I read a report from the Foreign Policy Centre (what’s up with British spelling?). This report includes several anonymous interviews with key Iranian figures (it would take about 10 minutes to figure out who most of them are). It is a useful document for people who want to hear Iranians speak for themselves. I’ve pulled a few quotes, but there is a lot more.
From the Reformist Journalist:
The West and Iran:
“I don’t like to speak all the time with analogies, but I think the West is approaching Iran in exactly the wrong way. It’s like there is a dangerous element, a radical element in this country and perhaps at the moment it is holding us hostage. Rather like a terrorist who runs down the street with the police chasing after him and then takes refuge in a building. What should the police do? Negotiate with the people in the building until the people deliver the terrorist to them or the terrorist gives himself up; or attack the building, killing the terrorist but also killing lots of other people? If the United States were to attack Iran it would be like storming the building, a tragic mistake, because negotiation can resolve this dispute without anybody getting killed. ...”
“The best way to deal with Ahmadinejad would be if he were left alone for a couple of years. If he can’t use foreign pressure to repress more, he will face internal challenges. The most dangerous class is the workers – he told them he would raise their salaries. He has given them too much expectation, there’s a possibility they could strike.”
“Engagement with Iran has a much better effect for pushing the reforms, if the world wants to fully change the people, even those considered to be hardliners. Even they could become pro-Western. Why do I think that? Well, there’s a strategic element in foreign relations. The current situation for Iran isn’t good. We are surrounded by a lack of friends. We don’t have many Muslim allies – people are Iranians first, then Muslims. Engagement is the most effective weapon. We can use our capacity in the region to contain terrorism. Isolation just fires back. The ex-officials of US make sense – there need to be more talks.”
From the Human Rights Activist:
“Democracy is not like a plane, you can’t just export it. You have to have social basics and foundations on which to build democracy. People must want democracy if you want to create democracy. If you truly want to change this government, you have to bring in a completely democratic government. The voice must be heard in the West – I want to make a union between a peace loving Iran and a peace loving West.”
On Iran’s nuclear capabilities:
“The international community worries about Iran being a nuclear power. There is no reason to worry, it won’t be an atomic bomb that will destroy West. There is no such bomb. It will be Chernobyl style events that might destroy our own nation. All of this expertise and equipment were acquired on the black market. These factories and reactors lack safety standards. The West has very transparent reactors, and at the same time you have the greens and the environmental lobby keeping a check. When something is secret and unknown, you can have no confidence for safety. We should be worried, not you. You’re scared for us, and that’s very strange.”
From the Feminist:
On higher education:
“Higher education gives women a clearer understanding of inequality and oppression, and that understanding will produce change. It’s already happening, in vocal opposition to policies that sanction polygamy, temporary marriage, free divorce for men, and child custody to fathers and their families. If you pick up a women’s magazine in Tehran, you’ll find it’s full of stories of wives suffering at the hands of despotic husbands, a long list of wife-beatings, suicides and loss of children. At the moment it’s happening at this kind of anecdotal level because the courts discriminate against women, not just in terms of outlook or judgment but technically speaking, so a man’s testimony is equivalent to that of two women.”
“But change is inevitable, regardless of which faction holds the presidency. Education is giving Iranian women a new understanding of freedom, the freedom of choice, which is not displaced by sharia law. Ultimately the mullahs cannot make women wear the hijab or the chador, and the women of Iran are beginning to see this.”
There is a lot more. You can download it at the Foreign Policy Centre’s Site.