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Trump’s Administration and Iranians’ Concern

June 22, 2017 by  

 From the Editor’s Desk – Shahrokh Ahkami Persian Heritage, No. 86, Summer 2017

We have been witness to much turmoil over the past months in the U.S., Western Europe, the Middle East and Iran. This has caused the people of these nations duress, in fear of an imminent war. President Trump, because of his unpredictable temperament and actions, has been making daily headlines; the “mother of all bombs” dropped on an unoccupied airbase in Syria, threats against the North Korean leadership, the completion of the wall between the Mexican and US border and the threats against the regime in Iran. He has now visited Saudi Arabia, a country which has been the origin of most of the terrorist cells and terrorists. He has signed a sales agreement allowing Saudi Arabia to purchase more than 120 billion dollars in arms. President Trump concluded his visit with a speech on freedom and equality to the heads of states of Arabic and Islamic nations, some of which ironically infringe on women’s rights, even their ability to drive. I was also perplexed to see the First Lady and the President’s daughter to be in the audience without a covered head, while the other wives and daughters were held in their palaces. So, I ask to what rights and freedoms was President Trump referencing. 

Concurrent with the President’s visit to the Middle East, Iran was holding their presidential elections. This election was extremely important. No one knew what the turnout would be. This was clearly reflected in the worrisome faces of the Iranian voters (old and young, men and women) as they waited for the outcome with anticipation and fear. If the election went to Mr. Ebrahim Raisi, Iranians feared they would continue on a path of destabilization. Mr. Raisi has been a hardliner since age 20, with no legal educational background. He was responsible for sentencing thousands of opposition activists to their death by hanging or executions. His reign in the judiciary began many years ago at age 20, when the position was given to him by Ayatollah Beheshti. He was transferred from Mashad to Tehran to become one of the judiciary.  His victory in this election would mean that Iran would have a president whose campaign rhetoric was to take over the reign of power just like Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust, saw a halo around his head while addressing the United Nations and rampaged the treasury. Mr. Raisi would also run Iran into the ground, negatively impact foreign relations and destroy the treasury putting the country into bankruptcy, close the doors of the universities for higher education, put more pressure on women and destroy the youth’s connection to the outside world. 

   These fears by Iranians to be placed in this situation, the fear of continued injustice and inequality and the fear of continued repression for eight more years resulted in a surprisingly large voter turnout with Mr. Rohani being voted in for a second term. They came knowing that they, as those who came out to vote in 2009, may face bullets, guns and arrests. Though the Guardian Council did not allow the democratic selection of their own candidates the people voted for the candidate who they considered to be the better choice. By the numbers who turned out to vote, an additional message was given to the present government, that you cannot forever control the will of the people. Mr. Rohani also has a history of being a hardliner. In his youth, at the beginning of the Revolution, he stated fearful rhetoric that called for the public execution of their enemies during Friday prayers and minimize the salaries of the former and present army officers in and out of Iran. (During this same speech Mr. Chamran, one of the revolutionary leaders confronted Mr. Rohani and defended the credibility of these officers.) Mr. Rohani also did not keep the promises he made during his first term campaign; the number of executions and the crime rate rose and corruption and foreign influence had not been addressed. But the promises he made during this campaign gave the people a small hope. A HOPE to bring Iran back into the global community; a HOPE for less oppression; a HOPE that the spending of billions of dollars on foreign wars will be redirected back to Iran and used for building housing, creating jobs and schools; a HOPE that the recruitment of the villagers from the poor parts of the country, to participate in foreign wars and lose their innocent lives will end; a HOPE that the government will defend and protect Iran from physical division; a HOPE that the government will defend against the Persian Gulf being renamed; a Hope that President Rohani will put an end to the Arab and world initiative to purchase what is clearly the history of Iran. Though some may see this as trite in the grand scheme of things plaguing Iran, it is not. It is important, because removing a country’s and people’s identity with force has a far less chance of surviving, than the daily chipping away at one’s identity, culture, integrity and freedom. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to correct the labeling of Persian art as Arabic and Islamic art at the Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum and the British Museum.  I have written about this concern many times and yet there are no changes.

Continuing on the subject of fairness and dignity, a few days ago I came across a video by the preacher, Mr. Daneshmand. His wise words to his listeners were clear. He stated the Saudis have taken the sword of war in their hands and are now fighting a proxy war against the people of Iran with words, the raping of young Iranian men and women and not taking responsibility for the death of hundreds of Iranian Hajj Pilgrims. His message was a request to the Iranian people not to give their money to the Saudi’s for the Hajj pilgrimage. Instead, they should use the money for the needy in their own country rather than fill the pockets of a government that only has hate and animosity towards the people of Iran. He suggested why not take this money and spend it on the poor, on the widows who cannot afford to make a life for themselves and on the orphans who do not have a place to live. This is the true Hajj. He stated that it is their moral duty to help those in need rather than go to a country that has no respect for the people of Iran. A few days later there was a new video showing over 450 people, who instead of going to the Hajj gave money to these charitable causes. 

For many years, due to financial and industrial sanctions against Iran by the world, economic growth has been frozen. Interestingly even the 120 billion dollars owed to Iran by the international community has been reclaimed with President Trump asserting ownership. Will it ever be returned to Iran? The anticipated contract of sale between Boeing and Iran is in jeopardy which will also impact any sales agreement with Airbus. An agreement that allowed Iran Air and other Iranian airlines to replace outdated and unsafe planes remains in flux. While sanctions are meant to squeeze the government, how can they be allowed to place a country’s citizens in such peril? (For those of you who may not know this, Iran Air was a giant competitor in aviation.) Competition in the airline business has forced airlines globally to merge, dissolve or create new ones; this is called business and progress. But the irony of Iran Air, not being able to financially compete, forces Iran’s citizens to once again travel on airlines and financially support countries who hate Iran.

 No one can predict the future of Iran or what path the new regime and presidency will follow. Will it be ONE that gives its citizens more equality; ONE that will open its doors and free its political prisoners? ONE that will empower the people rather than its politicians; ONE that will give the right to free speech to its people; ONE that is not afraid of democracy; ONE that will reconsider its direction of support of wars that cost so many lives; ONE that will redirect the money spent on wars into building its economy; ONE that will open a dialogue between its neighbors and the West; ONE that will entice the youth to remain in Iran; and ONE that will stop the “brain drain” of their talented and educated? To many times in my editorials I use the word PERHAPS which I now see as weak! So, I will no longer say PERHAPS Iran can be. It is being replaced with the word CAN. Yes, Iran CAN once again become a respected country in the world. 

On many occasions, I have stated that the world leaders and the general public must separate the people of Iran from its government. I was pleased to hear President Trump address this in his speech to the Arab leaders. He stated that in fact there is a need to separate the beautiful Iranian people from its government. He stated that they have suffered under the current regime. He acknowledged the greatness and beauty of Persian history and culture. BUT THEN CAME MY DISAPPOINTMENT! He also stated that Iran, ISIS and terrorism were all the same. These words negated his call of separation of the Iranian people from its government. His words instead reinforced the current perception that the public has about Iran, that the people, terrorism, ISIS and the country are all the same. This is not true and it is a sad and dangerous message. In order for Iran to emerge this rhetoric against its citizens must end. I am uncertain how to accomplish this. BUT I do know that the window of opportunity for Iran to emerge from its false THIRD WORLD status is quickly closing. So again I make a mass appeal, to all Iranians and non Iranians who care, to help change the fate of a beautiful country, rich in history and culture and to help change the fate of its people who yearn for democracy. This cannot be a discussion at the dinner table or at a friendly gathering. It must be a movement peaceful, but strong!  

Normally I close my editorials with the hope of new directions for the people of Iran. This time I close with determination! No longer will you hear me say I HOPE for … I YEARN for… I WISH for… I PRAY for… Instead I call upon us all, Diaspora or not, to make all that we HOPE, YEARN, WISH and PRAY for the people of Iran, become a reality.

 

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