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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09ANKARA1093 2009-07-30 09:25:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

Iranian Applicants Intimidated Yet Hopeful

Tags:   CVIS PREL PGOV PHUM SOCI SCUL TU IR 
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: This week's visa applicants representing a
spectrum of Iranian society updated CONOFF regarding the unrest in
Iran. In line with earlier reporting from Ankara, all expressed
shock that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the election and expressed hope
that the situation in Iran would change for the better. They noted
that an environment of fear has reduced the number of protesters on
the street but that most Iranians are still hopeful the opposition
will succeed. The applicants expressed that Supreme Leader Ali
Khamanei is incapable of regaining control and risks a deteriorating
security situation if he does not compromise. END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) While the opposition remains active, all applicants
acknowledged that the government's efforts to counter them have
reduced their magnitude. A young couple from Mashhad estimated that
from the peak of post election protests about 20 percent still
openly demonstrate. They cited beatings, killings, and rapid arrests
by plain-clothed police officers loyal to Khamanei as creating an
environment of fear among Mashhadis. They believed ten thousand
opposition supporters are now in prison. Upon leaving Iran
authorities interrogated them specifically about any intentions to
go to the US Embassy in Turkey. One Tehrani noted his 15-year-old
relative disappeared during earlier protests and was found when,
after harassment and one month confinement, authorities called his
parents to pick him up far from Tehran. One applicant said he has
distanced himself from friends that participate in the opposition
out of fear.



3. (SBU) Applicants also described government efforts to halt the
free flow of information about the civil unrest. Many applicants
revealed that international phone card services that circumvent
monitoring of direct numbers were cut off by authorities for three
weeks following the initial protests. Others complained that it is
now much more expensive to call internationally. One applicant noted
that government controlled television was broadcasting "unbelievable
lies" and that one "would not believe what is really going on
without being there". He added that the situation is terrible and
hoped the world would take action to help the Iranian people.



4. (SBU) Applicants of all age ranges noted that the situation in
Iran cannot revert back to the way it was and expressed hope for
positive democratic change and better relations with the West. One
applicant opined that a "the souls of Iranians have brightened" with
a hope that Khamanei cannot quell. He added that calls of "God is
Great" still ring from Tehran homes every evening in defiance of
Khamanei. Others noted that Iranians do not want religious
governance having seen its political and economic corruption and
said that opposition pressure will force Khamanei to change. A
Tehrani business owner said there are calls to come out every
Thursday to protest. He added that in earlier rallies only sixteen
thousand showed up for Ahmadinejad while three million came to
support Mousavi. He explained if there is no result from the
protests, the situation will escalate. A couple of applicants
believe that once the opposition forms a concrete platform and calls
on the population to come out, mass support would result despite
government intimidation. They explained that the recent challenges
to the system have led people to regain hope for change. When asked
about Mousavi, applicants noted that he became the default leader by
circumstance and due to his relative greater support for democracy.
They also cited Ahmadinejad's reluctance to leave Iran for regional
and international conferences as a sign of rifts in the regime.
Across the board, applicants expected greater democracy, a better
economy, and better relations with the West as an unavoidable result
of the recent events.



5. (SBU) When asked about perceptions of what the US should or
should not do regarding the current unrest in light of US-Iran
history, an applicant agreed that the US walks a thin line of being
labeled as self-interested rather than aiding a popular democratic
movement. He added that in order to succeed the people of Iran must
be the sole impetus in the fight for democracy. He emphasized
Iranians must have the will to "put their own souls" in the struggle
to achieve democracy. He expressed that the stance taken by
President Barack Obama was correct but would improve if he increased
his calls against human rights abuses against the people of Iran.



6. (SBU) COMMENT: Before the civil unrest in Iran many applicants
demonstrated a desire for greater freedoms, but would not take the
next step to openly challenge the regime. Most applicants
demonstrated that they were capable of working within the repressive
restraints of the system. Now many applicants are showing varying
degrees of support for the opposition against the regime. The fact
that some applicants spoke passionately about the fight for freedom
and democracy against the regime demonstrates a restoration of
confidence in the power of the Iranian people in opposition to their
rulers. END COMMENT.

JEFFREY