TOPICS > Politics

Political Unrest Continues on Streets of Tehran

June 24, 2009 at 6:05 PM EDT
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New York Times reporter Nazila Fathi speaks with Gwen Ifill about the latest developments on the political unrest in Iran.

JIM LEHRER: After that report was filed, Gwen Ifill talked by telephone with Nazila Fathi of the New York Times in Tehran.

GWEN IFILL: Nazila Fathi, welcome.

NAZILA FATHI, New York Times: Thank you.

GWEN IFILL: We’ve been hearing reports from the streets of Tehran of great unrest. Do these descriptions fit with what you’ve been reporting?

NAZILA FATHI: Yes, there was another unrest in Tehran today. Several hundred protesters went in front of the parliament today, but the vigilante forces and the riot police were already there. Actually, they were a much larger crowd than the protesters, and they managed to crush the demonstration immediately.

GWEN IFILL: Is there any way to know, from what you’ve been told and what you’ve seen, how many casualties or injuries there may have been?

NAZILA FATHI: No, we don’t know about the casualties or the injuries. I was not there, because we’ve been forbidden to participate or even to cover the protest.

We heard that they shot in the air. People were hit with batons and with clubs. But we have no information of the number of the casualties.

GWEN IFILL: Tell me a little bit what it’s like to report at a remove like that. Where are you getting your information?

NAZILA FATHI: Well, I’m getting my information from witnesses, people who go down there to see what’s happening. But as a journalist, I’m not risking, because we’ve been warned not to participate in these rallies.

And I have a press card with which I still can write. I can file stories. If I risk going to these places, maybe my credentials would be removed, and I’m reluctant to risk that.

GWEN IFILL: By nightfall, after the sun had gone down, had things gotten calm?

NAZILA FATHI: Yes, things were calmer towards the evening. People were already dismissed. Eyewitnesses said that a lot of people were arrested. They were handcuffed and taken away. And usually these protests, they calm down before the nightfall comes.

GWEN IFILL: Tell me about these arrests. We hear a lot of tales of a lot of people, including Mousavi’s entire newspaper staff, being arrested. Do we know who these people are?

NAZILA FATHI: People who worked at Mousavi’s newspaper were younger journalists, about 25 of them, who were arrested Sunday night. But in addition to them, people from all sorts of backgrounds — former politicians, former senior officials, journalists, activists, demonstrators, protesters — they have all been arrested.

Today there were figures that about over 100 former officials who backed Mr. Mousavi have been arrested. Over 20 journalists have been arrested. Over 600 protesters have been arrested, and nobody knows where they’re being kept.

Even well-known people who have been arrested, their families do not know where they are. They have not been able to speak to them or to visit them. It’s a very complicated situation, and many people are being arrested. There are fears that even Mr. Mousavi might be arrested because of the charges that are being leveled against him at this stage.

GWEN IFILL: So has there been any sign of Mr. Mousavi himself?

NAZILA FATHI: No, not since Thursday. No one has seen him. And he gave his last statement on Sunday, so we — he is at his home, apparently. He’s not arrested, but nobody has seen him.

GWEN IFILL: Did the Ayatollah Khamenei’s words chill the protests in any way today?

NAZILA FATHI: Well, his words were again support for Mr. Ahmadinejad. And it was surprising that protesters came back on the streets and they ignored what the leader had said. But I guess it suggests that people are much more angrier, and even the words of the supreme leader cannot keep them off the streets.

GWEN IFILL: So it’s fair to say we’re not going to see the end of these yet?

NAZILA FATHI: It will eventually come with a kind of crackdown that is being used right now on the streets. Today I heard that the number of the security forces were a lot larger than the number of protesters.

And we’re seeing that the size of the crowds that are going to these protests are just getting smaller and smaller because the violence is increasing, the risks are increasing. So eventually they will stop, and the protesters should find a new strategy.

GWEN IFILL: Nazila Fathi of the New York Times, thank you so much