My Hunch About Iran

Rick Steves: On Iran's opposition movement and a letter from an Iranian-American

01.14.10 | 10:33 AM ET

Iran demonstrationTehran 2009. (REUTERS/via Your View)

A year after our Iran TV special aired, I still get feedback from Iranians in America thankful for our public television work. Now, as the protests in Iran persist, our government is encouraged to get more involved. Who knows the best action for the Iranian people? But my strong hunch is that Iranians need to earn their freedom (as France, the U.S. and South Africa all did), and support in spirit from the U.S. is the most we should give. I believe (given the power of modern government propaganda) that concrete action in their support from the U.S. would actually hurt the students on the street. They would then be discredited as puppets of the U.S., and a groundswell of politically naive and frightened Iranians would crush them.

The following letter, which I just received (and appears here with all its charming typos intact), gives a touching insight into the spirit I felt while in Iran. It is the spirit of a grassroots movement hungry for freedom.

Hi Rick,

My name is kian. I born in Isfahan on 1974 and I came to US. on 2001. It was too hard to get immigration visa and come to your beautiful and toppest country in the world. We went to Dubai and then Abu dhabi to get visa and I was so excited to see an American flag hangs on the building. I was excited to see inside the Embassy also. I got black stamp in my passport and crying that I couldn’t get it. it was for 2000. on 2001 we went to istanbul and then Ankara and I saw American big flag that moving with breeze and hang on the building and we can not see american flag that hangs in Iran. I came to us and we landed in seattle first and i was so excited. we are walking in u.s. land finally. on the first trip on 2004 i saw American embassy again in Tehran and I saw those ad on the walls again. we are tired to violence to America and American Flag. Say new dialog. it is not only just my opinion not. it is many Iranian voice. We can not change many things but we are try.

For this christmas I got your dvd iran and I didnt belive that one of my American friend give it to me as a gift. I watched it 3 time and I cry…

I will go back to Isfahan on march Also I will buy your dvd and give it to my American friends.

we Love Americans sorry if sometimes in iran say something or violence to American flag. On 4th july I saw that howmuch Americans love their flag and in Iran they burn American flag.

sorry -we get shy to see that

kian 35 years -california

Rick Steves

Rick Steves writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. He is the author of Travel as a Political Act.

4 Comments for My Hunch About Iran

Suzanne 01.14.10 | 12:28 PM ET

Dear Rick,

Thank you so much for this article.  When I first clicked the headline on Twitter, I was a little skeptical.  A travel expert philosophizing about the situation in Iran???  (this is not personal Rick—-I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years. But the American public is starting to get a little cynical about celebrities lecturing us about foriegn policy—- I know you can appreciate that.)

Anyway, when I read your article, I was pleased.  No, not pleased. Overjoyed!  Finally, a real human being from the celebrity world saying something that not only makes sense, but is very compassionate in more than just a superficial way.  I am an American.  I was born in the USA.  But I was raised entirely abroad, and I spent 3 years during the seventies, living in Iran.

I can testify to the truth of your “hunch”. 
Although I believe that the US and other western nations (France, UK, etc.) actually do “nationbuilding” quite well (i.e. South Korea, Germany, etc.) we need to offer less domination, more responsibility and more freedom of choice to the countries that we are trying to support.  Your “hunch” is more than a “hunch”.  It’s a certifiable truth.

God bless ya Rick—-wherever you may “land” today, tomorrow, or next week.

Chris 01.14.10 | 12:37 PM ET

I’m so glad you shared this with us!

hass 01.14.10 | 6:57 PM ET

Here’s some cold water: The inconvenient facts are that 1- even the opposition in Iran massively support their nuclear program and 2- Iranians have a long history of being threatened (and actually invaded) by foriegn powers who were insistent on preventing Iran’s progress (The Russians demanded that Iran not build national railroads) and so the US is falling into the same mode in their historical thinking by demanding that Iran abandon its nuclear program and 3- there was in fact no evidence that the latest elections in Iran were fixed, and the riotors do not represent the vast majority of Iranians as several polls taken before and after the elections have shown, the people support Ahmadinejad.

John M 01.21.10 | 3:18 PM ET

I have been a huge fan of Rick and his shows for many years.  Each year I eagerly await the new season of shows.  I travelled in the UK and France using the back door style to my great satisfaction and pleasure.  I was so very glad to see the shows on Iran.  This is such an important thing to do-to show the humanity of our “enemies” and to show how much we actually have in common.  Some people loosely and without much thought advocate for a bombing campaign or even nuking the Iranians.  That kind of thing is easier to say if you do not see the humanity of your “enemy”.  Hopefully cooler heads and warmer hearts will prevail regarding the US and Iran.

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