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Speaker Events - Monday, August 03, 2009

Columnist Roger Cohen Gives Gripping Account of Protests in Iran

Roger Cohen, New York Times op-ed columnist, was one of the last international correspondents to leave Iran after spending days with Iranians who swarmed the avenues and alleys of Tehran in June to demonstrate against the outcome of the election that the government contended — to much public derision — was won by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr. Cohen filed dramatic accounts of what he witnessed, and he said he was deeply affected by the experience of observing the initial euphoria of people believing they really had a chance to exercise their choice and then the disillusionment and despair when they realized they had been denied that chance and then found themselves being beaten by thuggish militias after taking to the streets to protest that denial.  

He was particularly undone by the beatings of women that he saw and was moved by a visit he paid the family of Neda Sultan, the young female bystander whose shooting death was captured in an affecting video that attracted the world’s attention and undermined the regime’s effort to suppress news of the public uprising.

Mr. Cohen wrote, “The Iran of yesterday is gone, the Iran of tomorrow not yet born.”

On July 19th, he came to IPI to talk about Iran today.

In his first dispatch on returning to New York, Mr. Cohen had written, “A chunk of me is back in Tehran,” and that was evident in the emotive eyewitness account that he delivered to a packed house in IPI’s Trygve Lie Center.

He concluded that the events of June make it more important than ever that the stand-off  between Iran and its chosen nemesis, the United States, end.

“It is a tragedy for the world and it is dangerous for the world, this thirty years of non-communication between the United States and Iran,” he said. “It is dangerous. It is past its time. It serves no real purpose. ’Death to America’, the nest of spies, all that vitriol – the Mad Mullahs – all these polarizing images, they really do not serve much purpose.”

“I think the significance of the US-Iranian breakthrough would seriously, in the age that we live in, be of the magnitude of the Shanghai Communiqué of 1972 that restored relations between the United States and China. And remember, that happened at the time of the Cultural Revolution, just as the restoration of relations with the Soviet Union occurred at the time of the Great Terror.”  

The talk was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI’s Vice President and Director of External Relations.

read full transcript of event

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