It has been quite sometime since Barack Obama was elected the President of USA and his iconic speech of “Change we believe in” left the whole world enthralled. The fact that the Western world and many in the rapidly developing economies like India and China could relate to his speech and felt that such changes would benefit their countries too was not something new. But I shouldn’t be surprised if many in some other parts of the world, which are not conventionally considered to be open minded or liberal, too were watching with intent and hoping for change in their countries as well. Over the last few months, as the Obama administration settled down with work and the rest of the world forgot much of them, at least some of the real changes have started showing their presence. No, I am not talking about the initiatives being taken by Obama to bail out loss making American companies; and neither am I referring to the restrictions on outsourcing that are being imposed by him. On the contrary, I am talking about the sudden glimpse of change in Iran, and the uneasiness about it that is visible in its radical government. In the recently concluded Presidential elections in Iran, though the incumbent President Ahmadinejad won with around 62% of the popular vote, defeating the pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, there has been massive violence since then in the streets of Teheran. Young men and women have defied all the threats and dictums of their radical and often fanatic government to come out open in the streets, not just exhibiting their strength but also in massive defiance of the way their voice is often suppressed in their society. The death of Neda Soltan (a young Iranian woman shot to death during the protests) and her bleeding photograph have literally become the rallying point of all debates revolving around the sudden appearance of change in a society, which the contemporary world loves to hate. And thanks to the exponential proliferation of internet, the scenes of protest and the desperation of the government that has indoctrinated a nation with hatred for so long, is open for all to see.
Iran always had a strong cultural heritage; and so, unlike other radical countries, young Iranians are not as much against Western culture as is often propagated. But for long, that was overshadowed by an overpowering government that would not let this liberty to grow. Yet, in the last few months, the average young Iranian who has not yet been fully radicalized has been witnessing the most impartial, honest and very much un-American-like efforts of Barack Obama to bridge all the divides in Middle East. His speech in Cairo was path-breaking and Iranians have also been witnessing how Obama, unlike his predecessors, has not been blindly siding with Israel. The fact that he stresses on his Muslim lineage has also helped the case in point. And thanks again to the proliferation of the internet, the Iranians have also been witnessing that the US is not perhaps as bad as it has always been projected by the government owned media and their leaders at home.
Obama’s greatest success till now has been the way he has been able to connect with ordinary people, and most importantly the youth. If Obama’s influence is of any indication of what is happening in Iran today, it is something which was unthinkable even a year back. It is also true that the current protests need not change Iran in a day or two. And it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden an average Iranian youth would become hostile towards one’s own nation. In fact, such a thing, if it happens, would not help the cause of global peace either. But what is more important is the fact that the world now knows that Iran need not be absolutely synonymous with Islamic radicalism. Even more important is the fact that if the government of Ahmadinejad has to sustain, then it necessarily has to make room for certain fundamental changes within the country. And truthfully, that would not have to go against the very pillars of Iran. On the contrary, a certain dose of social reform would bridge some of the deep divides that lay for no reason across the continents and would surely help in creating a more peaceful world. Hopefully, Obama too would see sense in not meddling much in the internal affairs of Iran. It is important for him not to follow the footsteps of his predecessor in jumping to some vague conclusion and invading Iran for a hypothetical liberation and thus plunging it into mayhem forever. If that happens, it would perhaps be the worst consequence of the now seemingly pro-reform and rights protests enveloping Iran. With time, such protests would surely force their government to change. Obama should continue with his constructive engagement with Middle East and especially with Iran. If he can do so, it would perhaps be one of the most formidable changes that he could have brought in this world.
- 25 June 2009 |
- Dr. Arindam On America