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From Tehran to The White House

By Staff Writer Sina Hanzaei ‘18

· Sina Hanzaei

Trump is not Ahmadinejad. The political climate and the Constitution of the U.S vastly differ from those of Iran, but as an Iranian, I cannot help but feel somewhat nostalgic for Iran’s 2009 election during this post-election period. However, I am a mere student, and it must be an entirely different experience from a journalistic perspective. They have lived the news, followed the candidates, and dedicated almost the entirety of their time to election coverage. Some journalists have covered both elections, and they can provide the best insight to the similarity between the two.

The campaign slogans, heated debate nights, and widespread protests against the President-elect are all reminiscent of the 2009 Iranian election and the Green Movement that followed. Hossein Fatemi, an international news photographer who covered both the 2009 Iranian election and the recent American one, said: “The night before the election I was in New York, I was preparing my cameras for the next day. It was a strange feeling. It was as though the 2009 election was being repeated for me in a new place, time, and language.” In an interview he elaborated that the day after Trump won, he experienced a feeling of “unwelcomed gratitude”. Although he was not afraid of censorship or being jailed for his work anymore, he could not help but feel deeply worried for the US, since he had “in a skewed way predicted what the next four years will bring about.”

Hassan Sarbakhshian, who is an international documentary producer, had a similar experience during this election:  “At some points during the last Hillary vs. Trump debate, I could not stop being reminded of the last presidential debate in Iran and the memories it brings about. I will never forget the last debate between Mousavi (leader of the Green Movement) and Ahmadinejad. All the rules and tradition of politics was being taken down never mind the ethical implications and consequences of what was being said.” He did note the journalists’ greater access to American candidates, and not fearing government suppression of freedom of the press despite Trump’s antagonism towards journalists.

Saghi Laghaie, a journalist, elaborated on these observations: “Here [US] everything took place within the framework of the law and under heavy supervision. There was no talk of rigging the election, disregarding Trump’s comments that were nothing near the fear of rigging we experienced in the Iranian political scene. However, the sexist and racist character Trump portrayed for himself is staggeringly similar to what we saw from Ahmadinejad in both of his terms in office. They were both the populist underdog candidates who won the election against all odds with the help of blue collar disenfranchised people who have had enough of mainstream politics.”

Although on paper these two events were independent and not at all correlated, for me the memories of both elections trigger a multitude of bitter feelings. Surprisingly, this comparison leaves me with a sense of regret rather than deja vu. The American election was the closest thing to 2009 events that I have ever experienced, and in both cases we let ourselves down. We protested and it got violent, thousand of people died because we simply refused to accept Ahmadinejad as the face of our country. Americans can rest assured that no one will jail, rape, or kill them for relentlessly opposition, so an exhortation: please do so before he declares in the UN General Assembly that he wants to wipe [insert a country’s name] off the map.

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