And now – not – Iran

An open letter of thanks (and more) to Mr. Jürgen Todenhöfer


Dear Mr. Todenhöfer,

Like many others, I wish to thank you for writing the book “The Big Hypocrisy: how the West betrays its values” (in German) but even more, for proving that some amongst us live these values – in deed.

And especially now that Iran is under pressure and being pushed towards oil-for-food, I wish to share a part of my own experience and fears with you.

Like you war is an old preoccupation of mine. Born in Iran, my first memory of political pondering is one of me standing on our balcony at five or six listening to my father talk about the Vietnam War and being truly puzzled at the ways of the world. A few years after I left Iran for the UK and then the US, the revolution took place and although we hoped that the enthusiasm of millions on the streets would ensure that it would bring about some form of democracy, these hopes soon proved futile. It took many years for some of us to learn that agreements had been made with the UK and US prior to the revolution and some steps had long been planned.  Yet those who came to power in Iran argued that the West could not be trusted and thus new hostilities and intricate give and takes proceeded.

Even with 18 and at the start of my third year at U.C. Berkeley, I could not ignore that some forces in my new country were encouraging extremist forces in the country I was born in to take missteps; I could not oversee that Iran’s development was not  hoped for – and even actively hindered. So while active in the Bay Area section of the Freeze movement, I changed my major from Genetics to International Relations.

Little over a month after I defended my doctoral thesis  in mid-January 1991, the UN-authorized offensive against Iraq began and for the first time in history we stayed up at night to watch a country being bombarded – live and in colour on CNN.

In the years which followed, I – now a German citizen – concentrated much effort in seeking to bring Iran out of its isolation and to encourage dialogue and cooperation with the West.  Ever fearful of a war between two or more of “my countries”, I used my work  in international trade and as an independent consultant, in the context of a number of small groups formed for this purpose, to empower what eventually came to be known as the Iran Deal and to bring about real change from within by aiding and promoting the development of a sustained economy and with time democratic governance. Unfortunately, although we came very close, greater corruption as we had anticipated, hindered us in the economic stage. And also, various powers which were against Iran’s development did the rest.

And now Iran is being pushed further into poverty and is threatened with war and the Iranian people are as often caught between a rock and a hard place. And at times, it seems that no matter how much we work or sacrifice, this circle of destruction and war cannot be overcome.

The irony is that while for now Russia and China have gained the upper hand in Iran, families of functionaries and those largely responsible for corruption are moving large funds to Western countries and gaining residence for themselves via intricate business plans, even as some in the West wonder why the Iranian people do not march into the streets and risk life and limb to gain their freedom. They seem to not understand that in the modern world of social media, many of these contradictions are not lost upon the people and that in fact  these intricacies have always been used by  regime insiders to saw mistrust and division, also among the opposition.

Those such as you and Greta Thunberg who says: “I feel like I am dying inside if I don’t protest”, in fact give rise to hope that our Western democracies can use the current systemic changes  and work to achieve new balances; as the youth and our societies are becoming radicalized and so it is paramount that we ourselves give a voice to our doubts – and suggest alternatives.

We shall post this letter on the page of our small peace site which started its work in 2003; a site which has repeatedly been hacked in a major way from within Iran – as the Iranian extremists too do not like independent voices ; not even for peace! And yet it is exactly at times like this that independent voices are needed, for when some in Iran threaten to block the Strait of Hormuz, we warn them of the consequences and when they note that they will go to war, we remind them that they will not have the support of the majority of Iranian people in such a  war.

Thus, we continue to work so that the world does not go toward another very costly war – this time in Iran –  and I thank you again for giving a reflection to some of my own fears , with your work and new book.

May peace be yours and surround you – always,

Shiva Kambari