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Tehran’s ‘Mr. Big Mouth’ on his deep-rooted hatred of the West

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Next: As the international debate continues about reducing Iran's nuclear capacity and lifting punishing international sanctions, there is still considerable anger on the streets of Tehran and it's directed at the West.

    Those messages have often emanated from mosques across the country during Friday prayers.

    New York Times Tehran bureau chief Thomas Erdbrink meets one of the true believers in this latest installment of his video diary. It's produced by Dutch public broadcaster VPRO. We call it Dispatch: Iran.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK, The New York Times:

    Every Friday morning, Hamid-Reza Ahmadabadi steps on his motorcycle in a town close to Tehran and drives to a weekly Friday prayer session, just as he has been doing so for years.

    The weekly Friday prayers have long dominated the image of Iran, and despite the recent attempts to mend ties with the West, it is still business as usual here.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    Thirty years ago, Imam Khomeini told us we shouldn't have any contact with the U.S. The reason was that America is the big Satan. If you chant death to America, they will be lonely and sick.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK:

    It is a powerful propaganda machine that simultaneously in 700 locations across the country disseminates the state's most important decisions and policies.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    As long as America continues with their devilish actions, we will keep chanting, death to America.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK:

    There are some guys here who are like warming up the crowd. Let's have a look at them.

    One man who has become famous in Iran symbolizes the declining, but determined power base of the hard-liners, who control the Friday prayer sessions. He is always in front of the cameras, and his nickname is Mr. Big Mouth.

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI, Iran (through interpreter):

    Hello. Welcome.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    You are famous.

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Please come in. I am at your service.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    So, you are every week at the Friday prayers and always in front. And when you are there, you shout more slogans than all the others.

    Like, what kind of slogans?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    We shout, death to America, but first we say, Allah is great. We say that three times. And then we shout, Death to Israel, death to England, death to all of them, we say, and also to the seditionists. We shout so much, so our screams are heard in the entire world. These are our laws and regulations. Death to America, death to Israel, and death to England. All divisions are because of England.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    When I see you, I think to myself, this man really hates something. Do you hate America?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Yes.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Do you hate Israel?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Yes.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Do you hate England?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Exactly.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Do you wake up in the morning and think, I hate all of them?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Even in our sleep, we shout death to Israel. In our sleep, we say this.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    You hate them that much?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Yes. We feel this hate. The world of Islam hates them.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Doesn't that give you negative energy?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    No, no, it actually gives me more energy. We do this in order to get more energy.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    How does that give you more energy?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    When you shout with foresight Allah is great, it circulates more blood.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK:

    Mr. Big Mouth's hate towards the United States is so deeply rooted that he even refuses to meet his own nephew, who decided to leave Iran and start a new life in the West.

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    You know why? Because I know that, when he returns, his wife will come with him. His wife is a foreigner. When she comes, you know, with their democracy, freedom, without a head scarf, she will wear a tank top, perhaps. We do not agree with such things.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Will it confuse you?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Yes, of course. We have problems with that. That is why we will never accept it.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    America needs to be destroyed. America is our enemy. As long as the world exists, America will be our enemy. Imam Khamenei has said, America is the great Satan. Death to America.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK:

    While Mr. Big Mouth might seem to be a caricature, he does resemble the faction that in reality holds almost all power in Iran. These hard-liners, a small group of Shiite Muslim clerics and military commanders, are not interested in real change.

    Actually, for them, any change from their rigid interpretation of their ideology poses great dangers. Mr. Big Mouth is one of their loyal foot soldiers.

  • (through interpreter):

    When I talk to you, I get the impression are you afraid of change.

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    I am very afraid of change.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Why?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Because I don't like change.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    The change you fear has already taken place. The country has changed.

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    It became prosperous.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    No, it changed.

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    Yes, I accept that it exchanged.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Do you think that time will ever return?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    No, that time will never return. It will never return.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    So you are engaged in a battle you will never win?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    My intent is to show that everything has its own place. At times, you must be tough. At other times, you must be gentle. Be calm with the people.

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Those who are against it?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    What do you mean by against?

  • THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter):

    Against your ideology. What should they do?

  • HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter):

    They have three options. Shut up, or get the hell out of the country, or go to prison. We give them these three options. That is how we deal with people who oppose.

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