Christoph Fahle
September 3, 2012

Farhad Payar - Transparency for Iran

Farhad Payar is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker with a wealth of experience in a wide range of industries. Born and raised in Iran he came to Berlin to study Mechanical Engineering and Political Science during the 1980s. He then took on a multitude of jobs working as a taxi-driver and a social worker among other professions.

Currently he is working as an actor, filmmaker, theatre director and journalist based in Berlin. More recently, he has been working on a project called “Transparency for Iran”, an online news resource designed to provide a broader perspective on current events in Iran and heighten the German public’s awareness of these issues. The goal is to support human rights and press freedom, through holistic understanding of Iranian internal affairs and local knowledge.

Interview by: Lisa Hillers

How does your personal background and previous experience influence your work for TFI?

I like to think that every new experience opens a door in a person’s consciousness. It allows you to look at certain phenomena in a different way, and sometimes gives you a more profound understanding of things. Regarding my journalistic work at TFI, the little political work that i did back in the day, really helps me research and select the subjects and themes for our articles.

Do you have any particular subjects that attract your interest more than the others?

I am very interested in cultural matters. In Iran, the line between culture and politics is very difficult to define as every cultural action is made political by the government. Because the government attempts to control everything, cultural and social activities automatically become political issues. Basically, I am interested in what influences people culturally, i want to get to know their own perspectives, thoughts and ideas on all kinds of different social issues.

Do you feel that issues in Iran are given sufficient coverage in the German media ?

There is a lot of information about Iran in the media, though unfortunately the scope is relatively limited. There is so much going on in the world that it is inevitable that important stories from each country are overlooked. That’s what we are here for. However we are not looking to replace the German media, more to complement it through offering alternative points of view. For example, a meeting of the Arab states can be perceived in a certain way in Germany and perceived differently in Iran. TFI tries to offer this Iranian perspective, too.

On your website, it says that “every culture is like a text that is interpreted differently by everyone that attempts to read it.” Can you elaborate on this?

Just like narratives, societies convey their own meaning. Our team of journalists local knowledge and language skills enable them to fully explore all background information available, and thereby offers the reader a whole new perspective on the subject matter. The German author, Ingeborg Drewitz had a profound impact on my life, at a memorial I once heard someone describe her main quality as “seeing with the eyes of others and hearing with the ears of others.” This has become my personal life motto and it also remains at the core of the TFI philosophy.

How important is social media for social movement in Iran?

In countries without free speech and a free media, social media is enormously important. In Iran,the TV has turned into a propaganda-machine, it functions solely as a disseminator of pro-government views and religious motifs. So if you are looking to be entertained, you have to have satelite television. For lots of young people the internet is a gateway to information, they download a series or listen to their favourite band´s new album online. It is also an important outlet for free speech, Iranian people are very active in cyberspace.  Persian was actually voted one of the most used languages in the internet, recently.

Why did you choose to work at betahaus?

Our treasurer, Shamin Rafat used to have his office here and suggested we join. He spoke very highly about betahaus. So far, we are very happy to be here.

Thank you very much for this interview!

Working for Lufthansa back in 2002, Joachim (CEO & founder @ Jolocom) had the idea to develop a better system for companies to swap data internally and for people to share their data with companies. Back in 2002, the resistance to open networks and communication was strong. However, just a few years later, social media and blockchain changed the rules of the game, which led to the founding of Jolocom in 2014. (Read the whole story here


Photo by Lea GK

Ellie joined the Jolocom team in the fall last year. She’s part of the content team and is responsible for communications and online platforms maintenance. 

Volker is currently studying IT-Systems Engineering at HPI, working on his master thesis with Jolocom. He joined the software development team in March this year and has previously worked from betahaus for another startup company.

With two locations in the heart of the city, betahaus l Sofia is a home of some of the most successful Bulgarian startups and is one of the leading innovation hubs in Sofia. Their main space is located just two minutes on foot from Sofia University and the second one stands right at the central Slaveykov Sqaure and has a beautiful view over the city.

As all of our locations, its pet and bicycle friendly and offers the same comfy and relaxed atmosphere you've come to expect from betahaus. Identical to our space, betahaus | Sofia uses glass doors for its team rooms, to build transparency and inclusion.

betahaus | Sofia @ Shipka 6

betahaus | Sofia @ Shipka 6

betahaus | Sofia is spread across 1800 q.m. divided into 2 separate spaces. Shipka 6 is 1300qm and takes over the entire 3rd floor of the UBA – Union of the Bulgarian Artists. Slaveykov Square is placed on the roof top of another historical building in Sofia. There they have two balconies with 360 degrees view, a cafe/bar and a shared kitchen.

Membership plans start from 350,– BGN for Workspace and go up to 435,– BGN for Private Offices. Currently, the space has around 190 members and will soon implement also Club Memberships plan. Every member of the Club will have access to events, conference room and betahaus community.

betahaus | Sofia @ Slaveykov Square
betahaus | Sofia @ Slaveykov Square

Ellie: Currently we have around 5 active pilots and we effectively work B2B2C. So we build our application for businesses which have their own user bases.

Volker: One of our ongoing projects is a pilot with Telekom. With their team, and partners from Riddle & Code and Simple Mobility, we have created the Magenta Scooter — an innovation in e-mobility that allows users to ride share while using their decentralized digital IDs. That means users can rent the scooter with our app and our identity. The main advantage there is that you can store your drivers licence in your Jolocom SmartWallet and then share this license with the app of Telekom. This eliminates the long onboarding process of verifying your license. 

Ellie: Another example is our e-government collaboration with The City of Antwerp called Blockchain on the Move. Using the SmartWallet, municipal employees can issue and validate their own credentials and create eIDs for citizens – it’s a digital ID with which you can register at the university or go to a swimming pool, as two examples.

Photo by Lea GK


Want more? Check out betahaus | Hamburg and betahaus | Barcelona.

If you want to know more about how to travel and work from different coworking spaces with one membership, click here.

Ellie: Two years ago we adopted a new legal structure for Jolocom GmbH according to the purpose model of ownership, manifesting our commitment and dedication to building a self-sovereign organization. That means we can’t take VC funding or sell public shares of the company. 

Volker: Jolocom is a community driven organisation – both in a tech sense but also much further beyond. We’re hugely involved in the DWeb community where we organize and attend events for the decentralized community. Every year we also help organize and attend the DWeb Camp in San Francisco, which brings together all kinds of creatives so this technology of tomorrow is built in a collaborative way.


Ellie: I know that before joining betahaus Jolocom was in the Ethereum office – a collaborative blockchain space for companies also building on the same platform and the idea was always to stay within a coworking space. When they closed and we had to move, the next closest choice in terms of company culture was betahaus. 

Ellie: The people in the building and the spaces are just really cool. I personally don’t go to community events as much as i would like to but I still end up meeting a lot of people here. Mostly in the kitchen. One of my good friends is actually someone I met in betahaus. 

Volker: I once saw a friend of mine presenting at betabreakfast and I didn’t know that he would be here. It was so funny seeing him on the stage.

Photo by Lea GK

Volker: There is this really nice place, called Green Rabbit with salads and baked potatoes where I like to go to. Sometimes I just keep it simple and go to Lidl.

Ellie: I eat a lot in west.berlin cafe which is here around the corner and I love the Matcha Lattes from Starbucks.

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