Yass Alizadeh (@AlizadehYass) is a clinical assistant professor of Persian language and literature and the Persian program coordinator at New York University. Her research focuses on the layering of ethical themes in the ambiguously coded language of folktales in Modern Iran, the intricate link between politics and fiction, and the critical role of metaphors in the reframing of Iran’s classical oral tales.
Welcome to what we’re calling our “Out of the Loop” episodes, where we dig a little deeper into fascinating current events that may only register as a blip on the media’s news cycle and have conversations with the people who find themselves immersed in them. Here, we talk with NYU clinical assistant professor of Persian language and literature Yass Alizadeh about the protests going on in Iran right now for people who may be a bit out of the loop. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
On This Episode of Out of the Loop, We Discuss:
- What spark set off the current round of protests in Iran, and how does this differ from previous periods of unrest in the country?
- How did Iran go from a rapidly modernizing state to a tyrannical theocracy?
- Why the younger generations in Iran are standing up to the current regime in ways prior generations didn’t dare.
- Iranian regime change vs. regime reform — who really supports each approach and why it matters.
- Where Yass sees these protests going, and what she hopes they bode for the future of the Iranian people.
- And much more!
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter, on Instagram, and on YouTube. If you have something you’d like us to tackle here on an Out of the Loop episode, drop Jordan a line at email@example.com and let him know!
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Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Iranian Studies Initiative | New York University
- Yass Alizadeh | New York University
- Yass Alizadeh | Twitter
- Keeping Iranian Culture Alive at NYU Amid Protests | Washington Square News
- Use of VPNs In Iran Surge 30-Fold Since Start of Protests | Iran International
- Simple, Secure, Reliable Messaging | WhatsApp
- The Iranian Revolution — A Timeline of Events | The Brookings Institution
- Iran’s Basij Force: Specialists in Cracking Down on Dissent | Voice of America
- Iran Travel Advice: Local Laws and Customs | Gov.UK
- In the Face of Islamic Laws, Iranian Women Are Reappropriating Ancient Persian Culture | Middle East Institute
- Photos Show Iran Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution | Business Insider
- Rich Kids of Tehran | Instagram
- National Iranian American Council (NIAC) | Wikipedia
- The Shady Family Behind America’s Iran Lobby | The Daily Beast
- ‘Our Lives Are Destroyed’: Families Take Fight for Truth of Flight 752 to ICC | The Guardian
- Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) | Wikipedia
- Iran Vows ‘Revenge’ on Anniversary of General’s Killing In US Air Strike | Radio Free Europe
- Iran’s Ethnic Groups | Council on Foreign Relations
- Events in Iran since Mahsa Amini’s Arrest and Death in Custody | Reuters
- Iranian Youths Arrested for Dancing to Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ | The Takeaway
- Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi | Amazon
- For Freedom by Shervin Hajipour | YouTube
- Shervin Hajipour’s “For…” and the History of Iranian Protest Songs | Iranwire
- The Country Where Having a Pet Could Soon Land You in Jail | BBC News
- Women Can’t Sing in Iran: One Artist’s Struggle to Be Heard | Living Life Fearless
- NYU-ISI: What Women (Don’t) Want: A Panel Discussion on the Iranian Protests | Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies
746: Yass Alizadeh | Iran Protests | Out of the Loop
[00:00:00] Jen Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Yass Alizadeh: This is it. This is it. There's no going back. That's what people on the ground and young Iranians say on social media. This is it. They're just moving forward and they're just doing what they have been waiting to do all these years. This is a revolution and it will end beautifully with a free Iran, free from the grips of ayatollahs and IRGC.
[00:00:29] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional Emmy-nominated comedian, Russian spy, economic hitman, or cold case homicide investigator. Each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:00:55] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show — and of course, I love it when you do that, I suggest our episode starter packs as a place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like disinformation and cyber warfare, China and North Korea, crime and cults, scams and conspiracy debunks, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:21] Now, today, not really sure where to categorize this show. I'm thinking about starting a new series called Out of the Loop. I know you have Skeptical Sunday and Feedback Friday. This would be kind of like our Out of the Loop series. What this is going to be is whenever there's a really urgent current event that's kind of confusing. I think I'm going to do a breakdown of it because a lot of you ask me about this stuff. What's going on over here in Brazil? What's happening in Iran? What happens in the Ukraine War if Putin loses? There's all kinds of questions like that that I think are really interesting. That kind of don't fit elsewhere on the show. So I'm thinking of occasional episodes every month or even less depending on the level of global chaos.
[00:02:00] Now, today, the first one in this potential series, we all see the Instagram posts, the news clips, but I think like many global conflicts, especially these smaller ones and places we seldom hear about that are more regional or even domestic, all of this news goes in one ear and it comes out the other. Let's talk about what is going on in Iran right now for people who are a bit out of the loop. Today, my guest, Yass Alizadeh, a professor of Persian language and literature who is from Iran, is going to tell us not only her personal story about living and growing up under the revolution, but what is happening now along with some news that is sort of sneakily exiting the country from people that she knows, friends and family out there. Really interesting conversation, a little bit of Iran protests 101. And I think a lot of you, since you've asked me for this, this is going to scratch that itch.
[00:02:46] Now, here we go with our first out of the loop with Yass Alizadeh.
[00:02:53] Thank you very much for joining me. I know this is an unusual format for you. Usually, you're up in the front doing all the talking, teaching.
[00:03:00] Yass Alizadeh: Yes. Thank you so much for having me. That's true. But this is very exciting and I think it's very urgent for any Iranian in America to talk about this. So I'm ready.
[00:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: I've been getting a lot of DMs on Instagram and emails from people that say things like, "Be our voice, be our voice. We don't have Internet," which is interesting and sort of weirdly ironic, right? Because if you don't have Internet, how are you emailing me? How are you sending me a DM on Instagram?
[00:03:24] Yass Alizadeh: You might want to know that the Internet is very, very weak in Iran. It's very difficult to connect with people in Iran. They need VPNs and we are supposed to buy VPNs and send them VPNs. Many people cannot afford it. They cannot find it. It's very difficult to connect with people right now in Iran with my mother-in-law, with those people who are not very computer savvy to be able to connect with.
[00:03:47] Jordan Harbinger: So the Internet is it off?
[00:03:49] Yass Alizadeh: It's not off. But in order to get, let's say on social media, they need to have VPNs. And the Internet in some parts of Iran are off but other parts, you know, some part of the town is off. The other part, you can have Internet, but it's very difficult to go online and then go on social media because you probably know that Facebook is filtered in Iran, Twitter is filtered in Iran. They're all illegal. So even before these happenings, it was very difficult for people to kind of dare to go on Facebook. They all had fake names.
[00:04:22] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, so it was blocked and not the content is filtered. You can't get to it at all.
[00:04:27] Yass Alizadeh: No, you couldn't. So you had to have VPN. So the VPN is something that everybody has to have in order to go on social media websites. But all in all, Facebook and Twitter, illegal in Iran. And so, yes, yes, the Internet is very weak. So some days, I hear from my old classmates and my friends in Iran, and sometimes they cannot even go online. So WhatsApp is how I connect with my high school friends. And some days they are there, some days they are not. My aunt calls my mom via WhatsApp. Some days they can talk together. Some days they can't because there's no Internet. It's very difficult to kind of go online.
[00:05:07] Jordan Harbinger: But it seems like right now in Iran, there's these crazy protests. We're seeing some photos and videos leaking out and some from, maybe from foreign journalists, but a lot of people who are living there are urgently reaching out to people like me, to get attention for this cause. And so I'd like to back up because I think a lot of people are thinking, "I've heard something about Iran, I've seen a couple of clips." There's a mention in an article in the New York Times that's an inch wide or long or, you know, a couple of paragraphs. There's not a whole lot of information. What is happening right now in Iran?
[00:05:43] Yass Alizadeh: Thank you for asking that, Jordan, because today specifically is important to us. This is the 40th day from the murder of Mahsa Amini in the hands of the Islamic police. So today is specifically very important because people started to go to Saqqez, which is her city, and from all parts of Iran. And if you look at videos, you will see these huge groups of people walking for miles to get to her, you know, gravestone, to her resting place, people in cars, people on foot. And it was an amazing picture to see.
[00:06:23] Well, I just heard a couple of hours ago that the police has been surrounding the people who are going for the 40th day of mourning, arresting and harassing and shooting at them. So it was unbelievably beautiful in the beginning, and then suddenly it got deadly, as always with the Islamic police in Iran.
[00:06:44] Jordan Harbinger: I think for people who are saying, "Wait, who passed away?" So for those of us who are really, really truly out of the loop, which is kind of what this episode is for, this is a young girl who was beaten to death by the Islamic police, but we have to — let's talk about why she was beaten to death. And what are the Islamic police? Is that just what police are in Islamic countries or is this different than regular police?
[00:07:03] Yass Alizadeh: Oh, well you could call them different things. This is a police that is supposed to enforce Islamic laws per the Islamic Republic. So in the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, after the revolution one, we had this militia group that started to form and it was called [foreign] Islami the Islamic Republic police force, let's call it. And these people were basically vigilantes militia that got together and started this brotherhood to enforce the Islamic laws and kind of protect the regime. This is different from our police. This was different from the army. This was a group of really different type of people. They actually found legitimacy because they fought very hard in the Iran-Iraq war. We had an army. A lot of the army officers were themselves in jail, heard the Islamic Republic, right after the Islamic Republic started—
[00:08:02] Jordan Harbinger: The Islamic Revolution, this is 1979. This is when a largely secular government of Iran is overthrown by Islamic fundamentalists, in short, correct?
[00:08:12] Yass Alizadeh: Well, it wasn't overthrown by Islamic fundamentalists because my parents were in the revolution. The majority of Iranian people were in the revolution. A lot of many college students, doctors, nurses, teachers were in the revolution and they were not Islamic fundamentalists.
[00:08:26] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:08:27] Yass Alizadeh: But the group that won, in other words, the group that took control of this new country or nation was the Islamic fundamentalist. I definitely want to make sure that we realize that.
[00:08:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, this is interesting. So this is revolution to get rid of this corrupt Shah, the king, and then power vacuum. And then instead of instilling another secular government that's democratic or has the best interest of the people in mind, kooky, theocratic, fundamentalist, take over the government and then say, "Okay, we're going back to the stone age in terms of the laws."
[00:08:59] Yass Alizadeh: Yes. As far as the corruption of Shah is concerned, there's debate about that. It was really, Iran was a country that was developing very fast. The GDP was pretty high. People were very educated compared to their parents and grandparents. Women had a lot of freedom. They were in the job market, they were progressing. It was really a wonderful time to be an Iranian, but then in that type of democracy, which it wasn't really a democracy autocracy, but with democratic inclinations, people want more than just kind of a middle class lifestyle. And that basically was kind of a start of revolutionary ideas. I had a cousin who was, let's say a communist, he was in jail during Shah's time. He was a medical student. He was jailed. He was imprisoned. He was executed by Khamenei. So it was very strange times but I wouldn't call Shah himself a corrupt monarch because that's really not the case.
[00:10:00] Jordan Harbinger: There was overreached by the secret police though, right? I mean, I remember reading a lot of stories from people saying that they were imprisoned by, I think it was, was it called the SAVAK? Am I getting that right?
[00:10:09] Yass Alizadeh: Yes.
[00:10:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:10] Yass Alizadeh: You are right.
[00:10:11] Jordan Harbinger: So these guys were also kidnapping and torturing students and other activists and things like that. And look, you're the expert, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say people don't spark a revolution because they want to upgrade from a middle class lifestyle to an upper middle class lifestyle. Usually, there's more at stake, right?
[00:10:29] Yass Alizadeh: Yes. They didn't want to upgrade from middle class to upper middle class. That's true. , but they wanted to have political freedom.
[00:10:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay.
[00:10:36] Yass Alizadeh: And that usually happens when, at least in Iran, it happened when there was a huge, a hugely growing middle class. And we had also the constitutional revolution in our background. So, you know, it's a country that knew what it wanted and it was waiting for a democracy to finally come with Shah, although the lifestyle was pretty decent, but the political freedom wasn't there. And yes, SAVAK was cruel. It arrested people. My husband's uncle was one of the first people who was actually executed by SAVAK with Shah. He was also a communist. He was a very young man, a communist. And Shah didn't tolerate communist ideas specifically because many of them really wanted to change the regime with force as you know, they usually—
[00:11:29] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. With support from the Soviet Union, because again, we're talking about 1979, the Cold War—
[00:11:33] Yass Alizadeh: Yeah
[00:11:33] Jordan Harbinger: —was frozen solid at this point.
[00:11:35] Yass Alizadeh: Exactly. And there was a lot of pressure by European countries and America on Shah to be this wall against Soviet Union. And he really felt that his country was in danger and it was. Soviet Union was there, it was our neighbor. We were scared of it. And it had a lot of power. And there were many young men and women who believed in the ideals that Communism and Soviet Union seemed to bring to the table.
[00:12:04] Jordan Harbinger: And that's another show for another day. But meanwhile, there's a revolution and there's a power vacuum and then Islamic fundamentalists end up taking over. And my impression of the Basij and this Revolutionary Guards, the Revolutionary Guard Council, I guess it's. It's kind of like, and I'm trying to analogize this and I'm going to do a pretty poor/offensive job at doing so. But it seems like what would happen if the worst of the worst, least educated, most isolated, and small-minded people in any given country actually just took over the government by force, and now they're in charge of everything and they have no — I mean these are like people that never had seen running water and now they're running the entire country.
[00:12:47] Yass Alizadeh: Well, I wish that was really the case, but that wasn't the case, Jordan.
[00:12:50] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:12:51] Yass Alizadeh: Yeah. Not all of them were uneducated. These were Islamic fundamentalists. But if you look at the leaders of Islamic fundamentalism all over the world, you will see that many of them have had PhDs. They came from really wealthy families. The same was true with Iran. Not all of these Basij and IRGC terrorists were uneducated. They just were ideal locks.
[00:13:12] Jordan Harbinger: That makes it so much worse somehow.
[00:13:14] Yass Alizadeh: Yes.
[00:13:14] Jordan Harbinger: Like they should know better and they don't. You have some sympathy for people with two brain cells when they do something like this because they're too ignorant to know what they're doing. But meanwhile, these are just power-hungry people that absolutely know better and should have seen this coming.
[00:13:26] Yass Alizadeh: Yes, yes. And because they were, they are — we are talking about Islamic fundamentalists in its Shia version of it though, because when we talk about Islamic fundamentals and we usually think of the Sunni version of it. When it comes to Iran, it's majority Shia country. So they had the Shia version of Islamic fundamentalism with grand ayatollah as their supreme. Khomeini was the grand ayatollah as their supreme leader. And so they try to kind of justify all the crimes that they did or the criminal activities that they did in Islamic, let's say texts.
[00:14:06] In other words, there was justification for what they did. If they killed people, it was because these people were against our law. If they, you know, imprison people, it was because these people were doing sacrilegious things. So that made it much more difficult to stand against them because there's nothing worse than a theocracy that is run by a bunch of thugs.
[00:14:28] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay. And people are going to say, "What does this 1979, 1980 stuff have to do with what's happening now?" And the tie in, remember, is that this young woman was walking around, I guess, what was the deal? Her headscarf was unsatisfactorily covering her hair, and she was arrested by the police that are in charge of enforcing the religious laws. So these aren't traffic cops or people that come over when you've committed what we might consider an actual crime. These are people that walk around making sure people are, quote-unquote, "moral" and following the laws of Islam in public. Is that accurate?
[00:15:01] Yass Alizadeh: Yes, it is. They actually started working as Komīte in 1979. So the first thing that these, IRGC or let's say Basij people tried to shape was to enforce Islamic laws, and one of the Islamic laws that the law of hijab.
[00:15:17] Jordan Harbinger: Hijab, the headcover.
[00:15:18] Yass Alizadeh: Hijab.
[00:15:19] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:15:19] Yass Alizadeh: The headcover. So it was from the very beginning. The last time I went to school without hijab in Iran was when I started sixth grade in Iran, which was middle school. And I have a cute picture of me with my pigtails. And then that was the end of it. In the middle of sixth grade, they started to enforce hijab. So we had to wear a headcovering. And from then on every year it was just headcovering.
[00:15:42] So this is a 43-year-old law that has been, being reinforced all the time, all the time. And we are used to it. It's just that, now and then, the Islamic police arrest someone and sometimes they don't. And just like any other dictatorship, it's very arbitrary, but the law is there and it's part of the criminal law, it's written. The law of hijab is part of the criminal law in our laws. Everybody is familiar with that. When we see the police, we try to pull our hijab lower. It's very automatic. When we see our principles in school, when we see our even many professors, we pull it down. We pull it down to make sure our hair doesn't show. It's very automatic, and if you look at the videos of Iran, you will see that.
[00:16:26] So Mahsa Amini is a victim of that law, hijab law. And these people, these thugs have been doing it since the very beginning of the Islamic Republic.
[00:16:37] Jordan Harbinger: Right. But instead of giving her a ticket or arresting her and saying, "Hey, you know what to do, you're going to spend the afternoon inhaling secondhand smoke while we berate you." They beat her and she died.
[00:16:47] Yass Alizadeh: Yes. Because, you know, now this is not 43 years ago. Back then it was a country of 30 million people, and now it's a country of 80 million people.
[00:16:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:16:57] Yass Alizadeh: And because of social media. And the level of education among these people and the level of, you know, after 43 years is very difficult to kind of follow stupid laws, inhumane laws as sheepishly as, let's say we did back then. Usually, these girls don't want to get into the van and they try to—
[00:17:19] Jordan Harbinger: The police van, right?
[00:17:20] Yass Alizadeh: Yeah, the police van. And they try to kind of resist this and they try to argue with them. It's not that early years of the Islamic Republic where whatever they said we would follow because we were scared to death of these people.
[00:17:34] Now, as you see, there is this uprising revolution. These young people are not afraid. They're on the streets day and night. All the universities, the students are doing things that I could have never even fathomed doing during my years in Tehran University or Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. This is a different generation. It's much labor than we were and, you know, they don't follow the rules as probably sheepishly as we did back then.
[00:18:02] Jordan Harbinger: It's interesting to hear that because when I hear people talk about Gen Z or whatever in the United States, it's they're lazy. They can't show up on time, they don't have their stuff together. I mean, it's not a whole lot of very positive commentary. I tend to disagree with that. I mean, you're a teacher, so you see the pluses and the minuses, of course, of this generation. But I think it's really interesting to look back at your home country of Iran and look at the current generation. Did your opinion change now that you see them on the streets risking their lives to rebel against the theocratic government and the regime in Iran? Did that change your opinion or were you always pretty positive about the youth of Iran?
[00:18:37] Yass Alizadeh: No, it actually did change my mind. I was hopeful. I was hopeful because I knew that this abnormal regime, this abnormal way of ruling would not continue for a long time. I knew this day would come, but I was really just, you know, it blew my mind to see young people so young on the streets and not being afraid. I would think probably older people would go on the streets, people my age, people who have had it up to here. But then I realized, oh my goodness, no, it's actually the young people who are leading this revolution. These are 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds, college students. Yes, it was a surprise and I'm very proud of them.
[00:19:16] Jordan Harbinger: So, to clarify, the reason that they're out in the streets now is they've had it up to here, as we just mentioned, but also what sparked this was the death of this young girl, because it just highlighted for everybody on social media in a viral way, that not only are you being oppressed by ridiculous laws, by people who are living centuries in the past and trying to enforce this on you, but it really just fill in any blanks here.
[00:19:41] I can imagine very few things that would highlight for you that you have absolutely no future and no freedom than having somebody your own age beaten to death by the police for not wearing the right kind of headcover. It really circles, underlines, bold font the idea that you have absolutely no rights, nothing is getting better, things are maybe even getting worse. And unless you do something about it, the rest of your life is going to be worrying whether this happens to you or one of your own kids or friends.
[00:20:09] Yass Alizadeh: Exactly. And that's what the Iranian, young Iranians are saying on social media, whenever, because I have cousins in Iran. They're much younger than me. I have children of my cousins and I'm constantly on social media speaking with them. And yes, there's no future. They just want major change. They don't want reform. They have given the chance to this regime more than enough. They did it with Khatami, they did it with Rouhani.
[00:20:35] Jordan Harbinger: These are previous presidents of Iran, which are still underneath the ayatollah, right? So the system in Iran, you might have a president, but still at the top is this council of supreme leaders who are just basically religious figures that can dictate who can run for president and what the president is even allowed to do. Correct?
[00:20:52] Yass Alizadeh: Right. Exactly. And that's in our constitution. So the grand ayatollah or the supreme leader who's Ali Khamenei, he could veto everything and everyone. And so yes, there are presidents, but these presidents are part of the system. None of these presidents, none of them has ever been somebody to look up to, to hope that they would bring change. Except that when you live in a desperate situation, you hang on to whatever is available. And that's what Iranian people have done.
[00:21:23] I visited Iran when Khatami was going for presidency and I voted for him twice. And during Rouhani, I had already realized that this was a mistake but many of my family members voted for him the first time, not the second time, but the first time. These are ayatollahs. These are mullahs. They are followers of the supreme leader. They don't want change, they don't want reform. They just want the status quo, but maybe a little bit of, kind of more tolerance because you cannot have the pressure high all the time. It's going to blow up. And that's what has been happening.
[00:22:00] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like often the president is just a heat shield for the mullahs and ayatollahs. Again, I'm maybe off here, but if I'm really controlling everything and I say, "I'm going to let you pick from these three people who are all going to do what I say, but I give you the illusion of choice," and then you choose the one you think is maybe the most liberal for the youth. And then he comes up with ideas and I say, "No, no, no. Yes to this one, but only half of it. No, yes, and maybe," and then those are the laws and policies that get implemented. "I'm throwing a bone kind of to the population, but at the end of the day, I'm still the one in charge. I'm still taking, I'm still making all the rules. I'm still allowing and not allowing certain things to take place."
[00:22:43] And of course, we also see the massive amounts of corruption — I follow this Instagram account that follows, it's a little creepy, but it follows the grandkids of some of the ayatollahs and the high-ranking Iranian government figures. And they're in Paris wearing shorts that would probably be classified as underwear in most places and dresses that are com almost completely transparent. Spending $10,000 a day at a hotel and going out to a nightclub and getting lit. It's a kleptocracy where the top seems to be siphoning off the money just like any other place that has absolute power concentrated at the top.
[00:23:16] Yass Alizadeh: It's absolutely true, and I follow him too.
[00:23:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:23:19] Yass Alizadeh: He's a lawyer actually, and I really like what he's doing. Hopefully, he is going to do something, officially kind of kicking them all out of Europe and America and Canada, hopefully. I'm not sure if they will come or not, but you're absolutely right. It's just that, you know, this is the facade of Islam, and then underneath there's so much corruption and it's just immorality. It's just corruption, immorality, taking advantage of the situation, lack of humanity. You name it, everything that you would think is evil and bad, these people have, and they have no mercy, and they have no understanding of humanity, and I have no compassion for any of them.
[00:24:00] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Yass Alizadeh. We'll be right back.
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[00:27:32] Now back to Yass Alizadeh.
[00:27:35] So this protest went from Tehran and other cities to even smaller towns. I mean, it seems quite widespread throughout the entire country. Is that impression correct?
[00:27:46] Yass Alizadeh: It is. And we have never had anything like this ever in the past 43 years because we had the 2019 uprising. You probably know about that. And actually, I was going to Iran for my dad's funeral about two weeks after the November uprising of 2019. And there were police force all over my hometown of Mashhad, which is the second largest city in Iran. They arrested so many people, allegedly they killed 1500 people, and that's what Reuters announced, many newspapers and media, including New York Times, which we as most Iranians, detest New York Times because of its stance with regards to the Iranian protests and how it has continuously supported the Iranian regime voices.
[00:28:34] Jordan Harbinger: Really? The New York Times?
[00:28:35] Yass Alizadeh: Oh yeah.
[00:28:35] Jordan Harbinger: I guess I'm not paying attention to that. That seems so ironic in many ways that the New York Times would support — I'm trying to think of how you could possibly support the Iranian regime and nothing comes to mind. This is a bit of a detour, but what's going on there? Because in 2019, I remember watching the protest and being pretty hopeful. I mean, you see people on roofs throwing Molotov cocktails at the police, and you think this is finally happening. But I guess when 1500 people are murdered by the police in a few days, that does tend to put the lid back on the container at least in that year.
[00:29:08] Yass Alizadeh: It did. It did actually. One of the heroes of that uprising was Navid Afkari, who was, to us, the epitome of the young hero that everybody look up to. And he was imprisoned with false charges, he was executed without — we call it murder. It's not really an execution because there was really no court and no legitimacy. But yes, they could stop that uprising from turning into a revolution, but this time they cannot.
[00:29:36] New York Times, yes, it has played a horrendous role in the past, let's say 20-something years since the second term of President Obama because of the coming up of NIAC, this National Iranian American Council who was in charge of lobbying for kind of starting a relationship between the government of Iran and the government of the US. And the nuclear deal that you probably know about was all the work of NIAC. And NIAC had a pretty good base in both Washington DC and New York Times. And since then, New York Times has always tried to kind of downplay the legitimacy of the protest in Iran and the demands of the people.
[00:30:24] So while we, Iranians, are for regime change, New York Times is for reform. And this has never been hidden. It's everywhere, all over their articles that they have published. Actually, recently they published an article and downplayed the idea of hijab. They said that, "Well, hijab is really not an issue in Iran because if you are in the northern part of Tehran, which is our capital and northern part is this wealthy part of Tehran, people don't really wear hijab." And that's, you know, very possible. You know, if IRGC or Gasht-e-Ershad Islamic police is not looking, your scarf might fall. You might even have a nice coffee in a really brilliant coffee shop without having to put your hijab back on. But if you're a student, if you work in a bank, if you're a nurse, if you're a doctor, if you're an engineer, if you work in any office being private or public, the hijab is in force and it's the law.
[00:31:23] So I think articles like that really hurt the Iranian people and have been hurting the Iranian people because that's why this revolution, which, you know, it was an uprising, it was a protest. Now, it's a revolution, came to be such a big surprise to people who didn't really thought, "Oh, well, Iranians want reform," and it doesn't, you know, things like that.
[00:31:43] Jordan Harbinger: The argument that in one small part of one city, in the country of Iran doesn't normally have to wear hijab. That's such a ridiculous argument. That's like saying crime is not that bad. Just go to Fifth Avenue in New York City, there's not that much crime and the police are there all the time. Or no one's shopping. Well, look, at Broadway Times Square, there's plenty of people outside. America is back. It's just such a ridiculous argument that you can take one neighborhood in one town, especially in the capital and say, this isn't a problem, or this is a problem. That's ridiculous. I never, I never knew that about the New York Times, specifically with respect to Iran.
[00:32:16] Yass Alizadeh: You know, the same argument that went with, "Oh, well, there's no crime in New York City," the same people who made that argument make the argument that, "Oh, well, hijab is not a big deal in Iran." To me, they all come from the same type—
[00:32:29] Jordan Harbinger: Meanwhile, I think we can all see that hijab is obviously a big deal if you can get beaten to death for wearing it improperly while you're out walking and minding your own business, which is what happened to this poor young girl who sparked these protests.
[00:32:41] You touched on this a little bit earlier. Why is this protest different from the previous protest? You mentioned now it's a revolution. Is that classification coming from you or is that something that comes from other sources in Iran and what makes something a revolution versus just a widespread protest?
[00:32:58] Yass Alizadeh: Well, I'm not a politician, neither political science is not my forte. But I have the experience of living in the First Revolution in Iran and I'm in contact with the people in Iran who are on the. And the protests are usually directed at a specific goal. They want to achieve a goal. It's not as widespread. Now, what the people are chanting on the streets, this is regime change. They're attacking Khamenei. They're really cursing him left and right, which is very interesting. It's the things that they're saying to Khamenei, well, probably would be censored on any, you know, official TV.
[00:33:36] Jordan Harbinger: This is the grand ayatollah. So you're thinking like, this is like North Korea. And somebody saying, "Kim Jong-un is a fat bastard," and then lighting an effigy of him on fire. You just don't do that in a play, or Vladimir Putin or something like that. You just can't get away with that normally. And now it's a daily occurrence.
[00:33:52] Yass Alizadeh: They never did that before. It was always targeted at maybe the president or talking about the price of gas, which was something that sparked protests before, or the price of eggs. We had kind of the price of egg as something that sparked protests. And now, it's different. First of all, it's all those previous protests and more and more, and then some, and then something added to that is the airplane. The Ukrainian plane with 176 passengers that was targeted by IRGC right after Qassem Soleimani was killed by President Trump. And 176 passengers, the majority of them Iranians and not Iranians, these are Iranians who had moved to Canada and were Canadian Iranians. So people like me who went back home to visit their families during Christmas break, there were students, there were doctors, they were engineers. The majority of them were very young. These were young people, went to visit their family. They were targeted. The plane was down and IRGC did it. They denied it for a few days and, then they finally said, "Yes, we did it."
[00:35:04] Jordan Harbinger: IRGC is like, what can we compare that to? Is that like the FBI kind of thing? I mean, it's a little bit more Islamic fundamentalist FBI, or is it more like a militia that just protects the regime as opposed to working for the country?
[00:35:17] Yass Alizadeh: So if you look at the motto of IRGC, it says that, "Our goal is to protect the Islamic Revolution."
[00:35:25] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:35:25] Yass Alizadeh: It says nothing in it about protecting the Iranian people or the borders of Iran. That's the job of the Army. But IRGC is specifically formed in order to protect Islamic Revolution. And that's the mantra and that's their goal. So whatever is the goals of Islamic Revolution, including it's spreading it to other countries. You know, the Quds Force in Syria, they have forces in Iraq, they have forces in Lebanon. Hezbollah, they're protecting Hamas in Palestine. All those are part of the threads of IRGC.
[00:36:01] Jordan Harbinger: This is very foreign, no pun intended, to us in America, because when we think the army, the goal is to protect the United States. When we think the police with much debate now, you think their goal is to protect the sanctity and the safety in the city where they work. And again, I know that's getting more and more flexible these days, but we don't have anything where the job is to protect the government, right? Even the Secret Service, whose job it is to protect the president and investigate other, in the past, financial crimes and things like that, they're not an army that goes out and protects the government, right? That just doesn't really exist here. And it's not even just the government, it's the people in the government at the top, right? It's essentially like a militia that's controlled by the people at the top and nothing more. Am I fairly correct here?
[00:36:49] Yass Alizadeh: You are, but it's not just the government because IRGC is in protecting the Islamic Revolution. In other words, the Islamic Revolution is more than just the government of Iran, their idea is that, Okay, so Iran is one nation, yes, but then, you know, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and anywhere else. So, in other words, it's the ideology that they are protecting. It's more than just the body of the government of Iran, the ideology of the government of Iran.
[00:37:20] Jordan Harbinger: So this would be like if there was an international communist army supported by the Soviet Union, and that was in Vietnam and in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe and in South America. So this—
[00:37:31] Yass Alizadeh: Yes.
[00:37:32] Jordan Harbinger: —organization essentially tries to transcend Iran even though it's headquartered and sponsored by Iran.
[00:37:38] Yass Alizadeh: That's how Qasem Soleimani was actually killed in Iraq. You know, when he was killed, he wasn't in Iran, he was in Iraq. And we call Iraq the kind of backyard of Iranian government. And that was the case. Now, less after the recent events, but it was the backyard of the Iranian government and so is Lebanon, the Hezbollah. We know that they are the children of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
[00:38:06] Jordan Harbinger: Soleimani is a — we need like a two-sentence definition of who this was. So he was one of the kind of OG IRGC. Was he a general, is he kind of the head of this organization internationally in many ways, at least from a military perspective?
[00:38:21] Yass Alizadeh: Yes. So in that rank in IRGC, they don't have ranking like they do in the army because the ranking in the army comes with education, with experience, with, you know, kind of a very formal way of getting the ranking. But in IRGC, it's the brotherhood of idealogues of militia ideologues. So yes, he was the equivalent of a general but in the IRGC style of things. They still called him general when they are translating his epithet.
[00:38:53] Jordan Harbinger: And he was killed by a drone strike authorized by President Trump and supported by quite a few people in the military because this guy was responsible for so many deaths. And I think some people were against that because they thought it would provoke Iran as well.
[00:39:06] Yass Alizadeh: So again, that's another thing. When Qasem Soleimani was killed, many Iranians really rejoiced over it. If Qasem Soleimani was alive, you would see so much killing in murder and mass murder on the streets of Iran nowadays. If you see less of that, it's because Qasem Soleimani is not there anymore. And we appreciated it. And we appreciated it back then.
[00:39:28] Jordan Harbinger: Because he was such a hard-liner, he just had no mercy.
[00:39:31] Yass Alizadeh: No mercy.
[00:39:31] Jordan Harbinger: So this protest is spread throughout the country. I assume it's no longer simply because of the death of this poor young girl. This seems like the initial protest was about that, of course, and about the wider implications of that. But now, something that I didn't know about Iran before researching this was there's something like 38 different ethnic groups, and even that I'm sure debatable because there's probably subdivisions in there that just aren't on the old census. And these are groups that have longstanding grievances. It's not just Persians in Iran, contrary to what you might figure. If you've ever lived in LA, you just assume that everybody in Iran is Persian because that's what it seems like. There's Kurds, there's in fact dozens more that I literally just can't even name off the top of my head.
[00:40:14] Yass Alizadeh: Yes. Iran is a big nation and it's a nation of different ethnicities, different languages, different cultures, different religions. Yes. Yes. That's true. And we are very proud of that. And that has been always, this is nothing new to us. We're used to that. It has always been a place for all of us and we are proud of that. For me, my father is Kurdish, my mom is Persian. And it was never a question of, oh, well, you know, two ethnicities or two languages because my grandma, my father's side, she never spoke Persian ever all her life. And my father communicates in Kurdish with his family. Yes, Iran is a country of many ethnicities and many languages, and many cultures, and religions. That's true.
[00:40:59] And Mahsa Amini, her name is actually Jina but you know, the Iranian regime didn't allow her parents to give her the Kurdish name that they wanted to put on her. And this is another thing with the Islamic Republic that even names would be censored after the Islamic Republic was established. And so they gave her this Mahsa, which is a Persian name, but they wanted to name her Jina.
[00:41:24] Jordan Harbinger: So is Iran's current government kind of, sounds a little hyperbolic, is it sort of like Persian supremacist, right? Where if they're censoring people's names, if they're ethnic names from another subgroup of Iranians, a minority group, if you tell somebody you can't name your kid this because it's not a Persian name, it certainly sounds like the country is run by one ethnicity and everybody else has to submit to that. Is that accurate?
[00:41:47] Yass Alizadeh: No.
[00:41:47] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:41:47] Yass Alizadeh: That's not accurate. Actually, you might want to know that they didn't even allow Persian names to stay in the birth certificate of people. This is an Islamic government, so what they want is an Islamization.
[00:42:01] Jordan Harbinger: I see.
[00:42:02] Yass Alizadeh: You know, Islamicizing of the country and the Kurds, not the Kurds of Khorasan from which my family is from. We are from the Kurds of Khorasan, Shiites, but the Kurds in Kurdistan are Sunnis. This is Shia regime that does not tolerate Sunnis, and it has been ethnic cleansing. It has been religious cleansing of Iran of the Sunni population as well. It has been really awful and horrendous, horrendously awful to Sunni minorities, to Kurds, to anybody, and any ethnic group that does not fit into the Islamic version of life that they want to have for Iran. So, no.
[00:42:43] Jordan Harbinger: So it's still a supremacist government. It's just not a Persian supremacist, it's Islamic supremacy and only the, quote-unquote, "right kind" of Islam as well. So everything else is simply not tolerated and transformed via legal pressure or extra-legal pressure or force to conform to Shiite Islam.
[00:43:01] Yass Alizadeh: Yes, their version of Shiite Islam.
[00:43:03] Jordan Harbinger: Right, of course.
[00:43:04] Yass Alizadeh: Because you know, the ideological version of Shiite Islam. I give you an example because you said names that I was thinking about in my middle school. It was called Rudaba. It was a pretty old middle school in my hometown of Mashhad. And then right after the revolution, one year I went to the school, the year that I wasn't wearing the hijab. This is the first year after the Islamic Republic was established. It was still had this old name Rudaba, and then the year after they changed the name to Zeinab. So Zeinab is a pretty religious Shia religious name, and Rudaba was a very Persian name, kind of a symbolic name for us because it's a mythological character. It's a mythological woman. And so, no, it comes in Shahnameh, which is the Book of Kings, but they change it because they have no tolerance for Persian names either, Persian culture, Persian names. Our new Year, it's the first day of spring. It has always been limited and they wanted to do away with it, which is not Islamic. Our traditions or rituals in Iran, many of them are non-Islamic. And we have always been in this kind of standing, resisting our own Iranian heritage against this Islamic Regime.
[00:44:19] Jordan Harbinger: In previous generations and before the revolution, Iran, of course, still had all these different ethnicities, but it seemed a lot more of a melting pot, right? You had Zoroastrians and Persians and Kurds and all of these other different types of Sunni and Shiite Islam and other groups that coexisted pretty peacefully. And now, a lot of that independence or autonomy has been stamped down upon. So this would explain why the protest or the revolution now has spread throughout the country because you've had this pressure of these groups being trampled upon since 1979, possibly before that, depending on who they were by the government. And now finally, it seems like the security forces have lost a fair bit of control because you're talking about day 40. Other protests in Iran have not lasted this long, correct?
[00:45:08] Yass Alizadeh: They didn't. I don't think an American can actually imagine—
[00:45:12] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:45:12] Yass Alizadeh: —what it is like to live in a country that is not just a dictatorship, not just an autocracy, but a theocracy. So it's bad and worse and the worst. And it's the worst that you could imagine, that's what Iran is. And they arrested one of the doctors that was a forensic doctor. And yesterday, he announced that none of the forensic doctors of Iran agree with the official report of the Islamic Regime about Mahsa Amini's death because the regime tried to say, "Oh, well, she was sick, that's why she died," but the forensic doctors came out and said, "That's not true. We do not accept it." And so they arrested this man, Dr. Mehran Fereidooni was arrested yesterday because he came and spoke on behalf of forensic doctors in Iran. And I think, that's important. Also, the prisons of Iran are full of political prisoners who were not just arrested today or yesterday or in the past month, but in the past year, in the past two years, and in the past many, many years. So this uprising is about 43 years of oppression.
[00:46:24] I think I should also say this, I was in eighth grade. I had finished eighth grade. It was July. It was summer. Summer in Mashhad is pretty hot, pretty warm. I went to get my documents and my transcripts from my middle school whose name had changed from this Rudaba to Zeinab to get my transcripts to go and enroll in high school. And I had just gotten a haircut. This is 1980s. I had just gotten in my Olivia Newton-John haircut, so a few hair was flying off of my hijab and it was like, you know, July. So the school was officially closed. I went into the principal's office hoping that my nice vice principal was there, but lo and behold, she wasn't there and the principal was there and she was such this cruel woman with full hijab covering and very angry all the time. And so she said that she is not going to give me my transcripts and I will take the dream of getting into high school to grave with me.
[00:47:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:47:24] Yass Alizadeh: And for two weeks, my parents would call and beg for the transcripts to be released, and she would say no until one day my vice assistant principal, who was this nice woman who was also working in that place since before the revolution, she finally picked up the phone. And secretly without the principal knowing, she gave me the transcripts to go and enroll in high school.
[00:47:49] What I'm trying to say is that this idea of hijab has been always there, has always been there from the very beginning of the Islamic Republic. And this is nothing new, but you know, Mahsa Amini had to be this martyr for us that kind of became this secret name as her mom calls her secret name, or this wonderful name of this revolution in Iran that long time coming and we were waiting for this day to come and we are pretty excited that it is here.
[00:48:19] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me a little bit about when you were living through the transition of the Islamic Revolution. It's very interesting that you went from what seemingly a very normal life, getting your Olivia Newton-John haircut and walking around with no hijab to being denied your transcripts because of some, I mean, I'm going to say this in a callous way, some old bag who wanted to push her values off onto you and decided to punish you because you didn't care for those values. And now, that becomes, in a theocracy, so a government dictated by the rules of religion, essentially, that seems, it's very treacherous territory because you can go to jail for not wearing your headscarf correctly. Or is it true you can go to prison for singing and dancing? I remember a few years ago there was a music video from some Iranians and they all got thrown in jail because they were dancing to a Pharrell song. Do you remember this?
[00:49:11] Yass Alizadeh: Yes, of course, I remember. But I was also in jail for dancing and singing, probably singing, but I just danced at that party. The answer is yes, it's very treacherous. And the second answer is I have experience of going to jail. The first time I went to jail was, it was my best friend's wedding. And so the IRGC just broke into the party and arrested all of us. And that includes old people, young people, including the bride and the groom. And they took us this newly confiscated because we are talking about a very strange times in the history of the Islamic Republic. It's right after the Islamic Revolution, a few years after the Islamic Revolution, the war had started, it was at the time of cultural revolution, which is a copy of the cultural revolution in China, but probably, well, in my standards, much worse, they were kind of cleansing the universities and workforce of the people who they thought did not belong to this new Islamic system.
[00:50:09] And so, yes, they would arrest for hijab. They would arrest for dancing. They arrested us. They took us to this confiscated house. They were also confiscating people's properties. The people who were not in Iran, the people who thought were the enemies of Islam, the enemies of the Islamic Republic, and things like that. And we spent one night in jail, that jail, which is the beautiful house of a person. And then, the next day, they let us go.
[00:50:35] A few months after that, I was arrested at a birthday party with my sister, my husband, a few families. We were in this party and then we left the house. We were getting into the car, and then we saw this group of men who just run to the car and say, "Stop, stop the car." And then they arrested us. They went into the house, arrested the birthday girl, everybody who was in the house. And they took us to jail. We spent two nights in jail. Of course, the birthday girl and her husband and the family spent a huge amount of time in jail and they suffered so much. For us, it was three full days and two nights, and it was probably kind of an unbelievable experience for me, for my sister who was much younger than me, and there were a few other younger boys and girls in that party. But that's the first time that I saw with my eyes how the Islamic police tortures people because they would flog people in front of our eyes for like a hundred flogs, a hundred lashes. And every five seconds, they would look at us, like at me, my sister, and the other guests at the party and they would say, "You're next."
[00:51:49] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[00:51:49] Yass Alizadeh: "You're next."
[00:51:50] Jordan Harbinger: How old were you at this point?
[00:51:51] Yass Alizadeh: I married very young. I was 18. I was just a newlywed and I had just started 18.
[00:51:58] Jordan Harbinger: And your sister was younger than you. How old was she at this point?
[00:52:00] Yass Alizadeh: She was 14.
[00:52:01] Jordan Harbinger: And you were in prison with your 14-year-old sister looking at people getting beat up by the police.
[00:52:06] Yass Alizadeh: And every five seconds, they would look at her, look at me because women and men, of course, were separate. And they would tell us that, you know, we're next. We're going to be flogged next. We were interrogated one by one, my 14-year-old sister, me, the other people present at the party would be taken to this kind of court-like room and they would kind of interrogate us about the party.
[00:52:33] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Yass Alizadeh. We'll be right back.
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[00:54:57] Now for the rest of my conversation with Yass Alizadeh.
[00:55:02] What are you supposed to say about a party that you were at? Yes, we were at a party. Well, why? It was a birthday party. We were celebrating their birthday. Was there singing and dancing? Yes. It was a party. Were people eating and drinking? Yes. It was a party. I mean, imagine just kind of how pathetic these police officers or these groups of police officers' life is when they're interrogating a 14-year-old about a party. It's pathetic and invasive and ridiculous all at the same time.
[00:55:26] Yass Alizadeh: People died over this. I mean, people would die over being flogged and lashed over going to a party. You probably have heard of the novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. And she writes beautifully about the happenings in Iran post-1979 and how famously one of the young men who was at a party when the IRGC breaks into the house and want to arrest everybody — and the reason why it was traumatic in addition to that, is that we were all at the age where we wanted to go to college, to the university. And that very specific incident could be the end of our education.
[00:56:09] And that's how actually it happened to me because two years in a row, at 18 or 19, I was not allowed to go into the university. I would get the letter from the Islamic investigation bureau with a forum questioning, "How old were you at the time of a revolution? Were you part of the revolution? Do you believe in the ideals of the Islamic Republic, blah, blah, blah?" things like that. And I had to get signatures proving that I was Islamic enough, 18-year-old. So I actually entered college at 20 because of that. And that's a story of its own. But yes, so one of these young men threw himself off the building and died because he didn't want to be arrested by IRGC.
[00:56:49] Jordan Harbinger: Oh gosh, that's horrible. I know you didn't speak up publicly before because your family, your father was living in Iran. I know that's since changed, and this is a hard question. Do you think it was worth being quiet and muffling your voice while he was there? I mean, I understand doing that for the safety of your father. It's clear that a government like this would go after your family. Do you have mixed feelings about that at all?
[00:57:11] Yass Alizadeh: I do have mixed feelings about that because I think I've lived in this country for about 25 years and I was always quiet. And I always tried to do the, you know, well, it's my life story. No one wants to listen to it. And I wanted to go to Iran. I wanted to take my children to Iran to see my family. That was important to me. But majority of Iranian people who have left Iran and live in America, Canada, or Europe required about their experiences, partly because they were worried about their family who is still in Iran. And partly because they were afraid to kind of not being able to go back and see their family.
[00:57:52] So it's a very difficult thing to choose between, like one personal story. We know it's really more important than personal and seeing my family. And at the time, it wasn't just my father, but my mom, my younger brother, I have a huge family in Iran that they still live there. But after my father died, I realized that I wasn't even sure because if it was worth it or not, maybe, maybe if I talked it would've helped. Some people recognized the evil that this regime is, and I never really talked about it.
[00:58:26] No one that ever hired me — I've been teaching for a long time in the United States and none of the institutions that hired me knew the story that I actually lost my chance of getting into the university for two years and how difficult it was to find signatures that they would say that I'm an Islamic-enough person to be able to get into the university, things like that matter. But it's very difficult to be an immigrant and try to make a living and just have a normal life and then be also a political person on this side of the waters.
[00:59:00] Jordan Harbinger: What do you hope will happen in this new revolution, this new round of protests?
[00:59:06] Yass Alizadeh: Well, I hope the students and young people who are on the streets will achieve their goals, and that is the complete change from the scenery right now. We have a corrupt regime, which is an Islamist regime and has been torturing people for the past 43 years. It has been denying them the basics of human rights. As you see, corruption doesn't really begin and end with hijab. It's everything and anything. It's about the dignity of making a living. And if you're a teacher, making a good living, if you're a college professor making a decent living, and none of that exists in Iran, people are poor because of this regime. They work hard, but they don't earn as much. It's horrendous the way people have been suffering in Iran, mentally, politically, psychologically, and emotionally. Women are not allowed to sing in Iran. I don't know if you know that or not.
[01:00:04] Jordan Harbinger: I did not. But I mean, it goes hand in hand with not being allowed to go to a party, so no big surprise.
[01:00:10] Yass Alizadeh: There is a very, very important song that the day that Mahsa Amini died, this beautiful young man made this really wonderful music for Mahsa Amini and the Iranian protest based on the tweets that people put online. And of course, he was arrested and this song has become, has spread all over the world and people from Finland dance to it and Germans are singing it. The Dutch are dancing to it. It's just because the beautiful thing is that the tweets that were put for Mahsa Amini and Iran, the day after Mahsa Amini's death, while he's a singer, is an artist, so he took all those tweets and then turned it into a song. And it's so meaningful, and I didn't tell you this, but dogs are forbidden in Iran. Having a dog in your house is forbidden in Iran. I think that should matter for dog people in America.
[01:01:01] Jordan Harbinger: That's crazy. You can't have a dog. I guess you can't have a pet, in general. What about a cat?
[01:01:05] Yass Alizadeh: You can't have a cat. Dog is considered sacrilegious in Islam.
[01:01:09] Jordan Harbinger: That's haram.
[01:01:09] Yass Alizadeh: Yeah, haram. So they don't allow dogs and they kill dogs. And so the idea of — he says in his song, "For the Poor Dogs that were murdered." That's why I think this song matters. This kind of culminates the odd ideas of why there's this revolution and what are the demands of this revolution.
[01:01:27] So I hope that young people that are on the streets, university students can achieve their goal of toppling this regime. That's what they want. They want regime change and hopefully, we are their voice and we hope and help that they achieved their goal.
[01:01:41] Jordan Harbinger: People are going to ask, why aren't women allowed to sing? I think the answer is it's just un-Islamic. But tell me a little bit about why that is the case. Because it's just so ridiculous. It's up there with being arrested because you're dancing in a Pharrell video that you make on YouTube, which we'll link to that video on the show notes. You'll be surprised what gets you thrown in prison in Iran.
[01:02:00] Yass Alizadeh: Yeah, so it's an Islamist regime. If we understand what Islamism is then none of this will sound as a surprise. Islamism means that one is not as a woman, well, it's about men too because when I was in Iran, male students were not allowed to wear short sleeves. And to this day, men are not allowed to wear shorts and short sleeves. Short sleeves, they're now allowed to wear because the Islamic police cannot really do much about it. But shorts are still illegal on the streets of Iran. Women's voice is considered sexual to them. So it's all about sex, by the way.
[01:02:36] Jordan Harbinger: The whole thing is sort of founded on the idea that men have an uncontrollable penis that everything has to be stopped in order to block the uncontrollable penis. Sorry to be—
[01:02:46] Yass Alizadeh: Yeah.
[01:02:46] Jordan Harbinger: —crude, but that's real. It's so ridiculous. It's like you just couldn't possibly have any sort of free will and behave yourself. It's got to be the woman's fault that your penis is acting up.
[01:02:55] Yass Alizadeh: So, a woman's voice is supposed to be alluring. When a woman sings, her voice is supposed to be sexualized agency, let's say, or sexualizing agency, I don't know, a provocative agency. Men and women are not allowed to kiss in public. And of course, you know, if you ask them, they're going to say, "Oh, well, they're allowed to kiss in public." But when, you know, the regime from the very beginning arrests people based on their relationship. So if you know a man and woman kissed on cheeks, by the way, in public, the police is allowed to come and say, "What's the relationship between the two of you?" And if they're not father and daughter, brother and sister, uncle and niece, then you are done. You're done. You're going to go to jail.
[01:03:39] Jordan Harbinger: What about husband and wife? We didn't say that.
[01:03:40] Yass Alizadeh: Well, husband and wife, because this is the culture that they've started is so kind of incriminating that, no, definitely not. They don't kiss in public. It's not illegal. You can kiss in public, but no one does that because it's not worth being asked by IRGC — are you husband and wife? My husband and I, when we travel, we had to have our birth certificates with us because they wouldn't allow us to get a room together. You know, it's that serious. So kissing in public, definitely not a thing in Iran.
[01:04:11] It's problematic. It's a culture that they've been trying to enforce for 43. You know, between the execution of my two cousins who were brothers by the Islamic Regime and all the books and cassettes that we would have to bury in the ground, every time they would say, somebody would call and say, "Oh, IRGC is coming to her house," partly because my dad was the uncle of the two [executed] young men and just because we were just ordinary middle class people who they knew were not following the Islamic Republic or the rules of the Islamic Republic. We would bury books, would bury cassettes, would bury pictures in our garden because we didn't want IRGC to know that we had books that were considered illegal. Because from right after the cultural revolution, they made a huge list of the books that were illegal. And these were books that were written by Iranian authors mostly.
[01:05:07] So even our photo albums, we had to bury them because everywhere that you would see a picture of my mom or my dad drinking or dancing, and they did a lot of that before the revolution, they had to be buried cause this is not a group of people, this regime was very fierce with whoever didn't follow the laws of Islam the way they wanted them to follow. So that's what we did. But also my dad loved making wine and because alcohol post-revolution was illegal in Iran, he would make his own wine. He would, you know, buy grapes, beautiful grapes, or they would bring us from the north of Khorasan, these huge piles of grapes, and then we would stomp on them and make wine and he made the best wine. But a lot of times we would have to get rid of this wine because we were afraid that IRGC was behind the door, at the door. We would get a phone call or somebody would say, "They know you're making wine," so we would get rid of the wine.
[01:06:07] Probably one of the most beautiful experiences of my life is that after my dad passed away and I went to Iran for his funeral, all the cousins were sitting together and drinking the wine that he had made. And it was without exaggeration, the most delicious wine that I've ever had in my life. And I think, that says something about how this regime treated its people and how we resisted. You know, my father resisted, my mom resisted. It's not that this generation, this younger generation that is resisting, but our generation resisted. And my dad's generation, these people were about 30 years old when the revolution happened. And for the rest of their life, they tried to resist. They tried to keep normalcy within their household.
[01:06:53] So my dad would, let's say, get us, my sister and I violin lessons, but the violin teacher had to come very early morning on Fridays before anybody would know that there is a violin teacher in this house. And my dad had to cover all the windows with as much fabric and paper that he could so that the voice of violin wouldn't go out because as you probably know, chess was made illegal in Iran.
[01:07:20] Jordan Harbinger: I did not know that. So this is like anything that's even remotely, I mean, the violin is hardly something where I think, oh, first it's violin and extra smoking crack in the alley. Classical instruments and chess hardly vices that tend to get people in trouble.
[01:07:35] Yass Alizadeh: Yes, it's unimaginable. It's unbelievable. But they thought that chess corrupts the brain of Muslim children, so they made chess illegal. Playing cards was illegal but then my mom always had her friends coming secretly, playing cards together in an afternoon, sipping coffee, and playing cards. So people resisted The reason why you see today that this young generation is doing the uprising and just saying no to everything. It's because they have learned it from their mothers and grandmothers and the generation that lived before them.
[01:08:10] Jordan Harbinger: I asked you what you hope will happen. What do you realistically expect to happen? Because the unfortunate truth is usually and in the past, security forces just start murdering hundreds or even thousands of people to get these kinds of protests and unrest to end.
[01:08:26] Yass Alizadeh: Well, they haven't, although 250 people were killed and murdered by the regime in the past month, but they have been much softer, let's say, on these people than they were in 2019 uprising. Because of the power of social media, partly because of the hashtag Mahsa Amini, hashtag Iranian revolution. They didn't imagine this happening. And also because all eyes are on Iran right now, you probably know that Raisi came to New York about a month ago.
[01:08:57] Jordan Harbinger: Raisi is the current president?
[01:08:59] Yass Alizadeh: Yes. So Raisi who's the current president of the Islamic Republic came to New York City about a month ago, and there was a huge protest at United Nations by Iranians who came from California, from Toronto, from across Canada and America to protest Raisi presence in New York City and in the United Nations. Basically, what we said was that he doesn't represent us. He shouldn't be allowed because you probably know the history of Raisi. He was in charge of killing 6,000 Iranian prisoners in 1980s, which—
[01:09:37] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:09:37] Yass Alizadeh: Yes.
[01:09:37] Jordan Harbinger: 6,000.
[01:09:38] Yass Alizadeh: 6,000, 6,000 Iranian political prisoners and Raisi was in charge of the judiciary back then. It's a history that probably the West either, doesn't know about it or doesn't really care at this time, but Iranians know and Iranians care. So when Raisi came, it was kind of the beginning of all these protests outside of Iran and then inside of Iran because of Mahsa Amini.
[01:10:06] The reason why this is different from before is because of the worldwide support for Iranian people in Iran and because of Hamed Esmaeilion is a man who lost his wife and his daughter in the Ukrainian Airline that was targeted by IRGC. And 176 people died or were murdered in that plane crash. Basically, I think that's why this is different this time, the power of social media, the power of support by the worldwide community, and how Iranians are not backing down. There is uprising and protests in universities across Iran every day.
[01:10:49] The doctors and physicians of Iran have announced that they support this uprising. There are strikes all across Iran, and so this is more than a protest. This is a revolution and it might take some time, but it's going to win.
[01:11:05] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much. This is really, there's a lot here that I didn't know despite having researched this, so I think a lot of folks that are formally consider themselves out of the loop are now firmly in the loop, and we will watch with wrapped curiosity what happens here in Iran over the next few months because this doesn't seem to be slowing down.
[01:11:24] They're trying to keep the news away from us, from getting out of the country, but it certainly does not seem to be losing momentum. So there's something happening here. This could be the big one—
[01:11:34] Yass Alizadeh: Yes.
[01:11:34] Jordan Harbinger: —so to speak. And with any luck and with the blood and suffering of hundreds of thousands of young people all over the country, this could be it.
[01:11:44] Yass Alizadeh: This is it. This is it. There's no going back. That's what people on the ground and young Iranians say on social media. This is it. They're just moving forward and they're just doing what they have been waiting to do all these years. This is a revolution and it will end beautifully with a free Iran, free from the grips of ayatollahs and IRGC.
[01:12:06] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much.
[01:12:07] Yass Alizadeh: Thank you, Jordan.
[01:12:10] Jordan Harbinger: Of course, I've got thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a sample of my interview with Guy Raz who hosts NPR's How I Built This. He shares his number one secret to getting a great interview, how asking difficult questions during the interview serves both the overall story and the guests being grilled. And it's kind of nice to just riff with somebody else in the business. Here's a quick bite.
[01:12:31] Guy Raz: I came to NPR as a 22-year-old intern. I was very lucky, you know, I really wanted to be an overseas reporter and the stars were sort of aligned in the right way where I got the job and I was totally terrified. You know, I was sent to Berlin to be the correspondent for NPR.
[01:12:48] Jordan Harbinger: Don't mess this up. Oh, yeah, and by the way, you're going to Bosnia tomorrow.
[01:12:51] Guy Raz: And that's how I began overseas as a foreign correspondent. Bearing witness to historical events, being somewhere where they're unfolding in front of your eyes in real time is thrilling. It's absolutely extraordinary and fascinating. I mean, imagine if you were standing at the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989.
[01:13:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:13:11] Guy Raz: It's an extraordinary feeling to be in these places, and I was able to witness history unfold in front of my eyes many, many times.
[01:13:20] If there's really a secret to interviewing people, this is my secret. If you really want to get a good interview from somebody, you need to honor their story. You need to honor them. If they're coming to talk to you, and the way you honor them is you learn a lot about them. You spend the time. You do the work. And if you do that, there's a better than 50 percent chance that they will appreciate that and respect that.
[01:13:44] I mean, those wow moments, they're real. Because what I do in an interview is I completely leave the world that I'm in. I completely leave the surroundings, everything, all the chaos, the noise, you know, Trump and politics, and I just leave it. It's out. It's all the noise. COVID, it's gone. It's like when you see a movie, I am just in that person's world.
[01:14:08] Jordan Harbinger: For more, including the one teachable quality all entrepreneurs seem to have in common, check out episode 404 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Guy Raz.
[01:14:21] I hope you all enjoyed that. A bit of a different format, a bit of a different topic, that maybe we wouldn't normally touch on the show. So I'm curious what you think about these out of the loop. My other ideas are Brazil, what happens in the Ukraine War if Putin loses things along those lines that might be a little bit outside our normal wheelhouse. I'm also open to suggestions. I think we're going to turn a lot of stuff down, especially if it's political or something along those lines. But I think these small primers like today's was — this is by no means a full rundown of everything going on in Iran or the history of Iran or the revolution or anything like that. It's just a wrap-up so that you can be literate at your next dinner party or conversation on this subject, and you can consume the news on this subject with a little bit more background. I like this format. I think it's something we could do occasionally. I'd love to hear from you what you think about this particular episode and about this type of episode in general.
[01:15:10] We're going to fade out with a theme song of the revolution here by Shervin Hajipour. It's called Baraye. And this is apparently the rallying call for much of the current counterrevolution over there in Iran.
[01:15:22] Big thank you to Yass Alizadeh. The links we mentioned on the show will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts are in the show notes, videos up on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support this show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me right there on LinkedIn.
[01:15:43] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same systems, software, and tiny habits that I use. I do this stuff every day. It takes like two, three minutes a day. My so-called secrets are free for you over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty. It's not gross and schmoozy. There's not a weird upsell afterwards. That's like high pressure. I'm not going to frigging try to call you. Many of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to this course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company and let's admit it, that's where you belong.
[01:16:11] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends and family if you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's curious about this Iran thing or somebody who maybe is spouting a little bit of misinformation or would just be interested in learning more on this topic, please do share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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