By Eleanor Ommani, Co-founder of American Iranian Friendship Committee, reporting from Shiraz, Iran
On April 29, 2009, the president of Iran, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, came to Fars Province, in the city of Shiraz, to greet the tens of thousands of people who came out to welcome him from Shaheed dast Ghaib Airport to the Hafezeeh Stadium. The President's visit was part of the national tour of various Iranian cities in preparation for the up-coming presidential elections scheduled for June 12. The President was welcomed by various prominent political and religious figures in Fars Province, including Reza Zadeh, the Governor of the province, as well as the Shiraz religious representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Assdollah Imani. In Ayatollah Imani's remarks, he praised the President's recent speech in Geneva at the Durban II Conference as affirming the position of the Supreme Leader's views on the Islamic system, its place in the global world, and its condemnation of the policies of the Zionist regime in Israel.
Following the warm introductions and welcome statements, President Ahmadinejad thanked the many people - farmers, herders, intellectuals, doctors, office workers - for taking time to welcome him, and went on to acknowledge that the Fars people should be proud of their inheritance of the ancient culture of Iran when Cyrus the Great ruled over Iran and Shiraz was the seat of the old capital, 2,500 years ago. "This is a great and proud inheritance," he said. Mr. Ahmadinejad read short verses from the works of Hafez and Saadi, two beloved Iranian poets who are enshrined in Shiraz, and whose mausoleums attract thousands of Persians and foreigners every year. The people of Shiraz are rightfully proud of these two great men of literature, said the president.
Mr. Ahmadinejad chose to refer to one of Saadi's poems which spoke about being in this world before leaving for the afterworld. "If you can do something good for this world, it is better to do it in the present and soon, before one gets old because time will pass and the opportunity to change the world may pass by," he read from Saadi's ideas. Speaking to the thousands of people attending, the president advised all workers who make up society to use their energies to serve the entire nation and the masses of people, and not be driven by any group or party, but by the ideals of serving all the people. He noted that if a government, instead of being free, owes its power to certain groups or certain parties, it cannot serve the entire people. In the countries where liberal democracy rules, the values and ideals of the nation and people are trampled on for the benefit of the small groups ruling over the masses.
A significant part of the speech by President Ahmadinejad addressed the issue of governments that serve the people and governments that are brought to power and are influenced by money and interests that serve other powers and groups. He was touching on some of the principles that he brought up at the Durban II Conference in Geneva, regarding the influence in European governments and especially within the United States government of pro-Zionist thinking and policies. If the government of the United States were truly a people's government and had genuine freedom as its ideals, then "...it would never allow the Zionists to shout and rule over the oppressed people of Palestine." He stated further that when the people of Palestine want to defend themselves against oppression, they are called "terrorists" by governments who are corrupt and are far from spiritual and human values of freedom and justice. Ahmadinejad went on to tell the throngs in the stadium that when the Zionists and their supporters learned that a representative of the Islamic Republic was going to speak at Durban in defense of the Palestinians, they tried to exclude Iran from the Conference. Since this was not possible, as it was an international UN sponsored Conference, then they themselves boycotted the Conference, fearing to even appear.
Ahmadinejad went on to say that in that meeting, "...it is true I laughed, but it was because I saw how low the Zionists have sank in their efforts to silence Iran and drive its representative out of an international forum, but it was they who had to leave the scene and who became the losers. I told the government leaders and the delegates at that conference, that in Iran, as here in the Fars Province, one cannot find a person who would retreat one step in the face of those who aggress against us and against the oppressed people in Palestine. I reminded those criminal and corrupt governments that slavery, based on the degradation and subjugation of human beings, had been practiced by the West for more than 300 years and caused many wars and destruction of societies," he said.
Then, the President of Iran turned to local economic and social issues facing the people of Fars Province. He noted that between his last visit to this province and this visit, universities in and around Shiraz have doubled in number and the campaign for the electrification of the outer villages and small towns has also doubled those being served. Progress has been made on the development of the railroad fromto Shiraz and will be completed as soon as possible, hopefully within a year, so that the people of Fars Province will be able to ride the railroad from here to Esfahan and from Esfahan to . The government is working to see the completion of these railroad lines and tracks, which will eventually connect to the far south coastal cities.
Recently, in one of the factories of Shiraz, the workers had not been paid their salaries and went on strike. President Ahmadinejad said that the workers' are deserving of their wages and should be paid. He noted that some of the factories in various economic zones in Shiraz have recently been facing difficulties and acknowledged that the authorities in the Islamic Republic must pay attention to this problem. In the period between his two visits, unemployment in Fars Province has decreased from 13 ½ to 10 percent and in order to help reduce unemployment further, he is pushing forward the plans of the local government for a new petro-chemical plant and two new refineries.
Fars Province has suffered drought over the past two - three years from lack of rain, and the government has set aside funds to help the farmers and herders outside of the Shiraz town-ship. The designing and construction of dams to collect and save the water from the mountains is proceeding.
Finally, the Islamic Government has been working to design 21 areas of the province for the tourism industry, which will help to further economic development in this area. The Islamic Government pays special attention to the needs of the youth, and is funding and constructing 50 gymnasiums/sports areas for the health of the young people.
The president thanked everyone and said good-bye as he planned to visit other cities and towns in Fars Province.
About the author: Eleanor Ommani is currently vacationing in Iran. In 2004, with her husband, Ardeshir Ommani, she co-founded American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) www.iranaifc.com Ms. Ommani is a retired public school educator, and full-time in NY, paying special attention to educating people about the Iranian people and society and changing the aggressive U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
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