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Iranian exiles in the US welcome the nuclear deal

The West and Iran have agreed a deal under which Iran will freeze its nuclear program and sanctions against Iran will be eased. What do members of the exiled Iranian community in the US think of that?

Kamran G. was on the Internet until late into the night. Finally he was able to post the historic message to friends and relatives in his homeland. "The deal is on!" Kamran, an Iranian-born US citizen, announced triumphantly.

"My reaction has been one of gladness because this has been going on for such a long time. And the longer it takes, the more pressure the ordinary Iranian people are suffering from the sanctions," he says. It was on account of the "ordinary Iranian people" that Kamran was so happy, even if this agreement is only a preliminary step. The response from Iran was mostly euphoric, although some people, he says, are reacting with "cautious optimism"

Kamran shares that optimism. He's a journalist from Tehran who has been living in the USA for twelve years now. He's brought his wife and children here because he believed in a better life: in human rights, democratic values ​​and, above all, a future.

"Ihope and I look forward to a relief in the economic conditions of people who are trying really hard to make ends meet and to earn their bread and butter," says Kamran. The stranglehold of economic sanctions permeates every part of Iranian society. People are at the end of their tether. Their money is worth less and less, while prices are exploding.

"I think in the first place, what made the hardliners and the Supreme Leader agree with a new delegation sealing a deal was the economic impact on all sections of the society in Iran," says Kamran. But those same hardliners should not underestimate the psychological effect of the partial lifting of sanctions: "With the opening of the economy there will be more breathing space for personal liberties."

No let-up

Moral police checks clothing of young women. (Foto: ISNA)

Repression continues in Iran and the authorities still check what women wear

Not every Iranian exile sees it that way. One of them is Roxanne F., who fled to the United States nearly 20 years ago. She had been a political activist who had protested against the Shah, but when she and her friends saw what the new rulers were really like, they protested against the mullahs as well.

She says that members of four generations of her family have been imprisoned because of their political orientation, and some have even been executed.

One day, as she was on her way home, a relative called and warned her that her brother had been arrested. She fled.

But even in her new life, as a real estate agent in the US, Roxanne keeps herself informed about the human rights situation back home. "They are still executing people as much as they did before," she says. "The pressure is there. It hasn't gotten less."

The deal which the West has agreed with Iran only focuses on the nuclear dispute - but not on the people of Iran. That bothers her: "My concern is that the Iranian government says, 'You know what: We give you what you want - you stay away from what we're doing in the country.' And then everything goes worse than it is now." However there is one good aspect to the talks: "The good thing about it is that most likely the US won't go to war with Iran, which gives us peace of mind that we don't have a third war."

Democratic future?

Portrait of Afshari at a protest. (Foto: Hossein Kermani)

Afshari expects a boost for the democracy movement

Ali Afshari, a former student leader who used be a civil rights activist in Iran, is hoping for social peace. He campaigned for many years for democracy and human rights in Tehran and spent several years in prison. He followed every step of the Geneva negotiations. Even before the news was broadcast in Farsi, he had already reported the breakthrough via social media.

"I expected that. Both sides had a real intention this time to have a temporary deal." Afshari is happy about it - even if it is not certain that the deal will turn into something permanent: "Personally, I believe this helps Iranian people like my family inside Iran, and they can live with less problems."

But he also hopes that the outcome of negotiations will make a political difference: "I think that this will cause the focus in Iran to transfer from the nuclear issue and security to the democracy issues." And that's why Afshari thinks that the sanctions must be relaxed as soon as possible. The sanctions have mostly affected the average population, and that had harmed the democracy movement. "The economy in Iran deteriorated, and that caused the people's attention to go gradually from politics and democracy to the economy," he says. "That's the reason it was not good for democracy."

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