Omid Habibinia is an Iranian dissident who is currently living in Switzerland. Born in Iran, he studied Media, Clinical Psychology and Global Studies, founded International Association of Iranian Journalists 2010 and has worked as a journalist since 1990.
In 2002, while working on analyzing media and producing propaganda for Iranian state media, he started secretly communicating with BBC Persian and Iranian government opposition groups. He also created an underground film about the youth uprising in Iran. The Iranian government discovered that he created the film and tried to arrest him, but he was able to escape to Switzerland.
Today, from 4 to until there are no more questions, Omid will be answering your questions about anything Iran. If you want to ask him a question, leave a comment or tweet your question under the hashtag #iranchat.
Omid Habibinia Q&A
04/15/2011 7:00 PM EDT
Thank you all for taking the time to ask such great questions. Hopefully there wasn't too much that was lost in translation. On that note, I would like to leave with this parting thought:
As an Iranian journalist I hope there comes a day that you will not hear any news from Iran except anything about their happiness, progress and empathy with the people around the world. In my opinion it will not be too far in the future. Yet to get there, we need to get prepared for a great battle - one which will make our destiny. We must know that the vision to our future can be nothing but a Democratic Iran. On that day, all of you who have sympathized with the Iranian people, will find yourself a room in my homeland.
04/15/2011 6:36 PM EDT
How Iranians feel about the religious establishment?
Annebelle337 asks via the comments:
How do most Iranians feel about the religious establishment in Iran (Khamenei etc)? If there were a political revolution, how would the role of religious figures change in Iranian society?
Iran owns a very young population. The youngsters in the urban areas are quite used to the Western lifestyle, even more than many Iranian immigrants living in the West, like us.
Every step they take, they find themselves opposing the religious rituals. Especially with the girls and young women -- they find the Islamic religious regulations discriminatory, humiliating, and unbearable.
No radical change in Iran will take place without eliminating religion from the power.
Because, it has been the religion for the past century which has retarded any and all of the revolution and social radical movements in Iran. And at last has imprisoned the entire nation in the cells of religious totalitarian regime. Therefore, nowadays many of the progressive radical forces ask for the elimination of religion from the power. The religion must be dealt as a personal matter and there must be called for an END to all the cruelty and misery that religion has forced on the people.
04/15/2011 6:21 PM EDT
What are the Zereshk Sundis Awards?
Shahab Siavash and Elka217 ask via the comments:
Shahab: I saw a facebook group that you called Zereshk Awards, what is this? I just watched a video of it on YouTube. Elka217: I've recently watched a video posted by you on youtub called zereshksundisawards. Can you explain more about it?
This is a group work, just like other projects I had, but this one has a taste of "fun." It's intended as an analytic satire about the situation of the media, something like the Golden Raspberry Awards. It is gradually attracting the attention of the public.
Yet, we are also after more serious work to support the alternative Iranian media, as well as the freedom of speech under the title of " Iran Media Watch." We have published a statement about this that you can read here.
04/15/2011 6:10 PM EDT
Will there be a democratic revolution?
Rusty Soots asks via Facebook:
When do you believe a democratic revolution will finally and successfully sweep Iran?
I believe the the religious dictatorship in Iran will fall sooner or later. It is just a matter of time.
However, people need to be well aware before they repeat the mistakes which they made in the previous revolution. Furthermore, the working class of the society must involve other groups of the society in their movement so that the path towards the victory will be paved.
04/15/2011 5:56 PM EDT
How did you leave Iran?
Rick Albert asks via Facebook:
I would ask him how he managed to get out [of Iran] alive.
I hid in the western part of Iran for some months so that I could find some contacts and people who had connections abroad. Waiting all that time was like a nightmare. But fortunately, I eventually found people who managed to help me escape from Iran, until I arrived in Switzerland. Once there, I sought for asylum and granted it.
I am living in Switzerland now, in a small village in which people speak German with Swiss accent. It's very different from living in a crowded mega city with an occupation, friends and connections. But as you can see I'm still alive and kicking!
04/15/2011 5:39 PM EDT
What about the MKO?
Pedram Moallemian asks via the comments:
Where do you see the role of the MKO (Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization) in political future of Iran?
The MKO is a closed-frame organization. In my opinion, this organization has made many mistakes, many of which have been fatal. In fact, this group often seems to act in the manner of religious fanatics.
Studying the MKO's activities during the recent decades, we realize they seem more likely to swap from one source of power to the other, in order to gain the power inside Iran, by any means. Yet, I still hope this organization will revise its individualistic and biased policy against the political issues and respects the people's choice.
Besides their dedication in fighting against the Islamic regime, which is measurable, they need to come to the belief that it is the commitment to the demands of democracy which really counts. However, I would like to have them in a democratic Iran if they are willing to make changes in their organisation.
04/15/2011 5:23 PM EDT
What about other countries interfering?
Avirahim asks via the comments:
Why do so many countries interfere in Iran's internal politics?
We are on the same page! While the incidents happening in Africa, Palestine or anywhere remote in Canada, may not affect my personal life, they are still crucial to me.
In the same way, Iran is also important to many people around the globe and I am so thrilled that the events in Iran and the problems and rough times its nation have been going through for the past several decades while fighting for their freedom have interested the world. However, at the same time, we always complain why there is not enough attention paid to our problems.
04/15/2011 5:08 PM EDT
What about Venezuela?
@RadioNexx asks via Twitter:
How strong is Iran's relation with Venezuela? is Iran using Vzla to harm the United States?
I know well that the Iranian government has a good relationship with Venezuela. However, it is suspected that Iran is getting Venezuela to suppress the US and it brings embarrassment to Iranians who are leftists when Venezuela is the country which is supporting the Islamic regime.
04/15/2011 5:01 PM EDT
The youth uprising
Rose Yan asks via the comments:
How do you think the youth uprising in Iran affected the recent uprisings in the Middle East, if at all?
I can argue that the Iranians have learnt a lot from the uprisings in the Middle East. They have learned that if they have radical demands and stay in the streets, victory will be within reach.
Just as many people in the Middle East were looking at Iran for the past 2 years, now it's the Iranians who are monitoring the revolutions in the Middle East to learn from them.
04/15/2011 4:55 PM EDT
Role of the United States?
Rose Yan asks via the comments:
How about the role that the United States should have played, if any?
Regarding the role of the US, there are also diverse points of view. Some believe that the US is negotiating with the Iranian regime due to its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. And some just basically dislike its interference.
But the reality lies beneath this surface -- that the US in either ways is protecting some groups. Yet, in my opinion, it is still the topic of debate whether the opposition forces have genuinely any chance or popularity in Iran. Or is the constant supporting of the Monarchists and the Reformists and ignoring the rest of the activists a right decision?