Campaign Releases New Study on the Views of Civil Society in Iran

June 22, 2015—Civil society in Iran remains steadfast and unequivocal in its support for the nuclear negotiations, and its members hope for an agreement that will end years of sanctions and isolation, according to a new study by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Expectations of the benefits of an accord to Iran’s economy and for political and cultural freedoms in the country, however, are more measured, reflecting uncertainties regarding the Rouhani administration’s ability to translate the lifting of sanctions into gains for ordinary Iranians.

In the study, High Hopes, Tempered Expectations: Views from Iran on the Nuclear Negotiations, released today by the Campaign, the views of a cross-section of Iranian civil society on the effects of the outcome of the P5+1 negotiations, set to conclude on June 30, 2015, are presented.

“Iranian civil society has spoken, and they want peace and re-engagement with the world,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the Campaign. “If an accord is reached, the world must stand by the people of Iran in their next endeavor: the realization of their basic rights and freedoms.”

Among the key findings in the 34-page study:

  • The respondents were unanimous in their support for an accord and in the belief that failure to reach an agreement would result in economic disaster, increased political and cultural repression, and possibly war.
  • Seventy-one percent of respondents expect economic benefits from an accord, but one-fifth of those fear these benefits could be lost to ordinary Iranians due to governmental mismanagement.
  • Twenty-five percent of all respondents expect any economic benefits to reach only the wealthy and connected, due to entrenched corruption.
  • Sixty-one percent believe a deal would enable political and cultural reforms, as a politically strengthened Rouhani administration could now turn its focus to such issues.
  • Thirty-six percent expected no improvement in political or cultural freedoms, citing either Rouhani’s lack of authority or his willingness given his meager record over the past two years.

Download the report here

“Evident throughout these interviews is a nation longing for a relief from the threat of war and thirsty for reform,” said Ghaemi, “Hope of achieving this has seemed to bring the first cracks of light into a collective consciousness in Iran that has been remarkably black for years.”

For the study, the Campaign conducted in-depth interviews with 28 prominent members of civil society, including former members of Parliament, journalists, academics, lawyers, economists, filmmakers, writers, publishers, actresses, playwrights, activists, and family members of political prisoners. All of the interviews took between May 13, 2015 and June 2, 2015, and were conducted in Persian.

The study’s findings contrasted with the Campaign’s July 2014 study of Iranian civil society’s views on the talks, indicating that since that time, for many, there is a growing gulf between what they hope for and what they expect.

A significant portion of the respondents questioned the Rouhani’s administration’s ability to shepherd the country back to economic health even if an accord is reached, questioning either its managerial competency or its ability to confront rampant corruption and powerful vested interests committed to maintaining the current economic structure.

Others questioned Rouhani’s willingness to enact economic, political, or cultural reforms, noting with dismay his lack of authority in the country and his meager record over the last two years even in areas under his direct control.

Despite these fears—and the fact that this is a nation scarred by eight years of mismanagement, corruption, and repression under the former Ahmadinejad administration, the toughest sanctions regime that the international community has imposed on a country to date, and two years of little change under a president who was elected on a platform of reform—there was palpable sense of hope ran through the interviews.

“We are a society that wants to live with the rest of the world. We want to be connected to the entire world. These conditions of isolation from the rest of the world are intolerable,” said the Novelist Aboutorab Khosravi.

Reflecting a sentiment held strongly by every respondent, the lawyer Nemat Ahmadi put it most succinctly: “People hope that when they wake up on the morning of July 1, they would hear that an agreement has been reached.”