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Politics & Current Affairs

Voices on the Ground: Iranians in Spain

Iranian expats living in Spain have recently illuminated the backdrop of the YouTube and Twitter main stage by which the Iranian elections are currently understood.

Speaking with several of them over the last couple of weeks, I have come to see a significant generational difference in their attitudes toward the current election debacle.

Just after Zahra (not her real name) came to meet me yesterday at a Barcelona café carrying a green cloth in support of Mousavi, she received a phone call from her mother still living in Tehran.

Her mother was able to phone amidst intermittent cell phone reception cut by authorities to stem public protest. This has made calling ambulances for those injured in the protests a frantic trial.

Zahra is in her mid-twenties and left Iran since Ahmadenijad came to power. Like the rest of Iran’s under-30 population, which constitutes two-thirds of the total population, she did not experience the revolution of 1979. While many of Zahra’s friends have left their foreign homes in the wake of the recent presidential election to fight the good fight in the public squares of Tehran, Zahra’s mother has insisted she stay put.

Still, Zahra sees the current protests as a moment of truth for her country. “If the election had been fair, the world would never have seen such Iranian solidarity, so there is something extremely important happening.”

Zahra’s cousin Farrin (not her real name) is in her thirties and has vivid memories of the Shah and the ensuing revolution. She is more skeptical that Mousavi can effectuate revolutionary change. She sees petroleum reserves as a curse on Iran and believes oil revenues will continue to be used to support Lebanon and Hezbollah far into the future.

The divergence in the women’s views begs the paramount question: Are we witnessing a revolution or something less?

Some media give a resounding “No” noting that the Islamic clerics currently in power will determine the outcome of the current popular unrest. The Iranian government is a partial democracy at best. For example, unelected religious officials decide which candidates will stand for president.  

They also point out that Mousavi was Prime Minister of Iran just after the 1979 Revolution when reaction to the Shah’s social progressivism was fierce. Mousavi reportedly wrote the dress code for men and women in post-revolutionary Iran and segregated university classes according to gender. That people’s opinions can change, however, should not need to be stated.

For the moment, Iranians of all political persuasions are united under the common banner of representative democracy, and they must be listened to if the Islamic Republic and modern media sources such as Twitter wish to maintain credibility.

Any doubts about Ahmadenijad or Mousavi’s justness only affirms the legitimate claim that the Iranian people deserve better.