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IRAN: Reactions to Obama's Nowruz address

March 21, 2011 |  8:42 am

President Obama on Sunday delivered his third annual Nowruz address to Iranians celebrating the ancient Persian fire festival that marks the beginning of the new year, reaching out specifically to the young people of Iran, who have made up the bulk of that nation's opposition movement.

"The future of Iran will not be shaped by fear," Obama said after criticizing the Iranian government's crackdown on dissent and even naming several well-known activists who have been imprisoned. "The future of Iran belongs to the young people -- the youth who will determine their own destiny."

So what did Iranians think of Obama's speech? Babylon & Beyond asked people in Tehran.

Ehsan, 24 , an engineer: "First of all, it is in Obama's interest to boost his popularity among Iranians both in Iran and abroad, especially those Iranian expatriates based in the U.S. Secondly, his speech will lift the spirits of Iranians who are in the opposition camp. But on the whole, the Iranian Islamic regime does not care about the speech, and it may even provide some pretext for more suppression. They may say 'Aha, look, we've already said [the opposition protesters] are stooges of America, the great Satan.' Anyway, the speech is good lip service to reform in Iran, and it might be remembered in the collective psyche of Iranians ... and it's good public relations."

Picture 6 Kazem Anbarlouie, 56, editor in chief of the conservative hard-line daily Resalat: "Either President Obama is misinformed by his advisors or he has got the true information and pretends otherwise. While the U.S. administration is ignoring the unrest in Arab world, Iran is calm and people are enjoying their New Year's holiday and were out shopping. Less than half a percent of well-off Iranians protested; understandably, they are against the Islamic Revolution, as the revolution is not for their interests. The American is over-generalizing about the whole nation from this half-percent. In fact, President Obama is supporting despotism under the name of reform and democracy, because the so-called 'reformists' are the true despots."

Fazel Maibodi, 57, a cleric: "Any good wishes for the Iranian nation from any source is positive. Any attempt for rapprochement between Iran and the U.S. is positive, regardless of the outcome. We also pray to God that in this new year all the dictators across the Middle East vanish and all political prisoners from all kinds of religious and political groups and denominations are freed and human dignity is respected in all regional countries and in all the world. Islam and Christianity are faiths of human dignity and well-being, so let's wish all mankind well."

Mojtab Bigdeli, 40, an entrepreneur: "We know that the U.S. administration is looking after its own interests and does not care about our interests as an Iranian Muslim nation. We, Iranians, have to find our own solution, and we do not care what President Obama says."

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Video: President Obama delivers his yearly address for the Iranian Nowruz holiday. Credit: whitehouse.gov

Photo: Revelers traditionally jump over fire for the ancient Persian festival of Nowruz. Credit: Mehdi Ghasemi / ISNA

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