I hardly watch Iranian TV and media. A few occasions that I do are the documentaries on Manoto TV, or when I hear about an Iranian movie or series that hasn’t been censored to oblivion, and then of course when there’s an Iranian soccer game; One of the few remnants of my Iranianism.
Apart from not having much time left from running a start-up company and raising two young kids, I often find myself reminded of the xenophobic (especially anti-Arab) side of the Iranian culture is. And I find this equally true either if I’m watching Islamic republic or most of the overseas based media.
Yesterday, prior to IRIB Sports channel’s live broadcasting of UAE vs. Australia soccer match, they showed a “documentary” about Dubai. While conveniently overlooking the tremendous success that this small Sheikhdom has achieved over the past 4 decades, using a characteristicly belittling and vindictive language, the narrator babbled on about the conditions of workers from the Indian subcontinent as well as somehow indicating that since the Sheikhdom has no distinguished sporting talent of their own they bring in European soccer stars in the twilight of their career to play in their pro league and that’s something negative.
Apart from misleading and stupid nature of these comments, they hint at a greater historical and social problem that we Iranians suffer from, specially when it comes to Arabs; a blinding sense of false superiority.
The first time I arrived in Dubai was in December 1987. My family, with our souls battered and bruised from a revolution and a war, got off a Gulf Air flight and were led to arrival terminal at Dubai International Airport, at the time barely couple of small halls.
The first thing we noticed were the most spotless surface that we’ve ever seen in our lives. It was so shiny that we initially thought it was wet and started tip toeing our way to the immigration booths fearing of slipping and hurting ourselves. Arriving in Dubai from the chaos of an arduous three-month overland trip from Iran to Syria and then Turkey, both countries being in those days far more chaotic and lawless than Iran, that level of cleanliness and order was a pleasant surprise and gave us a sweet sense of reassurance that has stock with me to this day.
Over the next few decades as we lived in Dubai, I increasingly learned that that first impression was not an accident. It was designed and intended to tell the visitor that if you thought you’ve arrived at a filthy Arabian backwater, you’re in for a surprise.
Over the past four decades, the Al-Maktoum family, have taken an irrelevant Persian Gulf fishing village, severely short on human and natural resources, and made a global business hub on par with greatest cities of the world. They did this with hiring various blue- and white-collar professionals from all over the world and providing them with working and living conditions far superior than what they would have gotten back home. The Indian worker that the IRIB reporter was shedding crocodile tears for have all paid a handsome money to recruiters for laborer jobs in Dubai, because they know that after a few years, each of them can go back to his village in deep rural India and live like a local chieftain with the money he has earned from Dubai.
Dubai government didn’t spend their oil money on theological and pointless foreign policy projects and interventions. They didn’t fill their Canadian bank accounts and packed their bags and flee. They spent their money on educating and improving the quality of life for their nationals, boosting the image of their nation, and investing in international projects and corporations that would over time give them a strong diplomatic and political upper hand. This year they reaped one of the main fruits of their benevolent nation building work; the Emirati passport has just been tanked the first among most favorable passports in the world.
The small (albeit peaceful and orderly) city of my childhood has turned into a modern metropolis that provides a high-quality lifestyle.
The name Dubai has become synonymous with quality, class, and prosperity.
Roughly 100 miles across the Persian Gulf and on the Iranian coast, lies Bandar Lengeh; Topographically and genetically identical to Dubai but worlds apart from developmental and prosperity standpoints. Her hauntingly beautiful beaches unkept, her warm-hearted and gracious people poverty stricken. I’ve been there too and not too long ago. Why is it that Dubai can become an international sensation while Bandar Lengeh remains the backwater that most Iranians think Arabic countries are?
If anything, instead of throwing racial slurs and belittling anti-Arab rhetoric, Iranians should learn from success stories such as Dubai and if we do, next time when we are in a position of making a viable choice for the nation, we won’t through it down the trash-chute of history again.