One year ago this month, Hassan Rouhani took office as president of Iran. With his election came the hope of reform - both from the West and from progressives in the Middle East. Today on Think, Krys Boyd talked to a journalist born in Iran and brought up in America.
Hooman Majd is the son of an Iranian diplomat. And that gives him the perspective of an insider and an outside.
He says President Rouhani has brought about change at the same pace as most new leaders – slowly.
“Human rights groups argue that, well, there hasn’t been any change in human rights or freedoms because they’re putting people in prison for political opinion and there’s executions still going on. And that’s certainly true," he says. "But I think the society is more open. People I talk to … you sensed a certain optimism and people felt freer, even if they necessarily weren’t freer. But they felt freer.”
Majd says an uptick in the country’s economy has also given people hope.
“And I think optimism is really probably the only thing you can really put your finger on." he says. "The optimism that things can get better if Rouhani is allowed to continue his program. And that affects people’s moods, and it affects society, and in some ways, it’s quite visible if you’re in Iran.”
Any real reform must be OK’d by the country’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Majd describes him as “malleable” and not like absolute dictators Kim Jong-un or Fidel Castro.
“We have seen the Supreme Leader change his mind or move in one direction over the other in the past, and I think that’s where many of Rouhani’s supporters are hopeful, because Rouhani has a very good relationship with the Supreme Leader and has been his friend and comrade over the past 35 years. If anybody can persuade him, it’s Hassan Rouhani," he says.
Majd writes more about his perceptions of Iran in his book, The Ministry of Guidance Invites You To Not Stay: An American Family in Iran.
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