Tehran on Obama: "the hatred runs deep" but "there is a slight chance that there will be direct talks"

An anti-US billboard in Tehran. Photo: Olaf Koens.

On the day that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, our Observer Olaf Koens happened to be in Tehran. He tells us how the Iranian capital reacted to the news.


"The new administration will realise that the problems in both Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be solved without Iran"

Olaf Koens is one of our Dutch Observers who is travelling in Iran.

As the polls opened in America, night was falling over Tehran. Seeing as the results would only be known in the early morning of November 5, most Iranians didn't stay awake to watch the story unfold. Despite the news that the Iranian interior minister, Ali Kordan, was sacked, the presidential elections dominated all conversation, from newspapers to people on the streets.

The spiritual leader of the country, Ali Khamenei, last week told a group of students that the hatred against the United States ran deep. "We have problems over more then just a couple of political issues," he said. Analysts interpret his message as a sign that Iran isn't looking for closer ties with the [country known as] "Great Satan", and that politicians shouldn't expect too much of Obama.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, already congratulated Barack Obama on winning the election. "I hope you will prefer real public interests and justice and seize the opportunity to serve people so that you will be remembered with high esteem," he said. He added that "the great nation of Iran welcomes basic and fair changes in US policies and conduct, especially in the region [of the Middle East]." Ahmadinejad hopes that America's "war-oriented politics" will be replaced by the ones advocating justice, human rights, friendship and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.

With a historic victory for Barack Obama, there is a slight chance that there will be direct talks between Iran and the United States. Since the revolution in 1979 and the siege of the American embassy that followed, there have been no diplomatic relations between the two countries. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently suggested strengthening ties.

European diplomats in Tehran are slightly optimistic. The new administration will realise that the problems in both Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be solved without Iran. Barack Hussein Obama in any case impresses the Middle East with his name. Not only is Hussein an important figure in the Islamic religion, his surname translates both in Farsi and Arabic as "he that is with us".

Iran became an important topic in the presidential race. John McCain has repeatedly hammered Obama for being willing to speak to president Ahmadinejad of Iran. Obama said in debates that he believed in a foreign policy in which the United States negotiates with its "enemies".

In the meantime, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in quite a lot of turmoil itself. With the price of crude oil declining rapidly, it has trouble putting its budget together. Inflation is high in the country. The national bank recently assessed it at a staggering 29 percent."


The front page of an Iranian newspaper on Tuesday.

The two presidential candidates caricatured.

"If Iran produces nuclear missiles, America will start a war anyhow"

Mohammed is a pipeline engineering student and Obama fan from Tehran.

I absolutely favour Obama. I think he is a calm and friendly man. It is an absolute historic moment. I didn't expect him to win. Sometimes I am afraid that only a small group of people rule the world, and I didn't think they would let Obama win the election.

I have a lot of family around the world, from Germany to Canada to the United States. My uncle teaches at Stanford University. Still, I wouldn't want to go and live there. I don't want to leave my family and girlfriend alone here in Tehran. Maybe only to go study for a while.

Life in Tehran is very expensive. If you want to support a family, rent an apartment and drive a car, you may need to have around €1000 a month. Even the best engineers make only €400 a month. Now the government has promised that there will be free water, and free gas. Still I am paying a lot of money for it. Corruption is a big problem. When you drive your car in the wrong lane, which is quite normal here, you'll have to pay a lot of money. When I'm going out with my girlfriend it is quite possible that police stop you and ask you why you are not married. In order to avoid problems, you should pay.

I believe that Iran has the absolute right for nuclear power. But I am afraid of war. It doesn't really matter who is the president in the White House. I'm afraid that if Iran produces nuclear missiles, America will start a war anyhow."

Official billboards painted around the former American Embassy in Tehran

"We will give in against the dictatorship of no government, even the United States".

These murals are painted in the area around Taleqani Avenue, where the US Embassy was situated before the 1979 revolution, during which 52 American diplomats were taken hostage by revolutionaries for 444 days. Photos by Olaf Koens.


Iran a friend Or enimy

The american election has finished with presidenta has a Muslim roots , and nobody can be sure that the American strategy against Iran will be changed or not , But definitely Obama will face huge challenges to pass the Iranian issue


These countries have to get educated and join the civilised world,Saudia Arabia.Egypt,jordan Kuwait ,all have countries not built on hate for the western world,all muslims living in the west enjoy thier freedom of religion ,and live quite happily ,although all humans are not perfect and we in the west have our fair share of ignorance.but we dont have extremist . and we do our best to eliminate our ignorance,Iran and others need to address thier fanatical ideaology of ignorance and hatred.

Get educated loool this

Get educated loool this hilarious big time and "freedom" you know nothing really common you are telling me that west treat their citizens equally bull shit! if somebody wants to be educated its for sure you dudeeee dont talk about extremist its created by the west anyway ......and about the hatred its a very normal reaction to your actions....seriously u need to get yourself a book and read history or tell you what no need coz anyway you will stay in the dark shadow...have fun and go learn something.....salam*still laughing by the way*

and hey jo walker dont talk about Egypt :) ok or you might end up with your so called extremists in one bus lool

Hold up mates

I get you don't like each other maybe don't understand. The Egyptians made geomatry and surveying cause they got one or two big rivers and when the suckers flooded they had to run like the dickens when they got back they had to figure out whose chuck on land was whose so they didn't get into fights. They built bloody great prymids with no high tech stuff that still stand today those things haven't fallen over yet and they were built long before any of us was born. The prymid is an amazing shape they had to be way smart to develop it. The heat of the sun doesn't change the climate much so the old dudes were well preserved. They had an orderly society long before any of us figured any of this stuff out and they are still a civilization they haven't fallen apart at any time and alot of civilizations did or made terrible mistakes. Egypt has nothing to do with this insanity I know and I'm an American. I know this dude is way intelligent and he has to get used to English which is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. Also that this guy is well studied probably smarter than both of us because he had to adjust to a new language a totally knew thing. When you learned to walk you probably looked pretty funny. When you learned to read you probably tripped over a bunch of words. What we need to remember is the other dude eats too. Our common ground not differences. We have a choice we can recognize what it is in ourselves which leads us to kill each other over and over again and not do that anymore try to create a new fabric of the community which includes everyone learning from the mistakes of our fore bears and drawing from their strengths as well or we can become extinct as an entire race. We are on the cliff gentlemen and we gotta decide whether we are going to shove our friends off it in hatred and risk having the exact same thing happen to us later. Or grab them and say this whole thing is foolish let's find something to eat man. The kids they run around play and do not bother with hatred mostly. They live each day eating, playing, working, learning and do not think they know it all. They are wise beyond what we regard as wisedom and kind beyond kindness that we understand and loving in a way we forgot along time ago. Why is it the top rock didn't fall from the prymid and kill someone it was because it was balanced and your ancestors knew about balance the question is do we? What I've seen we don't we keep falling off the bike of history because we keep leaning too far one way or the other and scraping our legs and then we run screaming for government to fix it they put a bandade on it and we go back and do the same wrong things again hoping for a different outcome thinking we are better than each other when we are all screwed up. The guilt and the judgement is not the answer. What we did wrong yesterday we should remember and try to do it differently today. The only person you have to be better than is yourself yesterday. All you are going to get out of beating up on each other is sore knuckles, bruised ribs and a headache.

These people had a civilization before we did and hamurabi's code though it isn't perfect was the first attempt at law and order it was written way before justinian code which makes up most of the civilized world's law today. My ancestors were trying not to starve, freeze, be killed by someone else or get eaten by an animal when Egypt's ancestors had advanced mathematics, law, a language probably even medicine and even furniture when we didn't have a civilized form of government at all, still couldn't figure out what was wrong with people, a few grunts and some hand signals at most but the one thing we had that you civilized folks don't appear to have is one lick of common sense. We stole the stuff we needed from other cultures to build our society and we didn't always get it right. The ones who say Hey I don't get this stuff I'm afraid I might break this damn thing and someone please show me how to not do that are the ones that will make it. That we were all clumsy once, that we didn't know what we were doing and we figured it out or thought we did that is the feeling we need to keep that will save us. Be curious children that's your only hope.

I'd love to one day go to Egypt to wander around the pyramids and learn how they were made maybe when the shooting stops and the hatred stops. When there is respect for each and everyone who lives on this earth and that they get to make their own decisions on whom to admire, whom to listen to, whom to love, what to enjoy and what to value. Look at your home as if you never saw it before that you are a foreigner like you don't understand it and you will learn more about it than you ever thought was possible in your wildest dreams. Look in awe at what was made before you were born and you'll find out what you need to know to be a child again and find some way out of this mess we are all in and remember what you believe is right rather than focusing on how the other guys beliefs are bad because you'll never change him unless you change yourself into the kind of person you wish everyone else was like. You have the ability and the power to change the way you live and decide what you believe in and what you think is wrong all you have to do is to grab it and use it to help yourself making yourself well and then go forth and learn. Everyone in this world is both a teacher and a student. Those who refuse to learn aren't very good teachers and are lousy students. Those who try to learn even if they think they can't end up great at both.

Why don't we tell about our cultures and families? Or things we like or don't like. So what sports are popular in Egypt and Iran? I know very little about either country only what I got out of history books which I know are sometimes out right lies or half truths. I'm curious about it I've never been to a middle eastern country because I'm left handed and they are not famous for tolerating people like that and rather than putting myself in a bad situation I stayed out of there. I can barely even sign my name with my right hand at all. The last time I tried to write with my right hand I passed out. So I just can't live in a society that hates left handed folks. I'm also a female so I figure that is another problem.

In my opinion both of you are very intelligent fellows yet that isn't what is going to solve our problems. You're both behaving as though you hate each other and using history or superiority to support your conclusion and that isn't how either of your country's people managed to survive at all. Accusing each other of extremism is pointless we need to examine our own mistakes our own insanity and recognize how we are contributing to the problems and what they are before we can figure them out.


The world's number 1 terrorist in this age and generation has been George W Bush. How I wish the was a way of trying this cant in the international court of justice. Who has killed more people in the world? Lets compare the following personalities; 1. Charles Taylor 9000 , 2. Osama Bin Laden 10000, 3.George W Bush 250,000 in Iraq only and over 50,000 in Afghanstan, number a reflections of national and combined NATO and alliged forces.

You are right sir

We need to write into the UN what we can prove is he violated Geneva as well as Nurenburg with his jails, with his prisoner abuse, also the Patriot act violates several parts of the US constitution. People in Germany were hung for doing the same things he did as ruler of the free world and we need to complain. To point that out to the UN so he will maybe have to answer for his actions but we have to wait until the new president is sworn in since he has power at the moment still and once the new president is in and he's out then he is a normal citizen and can be arrested finally. We have no solid evidence of key things we think he is guilty of. Yet not without a trial can we do anything to him since that is vigilantism and leads to chaos and insanity like it did in Salem with the witch hunts or the lynchings in the south of black people without a fair impartial trial.

We'll be doing what he did with even less justification than he had and destroying order and justice at the same time. We cannot justify destroying all we have created to get revenge on one individual who went the wrong way and did the wrong thing. We'll be murderers just like him if we do that. If we go after him and thirst for blood we'll have destroyed all we hold dear and that is what he wants. We have to decide whether we are going to let him tear us apart or make us afraid and full of hate or whether we decide what we believe is right is more important to hang onto than blood thirst, anger or outrage.

He picked the latter and became bitter as a result so which of these will you choose? My brother was senselessly killed and there was no justice at all I was angry but I decided my brother loved me so he didn't want that to happen. My fifth grade teacher who helped died from pancreatic cancer. Someone deliberately tried to murder me when I was 14 years old after torturing me for two years and nothing was ever done about any of it so I have some idea of how angry you must feel. It's important for you to know that all this happened and it was very difficult for me to decide what I decided to believe in but I did it. Yet I define me and I'm not going to let what happened in my past determine my future. Or how many times I was abused or hurt inside tell me who I am and what is important to remember I will not let that define what I believe in and no one should buy into the belief that fate rules their life no matter how it may seem in this land of broken dreams it isn't true unless we choice to believe it is like Bush did. That the ends justify the means. That's what he believes and there is no way of changing that but there is a way of changing how we decide to live and what we decide to believe in. So change that within yourself before judging anyone and you'll change the people around you. That is what we all must decide to do or we'll be just as awful as George W Bush with even less justification than he had. Also be guilty of hypocracy which is one thing he isn't guilty of which makes him a man at the very least and a patriot at the very most. It saddens me that I'm going to have to do this to a former guardsman. When I understood some of his reasons for doing what he did. Yet there needs to be a reconning if there is ever going to be peace and order or any chance for the future of the human race.

That's what Geneva and Nureburg was about determining the truth and taking the appropriate action as well as restoring order and creating peace finally. Also letting people know that the ones who did this denied them any form of justice will have to answer for what they decided to do. It's not America that can bring him to answer for what he has done it is the UN that has to. Since we have a biased jury here the facts cannot be weighed in any reasonable manner here and to have one in this country would either let him walk or be way too harsh. We have to let the UN decide his fate rather than his country where he still has influence. We need to hold back on this until Obama is sworn in otherwise it will lead to another farce of a hearing which he will get face time and waste everyone's time and more tax dollars which we cannot afford. He has to think he will get away with it before we can bring him to justice.

Trust me I'm a security puke I am very familiar with the whole deal. I know what I'm doing. Like a good hunter I know what I'm after and how to get what I want.