Copyright: Oleg Golovnev

The striking similarity between democratic America and autocratic Iran in the wake of the recent elections, a reflection by an Iranian distraught by America’s decision to impede progress

I’m generally a person that doesn’t get involved with politics too much, but recent events have made even people like me take a stand and get involved one way or another, which is why I am writing this article.

Yesterday, my friends kept asking me if I was following the 2016 US presidential election, and I kept telling them no because I was too scared to be faced with the possibility that a person like Donald Trump could be elected as president. As much as I tried to ignore everything and distract myself, I couldn’t help but worry. I turned on the TV to see that Donald Trump was winning. I was confused, sad, scared, and most important of all, had a weird sensation of déjà vu.

Flashbacks of the 2009 Iranian presidential election

Watching the elections last night gave me flashbacks of the 2009 Iranian presidential election. I do realize Trump and Ahmadinejad are different that the US is not the same as Iran, but I witnessed some shocking similarities between the two. I was about 11 during the 2009 presidential election in Iran and I remember being incredibly confused that a man this disrespectful, rude, and full of hatred was a candidate to represent a great nation like Iran. I asked the people who supported Ahmadinejad how they could vote for someone like him, and they responded by saying: “He’s not like the other politicians, he tells it like it is and what you see is what you get.” I do understand how important honesty is and I also understand that it is frustrating to see politicians make all sorts of promises and not act on them after they get elected. However, I knew that electing someone like Ahmadinejad would be far worse than electing the other candidates.

I remember waking up on the night of the election to see my dad standing in front of the TV whispering: “He’s winning…He’s really winning”. I found myself in the exact same condition last night. I was horrified. A man who made lewd comments towards several groups of people, threatened the people who were opposed to him and talked and acted like everything was a joke was about to become president of a great country like America. It all felt too familiar.

With all these similarities, there is one big difference and that is that in Iran, our votes didn’t matter.

People fought and did everything they could to make Iran a better country and move forward, but because Ahmadinejad had the support of some powerful people, he was elected regardless of our votes. However, the people in the US willingly elected Donald Trump to be their president. They used their vote to spread hate instead of love. They used their vote to go back to traditional ways instead of moving forward. Before I go any further, I want to make something very clear: I don’t think that everyone that voted for candidates other than Hillary Clinton (or didn’t vote all) did so only out of hate, but I believe that they failed to see the big picture.

Yes, Hillary Clinton was not the perfect candidate, but she did not exhibit the level of hate and disrespect that Donald Trump did. The people who did not vote, or the people who voted for Trump solely because the disliked Hillary Clinton failed to see that by choosing Donald Trump, his ideas and beliefs would now represent their country.

Why on earth do you care? You don’t even live in the US

I know people are wondering “why on earth do you care? You don’t even live in the US” and here’s my answer: I am not sad because Trump is president, I am sad that in a country that is known to be open minded and progressive, people are still supporting a person with such misogynistic, racist, homophobic and xenophobic ideas.

Now think of how this is going to affect people around the world. When a person who has no political background, does not even bother to be respectful to others, and publicly brags about raping women and later claiming that they are too ugly for him to rape them, etc. becomes president, people are going to wonder if a person like that can become president then it must be ok to act like him. I know that people are better than to actually think like that, but it’s a possibility that I am afraid of.

I lived in a developing country for 16 years of my life. I always thought of the US as a place that everyone had the freedom to be whoever they want, love whoever they want and believe in whatever they want. These were the kind of freedoms that people in my country did not have. As a girl growing up in a country like Iran, I was deprived of many opportunities and faced inequality in a way that women in the US didn’t. I knew that there was still inequality, and I knew that the US was far from being perfect, but I had faith they were moving towards that bright future that I dreamed of. The results of the election yesterday made me realize that the US was not as different as I thought it would be, and although I am very disappointed, I am still not giving up.

I am incredibly grateful to be living in a country like Canada that is working towards (and is very close to) being the country that I have dreamed of living in since I was very young. I am going to do everything I can to continue making not only Canada, but the world a place an 11-year-old me would want to live in.

I believe that we all owe to each other and our children to not let all these years of fighting for human rights go to waste. We should not let hate spread around the world. I hope that we continue to teach our children to be respectful (towards women, men, lgbtq+ members, all races, all religions) and keep fighting to make the world a better place for everyone.

Parand Mohandesi moved to Canada from Iran in 2013, and is currently studying Psychology and Life Science at the University of Alberta.

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