Iran is a country where the ruling class seems to thrive on hostility to the west and where much of the population is repressed, and living in dire poverty.
Iranians are now poised to vote in a new president, so what impact could this vote have for Iranians and the international community.?
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi spoke to euronews. She was recognised for championing democracy and human rights in her home country. She now lives in exile.
euronews’ Isabelle Kumar: “In past elections we’ve heard of political dissidents being persecuted, targeted. What are you hearing now?”
Ebadi: “Those events occurred in 2009. At that time, due to the extreme violence of the government, protests in the streets stopped. But the people are now manifesting their displeasure by different means and are showing they are not happy.”
euronews: “The people are also scared, are they not, because in the past universities were a hub of political activity and we get the sense, here at least, that there’s a sense of apathy, that youth are too scared to become politically engaged.”
Ebadi: :Our youth are not indifferent and they are active. That is why, today, many of our students are in jail and others have been expelled from universities.”
Bernard Smith, from the United States, sent a video question: “How significant is this election?”
Isabelle Kumar added: “This is something we ask ourselves, because could this election be a turning point or with the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in power, can we expect just more of the same?”
Ebadi: “These elections are not free, like previous ones, and the final decision, with respect to important political issues, lies with Mr Khamenei. In my opinion, the election itself is not important. We must wait and see if, as in 2009, people go out onto the streets or not.”
euronews: Do you think that the voting process is fair, given that already that the Guardian Council has selected the candidates, can we expect that, at least to be fair?”
Ebadi: “The current election organisation and supervision system, in my opinion, is fraudulent, and that is why I have suggested free elections are held under the supervision of the UN. Of course, I know that the government will not accept this. Only international supervision will prevent electoral fraud.”
Alicia, from Spain, also sent a video question, asking about the atomic project: “I want to know how the outcome of these elections will affect Iran’s nuclear programme.”
Isabelle Kumar added: “Said Jalili is considered one of the front runners in this election, he’s also Iran’s nuclear negotiator. If he were elected could we expect a change of tack from Iran, regarding its nuclear programme?”
Ebadi: “Whether the winner is Saeed Jalili or someone else, it will not alter [Iran’s] nuclear policy. Because in this area [Supreme Leader] Ali Khamenei is the only one who makes decisions and he will not let the President make changes.”
euronews: “There has been pressure from the international community, in the form of sanctions, you’ve spoken out against those, but what alternative does the west have when its negotiating partner is intransigent?”
Ebadi: “I’m against a military invasion or economic sanctions, because it causes a lot of harm to people. Instead, [the west] should adopt policies which directly target those who violate human rights. Instead of punishing Iran with economic sanctions, punish those responsible for violations of state and human rights.”
Irena is also from Spain. Her video question concerns life in Iran now: “I would like to know what the real situation in Iran is, because it seems quite complicated. Thank you very much.”
Isabelle Kumar asked: “In some respects, Shirin Ebadi, our vision of Iran is fed by films like ‘Argo’, by the hard-line rhetoric that we hear from the ruling class. In a nutshell what’s the real Iran like nowadays?”
Ebadi: “The feminist movement in Iran is very strong; one of the strongest existing in the Middle East. Our union movement is strong; many of our organisers are in jail. We also have a very strong student movement which has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of student activists. The Iranians are peaceful, because for 34 years they have lived with the revolution and they also endured the eight-year war with Iraq; this is too much for one generation. So while the Iranians are not happy with the situation at the moment, they want any changes to be made peacefully. They are tired of war, of violence.”
euronews: “Finally, you have been a champion of the cause of women, of the repressed in Iran. What’s your message to those people?”
Ebadi: [To] The people of Iran, you must resist to win your rights. Keep your resistance peaceful and know that victory will come.”
To find out who the next ‘I-talk’ guest will be, or send us written or video questions, check on www.euronews.com, or follow Isabelle Kumar or euronews on social media.