On this international day of friendship, I am prompted to think of the #IranDeal that is so fresh on the minds of many in the work of international friend making. This is no pact between friends, but it does present an opportunity for some straight talk between frenemies.
While the Obama administration has banked a handsome chunk of its political capital on these negotiations and is willing to put the President's legacy on the line to see this historic accord inked into law, the Republicans who stand staunchly against it flout the deal as a trade-off between sweethearts made behind closed doors. Truth be told, it's neither the traitors brew nor the King's ransom.
The balancing act that became the "Iran Deal" was begun years ago when Iran came to its knees by debilitating sanctions that gripped its exports and congealed its international banking system. A failed state, immobilized by the will of nations to debilitate its march toward nuclear technology for lack of trust, the Islamic Republic was forced to adopt a posture less combative and more congenial. Having characteristically denied, at first, that the sanctions would have any effect on the portentous regime that hardly concerns itself with the plight of its people, they claimed the high road to the negotiating table once they were there, claiming it was in the interests of the region and the people to have accord rather than discord.
The U.S., surprisingly, ceded the high road, and paved it as they went. With years and hours of high-level negotiations with Iran -- while the rest of the Middle East seemed, at times, entirely alight in complicated battles borne of age old schisms that were fueled by an ill conceived war on terror hinged on an "Axis of Evil" -- at no point did American negotiators belie a fundamental dislike for an ideological regime that had ransacked their dignity by marching 44 of its citizens through its streets some thirty years prior, blindfolded and dumbfounded.
In the end, there's no sweetheart deal here. With sanctions being lifted only after verifications from inspectors on the ground and snap back mechanisms that threaten to debilitate all over again, there is at best a roadmap away from war and more conflict in a region that has undeniably seen its share. But there sure is the pomp and circumstance of saving face for a friend.
While Iran remains the one nation on earth with the second worst record on human rights (China being the first), never has mention been made of the need for a government on the precipice of international recognition to be tasked with improving its behavior on human rights. While all eyes are on centrifuges, the IRI continues to violate the basic human rights of its citizens, detaining without cause, convicting without defense and denying basic legal protections to so many people that grouping them might cover everyone but the ruling clergy themselves.
Chief among the violated are women, who's hard won rights over decades of modernization have been yanked away with the stroke of a Quranic verse and a dismissive wave of a cleric's hand. As of today, a woman in Iran is worth half a man. Her testimony in a court of law is given half the weight, her inheritance in the case of death is 50 percent less than a male sibling, her pay scale is at least half of a male counterpart and her voice is all but quelled. Her right to work outside the home is discounted by IRI slogans touting the virtue of a woman in the home, her right to travel is determined by her husband, father or brother, and her style of dress is dictated by a patriarchal system that enforces its rule by the sting of the whip -- 50 lashes for showing a strand of hair or a knob of knee.
Never mind the posed photographs of women in isolated settings daring to show their locks or curves -- the Sharia law of the land is to cover up and gaze downward. In fact, she is legally of age for arranged matrimony at nine, and has no right to birth control or an abortion. For a nation whose leaders are being welcomed in major western cities and ushered into gleaming hallways lined with gilded chairs and Mahogany tables set in flag draped rooms reserved for responsible leaders, we should at least insist that they emancipate an entire gender class of their population that can't even claim agency over their own bodies.
I am an Iranian American, and would like nothing more than for my hyphenated worlds to be friends on this International day of Friendship. But truth be told my countries disappoint me. The Iranian in me cringes at the dismal performance of a government that rode in on a wave of revolutionary fervor and the promise of egalitarian change rooted in the teachings of a peaceful Islam that would embrace its people and deliver the ideals they craved. Instead, they ushered in an age of brutality with the onslaught of a defunct ideology coupled with a heavy hand for decades. Still, they audaciously posture assuredly while they are made to plead on a world stage for the rights their predecessor had, unencumbered by snap backs and inspections, long ago. The American in me seethes at the idea that we could insist right now on human rights and the humanitarian ideals inherent in our democracy, but still, we stand head bowed to help save face for a would-be friend, that betrayed us then came groveling back.
All the while, Iranians in the streets of Tehran teem with delight, honking horns and splaying thumbs up at multinational camera crews covering the glee of a people thrilled to have rejoined the modern world. These teeming masses are not celebrating limited Uranium enrichment or international inspections of their nuclear sites. They are elated at the prospect that this accord may usher in a measure of modernization, and a loosening of the hearty IRI grip at the choke hold around their collective neck, so they can rejoin a world barreling by them in a wave of technology and prosperity never before known to man.
While they back home are forced to contend with the debate over whether or not leggings constitute pants for women, or whether earthquakes are caused by the promiscuity of girls - or worse whether they will eat plain bread or have enough to buy poultry that week to feed their families - America grapples with the possibility of life on Mars or the prospects of curing age old diseases with the development of sciences that can change the way we live. This divide is not lost on them, and they'd like to join their old friends on the march to a better future.
Let us not allow this opportunity to pass us by, where we can both stave off a war on an innocent people with an accord, and demand a humanitarian shift that unbounds an entire populace from the tyranny of Theocracy.