Sunday, June 14, 2009

We Stand With the Iranian Protesters

I have been absolutely glued to the news coming out of Iran.

On June 12th, Iranians went to the polls for the country's tenth presidential election. At the time, most opinion polls showed reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi leading President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, when the Ministry of Interior announced the results, it showed Ahmadinejad (who controls the Ministry of Interior) beating Mousavi almost 2 to 1, 63% to 34%.

The "official" results are not just fraudulent, but ridiculous. There's some evidence that the government simply flipped the results and put Ahmadinejad's name with Mousavi's votes and vice versa. It's as if the regime thinks a bigger lie will be more believable than a smaller one.

Mousavi's supporters, clad in green, took to the streets in protest.

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi in Heidarnia stadium in Tehran

The police and the Revolutionary Guard responded promptly and brutally, clubbing and tear-gassing the crowds. Things have escalated steadily since Friday. The crowds are growing and the government is ramping up its repression. They've shut down cell phone service and Internet in some areas and they're banning foreign reporters from covering the protests.

What's amazing is that, having been bloodied, the protesters aren't quitting. As the government clamps down on the media, Twitter is playing an important role in organizing the resistance. Here's a video of rooftop protest chants in Tehran, organized through Twitter. There's also news through Twitter that the government has deployed tanks on the streets around the Ministry of Interior in Tehran.

Amazing videos are making their way out of Iran right now. Here's one showing protesters evacuating and caring for an injured police officer, after police on motorcycles attacked a protesting crowd.

Here's one showing protesters defending a BBC reporter and his cameraman from plainclothes secret police.

Mousavi's wife appeared in public today and called for a giant peaceful march and rally tomorrow in the center of Tehran, followed by a nationwide general strike on Tuesday. But as the reformers begin to coordinate the resistance, the regime appears to be turning up the terror. There are reports of secret police attacking people with knives in the streets and police blocking the wounded from accessing hospitals. As Andrew Sullivan says over at The Daily Dish, it's pretty obviously an effort to keep people from turning out to the rally tomorrow. They're also silencing foreign reporters and reform-oriented newspapers. So it may get harder and harder to follow what's going on.

But there are hopeful signs. The protests are still spreading, and they are in cities all over the country. There are also signs of division among the establishment and the clerics. Grand Ayatollah Sanei called Ahmadinejad's rule illegitimate and cooperating with his government un-Islamic. A former leader of the Revolutionary Guard published an open letter contesting the election.

Right now the US government's position seems to be, "We're gonna wait and see. We've heard there might have been some irregularities in the voting." Well, they need to drop that and get with it. They need to come out and just say that the election was a complete sham. The progressive community in the US needs to stay plugged into this and continue to show solidarity with the protesters.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. I think that if a large crowd shows up to rally, things could get very ugly when the police and guards and government goons descend on them. But the way it's looking, that may stir the resistance even more.



Becky said...

So what is the hierarchy among all these clerics? 'Cause I saw that Khamenei has said the election was fair, so I thought that would be the end of that. I am heartened to read this post and think that maybe this protest can go somewhere.

Dave said...

Well, I know that Ayatollah Khamenei is the Supreme Leader and far more important than the president. But I'm not sure where exactly the other ayatollahs fall in the hierarchy, if it even is a hierarchy. I get the sense that there is some independence involved. For instance, any ayatollah can issue a fatwa.

Yes, Khamenei said that the election was a "divine assessment." So it seems like he's pinned his star to the stability of Ahmadinejad's administration. That just makes me think that if the protests are going to topple Ahmadinejad, they're also going to topple the Supreme Leader.

In the streets they're chanting, "God is great! Death to the dictator!"

Camp Papa said...

We always see the world through the lens of our preconceptions and experience, but that said, I think we can safely say that it is universal truth that old men who think they speak for God and who don't trust their own people enough to allow them to talk to each other or speak publicly should not be allowed to govern. Why does that sound familiar?