I haven’t blogged about Iran at all, and I don’t really feel bad about it. Obviously, it’s the big news story, but I don’t know what will happen, and the people I’m reading don’t seem to have a clear idea either. I’m optimistic that honest election results will be posted, and that the genuine winner of their election will be seated.

But those are not the issues at play. The protests are being treated as a borderline revolution, with Mousavi as a potential George Washington. I’m less sure of that. Mousavi was a major backer of the Islamic Revolution, favors an Iranian nuclear weapons program, and is unlikely to push for any broad secularization or liberalization of Iranian civil society. Smart people assure me that such changes are widely desired by younger Iranians, but for them to rise up would require more than Mousavi’s leadership, and if things tip that way, I’m not sure Mousavi would be at the vanguard, and I’d wager he’ll be at the barricades against such a counterrevolution.

Restrictions on reporting, garbled reporting, and the general challenge of the smoke of war (or civil unrest) all make it hard to be sure what’s happening, what people’s motives are, and where we’ll wind up when things settle down. But a few glimpses inside the protests and the fighting remind us that this is not a clash of ideologies, but a struggle of individuals with complex motives, whose desires and dreams are deeper and more complex than the cookie cutter figures the media and commentators seem to be populating Tehran’s streets with.

NIAC provides this translated blog post from someone preparing for a day of protest (via hilzoy):

I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I?m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It?s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I?m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow?s children?

She survived, but her sister was killed in the protest:

I’m here to let you know I’m alive but my sister was killed…

I’m here to tell you my sister died while in her father’s hands

I’m here to tell you my sister had big dreams…

I’m here to tell you my sister who died was a decent person… and like me yearned for a day when her hair would be swept by the wind… and like me read “Forough” [Forough Farrokhzad]… and longed to live free and equal… and she longed to hold her head up and announce, “I’m Iranian”… and she longed to one day fall in love to a man with a shaggy hair… and she longed for a daughter to braid her hair and sing lullaby by her crib…

my sister died from not having life… my sister died as injustice has no end… my sister died since she loved life too much… and my sister died since she lovingly cared for people…

my loving sister, I wish you had closed your eyes when your time had come… the very end of your last glance burns my soul….

sister have a short sleep. your last dream be sweet.

Meanwhile, protesters and police are finding their shared humanity, and perhaps an opening for a social movement against repression, and perhaps against both Mousavi and the mullahs. On Saturday,

There is a woman who is being beaten. She’s horrified and hysterical but not as much as the anti-riot police officer facing her. She shrieks, ‘Where can I go? You tell me go down the street and you beat me. Then you come up from the other side and beat me again. Where can I go?’ In sheer desperation, the officer hits his helmet several times hard with his baton. ‘Damn me! Damn me! What the hell do I know!’

I ask myself, ‘how much longer can these officers tolerate stress? How many among them would be willing to give their lives for somebody like Ahmadinejhad?'”

This is not a matter where it helps for President Obama to wade in. Iranian youth are, as I understand it, generally favorable toward western trends, but are proud of their nation and its sovereignty. The US has too long a history of attacks on the political freedom of Iran to be a credible voice for this truly indigenous uprising. As private citizens, we can and should support the protesters, showing them what freedom of speech is. And to show them that they, too, are free, we must avoid using the power of our government to influence (or seem to influence) the events in Iran. When the votes are counted accurately, we will know the voice of the Iranian people, and we should respect whatever choice they make. Meanwhile, we hope and pray that they will, some day, choose leaders who will truly expand their freedoms, and give them the rights and powers due to all people.


  1. #1 NBR
    June 23, 2009

    Good, thoughtful post based on what can be known and an appreciation of what we can do.

    I sympathize with the protesters, see hope in the leadership of women in this uprising (interesting in a Muslim country), am intrigued by the spread of information by internet. But as you say, it is an internal Iranian affair, and we as a country can do little to help a positive outcome.

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