Iranians Urged to Vote in Order to Support Their Country

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Aaron Schachter: I'm Aaron Schachter and this is The World, a co-production of The BBC World Service PRI, and WGBH Boston. The polls have closed in Iran. Over 3000 candidates are vying for 290 seats in Iran's parliament. Results are expected tomorrow. These were the first nationwide elections in Iran since the presidential election of 2009. That vote was followed by anti-government protests in the streets. There were no reports of disturbances today. Casting his ballot, Iran's supreme leader urged Iranians to do the same. He suggested a high turnout would be a slap to Iran's western foes. The big winners are almost guaranteed to be supports of Iran's hard line rulers. Most reformers or opposition candidates were disqualified by authorities in the run-up to today's vote. Earlier we spoke to a Tehran resident about the elections and about life in Iran in general. For safety reasons, we are not using his name. He said many Iranians had mixed feelings about voting.

Tehran Resident: The thing is, that most of the candidates who were approved by the [inaudible] commission as you may call it, were not known to the people, so these people were unknown, they had unknown or very murky goals and ideals, and one of the things they were riding on was that if you don't vote, the Americans will bomb you. That was one of the propaganda. It most definitely would not work on a middle-class person, on a blue collar person who has no other source of information. When he walks in the street and sees a big banner that says it's from Radio-Free Europe, which is founded by the American Congress, announced that if less than 50 percent of the people vote in Iran, America will attack Iran, of course that's the propaganda which they are using more or less everywhere. This scares people definitely.

Schachter: The United States is, with partners in Europe, are pushing for more and more sanctions against Iran. Are they affecting ordinary people there in Tehran and if so, how?

Tehran Resident: Yes, definitely. These are really affecting the ordinary lives. The first thing that people can feel in day-to-day is inflation and the price of the petrol goes up, the price of the cars, luxury goods, and food items are going up, more than the average increase in the global economy.

Schachter: The sanctions are, of course, in response to Iran's nuclear program. Are most Iranians behind that program and are they worried about an attack from the United States or from Israel?

Tehran Resident: What I have seen is that we are kind of getting used to it. We are just living by threat every single day, so after awhile you just think, 'okay, they'll bomb, they'll bomb, what should we do,' so we just keep on living day-to-day, and the nuclear issue is also something which is not really important to a day-to-day life because we don't even produce one kilowatt of electricity so I mean, there's no use for us, and people can understand that by having this nuclear program, we are being under sanctions, but people don't connect the dots and say, 'okay, if we push the government to stop the nuclear issue, we may not have this pain of the economic problems.' I mean just imagine that right now an ordinary person who wants to travel outside cannot get access to any foreign currency, and people don't see it as a problem from the government, they see it as a result of the sanctions. These two things are not connected in the thoughts of the ordinary people that I talked to.

Schachter: Now, we're not using your name for safety reasons.

Tehran Resident: Yes.

Schachter: I wonder what risks do you face potentially, by speaking with us?

Tehran Resident: Well, I'll tell you right now that my family, I mean after they realize that I'm talking to you, are very upset, because the thing is that any connection to any western media is considered to be unlawful under the current Iranian laws and regulations, and I risk going to jail, I risk losing my job, I risk getting beaten up or whip lashed. I mean, these are all these risks, but the reason I do talk to you is that I really think it is my duty to at least reflect the ideas of a group of people here, very clear and unbiased so you know, people over there in your neck of the woods can understand that people in Iran are living their daily lives and we have to just continue living. We cannot just stop everything because of the sanctions or the threat of the bombs, and I mean if I didn't want to talk, I shouldn't have started in the beginning anyway. I always tell my friends, ââ?¬Ë?that's one of the things I learned from Clint Eastwood, is if you want to shoot, shoot, don't talk,' so I think that was the good, bad and the ugly. That analogy, even on the threats from Israel, when they want to, like last year, it was every two weeks they were threatening to attack. Now it's twice a day that they are threatening to attack. You know, it really gets to a point that people want to say, 'okay, if you want to bomb, go ahead and just don't talk too much anymore.' It is losing its effect, it's becoming like a comic strip or something.

Schachter: Would bombing by Israel or America actually help the regime to…

Tehran Resident: Yes, yes definitely. I can just say very clear, because I will never trust anybody who is bombing my home. You know, there is no example of complete precision bombing in history. There is always collateral damages, so people are not looking at this as a Hollywood movie where Tom Cruise just walks in, takes the bad guy and just walks out. The scene, when the bombs are dropped, their houses go up in flames.

Schachter: Thank you so much for speaking with us. We really appreciate it.

Tehran Resident: I'm glad that I did and I hope that this helps.