In an exclusive interaction, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri told NDTV that “fallacious narratives are being created by foreign powers” about Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Minister’s comment was in reaction to a query from NDTV on the current protests in the country.
Iran has accused its foreign foes of fomenting violence in the country during protests since the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran by the morality police over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s mandatory hijab law.
On being asked how worried is the Iranian government, two months into the protests, the Deputy Foreign Minister told NDTV: “In the name of God, I would like to stress that criticism and raising objections is one of the pillars of democracy, and based on our religious beliefs that is also reflected in the Iranian Constitution. This right has been given to the people and we are all duty-bound to just see and listen to different perspectives and criticisms from the people.”
He added: “However, we should pay attention to the difference between peaceful assembly and violent assembly. Also, we have to pay attention to the intervention by foreign powers in the internal affairs of Iran and the fallacious narratives that they are creating about the events that are in Iran, that is in line with their own interests.”
In the past years, these powers and governments have continued with the same policy, with regard to Iran, the minister said.
On being asked where is the proof that America or European countries are intervening in Iran, Mr Baqeri said: “It is not difficult to look for proof or evidence. Just pay attention to the media that is supported by [these powers] and the statements made by some of these western powers.”
He further said: “See how some of the European powers are intervening in Iran. If you go to the approach and the news-making that they have, especially in the Persian language media that are based in London, you’ll see the depth of their intervention in the internal affairs of Iran.
When the minister was reminded about the fact that it is the common people of Iran who are protesting, including the country’s football team, Mr Baqeri said: “In a democratic system, people are free to express their views, to express their objections. But, what is important is the direction that is being given [to these protests] by foreign regimes. Western regimes are trying to steer these protests and the expressions of the people in a certain direction.”
Responding to a query on whether Iran is becoming more brutal in handling protesters, with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) saying that 300 people have been killed so far, including 40 children, the minister said the numbers were absolutely incorrect. “Such data is absolutely not true,” he said.
The minister added that in order to arrive at correct data, a committee has been established under the Ministry of Home Affairs of Iran. He said that according to official data, so far, 50 personnel of the Iranian police have been killed in these protests and several hundreds of people injured.
He refused to see these protests as an expression of women in Iran wanting change. “People are free, they are facing no impediments to freely express their views. And we have a legal framework for them to express their views and perspectives,” he reasoned.
Asked if there should be a rethink on the part of the Iranian authorities to grant women in the country more freedom, Mr Baqeri said: “After the success of the Islamic Revolution, Iranian women have made great progress. So, how was that possible? Women have played a key role in Iranian government and they occupy top positions as managers and academics in the country. Would that have been possible in a country where there is no freedom for women?”
When told that media were being allowed into Iran, the minister clarified that the Iranian government has no problem if media are independent. “We have no problem to allow them, to provide them access to see for themselves the realities on the ground. But the problem is that some of them are controlled by western regimes.”
Further illustrating the point, he said that Iran has no problem in allowing Indian media visit the country.