IRAN: Tehran diplomat in Norway quits post, denounces hard-line government
Mohammad Reza Heidari, a high-ranking Iranian diplomat in Norway, announced just hours ago in a television interview that he's quitting the foreign ministry and not returning to Tehran.
The report, by Norwegian state television reporter Mina Ghabel, confirms an earlier radio report that was denounced as "rumor" by Iranian officials.
Today's report (above, in Norwegian) shows Heydari on camera and quotes him as saying he grew disillusioned with the government over the violent crackdown on protesters in recent months, especially after the violence that erupted on the religious holiday of Ashura.
"I've been going through an inner struggle during the past seven months and wondered how this could happen in my country," he says in Persian during the report.
"What is it that my people want? My countrymen bled on Ashura only because they wanted freedom and what the West calls democracy. My conscience no longer allowed me to see these pictures. I then said that I wanted to quit so that people should know that we're on the same team."
After the original radio report, Heydari says he was contacted by the foreign ministry in Tehran, who dispatched someone to Oslo to chat with him. He was promised he wouldn't be hurt if he were to denounce reports of his resignation and return to Tehran.
"I refused to agree to that," Heydari says. "They suggested I'd do an interview in which I denied my defection in order to return to Tehran. But I know I made the right choice and that my conscience is clean."
Ghabel reports that Heydari hasn't yet sought political asylum in Norway but doesn't rule out that he won't do so in the future. He hopes he will inspire other diplomats and Iranian officials to follow his path.
"I hope that my friends in other cities around the world who hear me and who know me will move in the same direction as its people," he says. "That they will be able to sacrifice their own interests and rather think about what is in the interest of the people and the nation."
Heydari says he hopes that the ongoing protest movement will change Iran so that he can travel back freely.
At the end of the clip, an Iranian opposition activist in Norway greets Heydari. "I think he has returned to us, that he has come back to Iranians, and we must support him," she says.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Video: Norway's state-owned NRK television broadcast a news segment today about Tehran's consul to Oslo, who resigned in protest over the government's crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators. Credit: YouTube
Photo: Mohammad Reza Heydari. Credit: Los Angeles Times