Monday, August 10, 2009

German Public Radio July Interview - On Iran

Below is a transcript from an interview I did about a month ago with a German public radio station regarding the protests in Iran. I typed up my responses to the questions while in transit and so I chose to keep the details to a minimum. What are your views on the matter and what would you have answered to some of those questions?

  • What have you felt when you saw the pictures of the young people demonstrating in Iran?

In all honesty my first thought about the protesters was a sort of worry for the protesters. We anticipated what the authorities’ reaction could be – night time raids, arbitrary arrests, beatings, kidnappings, murder. Such are the ways of an autocracy desperately holding on to power.

My second thought was closer to home. No matter the immediate outcome of the protests in Iran, it is clear that a domestic struggle has begun for that country’s future. A struggle that could have serious consequences for the region as a whole, and Lebanon in particular given the presence of Hizballah, a proxy militia integrally attached to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

  • Do you think that the youth of Iran can be an ideal?

I think the youth of Iran have decided that they want to have an active place and voice in the affairs of their country. The blatant electoral fraud engaged in by the regime in that country came in addition to unpopular economic and foreign policies implemented by the regime. It was the stick that broke the camel’s back.

  • How was the reaction of your friends, and the people of Libanon in general, as to the protests?

Our reactions were conflicted. On the one hand, we’ve aspired to define our sovereignty on a national level, attempting to limit our involvement in regional affairs due to the heavy cost those affairs have inflicted on our country. With this in mind, it was difficult for us to even advocate paying attention to what was going on in Iran – we didn’t want to have anything to do with that country’s regime and we didn’t want them to have anything to do with us.

On the other hand, it was hard for us to turn away. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves had taken to the street to protest an injustice (here I’m referring to the Hariri assassination).

Finally there was some worry and some hope with regards to what a destabilization of the Iranian regime would mean for the stability of Lebanon given that that regime maintains a proxy fighting force on Lebanese territory.

  • Do you see a similarty between the Protest in Iran and the Protest in Libanon after the assassination of Hariri?

As I mentioned earlier, I think both protests arose out of an injustice that came after a long history of injustice.

  • Politic need symbols. What were the symbols of the Demonstrations which most have impressed yourself? Do you think, that this symbols will also will have an influence of your political work?

Over the past several weeks we’ve seen a number of symbols emerge out of the protests in Iran, from the stark, shocking images of a young woman dying before our eyes to motorcycle “policemen” chasing down female students and beating them with batons. As a young English language blogger from the Middle East, two images have resonated especially with me. The first was the image of smashed computer screens in university dorms following a Basij raid on them. This came in light of the broad-based phenomenon of social networking providing a voice to the outside to those who could not, for years, find a voice on the inside of this theocratic autocracy.

  • In Germany we think, that a lot of young people in the MidEast are attracted by radical religious groups like the Hizbollah or the Hamas. I don’t know if this is true, but do you think, that in the succession of the protests there could be grow a countermovement?

Extremist movements around the world, no matter what their ideological underpinnings, feed on a society’s weakest and most neglected portions. In the Middle East there are huge demographic changes in progress. Vast portions of countries’ populations are below the age of 25, in many of countries this demographic makes up the majority. Economies in the region face difficulties in providing opportunities for these young people, meanwhile these economies are burdened with wealth distribution issues which worsen feelings of neglect, and decrepit political systems which prevent the expression of political will normally available in countries with more developed democratic systems. These factors therefore end up driving some youth towards radical symbols of protest and disruption. But if the youth of Iran have shown us anything it is that they, and other youth in region in general, want to be active members of the world, and don’t want to be regarded as terrorists.

  • Do you think, in the future, there could be a cross-border movement of young people in the mid East, towards more liberality?

Each country in the Middle East is different, with unique social and economic structures and politics. Of course, there are overriding universal humanitarian principles towards which the civil societies of each of these countries will aspire. The path they will take to reach these principles will be tempered by each country's domestic factors.

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