National News

'The situation is pretty terrible:' Iran native in Raleigh hopes for end to deadly protests

Posted January 1, 2018 5:53 p.m. EST

— Nationwide protests in Iran saw their most violent night on New Year’s Eve. People with guns tried to overrun military bases and police stations before security forces stopped them.

At least 12 people have been killed in the demonstrations, which are the largest in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election. The unrest started in Mashhad, with a protest over economic issues, and has spread to several cities with protesters chanting against the government and supreme leader.

The unrest in Iran hits home for many in the Triangle. For those who grew up in Iran and moved to North Carolina, the violent clashes are a difficult reminder of their homeland.

Dr. Assad Meymandi, a Raleigh psychiatrist and well-known philanthropist, grew up in Iran prior to moving to Raleigh in the early 1960s. He last visited his homeland in the 70s, just before the revolution, the overthrow of Shah and the Iran hostage crisis.

Meymandi has extended family in Iran and pays attention to the political and social struggles. The recent deadly protests of the regime erupted across Iran over skyrocketing living costs and a deepening economic divide.

Meymandi said the core of the problems is longstanding religious and cultural differences.

“The manifestation of those ills, cultural ills, come through economics, oppression, banning people from leaving the country,” he said.

Meymandi says the truth about the situation in Iran is smothered by the country’s state-owned media.

“The regime is oppressive. They kill people. They imprison people,” he said. “The situation is pretty terrible, intolerable.”

Meymandi is not a fan of the current regime, but he’s also critical of President Donald Trump’s social media posts calling out the conflict. He believes a call for dialogue on both sides makes more sense.

“Encouraging adversity, encouraging anger instead of dialogue and love is a disservice,” he said.

Following the revolution of 1979 and the hostage crisis, Meymandi said he can no longer return to his native country. From his adopted home, he hopes freedom will rise.

“I’m hoping the progressive factions that are fighting now will overcome the adversity of oppression,” he said.

Some Iranian-Americans said the current government in Iran is oppressive, but they worry that sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries are hurting lower and middle income families there.