in the past six weeks I’ve kept my eyes and ears open for any information regarding recent developments between iran and the us. on the one hand I keep myself updated with western news media through nytimes and the economist headlines, and on the other hand I do my best to catch local news briefs and pick up on general sentiment among the people here.
the other night I had a chance to watch as president ahmadinejad presented the latest development in atomic energy to his parliament and his country. the session started with some chanting (“down with america, down with england, down with people who oppose religious rule”) and continued with a brief performance by a group of men dressed in all manner of traditional garb and chanting prayers as they lifted a mock rod of enriched urnaium up to the heavens. very cheesy, but very effective. later, during his speech, ahmadinejad touted iran’s recent developments as a means of keeping peace in the region and vowed that “the powers” would not be able to stop what is the right of every sovereign nation to produce atomic energy for peaceful use. he sounded very convincing and in a way I was happy to see someone, anyone, stand up against global bullying, but what do the people of iran think of the government, atomic energy, and conflict with the US??
that is a question as complex and varied as the people themselves.
the majority of those I’ve met absolutely abhor the government and everything it does. as one person described it to me: “it’s a matter of black and white. if the government says black, we say white.” after years of blatant corruption and ever-increasing economic woes, few have any faith left in the powers that be. in fact, I’ve yet to get into a taxi and not have the foul distaste for the government at least garnish the conversation (if not be the main dish). officials are seen as rotten, one worse than the other, and as a rule people distrust and dismiss anything they say.
now, for atomic energy. from what I understand, the enrichment program has been under way for almost 20 years and has only now (in the wake of current world climate) grabbed global attention. since all eyes are on iran, they are taking the opportunity to enlarge their status and stir up more of a ruckus than might otherwise have existed. the government has spun the issue in such a way so to appeal to iranians’ already feverish nationalism. governement-sponsored rallies, television shows and radio programs have all been dedicated to rousing support and the slogan “atomic energy is our undeniable right” is spray-painted across town and peppers every discussion on the topic. the problem is, because no one cares much for the government, it’s all become a big joke. people mock the government by evoking their right to atomic energy every chance they get, in jest among friends, while bargaining for lower prices in the bazaar or any number of other places. believe me, I’ve heard it with my own ears.
as for the conflict with the US, there have been rumblings among people here that a war is possible, but no one really believes it. the US is overwhelmed on multiple fronts and iranians don’t believe themselves to be as vulnerable as their neighbors to the left and right. on top of that, tightly-monitored papers only report iran’s benevolent intentions in developing nuclear technology and play down the possibility of an attack by either expressing their surprise at such a notion or implying that their military might is not one to be tested lightly. either way, the people of this bruised and battered country are no strangers to conflict, particularly the violent bloody kind, so when you dangle the premise of foreign invasion in their face, most just shrug and say, maybe at least then we’ll get something to work right.