Presidential elections were held in Iran on June 12, 2009, following a campaign in which opposition candidate Mir Houssain Moussavi was able to mobilize large crowds. On June 13 the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that he won his reelection with well over 60% of the votes. Voter turnout was at a record high with above 80%.
Studies such as one conducted by professors at Chatham House and the Institute of Iranian Studies at University of St. Andrews, Scotland found major discrepancies in the elections, forcing the government in Iran to acknowledge that voter participation was above 100 % in some communities. International observers were not allowed and domestic observes were very limited. There was no breakdown of the vote by province and the voting patterns were identical everywhere, which is an impossibility. Neither Moussavi nor the other candidate Mehdi Karoubi accepted the official election results. Iran scholar Gary Sick talks about a “political coup” and writes in his blog Gary’s Choice: “The willingness of the regime simply to ignore reality and fabricate election results without the slightest effort to conceal the fraud represents a historic shift in Iran’s Islamic revolution. All previous leaders at least paid lip service to the voice of the Iranian people. This suggests that Iran’s leaders are aware of the fact that they have lost credibility in the eyes of many (most?) of their countrymen, so they are dispensing with even the pretense of popular legitimacy in favor of raw power.”
The days following the elections saw the largest protests in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Reese Erlich wrote in Common Dreams on June 29: “Based on my observations, no one was leading the demonstrations. During the course of the week after the elections, the mass movement evolved from one protesting vote fraud into one calling for much broader freedoms. You could see it in the changing composition of the marches. There were not only upper middle class kids in tight jeans and designer sunglasses. There were growing numbers of workers and women in very conservative chadors.” Protests are not limited to Tehran but erupted all over the country. Women, who make up the majority of university graduates, are on the forefront of the protest movement. The protests are largely non-violent, sometimes silent. Some photo and video footage show protesters helping and protecting policemen. People continue to go to their rooftops at night and shout “Allah-o-Akbar” (“God is great” and “There is no God but God,” which challenges the ultimate authority of the regime) and other slogans such as “Death to the dictatorship.” The color green became the unifying code among protestersfor more civil liberties, economic opportunities, as well as human, civil and women's rights, whose demands include better economic opportunities and improved human, civil and women’s rights. The government responded by having police and militia assault and arrest protesters in large numbers. Some of the killings, such as the dead of a young woman named “Neda” that was captured on video, resulted from protestors being shot from rooftops.
In an environment where phone text messaging was disabled, cell phones only work sporadically, phone connections to other countries are blocked, many internet websites are filtered, parasite signals interfere with certain satellite TV channels, journalists were arrested and foreign journalists are not allowed to report from inside Iran, the citizens of Iran became journalists by posting videos, photos and news on social networking sites, using the high-tech skills of a population whose majority is very young and media savvy.
Iranian American scholars like Reza Aslan and Hamid Dabashi have warned the US government to not get involved directly, given a history that includes a CIA coup against a democratically elected government in Iran and the US support for Iraq during a 9 year Iran/Iraq war. Direct US meddling will fuel the eagerness of the Iranian regime to find outsiders to blame. Dabashi wrote on 6/30 for CNN that US government funds for Iran will be abused by and benefit only “expatriate and entirely discredited opposition groups such as monarchist supporters of Reza Pahlavi and the Mohajedin Khalk organization” and that a movement that has been in the making for decades does not need American money or military operations to sustain itself.
Citizen to citizen solidarity can be very helpful. Here are a few things you can do:
- Stay informed. Go to blogs such as http://niacblog.wordpress.com for the latest updates.
- Become active with Iranian Americans in your community. In Portland you can connect with http://portlandstandswithiran.org Print the “Portland Stands with Iran” poster from this site and display it in your house, your car and your favorite stores!
- Support international campaigns such as those conducted by Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/iran
or Avaaz https://secure.avaaz.org/en/iran_stop_the_crackdown
Submitted by gabi_ross on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 10:27pm.