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'From Now On, Democracy Doesn't Exist Anymore'

A supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi waves a green ribbon -- Musavi's campaign color -- during protests in Tehran on June 13.
A supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi waves a green ribbon -- Musavi's campaign color -- during protests in Tehran on June 13.
Iranian officials say the June 12 presidential vote was free and fair. But reformists are crying foul and some even say a "coup" took place in Iran. RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari spoke to a 29-year-old journalist who works for one of Iran's moderate daily newspapers. She did not want her named to be used because of security fears.

RFE/RL: What happened in Iran or what is happening in Iran? Some call it a coup, while others describe it as an epic and a “people’s election." What is your view as a journalist who is in Tehran?

Iranian Journalist:
The important event that took place in Iran is that it wasn’t an election; it was a coup d’etat. [They] stole 24 million votes of the nation and took them away for themselves. If there were really a winner, they would have to celebrate, but instead they beat people. They performed a coup, but they don’t call it a coup.

RFE/RL: What are the indications?

Please don’t use the word "fraud" because it is mitigation of what has happened in Iran. Fraud is what was happening in the past 30 years. This is not fraud. They haven’t [counted ] people’s votes. Using the word fraud is like calling a deep cut a small scratch. There was no fraud; it was a coup.

RFE/RL: Please explain why you call it a coup. Based on what?

Based on the military atmosphere that is now ruling [in the country], based on the threats against senior officials in the country. What are the elements of a coup in the world? Just now as we’re speaking, [Mahmud Ahmadinejad] said I’ll clean the Iranian establishment of all these corrupted elements. [If this isn’t] a coup, then what is it?

Coup means that right now they’re beating people in the streets. A coup means they didn’t even count people’s votes. They announced the results without opening the ballot boxes. It was sent as a circular to the state television, which announced it. Is it so difficult for the world to understand this?

RFE/RL: How do you think the world should react to what has happened in Iran and what is happening right now -- the protests and the crackdown?

Recognizing Iran’s election as an election is a crime against democracy. The countries that have fought for democracy, countries that talk about democracy, if they accept this, they’re betraying themselves. This was not an election. If they accept this, it means they’ve put democracy under question. They’ve launched a coup under the cover of democracy.

This is a very important event. Just look at what the indications for a coup are. Last night, [cellphone] lines were cut; we can’t send SMSs. We can’t check our e-mails. We can’t keep in touch on Facebook. If this was a real election, then why [these measures]? [People] are responding to this in the streets. People were being beaten up in the streets until 4 a.m. They had gone out to be beaten. Everyone is upset and [holding back tears].

RFE/RL: Tehran today witnessed its second day of unrest. There’ve been violent protests in the capital and other cities. Do you expect people to continue protesting in the streets?

The nation has been humiliated and this is the first time that they’ve been humiliated this much. People who had boycotted the election voted with eagerness for [Mir Hossein Musavi]. Now they’re hitting them in the face and telling them you have voted for Ahmadinejad. And because of this humiliation, people are out in the streets. They have to pay a price for it and I think they’re ready to pay the price. Even though they’re being beaten up, they don’t leave the streets -- not for a minute.

Today, while Ahamdinejad is lying to people during the celebration for his victory, women and children are being beaten up by the police. And this will continue. These [riot police forces] are terrified because of these lies. That’s why they’re using special forces [to crack down]. Last night I told one of them at the Interior Ministry, I said, "Haven’t you won? You got 24 million votes. You should be proud. Why do you beat people?"

In today’s issue of the [hardline] "Kayhan" daily, [editor Hossein Shariatmadari] has written, "You’ve been shocked by the results of the vote? This is just the beginning. Just wait."

RFE/RL: Dozens of people have been detained. Do you expect things to get worse? Do you expect more pressure?

We’re sitting in our newsroom now. Three came from the Interior Ministry and took away a member of our newspaper staff. They just came and took away a journalist. Do you understand the depth of the tragedy? What happened in Iran is unprecedented. They've performed a coup under the cover of democracy, under the cover of elections. This has not happened before; they don’t say who they are. They don’t say it was a coup. Pakistan said it. Hitler would say he’s a Nazi. Mussolini would say, "I’m a fascist." You knew where you were standing.

A skin has been shed here. The Islamic republic has ended; from now on, it’s an Islamic regime. From now on, a republic doesn’t exist [in Iran] anymore; democracy doesn’t exist anymore. These people will not vote anymore, and [authorities] don’t need people’s votes anymore. It’s a turning point. Exactly 30 years and four months after the 1979 Revolution, the republicanism of the establishment was lost. I want you to show the depth of this tragedy. No one comes to detain you while you’re sitting in the newsroom. You don’t go to prison. Just show the depth of the tragedy.