I am writing this as I watch the Iranian people protesting the results of the recent election that (allegedly) put Ahmadinejad back in power. I am filled with sadness because the people of Iran are being beaten severely in the streets for coming forward and questioning the results of this corrupt and abominable election. Journalists are being ordered out of Iran. Reporters from Nippon TV in Japan were taken away and beaten. Canadian journalist, George McLeod was also beaten by police as he was covering the riots for the Toronto Globe and Mail. The police are stealing reporter's cameras and taking people's tapes. The protesters are covering all the action on their cell phones and broadcasting it all over the world. There are rumors that Mousavi, the man who ran against Ahmadinejad is now being held under house arrest.
Did any of us think the results of the recent Iranian elections would be any different? We knew who was in charge. Let's be honest, Mousavi was also part of the "in-house" guard. But we had a glimmer of hope that perhaps...just perhaps...democracy might be able to make some inroad and that the true voice of the Iranian people, not its government would be heard. Mousavi ran on a platform that promised more dialogue with the West. In truth, Mousavi was not going to be the Persian Obama. He was not a liberal in any sense of the word. But compared to Ahmadinejad who was a hard-liner in the pockets of the mullahs, Mousavi was a welcome change.
Like many in the West, I watched in horror as the results were tallied in an unheard of two hours to declare Ahmadinejad the winner. Not even in America, where we have access to voting machines and thousands of people manning the polls could we count that fast. These were paper ballots folks. We would still be counting paper ballots from the Obama/McCain election today if we had used that system of voting. Two hours?
Ahmadinejad spent millions of dollars on his campaign distributing food and clothing to constituents in the outlying areas of Iran in a ploy to buy their votes. There is nothing more willing than an empty stomach to convince anyone which candidate to support. He had a "potato campaign" sending potatoes and other goods to villagers. When you live in a country that is devoid of democratic rights, you are not necessarily quick to vote your conscience as you don't know for sure who is watching you. Keeping secrets is hard to do in a totalitarian state. Ahmedinajad is simply a puppet of the religious right. That is well known. This man who calls himself "The People's Friend" apparently knows how to call in his "friends" when he needs them.
It is so important to note that it is the Iranian government and its religious fascists that spew the hatred against the West and the United States and Israel in particular. Most Iranians have a different view, though they are forced to keep their views silent. But cracks are appearing in the great revolution that Khomeini championed. Iranians now know that they were duped. They were cut-off entirely from the "infidels in the West" and thrown back into the medieval ages. Literature, arts and freedom of speech were summarily censored. Women are forced to wear veils. What was to have been a "great revolution for the people" by deposing the Shah has become a dragon that is eating the soul of its own once vibrant culture.
Women especially are being oppressed and they fighting openly for their self-expression. The women in Iran are desperate for change and turned out in droves to vote for the opposition candidate who had his wife campaigning for him. The Iranian students, internet-savvy and educated do not want war with any country. They just want to be free to live and have sovereignty over their own lives. One Iranian university student talked about how three of his friends had been expelled from Tehran University for speaking out against Ahmadinejad. “For students, the campuses are not free – we want a new government that lets us speak our minds."
A lot of Americans (and the West in general) don't know about Iran or the illustrious Persian Empire as it was known in antiquity. It was a highly advanced civilization that respected the lands it conquered and for example, under Cyrus (Kourosh) the Great was known for its human rights, humane legal system and even more surprisingly the education of women. Ironically, it was one of the few ancient civilizations that allowed the Jews to live peacefully among them. All of its past, its glory and its contributions to the world have been overshadowed and even been stamped out through the egregious workings of its religious right. It is one damned shame.
An Iranian female comedian on the BBC last week said that the Iranians were all "voting for the OTHER guy..." they don't even know his name, she joked, but they don't want Ahmadinejad.
I look at the scenes in Tehran and it saddens me and it angers me. But in a curious way, it also fills me with restrained hope. I still hope that the Iranian people (and especially its women) will fight for their rights...their right to choose their leaders, their right to free speech, their right to express themselves, to assemble, to be free. I believe that if this were to happen, the United States would find in Iran a great and powerful ally...one that could stand next to Israel and not against it and work for peace.
War with Iran would be a great tragedy. It will be the undoing of the West. This is not an ignorant third world nation by any means. This is a cultured, clever and fearless nation. And anyone who thinks other than that does not understand history and the culture of this nation.
No, let us not fool ourselves, it was obvious that the same old guard would have been in power no matter who would have won this Iranian election. The election was rigged in a great ploy by Ahmadinejad and his overlords to "pretend" that the people had a choice. What even this very bogus election has done, however, is to infuse the Iranians with the idea of reclaiming their voices in an electorate. Ahmadinejad may in the end have opened up a Pandora's box that will no longer stay closed.
We need to stand in prayer and support...not for the Iranian rulers....but for its people who are courageously fighting for their sovereignty after decades of clerical rule which has plunged them into the dark ages. They deserve to be heard.