Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian presidential opposition candidate, addressed Virginia Tech students as a guest speaker of the International Relations Organization Wednesday night.
In his talk, Amirahmadi addressed three major causes for the current political strains in Iran. First, he elaborated on the fierce bi-partisanship that exists within the parliament, fueled by religion, nepotism and greed. Then, he discussed the need for transparency in all nuclear dealings with the nation's borders. Finally, he stressed a return to a globalized economy by improving U.S. relations and removing currents sanctions, which Amirahmadi believes will immediately ensue once the first two points have been resolved.
Amirahmadi also informed students of the vast difference in the electoral process of Iran. In Iran, individuals officially submit their names for candidacy only two months before elections are held. Two weeks later, the Guardian Council — a board of parliamentary leaders — approves six of the candidates to continue on to the public polls.
Some students at the event felt skeptical of Amriahmadi's decision to come to Tech, in the face of such a unique electoral system.
"I think it is extremely impractical that only four months away from the election in Iran, you would expect candidates to be campaigning at Iranian Universities, not American Universities," said Nabeel Chohan, a senior accounting major. "That being said, even if he does get approved by the guardian council, he will be viewed as an outsider, as someone who in his own words will be viewed as 'an imperialist.'"
Amirahmadi is one of the first presidential candidates in Iran's history to bring democratic ideas to a country struggling with economic sanctions, high unemployment and hyperinflation.
However, the origin of his beliefs began unlike many seen in American politics.
"I am a novelist and a poet. I have written many poems, many novels, and I am also a painter," Amirahmadi said. "Those types of artistic and literary interests make you quite radical, especially in a country like Iran; they make you politically minded. So party politics has always been in my blood."
When Amirahmadi came to the U.S. in search of higher education and opportunity, his political ideals began to take shape.
"When I came to this country 40 years ago, I first went to business school and got master's degree in management," Amirahmadi said. "I wasn't comfortable with it. In (my) blood there was always something public, a need for a public cause."
During this time, in the PhD program at Cornell, Amirahmadi found himself involved in many student movements.
"They were some of the more radical movements, and I enjoyed that because I was realizing that I needed to do more," Amirahmadi said. "The Iranian revolution was becoming a big issue and it was having an even bigger impact on me."
From there, he decided to use his education and passion to begin a career in civil service.
"I established the American-Iranian Council and started working on bringing politicians together," Amirahmadi said. "These politicians were of a high level and quality and I felt like a kid among them."
The International Relations Organization, a key player in brining Amirahmadi to Tech, was especially eager to welcome him.
"We stand to gain some very valuable insight," said Chad Demore, the vice president of IRO. "There's little that I or much of the organization really knows about that region and that country... this is a great opportunity to see the political differences between Iran and the United States."
Amirahmadi will continue his global campaign tour with U.C. Berkeley next. He will return to Iran to officially submit his name for candidacy sometime in late March and elections are expected to be held June 14.