Monday, June 22, 2009

I Stand for a Free Iran

Let's not fool ourselves. This isn't really about Ahmedinedjad or Mousavi. Ahmedinejad is a cretin -- a scary and dangerous cretin, but a cretin nevertheless. And Mousavi probably is not the person that freedom loving people want to pin their hopes on.

Mousavi is part of the same 1979 Revolution as Ahmedinejad. Mousavi has been a full and willing partner in Ayatollahville. And Mousavi's hands are not clean when it comes to Iran's nuclear ambitions. But in this recent crisis, I will give him full credit for the courage that he has demonstrated in standing up to both Ahmedinejad and the "Supreme leader".

But it's not about Ahmedinejad and Mousavi anymore. It's about Iranians, especially in Tehran -- an astonishing percentage of whom are under 30 -- who have just witnessed first hand the unacceptable duplicity and tyranny of the Islamic theocracy, and they have said no.

Iranians are Persians, not Arabs; predominantly Shi'ite, not Sunni. And they have long been amongst the most forward-looking and sophisticated people in the Muslim world. Theirs is a history that has turned both Eastern and Western civilization, and the breadth and reach of Persian civilization is awe-inspiring. This is not a culturally retarded nation, but one whose best citizens are screaming to break the chains of repression and constitutionally mandated puritanism.

The protesters in Tehran sense that their franchise has been stolen. They might be right. Too many things don't add up. But it goes farther than that.

Tehran went up like a powder keg in the past week. It seemed spontaneous; I'm not entirely convinced that it was. I rather suspect that what erupted in Tehran since the election had been brewing for a long time. The persistence and the defiant courage of the protesters has persuaded me that there is a much deeper meaning to these events. They are undeterred by the coercion and brutality of the regime. They stand up, against all odds, and face down the Imperial Guard. They find ways to get messages out, even when their fascistic rulers try to shut down electronic communications. (Who knew that Twitter would actually have a practical application in real life?)

They have even demonstrated an extraordinary media sophistication at a time when media is tightly circumscribed. Nobody watching the news and viewing the images that have made it out of Iran (often via twitter, cell phone, and blogs), could possible have missed the fact that the printed signs waved by demonstrators are in English as often (if not more often) than they're in Farsi. "Where Is My Vote". They are trying to speak directly to us. And the Ayatollahs hate that.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not free today. Its people, especially those who yearn for a freedom that not even Mousavi can promise or deliver, are crying out. We must listen. Beyond trying to keep the communication lines open, and beyond helping the Persian people remain even one technological step ahead of the theocratic fascists, and beyond writing manifestos of support and solidarity, we must not turn away.

In watching the events of the past week, I've been struck by some of the obvious parallels to the Orange Revolution in 2004-05. My worst fear for the pro-democracy crowds in Tehran is that this could end like Tiananmen Square in 1989. My greatest hope is that this could lead to the toppling of the Islamic Republic itself. This is a hope that I am positive that many Iranian expats share. That an abusive and volatile regime, such as the fascistic kleptocracy of the Ayatollahs, could be toppled by its own people yearning for their own freedom is a bold dream. Is it too bold to dream it?

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