Two Iranians living in the UK have different opinions on whether citizens‘ voices are heard under their country’s regime.
Mr Delkhasteh, an academic and author who moved from Iran to Britain in 1984, believes the regime is „totally incompatible with the rights of Iranians as citizens“.“Iranians are not even second-class citizens – they are zero-class citizens,“ the 57-year-old said.
He told Sky News how he fought in the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and how, at the time, he had been full of hope for change – despite fearing he would be killed.His own brother, Masoud, was shot dead while protesting peacefully during the revolution.At first the new regime seemed like „paradise on Earth“, he said, with people able to speak and debate freely.
But before long he saw the regime was failing to deliver the freedoms he had been expecting. He was fired from his teaching job for being too critical of the government.“Very early on, I started to see that something was going wrong,“ he said.“The people who I struggled with were all together during the revolution. Then they all started to separate.“How was it possible that you make a revolution for democracy and you end up in a worse state than before?“
Mr Delkhasteh is critical of the Guardian Council – the system approved by Iran’s supreme leader for selecting presidential candidates.
„The decision is made in advance who is going to be made president,“ he said.
„This is just a show election.“
At the last election, in 2009, when incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won against three challengers, concerns were expressed by the US and UK among others about alleged irregularities in the voting.
However, Abbas Edalat, who moved permanently to the UK in 1989, believes Iran has a stronger democracy than that seen in the likes of the UK or the US.
The computer science and maths professor at Imperial College, London, accepts the Guardian Council has „flaws“ – such as not allowing women to stand as candidates – but on the whole he believes Iranians‘ voices are being heard.
„Two thirds of the population are expected to take part in this election, so they don’t think this is a show,“ said Prof Edalat, 58.
„Anyone who thinks that is in a small minority of people who have an agenda for a secular regime in Iran, in line with the Western strategy.
„It was inevitable that there would be disillusionment after the revolution. The revolution was supported by 98% of the population, and I don’t think any government can keep 98% of people euphoric about the future – that can only happen in the heat of a revolution.
„The idea of Iran being undemocratic is a narrative in the Western media that’s been repeated thousands of times. If you listen to that all the time, you will become brainwashed and believe what you are told.
„But I have to counter that narrative – I would say that obviously there are flaws in the system in Iran, but there are more flaws in the way elections are run in the UK and the US.“
He says potential successors chosen by the Guardian Council have significant differences in both domestic and international policy, something he does not see happening in the West.
„Their differences are huge compared to the differences between the Labour Party and Conservative Party in the UK,“ said Prof Edalat.
„So the truth of the matter is that Iranians have a much bigger say in how the country should be run than the populations of the UK or the US.
„There is a Guardian Council in the UK and US too, but it’s invisible. It’s major political parties and corporations, donors – without their backing you don’t stand a chance as a serious candidate.“