After a long week of General Assembly debates, the U.S. State Department sent the Iranian President back to his country with an ancient gift created at the time of Cyrus the Great. I see my navy blue vision coming into fruition.
As I followed each moment of the 68th General Assembly, I was pleased to see some of the visions and hopes I had concerning U.S.-Iranian relations were developing for a more harmonious future.
While I was closely following, as a U.N. DPI/NGO Representative, I had my own meetings to attend. On September 26 I had a full schedule which started off with an event held at UNICEF, "Recommendations for a Post-2015 Development Agenda: Recapturing the vision of a 'World Fit for Children.'" I was invited by Sarah Stevenson, U.N. Representative of the Child Fund Alliance, which sponsored the event along with the U.N. Millennium Campaign and MYWorld:The U.N. Global Survey for a Better World. I learned about the NINEISMINE campaign. This campaign advocates for children in India to have access to nine percent of their country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), six percent for education and three percent for health.
Listening to kids from India speak and sing about their rights as children, I was impressed by India's progress. I couldn't help but wonder about the children in Iran -- whether the disabled kids had access to the same rights. I listened to a blind girl speak about her right to education, someone in a wheelchair speak about access to healthcare, another one speaking in her native dialect about better job opportunities, all while a young boy was translating into English for the audience.
The information these children provided was shocking. Half of all children experience physical violence before they reach age eight. One hundred and fifteen million are in the worst forms of child labor. One hundred and fifty million girls were subject to sexual violence. As one-third of the world population is under the age of 18, freeing children from violence and exploitation should be prioritized in the 21st century.
Right after this event, I attended a Steering Committee meeting for the NGO Committee on Children's Rights in preparation for our upcoming event in observance of World Mental Health Day on October 10.
Towards the evening, I was invited by my good friend Mrs. Hanifa Mezoui, Senior Advisor for Humanitarian Affairs and Civil Society at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) to the opening ceremony of the, "Land of Tolerance," exhibition in the United Nations Secretariat building. I was happy to see photographs by Reza Deghati, an international award-winning photographer and fellow of the National Geographic Society, which depicted Christians, Muslims and Jewish communities living side by side in Azerbaijan. Going through his beautiful photos, I noticed the legacy of Cyrus was still present in Azerbaijan today. This brought back memories of how peaceful Iran was while I was growing up.
His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the U.N. High Representative for UNAOC spoke eloquently in support of developing a land of tolerance in many countries. I imagined President Rouhani one day join him, recreating the land of tolerance Iran once was.
I was enjoying myself at this event, but I had to rush to get uptown in time to hear the new Iranian President speak to over 1000 Iranians from all over the country. It took place after his address to Asia Society. I arrived at the Hilton and was seated at a table with a group of young people who came from California, Connecticut and Chicago. Alen Takhsh, a young Assyrian/Armenian Immigration lawyer from Chicago and co-chair of PAAIA NexGen (Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans), expressed a great desire to visit Iran which he missed so much, saying:
For many young Iranian American professionals who left Iran at a young age or have not been back in years, mostly due to safety concerns, so much of the country represents their childhood innocence. In no uncertain terms, better relations between Washington D.C. and Tehran would mean a return to that innocence.
Though the President's speech was generic in that it brought hope and energy to the audience, I was anxious to see if he would acknowledge any of my navy blue vision (accepting existence of multicultural society of Iran, the Edict of Cyrus and upholding human rights). I was pleased to hear that he did.
Mr. Rouhani delightfully announced a 2700-year-old winged griffin-shaped drinking vessel (rhyton) which was being held by the U.S. State Department was returned to Iran. I thought I was dreaming. Perhaps this object was a message from the spirit of Cyrus the Great himself. If President Rouhani could not bring back the ancient wisdom of Cyrus's era, at least he now has this physical object to remind him of the multicultural society of Ancient Persia that existed.
After 35 years of an Islamic Republic regime, he even acknowledged that Iran not only belongs to Muslims but to Iranians who are Zoroastrian, Christian (e.g. Assyrians and Armenians), Jewish, Bahai and other faiths. He invited the Iranian diaspora who have not been back to their homeland in the last 35 years to return with their expertise to improve the country. I looked over to the young lawyer from Chicago, his eyes were beaming with hope for a better tomorrow.
In terms of improving Iran's diplomacy regarding nuclear energy and relations with the U.S., he proclaimed that it would be in the hands of Foreign Minister Mr. Javad Zarif. To my surprise, not only does Mr. Zarif have a Facebook page, but he has many fans with 351k likes. He utilizes social media to communicate his work transparently. This is ironic as Facebook and social media are known to be banned to the public in Iran.
The next day, I was even happier to hear that President Obama initiated a phone call with President Rouhani. If the 1st step towards peace was just one phone call away, why did it take so long? I'm sure Jeremy Gilley (Peace One Day) was even happier than I was to hear that these two are in attempts to make peace with each other and improve international relations.
Unfortunately, upon Mr. Rouhani's return not all Iranians were pleased to hear this. Due to 35 years of chanting, "Death to America and Death to Israel," this should come as no surprise. They are not mentally prepared to understand that peace between the two countries is necessary, and that "all human beings are born free and equal, in dignity and rights (Universal Declaration of Human Rights)." Maybe this can be the new slogan they chant. I think Mr. Rouhani has a lot to do to improve the psychosocial wellbeing of his nation and change fanatic anti-American mentality. How could the people of Iran accept peace with America as well as other countries when they don't have or understand universal human rights?
Is it possible that the new Iranian President Rouhani with the help and support of the U.S. becomes the 1st Islamic Clergy to separate mosque and state, the way John Locke described to allow for diversity and not social disorder to thrive?