Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reflections on Iran's Youth

By Andrea McMahan

SHIRAZ, IRAN - First I want to acknowledge the outpouring of support and concern many of you have expressed in the last couple of days. Please rest assured that we are ok and out of harm’s way. We are really enjoying our time in Iran, meeting new people and watching a country wade through one of the most politically pivotal events in more than 30 years.

The whole experience has been somewhat surreal but has also served as a valuable wake up call to me. You can never appreciate your unwavering American freedoms until you experience an election in a developing world. I can recall so many times when I’ve shied away from a local election in my town because I was simply too busy or not interested. But the ability to vote and the knowledge that my vote would be counted equally and fairly never registered any doubt in my mind. Ever. And here I am watching a national presidential election unfold before my eyes, where millions of people have gone to the polls to cast their own sacred vote only to find it may never have made its ways out of the ballot box. The anger and betrayal one might feel is unbearable. It is hard not to feel a tremendous sympathy for this country, but more than that a kind of approbation for those mad-as-hell Iranians who flock to the streets night after night carrying their green bandanas and demanding justice.

My heart particularly breaks for the young people of Iran. Prior to the election, I had spoken with several young persons about the current state of politics and all of them were adamant in their disapproval for the current government. They said that they wanted to improve their country’s relations with the rest of their world, that they hated neither Israel nor America, and that they just wanted to live like other people their age are living in places like Europe and Dubai. And none felt this was possible under the current regime. They also talked about being stripped of everyday, practical conveniences that I enjoy unencumbered. For example, many divulged how frustrated they were with wanting to take their girlfriend on a date or travel somewhere together but couldn’t because of all of “the rules”. Others talked about wanting to visit America so badly but could never obtain a visa. Many also openly condemned their president and compared him outright to former President George W. Bush, saying that neither actually carried the support of the people and both operated on a platform of fear and deception. It is these young voices and all of their ambitions that I mourn here in Iran. So many of them came out en masse to peacefully cast a vote for their preferred candidate—and they played by the rules all the way to the ballot box. And now many of them must live with unanswered questions of whether their vote was ever tallied. I’ve heard some of them say, “If the government does not listen to the people, then I will never vote in Iran again.” I am afraid to believe them but their anger and cynicism is too real to ignore.

I hope the people of Iran—particularly the youth of this country- get the answers they deserve. Because when half of the country is ommitted from any electoral process that isn’t democracy. And that is the risk here in Iran, where more than 40 percent of the country is between the ages of 14 and 26, and where the youth will determine the fate of this nation, ultimately with or without the ballots.


  1. Drea - you've both been in my thoughts and prayers!!! I have been checking your site several times a day for updates, was so glad to see them this AM! I imagine your experience has been incredible, surreal, and life altering. Thank you for sharing and allowing us to experience your travels vicariously....it's so important!!!

  2. Thank you so much for reporting the events and staying safe. I have been watching you afar. It's been exhilirating to follow the events via your blog.
    It takes perhaps one more generation to eradicate the memories of islamic oppressionism from the minds of the youths in Iran.

  3. Anya, I was happy - and so relieved - to see your blogs this morning! I love the descriptions, the reflections, and just the general intellectual meanderings. This is better than anything we are finding on the news reports. Keep writing -- that way I know you are safe!