On Feb. 11 Iran marks the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power.
We asked the same four questions to our Iranian observers, some living in the country and some living abroad:
What were you doing 30 years ago?
How much freedom do you feel there is in the country?
What is your impression of the United States? Do you think there will be any changes after the June presidential election?
Over the next week, we will be publishing the replies of musician Hamid Reza Taherzadeh, economics professor Ali Tehrani, exiled opposition activist Aladin Touran and PhD student Assadi Tari.
"You need a permit to sing in public"
Hamid Reza Taherzadeh is a music teacher living in Paris. He left Iran in 1982, three years after the Islamic revolution.
What were you doing 30 years ago?
I was studying music at the international university at Sheraz (in the south-west of Iran). Before the revolution I had never heard of Khomeini, but I believed that his return would be a benefit to the country and that he would install a democratic system of government, as he had promised to do while in exile in Paris. Sadly, he dashed the hopes of the Iranian people. Not only did he not stick to his promises, but much worse, he arrested, tortured and executed thousands of Iranian men and women. Musicians did not escape this crackdown.
How much freedom do you feel there is in Iran?
I can't speak for myself because I live in Paris. But Khomeini has killed many artists. He has declared that music is the tool of the Devil. In the streets, the religious police attack musicians and break their instruments on their heads. The mullahs disolved the country's orchestras and shut down the music academies. The Pasdarans (guardians of the Islamic Republic) broke all the fingers of Amir Nasser Aftitah, Iran's greatest percussionist. He died soon after. The same thing happened to Mehdi Khaledi, one of the country's great violinists. The Pasdarans heard music coming from his house. They came in and smashed his Stradivarius - the only one in Iran. He died of fright. He was 65 years old. Since 1979 the Iranian regime has favoured two types of music - religious and military songs. The main preoccupation of the regime is to galvinise the hearts and minds of soldiers for a hypothetical war. My brother, a qualified musician, opened a secret school to teach western theory of music. He was arrested and killed. Iranians are not even allowed to transport their instruments in their cars - you need to ask for authorisation from the ministry of culture. The same goes for singing in public - you need a permit.
What is your impression of the United States?
How can a regime that cannot even get on with its own people be expected to sort out its relations with other countries, especially the USA? Ordinary Iranians have no problem whatsoever with other countries. It's quite the opposite. I believe that the USA has been too lax on Iran. Why else would they have bombed and invaded Iraq and not Iran? The mullah's want to show the Arab world that they are anti-Israel and anti-USA in order to have these Arab countries' support. It is ironic to think that once upon a time Tel Aviv actually sold weapons to Iran...
Do you think there will be any changes after the June presidential election?
Iranian elections are not like European ones. There will be no change whatsoever in June, because it will be the same person, the Ayatollah, holding on to the reins of power. What have Khatami and Rafsandjani done in the eight years they have been at the country's helm? Absolutely nothing. This is a regime that refuses to hear messages of peace from other countries. It is a barbarous system closer to the middle ages than the modern world.
Hamid playing traditional music