Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Hands-On Report From Iran

Juan Cole -- one of the more enlightened American observers of the Middle East -- has a blog post up of a dispatch he received from an academic who is his friend in Iran:

Today, under slate skies and despite official warnings that the permit to march had been denied, against rumors that orders had been given to shoot to kill, they came. They came by the tens if not hundreds of thousands, marching east to west along the many kilometers of Enqelab Street to Azadi, or Freedom Square. "It would be dishonorable, na mardi, to not go," a young couple explained. "We have to go." Another man asks who is going, what is going on? He is told that the "Mousavi-chiha" are marching starting at 4. He laughs, "Mousavi-chiha nadarim, hame ye Iran hastand!" We don't have Mousavi supporters, it's now all of Iran...

That they came to Azadi, a place where thirty years ago the Revolution pivoted towards victory was fitting, for as much as the election campaign had been about who best represented the revolutionary values of Iran, Islam, and the late Imam, the push and pull of the past few days between opposition and Ahmadinejad forces has been a struggle to lay claim to authenticity. Authenticity that lies in the imagined and lived past, places, and practices of the Islamic Republic. It is as if whomever can get to the important places and rituals first and stay there, hang onto them, will win. So at night, beginning at 9 pm, we hear shouts of "Allah Akbar!" from the rooftops, just like in the fall and winter of 1978-1979. We have marches to sacred spots like Azadi and appeals by all sides to the memory of Khomeini...

The fact that the spirit of 1979 is being recalled is in itself very important. '79 is the most revered event in all of recent Iranian history; it's considered similar to our American Revolution, in that Iranians see it as the year they overthrew the power of foreign countries over their country.

I also like the fact that they're not making this about Mousavi, but more about renewing the spirit of independence and freedom in their country. Mousavi has a very ugly history and is, in my opinion, a much worse thug than anyone currently in Iran's executive.