x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ahmadinejad ceremony brings joy and despair to Iranians

There was a mixed reaction from Iranians in Dubai yesterday as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad begins his second term as president.

Iranians in Dubai protesting against the result of presidential election outside the Iranian Consulate in June.
Iranians in Dubai protesting against the result of presidential election outside the Iranian Consulate in June.

DUBAI // There was a mixed reaction from Iranians in Dubai yesterday as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began his second term as president. Dissident residents said they would continue to speak out against his leadership but Iranian traders at the Spice Souk in Deira, who overwhelmingly support Mr Ahmadinejad, were in celebratory mood. "I still feel very bad about the situation because we have been cheated," said Mahmoud, an activist in the campaign to get Iran's election results annulled.

"But something else that I am feeling, and it is much more important, is relief at the fact that the people of Iran, whether inside or out, have finally found their unity again." There were protests by opposition supporters Iran and around the world after it was announced that Mr Ahmadinejad had beaten the opposition candidate, Mir Hosein Mousavi, in the June 12 poll. But Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, insisted that the results were correct and warned that action would be taken against protesters.

Despite his anger, Mahmoud said he believed there had been a shift in the mentality of the Iranians that would make the country stronger and more united. "In the past decade the people have always been alone, even though there have been protests and objections to certain governments," he said. "But, during the last two months, we Iranians have been able to send out our voices, loud and clear, so our objections can be heard, against whoever is violating our rights and rules, whether it is the president or the supreme leader.

"People are now proud to be Iranian, and are more pro-Iran than before." Iranians at the souq in Deira were joyful. "I'm really happy," said Asouqaber, a trader who has lived in Dubai for 10 years. "But it is not my voice alone - 85 per cent of the Iranians feel the same way. "Iran is made up of intelligent, educated people, and these people voted for Ahmadinejad. "It is only a small minority, like 10 or 15 per cent who were against him, and influenced by the United States. The rest of us know we do not want to become like Afghanistan or Iraq, and so we stayed with our president."

Ayoub Hakikat, 23, spoke excitedly in the shop owned by his uncle. "Today is a glorious day," he said. "Ahmadinejad is the best. He talks straight and he is for the good of the people. "From 1979 until today Iran was ignored by the world, but Ahmadinejad stood for us. He has always taken care of Iran's interests." Referring to the demonstrations against the election, he said: "People are not the same and will always have different opinions. It does not matter if it is Ahmadinejad or Mousavi, the main thing is that their blood is for Iran."

The souq is predominantly made up of diehard Ahmadinejad supporters, who demonstrated their joy by giving diehards and gifts. Dissidents were not as eager to demonstrate their displeasure, having had run-ins with Dubai Police during previous protests. "Unfortunately, because of the problems we have faced recently, we were not able to arrange anything today," said Mahmoud, alluding to incidents in which the police forced the gatherers to disperse.

"But we are working on some possible ways for the future." The Dubai-based dissenters are not giving up and hope that their voices will not be smothered by the official ceremonies in Iran. "While it is disappointing, and while we have faced difficulties, we will continue and we have the motivation to go further," said Amir, another Dubai-based Iranian. "What we have witnessed is a new chapter in Iranian society. Before the last couple of months, people wouldn't even think of taking to the streets, and today people are chanting against Khamenei in Tehran. It is amazing.

"We need to, and we will, continue to protest against Ahmadinejad, and hope the world will continue to listen to us and not accept him as president." nsamaha@thenational.ae