What Should President Obama do? Letter Responses From Iran

Many people in the United States are debating whether President Obama needs to take a more active role and speak up more strongly on the humanitarian crisis in Iran or stay out of it. Although members of Congress from both parties appear to be more united in taking a strong stance in support of the people of Iran, the debates among commentators, writers and bloggers have fallen into the same old and tired trap of partisanship.

But the best way for us to know what kind of stance Iranians want President Obama to take is not to listen to those on either side who neither speak Farsi nor have they ever been to Iran, but to ask the Iranians directly. So during my latest appearance on Voice of America--the illegal but most popular TV channel in Iran--on Monday, I asked the Iranians to send me their opinions in response to the question, "what do you want President Obama to do on Iran?"

My mailbox is being flooded with e-mails in Farsi from throughout Iran. I am going to try to post translated excerpts from as many of these letters as possible throughout the next week. When the numbers make inclusion of every letter possible, I will select in a way that would represent the accurate diversity of opinions in terms of distribution, content and demographics.

If you are an Iranian, send me your response to Iran2009[at] or tweet your message to [at]samsedaei.

Letters from Iran: Excerpts

"... to answer your question, when we are confronted with the most repressive response on the streets, President Obama only said: 'we are watching Iran!' Well, please tell him this sentence is not going to have any impacts on these close-minded religious fanatics... In my opinion, the President of the United States needs to speak with more force about the situation, or at least behind the scenes, push for the most intense sanctions against these savages... I think that Mr. Obama is thoughtful and very likeable, and ever since his speech in Cairo, my liking him has been strengthened."

"Greetings to the people of United States, a nation that is the symbol of freedom... I know the kind of image you must have of Iran... maybe every time you hear the word 'terror' or 'terrorist,' the name of Iran comes to your mind... did you know that we are unjustly treated from both sides? From inside, they take our freedoms away, and outside, they think we are terrorists... I understand why you would think that, but maybe the time has come for me to scream: 'free people of the world: we are not terrorists! but we are victims of terrorism...' If you have been feeling terror since September 11, you know how we have felt for 30 years... did you know that the Iranian regime has divided its own people into friends and enemies? Did you know that any criticism of the Supreme Leader in Iran is forbidden and punishable by death? If you wonder how they kill us so easily, it's because they don't consider us as human beings... Your government says that it supports the freedom fighters of Iran... we don't need your physical intervention, but we need you to amplify the voice of Iranians throughout the world... please pressure our government to establish a 24-hour news channel that would show all sides of the debate... The dictatorial regime can only survive if the people remain in the darknesss... that's why they are so terrified of 8 hours of daily programming from Voice of America... Did you know that many of the bloody images that the people of the world are seeing from our streets haven't even reached millions in Iran... [and] many Iranians have no idea about the way Neda [Soltani] was killed? As I write this, I am choking back the tears... why should your young people live in freedom and security and my youth burn in the repression of this regime?

"Dear friend... the people of Iran are very different than those of other countries from the Middle East in that they are immensely interested in having good relations with the United States... I am sure one of the reasons President Obama doesn't say much is because the people in Arabic countries, Iraq and Afghanistan have had a negative reaction to American intervention, but Iran is different... thirty years of religious regime since the 1979 revolution has created a strong sense of animosity among Iranians toward religious tendencies... ... Even if President Obama just cares about the Iranian nuclear program and doesn't want to meddle in Iran's affairs, he needs to know that if he strongly supports the people of Iran and speak action against this regime, the cost to him will be much lower than the cost he has to pay after the regime successfully represses the people of Iran and the Islamic hardliners obtain nuclear capability? President Obama: Be alert and speak up soon! President Obama: Thank you for being mindful and not wanting to meddle in Iranian affairs... but why would we write our signs in English [in protests] if we didn't want the West's help?"

"I want to ask President Obama to base his policies on human rights! If he is interested in the interests of the United States, he should know that the price of oil is not the lives of human beings. He needs to know that if he recognizes [Ahmadinejad's] government and tries to have friendly relations with him for the next four years, he not only will have abandoned millions of Iranians, but the whole world! Even if starting today there is no more bloodshed and protests subside and everyone caves to misery, President Obama must fight for those innocent Iranians who have already lost their lives... or Iran will continue to serve the Russian interests, sponsor terrorism, wage aggressive foreign policies, spread of radicalism and undermine the greatest achievement of humanity--democracy. Long live Freedom."

"I think he needs to hold on and wait and see how the events develop... wait for them to resolve their own conflicts... for now, leave Iran alone."

"You rightly insisted that Iran's issue is a "human rights issue". Iran is also a signatory to the UDHR. So, it is a responsilbility of all the UN members to hold the I.R. responsible for its commitments."

Come back throughout the week for more letters.