Young Iranian Asks Foreign Minister on Facebook: What's in Nuclear Energy for Me?

Emotional plea from 26-year old woman offers glimpse into day-to-day difficulties of young Iranians.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Over the past weeks, I have written several times about Iranian Foreign Minster Muhammad Javad Zarif's social media forays, which often contain policy insights. A few days ago, an exchange with a young Iranian woman on his Facebook page offered a poignant glimpse into the attitudes of the Islamic Republic's youth today.

The anonymous 26-year-old woman issued an emotional plea addressed to Zarif on Friday in response to one the posts he had published upon returning from the Geneva talks. She has been engaged for three years, she explained, but has been unable to marry, due to her financial difficulties. Her fiancée, she said, is a doctoral student unable to find employment, and her parents are pensioners, unable to offer assistance.

"For most girls, the meaning of engagement is a party, joy, travelling. I, too, am engaged, but I've gotten only one thing from life: frustration. I don't want you to say you're sorry. I am not writing to you to win anyone's pity. I just want my rights."

The woman said she was a graduate student at one of Tehran's universities who resides outside the city and relies on public transportation to make her three weekly trips to school - but often cannot afford the fare.

Dr. Raz Tzimet, a research fellow at the "Alliance" Institute for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, published his translation of the woman's letter, which garnered hundreds of Facebook likes in his blog, "A spotlight on Iran."

Here are a few excerpts:

"I am an Iranian. Why is it that in my own country, to which my family gave many martyrs and veterans, I lack basic welfare? Why am I unemployed? Why am I undernourished? Why am I destitute? Why am I treated like scum, despite my GPA and my resume? This nuclear energy - Where is it? What portion of it trickles down to me? Will I or my talented husband ever be hired in the nuclear program? Our bills are constantly increasing, life is becoming more expensive.

"...During summers, electricity is constantly cut - Where is this supposed energy security? Even if it is good for our country's future, why must we be sacrificed for it? Why does the development of future generations have to be over our ashes?

"...What words shall I use to tell you, sir, that I do not wish to pay the price of nuclear energy with my youth and my life. I have only one life to live and I wish to be happy. I've had my share of sadness.

"...I wish to work, I wish to provide for myself, to be able to afford a simple dowry, a house, health insurance.

"... You can see the differences between you and me... You, and the top officials around you, living happily with no worries, calmly discuss future talks while I cry tearfully to god: When will it end?

"Do something to end the sanctions. Do something to bring down the prices of food and housing. Do something to create job growth. Do something so the high price of medical treatment does not result in the loss of human life. Do something for us to have security and welfare. Do something so that someone like me, who loves to study, won't constantly be thinking about leaving school. And be quick about it I am afraid it will not come about in our lifetime. Enough with the sanctions."

The woman ended her letter with a request for Zarif's response. Shortly after its posting, the foreign minister offered one:

"Greetings, daughter. I am aware of the serious responsibility that rests on the shoulders of my colleagues and myself. And despite the fact we were not among those who created the current conditions, when we accepted this responsibility we must work towards a solution.

Please believe me that throughout the negotiations I see myself always as indebted to each and every one of you, and I hope I will manage to allay your burdens. With the help of god and with your support, we will do this job patiently, respecting the rights of this nation. Be certain that the best way to conduct serious talks and relieve the pressures is by making an effort to reach understandings by way of efficient, respectful co-operation. A bit of patience, dawn is near."

Iranian youths ride a motorcycle to bypass chronic traffic in central Tehran on October 17, 2013. Credit: AFP