This picture of pro-Western Iranians was taken by myself in Stockholm in the summer of 2009, right across from the Swedish house of parliament. These are the types of wonderful Iranians that the world should get to know. They were absolute in their desire for a liberal type democracy that is modeled after the ones in the West, they loathed Islam and socialism as much as they loved the US, Israel and free market capitalism. My kind of folks.
Hello, Iran speaking
Special: Iranians speak to Israeli newspaper, reveal grim state of affairs in Islamic Republic
While in Israel we are preoccupied with threats and preparations for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, residents of Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and other Iranian cities are already deep into another war – the war for their survival. Phone calls made in recent days by Yedioth Ahronoth to several Iranian citizens revealed a fascinating picture of the enemy state that hides behind the scary rhetoric of the leaders from Tehran.
While top Iranian leaders Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boast that Western sanctions merely make Iran stronger and issue statements claiming Iran’s home front is resilient, the Iranians we spoke with have other news – the situation in the country is terrible.
“You can see it well at markets and shops,” says Razi, the owner of a textile store in Tehran. “People only buy what they really need…I have some friends who only buy the most defective, rotten goods at the market, at the end of the day, in order to save up a few more pennies.”
‘I love Israel’
Razi says he belongs to Iran’s constantly shrinking middle class. He dresses up, speaks and thinks like a Westerner, yet to his great regret lives in Tehran. “I would run away if I could,” he says. “But I have a big family and roots here, and I prefer to hope and believe that sometimes all of this will pass and we’ll again be able to live like human beings.”
In recent weeks, the local currency depreciated dramatically, the prices of goods skyrocketed, and inflation has spun out of control. Meanwhile, the government has minimized fuel subsidies and encourages residents to walk or use public transportation. “We’re eating less meat, whose price went up significantly, and settle for staples. It’s good for our health. Maybe the Americans want all of us to go on a diet,” he quips, bitterly.
When Razi is told of the recent Israeli Facebook campaign under the “We Love Iran” banner, he laughs. “I would do a similar campaign. I love Israel,” he says. “However, I have this slight concern that 10 minutes after my first post goes online, you’ll find me hanging upside down from a city crane.”