NEW YORK — It’s the day after President Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University… I’ve had a hard time going to sleep last night.
I was just at the United Nations General Assembly meeting. President Ahmadinejad was the 6th speaker of the afternoon session. He followed the president of Argentina who contributed a good part of his speech condemning Iran on the famous Argentinian terrorist case, asking the international community to adress this issue and handle it differently! He used the phrase “la República Islámica de Irán” many times towards the end of his speech, just a few minutes before president Ahmadinjead was about to start. I start feeling a bit self-conscious…
Since he arrived with his team to the “Islamic Republic of Iran” desk on the main floor, delegates were coming up to him with personal cameras and asking to take pictures with him, men and women, from Southern as well as Northern countries. About half hour before Ahmadinejad’s speech, the balcony where I was sitting started filling up with people, of all ages and nationalities, of different statuses shown on their colored UN passes, of the UN staff and the external press; people were trying to get as close to the front as possible.
As I was observing from above, he received more greetings at his desk that made him get up and shake hands than any other delegates. During all this process, people on the balconies were taking pictures! on their mobiles, on personal cameras (there were no photojournalists allowed). There was this one little Vietnamese lady next to me who kept filming his every single move with her home video camera. I also overhear a couple of people asking: What time is Iran??
Finally; the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran is invited to address the General Assembly. And as my entire balcony is trying to set their translation devices to the correct channel, I catch myself for a second, while proudly putting down my translation device, as if at this very moment, I have something that every other person on this floor is wishing to have? Aaah… I speak Farsi! And then I realize that I am feeling very comfortable in this environment, even though I am not surrounded with a group of my friends as I was at Columbia University the day before, and even though my identity is very clear to everyone on this balcony: I’m the only dark-haired girl who is not using her translation device.
President Ahmadinejad starts and I lean back on my chair, listening to the well-practiced speech in Farsi, observing my surroundings. I catch a few “surprised” looks every now and then, staring at my ear and suddenly following the wire from my chair to the floor where the translator is. As the speech goes further and the points get more detailed, I realize that I am pre-planning my facial expression at the end of his every sentence… Now I’m starting to wonder: what is he going to say next? (it’s good) next? (still good) next? …
The speech was fairly strong, well written. It was general enough to not address every detail, yet it was smartly -and somehow politely – turning the finger back at the “Great Powers” of the world, for a group of different reasons; these “Great Powers” however, were never named – in the very Persian manner.
The speech is getting to the end, the phrase “My Nation” come up frequently which makes me a bit uncomfortable first, but as it sits together with “Civilization” and “Culture” and “Peace” and “Love for the human kind” I start getting a new feeling: the human part of my soul is taking over my brain, and my eyes are getting wet.
As the speech ends – too religious for my test, but on a fairly good note – I keep feeling like something is missing… nobody was booing President Ahmadinejad.