Currently Browsing

Iranian Youth

Rouhani Raises Hopes for Diplomacy at First News Conference as President

By Samira Damavandi and Caroline Cohn

At his first press conference as Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani indicated his willingness to reengage in diplomatic talks with the West, raising hopes for finding a solution to the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Rouhani replaced outgoing President Ahmadinejad, whose bellicose anti-U.S. and anti-Israel rhetoric only exacerbated the already tense relationship between the U.S. and Iran. The election of Rouhani, a centrist candidate who pledged “constructive interaction” with the world, was a rare positive sign for a potential easing of tensions between the two estranged nations.

Of Rouhani’s news conference on Tuesday, the Washington Post noted that  “It was certainly a remarkable tonal departure from Ahmadinejad, with lots of talk about compromising with the West.” As Rouhani fielded questions from the media – which included reporters from both inside and outside of Iran, including the U.S. – he made several positive remarks indicating his plans for steering Iranian foreign and domestic policy in a more conciliatory direction.

Diplomacy

In response to several questions about his plans for renewing nuclear negotiations, many posed by Western news correspondents, Rouhani reaffirmed his plans to pursue a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy, starkly opposite from the approach of his predecessor.  “As I have said earlier, our main policy will be to have constructive interaction with the world,” said Rouhani.

Iranican Promotes Unity through Dialogue and Tolerance

We had the wonderful opportunity to interview the hosts behind Iranican, a non-profit, volunteer-based organization based in the Silicon Valley whose mission is to explore issues affecting “Generation Iranian-American”. This is done via radio and video interviews and shows as well as via an online blog. The Iranican team uses entertainment in order to educate and discuss communal issues.

Play
  • 19 September 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Iranian Youth, Sanctions

Sanctions contribute to rising unemployment in Iran

The negative effects of sanctions on average Iranians are growing clearer and clearer. The latest piece on the issue, from Reuters, highlights the fact that the unemployment rate is still rising throughout the Iranian economy.

At the beginning of the year, the Iran Census Centre statistics pointed to an urban unemployment rate of 12.5%. Among the young, the official rate was much higher, at 29.1%. These numbers, like the reported inflation rate, are judged by most experts to be far below the true figures. Abbas Vatanpour, a former Iranian representative at the International Labor Organization, thinks youth unemployment could be as high as 50 per cent, while Mehrdad Emadi, an Iranian-born economic adviser to the European Union, believes the headline unemployment figure is above 20 percent.

According to The Telegraph, “rising joblessness is being fuelled by Iran’s exclusion last March from the Swift banking system, preventing businessmen from carrying out international transactions.” In some cases, this measure has led to factory closure due to an inability to obtain components. In others, the costs of components have soared, driving up the final price to a point that consumer demand drops. These mechanisms have reduced production in the automotive sector by 30% in the past six months, a figure reported by Iranian media.

In raw numbers, “Iran-based economists and members of parliament critical of the government, estimate that 500,000-800,000 Iranians have lost their jobs in the past year.” In September 2011, former Minister of Labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslami declared that university graduates were 10 times more likely to be unemployed than those with less education.  Indeed, while these losses are hitting all job sectors, they are disproportionately punishing the educated sector and undermining the Iranian middle class “that has been at the center of the democracy movement.”

  • 16 July 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Iranian Youth, Sanctions

Morality police raids go hand in hand with sanctions

Over the weekend, Iranian officers and morality police raided and shut down 87 cafes in Tehran for not following Islamic values.  As Reuters reports:

Coffee shop culture has flourished in Iran in recent years, offering wireless Internet, snacks, hot drinks, and a place to hang out for Iranian youth in a country where there are no bars or Western chain restaurants or cafes.

But that trend has been criticized by conservative Iranians who consider it a cultural imposition from the West and incompatible with Islamic values. The government periodically cracks down on behavior it considers un-Islamic, including mingling between the sexes outside of marriage.

The shameful actions by Iranian authorities further illuminates how the goals of the state’s hardliners are actually aided by broad sanction policies designed to isolate Iranians from the world outside of Iran.

Just last Friday, Milad Jokar wrote a post on how Iranians manage to circumvent the sanctions and enjoy Western products in spite of U.S. efforts to block them–buying iPhones, DVDs, Nikes, and even eating at restaurants that are clones of Starbucks and McDonalds.

And Iranian hardliners, as demonstrated by these most recent raids, don’t like it one bit.

But the fact is, we have our own hardliners in the U.S. who also don’t want Iranians getting Western goods.  How will we make Iranians angry enough to take up arms against the regime if they still have access to Happy Meals?

Salamatian on society, state, and sanctions in Iran

The following is a transcription from an interview with Ahmad Salamatian on the French radio France Culture (on February 20, 2012). Mr. Salamatian, a political analyst who served in the Islamic Republic’s first government under Bani Sadr and cofounded the Committee for the Defense of Freedom and Human Rights, explains the evolution of  Iranian society and the fracture between the State and the society that led to the 2009 massive demonstrations. According to him, Iranian society suffers from the populist mismanagement of the economy, but he argues that Western sanctions reinforce the Iranian State while slowing down the internal fracture between “the societal Iran” and “the Iranian State”.

Ahmad Salamatian: Iranian Society, Power and the West

Two sides of Iran: “societal Iran” Vs. “the Iranian State”

What happened in 2009 was the revelation of a situation which has been brewing for three decades in Iran.

What we have today is an Iran split in two parts. On the one hand, there is what I call a “societal Iran”. On the other hand, there is an “Iran of power”. They are increasingly far apart and they are increasingly anachronistic to one another.

In 1979 – with regard to his mental and his imaginary– Ayatollah Khomeini was the most in-phase with the Iranian society of that time. It was among those who were familiar with Khomeini that his slogans, symbols and discourses were the most in-phase with people’s imaginary because Iran was transitioning from a rural society to an urban one. The Iranian cities were filled with villagers and other people who lived in the country. They started the process of becoming literate, of learning politics; and with such violence! With a revolution! A fundamental change of everything!

In 2009, you have a society where the city is constituted and advanced. People did not only become literate; they have made steps forward in the shaping of the individual. Iran has somewhat entered history in 1979, with acceleration toward modernity. Though this move is jerky and from time to time shut-off, there is an incontrovertible and irreversible move toward modernity.

The different transitions – demographic, geographic, urban, economic, related to family ties, and cultural – have been accumulated and we have reached the threshold of democratic and political transition.

Transitionally, 2009 was important.

Iran News Roundup 12/19

Talks accelerate on a potential embargo on Iran

In what could be a precursor to an embargo on Iran, a “coalition of like-minded countries” including U.S., EU, Arab, and Asian states will meet in Rome tomorrow for talks on how to maintain stable global energy markets in the midst of increased Iran sanctions (Wall Street Journal 12/19).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran has prepared for “the worst case scenario” and has a “road map” circumvent Western sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and oil exports(AFP 12/16).

U.S. drone saga continues

U.S. cyber-warfare experts have questioned Iran’s ability to hijack the spy drone by overwhelming the drone’s GPS signal (Christian Science Monitor 12/16).  Additionally, U.S. officials say the drone actually crashed, further refuting Iran’s claims (Wall Street Journal 12/16).  On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister said that Iran deliberately delayed its announcement that it had captured the American surveillance drone to test U.S. reaction (Huffington Post 12/17).

Iran News Roundup 12/15

Broad Iran sanctions approved by the House

The House of Representatives approved central bank sanctions on Iran as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be sent to the President by the end of the week (Newsweek 12/15).

The House also approved two standalone Iran sanctions bills, H.R. 1905 and H.R.2105.  H.R.1905 eliminates the President’s humanitarian waiver to allow for parts and repairs of Iranian civilian airplanes, puts legal restrictions on contacts between U.S. and Iranian officials, and places sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. The bill must now go to the Senate for consideration, which is not expected until after the New Year (The Hill 12/14).

Reuters reports that Asian countries China, India, South Korea, and Japan are increasingly worried about oil in light of new Iran sanctions. (Reuters 12/15). China is looking to obtain discounted Iranian oil as the U.S. increases pressure on Iran. “Any restriction on oil supplies from Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter, could drive up already high oil prices and threaten economies already facing the impact of the euro zone debt crisis.”

“This is an issue that could have a big impact on the global economy in terms of crude prices, so our nation will pay close attention to this with grave concern,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

Growing concern over the number of executions in iran

Amnesty International warned of “a new wave of drug offence executions”  in a report published yesterday. Public and secret hangings have increased in what has been called “a killing spree of staggering proportions” (Guardian 12/14).

War watch

On Tuesday former Vice-president Cheney advised the Obama administration to launch a “quick air strike” against Iran after it had captured the U.S. drone.  NIAC’s Trita Parsi says, “the Obama administration’s decision not to risk war by going in and destroying the drone reflects its desire to avoid catastrophic escalation” (Salon 12/12).

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, speaking to CNN, said he’d commit to a ground invasion to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 12/14).

Revolutionary Guards commander Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali said Iran would move the uranium enrichment centers to safer locations if Iran were attacked (Reuters 12/14).

Additional Notable News:

State department official Frederick Hof toldCongress that Syrian president Assad’s hold on power will be short-lived despite the repression of protestors.

Iran News Roundup 12/14

How covert operations can spiral out of control

Barry Lando writes on the dangers of increasing covert operations against Iran. “Predictably, aggressive acts will provoke retaliation from Iran — a situation, which, in the context of America’s superheated presidential primaries, could spiral dangerously out of control. Which is just what militants in Tehran, Jerusalem, and Washington may be out to provoke” (Lando Huffington Post 12/13).

Increased sanctions and higher oil prices

The Obama administration and European allies are seeking assurance that Saudi Arabia will boost oil output in order to prevent higher oil prices and damage to the global economy because of sanctions (Los Angeles Times 12/13). Yet Iran’s oil minister, at an OPEC meeting, said Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi has agreed not to increase oil output to replace Iranian oil (Boston Globe 12/14).

Human rights

The U.S. placed sanctions on two top Iranian military figures for human rights violations in the wake of the June 2009 election: Lieutenant Commander of IRGC Ground Force Abdollah Agragi and Chief of Staff of the Joint Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Firouzabadi (AFP 12/13).

Nokia Siemens Networks announced that it would stop doing business with Iran–gradually reduce its existing commitments starting next year (Wall Street Journal 12/13). Nokia Siemens Networks came under fire in 2009 after providing the Iranian government with surveillance equipment used against peaceful protestors.

Mitt Romney on the M.E.K.

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was asked whether he supported the removal of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq from the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations.

“I have not heard of the MEK, so I can’t possibly tell you whether I support the MEK. I’ll take a look at the issue,” said Romney. Romney’s special advisor on foreign policy, Mitchell Reiss, is an advocate for the group.

Notable opinion: 

In a Washington Post op-ed, Thomas Erdbrink discusses the growing fears and concern amongst ordinary Iranians regarding the possibility of war and the negative impact international sanctions are having on everyday lives.

Instead of sharing that sense of defiance, however, many ordinary Iranians are increasingly worried that war could be catastrophic.

As tension rises, many have started taking precautionary measures. Some are stocking up on basic goods. Others are changing their money into foreign currencies, or obtaining visas to move abroad.

Anxiety is also being fueled by the latest rounds of international sanctions against Iran. While Iranian officials continually say the country can cope with the growing limitations, average Iranians are faced with soaring prices and a plummeting exchange rate for their currency, the rial. It has lost 48 percent of its value against the dollar since 2008.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Iran’s intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi met the Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz Al Saud to refute U.S. claims that Tehran planned to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, according to a senior Iranian official.

  • 16 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

Substantial increase in Iranian students studying at US universities

A recent report released by the Institute of International Education shows a 19% increase in the amount of Iranians coming to the US to study.  With over 5,600 students in the US, Iran had the 22nd highest amount of international students in the U.S. during 2010/2011.

This welcome trend is likely connected to the Obama administration’s smart decision last May to begin issuing Multi-Entry Visas to Iranian students attending universities in the US.  Previously, Iranian students could only get Single-Entry Visas, which prevented them from returning home for the duration of their studies, regardless of whether there was a funeral or a wedding for a loved one.  As such, the policy change was undoubtedly welcome news for potential students in Iran.

But whatever the reason for this increase in Iranian students coming to the US for their studies, it could prove to be an intelligent and effective policy for the US.

The U.S.’s image among ordinary Iranians may have taken a hit with crippling sanctions and threats of military action.  Taking steps to ease burdens on Iranian youths, some of whom are prevented from attending college in Iran because of associations with the democracy movement, helps mitigate some of that damage.  As such, accepting more Iranian students is a tangible step that could prove to Iranians that our problem is not with them but with the behavior of their government.

In Iran, It’s Fun To Be A Rebel

If one asks the majority of Iranian youths why they want democracy, their immediate answers are surprisingly not freedom of speech, free elections or even a better economy. “Fun” is what most of them desire the most. Having fun without being told their behavior is un-Islamic or an attempt to topple the regime.

Since the Islamic Revolution, and the rise and fall of various government figures, the definition of fun in Iran has changed drastically. Often mixed with Islamic ideologies, some of the most basic social activities in Iran are defined improper for the youth and met with crackdowns, criticism and even arrests.

An event that aroused attention and hype in Iran last month was the gathering of over 800 Tehrani girls and boys in Water and Fire Park playing with water guns and bottles just laughing and wetting one another. The so called “water war,” which was originally organized via Facebook, spread to other major cities and became a cool way to pass a hot summer afternoon.

But a few days later, national TV aired its infamous confessions of those arrested with blacked out faces, speaking about the social media scheme in which young people had been seduced into toppling the regime through a water game.

How to respond to such serious allegations?  A mocking, sarcastic confession video of a young man explaining his extensive water gun training in Israel and America quickly spread via the event’s Facebook page. Mass emails containing photos of happy faces and soaked-in-water youth in the park made the rounds through Iranian inboxes.  Further events were planned, such as a kite flying gathering in Isfahan that promised to bring the youth together for celebration of the end of summer.  On the kites, young people would scribble a dream before flying them in the air.

Yet perhaps the allegations are true.  What seems to most of us to be a joyful assembly of young men and women could at the same time very well be a protest against a system that constrains its youth’s most basic dreams.

Unfortunately, Iranians have witnessed or directly experienced the brutal clampdown of the regime not only after Presidential election, but also through the aid it’s believed to be giving to the neighboring country, Syria against protesters of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. In the wake of the Arab spring , when hope for the future of Iran could rise from the ashes of 2009 turmoil, it is news like that from Syria which creates fear and intimidation for Iranians, leaving them to come up with alternative ways to voice their opposition.  What could be better than “fun?”

And what could be better than mocking–and reapproptiating–what the government legitimizes as proper. For example, each year, the Ministry of Culture holds a Festival for Twins of all ages–a night of (government-sanctioned) celebration, with music, performance and laughter. So, young people organized a slightly less official Gathering of Curly Haired Ones in Tehran’s Melat Park and, my personal favorite, the Festival of Bad Fashion. It has been through these events that larger gatherings such as water war were born.

Not every one is happy to see the youth of a country, who make up 70 percent of the population, coming together. So, the authorities will do anything to stop them–either with intimidation beforehand or constant crackdowns, which are promoted as acts of “restoring order” and “enforcing Islamic values.”

For those who cannot attend these events for reasons varying from obligations to fear and suspicions, social media is a great way to rebel while having fun.

Facebook invite for the "Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces"

Last week, I received an invitation on Facebook for an event called Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces with more than fifteen hundred attending RSVPs. For the location, organizers say the event will be held in every villa, street, garden, home and even public space.

It’s a perfect example of how Iranian youth have used sarcasm and laughter against the pressure, disorder and insecurity surrounding their lives.

Even though I don’t believe the behaviors of these Iranian youth are entirely and purposefully acts of rebellion, I do believe when you live in a country where everything you do–from what you wear and who you are allowed to sit next to on the bus, to what music you can listen to–is controlled by a select few, every opportunity you take to have a little fun can be, consciously or unconsciously, a way to rebel.