Iran’s newfound nationalism

Demonstrators wave Iran's flag and hold up a picture of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a ceremony to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran's Azadi square February 11, 2012.

With their country threatened, many are embracing patriotism — even if they don’t approve of the regime

TEHRAN, Iran — As Iran’s isolation grows more pronounced week after week, so does, it seems, a sense of nationalism among its citizens.

Long famous for such tendencies, Iranians are once again asserting their love of what they call “Vatan,” or Homeland, as both real and perceived threats from abroad continue to mount.

On the part of the government, the prideful rhetoric is nothing new. The threats of preemptive strikes, oil embargoes and the closing of the Strait of Hormuz, together with bluster about its capture of a downed U.S. spy plane, all appear to be posturing as the conflict with the West over its nuclear program continues to seethe.

More quietly, however, everyday Iranians too are beginning to feel the pull of national pride. Crippled in their daily lives by skyrocketing energy costs and the weight of economic sanctions, many of Iran’s citizens appear to be seeking refuge in their own history, steeped as it is in power and prestige.

“For years I wanted to leave Iran, but now I just want to stay,” said Nazanin, a 27-year-old graduate student who asked that his last name not be used because, like many in Iran, he fears potential retribution from his government.

While some in Iran are attempting to get out of the country while they still can, others, like Nazanin, are embracing their complicated country in new ways.

At a sprawling exhibition complex in Tehran, delegates from more than 70 countries took part in a conference on “Youth and Islamic Awakening” earlier this month. Many of them were there to discuss what the rest of the world refers to as the Arab Spring, the series of upheavals that was sparked in Tunisia by a street vendor who set himself on fire.

But to the Iranians present, and leaders as well, it is they who deserve the credit for the democracy movements that have raged through the region.

Even as daily life in Tehran trudges along in the face of incessant talk of war, many said they a growing desire to sacrifice for the defense of their country, even if that means pursuing a career in what has become perhaps the country’s most dangerous field — nuclear physics.

After the apparent assassination in January of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist and a professor at Tehran’s highly-regarded Sharif University, more than 100 students signed a petition requesting to change their majors to fields related to nuclear studies.

Although some cast the move aside as nothing more than propaganda, it was nonetheless a sign that younger Iranians — with bright futures — are still willing to go to bat for their country.

Sharif University has long been a major source of pride for Iran and many alumni and faculty have both studied and taught at top U.S. universities. Iranian nationalism was further stirred earlier this month when Seyed Mojtaba Atarodi, a professor at Sharif, was detained by U.S. authorities in Los Angeles and held on $460,000 bail for violating US sanctions. He was accused of exporting electronic equipment to Iran. The school community and Iran’s foreign ministry have come to the professor’s defense, demanding his release.

Also stirring for Iranians this year has been the success of the film “A Separation,” which won a Golden Globe and is up for two Academy Awards, including best foreign film. While the film deals with domestic issues of a husband and wife in Tehran, Iranians everywhere are gushing over the film’s success, and its prospects of winning an Oscar.

“I’m so happy about the film’s success even though I didn’t see it,” said Lida, a Tehran office worker, adding, “It’s just something for Iranians to be proud of right now.”

During the Golden Globes the director of the film, Asghar Farhadi, dedicated the award to Iranians, who he called a “truly peace-loving people.”

For many Iranians this simmering pride has little to do with their government, which they don’t necessarily support. They say there is a big difference between supporting Iran as a country and supporting their country’s leadership.

“First of all, I won’t give [Iran] to foreign invaders, but I certainly will not let this regime force me to leave, either. This is my country,” added Nazanin, who was recently arrested by Tehran’s morality police for wearing a jacked deemed to short.

And then there are those who have simply not been moved to support their country at all, and acknowledging both a deteriorating security situation and a sputtering economy, are plotting a course to leave. Many, in fact, said they see the current state of affairs as a testament to how far Iran has fallen.

At Iran’s National Museum, a subtle monument to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, artifacts are on display dating back to 7000 BC. The museum has long been an inspirational landmark for people here. But these days, some worry that the grandeur it houses is symbolic of only a time that is now long gone.

“When I look at these things, I really feel sad that we’ve become so disconnected from our glorious past,” said Javad, who works as a tour guide at the museum.

Sensing the gathering clouds, some Iranians are choosing instead to get out before things get too bad. Hamshari newspaper, one of Iran’s most widely circulated dailies, reported recently that between 50,000 to 80,000 educated elites have left Iran in the last year.

These Iranians are looking for an escape from a standard of living that has decreased dramatically in recent months, and which seems destined to deteriorate further as international sanctions continue to expand.

“There’s nowhere in the world better than Iran for making money,” said Kazem, a currency trader, wistfully. “But right now is just not the time. Too much uncertainty.”

Some are simply hoping to hedge their bets and achieve residence status in another country until the current difficulties pass. Others are resorting to escape plans that include applying for tourist visas to countries in Europe’s Schengen zone, and then seeking asylum at U.S. embassies.

Many more are looking for legal immigration to other countries that are still open to receiving Iranians, like Malaysia and Turkey. The United Arab Emirates, for example, has made it nearly impossible for Iranians to receive work visas, although it welcomes thousands of Iranians each month as tourists.

“I love my country and I want to live here,” said Niloofar, a teacher. “But I would like to have resident status in another country for peace of mind.”

  1. #1 by Naeem on 02/27/2012 - 9:34

    The iranian ppl are no joke just like the afghans. They will make the vietnam afghan and iraq war look like a cakewalk. The war with iran means the draft will come to america there’s no extra personel to deal with a 2 million man army and a volunteer army of over 10 million including women. IT WILL BE HELL

  2. #2 by Adalberto Erazo on 02/27/2012 - 9:34

    Man this article from Salon pretends that at least half the Iranians don’t support Iran and it’s leadership when in reality the vast majority do. When the revolution of 1979 happened, the majority of people expressed support for Islams return to the country in government and in life. The overwhelming majority of people supported it. Those who were against it were those who were supporters of the puppet Shah and fled the country to live in western countries. I also question the number that 50,000-80,000 educated elites left Iran especially if they left for a western country. Why the hell would Iranians or the fact of the matter Muslims in general leave to western countries especially considering the hostile climate in the west towards Muslims in which they are being assaulted and murdered. All you have to do is look on the internet of cases across America where you find a story somewhere about Muslims being attacked. Never mind the fact that western governments have no problem kidnapping Muslims and putting trumped up charges against them knowing fully well they are innocent of the charges. Muslims are basically second class citizens in western countries with no rights at all. Maybe someone should warn these starry eyed Iranians about the realities of what Muslims go through in the west because they are going from the frying pan and into the fire. It is far better to stay in Dar al Islam then go to Dar al kufr who are waging war against your religion.

    “Some are simply hoping to hedge their bets and achieve residence status in another country until the current difficulties pass. Others are resorting to escape plans that include applying for tourist visas to countries in Europe’s Schengen zone, and then seeking asylum at U.S. embassies.”

    These are Iranians who are either leaving to the west for money or are those “Green Movement” idiots who tried to undermine their country so it could be a slave to IsraHell and America. Either way they lost their Islam.

  3. #3 by Adalberto Erazo on 02/27/2012 - 9:34

    @ Naeem

    I totally agree. These Americans have no idea what they are up against. The Iranians love their country but more importantly they also love Islam. The Iranians fight with a passion no westerner can understand nor can compare to. This is especially true with songs from “The Sacred Defense”(1980-88). When you listen to the songs you can feel the energy when they sing it which transcends beyond the present physical world and into the spiritual as if reaching out to God to give them power to fight on the battlefield. Here’s some film footage of the Iran-Iraq War in which you hear the singing. The name of the song is called “Karbala Here we come”. I am posting the video twice because I found one video with high quality footage because you won’t believe who I saw in the video. Amazingly enough it is Dr. Ahmadinejad in the film footage if even for a brief moment. The second video posted is the same but with translations so you can understand what is being said. You’ll notice the footage is lower quality and grainy but still good. Yes. Iranians are patriotic but most importantly they fight for God and for Islam. They fight for the Ummah even if some don’t appreciate it.

    “Karbala Here We Come” High quality footage.

    “Karbala Here We Come” with translations.

  4. #4 by Jim on 02/27/2012 - 9:34

    Chicken hawk republikans calling for war on Iran; fine, let Gingrich, Santorum and Mitt lead the charge. Hahahaha! One way to wake Americans up is to bring back the draft! That’d light a fire under the young one’s clueless asses. Just what these youg punks need. All of a sudden you’d be seeing peace marches! There will never be enough of the dumb ones who volunteer.

    Another form of censorship in Amerika is the lock on returning vets and how disillusioned so many of them are. The government doesn’t want to talk about the unprecedented number of suicides in the military or the radio active poisoning, or the difficulty in collecting veteran’s benefits. Hell, the republikans tried several times to cut veteran’s benefits, the scum bags! They’re all for sending our kids to get their legs and nuts blown off, but then don’t want to pay for their medical care.

    Iranians will pull together, and the US and Israel better dare not set boots on the ground there. Well, you know Israel wouldn’t; that’s what they’ve got the US for.

  5. #5 by Ingrid B on 02/28/2012 - 9:34

    “Hamshari newspaper, one of Iran’s most widely circulated dailies, reported recently that between 50,000 to 80,000 educated elites have left Iran in the last year.” :

    It stands to reason, that when a countries economy is decimated, there will be a “brain drain,” as happened in Iraq..

    “There’s nowhere in the world better than Iran for making money,” said Kazem, a currency trader, wistfully. “But right now is just not the time. Too much uncertainty.” :

    exactly, this proves my point..

    “Others are resorting to escape plans that include applying for tourist visas to countries in Europe’s Schengen zone, and then seeking asylum at U.S. embassies.” :

    This sort of thing is also happening in slavic countries, and countries which have pro-US governship, who wallow in luxury, whilst the citizens of those countries are struggling to survive, with no benefits whatsoever, whether they have work, or not. I know, because I befriended someone in just such a country. Those who have work, often, if they are lucky, get one day, or half a day off in the working week. They earn, on average, 200 euros per month. They have no health insurance, and no paid holidays..

    I don`t know who wrote the above article, but it seems to be targeting the Iranian government. I have seen images of prayer meetings, and speeches, by Iranian officials, and they have massive support, as demonstrated recently, during the celebration of the revolution, when Iranians of every village, town, and city, marched through the streets in their millions, to show national pride, and support..

  6. #6 by Ingrid B on 02/28/2012 - 9:34

    Adalberto, just watched the first video. You are right, there is a bond between the Iranian people, and their government, which can`t be broken. Can anyone say the same about those countries which condemn Iran. Using Saddam to attack Iran, was a crime against both Iranians, and Iraqis. I fear though, Naeem, and Adalberto, that there will be little face to face, hand to hand, warfare against Iran, her enemies are too cowardly, and prefer long-distance killing..

  7. #7 by Ingrid B on 02/28/2012 - 9:34

    @Jim, didn`t the Jew controlled US goverment try to steal prime real estate which had been given to the veterans?

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