Hallo – This is Somaye Dehban, a devoted Dutchified Iranian whose life is quite interwoven with politics.
I am the creator and host of Your Native Analyst, a podcast for anyone who has ever wondered what is REALLY going on in Iran and the Middle East. And how on earth does that affect us in Europe and the Netherlands.
Join me every 2nd Tuesday of the month to hear about the reality of life in that part of the world.
Now let’s unveil this episode of Your Native Analyst.
Welcome to the first episode of Your Native Analyst. Thank you for showing up and tunning in.
These podcast series are my op-eds which is short for opinion-editorials; and to bring even more emphasis on it, they are my opinions on the subjects I discuss. I felt the urge and necessity to publish these op-eds because I noticed a gap in the information that is provided by the mainstream media to the non-natives who follow the news about Iran and by extension the middle east.
Of course with all the technology available, we can have the news translated from any language to our native language by artificial intelligence. However, what is missed out in these translations, or better to say what is lost in translation, is the underlying nuance. And in many cases, if not all, that underlying nuance is where the actual news is left.
For instance when Qasim Soleimni – the so-called Iranian General – was killed by the Americans, in January 2020, he was presented in the western media as an Iranian hero and a high ranking general in the Iranian Army.
But that’s not true: Qasim Soleimani was part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and technically that is not the Iranian army, that is a militia that was put together right after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 with the sole purpose of guarding the principles of the revolution.
The literal translation of the Persian name of this militia is Army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. While the Islamic Republic of Iran Army defends Iranian borders, according to the Iranian constitution, the Revolutionary Guard is intended to protect the country’s Islamic republic political system. And this militia only and only follows the direct orders of the supreme leader of Iran, who is not accountable towards any one or any group.
Also what is not mentioned is that, this militia, has its own media, has its own economic branch which owns over half of Iran’s infrastructure, it has its own social infrastructures in every neighborhood in the country and it is used to engineer elections and has about 350 thousands military personnel.
And these fact are really important information that impacts the positioning of this man.
This is just one example of how the information about Iran and Middle East by extension is not passed on in the mainstream media. And over the years, the frustration and miss-understandings and lack of a comprehensive picture, made me to start this podcast.
As the name says, I am a native of Iran in this context it means that I was born and raised in this country – in a rather conservative family who consciously kept me and my siblings out of political discussions. More on this in upcoming episodes.
I have been living out of Iran – my country of birth – for more than 15 years and for more than a decade, I have not been able to go back there. To be precise, since March 2009, I have not been back to Iran. It’s quite a long time.
Between October 2008 and March 2009 I followed an internship at UN in Iran to complete my graduate studies. When I came back to the Netherlands in March 2009, the plan was to hand over my thesis to the university and pack my belongings and head back to Iran.
However, in June 2009, there was a presidential election in Iran which was highly contested by the people. There were numerous indications that the election’s outcome was manipulated and millions of people came to the streets to express their concerns. The Iranian government opened fire on the protestors and killed many people in the streets, and imprisoned many more.
Until that point, I have always stayed clear of politics following the order my parents set for me. I did not want to be engaged in the so-called “dirty games” of political relations and wanted to pursue instead a career in consultancy on women’s rights, and gender equality based on my graduate studies in gender and ethnicity at Utrecht University.
I learned it the hard way that it is next to impossible to pursue and demand human rights and equality and not get into politics. The saying that Personal is Political is very true at least from my personal experience.
So in June 2009, together with a group of other Iranians residing in the Netherlands, we organized events to raise awareness about what was going in Iran at the time. In these events we demonstrated that the Iranian regime has been systematically violating human rights since its inception. These events set the base for a hearing on this subject in the International court in the Hague. I will share more on these events and the following hearing in upcoming episodes.
Despite all the demonstrations, the contested presidential election was approved by Iran’s Supreme leader (because he is the one makes the final decision on every single issue in Iran).
Because of this, I was strongly advised not to go back to Iran due to security reasons. Of course years later I realized that at the time that I worked for UN in Iran, I was already placed on the “black list” of the Iranian intelligence service as well as the intelligence service of IRGC their international branch which is called Qods.
Until 2015 I only had one passport and one nationality – when for the last time, I went to the Iranian embassy to renew my passport, I had to set a plan in motion with a group of my trusted friends in case I get held up at the embassy in the Hague. What happened last October in Istanbul to Jamal Khashoggi – the Saudi Arabian journalist – is a nightmare coming true for many people living in exile. Luckily I got out of the Iranian embassy after renewing my passport without difficulty.
I am very proud to have obtained a Dutch passport and nationality since September 2015. And although my Iranian passport has expired, I still have my Iranian nationality since by the Iranian constitution one can never drop their Iranian nationality (unless you go through a very long and scrutinizing process where the president and the whole ministerial cabinet collectively approve that you can drop your nationality).
So I call myself a Dutchified Iranian. My heart beats for the country I was born in and my loyalty lies with the country and the nation that gave me a new home and accepted me with open arms.
In these podcast series, I will talk about my political experiences and aspirations not just as a loyal member of a political party but also as an observer, as a researcher, as an entrepreneur and as a concerned citizen.
I am a liberal, I believe in personal rights AND responsibilities. In 1999 a group of opinion leaders under sponsorship of UNESCO introduced a draft for Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities which was not endorsed. This declaration is what I advocate for, because it is based on active and proactive motives of individuals, companies and governments. For instance the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 says We are all born free and equal; whereas the Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities says Treat all people in a humane way. More on this subject, also in the upcoming episodes.
Politics is not my only interest or occupation, I am also a PhD researcher at Rotterdam School of Management and I absolutely enjoy being a mother of two energetic and loving boys, along with my partner. I also run my own consultancy firm as a Nexus Strategist where I combine Harmony and Progress to bring about Positive Impact. I developed this concept because I have a vision – call it a dream if you will.
And that dream is that I want to live in a world with true personal freedom of choice, equality of opportunity and the ability for people to thrive, which is balanced with a personal responsibility to contribute to the collective good.
I believe this world is possible by taking an integrated nexus approach to challenges and opportunities. This approach needs to focus both on individual components as well as the inter-relatedness and inter-dependencies of the entire system. Only in this way we can reduce trade offs and create and hence leverage synergies.
That’s why through Nexus Strategies, I bring (back) balance and harmony to the context in which we operate and apply change leadership to build a coalition of unlikely allies to collectively develop a pragmatic strategy.
My political ambitions and any other activity that I undertake is linked to the dream I shared with you. And I believe we can change the course of our policies if we take a synergistic responsibility-approach.
What was the unveiling moment of this episode for you?
Did you hear about something that impacted your view on the reality of life in that part of the world and how it impacts us on this side of the world?
I hope you gained a deeper insight into the complexity of politics and how it affects us regardless of our regions.
Want to hear more?
Sign up for my thematic newsletters to get notified about each episode and more. You can do this by going to my website: somayedehban.com/newsletters.
Until the next unveiling – bedrood.