If you’re unfamiliar with Iran’s recent history, the only thing you probably know about the nation is what has been in the news in the past few months-the supposed dangers of its nuclear program and the questionable agreement formed to curtail that danger. It’s unfortunate that this nuclear issue is what is characterizing knowledge and opinions of Iran, because there is so much more to the country than its pursuit of (allegedly peaceful) nuclear energy.
Now, I am not an expert on Iran, but as an international studies (IS) major, I’ve always been interested in the Middle East since so many international issues revolve around that region. Last semester, I learned an incredible amount from Professor Ali Banuazizi’s Modern Iran class. The course made me realize the importance of understanding the history of a nation before judging it based on its image in the (American) media. At the same time, it also made me realize how little most people actually know or care about learning. I know people have varying interests and not everyone values learning about international issues, but not being a political science or IS major doesn’t justify ignorance about world affairs.
Iran is not an Arab country, nor do Iranians speak Arabic as their primary language. It has an extremely strong Persian heritage that defines its identity as a nation-it was Persian before Islam spread as a religion in the seventh century, and it has remained Persian since Islam became the predominant faith. Women are not deprived of all rights in Iran-schooling is and has always been very important for both men and women, and women can hold political office and other positions of power. Most importantly, Iran is not some radical, irrational state that should be feared. Iranians do not hate the U.S. or Americans, and although the government in the past has been led by Islamic fundamentalists-namely, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-these views do not represent the majority of the people.
Iran may not be a fully democratic country, with its Supreme Leader and Guardian Council wielding important influence, but it is not an authoritarian regime. The presidential elections are held in a similar manner to our own, and the current president, Hassan Rouhani, is a moderate centrist who has so far proven his openness to cooperation and desire for good relations with other countries of the world. He’s even on [email protected], if you are interested-and he wished Jews a “blessed Rosh Hashanah,” which illustrates his desire to set Iran on a new, peaceable path, since historically the Iranian government has been extremely hostile toward Israel, especially under Ahmadinejad. He has also been open to discussions and negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program as evidenced by the current agreement which, while still insisting upon its right to pursue peaceful and non-threatening energy goals, is in stark contrast to Ahmadinejad’s policies.
Many people are critical of this deal, saying it doesn’t go far enough and has little chance of success. Yes, the deal isn’t perfect-Iran still hasn’t agreed to the strictest inspection rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that help confirm that they are in fact curtailing the uranium enrichment to the agreed levels, and we don’t know if the Iranian government’s claim that in their continued nuclear development they only desire to acquire peaceful energy and technology, not weapons, is true. But this is a huge step in the right direction for U.S.-Iran relations, and one that should not be glossed over simply because of possible obstacles. The U.S. and Iran have been at odds since the 1979 revolution and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and anything that might better the relationship between the two countries should be pursued-especially in light of the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the potential benefits that Iran could provide as an ally in the region.
So I’m not saying that I know everything about international issues (far from it), that Iran is a perfectly democratic and problem-free nation, or that this interim deal is the key to all U.S.-Iranian issues. It’s important to recognize, however, that there is so much more to the nation than how it is portrayed in the media and stereotypically thought of. We’re all busy people at BC, and I don’t have an issue with a lack of knowledge about certain historical or current events, because we can’t stay informed about everything. What I do have an issue with is the insensitive judgments, statements, and stereotypes formed due to that ignorance, which I’ve noticed from conversations with friends and classmates, and the lack of concern for remedying those misperceptions through learning.
I challenge everyone, regardless of major or class choices, to engage in efforts to educate yourselves, even if it’s just every once and a while, about a country or issue on a deeper level. Whether that’s Iran, the current crisis in Venezuela, or anything else happening in the world, it doesn’t matter-just read or ask questions about something, because as Benjamin Franklin once said, “being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.