This post is mainy based on a few emails we have exchanged with our readers. We tried to organise the whole text and publish it.
What our readers thought...
Our last post about the people who went to Iran to attend an event organised by Ahmadinejad has received a global attention. While some have harshly criticised our move, many have encouraged us to continue our mission collecting the names of those who accepted Ahmadinejad's invitation. I started with 5 names, and now we have over 50 confirmed attendees. As expected, the blog received attention (the post has been directly viewed over 55,000 times as of today, and linked by a few hundred times by other blogs/sites according to my online counter.) Over the past week we conducted a survey for Persian readers of our blog, with two questions, Around, 1600 visitors have responded; the first one asked about the visitors' opinion on the acceptance of Ahmadinejad's invitation to Tehran. 86% chose "going to the conference is legitimizing Ahmadinejad's face, damaging the civil rights movement of Iranians" (AKA green movement).8% believed that "we can not judge attendee's decision as it is a personal matter", and only 4% assessed the move as right, "generally benefiting the future of Iran".
On the second question on the survey, the question was what they think of collecting names of attendees to the conference (as in the blog). 72% said that "it was a good and acceptable work", 18% percent said that "it was wrong and unacceptable" and 8% said they could not decide whether such act was good or bad.
We received a considerable number of criticism as well. Some said this is violation of freedom of thought, some said this is immature and sick prejudgment. One said that these people are the most honorable Iranians and we do this out of jealousy. Some went even further and accused us of being Zionist or CIA agents and doing this for our profit.
Overall, I myself guess the move has been successful.
Where did the information come from?
All the information is based on public media, and there is no privacy concerns according to our extensive research. We are not accusing anybody of anything. We just want to let people know what is going on. It is the free flow of information, just ordinary public information based on what Iranian media reports. In a democratic society, we are supposed to tolerate each other. We are tolerating, but the Iranian authorities don't. Tolerating does not essentially mean that we must remain silent observers.
Still, I am very careful about the privacy, and have even posted a statement on the blog giving an option for removing the photo and contact information of any of the attendees upon their request. Indeed, so far one person, a well-known character, contacted us through his email that we had listed and asked us to remove him from the list as he traveled to Tehran with his family privately and accidentally stayed in the same hotel as the conference guests but did not attend the meeting. We did what Mr. H. A. had asked despite controversial reports from news sources (including NY times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/world/middleeast/08iran.html)
Who are we?
We are a group of academics from across the world. Our main contributors are based in the US, UK, Germany and Sweden. Some of us have been invited to this event and similar events, but rejected the invite without hesitate. I personally believe that every Iranian must do what they can for their country, it is great to contribute to fatherland through university collaboration and research activities, and of course we have nothing against those who keep in touch with Iran in this capacity (me included). But every Iranian's life has changed after 2009 post-election violence in Iran. My life has changed after watching Neda's death, and after seeing desperate mothers identifying frozen body of their sons killed in peaceful protests in meat storage depots (reportedly some of the victims bodies were stored frozen in huge food freezers in south Tehran, since there was not enough space in hospitals).
Why we did this?
Ahmadinejad was the organizer of this event, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (the closest person to Ahmadinejad and presidential office head and chief of staff, also the head of High Council Of Iranian Affairs Abroad) was the main person behind the invitations. As the world could see, these eminent and high-profile guests went to Tehran and cheered Ahmadinejad while he was saying that he is proud that the Security Council has already imposed four series of sanctions against Iran, "and that he does not care if they issue 4000 resolutions."
Every child in the west knows Ahmadinejad's administration has abused human rights in Iran. (my 8-year old American-Iranian nephew keeps asking me "uncle, do you know why Ahmadinejad killed people on the street?"). Many people around the world heard Ahmadinejad calling the protesters to the disputed election results, "worthless dust".
I am sure that you have heard that the first murder suspect in Zahra Kazemi's case was then Tehran's chief prosecutor (Mr Mortazavi) who ordered harshest treatment with prisoners in Kahrizak detention camp last June-July, where several detained protesters were killed under torture and, according to Mr Karrubi, sexually assaulted.
Ahmadinejad is the president of Islamic Republic (but NOT the legitimate president of Iran), well, does he not know how many university professors have been expelled from universities for their political views? Is he not responsible for the acts of his science ministry abandoning many students from school for their speeches? Was he not in charge when the militia attacked Tehran university or Sharif University of Technology dormitories in Tehran?
What do we want?
Is there any Iranian professor (for instance) traveling to Tehran to shake hands with Ahmadinejad not knowing these facts?
If yes, we have to let him know about whom he is indirectly promoting. If he does know, then we let others know him, just for the sake of the "free flow of information".
As a medical doctor and researcher myself, I could not close my eyes in these ignorant people. When I heard the disgusting and vulgar language of Ahmadinejad at the conference, and thought of those 17 prisoners who were on hunger strike on the same day in Evin prison (just 4 min car ride from conference venue in North Tehran, see google maps, A is the venue of conference "Summit hall of Tehran" and B is Evin Prison )
How did we start?
I thought I had to do something. I consulted with a few friends, (them also top researchers and businesspeople), and they approved such an action. First I wanted to harshly criticize their act in the blog post, but then I though it is best to publish their names without any judgment whatsoever. It was an open event, news agencies and TV stations covered it, and many of them actually gave their names to the reporters. Their photos are everywhere. Therefor, It must be no privacy violation to collect their names in one page.
Our ultimate wish
Our ultimate wish is that this people would come out and explain why they did this. I hope to hear they say that they did not consider their Ahmadinejad-funded travel to Iran and cheers and claps during his speech meant that they support the alleged crimes committed in his administration. I would like to hear that they say they did not even know that Ahmadinejad was to be blamed for the murder of over 100 young people in the post-election events, that they did not know four students were killed under torture in the prison, that Iran has the highest number of executions and a record of imprisoned students and journalists, etc. I hope they say that they did not know that he called 3 million silent protesters worthless dust, and they didn't see the bloods on his hands.
Finally, I am still researching this event, most importantly I am obliged to be fair. If there is anything that is in your opinion particularly wrong with our work, we would like to hear more/
Do not hesitate to ask any questions/concerns you may have.