The Spanish daily El Pais has published the text of a telephone interview with Ramin Jahanbaglu on 17 July. Jahanbaglu talks about the “confession” show that was to be aired by Iran’s TV. Since the interview, the show has been aired in two segments.
Ramin Jahanbaglu, a philosopher, spent four months in prison last year. He was traveling abroad when the show was aired. The translation of El Pais interview appears below.
El Pais: Did you know you appear in the program, according to the agencies which have seen the trailer?
Jahanbaglu: I had no idea.
El Pais: And how does it strike you?
Jahanbaglu: I'm very surprised. A political confession of this kind is absurd. It's pure propaganda. It reminds me of Stalinism, of "1984", the book by George Orwell. The fanatics want you not only to obey but also to agree with them.
El Pais: In the trailer your links with US institutions are denounced. What do you think they are referring to?
Jahanbaglu: It's all a matter of interpretation. Obviously, I take part in international conferences; it's no secret, nor is it illegal. Now, if you interpret it according to an ultra-ideological logic, it can become a crime. It's absurd.
El Pais: What effects may a program of this kind have on the population?
Jahanbaglu: I'd compare it with Mao's Cultural Revolution in China. The long term is the important thing. Over time one sees very clearly who the victim of the process is and who isn't, where the truth and the propaganda lie.
El Pais: Are you surprised that a program like this should be broadcast and that you should appear in it?
Jahanbaglu: I imagine they took the pictures of one of the interrogations they once subjected me to. Yes, of course I'm surprised at appearing on a political "reality show" like this one. I just can't understand the need for it. Having contacts abroad or taking part in conferences is not treason. On the contrary, I'd see it as a show of patriotism, of contribution to the country. I've never been a politician! What's more, I still want to live and teach in Iran. I believe I can be more useful to my country that way.
El Pais: Are you afraid?
Jahanbaglu: I'm scared. Showing confessions on television really is a victory for the politics of the absurd.
El Pais: Do you fear returning to prison?
Jahanbaglu: Obviously I don't want to go back to jail, but as I've said, the situation frightens me. I don't want to repeat my experience. These kinds of programs create an atmosphere of fear that is useful to nobody.
El Pais: What will happen with the [Iranian-]Americans who are being held?
Jahanbaglu: I hope they'll be released soon and can go back to their families as soon as possible.
El Pais: North Korea has given up its nuclear plan. Are there any lessons for the case of Iran?
Jahanbaglu: The case of Iran is more complicated. It can't be tackled in isolation. It falls into a much broader whole, which includes internal and external matters, like Iraq, the Middle East et cetera.