, "hey, masih�*s living miles away from you, "and now she's using you. "she's telling you, �*cry forjustice.”' you know
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what the mothers told the interrogators while the interrogators are saying that, "you know "how much money masih receives from american government?" pouya's mother, pouya bakhtiari's mother, said that, "masih is my voice, "and you're receiving money from my own government "to kill my son, "so i'm asking masih and any otherjournalist outside iran "to be our voice." so please stop with the blame on me... this isn't a question of blame at all, but it is a question of "what is the right thing to do right now?" i'm very mindful that president raisi has said that he will not accept chaos on the streets of tehran, or indeed any other iranian town or city. and clearly, he's mindful that some of the protesters aren't just demanding rights, respect, equality for women. they're also, to quote some of them, "demanding death
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to khamenei," iran's spiritual leader. clearly, the regime is beginning to see this as an existential threat, so do you think it is wise for the protesters to mix the specific response to mahsa amini's tragic death with that political message? look, when you say president raisi, i am here to make it clear that, for millions of iranians, he is not "president". and this is 21st century. we have to pay attention to millions of people who risked their lives telling the world that, "stop giving democratic title to dictators, "to killers, to murderers." and i remember that, for years and years, garry kasparov was saying the same, that the world, international community, media, human rights organisations should stop giving democratic title to putin. now, war is in europe, so you understand the danger
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of these murderers. ebrahim raisi is a butcher and people in iran do not trust him. why you see that iranians are in the streets, the clear message is notjust removing or abolishing morality police or investigating about the brutal death of mahsa amini or removing compulsory hijab laws. no, for millions of iranians, compulsory hijab is... honestly, it's like the main pillar of the islamic republic. masih, i want to, if i may, take you back into your own roots in iran. we hear the passion now of your activism, your determination to win equality and freedom for women in iran. but your own background is fascinating because you came from a very poor, rural part of iran. you came from a conservative family with, i think, both your parents being strong supporters of the islamic revolution.
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i just wonder if that's given you an understanding of the conservative forces that are still profound and strong inside your homeland? of course. look, even my own family, yes, they support this regime. but believe me, for years and years, we have been telling them that, "this regime is even against your religion. they... "as far as the islamic republic is in power, "you won't have safety, "you won't have dignity, you won't have money." they are realising that now. you know, my mother is no longer going to support this regime who is trying to kidnap her daughter, to kill her daughter. a lot of religious people now relate to the story of mahsa amini. they feel that it could have happened to their daughters because, as i said to you, mahsa was not part of iran protest. mahsa didn't even hold a sign to challenge the regime.
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she was an innocent person. so, that created a huge anger even among those who believed in the islamic republic. actresses came out. the members of national team, football team, came out. many of them said that... .."we no longer want to support this killer." so, the revolution is gaining momentum... yes, and in your opinion, and indeed in your own life experience inside iran, is this about much more than the sort of symbolic issue of hijab? i know that some people in your campaign, they refer to "gender apartheid" in iran. would you go as far as that? and would you say that your own life experience in iran tells that story? look, not only me. millions of women believe that the islamic republic is a gender apartheid regime. the islamic republic is... i mean, clearly, there is no difference between the islamic
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republic and isis. let me give you an example. isis behead people. the islamic republic do the same. they hang and kill people if they say that, "we don't want to be muslim any more," if they criticise islam inside the country. the islamic republic actually count women like second—class citizen. they lash us, they put us in jail, if we show our hair. you know... isis does the same. but hang on, hang on. i'm also mindful that there are very successful women in iran. you can look at engineers, you can look at pilots, you can look at athletes, you can look at artists. you know, to talk in those terms about 21st—century iran, is that useful? is that helpful to your cause? that's actually... that's a very good question.
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but let me tell you something. where are these intellectual women? more than 60% of university in iran, across iran, is being occupied by brave, smart, intellectual women. but are you kidding me? these women are not mature enough to choose what they want to wear? these women are not allowed to go to stadium. these women are not allowed to dance, to sing, to show their hair, to travel abroad without getting permission from their husband. these women are not allowed to get a passport without getting permission from a "male relative". so, this is what isis do, this is what the taliban do. that's why i'm saying that this regime actually trying to show the rest of the world that, "we are a normal regime. "we respect women's rights," but they're lying. look, many women inside iran, they're fed up with this gender apartheid regime. and that is why they took to the streets, to end the islamic republic. my personal story, i was a parliamentaryjournalist. yes? every time i... yes, i know that, i know. and i believe you were then
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barred because of inappropriate dress. any time, when i used to ask political questions, they didn't mind to attack my sexuality, saying that, "first, cover yourself. don't ask your question." so, you see? my existence, my body... i mean, my existence is not important for the government. my hair is much more important than my existence. i went to iran's interest section in washington, dc to make an official complaint about the death threats that i received. they kicked me out, and they called the us secret service to arrest me in america! well, we'll get to your own personal safety in just a moment, masih, but there's another interesting question. your online platform, where for years, you've invited iranian women to share pictures of themselves doing things which, in iran, are regarded as criminal — that is exposing their hair, taking off the hijab, acting, as we would say in the west, as "free, liberated women".
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by sharing those pictures, the iranian government believes those women are committing a crime. ijust wonder — and again, it's not about blame, it's just about how you handle the challenge you face — is it right to encourage those women in a way which could lead them to be desperately exposed inside a country in which, we have to admit, you no longer live? i'm going to actually give you an example to make it clear that i'm not encouraging women. i'm giving them platforms to be their own leaders, to be their own storytellers. when the iranian regime made a law, the head of the revolutionary court went on tv and said that if anyone sent videos to masih alinejad, they'll be charged up to ten years in prison, ifelt guilty. when the iranian regime arrested 29 women of an anti—compulsory hijab campaign, ifelt guilty.
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and i was even thinking of committing suicide when i was seeing the beautiful and innocent faces that were being arrested. but what helped me to survive and continue my campaign was the mothers. saba kordafshari was only 20 years old. yasaman aryani was only 22 years old. they received 2a years prison sentence. immediately, immediately, their mothers sent videos to me. and they said that, "now, we are the voice of our daughters". i told them, "no, ifeel bad. i cannot publish your videos." they said that, "then you betray us. "we know the price, "but we are fighting for freedom and dignity." so, you see, these are like the rosa parks of iran. these are, like, the women of suffragettes. they have agency. i want to give you another example... well, hang on, masih, because i do want to ask you several more questions and we don't have that much time. one of the questions is... i'm echoing the voice of the true leaders within the society. if i keep silent, then who?
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many apologists outside iran are trying to normalise compulsory hijab. when i launched my campaign, many politicians from your country, from the western countries, they went to iran — they obeyed compulsory hijab laws without even challenging it. i was the one letting them know that iranian women within the society were mocking you, telling you, "stop legitimising the barbaric laws". the last thing i would like to do is silence you, but i do want to ask you questions, one of which is this — does the fact that you work for voice of america, which is, of course, a us—federally funded radio and media organisation, does it not leave you exposed to the charge coming from tehran that you, in the end, are a tool of a united states government which, of course, has a long—standing enmity with iran? many years, when i launched the campaign, i've been under attack of many academics, many,
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like, left and liberals saying the same thing. let me ask you a question. are you a tool for the queen of england, because you're working for bbc? or you care about giving voice to voiceless people, or being a journalist? i'm the same. my dream is to go back to my country. i've been kicked out from my country. so, i started my work as a freelancer for voa when obama was in power. now biden is in power — i don't care. i'm even loud enough to say that, on your platform, shame on biden! while iranian women are getting killed in the streets, he's trying to get a deal with the iranian regime. i don't care who funds me, i care about who wants me to give their voice, to be their voices. this is the only thing that i care. they even can kick me out from america. but i'm loud enough, even on voa, to say that this is a total betrayal from the us
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government, when they abandoned the women of afghanistan. so, for me... yeah, well, you're raising many interesting points. let's just take one of those, which is about biden — you say "shame on biden" for not offering more support to the women of iran. actually, he's responded strongly and quickly, has he not, to what has happened in the last two weeks? he's ensured that iranians will get access to the internet — at least he'll try to get equipment into iran, which will allow more iranians access to the internet. he's imposed some targeted sanctions on the so—called morality police, and he's made a point of saying, unlike obama in 2009, when he responded to iranian protests quite slowly, he is determined to speak out on the behalf of iranian women. why are you so disappointed? because these are not enough. at the same time, they're showing their sympathy with empty words. but on the other hand, they're trying to negotiate and continue giving them
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billions of dollars. how come? i don't get this. hang on, well, surely, the world, and indeed, iranians, would benefit from a deal which ensures that the iranian nuclear programme is limited, and also, it ensures that some of the sanctions are lifted against the iranian people. look, let me finish. do you hear a single slogan against sanctions, or a single slogan that we want a nuclear deal? no, iranian people want to get rid of the regime. but the billions of dollars that the us government will give to the regime is going to the morality police. it's going to 51 religious institutions who promote sharia laws to kill more mahsa aminis inside iran. it's going to revolutionary guards. the iranian regime admits many times that, while we, the people of iran, were suffering from sanctions, they gave money to bashar assad, they gave money to hamas, to hezbollah. so, that is why — i mean, forgive my anger, but believe me, if the us government, if the democratic countries do not get united to end islamic terror,
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to put pressure on the islamic republic and continue negotiating with them, giving money to them, there is no point for the islamic republic to stop killing people. right, well, i get that message loud and clear, and i hearyouranger — and you know what? your anger is also heard loud and clear in iran. and it seems, at least you believe, that there have been several attempts to either kidnap or potentially kill you organised by the iranian government on us soil. i believe i'm right in saying you live in an fbi safe house. given all of that, are you not fearful if you continue to speak out on shows like this to people like me? first of all, i needed you years and years before mahsa amini got killed, and i appreciate now you're giving me voice — i'm not scared of being killed. you know, yes, if the fbi didn't stop the kidnapping plot or assassination plot, i would have been executed. i would have been killed
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like ruhollah zam and many other journalists and activists, and ordinary people who are being killed in iraq. there is no difference between me and masih, hadis. so, i'd rather be killed, but not kept silent. but stephen, you know... masih, masih, forgive me. there's one question i want to ask you before we end. you once said you had a dream of returning to iran and walking side—by—side with your own mother — she in the hijab that she chooses to wear, you with your hair streaming in the wind, as you choose to have it. do you think that dream can ever come true? of course! i believe in these women powerfully saying "no" to the compulsory hijab and the islamic republic. so, i believe in that. i mean, i haven't hugged my mum for 13 years, but my dream is coming true. the dream of millions of people are coming true, the regime is going to,
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you know, the iranian women alongside men burning headscarves — they'll actually end this gender apartheid regime for sure. all right, well, masih alinejad, i thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk. we have to end there, thank you. i appreciate it, thank you so much for having me. hello. well, it's fairly clear and calm across most of the uk right now, but later on, we are expecting wind and rain to sweep right across the country. a big autumn low is on the way,
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and here it is on the weather map. a lot of isobars there, and that does mean some very strong winds, especially in north—western parts of the uk. let's have a look at the forecast for the early hours. you can see that broad band of rain sweeping into ireland and western parts of scotland, a good squeeze in the isobars here. that means strengthening winds. but further east and south, it's a completely different picture — light winds, calm, mist and fog in a few places and really quite chilly. on those winds, gusting through the morning up to 70 mph in the western isles of scotland, and really very windy around the irish sea coasts and down towards the south—west as well. now, here's that band of rain around lunchtime, and then later on in the afternoon, it'll reach other parts of the uk. but the weather will improve out towards the north—west later on in the afternoon. within the band of rain, it'll be very windy and temperatures will be 12—14 celsius. then, friday night, that rain turns heavy in east anglia and the south—east, and eventually, it'll sweep into the near continent
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by the time we get to early saturday. and here is saturday. that low pressure is very broad and it's still driving our weather. in fact, the winds will remain brisk on saturday, although not quite as strong, but they will blow in some showers off the atlantic. they will be most frequent out towards the north—west here. hail and thunder is quite possible. in southern parts of the uk, given a bit of sunshine, it actually shouldn't be too bad at all. and later, saturday night into sunday, we are expecting another weather front to just brush southern parts of the uk. some uncertainty exactly how quickly that rain will clear away on sunday, but the thinking is by the time we get to the afternoon, most of us should have a dry day. just before i go, an update on tropical storm ian — it's out in the atlantic, but the second landfall is now expected on the south carolina coast. and the storm surge around the south—east of the united states, again, is likely to cause problems and heavy rain inland as well. bye— bye.
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