Turning a page in Iran’s relations with the Arab world

Arab neighbors need someone to come along and tell them that a new page has turned in their relationship with Iran

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
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Sometimes, upon my arrival at Dubai airport or when I leave for New York, the immigration officers greet me with warm Persian phrases like “Khosh Amadid” (you are welcome).

I always answer with a heartfelt smile and the reply: Farsi Harf mizanid? (do you speak Persian?) The officer usually shakes his head with a smile saying, “very little.”

What a heart melting way to make one feel as though they are at home! It is not hidden from anyone that Iran and her Arab neighbors have shared historical and cultural ties for thousands of years. People used to cross the Persian Gulf as easy as they crossed a river in their homeland; no passport or any documents were required.

Marriage and migration between the two sides was a very common practice. With the exploration of oil and the establishment and independency of the Arab neighbors, some Iranians living near the borders moved to these newly-formed countries for work opportunities and other interests.

Many people in this region come from the same background and separating them from each other is very hard, if not impossible.

Arab neighbors need someone to come along and tell them that the gloomy days are over and a new page has turned in their relationship with Iran

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

A friend who worked with the late king of Iran told me a story about how easily the people of Iran and the UAE used to receive each other before the revolution. “ We were working at Kish Island when something happened to one of the labor workers and the nearest place we could take him for his medical emergency was Dubai.” Now almost 70-years old, a former staff member of Pahlavi’s royal family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added: “we ran to the plane and the captain contacted Dubai tower when we were close to the UAE’s territory. We landed without carrying any documents or passports and they assisted us to go to Iranian hospital immediately.”

Surely they are many people from both sides who have incredible stories of true love and affection between Iranians and Arabs who have been living together for thousands of years.

When the revolution took place 35 years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini declared a system change from a monarchy to an Islamic Republic. Rather than formulate better ties with his neighbors due to the Islamic nature of the revolution, he ruined ties.

The revolutionaries took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held American diplomats hostage for 444 days. Who wanted to be friendly with such a frightening country?

A radicalized Iran

The choices were limited and the best one, perhaps, was to distance oneself from this radicalized government.

There is a fear of Iran in its current era, and this fear hasn’t much to do with the nuclear program. Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, said that he wants to export the revolution to all the world and of course began with his neighbors soon after the revolution.

Like the fears Salman Rushdie, the author of the Satanic Verses, placed upon him because of Ayatollah Khomeini’s death Fatwa, fears also pervade the region.

Iran managed to sign an agreement with Western powers to solve the disputed nuclear issue in the near future but there is no agreement to understand how Iran can be welcomed back to the international community and gain the status it had 35-years ago.

Arab neighbors still hesitate to let their guard down due to mistrust and doubt on Iran’s intentions.

Arab neighbors need someone to come along and tell them that the gloomy days are over and a new page has turned in their relationship with Iran. As this year marks the 35th anniversary of the revolution, it would make a difference to hear that the country wants to put all its disputes and hostilities to an end, to begin with by normalizing relations with the United States.

“Trust me we are in fear all the time in case Iran clashes with the U.S. and takes retaliations from us. Let them make peace and leave us in peace too,” a Kuwait friend told me over dinner in Dubai. “We encourage Iran and the U.S. to leave the past and look in the future for the sake of this region. A milestone can’t be reach … unless they make peace with the United States of America.”

Are we to expect many surprises this year, like the normalizing of relations between Iran and the U.S.? Why not?!


Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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