I had the author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” on the line. Azar Nafisi was about to receive the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate in the Humanities and Public Service from the Smithsonian Associates and Creative Foundation.
So I felt I had to ask her about the recent announcement that the U.S. and Iran had reached an agreement regarding a framework on nuclear development.
Born in Iran and now a U.S. citizen, she was in a unique position to comment on the matter, though she told me, “I’m afraid the answer I would give you would not be the same kind of answer you’d receive from so-called Iran experts. But I don’t know what an Iran expert is and don’t know how to be one.”
She said had no patience for those moments, at different points in history, “where everybody feels obliged to make a statement.”
Still, she had clearly thought about it and had this to say:
What I can tell you about it from my perspective and the perspective of people like me who are genuinely concerned about the future of Iranian people and their well being as well as the human rights of the people and social and economic rights of the Iranian people, my concern is how much will this so called deal help them. So far it has helped them in no way whatsoever. It was told that the Iranian people want to have nukes, that they would be proud of having it. But if that is true why did Iranian people stream into the streets in droves when they heard that Iran at least on paper, agreed to limit its nukes?
She went on:
What I expect from a deal is this: First of all I believe that democratic government should always begin its relationship even with states like Iran, through dialogue. That is because I believe in principals of democracy and I believe that you should never be the first to be belligerent. Belligerence by nature comes from a dictatorial mindset.
The second thing that worries me about America, and not just this administration, is that I feel that America has no strategy, either in regard to Iran or rest of world so they react to what happens rather than have a long term view.
America sometimes forgets its own principles. They mistake firmness, the way Mayor Giuliani mistakes firmness for strong-arming everyone. They don’t understand that you can negotiate but not compromise on principles.
So I hope that this administration will remember that it is not really just about the nukes; that there has to be some guarantee about this regime’s treatment of Iranian people; that finally, the administration needs to take a position on this. And the last is that I hope that at least some within the Iranian government would use the money when the sanctions are lifted on the Iranian people.
The rest of the interview can be found here at the Smithsonian Magazine website.