Shopkeeper Mahdi Panahi

Shopkeeper Mahdi Panahi, who wants the US and Iran to "come to an agreement which benefits all sides."

Credit:

Reese Erlich

Outside Friday Prayers at the University of Tehran, an older crowd expresses a deep mistrust of the Iran nuclear deal, and — not surprisingly — of the United States.

One man, Hossein Fazdolahi, says that for as long as he can remember, the United States has acted against Iran. Another man fears the US may use inspections to spy on them. 

Mahmoud Mahmoudzadeh, 80, feels differently. He expresses a blind faith in the Iranian regime to make the right decision.

“Whatever amount that our leaders approve, we also approve. Whatever amount our leaders are worried, we are also worried. Whatever amount they have trust, we also have trust,” he says.

With the US Senate clearing a key procedural move on Thursday, it seems all but certain the deal will be implemented.

A younger crowd says it’s more hopeful about the deal. Merhdad Barati, 24, is studying medicine at the university. He says he hopes the improved relationship between Iran and the West will make it easier to study abroad.

“I think it has positive effects on the students of the university, because we are studying to build a better country and it makes easier for us to have connection to other countries of the world,” he says.

In a coffee shop just north of Tehran, one 29-year-old woman says the lifting of sanctions will help the Iranian economy. She points out the losses she and her family have suffered over the past five years, and she says she feels like things are going to change for the better. 

At a nearby bazaar, shopkeeper Mahdi Panahi invokes Iran’s long history of literature and poetry, quoting a line from Persian poet Hafez.

“Hafez said, ‘We should plant a tree of friendship that would grip all hearts.’ It’s clear what he said about this. He says come to an agreement which benefits both sides,” he says.

The lifting of sanctions should help Panahi’s business, but Sarah, a university student, sees the deal in more measured terms.

“At least it’s better in terms of people’s everyday lives,” she says. “But you're choosing between something bad and something worse.”

Sarah knows life is hard for the people of Iran under sanctions. It’s not a good deal, she says, but it’s better than nothing. 

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting provided a grant for Reese Erlich's coverage of Iran.

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