On Great Divides and the Tension in Iran

Michael Manning (USA, UWC AC 2011-2013)

On 11 January, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was killed by a magnetic bomb attached to his car. This is not the first nuclear scientist to have lost their life in this manner. It seems a deliberate attack by someone, or some organization, on the hierarchy of Iran’s nuclear program. Considering the tension surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, the Iranian government suspects the killing of several nuclear scientists to be at the hands of Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

As an American, I am no stranger to US intervention, and I am no stranger to conflicts; there is barely a time I remember when the US wasn’t involved in an armed conflict. Now, as troops pull out of Iraq, the threat of armed conflict looms over Iran and the Strait of Hormuz. The US has placed significant sanctions on Iran and has encouraged others to follow in order to force Iran out of its nuclear program. As a result, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 35% of the world’s sea-born oil passes. In response, the United States has sent aircraft carriers to the Strait of Hormuz, warning that the closing of the Strait of Hormuz is a red line not to be crossed.

In light of these events, I have found even greater reason to appreciate the fact that my roommate is from Iran. Having the opportunity to hear the perspective of an Iranian citizen, and not of the government, has made me realize how vital it is to understand the difference between the two. I grew up in a very conservative family, and in a country riddled with Islamophobia, and I can imagine the ideas being thrown around back home at the moment. At the same time, the Iranian government portrays the nuclear scientists who lost their lives national heroes.

The number one thing which brought me to Atlantic College was Kurt Hahn and his ideals. Jokingly, my roommate likes to throw around the idea of me being President one day, but I suppose that’s the point. This isn’t to say that I think I would ever have the opportunity to make a run for the White House, but despite the fact that we may be joking, it is easy to see the value in the conversation. It’s not necessarily about the person at the top, but each individual in society. It’s a mentality we develop. When talking about international education, so the story goes, Kurt Hahn said that if he is able to put a future Arab King and a Jew on the same sailboat together, on which they would face a northeasterly gale, bringing them both to the point of seasickness, he would have done something for international education. The act of taking care of one another, or possibly saving one another, is at the very core of developing an empathic relationship with those around you. It is vital to an international education that aims to promote peace and sustainability.

It’s difficult to find a common denominator between two polar-opposite governments and societies, and that’s why it is so important to empathize with the individual, and not so much the society. It’s easy to turn the other cheek on a group of people, but an individual has a pair of eyes just like you, a body just like you, and a heart just like you; you can’t deny it and it’s harder to turn away from. Do I see it happening in the near future? Not really. The paradigm shift is not there for this generation of leaders, and I don’t know if it will be the case for our generation of leaders. What we can’t do is sit back and watch as the most complex issues of our time become exponentially more complicated with each generation. What we can do is work toward what we set out to do by joining the UWC movement. We must get inspired, and hence inspire others; we must engage with the people around us; we must empower ourselves and the people we come in contact with every day; and we must deliver on the aspirations we set out to achieve.

-United Words Team-

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