Nowruz and the aspirations of the Iranian people
According to Iranian tradition, Persian nationalists believe that their ancestors considered happiness to be a heavenly gift, with this happiness experienced during the annual Nowruz celebrations that also mark the start of the new year. This ancestral myth is similar to those held by peoples across the world.
Regardless of the accuracy of this myth, we should ask at the time of this year’s Nowruz celebrations whether or not the Iranian people have realized happiness this year. Indeed, have they experienced happiness at all since the Iranian revolution broke out in 1979?
Over the last four decades, Iran has faced international and regional isolation, with this marginalization taking its toll on the Iranian people. Happiness can never be experienced when a country is isolated from its neighbors or when it carries out hostile acts against them.
The Iranian regime has been the prime cause of this isolation, resulting in economic, financial, social and diplomatic crises. The Iranian people have suffered excessively and experienced worsening conditions over the decades.
What genuine happiness can ever be experienced amid isolation and rampant poverty, which is now widespread across Iranian society? Poverty has resulted in multiple crippling social phenomena, such as homelessness and hunger, with citizens scavenging for food in dumpsters now a common sight. Who can be happy literally living in graveyards or with the religiously sanctioned “temporary” marriages covering up sordid liaisons? Socioeconomic crises are now widespread even in the capital Tehran.
This gloomy picture is supported by numerous proofs, such as the 2018 statement by Parviz Fattah, who was then the head of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee. He said that 11 million people in Iran were living in abject poverty. Today, more than half of the population lives below the poverty line. Despite the regime’s efforts to deflect blame on to the US sanctions, all this is happening while the rulers continue to spend billions on militias and regional wars.
How can the Iranian people experience or celebrate whatever happiness they have while their country is on the blacklist of terrorist sponsors? How can they smile when many other countries have placed restrictions on the entry of Iranian citizens? How can they really experience happiness when all aspects of their lives, including studying abroad, work, investment and tourism, have been negatively impacted in one way or another since 1979?
How can Iranian citizens be happy while they are denied many fundamental ethnic, cultural, political and linguistic rights? In addition, they are prevented from communicating with the outside world, with the regime intent on turning Iran into a country that is sealed off like North Korea.
The philosophy of Nowruz is based on ushering in a vibrant new year and bidding farewell to the inertia and coldness of winter, with the return of life, warm spring days, blooming flowers and melting snow. This is where it got its name, as “Nowruz” translates as “new day.”
So what new, positive transformations have been experienced by the Iranian people at the start of the new Hijri Shamsi year? Have the Iranians seen or felt any change in their economic, cultural, educational or social conditions? Has the burden on their shoulders been lifted? Have they felt that their country is open to the outside world, let alone to its immediate neighbors? Do Iranians feel they can travel unimpeded between countries, like others from countries not accused of sponsoring terrorism?
The Iranian people had great hopes, dreams and aspirations after the 2015 nuclear deal was struck. They waited for massive projects and investment to flow into the country, and for new job opportunities for themselves and their children, families and neighbors. They waited for their living conditions to improve and for their anguish, caused by years of economic sanctions against Iran, to come to an end. Iranians hoped that the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries would lead to a normal life in a normal modern state. In addition, they hoped that the deal would be the first in a series of steps allowing Iran to reset its relations with other countries.
These dreams, which depended on positive results from the nuclear deal, have evaporated, just like the deal itself, which has almost crumbled. These dreams of a better future — including an improvement in living conditions, a decline in prices and, finally, a leadership willing to tackle inflation and unemployment — had buoyed the Iranian people for years, particularly through the period of negotiations between Tehran and the Western powers. Now, however, the Iranian people realize they were lied to and duped. Their situation is far worse than before, with the regime becoming even more brutal. They dreamed of happiness but are now surrounded by despair and gloom on all sides.
All these factors prompted many Iranians to ask, at the start of this new year, when will their dreams be realized? And when will they be able to view Nowruz as the start of a genuinely positive year that will be better than the preceding one? Instead, Iranians are left to mutter: “Why would this year be different from the previous one when there are no signs of genuine change at home or abroad?”
Happiness can never be experienced when a country is isolated from its neighbors or when it carries out hostile acts against them.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
We in the Arab countries neighboring Iran wish only good for the Iranian people and want to see them enjoy happiness, prosperity and decent lives, while escaping the vortex of evil, extremism, oppression, social desperation, economic meltdown, and harsh living conditions. Despite the Arab countries bearing the brunt of the Velayat-e-Faqih regime’s bloody rampages, sectarianism and terror in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other countries, we stand with the Iranian people, knowing that those ruled by this regime also bear the burden of its evil.
So, on Nowruz, we send our happy wishes and the hope that good defeats evil and health prevails over sickness. We also hope the region experiences peace and safety and is freed from Iran’s current imperial aspirations, sectarian slogans and belligerent behavior. However, the question that needs to be asked is when will this happen?
- Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is President of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami