In ‘Tehrangeles,’ hopes and fears over nuke deal

In LA expat community, most Persians believe agreement will boost economy but doubt it’ll improve human rights

A store in the Persian quarter of Los Angeles (public domain/Wikimedia Commons)
A store in the Persian quarter of Los Angeles (public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — “Tehrangeles,” as the vast expatriate Iranian community based in Los Angeles is known, welcomed Tuesday the nuclear deal struck in Vienna with hope, but also some doubts.

A “very, very happy” Alex Helmi, owner of a luxury carpet boutique in Beverly Hills, cheered the agreement as a sign of change, “because the policy of not talking to each other for 35 years has not been working.”

“I’m very grateful to (US) President (Barack) Obama for continuing the negotiation. I think it’s the right direction for the us,” added the 59-year-old, who moved to the United States 40 years ago.

Ali Shoroush, a writer who calls himself “an old leftist,” called the deal between the Islamic Republic and key world powers “very positive, very hopeful.”

“This is a show against proliferation, a blueprint for a viable civilian nuclear deal,” added the 60-year-old, browsing through books in an Iranian bookshop.

More than 700,000 Iranians or children and grandchildren of Iranians live in Los Angeles, many of them in Beverly Hills, where 20 percent of the population is of Iranian stock.

In his boutique on Westwood Boulevard — nicknamed Persian Plaza for its many Iranian businesses — Sam Tala said the deal between Tehran and the “P5+1” (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany) should help trade.

“The value of the money is going up. That’s important because if the value increases, everything will be OK,” said the 29-year-old, noting that his sanctions-gripped native country is currently forced to import lots of goods.

The 109-page deal struck in the Austrian capital limits the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for progressively lifting sanctions which have stifled its economy for decades.

The aim is to make it almost impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon, while allowing the country to develop nuclear power capacity.

In a music shop called Musi, 35-year-old artist Anita voiced doubts.

“I’m hopeful everything will get better, the economy and the situation for the young people. But my main concern is human rights,” she said, declining to give her last name.

“We were hoping there would be more improvements on human rights,” she added as she voiced hope for the release of imprisoned spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri.

Jimmy Delshad, a former mayor of Beverly Hills, is even more critical.

“Iran won a big fight. They got everything they wanted,” he told AFP.

“I’m happy for the people of Iran if the money goes to the people of Iran, (but) I doubt that. Overall, it is a very big win for Iran and time will show whether they abide by this.”

Many hope that the Vienna deal and the easing of diplomatic strains between Tehran and the West will help improve the image of the Iranian people themselves.

“The people of Iran are not a war-loving people. They are a magnificent people,” said Helmi, the carpet dealer.

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