To Iran with Love…

Brooklyn Street Art
To Tehran with Love – 2011- Gilf!

When it comes to politics and culture, there are few things that rank higher on my passion list. I pulled a CNN all-nighter back in November when America had its elections, knowing my anxiety and excitement came from the realization that America’s next president could influence Iran’s fate tremendously. You could imagine my anxiety when the calender struck 14th of June and people were summoned to the ballots. The weeks prior to the elections I was a witness to heated discussions sometimes leading to arguments about whether one should vote or not on social media. The boy-cotters had their own reasons (wounded and scarred physically and emotionally from the trauma of the aftermath of the 2008 elections) claiming that voting would only stamp an emblem of validity on the regime’s forehead and buying the extreme leaders more time on the power throne. Others were clinging on to that small light of hope, trying to keep it alive, believing that a moderate change was possible and could help unload some of the pressure. My Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds were plastered with green posters that, in Persian scripture, read “I will vote” or “I will not Vote”. and  While I was initially in agreement with the boy-cotters, I came to a realization that it is not fair to criticize those who believed in change and a better future. And so I sat behind my laptop and read people’s opinions, sympathized with those who couldn’t forget the events of 2009 and admired those who had pulled themselves back up and were ready for another declaration of rights, on the streets, with nothing but their voices and “V”-ed fingers.

Friday was spent at work with BBC Persian’s election specials on a constant run in my earphones. The amount of anxiety I had was comparable to the university entrance exams I had sat. I just wanted it to be over. A cultural event at work helped pass the time while the vote counting had begun. I ran around with my phone in my hand checking for any update from any part of the world. Malaysia was first to announce that Rohani had won the majority of votes there. While that didn’t necessarily mean it would be the same everywhere, the light of hope had already started to get brighter.

I did not sleep the whole night, with my laptop screen glaring at my anxious face, I waited with everyone else. For some reason the counting was taking too long, making everyone nervous. People couldn’t figure out if it was due to the fact that they were actually counting or that they didn’t want to suddenly announce a certain candidate as winner. Once I got the confirmation that Rohani had been elected with more than 50% of the votes, I drew my curtains and went to bed.

I woke up to messages of congratulation and joy on Facebook. “We Won!” was an oft status update. That night people went to the streets to celebrate hope. While some criticized them for ignoring the fact that this was not a revolution but an election, their cries of cynicism were not heard among the laughter. My sister was among the celebrators. “It was like people had nothing else to do but park their cars on the roads and dance while music blared from their speakers.” Even the police force, those who didn’t miss an opportunity to chase, beat and insult the protesters four years back, had joined the celebrations even though with nothing more than smiles.

It would be naiive to think that a major change had occurred. That loud music, dancing and a liberty in clothing for women was the new face of the Iranian youth. That was nothing but the regime tolerating in order to save face. Rohani is not a savior, he is incapable of dragging Iran out of the swamp of corruption and distress. It would also be nothing but gullibility to assume that Iran being qualified to go to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil means they will win more than a handful of games. But one thing can be agreed upon; the celebration was the screams of joy of a nation rising from an eight year nightmare. Watching short clips posted on YouTube of the dancing men and women on the streets gave me nothing but big smiles and bigger goosebumps.  For the next week I went to work every day faced with questions inquiring about how I felt about the new president and if I was happy. My only answer was “I’m relieved.” Relief is all we have right now, but still, at this point we take what we can get…

I had had the idea of writing about this back in June when the ado was as tense as the excitement fresh, but a busy schedule never allowed me to finish my draft. I am hoping posting this on the night of his departure will still make sense. So as we bid farewell to a man with khaki coats (the only thing he stayed loyal to in the last eight years) and annoying smiles, we wish we could never speak of him again…

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