When Roya Boroumand called her relative, a resident of Iran, to ask what he thought of the nuclear deal, he told her, “I just hope they don’t cheat.”
Boroumand runs an Iranian human rights organization based out of Washington, D.C., and she says his response was funny, but also telling. He’s 60-something — old enough not to care — but she says he knows that there’s much more to the Iranian nuclear deal than just ink on paper. Unlike many of the younger people in the country who have spoken with Boroumand, her relative isn’t betting on anything yet.
That was a few weeks ago, when images of jubilant Iranians with victory signs were everywhere after Iran and six world powers announced they had negotiated an agreement on the country’s nuclear program. Today, people in the Islamic republic are on the edge of their seats to see whether brutal sanctions that have affected them for more than 30 years will finally be lifted. Congress is still battling over the deal, and President Barack Obama is urging U.S. lawmakers to lend a hopeful hand.
“The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge their government to move in a different, less provocative direction” than “the Iranian hardliners [who] chant ‘Death to America,’” the president said earlier this month.
So what do ordinary Iranians think of the agreement? Ahead of the deal, a combined study by the University of Maryland and the University of Tehran indicated that the majority of the Iranian public approved of the agreement. According to the Atlantic, those supporting the deal include “moderates inside the government, many opposition leaders, a majority of Iranian citizens, and many in the Iranian American diaspora.” Those opposed to the deal are “the most militantly authoritarian, conservative, and anti-Western leaders and groups within Iran.”
The WorldPost worked with Boroumand and her organization, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, to ask a few everyday citizens in the country what they think about the nuclear agreement.
Though the views, collected through Facebook and the app Telegram in Farsi and translated into English, in no way encompass the entirety of opinions about the deal in Iran, they do offer some insight into how personal and national histories inform the way Iranian citizens are thinking about this historic moment. Most have grown up living under sanctions, and many, including carpet designers, electricians, students and homemakers — wonder how this agreement will alter their own lives and the lives of their families.
Below is a selection of responses we received, organized by question.
What do you think of the nuclear deal?
I don’t think negatively of the nuclear deal. … I do believe, however, that politics is always orchestrated and manipulated by a select few people who get to make decisions. I don’t believe that the Iranian people’s opinions have a significant impact in what gets decided. ― Artemis, 31, Karaj, rehab center receptionist
Given the widespread corruption within the Iranian government, how can the world expect and believe that the soon-to-be-released frozen money would be distributed among Iranian people? I actually think the agreement is not in the interest of the people, or the economy. It would only strengthen thieves and extremist elements. ― Sholeh Pakravan, 52, Tehran, MA in theater
At this juncture, it was the best resolution. If the former governments had made different choices, Iran wouldn’t have been forced to make so many concessions in order to reach an agreement on its nuclear program. … The best thing this government could have done was to sign this agreement. ― Amin, 23, Tehran, musician/student
I believe that the nuclear deal is the best alternative in the current situation, for as far as I know, a deal is better than the fear of a possible war or having to deal with sanctions. ― Shirin, 21, Tehran, medical student
How do you think the deal could impact you and your family?
Naturally the easing of sanctions and resumption of relationship with other countries would make things better. But at the same time, I believe it would take Iran around 50 years to recuperate from the damage that it has endured in recent years. ― Shokufeh, 32, Tehran, animator
I don’t think it would have any impact on me and my family. I believe the Iranian government’s repressive policies, which are rooted in religion and continue to block domestic progress, will be sure to keep this a closed society. ― anonymous, 32, Tehran/Karaj, journalist
My main goal is to demand justice for my executed daughter. … We have no idea how this agreement would help us in our goal. So this agreement will have no effect on my family. We get nothing from the government, not even one rial in subsidies, so we are also not worried about losing anything should the agreement fall through. ― Sholeh Pakravan, 52, Tehran, MA in theater
The deal is certainly opening a path to the progressive world and ending the isolation of Iranian families. The chances of studying abroad and exchanging scientific information are among other advantages of the deal. ― Shiva, 34, Tehran, homemaker
[The deal] is a series of games between statesmen, which will not have an impact on improving the situation of the Iranian people. ― Mahshid, 31, Tehran
What are your hopes and fears?
Right now the deal is nothing more than a piece of paper. My concern is whether it would go into effect in a way that would change our lives for the better. I’ve always hoped that I can live to see positive change in Iran. ― Artemis, 31, Karaj, rehab center receptionist
My main concern is that the government would take advantage of the business opportunity to advance its own agenda in the Middle East instead of focusing on solving problems related to people’s livelihood. ― Javid, 30, Bandar Anzali, civil engineer
I hope that the agreement would promote peace in the world and end war. My concern is for our society to fall victim to cultural extremism. I worry that Iranians would forget their cultural values and traditions once the country is no longer confined. I also worry that people won’t be able to bear the changing culture. ― Mahsa, 27, Esfahan, unemployed
Indifference has replaced worries. I hope that these heavy economic pressures on the Iranian people are lifted. We have lost hope in seeing the lifting of political and social pressures. ― Mahshid, 31, Tehran
My only concern is if the next American government changes its mind and we have to go through all these difficulties again. ― Shirin, 21, Tehran, medical student
Do you think the deal could have any impact on the state of civil liberties and social movements?
I don’t think so because the current limitations in Iran are to the advantage of the government. I’m sure the government would never agree to a deal that would jeopardize its hold on power. ― Artemis, 31, Karaj, rehab center receptionist
Iranians have always had limited freedom and civilian liberties following the 1979 revolution. If the government continues its repressive policies and ignores the people’s demands for their most basic rights (such as press freedom, etc.), I doubt there would be any substantial change. On the other hand, the deal may pave the way for new ideas and entrepreneurship, which could foster social movements and activism. ― Mahsa, 27, Esfahan, unemployed
How can there be hope for change when you don’t even have free access to the Internet; when your books and any kind of film and theater production has to go through stringent censorship; when you are denied the right to decide what to wear and whether or not to wear the hijab; when you have to adhere to medieval law enforcement tactics? ― Sholeh Pakravan, 52, Tehran, MA in theater
I’m sure it would have an impact, but it will take a long time ― Shokufeh, 32, Tehran, animator.
For Boroumand, the deal is just the beginning.
“People’s lives can be improved in a sustainable way if their fundamental rights are respected, and it will take more than an easing of tensions with the U.S.,” she said. “This will require a concerted effort by the international community and civil society inside and outside Iran to press Iran’s leaders to do the right thing, that is to abide by their international human rights obligations and change the laws and practices that spread fear and silence Iranians.”
Ramin Haghjoo and Shirin Barghi contributed reporting.