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Interview: 'Iranians Have Inspired People Around the World'

Iran's postelection crisis and the protests by many Iranians calling for change have generated a lot of media interest around the world, especially in the United States, where a number of popular websites have been live blogging the events in Iran. One of these websites is "The Huffington Post," on which news editor Nico Pitney has been posting videos and pictures about the protests, violence, and acts of civil disobedience by Iranians. RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari spoke to Nico Pitney about his experience.

RFE/RL: What is the most important thing you have learned about Iran and Iranians while blogging about the post-election crisis?

Nico Pitney: There are a lot of things I’ve learned. People are so gracious and so kind and so eager to help. I’ve received so many letters of support and encouragement. One of the best thing I’ve learned about Iran are its people, befriending Iranians, Americans, and people outside of Iran who have been sending me information and seeing the determination of the Iranians who are there and are facing great danger in communicating online -- so that’s really one of the key things that I’ve learned.

RFE/RL: Are you receiving also reactions, feedback, and information from Iranians inside the country?

Pitney: Yes, although communication has been more difficult in recent days. But I hear from Iranians in the country fairly regularly, sometimes there are poems, sometimes there are just brief observations in the time that they have to e-mail and it’s incredible. Like I said, everyone who is communicating online is very brave and it makes it possible for the world to see what’s happening there and understand what the Basij are doing, what kind of violence is being used on peaceful demonstrators and the world wants to know about this. They’re very interested in what’s happening in Iran, they’re very sympathetic to the people there and want to know as much as possible, know about what individual people are experiencing.

RFE/RL: There is concern among some Iranians that now that there are no big demonstrations, the world will forget about them. Do you feel that the interest in Iran is fading?

Pitney: Well, I think as with any news stories some days are going to be emotional, get more attention than others because of what ‘s happening. But as we saw on Sunday, when the demonstration occurred at the mosque, I mean any day suddenly things can change very quickly and there is a lot of attention again. Obviously, seeing the images of those huge demonstrations was so unique and very inspiring but people continue to follow along, the web traffic to the work I am doing is still very high, people have gotten interested in the core of the story, they know the key people involved, they understand basically what’s happening and they want to follow it along and see what the end result is.

RFE/RL: What stories have moved you the most?

Pitney: There are obviously the major ones like Neda but more generally the bravery of Iran’s women who have come to the rescue of men being beaten, who stand up to the police and challenge them, it’s always incredible to see. And the chants at night. I’m always searching for videos of "Allahu Akbar" because every one of them is always so touching, so moving -- haunting really and I know our readers love them. Those kind of thing, you just hear the passion in people’s voices. There’ve been two major changes since all of this broke out and one of them is, I think you’ve seen millions of Americans who before whenever they heard of Iran, they just thought of Ahmadinejad and now when they hear Iran they think of the Iranian people and they think of people demonstrating and working for freedom and democracy and having a voice.

I think the second thing is setting aside the American government and the president but just talking about ordinary American people and not even Iranian-Americans, people with European heritage from Africa, from Latin America , [Iranians] have inspired them in so many ways, all these people from Texas who are chanting on the balconies of their home or who have signs up in their yards or wear a pin everyday, anything they can do to show their support for people in Iran. And I think it’s important for Iranian people to know that whatever happens with their government, things change or don’t change soon, what they’ve done has made a big impact already on people around the world and they should be proud.

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