‘Don’t disturb Rowhani, he’s been busy growing flowers!’
Cyber space is filled with complaints and reports all addressing the president and asking why he can’t confront the hardliners
There is a famous slang proverb used by some grandmothers in Iran when they want to mock parents who give too much attention to their spoilt child, it goes: “Don’t talk, don’t make noise, don’t disturb little Ahmad, he’s been busy growing a cucumber!”
The proverb mocks one who is busy doing nothing, implying an idle pastime since cucumbers are easy to grow.
I used this proverb to describe the atmosphere among journalists and political activists in Iran, who these days seem to be upset with Rowhani’s silence against the new wave of persecution of journalists.
Cyber space and those Persian TV channels operating from outside Iran are filled with complaints and reports all addressing the president and asking why he can’t confront the hardliners.
Rowhani’s priority, in my view, was to fix the paralyzed economy by solving the nuclear fileCamelia Entekhabi-Fard
A new wave of arrests in which four U.S.-based Iranian journalists were arrested in Iran (one of them was released) increased the journalists’ anger.
To me, it was very clear from the time Rowhani became president that his government’s priority was beyond the local fight in the country, beyond the matter of females dress codes or the judiciary’s confrontation with the journalists. His priority, in my view, was to fix the paralyzed economy by solving the nuclear file and to improve Iran’s relations with the powerful Western powers.
Has he failed his task?
Reviewing Rowhani’s performance after holding office for a year shows some improvements. Forcing the president to takes side about the recent arrest of the local and international journalists seems to be exactly what the headliners are looking for to launch a serious attack on Rowhani and his nuclear negotiations team about the nuclear talks.
Perhaps for President Rowhani and his government, what is most important are the long term economic benefits that a successful deal will bring about, not just for a small group of corrupt officials but for many Iranians. Losing the support of the intellectuals and the journalists is not what Rowhani wishes for but in comparison with what the government may gain for the whole nation, perhaps he prefers to close his eyes to all these human rights violations.
A greater economic benefit which will continue to be felt in the country during the nuclear talks extension, as long as Iran remains at the negotiating table and is flexible and sincere in its engagement with the P5+1 ( five permanent members of the U.N. security council plus Germany), is what Rowhani and his team are looking for.
A final nuclear deal
A final nuclear deal would stimulate Iran’s economy by allowing it to reintegrate into the global oil market and access over $100 billion in foreign currency reserves, as well as by providing new impetus for building trade partnerships and engaging in scientific exchanges.
Iran has come a long way and made a lot of progress in the negotiations and all of these facts make us understand the president’s silence towards the unprecedented pressure on journalists in Iran. Simply put, Rowhani don’t want to jeopardize the nuclear talks by any international or even internalelements, it may have a negative impact on the negotiations.
The Iranian politicians skillfully handle these challenges and are confident in their ability to make history and solve one of the biggest international crises the Islamic Republic has faced since the hostage crisis in the 1980s.
Iranian people know that they do not benefit from Iran’s prolonged political and economic isolation and probably would be the most negatively impacted by the failure to reach a deal no matter how sensitive they are on internal matters such as human rights violation. More than social freedom, it seems that affordable, peaceful lives are important for most Iranians, regardless of their education levels and their place in society.
For the first time in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s history, a government has come to power which understands the urgent needs of its people to serve them first and leave its own ideological damaging beliefs aside, I believe. In this case, I could slightly change the old slang Persian proverb and put it like this: “Yes! Don’t move! Don’t make noise! Rowhani is cultivating flowers!”
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 2, 2014.
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
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