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Traditional table of Nowruz, where all things must begin with the letter “S”.

With such an eventful year drawing to its end in Iran, this celebration of Nowruz is certainly bittersweet for many people there. A young man I have made contact with who has sided with the protesters has had a lot to tell me about how he views his country, and the  overall feeling that young men in his age group have regarding their futures if things don’t change for the better.

While it would be nice to add lots of beautiful photos and simply wish everyone in Iran a happy new year as the day nears, I would rather give some thought to those who don’t have much to celebrate and who are risking their freedom and lives to fight for something better in their homeland.

More freedoms and opportunities, yes, but also they fight for a more promising future for the next generation of Iran, because the present doesn’t give them much hope.

My young friend tells me that he holds a degree in engineering, but lost his job in a recent layoff along with so many others in his city. Indeed, I had been viewing a lot of videos which showed worker strikes across the country, no industry appearing to be immune from job losses, and wages which have gone unpaid.

From steel workers to teachers and even basic food production, the outlook is bleak, and the situation a dire one. The price of food is now more than the average wages of many.

While the media continues to focus on the economic crisis in Iran, (when they bother giving them any coverage at all),  blaming the protests mainly on this, it’s only part of the story. It is obvious that people are frustrated, angry with the government and feeling the pain of the economy, but it goes so much further than this. He tells me that one of his friends was arrested and kept in jail for a few days because he “talked to a woman he was not married to.” He speaks of how some days, he doesn’t feel like living anymore and points me to a story of a young man who committed suicide by jumping from a building.

“They’ve taken everything from us, even music. There is nothing left for them to take.”, he says of the regime.

This is very telling, because most of us know that over five thousand people have been arrested for protests in Iran, and that dozens of women have joined them in jail for waving their hijabs on a stick. Most of us are aware how brutal the penalties for these ‘crimes’ are, and so we wonder what would drive people to risk all of that. Why would they take to the streets when it could mean their lives?

The answer of course is that many feel they have nothing left to lose, and that this is the only way they can have a shred of hope to see it change. In those streets, they call for an end to the Islamic Republic. An end to the Mullah rule and dictatorship. They call for freedom and the right to decide their own fate and future of the country. Without necessarily using the word ‘democracy’, it is what they’re asking for.

From the outside, we hear our own President speaking of Iran, and giving a speech to the troops where the subject comes up, if only briefly during his visit here to California.

We see Trump and Netanyahu together speaking out against Iran’s regime, joined by Nikki Haley and speeches by McMasters. We can’t know exactly what is going to happen from the outside-what sort of measures they will take be it further sanctions or attempts to isolate Iran, or even the possibility of military force.

Because we don’t know yet, let’s put that aside. A thing easily done for time now when all signs point to Iran’s implosion from within. A country with its economy in such tatters and young people contemplating ending their lives rather than excitedly planning and looking forward to living them cannot stand for long. Reza Pahlavi in a message to them said that it is not the world the regime fears, it is the people of Iran.

Through their strength and determination, maybe Iran truly will see the first of many new years to come.

 

-Rachel

 

 

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