By Mahtab Farid, Washington, DC
The historic election, November 4, 2008
Twenty nine years ago, on Nov. 4, 1979, a group of radical students took over the American embassy in support of Islamic revolution and took 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days. Since then US and Iran don't have diplomatic relations. President George W. Bush in his state of the Union address on January 29, 2002 has called Iran "axis of evil" and according to the State Department report; Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Islamic revolution leader in Iran, Imam Khomeini called US a "Great Satan" on Nov. 5, 1979.
DNC in Colorado
On a more personal note, the lack of diplomatic relations made it extremely difficult for my family to visit me because they couldn't get US visa and my friends in Iran had a tough time getting student visa to study in the US. Not to mention the sanctions that hurt Iran economically.
So you could imagine when I went to vote on Nov. 4, 2008, on one hand I was thinking the issues I care about as a US citizen but in the back of my mind I was thinking that how my vote would affect my motherland Iran.
Like thousands of other Americans I stood in long lines and casted my vote. I was also thinking how the hostage taking event that took place 29 years ago shaped Iranians future. As I was standing in line, I also remembered my meeting this summer with former US hostage, Ambassador Bruce Laingen who was the senior American diplomat during that ordeal.
Ambassador Bruce Laingen
I visited Ambassador Laingen at his
house this summer to discuss a story and exchange ideas about the US policy
towards Iran. He greeted me so warmly and offered me chocolate chip cookies with
lemonade. He also showed me the tree front of his house, where his wife put a
yellow ribbon on that tree the entire time he was held hostage. Currently that
yellow ribbon is in the library of congress.
As I was standing in line, I remembered my exchange this summer with Ambassador Laingen. I found it wonderful to be greeted so warmly by an American who was held hostage in my motherland and had absolutely no negative feelings towards Iran or Iranians.
As soon as I finished voting, I sent Ambassador Laingen an email and asked him how the new US president could change the relations between US and Iran. I also asked him about his experience as a former hostage 29 years ago?
Ambassador Laingen graciously replied to my email and here is the answer.
"President-elect Obama will have a host of difficult issues on his foreign policy agenda when he assumes office, but arguably none will be more urgent and, God willing, more productive, than the US-Iranian relationship. Today, regrettably, those relations are non-existent, but they need not remain that way. Somehow, somewhere, we must have a dialogue with the Islamic regime. Why? Because it's there and because today the many interests that we share risk clashing with each other - first and foremost, of course, a shared interest in the stability of a free and democratic Iraq, and secondly, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.. To use an old American expression - let's get off the time."
Iranian paper with headline: Obama's victory with promise of change for America
Ata, 65 years old bank manager said,
"I was hoping McCain would be the next US president, but if President Elect Obama doesn't give legitimacy to Islamic Republic and doesn't make a deal with them, there will be no problem, other wise Islamic Republic is here to stay for another 30 years."
Mohammad Reza, 25 years old, student from Tabriz wrote,
"It really doesn't matter to me, I don't know anything about politics, nor do I care to follow."
Jamshid, 27 years old, PHD in Computer Science from Tehran wrote,
"When it comes to Iran, Bush and Obama think alike. They only differ on pulling out the troops from Iraq which makes no difference to Iran."
Parsa, 18 years old said,
"It makes no difference to me. I hope things will not be worse for us."
Shahyad, 25 years old, computer science engineer said,
"It is so sad that a country is waiting to be fixed through another country's president. Senator Obama will be the next US president, not our president. He is going to work for what is best for his country."
As I am writing this post my thoughts and my prayers are with Esha Momeni, my school mate who is currently detained in Evin prison... (Note: Esha has been released since then)
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