Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Conversation

Very few, if any, Western journalists remain in Iran today. One only needs to recall the cases of Roxana Saberi and Maziar Bahari to understand why. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government is deeply suspicious of foreign media, and often acts on its "suspicions" in ways which are later recounted in Human Rights Watch reports. It's a country where articles and interviews -- even seemingly innocuous ones -- can lead to imprisonment, torture or execution.

Jon Lee Anderson snagged a rare interview with Ahmadinejad. In Anderson's "Letter from Tehran," appearing in The New Yorker, he reveals Ahmadinejad's at-times comically transparent public relations efforts. Anderson also speaks to several reformists who have become discouraged, and a few who think there's still hope for the opposition Green Movement.

 When the interview turned to internal politics, Ahmadinejad denied the numerous reports about his government's repression of reformists, journalists, and human-rights activists. "One of the problems of the leaders of the West is their lack of information about the issues of the world," he said. "Show me a country in the West where eighty-five per cent of the people participate in Presidential elections! There aren't any! Iran is the record-holder in democracy. ... Today you can see that all my rivals and the so-called 'opposition' are free." He compared the violence against the Green Movement's demonstrators with the unrest at the recent G-20 summit. "If someone sets fire to a car or a building in America, what will they do to him?" He said he had been "shocked" by TV images showing riot police beating demonstrators, "all because they were against the failure of the West's economic policies." He told me, with an earnest look, "Iran would never behave in that way toward people."

Read the full story at The New Yorker.


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Elizabeth Weingarten is an editorial assistant at the New America Foundation. A former Slate editorial assistant, she also previously wrote for and produced the Atlantic's International Channel.

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