What Have We Learned From Iran?
If you go to Google News and type in Iran stiffens stance against protesters to get a more printer-friendly version of the AP story, Google will make a recommendation that'll ask, "Did you mean to search for: Iran softens stance against protesters?"
Hardly. And the AP story, necessarily one written from a position of almost complete and unforgivable ignorance, even suggests, "Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has been out of sight in recent days and there were no reports of violent clashes Tuesday, possibly a measure of the effectiveness of the crackdown."
Perhaps if the reporter, Karin Laub, spent a few minutes on Twitter and read the #IranElection, Tehran, Neda or Iran forums she'd know that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohammed Khatami are more responsible for much more low-key protests than the efficacy of the brutal crackdown on the part of the Iranian government. Both reformist-minded politicians have united in calling for a less overt style of protesting involving a general strike of several major markets as well as that of several major industries. All the government's jackbooted response did was further ignite the passions of a people oppressed for 30 years under the current revolution.
The lead picture above was taken by Caspian Makan, a photojournalist identifying himself as Neda Soltani's fiance, and he claims these freshly-dug graves are to bury those who who were slain during the 10 days of rioting. The official death toll still hovers at around 17-19, but hospitals across Iran are reporting more than four dozen riot-related deaths and journalist Michael Collins cited unconfirmed sources putting the figure at around 150.
Iran has proved many things in this past week and a half. The people have demonstrated a resilience for which few of us had previously given them credit and that they're willing to put their lives on the line as willingly and passionately as our ancestors did over 230 years ago for the right of self-determination.
The brutal government has proven that it is not beyond using sleazy establishment tactics such as grossly altering the results of an election purporting to give the people democracy in order to sustain their "revolution" that overthrew an equally corrupt regime.
To that end they have done everything in their power to dispel any remaining myths that Iran's Supreme Ruling Council is still a functional democracy, namely by:
Article 23 of the Iranian constitution holds that “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”
Article 24 safeguards press freedoms
Article 27 provides for freedom of assembly, "provided arms are not carried" and the assemblies "are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam".
Denying these people their rights already demands an independent investigation and for people to be tried under Iranian law for subverting their constitution.
These are not the hallmarks of a workable democracy. Indeed, it's hard to imagine how the Iranian people could've reasonably expected a fair election when the pro-Ahmadinejad Guardian Council is the final arbiter in all electoral matters and the elections are controlled by the Interior Ministry which is controlled by Ahmadinejad.
But naivete does not give the government to the right to steal from the people the very engine of their or of any democracy: a free and fair electoral process.
Perhaps we're atavistically identifying with the Iranian people and that our support is really an altered form of our own guilt for remaining relatively passive during our own rigged general elections in 2000 and 2004. Perhaps by supporting the Iranian people in their struggle to establish a true democracy we're purging ourselves of our own collective guilt for not taking to the streets and putting ourselves at risk as they have.