Omid Memarian

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ahmadinejad: Wrong Man, Wrong Place, Wrong Time!
(Published in

The mocking of Ahmadinejad's picture by students during the President’s unexpected visit of Amir Kabir University last week reflects a political trend of frustration in the Iranian society. "Down with the Dictator" and similar slogans were heard for the first time during the president’s speech a few days ago in Tehran; these messages are unlike other dominant messages typically utilized by the government’s modern propaganda machine.

Tehran is becoming more and more frustrating for President Ahmadinejad. Just last week, his followers lost the City Council elections in major cities including Tehran. Miscalculating the President's popularity, his supporters branched off from the conservative camp nominating their own candidates, who only resulted in a huge defeat; they only received 3 percent of the entire votes.

Ahmadinejad, who still thinks he is campaigning for the presidential office and is taking regular trips to different provinces, had promised to change people's lives after coming to power. He increased subsidies, expanded student loans, injected oil revenue into the market and focused on short term investments rather than long term ones. However, things have gotten progressively worse. Injecting money into the economy has caused inflation, more than 15 percent officially, over 18 percent unofficially.

Since the June 2005 presidential election, the press has been shut down dramatically, civil society has been suppressed strongly and activists arrested, interrogated and greatly intimidated. Since then, by choosing a harsh rhetoric on an international level, he has marginalized Iran more than ever, has provoked other countries against Iran and has drawn a grotesque picture of the country.

His actions have never stopped people from their struggle to achieve freedom, and have only painted a clearer picture of who President Ahmadinejad is! Now, just after one and a half years, Iranian youth who are eagerly seeking change and a better life, feel more desperate than ever.

Ahmadinejad's main agenda of developing nuclear technology, denying the Holocaust occurred and wiping off Israel from the map, have not brought any positive change to people’s lives. I was talking to one of my friends in Tehran who is from a middle class family... Meaning what? He generally shouldn’t have any real concerns about his living expenses. But he does. He told me how inflation has gone up quickly since last year. “But the oil revenue has doubled?”, I told him. “So perhaps it has changed life for Hamas or Hezbollah, but nor us”, he answered ironically.

It was not just him. I was chatting with a friend of mine, better to say my ex-colleague, who is from a religious family and lives nearby Azadi square, a poor to middle class district. He was somebody who believed that Ahmadinejad is a “clean” man. Meaning that, he is not corrupted. “But he is crazy”, she said. “He thinks people are brainless by saying stupid things about his connection to God or making nonsense statements about other countries,” he added.

As a journalist, I normally can not use what he said. It is not appropriate to call a president “crazy” or name his allegations “nonsense”. But that’s the way it is. Thankfully, I write sometimes in some places that I feel free to talk about what I hear in my daily life even from Berkeley, California.

It seems, Ahmadinejad’s populist campaign is becoming more and more limited. Harsh rhetoric against the international community has not brought any changes within the country. Even though this behavior buys him more time for a short while, he ultimately should deal with what he does and what he says. It is time for the former Mayor to learn what it sounds like when people speak out in anger.

Ahmadinejad is the wrong man, at the wrong place-- in the worst time: a rebel with a misguided cause, he does not belong in the president’s office, and even if he were ever to take on such a role, it should have been in the very beginning phases of a revolution in its infancy stages. As fate would have it, he took on the presidency just as the backlash of twenty-seven years of the Islamic government’s oppression is welling up

The short, noisy President of Iran has to think about the Post-Populist era…He has to present another miracle.


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