While it is easy to quickly judge and fear Iran, really, we barely know the country. There are many Iranians residing in the US, but somehow we identify more with the cultures that originated from Europe. Familiarity does play a big role when it comes to fear but thankfully, that is directly related to the source of information. Obviously, few countries in the world are as controversial as Iran on the world stage. This is fueled by news outlets which constantly report aggressive behavior coming from the country yet other organizations, like Lonely Planet travel, rated Iran #1 most hospitable country and #3 for most memorable in their 2013 ranking. Are these extreme opposite positions really that tricky to decipher or simple issues of media vs. reality?
The media painted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the evil culprit in all Iran’s decisions. Yet surprisingly, at the UN assembly in September 2012, there were parts of Ahmadinejad’s speech that could be confused with the Dalai Lama. On discussing the current world situation, he describes the world as “founded on materialism, and that is why it is in no way bound to moral values.” Further concluded that “it has been shaped according to selfishness, deception, hatred and animosity” and that “it believes in classification of human beings, humiliation of other nations, trampling upon the rights of others and their domination.” This speech may have been given last year but it still is applicable today.
He spoke about eradicating poverty and moving away from consumerism. Then, he went into murky waters when he said something rarely discussed: “Creation of worthless paper assets by using influence and control over the world’s economic centers constitutes the greatest abuse of history, and is considered a major contributor to global economic crisis.” Maybe nobody noticed, but denouncing the monetary system is unheard of in politics and power. It is hard to not agree with Ahmadinejad’s statements.
Just yesterday, the current president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted “Iranian nation has never hated any nation—incl. American people. What has been and still is of concern are hostile policies, which we condemn.” This does not sound like an evil person. Frankly, he sounds like every American right now complaining about the overbearing NSA and branches of government, none of which are accountable anymore.
Maybe it is time to stop pretending Iran is so different from us in the West. One video “Fifty People, One Question-Tehran,” attempted to do just that when it surveyed Iranians in the streets asking what they wish would happen by the end of the day?” Answers included wishes for peace of mind, hopes the day would end well, happiness for everyone, health for their children, success for their children, acceptance of marriage proposals and even an end to high prices from inflation.
Other incredible campaigns that are still trying to bridge the gap are the “Israel-Loves-Iran” and “Iran-Loves-Israel” ventures. They started via Facebook, where an Israeli graphic designer, Ronny Edry, shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a daring message: “Iranians, we [heart] you.” The response was immediate from other Israelis mirroring the same. Then, in internet suppressed Iran, the response campaign was started, despite the risk of government punishment. Now millions of posters exist online of people sharing their love and showing their passports. The result demonstrates that government interests are not the interests of the people. The people do not want war.
Today, Iranians face some tough issues with the sanctions that are in place against them. Currently, there is a scarcity of even common things such as birth control. Even worse, as Narges Bajoghli, a NYU PhD student reported after her visit, “cancer patients, sufferers of multiple sclerosis and those with numerous others serious conditions have turned to buying medicine on the black market for exorbitant prices, and at times not finding them at all.” On a human level, our hearts should feel for them because the reality is none of us are able to control the policies in which our governments wage.
However, the media does have a responsibility to in the very least keep it fair in reports. CNN could have reported the Lonely Planet ranking of Iran as #1 most hospitable, because after all it is the largest travel guidebook company in the world with active users. Instead, they reported on the “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013,” which placed Iran as #6 for unfriendliness. It’s ironic to have one of the most unfriendliest countries also as the most hospitable. Furthermore, a country that celebrates the New Year for 13 days straight cannot be that unfriendly.
The relationship between Iran and the world will continue to be bridged by certain people and broken by others. Yet, in an age of the vast information available on the internet and in-depth social experiments, it is everyone’s duty to abstain from fear until they know more. It is not that tricky to access various sources about Iran. In fact, it is a duty.
By Cayce Manesiotis