Geopolitics

For Young Iranians, Hope Explodes In Wake Of Nuclear Deal

Offering new economic opportunities is at the top of the agenda, though questions about human rights still must be addressed.

Iranian women taking a selfie at Tehran's International Flower Exhibition on May 13
Iranian women taking a selfie at Tehran's International Flower Exhibition on May 13
Ghazal Golshiri

TEHRAN â€" For a long time, the building situated at 3 Kalantari Street, in the center of Tehran, was nothing but a mountain of rubbish. Today, it's the first private cultural center in Iran.

When the famous actress Pegah Ahangarani first visited the blighted site in March, negotiations about the country's nuclear program were in full swing. A month later, after the framework agreement was reached, she decided to transform the four-story building in the heart of the Iranian capital into a private cultural center.

"I was planning to give up on my idea if the talks were to fail," she explains, her purple headscarf covering most of her curly hair. Then, she and her friend Sadjad Afsharian had a month to take the necessary administrative steps and register the Up Art Maan center, which was inaugurated in mid-June.

But true relief didn't come until July 14. After 10 days of laborious and protracted negotiations in Vienna, Iran and six world powers (the United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany) reached a landmark agreement.

"I can't believe it," she says. "Even if I'm still a bit worried that everything might fall apart, I think it can work if all parties involved act reasonably."

"The end of suffering"

On the building's second floor, Saeed (some names have been modified) manages, with other friends, a company that designs advertising campaigns, including some for NGOs. He feels the same mixture of relief and worry.

"For now, Iran and the Western world haven't signed anything final," he says. "I'm afraid that in the United States or in Iran, some don't accept the deal."

Still, Saeed is convinced that the country's general atmosphere is going to change. "Hope in a better future will play an important role in the economy and will encourage a lot of people to reinvest in Iran," he says.

On the top floor of the building, six young people, members of a music band, practice in a room transformed into a studio. "I think our situation in the world is going to improve," says Nami, a saxophonist.

"I hope the agreement and the lifting of lifting of sanctions will help to address medicine shortages and permit Iran to buy new aircrafts and spare parts," adds Behrouz, the band's drummer.

For many Iranians, such as 32-year-old architect Mariam, the lifting of sanctions represents the greatest achievement. Sitting in the Up Art Maan coffee shop on the ground floor, she rejoices in "the approaching end of suffering of the embargo years."

After living in the Netherlands for seven years, she decided to return to return to Iran when the moderate President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June 2013.

Returning wasn't easy. The architecture company where she works hasn't been able to pay her for seven months. "Even if sanctions aren't directly the cause of our situation, our clients, involved in other areas of investments, are affected," she says.

The deal is good news for her and her colleagues. "When foreign investments arrive in Iran, we'll need infrastructure, which requires development, and that's our job," says her colleague Sam.

Some educated young Iranians still worry. "If Iran's foreign-blocked funds start filling the state coffers, liquidity and inflation may increase," Saeed says.

"The most important thing is to know how this agreement will change the country's economy," his coworker Alborz says. "Will it weaken the industry or will it be an opportunity to have exchanges with the world, peer to peer, allowing us to handle internal problems?"

"Corruption"

On the first floor, the curator and co-founder of New Media Society, Amir Ali Ghasemi, is pessimistic. "Corruption and fraud may grow," he says. "Only a small amount of money will help build schools and universities."

As the parliamentary elections approach â€" scheduled for March 2016 â€" the 35-year-old Iranian man fears a new wave of repression, led by conservatives who may take revenge on President Rouhani.

Even though he solved the nuclear issue â€" his main election promise â€" he will have to face many challenges in the coming months. "The president has always maintained that nuclear power was the priority," explains Pegah Ahangarani, who is deeply involved in Rouhani’s election. "Human rights, unemployment and inflation come next."

Ahangarani was arrested in 2011, under the second term of ultraconservative former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), and sentenced to 18 months in prison for her political activities. Now on parole, the young actress can be sent to jail to serve her sentence. "The agreement is reached," she says. "We just need to wait now. Positive events will keep happening."

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A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo

-Analysis-

TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.


After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

commons.wikimedia.org

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

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