I live in a reverse bubble when it comes to political news. Living with a politics/news junkie, I am often uncertain whether the subjects that populate our conversations are even common knowledge. If what I’m about to say is new information to you, I hope I do a good job of (quickly) explaining it. (I’m not a politics/news junkie, so I’ll be explaining what I know very much from a layman’s perspective.) I also hope you’ll read and share it with others. (In my case, I am passing this along after receiving it from Ryan, who read it on The Daily Dish.)
But first, a QUICK PRIMER about the current state of affairs (skip to the block quote at the end if you’re up on your current events):
Iran’s incumbent president, Ahmadinejad, was going to lose the election last week. (This was known before the election took place; then, as results began to come in, it became official.) This indicated a positive regime change, from an American perspective – and given that the popular vote supported it, the Iranian perspective as well. It is certainly in our best interest for Iran to have a true democracy and for it to look not unkindly on the United States.
The state-run news media called his opponent, Mousavi, to let him know that he was going to win and that they were about to start reporting this. News about Mousavi’s impending victory got to Ahmadinejad and the country’s religious leader, the Supreme Leader. (While Iran is, on the surface, a democracy, it is a practical theocracy. The Supreme Leader, a religious cleric selected by peers, and somewhat analogous to the Pope, is the real head of power in the country. For example, while the United States picks its presidential candidates through a series of public elections, in Iran the Supreme Leader selects the candidates.)
The Supreme Leader then released a statement asserting that Ahmadinejad was, in fact, the clear victor. Iran is a modern country, and its people knew that this result didn’t add up. Mousavi’s supporters – who very much constitute the majority of the population – began protesting and rioting. In response, the government shut down EVERYTHING. They shut down the internet, cell phone towers, television, radio – you name it. They didn’t want the rest of the world to know that they had, effectively, stolen the election. The one thing they failed to shut down, at least initially, was SMS. News leaked out. The revolution, to quote many, was Twittered.
Remember the television footage of the enormous Obama rallies that took place before our election? Well, now imagine that there are snipers from our military sitting atop buildings around one of those rallies, shooting haphazardly into the crowd. Real bullets, not rubber ones. The country’s major university was attacked; shots were fired through dormitory doors. Students and professors have gone missing, been arrested, or left campus in protest or in fear. Because they make up a large portion of the protestors, young people are being subjected to terrific violence.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was once next-in-line to become Supreme Leader of Iran; he was forced to resign in 1989 for privately criticizing the current regime’s political and social stances. To quote View from the Occident, Montazeri “is widely respected and is one of the most senior, if not the most senior, religious scholars in Iran. He is also the leading ‘dissident’ scholar who has suffered for his principled stands against state power.”
Today, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri released the following statement (as translated from the original Persian):
In the name of God
People of Iran
These last days, we have witnessed the lively efforts of you brothers and sisters, old and young alike, from any social category, for the 10th presidential elections.
Our youth, hoping to see their rightful will fulfilled, came on the scene and waited patiently. This was the greatest occasion for the government’s officials to bond with their people.
But unfortunately, they used it in the worst way possible. Declaring results that no one in their right mind can believe, and despite all the evidence of crafted results, and to counter people protestations, in front of the eyes of the same nation who carried the weight of a revolution and 8 years of war, in front of the eyes of local and foreign reporters, attacked the children of the people with astonishing violence. And now they are attempting a purge, arresting intellectuals, political opponents and Scientifics.
Now, based on my religious duties, I will remind you :
1- A legitimate state must respect all points of view. It may not oppress all critical views. I fear that this lead to the lost of people’s faith in Islam.
2- Given the current circumstances, I expect the government to take all measures to restore people’s confidence. Otherwise, as I have already said, a government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy.
3- I invite everyone, specially the youth, to continue reclaiming their dues in calm, and not let those who want to associate this movement with chaos succeed.
4- I ask the police and army personals not to “sell their religion”, and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before god. Recognize the protesting youth as your children. Today censor and cutting telecommunication lines can not hide the truth.
I pray for the greatness of the Iranian people.
May reasonable, rational, and fairer minds prevail.
Image Credit: Andrew Sullivan, designed for Facebook profiles