Mass protests and pun­ishing reprisals in the wake of Iran’s June 12 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions strike a chord world­wide. Kamran Dad­khah, asso­ciate pro­fessor of eco­nomics at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, fled his native Iran for the United States 29 years ago. He believes that decades of oppres­sion led to the cur­rent unrest, and that the oppo­si­tion is directed not only at the elec­tion, but at the gov­ern­ment. Dad­khah shares his per­spec­tive on the con­flict and on what is to come for Iran.

What is your reac­tion to what is going on there now?

It’s as if I am reliving an bad dream. I feel for the Iranian youth, who are deprived of many joys that people in the West take for granted. But I also remember that after the rev­o­lu­tion, an eight-​​year war that left so many dead and caused so much damage, Ira­nians ended up worse off. I hope I am wrong, but I am afraid that this dream doesn’t have a happy ending.

How does the 1979 rev­o­lu­tion com­pare with what is hap­pening now?

In 1979, people—especially the youth—wanted freedom in Iran. The dif­fer­ence is that nei­ther the Shah of Iran nor the army was as brutal as the present regime and the Rev­o­lu­tionary Guard. In addi­tion, the rev­o­lu­tion of 1978–79 was based on the ide­ology of Shiism, a branch of Islam, and was led by Aya­tollah Khomeini, who promised a demo­c­ratic society based on the prin­ci­ples of Shiite Islam. No one has artic­u­lated any ide­ology or set of objec­tives for the present-​​day move­ment. People today need to artic­u­late the changes they want to see happen and not just oppose the status quo.

Why is there so much oppo­si­tion to the elec­tion results?

As Pres­i­dent Obama noted, there isn’t that much dif­fer­ence between Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadinejad and his oppo­nent Mir Hus­sein Mous­savi. People are protesting 30 years of oppres­sion, and dis­crim­i­na­tion against women and reli­gious minori­ties. More­over, pop­ulist poli­cies of Ahmadinejad have resulted in 25 per­cent infla­tion and more than 12 per­cent unem­ploy­ment (these are offi­cial fig­ures; many econ­o­mists in Iran believe the true fig­ures are much higher). Finally, many believe that Ahmadinejad’s bel­liger­ence toward the world, his denial of the Holo­caust, and his irra­tional ani­mosity toward Israel have iso­lated Iran and dis­cred­ited the nation.

Pro­testers are orga­nizing via e-​​mail, text mes­sage and Twitter. Has tech­nology fueled the con­flict, or would these protests still occur without the use of these technologies?

Each rev­o­lu­tion uses the latest tech­nology avail­able. In the con­sti­tu­tional rev­o­lu­tion of 1906, Ira­nians used Shab­nameh (printed leaflets dis­trib­uted during the night). In the 1978–79 rev­o­lu­tion, fol­lowers of Khomeini used tape record­ings to spread the mes­sage. We are in the age of Twitter, YouTube, and the iPhone.

What does the death of Neda Agha-​​Soltan rep­re­sent to those seeking freedom in Iran?

Rev­o­lu­tions thrive on sym­bols, par­tic­u­larly in Shiite Iran, which empha­sizes the mar­tyrdom of the Third Imam more than 1300 years ago. The image of this young woman dying would haunt every decent Iranian. It is unfor­tu­nate that many have to die to get rid of a cor­rupt and despotic regime.

Amer­i­cans have taken an interest in the protests in Iran. Are Ira­nians aware of the Amer­ican sup­port, and are Amer­ican actions doing any­thing to fur­ther the cause?

Yes. Ira­nians can access the BBC, Fox News, CNN, Voice of America, and Radio Farda (the Per­sian sec­tion of Radio Free Europe). The U.S. gov­ern­ment reac­tion at the begin­ning was timid and dis­ap­pointing. For­tu­nately, in Tuesday’s press con­fer­ence, Pres­i­dent Obama came out force­fully in favor of “people power.” Despite years of pro­pa­ganda by the Com­mu­nists and now Islamic fun­da­men­tal­ists, many around the world look up to the United States as the beacon of hope for freedom.

Lastly, what are the pos­sible out­comes in Iran?

Iran has been a place where, within cer­tain limits, ideas could be dis­cussed openly. How­ever, given what has ensued since the elec­tion, the most likely out­come will be a harsh mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence dom­i­nance of the country. Another pos­si­bility is the erup­tion of chaos; people are afraid that will cause dis­in­te­gra­tion of their country.