Macomb, IL – A native of Iran hopes this month's disputed presidential election helps pave the way for a more meaningful democracy in that nation.
Large protests started after incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner amid allegations of fraud in the vote count. Witnesses say hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Tehran to mourn those killed in clashes over the election result.
Iraj Kalantari says the events that are unfolding in Iran could prove to be signficant, though he cautions that true democracy takes time.
"I think patience in development and emergence of democracy, unfortunately, isn't as fast as one wishes," says Kalantari. "But I think we will have taken this step that will be a good one toward a better system next time."
Kalantari was born in Tehran. He left Iran in 1966 when he was still a teenager. He says he's always followed what happens in Iran and still has relatives who live there. He has not talked to them about the recent election.
Kalantari, who is chair of the Mathematics Department at Western Illinois University, feels technology is making a difference in what is happening, just as it has in Iranian revolutions in the past. He points out transistor radios allowed ordinary people in the fields to hear moving speeches about land reform proposals in the 1960s.
When the Shah was overthrown in the 1970s, speeches by Ayatollah Khomeini were recorded on cassette, duplicated, and circulated to people around the country. That helped people understand what changes were taking place.
Kalantari says it's estimated that more than half of Iran's current population is less than 25 years old. He says they're tech savvy and they're using that technology to connect and unite.
"Without this connectedness through messaging, texting, cellphones and the like, I don't think we would have as united a front in opposition that we do see now," says Kalantari.
Foreign news organizations have been barred from reporting on Tehran's streets as the protests against the election result continue. Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi allege the election was rigged. They believe Mousavi defeated Ahmadinejad.
Kalantari says this is an educational process. It's allowing the rest of the world to focus on Iran and learn more about the country. He says it's meaningful for Iran to know the rest of the world is interested.