The Iranian Protests of 2009

I’ve been keeping close track of the events in Iran over the last few days. It really is incredible, and I think it marks a pretty big change. Iran is facing two decisions (especially since the Supreme Leaders speech today (6/19/09)). Either Iranians submit to Islamic authority in government and give up their votes, or they defy the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, and essentially segregate church and state in Iran. Incredible, right? It’s like the moment the Constitution was ratified in the US or when President Washington decided to step down. Incredible! Those moments made America the democracy it is. May this will be Iran’s first shaping steps toward a true and stable democracy. That would change a lot in the Middle East. Iran would be seen as an example, a leader, the evidence that democracy and Islam can coincide and that the people do have a voice against corrupt/oppressive governments.

I’m not sure how things are going to work out now that the Supreme Leader has stated that the elections were fair, that Ahmadinejad is the definitive victor, and that the protesters are sinning. This is a sign that the government is going to crackdown on protesters, and they aren’t going to take responsibility for it. They are assigning responsibility to the leaders of the protesters, namely Moussavi. A lot of the protesters have already left the streets, even after 1,000,000 of them flooded the streets yesterday. I don’t know if the Iranians will have the ability to sustain demonstrations now. I don’t know if they will be able to defy the Supreme Leader. I think it all depends on the mullahs and where their allegiance stands. And if the mullahs take the opposing side, there may be another revolution and that is NOT what Iran needs. Iran needs at least a semi-peaceful transition between leaders or else they will never have a peaceful elections.

That was one of the most incredible thing about the American government when it was first established. The only time we have not accepted the transition of leadership peacefully was when Abraham Lincoln won, sparking the Civil War. That is a miracle in itself. And it’s a tradition that we established. It’s one that new democracies need to establish as well and it just hasn’t happened.

The part that media has played in all this has been fascinating. Never before has it been practically impossible for a government to contain coverage of such events. Protesters have been able to organize, to communicate, to unify through the internet. Despite the Iranian government’s best efforts, Iranians have been able to publicize events. That means if the government does issue a crackdown, they will receive severe consequences from the international community. That also means that even though Iranians aren’t receiving an official statement of encouragement from President Obama, they KNOW that the international community is cheering for them. They know they have our support.

As far as the American response to this situation goes, I think President Obama is doing it right. Even though Americans would like to speak their mind and officially tell the Iranian protesters to go for it, we cannot interfere in this situation. This is Iran’s situation. They have to handle it. It CANNOT be tailored by the US in any way or it will lose validity.

I hope and pray that things will work out for the best. I don’t see a definitive end right now. I don’t see the Iranian government changing its mind, the Supreme Leader retracting his statements, and a re-vote being initiated. I hope that that can happen. I hope that that will happen. Right now, I believe that the protests will dissipate. Unless more people are willing to defy the Supreme Leader and face the consequences, I think everyone will go home and it will be just like the Student Protests. If they don’t go home, I pray that the government won’t come down on them hard. I pray that there is enough coverage and international eyes that the government will not retaliate. The worst that I fear though is that the mullahs will side with the protesters and there will be another civil war. If that is the case, then everything will only start over again; there will be no progress. The best that can happen is that Ahmadinejad will resign and cede the seat to Moussavi. I think that is the least likely and most hoped for course of action. Any way you look at it, the Iranian government is in for an overhaul.

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It has been a year since the Iranian protests began. The political situation in Iran is tenuous. Ahmadinejad is still the president. Moussavi has created the The Green Path of Hope movement, an organization that continues to fight against Ahmadinejad’s presidency through legal means. Mr. Moussavi’s nephew was killed during a protest by police security in December of 2009. There have been reports of protesters being arrested and executed. Iranians fear a recurrence of the executions initiated by the government in 1988 when thousands of political prisoners were put to death.

The United States and Russia reached an agreement on sanctions against Iran. Iran has agreed to export small amounts of Iranian in exchange for fuel for its medical nuclear energy. Israel has threatened to initiate a preemptive attack on Iran if Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied any accusations from the international community of building nuclear weapons. According to Iran, its nuclear program is purely for nuclear energy.

So, the protests have settled into a prolonged, subtle resistance, and the Iranian government has moved its attention to more pressing matters.

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