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The BBC Persian Service and British Interests in Iran

November 19, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Massoumeh Torfeh
Event Sponsor: 
Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies

Dr. Massoumeh Torfeh is a research associate at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the School of Oriental and African Studies specializing in the politics of Iran and Afghanistan.  She is a regular commentator in British media about developments in both countries. She was formerly a director of communications and spokesperson for the United Nations in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and a BBC World Service senior producer. She has published several papers about Iran in academic journals and co-authored two books on Iran.  Her PhD in Political Science is from the London School of Economics and is on “The Causes of the Failure of Democracy in Iran.”

In this talk, Dr. Torfeh discusses her book Persian Service: The BBC and British Interests in Iran (co-authored with Annabelle Sreberny). BBC Persian Service was initially developed in 1940 to broadcast war-time propaganda. Since then it has been regarded by many in Iran as an integral part of British policy-making in the region. The Shah of Iran considered it as his "enemy number one" and held it responsible for promoting the revolution of 1979. Many argue it was responsible in discrediting the government of Mohammad Mossadeq and sending messages during the coup of 1953. It is now regarded as a British soft power tool and its staff are harassed and arrested in Iran. Drawing on several sources of first hand documents, the talk will track the performance of the service in four major periods of tension between Iran and the UK: The removal of Reza Shah from power, the Mossadeq's era Anglo-Iranian oil crisis and the coup of 1953, the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the present day. It will critically analyze both whether the BBC was the standard bearer of objective reporting but also the representation as a mere tool of British foreign policy.

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