The Right to Freedom and Happiness, Not Enrichment, is What the Iranians Aspire For
by Behrooz Behbudi
Thousands of jubilant dancing and singing Iranians took to the streets last week to celebrate news of an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The nation’s reaction to the deal was summarized in one young Iranian girl’s emotion when she told a foreign reporter: “Now we will be able to live normally like the rest of the world.”
Obsessed with a largely secret nuclear program that has cost the Iranians hundreds of billions of dollars, bankrupted the country’s economy and kept Iran isolated from the rest of the world, the Islamic Republic regime has indeed denied a nation “to live normally like the rest of the world,” not just for its nuclear ambitions, but more for its medieval look at the notion of human life itself.
People in the West may tend to have a narrow view of Iran, given the many depressing news stories that emanate from the country for its archaic political system. But the Iranian people’s national pride and love of freedom and peaceful coexistence with the world have not withered under the theocratic rule of the mullahs.
However, denying the Iranian people the right to happiness and banning them from many basic civil and human rights that are taken for granted in the West is an inseparable part of the nature of the Islamic Republic regime.
Its founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, once said, “the Islamic republic’s legitimacy and continuation is secured by instigating grief and crying of people.”
While the regime’s repressive policies do not distinguish between Iranians of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, the country’s heroic women and artists have borne the brunt of them.
The regime’s blind hatred of Western cultural values and individual liberties interprets any association of men and women in public as “corruption and promiscuity.”
On the same day that the news of the nuclear agreement in Lausanne surfaced, the country’s deputy sports minister announced a plan to “allow women to enter sports stadiums in Iran,” a basic right that 40 million Iranians have been denied for the last 36 years.
However, the ban will be lifted only for indoor events not popular sports such as soccer games because, as the minister said, “families are not interested in attending stadiums.”
The international public was shocked to learn how in last November British-Iranian woman Ghoncheh Ghavami was sentenced to one year in jail after she and others demanded that women be allowed in to watch a volleyball match between Iran and Italy at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium. She was pardoned last week, after almost a year in custody under inhumane conditions, but cannot leave Iran until 2017.
Earlier, the regime’s disdain for happiness under the guise of “protecting religious values” had already been condemned across the globe when six young Iranian men and women who videotaped their dancing to Pharrell Williams’ Happy song were rounded up by Revolutionary Guard agents. They were sentenced to suspended jail terms and lashes for sharing their own happiness with the rest of the world through social media.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian women have been banned from singing. The restrictions first prohibited all singing but faced with the growth of underground bands and public demands, they have now changed into a ban on women singing solo in front of men who are unrelated to them. Conservative clerics say women’s voices can trigger immoral feelings in men.
Club wielding vigilantes and thugs organised by religious groups continue to attack music concerts and festivals deemed as “un-Islamic” to them.
Iranians are astonished when they hear that films made by banned directors at home receive admiration and prestigious awards in international festivals, as the regime attempts to stifle artistic freedoms that run contrary to its ideological dogma.
By banning happiness and optimism among the Iranian people the Islamic Republic regime intends to stop them from coming together for common purposes and shared hopes, powerful social elements that can easily be used to organize a united opposition to its rule.
Happiness and hope are the most distinctive features of human beings that separate us from the animal kingdom. Take them away and we are left with a new species void of any hope to live, face the challenges of life, strive for freedom and a better future, and show a sense of humanity towards one another.
The Iranian regime may have inadvertently allowed the Iranians to dance and sing on the streets now to portray their gesture as support for its policies. However, only once all the dust settles over the devastating issue of its nuclear program can one say for sure if the regime will ever believe in respecting the rights of the Iranians to be able “to live normally like the rest of the world.”