On Monday evening, students packed Higley Auditorium and spent about an hour listening to former Iranian presidential candidate Hooshang Amirahmadi explain the current state of Iran and how the United States and Iran may finally achieve peace.
Amirahmadi came to Kenyon through the Middle Eastern Student Association .
“We’ve always focused on the Saudi Peninsula and places like that. This year we want to focus our attention to areas we’ve never really covered before: Iran, Turkey, India, Pakistan, areas like that,” Milad Momeni ’16, a MESA member and cousin of Kayvon Afshari, Amirahmadi’s campaign manager, said.
“He is a champion of causes that he passionately believes in and he looks to deliver tangible results,” Afshari said during his introduction of Amirahmadi. Afshari’s relationship with Amirahmadi began years ago when he was Afshari’s professor. The two stayed in touch and when Amirahmadi decided to run for president, he knew Afshari was the man for the job.
“We knew we were not going to win,” Amirahmadi said. “Politics is all about process, democracy is about process. I believe strongly in process rather than result.”
Rather, Amirahmadi and Afshari focused on educating the worldwide population about Iran and the steps Iran should take to achieve success.
The campaign was publicized through the media with articles published in sources ranging from The New Yorker and CNN to Foreign Policy magazine.
Amirahmadi’s campaign also conquered the cyber world, holding one of the most successful Reddit: Ask Me Anything sessions, with 37,000 upvotes.
Amirahmadi also gained the support of the Iranians, claiming that 80 percent of the Iranian population supported his plan to improve relations with the U.S.
The problem was not with the voters but with the government itself, which barred him from even registering for the election.
“They told me that you cannot register because you are too popular and you cannot become president,” Amirahmadi said.
As a dual citizen of Iran and the U.S., Amirahmadi offers a distinctive viewpoint and believes that tension between the U.S. and Iran originated with the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
He posits that the revolution succeeded by dispelling a dictatorship in Iran and forcing the United States to draw back its influence there. Still, he admitted this withdrawal has caused problems for the Iranian government.
“There is always this tension between the revolutionary leader and the pragmatic leader,” Amirahmadi said, explaining the president of Iran plays the role of a pragmatic leader and is often forced to comply with the demands of the revolutionary leader. “That revolution changed everything,” he said.
He explained the modern U.S.-Iranian struggle comes down to a lack of communication. “The United States has problems with Iran,” Amirahmadi said, “but these are global issues.”
He explained the real problem is the absence of trust between the two countries; thus, the future of U.S.-Iranian relations rests in the hands of current rulers who Amirahmadi believes have the intent to come to a settlement.
Students gave the presentation mixed reviews.
“He was very optimistic about the future and did not take a pro-Iranian or pro-American side. In my opinion he gave a lot of arguments for both groups,” Kip Clark ’16 said.
“He said he had specific ideas about how to solve the problems between the U.S. and Iran, but he was actually very vague about those solutions,” Elna McIntosh ’16 said. “Maybe he thought we wouldn’t understand if he went into too much detail, but he might have played it too safe.”
Amirahmadi has high hopes for Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, and will continue to travel and spread awareness about Iran.
“I don’t know how much power we have, but I can tell you one thing: if we work together, we have tremendous power,” Amirahmadi said. “The time has come that both sides come together and listen to the voice of reason.”