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Ali Delforoush Headshot

Iran: The Past Four Years

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Her face froze, she slightly hung her head while drops of tears rolled down her rosy checks as the glare of fear and repugnance once again returned to her petite face. Her shoulders began to quiver as I witnessed through the screen of my laptop.

Hesitant, I asked her again about the conditions political prisoners faced and whether rape and torture were being used by security officials.

Living abroad and having celebrated her 23rd birthday in a daring escape from Iran, Nahid (pseudonym) began to recall the growling time she spent behind the bars of one of Tehran's notorious detention centers. She is one of 420 residents of Tehran that I interviewed from 2008 till 2011 for the purposes of putting together a non-fiction narrative: The Iranian Chronicles: Unveiling the Dark Truths of the Islamic Republic (iUniverse 2012). The sole purpose of my book has been to shed some light on the difficulties and the oppression that Iranians such as Nahid have faced under their regime, especially in the past four years.

A bright engineering student at Tehran's prestigious Amir Kabir University, Nahid, is a supporter of the green movement (opposition movement) and took part in the 2009 demonstrations which followed the highly controversial presidential elections and along with another student activist, was arrested in early 2010.

As more tears began to drip down the side of her face, Nahid recalled hearing the screams and cries of fellow women prisoners as they shouted and begged for their burly and bearded enforces to halt their advances and leave them be.

She paused, swallowed hardly and looked back into her web cam before stating that in order to avoid being raped; she made a full confession, giving up the names of other fellow student activists that she knew about.

The whereabouts of one of those students is still uncertain even today.

After her confession, Nahid was imprisoned for three months as a reminder of her defiance against the Islamic Republic. Upon her release her parents paid dearly for a smuggler to help her flee Iran.

Right before our interview came to an end; she looked back deep into her web cam with her teary eyes and asked: "How will history look back on the Islamic Republic? Will it forgive them for what they did to our people and county? Will they be forgiven for calling us 'dirt and dust' and treating us far worse than animals?"

Nahid's story has remained with me these years later, and truth be told, it sometimes keeps me up at night as I hear her words play in my mind again and again.

While extreme human rights abuses took center stage during the first phases of Ahmadinejad's second presidential term, it has been Iran's financial troubles that have transformed into the number one concern for the majority of Iranians.

Mass unemployment, staggering inflation and sky rocketing exchange rates along with high housing prices has decimated what was once a vibrant middle class and brought on the largest recorded brain drain on the planet.

Many of those who are employed today find their daily salaries are not adequate for the expenses of life and as a result, are taking on two or more jobs. One of these individuals is an ordinary blue collar citizen of Tehran by the name of Mohammad.

In early 2008, Mohammad began working at three jobs in order to feed his family and keep a roof over their heads. He worked at an office job from nine to five, along with a taxi route in which he drove his personal vehicle from six to ten looking for passengers around Tehran's busy squares. On top of that, most nights after ten, Mohammad delivered Hollywood hits and set up satellite television. The latter of two are deemed illegal by the Islamic Republic and caused Mohammad his office job as he was caught by Tehran's disciplinary forces.

In our most recent conversation, Mohammad indicated that he had taken a position in a cellular store which his brother runs. He continues to pick up passengers while still making DVD delivers and setting up satellite dishes. His last words were: "They [Islamic Republic] are making it hard for us to live. Even the West is making it difficult for us thought their sanctions. I pray that they [West] realize that the average Iranian is far too busy trying to keep a roof over his head than being concerned with nuclear energy." This sentiment is shared by the overwhelming majority of Iranians that I spoke to.

Meanwhile Iran's youth who make up nearly 60% of the country's population are facing extreme disenchantment as more avenues which grant the right to expression are being shut down. This notion was brought up by Omid, an underground hip-hop artist, who without a government approved license to produce music is now finding web surfing more and more difficult as a result of government filters. In a recent conversation, Omid told me that he is boycotting tomorrow's elections and again questioned the role that the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei played in Iran's politics.

In the past recent days Khamenei called on everyone including even those who are on the side of the opposition to take part in tomorrow's elections. His reasons are that a strong showing will lessen the pressures from the West. While he for the first time openly acknowledged the existence of an opposition to this rule, he however did not discuss the reasons behind the pressures that have amplified during the past four years.

Regardless of whom I spoke to, the past four years have been some of the most difficult that Iranians have faced in the past century. And while I did not and still do not have answer to the questions that Nahid asked, what I can acknowledge is that the people of Iran are not the same as their regime. They crave democracy, human rights and more now than ever desire an open dialogue with the international community. All I can do is pray that the next four years will not as harsh as the past four years have been and that the United Nations and the international community openly confront the crimes that the Islamic Republic conducted against the brave people of Iran, who many, sadly are still waiting for the results of their refugee application in foreign jurisdictions after fleeing Iran in recent years.