I watched the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on 11th September 2011 on television in Iran's Evin Prison. Although I had a feeling I was witnessing an incredibly pivotal event, I did not grasp just how significant this event, which took place at the start of the third millennium, was, and that it would soon trigger other events and reactions that would shape global politics in the first decades of the new century.
Reactions in Iran
Naturally, responses to the events of 9/11 differed around the world. I would like to focus here specifically on the reactions in Iran. These unexpected and astonishing attacks were seen by the Iranian public as an appalling crime and a human catastrophe and were, for this reason, condemned immediately. At the time, the reformist, moderate government of Mohammad Khatami was in power; the parliament was controlled by a clear majority of reformists; culture, press and politics were all dominated by young intellectuals and defenders of civil society, who were in favour of an improvement in relations with the West and America.
The Iranian president was one of the first heads of government to condemn the 9/11 catastrophe. Ayatollah Montazeri, one of the country's most senior religious leaders, justified his condemnation of the bloodbath on the basis of religious scriptures. The Iranian parliament also condemned the attack.
After some hesitation and in vaguely worded statements, the conservatives and fundamentalists also added their voices to this condemnation. Using his own particular brand of speech, Ayatollah Khamenei, the leader of Iran's fundamentalists, also condemned the attacks.
The young people of Iran in particular very openly demonstrated their sympathy and solidarity with the American people and the families of the victims, which also included a number of Iranians. In a symbolic religious ceremony, young people took to the streets to demonstrate their sympathy, dressed in black and carrying candles. In these circumstances, even if there was any small extremist, anti-Western group that delighted in the terrorist attacks on America, they were not able to show their thoughts and feelings publicly.
Background to the Iranian reaction to 9/11
There are specific historical, cultural and religious reasons for these reactions in Iran and I would like to examine these in more detail now.
By Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari; Translated by Aingeal Flanagan
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