After the vigil at Water Tower, June 24th, I bumped into a man with whom I had first spoken on Saturday the 20th at the rally at Daley Plaza. The following is our conversation…
People are fighting for democracy and freedom. And when they get it, that’s victory. The victory is a free Iran. It’s been going on for the past 70 or 80 years. People want democracy, the only country in that region that wants democracy. And they’ve been doing it for 70, 80 years. The only reason they couldn’t be successful is because there’s a lot of oil over there.
Some people, some powers, some other countries, they don’t want to see democracy, because otherwise there’s going to be problems. The second biggest oil and gas producer—democracy, as you can imagine…they lose control. That’s why they suppress everything. One of them was the United States, 45 years ago. But now they’re not doing it. Fortunately they’re not doing it.
Who is not doing what?
The United States. You know, for the past ten years, they are not trying to meddle in Iran’s affairs. At some point, it is good. [But] they have to support economy pressure, sanctions. Bigger and more sanctions. We need sanctions from all the European countries and the United States. Don’t do any trades, don’t do any transactions with this government, until this government is gone. If they lose, they can’t sell oil anymore, and they lose control. That’s the thing.
92% of the GDP of this country is based on oil. They have pretty much destroyed everything else. Many agricultural products, industrial products, stuff like that. This government destroyed everything but the oil. Persian carpet, saffron, caviar…this whole regime, since ’79, they don’t care about anything.
We used to have many agricultural products. In northern Iran we had rice. The best rice. The best tea. Now nothing. They just bring in tea and rice from other countries, like China. And the farmers prefer to sell their land. They make more money than to really do agriculture on the land.
It used to be that we had our own rice. Now they have to bring it in. We are still the second biggest oil producer in the world, but we produce just 40% of the gas for the cars in Iran. We are importing 60% from other countries. So you tell me: we need nuclear weapons? We need nuclear technologies? Or we need some refinery to produce our gas? Which one is the best: nuclear or that? We are selling gas for 60 dollars and then we buy gas ten times. Why should we do that? We could produce in Iran and then sell it to these other people. They don’t want a government that can think about these things. That’s why the move towards democracy has been that slow.
What’s their motivation for these things?
All they think about is their pockets. Everything is money. That’s it. Just power and money. That’s all. They don’t care—if you ask them, they’re not even Persian. They’re not even Iranian. They’re not even Muslim. They’re just a bunch of bastards. That’s all.
Other countries are still struggling with other stuff. They do not have this mentality, they are not thinking about democracy. The mentality of the population of other countries is still not at that point where they can think about those things. They are still thinking about things that we passed 100 years ago, in that region. Most of the Muslim countries in the region, they don’t respect women—they can’t drive, they can’t vote, they can’t do anything. They’re just servants to the men.
People in Iran—I’m not talking about the government, but the people—you know, 95%, they believe that women and men should have the same rights. But those countries, they still don’t believe in those things. The move towards democracy was started years ago in Iran, but some other countries are still thinking about very basic stuff. It’s the stone age over there.
I am speaking with a man I met four days earlier at a pro-Iran rally. That one was at Daley Plaza; tonight we are at the Water Tower Park. A candlelight vigil and ceremony honoring Iran’s fallen was held in the square, after which I caught up with some familiar faces from the Daley Plaza rally, including this one.
We are standing next to a photo of Neda, discussing the current conflict in Iran along with their relationship with the United States, when three blacks in their early teens spot the memorial and approach it. They stand looking at the photos of the dead and the surrounding candles, and then, at a break in our conversation, one of them asks my friend what it is all about. He looks to them, and says,
“Have you been following the news recently, in Iran? There was an election, and the election was rigged, and some people are protesting it, so the government backed down the protests and killed the people. Over 100 people got killed, and people are still fighting, and they’re trying to replace this government. People over here, they gathered to just have a moment of silence, and think about the people who lost their lives. They tried to peacefully protest, just the election, that’s it.”
The kids focus in, listening. My new friend speaks to them with patience and ease, and the kids grow comfortable, ask a few more questions, and then go, going over things among themselves as they walk. We return to our discussion, getting into the media.
Unfortunately, the news is not showing the real picture. Not in Iran. Not in United States. You don’t see the real Iran on the news. Recently, you’re seeing some, though it’s not really pleasant stuff. But you don’t really see the real thing.
The American media…what are we missing?
First of all, for the past 20 years, you didn’t see anything. Whatever it was, people would think that the Sunni Muslims living in that country are all covered in Chador, they’re Islamic, and all they think about is making bombs. That’s not what’s happening. The majority of the people in Iran, the Persian people, if you go there you’ll see they are really like other people. It doesn’t matter if you’re—especially if you’re American and you go to Iran, they’re gonna respect you, and treat you like the best guest in the house. They’re going to give you food and everything. And that’s not what you’re seeing.
Maybe in other countries it’s not the same thing. They might have some hatred for Americans, but that’s not what it is in Iran. The people are open-minded—the majority, I’m talking about—they’re very well educated. 75% of the people are under 30 years old. Over half the population, they were born after revolution. All young people, educated, they’re all online, reading news. They are the second biggest webloggers, they have a lot of activities on the internet. They’re very active. They know about many things.
But the government—I’m talking about maybe ten years ago when the internet was not the way it is now—the people did not have access, so whatever was showing was like “United States, they want to come over here, they want to destroy Iran, they want to drop bombs on everything, they supported Saddam Hussein to invade Iran,” and stuff like that. But now the people see: No. That’s not the American people. Really, American people think. The people of America don’t have any problem with us.
It’s getting better and better now, but I’m talking about 20 years ago, I remember if you go to another country and people see Persians, they think ‘terrorist,’ because all you see in the news is ‘terrorists,’ the sponsorship of terrorists in the war. So that’s how they pictured Iran and the Iranian people in the past. But now people are getting more news online. They’re reading the real story. If you go to this city or this city, they have a lot of history. The mini-monuments, restaurants, music. It’s a country with over 2500 kingdoms and thousands of years of history.
So that’s how they need to picture it to the people of United States. Not the way it was 20 years ago. All they can see is Iran, Persian, terrorists. That’s all. But now it’s changing. This mentality is changing.
You want us to look at Iran and see 7,000 years of history, not 30.
First of all, you have to separate the government from the people. That’s the first thing. It’s not the same thing. This government is something new when you’re talking about this regime. The Iranian government vs. the Persian people.
The Persian people have the best hospitality. If you go over there, you’ll see it. The people are having fun. They party. They try to get around anything, even if there are no nightclubs or no bars after the revolution because they destroyed everything.
But there are still people who have parties. Once they go to the parties, they take off their [inaudible on tape] and start music. They love art, they love music. The best movies—even with all of the controls, the best movies are coming out of this country. There are many talented people. Art has roots to these people. Poetry. Literature.
So people need to see this. They need to show this. There are many things to see about Iran. Not just, “this government was sponsoring from people’s money, took people’s money and tried to support it.” And that’s what they’re doing with China and Russia. They’re just giving them very cheap oil so they can get support. Whatever United States tries to approve, they can veto it. That’s what they’ve been doing for the past ten years with Russia and China. They’ve been doing it and they’re still doing it.
The first country that congratulated Ahmadinejad was the president of Russia. Russia said, “Yeah, we don’t have any problems. This is a valid government, this is a legit government. We will respect it.” Other people are thinking about it, but they [the Iranian government] don’t care. All they care is control of the oil. They want some allies. And they have allies. They can make some allies against United States. For what? The gas. That’s the first gas producer in the world, Russia. If they have the second and the third, they can price the gas any way they want. And that’s just one thing.
The politics is at the economy’s service. Everything’s about money these days. It’s just one sentence. If you want to see what’s going on in the world: it’s all about money. Everybody’s out to make a buck. Isn’t that right? And when you’re talking about the government, then you’re talking about billions of dollars. As long as you’re talking about money, the politics needs to make sure the government is supported in making money. And they don’t care about anything else. Unfortunately it is what it is.
So what do we do?
There is nothing we can do. It’s politics corrupted. It’s the same thing everywhere. When they get to the top, that’s it. All they think is money.
You don’t think there’s anything we can do?
(long pause) We can. If you want to think we can’t do anything, then there’s not going to be any change in the world. That’s why people always try to get together and try to vote and bring more people to have change. Yeah, they can. All together, we can have a voice. Together we probably can make some changes. But if you’re talking about that big picture, that this global economy is all about money, then the lives of people in Kenya, or Rwanda, stuff like that—they don’t care about it. They’re getting diamonds out of that. Do you think they care about people’s lives in Africa? They don’t. To just pay them two or three dollars a month, to do eight hours of a physical job, just digging, taking diamonds out, and they take it to Belgium and make millions of dollars. And these are the people behind many things. Do you think they care? No. So it’s, it’s (pauses), it’s fucked up. (laughs.) Sorry to say that…
But there’s always hope. I don’t know how, but people, if you’re asking me: don’t give up. If you can talk to other people, tell them about these things, tell them. If you give up, if everybody gives up, then there’s not going to be any change.
People have a new mentality. That’s the hope. Some people who come into power are thinking about these things. They don’t get corrupted. Once they get corrupted with the politics, then that’s a different story. People are trying to choose the right people. That’s the only thing you can do. Like what happened in Iran: they’re trying to choose good people. Well, not good people, I’m sorry to say, because now they’re choosing between bad and worse. Or between worse and worst. But that’s all we can do. Try to put the right people on. If the right people are on then there might be change.
Stupid people can hurt, so that’s all we can do: choose the right people. That’s all. Good luck, you know? Just keep writing.
Words from Iran–and ongoing correspondence
June 27, 2009: Why I care about Iran
More from readjack.com on the 2009 Iran election and protests