Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shortwave America Special Focus: Shabnam Assadollahi - Broadcasting For Freedom

Not very long ago this publication posted a brief piece about Shabnam Assadollahi, a Canadian radio broadcaster who focuses on human rights violations in Iran. In the first post about radio Hamseda, SWA said that a working relationship would be pursued with Shabnam with the idea of getting her show put on international airwaves, and that relationship has been put into motion.

Over the course of  several weeks, Shabnam has been so kind as to spend her time corresponding with Shortwave America about her show, Radio Hamseda. Shabnam has shared with this publication    generously, graciously, openly, and with great happiness.

Shabnam is a woman of great heart with fiery passion, tempered evenly in great concern for compassion.
First, a few facts about Shabnam so that the audience can become aquainted with her as SWA moves into the hours, days, and weeks of conversation had with Canada's own host of  Hamseda Radio.

Shabnam states a great concern for the state of communications, freedom to communicate, and the impact it has on Iran which results in an impact far outside of Iran. "I'm not a politician" she says; all I want to do is play a part in helping to bring freedom to people who have done nothing wrong, and have no reason to be oppressed." "The expression & flow of different views & ideas is part of what makes democracy." "Radio is the absolute greatest medium the public has, my heart is there for people of all walks of life because that's what freedom means, Iranians are human beings & I am into letting people have the right to be human."
Here are just the beginning of the many questions asked by SWA:

Could you tell Shortwave America where and how the show started?

Do Iranians have access to shortwave radio or other types of media and how restricted their access is?

How did your dream of using radio to defend human rights start?

When did you start pursuing it? How did you pursue it?

These questions are answered in the text below:

Shabnam Assadollahi is an active member of the Community.

Has utilized her personal and educational experiences to promote the well being and re-settlement of the immigrants and refugees from different cultural backgrounds in their new home, Canada.

As a young immigrant to Canada, she worked for "Trans World Radio" which is a Christian Broadcasting Org.; her programs were aired into Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and reached millions.

She is not only the host of  Hamseda, but also the Producer.

Radio Hamseda is a Persian Language Radio program on CHIN radio International heard in the Nation’s (Canada's) Capital and beyond with simulcast via internet with listeners throughout the world.

In the past, Shabnam has worked with Victim Assistance Services of Ottawa-Carleton. She was also executive board member/advocate and the treasurer of several organizations that focus on defending the rights of people against ethnic & racial discrimination.  

Shabnam sits on the board of "Neda For a Free Iran" a human rights NGO.

Approximately, 12,000 Iranians and 7,000 Afghans live in Ottawa and the area. "Hamseda" started in 2003 under CHIN International Radio CJLL 97.9 FM and is aired every Sunday live in Ottawa from 11:00 AM to 1:00 P.M. EST. Radio Hamseda just aired their 357th Live episode in September 2010.

Shabnam tells Shortwave America the following:
She doesn't get paid to do Radio Hamseda. Shabnam makes her money from serving those in need as an employee of a non-profit organization. According to the 2006 Census Data, over 121,000 residing in Canada self-identified their Iranian heritage. Like other ethnic groups that form the vibrant fabric of our country, Iranian-Canadians are contributing members of society and are working hard to form a new life in Canada.

At the same time, the brutality of the Islamic Republic of Iran – which the world has witnessed over the past few months and which the international community, including Canada, has strongly condemned – remains at physical distance but so close to the hearts of the Iranian settlers of Canada. This is such that they have come to cherish values that are Canadian, democratic values, and refuse to accept autocratic rule by coercion. The Canada Iranians care about their place of descent and for those who continue to live there.
As human beings they refuse to turn a blind eye to human rights violations in Iran.

Over the past 12 months, through the cries of the youth in Iran – these brave individuals who are being slaughtered ruthlessly by a regime that refuses to accept its defeat – we have heard a new message: that the political apparatus in Iran does not represent its people. In this context and regardless of their ethnic background, Canadians have stood in solidarity with Iranians, who now more than ever are striving to gain freedom, basic human rights, dignity and right to choose their representatives. The Government of Canada, as a champion and an advocate of democracy as well as human rights, both at home and in troubled corners of the planet, must do more, and we can.

As a Canadian/Iranian, I believe that we CAN do more! Moreover, that not only CAN we do more, but we MUST do more! We cannot turn a blind eye to over 30 years of injustice, to the cries of a people who are being oppressed, raped, tortured and murdered through the most brutal means (e.g., by stoning, public hangings, setting a flame), to the rights of women being denied and treated as second-class citizens, and for violations of the rights of a child (e.g., forced into wars, hard labour, sex trade, and executed by the State).

As Canadians, we are respected for our integrity, for upholding freedom, justice and democracy as principle foundations of our society, with a vibrant background yet a harmonious coexistence. We can play an important role in advocating democracy in Iran through education – for education is revolution.

Shabnam further tells Shortwave America that the Islamic regime is holding events disguised as diplomatic, cultural events but these are really publicity stunts to cover for the gross violation of human rights in Iran. "As long as the regime shows two faces, and keeps living a lie, the people of Iran will never see a democracy. For democracy to happen, we do not need a war with Israel or for America to come and blow Iran to bits, so Iran can end up like another Iraq or another Afghanistan." "Recently, an Iranian Canadian who blogged was arrested and the regime is seeking capital punishment for him simply because he openly expressed his views. That is not democracy."
SWA Asks: Are Iranian citizens limited to what they can hear, and how they can communicate?

Currently, there are limited sources for information that Iranians rely on. The Iranian state televisions are the regimes mouthpiece, bombarding the society with continued propaganda. They keep the society misinformed, spread the message of hate (both inside and outside of Iran), hail brutal acts of terrorism, and effectively support the regime to cling on power. They have also served as a means to divide a society based on economic, ethnic and religious lines. Outside of Iran, private satellite stations have their own political agenda and biases, increasing the confusion that the domestic state television stations are already serving. The Islamic regime is quite aware of radio broadcasters.

SWA Asks: Are shortwave radios or two way radio communications difficult for Iranian citizens to obtain and use in their homes?

Shabnam says: Just about every home in Iran has a shortwave radio and it is part of the daily routine in most homes to listen. However, the Islamic regime jams many stations such as VOA & BBC. BBC's signal has increased so much since the jamming started, that the regime has an extremely hard time coming over them. More experimentation with satellite radio, and satellite television is happening, but some of those stations are being jammed too. BBC has a program on television in Iran that lasts only a few hours. You can bet that the Islamic regime is also watching every move broadcasters make. Most all of the stations Iranians hear are from broadcasts originating outside of Iran. 

You can forget about using two way communications in Iran according to Shabnam. This comment came about after SWA made the observation that other than a few sporadic contacts with Israel & India, amateur operators last had contact with King Hussien of Jordan during his time on this earth as JY1.
Shabnam's words have proven to be true, per the Amateur Radio Society Of Iran where we see that using modern technology to communicate is extremely difficult due to the factors spoken of in the club's history.

Shortwave America also asked these questions:

For those of us who have never traveled to Iran, and have only a limited understanding of the culture and people, can you tell us about the reality of everyday life in Iran and how the suppression of communication affects everyone there?

Why does the Islamic regime insist on such restrictive practices when it comes to radio & television? What are they afraid of?

Why is it that shariah law means so much to the Iranian Government and how can the public tell the difference between propaganda lies and broadcasters being truthful?

In many countries around the world, all people hear about on their radio stations is about the violent side of Iran, and this gives a certain image which would tend to spread Islamophobia and fear of middle eastern people which is wide reaching. Can you tell us about different Islamic practices, beliefs, culture and how it translates in the context of communications?

Where do you see the entire middle east region heading in the context of radio, free exchange of ideas, and free expression of views?

What roles does Iran play in all of this in the context of their influence on other Islamic leadership in the middle east, and what do you think it will take to bring about the free exchange of communications, beliefs, and ideas?

How can existing shortwave broadcast stations help this cause? What could they do, how could they do it, and would it make a positive impact for bringing a free radio broadcasting community?

Shabnam stated that she has lived in Canada for so long now that it would be difficult for her to really give a good answer to these questions with any honest insight, and referred Shortwave America to to three sources whom would be better suited to speak on these topics. This author is awaiting interviews with these sources which will be published in a third installment of this special focus. These sources will be named at the end of part two of this series.   

Hamseda is a very popular and respected show with a great range of audience. Please visit our website to see our team of professionals and "about us"page@ the Radio Hamseda Facebook Page

Shabnam has a message for other Canadian broadcasters:
As freelance and independent Persian radio program producers/hosts in Canada, you may be interested to further brainstorm in how we can propose to the Government of Canada to support Iranians by making a medium for objective and transparent information possible.

In part two of this series, Shabnam Assadollahi becomes a guest here with her interview of  Dr. Mehrdad Emadi, Senior Economic Advisor to the European Union.

All photos in this article are Copyright 2010, Shabnam Assadolahi / Radio Hamseda, All Rights Reserved, Used By Permission.

1 comment:

Mehrtash said...

Thank you for this informative post.

Shabnam Assadollahi is a champion of compassion and the effective medium in communicating human rights issues that concern Iran, as well as their implications on the rest of the world.