Guest Author - Susan Gaissert
The ongoing situation in Iran has rightfully brought America's attention to the plight of Iranian citizens. Through the kindness of an acquaintance, I was able to communicate via email with a young woman who was born and grew up in Iran. She came to the United States at age twenty-three, and she is attending graduate school here. She believes: "No matter what the situation of a personís country is, I think it is a good idea to live in other countries to get familiar with other cultures." Following is our interview, for which she asked to be identified only as "an Iranian girl, graduate student in the U.S."
SG: While you lived in Iran, how did you feel that you and your fellow citizens were treated?
In countries with theocratic governments, like Iran, people are mostly treated based on their viewpoints. The government looks at people in either of two ways. People with religious and political points of view close to those of the government are treated better. For example, they usually get key positions, or they get financial accommodations from governmental banks.
Those people who have fundamental or minor disagreements with the government are not treated well, and they get in trouble for expressing their ideas. Since the government does not tolerate criticism, the opposite voice is very limited and censured.
SG: How much were you aware of the government while you lived in Iran?
In Iran, people -- especially young people, like students -- are quite involved in politics. Although the media is pretty much limited by the government's authorities, we get updated about Iran and the world's political situations through internet news websites and satellites channels.
SG: What was it like to adjust to living in the United States?
Getting familiar with the principles of western culture has been an important issue. I have made pretty good progress with the help of my good American friends. There are some major differences between living here and Iran. Here, different parties with various political and religious points of view live together, and they are free to express their ideas. Also, people are free to access many resources on different subjects.
You can go to a church or a mosque and nobody asks you why.
SG: How did you and your relatives in Iran feel about the recent election before it took place?
The country's situation has become worse during Ahmadinejadís presidency. Internally, the economy was slow, and unemployment and the inflation rate became worse. Also, Ahmadinejad's foreign policy caused Iran's relationship with other countries to deteriorate. Therefore, most Iranians wanted change. We were all determined to vote -- to make sure that Ahmadinejad would not be president for four more years. We all knew that a big percentage of eligible people, including the Iranians who live outside of Iran, would vote for a reformist president. It was apparent in early surveys that Ahmadinejad would be defeated. But an unbelievable result shocked Iranians. We all believe that the election was rigged!
SG: Have you been able to contact your relatives in Iran since the election?
My relatives have not been able to contact me since then. I was able to contact them with difficulty and with lots of caution, since the contacts are being monitored by the government.
SG: Are you satisfied with the way President Obama is handling the situation so far?
Yes, I am. Iran and the United States have not had any political relationship since Iran's revolution in 1979. Therefore, the United States does not have any real direct influence on Iran's situation. Moreover, if President Obama had supported Iranian protesters, they would have been accused of getting help from foreigners. Iran's government is always looking for an opportunity to blame other countries, especially the U.S. and Britain, about any problem or issue.
We expect, however, that other countries, including the U.S., will not treat Ahmadinejad as Iran's elected president.
SG: What would you like to see happen in Iran?
I would like to see true democracy in my country. To achieve this goal, Iran's constitution should be modified. Right now, the supreme leader has the power to veto everything. In addition, every eligible citizen (based on a defined set of criteria) should be able to run for the presidency. Now, the guardian council selects the candidates for the presidency. Then, a fair election should be held to elect the real choice of the majority of the people.
**If you would like to thank this intelligent and brave young woman for speaking out, or wish her and her family well, please click on "Contact" (the envelope icon) on the upper right side of your screen. I will make sure that your comment reaches her.