Snow on the roof.
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PART TWO OF TWO: CHANNEL 4 IN IRAN
Snow is tall, this I am aware of from reading his autobiography, he stood towering towards me, his height exaggerated by the both our petite respective female accompaniments. Television has an odd way of hiding heights in either direction and it seemed Channel 4 had the daily task hiding a lot of this immense man. Habit forced me to watch Hilsum's hand which she eventually offered and I follow up by shaking Snow's. He shadowed before me then boldly greeted me with a very formal Arabic phrase: "Salam alaykoom". After the welcomes and pleasantries I smugly commented that Snow was wearing the exact tie I predicted, having earlier educated my accompaniment of the legendary occurrence of Snow's flavorsome collection.
As we made our way to the minibus I was informed of the previous day's hiccups whilst recording in Isfahan, involving power failures during transmission, a crashing vehicle and multiple arrests. Thankfully our short minibus trip to the local mosque, where we were to broadcast from the roof, was only eventful in conversation. We were initially warned of the Basij presence that would accompany our filming but my fear for an aggressive US led strike was greater and prompted me to ask the many stacked questions.
"So what have you been learning about this nuclear mess?" I inquired, thrilled at being able to get an off-the-record response from such exposed people. "Well it's crap isn't it" replies Snow barely allowing me to finish. He continued to remind us of the hypocrisy involved before suggesting that military intervention seems inevitable, "That's crap Jon, don't say that, you have no evidence to base that on..." retorted Hilsum. We moved off the topic to discuss Iran's recent history with Snow iterating the British undermining of democratic progress here. He went on to ask what exactly I am doing in Iran, what my plans are and when I may return, if at all. After giving a brief summary I went on to mention my military service predicament, to which they agreed that my attendance would make for a great book - going as far as suggesting titles and pseudonyms.
The British Channel 4 news team had arrived for a week of live broadcasts from various areas of Iran, having received an unprecedented number of VISAs and having a surprising amount of freedom to broadcast during this politically tense week for Iran. It seems that history is repeating itself - a la Iraq - with the US asking for Iran to prove that something doesn't exist. Even with the hypocrisy aside it seems the rhetoric is very hard to prove for all parties. Nevertheless there has been ample coercion to continue the matter and Channel 4 were around to cover both this and general life for folk like me.
We arrived on the roof of the mosque to where the team had already set-up ready for the live transmission. My accompaniment and I were introduced to most of the team, after which we became known as the "bloggers" or the "blogger in the lobby". Two such gentlemen, whom I failed to catch the name of later stood before me, skipped the pleasantries and addressed me with questions. From their mumbled Farsi I gathered that they were asking who we were, who we worked for, what we did and why we were there. Realising they were the Basij members that we were warned about, I began to answer, informing them that we were part of the Channel 4 team, hoping this would give them no reason to cause a stir. They stepped back and spoke between each other concluding that we should leave. After gaining backup from the team they backed off and proceeded to film both me and my accompaniment exclusively for maybe 20-minutes straight.
While the setting up continued or long pauses arrived I had the opportunity to pick Hilsum's brains. I was keen to hear her perspective as to why Iran is truly centre stage right now. I put forward my opinions regarding the Iranian Oil Bourse plans to which I was presented with information partially refuting this. It was suggested that a whole host of issues combined are inviting tension, yet not too much detail was shed other than them relating to fuel. I enjoyed hearing Hilsum's political speak, both then and before, her occasional snippets of current affair that funneled through the ears of Snow cemented the impression that Snow was the chassis with Hilsum the engine. She struck me as level, confident and attentive, having a skill with words that left me happily ashamed for a rare moment in Iran. Snow on the other hand might also be described as a creative chap, possibly too creative at times, humanitarian might better describe him. Yet there is no doubt however that he wears his heart on his sleeve along with a very colourful pair of cuff-links I'm sure. An interview with Snow was filmed after the live transmission to which Snow suggested a strike on Natanz might materialise. The on-set response from the editors who were silently shrinking away with part laughter and part disbelief made for amusing viewing.
As we left I took the opportunity to quiz Snow about the last vague sentence in his autobiography that I read one year previous. It was my intention to research about this yet never did I expect to get an answer from the man himself. Following this I listened in on a conversation between Snow and an Iranian member of the team. "I hope they see that all the trouble was worth it, if only they could see the huge response we've been getting - all the emails" Snow proudly stated referring to their Iranian partners. "It is harder to bomb a nation when the public are aware of the people and if they have familiarity with their lives". I cannot agree more Mr Snow.