The role of Iranian-others
By Nema Milaninia
June 16, 2003
It is without a doubt that Iranians are some of the most patriotic
and proud people on this planet. As such, it comes to no surprise
that we see Iranians across the globe supporting, discussing and
wishing to participate in reform or in some cases revolution.
while most “Iranian-others” discuss about current events
and their desires, few actually know what role to play in the events
unfolding in Iran. That is to say, we are Iranians but we do not
live in Iran.
We are not under threat of torture or imprisonment
when protesting on the streets of Tehran, nor are we the ones who
risk our life when publishing stories of freedom or corruption
in “liberal” papers.
However, Iranians around the globe
do not need to be on the streets to play an important role. In
fact they have an important role in their country of residence
and I will take the example of Iranian-Americans to demonstrate
The first major point we must assume is that we are more then just
Iranians. We are German-Iranians, Swedish-Iranians, or in my case
Iranian-American. Many of us who aspire reform and change in Iran
have been born and have grown up in countries outside of Iran.
when we consider Reza Pahlavi has lived more years in the United
States then in Iran one can justify how many Iranians feel
he is out of touch with the desires of most Iranians. This does
not mean we do not love Iran as much as those who live there. It
simply means we must always keep that within our point of view,
specifically when we discuss “what Iranians want” or “how
On the other hand, being an Iranian-American, or an Iranian-other,
demonstrates the dual obligations we have. As an American, for
example, I have the obligation and the right to vote, speak, write
and express my opinions in a manner which does not violate the
rights of others.
The National Iranian American
Council ought to
be applauded for their efforts in establishing a viable Iranian-American
political voice but most of all in reminding us the importance
of gaining a political voice. As an Iranian, I feel as if I have
a duty to make sure my opinions are heard so that our government
does not discriminate against Iranians, or initiate policies directly
attacking us based on our country of origin.
Keeping these obligations in mind, we can turn to the current shape
of Iranian life. As I read across headlines depicting the protests
currently going on in Iran, it is easy to assume that these events
have erupted only within the past few days.
Nevertheless we must
always remember that Iranians have been protesting for years and
that the demonstrations on the streets have resulted from brewed
frustration and most importantly dialogue that has fermented opinion
against the government and inspired thoughts of change.
between ourselves, the general public, and internationally is the
most important form of reformation and change that we could ever
hope for. It inspires debate, which in turn leads us to truth.
In the case of Iran, dialogue reconfirms what it is one can have
and how they can attain it.
More importantly, I believe, is that as an Iranian-American it
is important that Iranian opinion is heard when America is initiating
policies with respect to Iran, whether they are sanctions, trade
agreements, etc… It happens too often that when organizations
discuss what is best for Iranians you have a lack of a viable Iranian
opinion. You generally have defense analysts; exiles associated
with the Shah, or loaded voices from think tanks like American
Generally, Iranian-others can help Iranians in Iran by participating
in their resident governments and opening up the consciousness
of their country to the Iranian opinion. Without helping others
understand us, or people we care for in Iran, hope for reform carried
out by Iranians might be forever damaged.
Nema Milaninia is a Graduate Student, International Human
Rights Law at the American University in Cairo.
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