Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous Post | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next Post »

IRAN: Did Tehran's consul to Norway defect because of violence against protesters?

January 6, 2010 |  1:15 pm

Scandinavian media are reporting that a high-ranking Iranian diplomat in Norway has resigned over the recent clampdowns on anti-government protesters in Iran.

"It was the Iranian authorities' treatment of demonstrators during the Christmas week that made me realize I couldn't continue," Mohammed Reza Heydari was quoted as saying in a report by Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Iranian officials have rejected the reports as rumor. A report by the semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr quoted a source in the Foreign Ministry as denying the report and describing it as part of a Western “psychological war” against Iran.

"The report is baseless. A diplomat returns to the country when his mission is finished in another country," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told the Reuters news agency.

"Sometimes they stay longer in the country where they served as diplomats for various reasons, including waiting for the end of school semesters of their children," he added.

The diplomat, meanwhile, appears to be keeping a low media profile. A representative from NRK's press office told The Times that Heydari "does not wish any contact with other media" at the moment. 

Here's a report about the whole flap in Norway's English-language daily.

Davoud Hermidas Bavand, a scholar and former diplomat in Iran, said such a defection could have a big impact. "If it is true, then it is going to be a precedent, because it has not happened since the beginning years of the [1979] revolution, when some of the appointed post-revolutionary diplomats defected and sought asylum," he told The Times. "This case in Norway can be the beginning of something, if it's true."

Heydari has served as the consul at the Iranian Embassy in Oslo for the last three years. The NRK report said he is still in the Norwegian capital and is considering asking the Norwegian authorities for help.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report. A spokesman for the department that handles immigration also declined to comment, saying the agency does not give out "information about asylum seekers."

An article published by the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan said Heydari told the paper through an intermediary that he needs a couple of days to figure out plans for him and his family, and that he therefore would like to hold off on giving more interviews.

Meanwhile, a Norwegian-Iranian aid committee has reportedly expressed concern for the diplomat's safety. 

"It will be difficult because he will be severely punished if he returns to Iran," Rahman Saki of the committee was quoted as saying by NRK. "Not only he, but also his family."

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: The Iranian Embassy in Oslo. Credit: Wikimedia Commons