What Everyday Iranians Have To Say About The Nuclear Deal Now That It’s A Reality


“The best resolution.” “A path to the progressive world.” “Nothing more than a piece of paper.”

These are just some of the ways Iranians inside Iran described the nuclear deal to the WorldPost in August, when we partnered with the Washington-based Iranian human rights organization Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation and used Facebook and the app Telegram to get ― and translate from Farsi ― reactions from inside the country.

Back then, the deal was simply an agreement announced by Iran and six world powers. There were supporters and there were detractors, all vocal about what such a “historic” moment meant for the global community. People brandished victory signs from car windows on the streets of Tehran, but others wondered if anything substantive would come from all those hours of carefully crafted diplomacy behind closed doors. The Iranians we communicated with then were divided, but many were cautiously optimistic. This was progress, some said, but it’s only the beginning of a much longer process.

This week, there was measurable headway: International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors ​verified Iran’s compliance with the deal, ​the international community moved to lift sanctions​ and ​both sides released prisoners. These events and the ultimate implementation of the Iran nuclear deal prompted mixed reactions. Some politicians in both countries hailed it as a diplomatic victory, others slammed it for harming their domestic interests, and others said the advancement shouldn’t overshadow the work still to be done. In light of these developments, The WorldPost reached out to the same Iranians for their reactions and to see how ― and if ― their views had changed. Here’s what they had to say.  

Below is a selection of responses we received, organized by question.

How do you feel about the events that occurred over the weekend: the deal implementation, the prisoner swap, IAEA verifying Iran’s compliance and the lifting of most sanctions? What was the reaction inside Iran?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the IAEA verified that IraKEVIN LAMARQUE via Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the IAEA verified that Iran has met all conditions under the nuclear deal during talks in Vienna on January 16, 2016.

My feelings about the deal have not changed. Really, I don’t feel anything new because the life that burned remains burned, whether there are sanctions or not. Of course, I am happy for the prisoners. People around me have not been following the issue much. Maybe they don’t believe it will affect their future. ― Javid, 30, Bandar Anzali, civil engineer

I feel very positive toward all that has happened. People are very happy in general, although some are pretty skeptical as always. ― Shirin, 22, Tehran, medical student

I personally think that there is a hopeful atmosphere toward material and spiritual progress in society, but the society did not react with joy as I had expected. It seems that as long as society does not see tangible signs such as lower inflation rate, increase in imports and communication with the world, it will view the negotiations as a purely political move. The exchange of prisoners was a source of hope and joy. Mahsa, 27, Esfahan, unemployed

The fact that pressure on Iran was lifted without insistence on the issue of continuous executions, amputations and human rights issues generally has led me to conclude that the interlocutors of the state are in no way interested in [the fate] of ordinary Iranians. I wasn’t happy about the released funds either because they would be spent for the regime’s goals rather than on the people. I was happy to see the prisoners released. At the same time I felt sad because four people were released and thousands are rotting in Iranian prisons. ― Sholeh, 52, Tehran, MA in theater

I don’t like to think of the release of prisoners in terms of ‘exchange.’ This would mean that human beings have been used as tools (or goods), a symbolic tool to show the reconciliation of the two countries; not a full reconciliation, but a relative peace based on an agreement! Human beings for human beings! … I think the world has a long way to go to get to real peace and reconciliation. Regardless, I am happy that they were released and I hope that relationship between the two countries continues to improve.  ―Amin, 23, Tehran, musician/student

To be honest, I personally took my distance from politics following the 2009 election, after which I lost interest in politics. I didn’t even vote in the last presidential election. But I don’t deny that the government has done well, in particular in foreign policy. The deal was a big step, and though initially I didn’t think it would ever reach the implementation phase, based on the events of the past few days, I am starting to believe that positive changes may become reality. I have a good feeling, in particular about the prisoner exchange, which improves Iran’s image in the world. At the time of the deal, people did show joy and satisfaction. Though, I have to say, we Iranians are easily influenced.  ― Artemis, 31, Karaj, rehab center receptionist

How does your view of the deal now compare to your view in August? If it’s changed, please explain why.

"The problems of our countries are too fundamental and deep to be solved by the implementation of the deal." -- AmirATTA KENARE via Getty Images
“The problems of our countries are too fundamental and deep to be solved by the implementation of the deal.” — Amir

I was more optimistic when the agreement was signed, in particular when it came to my personal benefits. I thought the price of the dollar would drop and economic changes would follow quickly. … But with time, it became clear that the situation would not change quickly. With the drop in oil prices, we may even experience a worsening of the economic situation. As for the political situation, I don’t think there will be opening. ― Javid, 30, Bandar Anzali, civil engineer

Not really, I still think it takes a long time for our economy to improve, but it’s going to happen eventually. ― Shirin, 22, Tehran, medical student

A few months ago, [I had more hope because] I wasn’t sure about whether Iran could actually satisfy the international community. But now it happened. So I have lost the little bit of hope I had that Western countries would help the Iranian people. ― Sholeh, 52, Tehran, MA in theater

Many people in Iran are happy, as I am, about the implementation of the deal. Many were congratulating each other. But there are many people who think that rejoicing makes no sense. The problems of our countries are too fundamental and deep to be solved by the implementation of the deal. They are sorrier for their lost time and are mourning for the hardship that Iran has had to endure during these years.  ― Amin, 23, Tehran, musician/student

Yes, my views have changed. At the time of the signature of the deal, I didn’t have much hope in the fact that it would be implemented. I kept saying that this is all politics and meant to distract the people from the serious financial pressure that is burdening them. But I feel more positive now. Artemis, 31, Karaj, rehab center receptionist

No. The deal is a security net to help Iranian statesman stay [in power], not a means to improve people’s conditions. Shokufeh, 32, Tehran, animator

What are your hopes and fears? Have they changed?

"My next concern is to see the image of Iran change for the international community and change from a backward and violent coThomas Koehler via Getty Images
“My next concern is to see the image of Iran change for the international community and change from a backward and violent country to represent what we really are.” — Artemis

To be honest, hope in Iran always loses its colors with time and becomes meaningless. If I think with optimism, I hope that at least the economic situation will improve with foreign investments. What I worry about is how the newly released Iranian funds will be spent … and will be dedicated to terrorism outside the country and persecutions inside. ― Javid, 30, Bandar Anzali, civil engineer

I still fear what the extremists both inside and outside of Iran are going to do next, but other than that I hope this settlement will help us to break this isolation from the rest of the world that my people have endured for so long. ― Shirin, 22, Tehran, medical student

My hopes and concerns have not changed since a few months ago. Implementing goals of such nature requires time and consistency in respecting principles and respecting commitments by both sides of the negotiations. Otherwise, the future will see the beliefs and society’s hope in positive changes destroyed. This is my real concern because Iranian citizens, in particular the youth, have little trust in politicians and what they do. It has been proven to them several times that political agreements have little impact on their daily life, employment and living conditions ― and even their efforts to gain freedom of thought and expression have been ignored. Therefore, the end of the negotiations must be the beginning of the negotiating parties’ commitments.Mahsa, 27, Esfahan, unemployed

My hope to see the people of Iran saved has weakened a lot. The support shown by Western countries to the Iranian regime has created fear among people, because if even the West has to accommodate an executioner regime, what can ordinary people do? ― Sholeh, 52, Tehran, MA in theater

I can say that I have more hopes than I had a few months ago, but I am not very hopeful. I think financial needs are Iranians’ main concern right now. … Years of sanctions left us as much as 120 years behind. My next concern is to see the image of Iran change for the international community and change from a backward and violent country to represent what we really are. Let me reiterate that the deal is about nuclear energy and changes are economic. This deal will not turn us into an America. Artemis, 31, Karaj, rehab center receptionist

My concerns have increased because the economic situation is only worsening, the purchasing power is lower. My main concern as a young person is to leave Iran because even if things change, it will take years. My concern about the future relates to the savings that are never accumulated, entertainments that are either too expensive or for which we can’t find time and to the private space that is denied us in all aspects of our lives. Shokufeh, 32, Tehran, animator

What kind of impact has the deal had so far? What more do you think there is to do before a larger impact will be felt? How do you see the upcoming elections affecting this?

Iranian members of the Assembly of Experts attend a session in Tehran on Sept. 1, 2015.ATTA KENARE via Getty Images
Iranian members of the Assembly of Experts attend a session in Tehran on Sept. 1, 2015.

It’s too soon to expect any major changes. The parliamentary elections have never been considered as important as presidential elections, so only the group of people that fully supported the system vote in them. I expect the same group of people to vote this year. Shirin, 22, Tehran, medical student

I think Iran’s presence within the community of nations as a country willing to have dialogue and negotiation in lieu of war can change the perception and the negative view of the international community vis-à-vis Iran. … Thanks to the deal, Iran can be seen in the world as a country that is civilized and favorable to peace. … The election of people who are close to reformists and not electing hardliners will have a positive impact on the implementation of the deal. Mahsa, 27, Esfahan, unemployed

Neither the nuclear deal nor the election will be a step toward freedom for the people. Neither will impact our interest. They will discreetly steal the nation’s wealth and, perhaps, there will be more embezzlement. The path that has been taken is fundamentally at odds with the people’s interests. ― Sholeh, 52, Tehran, MA in theater

The impact of the nuclear deal so far is that the world is faced with a new Iran, which differs from Iran 10 years ago. This new Iran is more into dialogue with other countries. … I think that each time the government takes measures that pleases people, the rate of participation in government-held elections increases. My guess is that with the latest developments, more reformers would be convinced to participate in elections compared to a few months ago.  Amin, 23, Tehran, musician/student

So far the deal has had no impact, but with proper planning and in the long term, it could have an impact in different areas. The funds that have been released, for example, should be used in a right and fair way toward the economy and help the development and prosperity of the country. … With parliamentary elections we have had so far ― which have not been free or resulted in the election of deputies of a bunch of illiterate people who did not care about us ― there will be no change! But if we have a parliament that is on the side of the people, then, perhaps, it could make a difference.  ― Artemis, 31, Karaj, rehab center receptionist

The deal so far has had no impact except creating false hope of seeing the situation improved for people. The Iranian people should think about change individually. There is no coordination among the people. When a problem arises, we only think of our personal interest. If we went on strike each time prices increased, our economic situation would not be what it is now. At the same time, we have a segment of the population, not an insignificant one, who always is ready for confrontation, to take over embassies and show hostility to the world ― and it is protected and it will be impossible to uproot it in our current circumstances. Perhaps some superficial changes are possible. In my opinion, Iran is like a family that is on the path of collapsing internally and which, to solve its problem and improve the situation, is reaching to the neighbors. This house is a ruin from its foundation. Shokufeh, 32, Tehran, animator

Roya Boroumand and Ramin Haghjoo contributed reporting.

Read more on the exchange here:

Iran Says U.S. Will Release These 7 Men In Exchange For 4 Americans

Here’s Why We Held The Story On The U.S.-Iranian Prisoner Exchange

The U.S.-Iran Prisoner Swap Is Yet Another Victory for Diplomacy and Human Rights

Despite Iran Deal, U.S.-Iran Relations Still Very Much Up in the Air