Iran – Hope for the Future?

While at the moment everything is looking rather grim for Iranians, I can’t help but feel a little hopeful for the long run, given the large number of people who came out during the protests, and the many acts of resistance -from Twittering to literally shouting defiance from rooftops.

A week ago Friday, I went to a very moving protest at the University of Washington.  A huge turn out from the local Iranian and Iranian-American community – young and old.

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Toward the end, several young men led the group in round after round of singing.

I was remembering the Iranian students protesting the Shah (who the US was supporting despite his brutality) at the University of Oregon 30 years ago, who covered their heads for fear of retribution back home.  Shortly after the Shah was overthrown, the same students were back protesting the Ayatollah Khomeini, again with their faces covered, for fear of retribution.  I couldn’t help but hope this would be finally the Iranian’s time for freedom.

I think it’s the fact that this election was so blatantly stolen that’s compelling the people to rise up against all odds.  Of course 40 million votes couldn’t have been counted in two hours as was claimed.  Then on Monday, according to the New York Times, Iran’s Guardian Council acknowledged “the number of votes recorded in 50 cities exceeded the number of voters by three million.”

Incredibly enough, the Guardian Council still tried to claim the election was fair.

“Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100 percent of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80 to 170 cities are not accurate — the incident has happened in only 50 cities,” said the council spokesman, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei. He said this outcome could occur because people may vote anywhere they choose, not necessarily only in their district of registration.

Oh, we only had more people voting then eligible voters in 50 cities, not 80 to 170.  See, everything was fair!  Wait a second, not buying that?  It was people voting anywhere they pleased. . .

But many districts where the excess votes were recorded are small, remote places rarely visited by business travelers or tourists, analysts said, raising questions about how so many extra votes could have been counted in so many different areas.

The Times article raises more questions:

How did the government manage to count enough of the 40 million paper ballots to be able to announce results within two hours of the polls closing? How is it that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s margin of victory remained constant throughout the ballot count? Why did the government order polls closed at 10 p.m. when they often stay open until midnight for presidential races? Why were some ballot boxes sealed before candidates’ inspectors could validate they were empty? Why were votes counted centrally, by the Interior Ministry, instead of locally, as in the past? Why did some polling places lock their doors at 6 p.m. after running out of ballots?

So large numbers of people turned out on the streets to protest in Iran.

Young people turned out, also spreading the word via Twitter, while chaotic, often the only way news could get out (see sample on Truthout at http://www.truthout.org/iran).  Women have been heavily involved, inspiring women throughout the Middle East. People have been joining in nightly chants from the rooftops at 10 pm; or at least they were.  According to Human Rights Watch:

Iran’s paramilitary Basij are carrying out brutal nighttime raids, destroying property in private homes and beating civilians in an attempt to stop nightly protest chants, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also said the Iranian authorities are confiscating satellite dishes from private homes to prevent citizens from seeing foreign news.

Of course authorities are trying to crack down on Twitter as well, and others around the world are trying to slow them down by changing their Time Zone on Twitter to Tehran time (universal +3.30).

In their crack down on protesters, authorities killed a young woman named Neda, and footage of her death from a cell phone video has galvanized the resistance further. The government is arresting supporters of opposition candidates and journalists.

It is discouraging, yet with so much resistance, I think in the long run there is hope.

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