Iranians fear military strike over nuclear row with the West
TEHRAN - Reuters
An Iranian worshipper prays, prior to start Friday prayers ceremony at the Tehran University campus in TehranThe threat of military strikes on Iran has upturned the quiet and comfortable lives once enjoyed by many Iranians, ushering in a new era of struggle and fear.
Like many Iranians, Maryam Sofi says the West and Iran are locked in a dangerous game. "I don't think we can know just yet if war will break out, but I am concerned for my family and my country," says university teacher Sofi, 42, a mother of two.
"I cannot sleep at night, thinking about destruction and bloodshed if Israel and America attack Iran."
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails to resolve a dispute over a programme they suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons.
Although sanctions and diplomatic pressure appear to be Washington's preferred course of action, Israelis have been sending mixed signals, unnerving their Iranian enemies.
Shouting above the clanking hammers of coppersmiths in Tehran's busy bazaar, nut seller Ali encouraged his customers to hoard his wares: "Buy and store! War is looming!"
Tensions with the West rose after hardline students stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran last week, in protest against new sanctions imposed after the U.N. nuclear watchdog suggested that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.
Britain closed its embassy and France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands recalled their envoys.
The diplomatic exodus, swollen by some foreign businessmen based in Tehran, has heightened nervousness in the capital to a level not felt since the outbreak of war with Iraq in the 1980s, or the turmoil that preceded the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.
"Foreigners are leaving Iran ... Isn't it obvious that they want to attack Iran?," said a teacher named Mina. "The rich will flee but middle class people like me have to stay and suffer."
Jane Heshmatzadeh, 59, among many Western women married to Iranians, is torn between fear of attack and loyalty to Iran. "My home is here. It's not easy to just walk away and leave everything behind," said the Swede, who has lived in northern Iran for 21 years since marrying an Iranian businessman.
And Iranians have been stoking their own fears with speculation about what would happen if war broke out.
"In case of an attack ... we will be imprisoned inside the country ... the borders will be closed," said Zahra Farzaneh, 82, whose son lives in the United States. "I will die without seeing my grandchildren again."
Many Iranians stockpile goods, buy hard currency
"We have survived a revolution, the (Iran-Iraq) war ... Our people cannot tolerate another crisis," Mitra, and Iranian in Brussels, said on her Twitter page.
"It will be a terrible war ... After the first strike the country and then the whole region will turn into a war zone," said Hossein Alaie, a shopkeeper in central Tehran.
"They will destroy everything. I am stockpiling goods and have told my relatives to do so."