Mainstream left-wing media continue to project that the Iranian people are very satisfied and happy about the new nuclear deal and Iran-Western rapprochement. They show images and broadcast video of people celebrating the nuclear deal reached between the Islamic Republic and the six world powers (known as P5+1; China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States plus Germany).
The media’s agenda behind creating a specific narrative regarding the Iranian people’s feelings and reactions is clear: These influential outlets are attempting to galvanize more support for President Obama’s deal. They are trying to show the American people that even the Iranian people, despite what Iranian families have experienced, are happy. This implies that Americans should also support the deal.
Many of the journalists and policy analysts of these media outlets have never been to Iran nor do they understand the socio-political, socio-religious or cultural intricacies of this country. Instead, they impose their own agenda, interpretation and perception of events in Iran and proclaim themselves to be “experts.” There does not seem to be any effort on their part to seek out varying opinions or genuine reactions to the situation.
I was born after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and I have lived the majority of my life in the Islamic Republic. I am constantly talking with Iranian people face to face, and the story they tell is quite different than what you will find flipping through the major news networks.
First of all, when I was in Iran, we (the younger generation who were born after the Islamic Revolution) were forbidden from having any kind of fun. We were not permitted to listen to modern music, dance, wear clothes of our own choosing, drink, have a romantic partner outside of marriage, or even express our happiness in public or private. These were just a few of the restrictions that we faced as young Iranians.
Little by little, people learned to use their large numbers to resist the government. When there is a large number of people (hundreds of thousands) simultaneously doing one thing, it is impossible for the regime to arrest and imprison all of them. There is just not enough space in the prisons for such vast groups.
As a result, one way to express happiness in public and simultaneously violate the regime’s oppressive rules is to use national events as a reason to pour into the streets. Since people across the nation know that national events (such as Iran’s national soccer team winning a game or Iran reaching a nuclear deal that the Supreme Leader favors) will bring many people from all over the nation out into the streets, almost every person will feel safe to go out and “have fun” for the sake of fun. The reason for the celebration is not important to most.
People celebrate these national events such as the nuclear deal not necessarily because they love the terms of the deal or agree with the regime, but because they are using the opportunity to be happy. It is their chance to share in a joyful experience with their families and communities without threat of rebuke from the government.
We were subconsciously aware that the regime could not arrest all of us.
Some people celebrated and danced in the street, not because of the details and intricacies of the nuclear deal, but primarily because they are forbidden from having fun in the country, unless there is a special event. Because of this they always try to search for opportunities to be happy and work around the boundaries set by the government. When millions of people pour into the street, play loud music and dance, the government does not have the capacity to imprison or detain all of them. As Soraya, 23, from Tabriz told me, “Some might not know or care what is in the nuclear deal. They just want to use the moment and be happy.”
A lot of people I have talked to believe that the nuclear deal is not going to improve their living standards or advance human rights, such as freedoms of speech, press, or assembly. They also feel that it will make no difference in the people’s pursuit of social justice, rule of law or democracy.
In fact, they argue that the nuclear agreement will remove the possibility of any governmental change in Iran. Ziba, an Iranian human rights activist, points out, “The nuclear deal will lead to removal of economic sanctions and will enrich the Iranian leaders rather than the people.”
Some would also make the argument that improving the Iran-Western relationship will cause the West not to put pressure on the Islamic Republic when it comes to domestic political and human rights abuses or aggressive regional policies. The Islamic Republic will also be left with a path to obtain nuclear weapons legitimately or by cheating.
Others might like the deal not because they believe it is going to bring democracy, but because it might provide them with a clearer path to leave the Islamic Republic. For Sadegh, 28, Iran’s nuclear deal will increase his chances of getting a visa to come to the United States, where he would like to study and live. A couple, Mr. and Mrs. Ghaemi think that they can get approval to immigrate to Canada and then move to the US.
We should not forget that some among the lower class are struggling just to make ends meet. They may not even consider the nuclear deal, as they do not believe it has any direct impact on their day-to-day lives. Some may not have even heard of it. Those who have most likely do not view the Iran-US rapprochement as a crucial factor that will change the status quo. Some will argue that the current political and economic situation will remain the same. Average citizens do not expect to witness any changes and instead issues pertaining to the deal are viewed as political gains for the leaders of both sides, while the ordinary people of Iran are left with no improvements to their lives.
While the mainstream left-wing media follows its own agenda by supporting President Obama and only showing one fabricated aspect of the Iranian people’s reactions to the nuclear deal and Iran and the West improving ties, the truth in the communities of Iran is quite different. The reaction, hopes, and dreams, of the Iranian people are much more complicated and nuanced than what’s being projected to the nation.