The recent Iranian presidential elections and the win by Hassan Rohani have made Iranians happy, says Paris-based Iranian journalist Nooshabeh Amiri. She acknowledges, however that there are many obstacles that will prevent Rohani from making the necessary changes in the regime’s policies.

The Jerusalem Post interviewed Amiri, a journalist based in Paris who left Iran in 2005 after being persecuted by the government. She and her husband, Houshang Asadi, spent time in and out of prisons, surviving torture and the loss of their home in Iran.

Amiri is an editor for the Iranian website Rooz, made up, mostly, of exiled Iranian journalists and published in France.

She understands that the election was not completely democratic and that the candidates allowed to run were pre-selected, but compares it to the last vote four years ago when incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beat a leader of the Green Movement, Mir Hussein Mousavi, in what many thought was a fraudulent election.

This time, she said, the candidate supported by the reformist forces won.

Amiri explained that Iranian exiles were divided on whether to vote in the elections from abroad.

“I am against the regime and that is why I did not vote myself,” she said, adding that she understands those who did vote and their good intentions.

Amiri and her husband Asadi were interviewed in an article in The New York Times at the end of last year and described how they were both imprisoned in 1974 during the rule of the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

Asadi told how, as a communist journalist, he was thrown in prison and befriended another prisoner who eventually became the current supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In an added twist, Asadi was later arrested by the Islamic Republic, tortured, and sentenced to death. He was released six years later after lying about his religious faith and loyalty to the regime, according to the interview in the Times.

Amiri told the Post that she supports any steps that put pressure on the regime for it to change its policies, both domestically and abroad – including its support for Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

The majority of Iranians are against the current situation and the government’s policies, she said. She went on to complain about European countries such as Germany and France, that allow certain business relations with Iran.

Asked if those who are opposed to the regime would support a Western attack on the country, she responded, “I have not seen anybody who is for war, but there are so many that are against the Islamic regime.”

Amiri explained that sanctions and pressure by the international community have worked in some ways, though they have not been perfect.

“Look at the members of the government who visit all the European countries while at the same time they are violating human rights. Why are they allowed to go to these countries?”

She does not see an armed opposition movement like that in Syria succeeding in Iran because, she says, Iranians are generally pacifists.

The online newspaper Amiri works for is read in Iran and people often need to come up with ways to break through the online censorship, which is very strong.

“The regime wants to cut off the relationship between the Iranians outside of the country and those inside,” she said.

Asked what she thinks about Israel, Amiri responded, “Iran and Israel could be close friends for so many different reasons and their relations could be like those that we had during the Shah’s regime.”

There was an Israeli embassy in Iran at the time and relations between the two were like those with any other country, she said. While Iranians tend to support the Palestinians Amiri said, they were not as strongly against Israel as is the current regime.

“The regime needs enemies to stay in power,” she said.

In Iran, Amiri said, her neighbor, who was one of her best friends, was Jewish. She also said that she would like to visit Israel in the future.

What is important, Amiri said, is that there are cracks within the regime.

At the beginning of the Islamic Republic under its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the regime was united, but “Khamenei does not have the same kind of power. They do not even accept him from inside the government,” she said. “In the 1980s and ’90s the regime was stronger.”

Amiri concluded, “My life is already ruined, half of my life spent passing through prisons, losing my job, house, country, and having to immigrate – it is horrible,” she said.

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