By Hamid Dabashi, New York (15 June 2009)
With the semi-spontaneous demonstration in Tehran and other major cities (including Shiraz, where we have had eyewitness accounts by members of my family), the civil unrest that began on 13 June with opposition to the announced results of the presidential election of 12 June has entered a new phase. The assumption of the election having been rigged is now a "social fact." It is no longer relevant if the election was or was not rigged. Millions of Iranians believe it was and they are putting their lives on the line to announce and assert it-with at least 12 fatalities, as just reported by The Guardian.
We need to have a careful and accurate summation of what has happened so far. On 12 June upward of 80% of eligible voters, about 40 out of 46 million, have voted. This has been the most magnificent manifestation of the political maturity of Iran as a nation and their collective democratic will. This nation does not need, nor has it ever needed, either a medieval concoction called the Vali Faqih in Qom or Tehran to patronize it or else a Neocon chicanery called "Iran Democracy Project" in Hoover Institution in California to promote it. This nation, as always, can take care of itself. It needs nothing but the active solidarity of ordinary people around the globe to be a witness to their struggles and demand from their media an accurate and comprehensive representation of their movement. So please, hands off Iran! No "democracy project," no sanction, no threat, no military attack, no regime change.
The day after the results were announced, on 13 June, there was a spontaneous demonstration in Tehran by supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi demanding recount and charging vote rigging. The following day, on 14 June, the government staged a major pro-Ahmadinejad rally in which his supporters were bussed in from surrounding villages. It is important to keep in mind that Ahmadinejad's supporters come from the poorest and most disenfranchised segments of Iranian society, subject to his and his campaign's populism and demagoguery. From this fact one should not conclude that all the impoverished segments of Iranian society, suffering from double digit inflation and endemic unemployment, are on his side or fooled by his charlatanism. The supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and the Reformist movement come from a vast trajectory of Iranian society.
Today, on 15 June 2009, the uprising has assumed an entirely different dimension and may have already transmuted into a full-fledged civil disobedience movement, with hundreds of thousands (according to BBC, which is usually quite conservative in its estimations), demonstrating peacefully and joyously between Meydan-e Enqelab and Meydan-e Azadi. Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami have led the demonstration and made speeches, as has Zahra Rahnavard, now an inspiration and role model for millions of Iranian women. Please take a good look at her and keep a print of her picture and the picture of other women participating in these demonstrations in your files before some other charlatan comes and crops it for the cover of the next edition of Reading Lolita in Tehran, or else puts together a collage of it for yet another book on "Sexual Revolution" or "Sexual Politics" in Iran. Whoever has won this particular presidential election, lipstick jihadis, career opportunist memoirists, obscene and fraudulent anthropologists on a summer "field work" in Iran, useless expatriate "opposition," and comprador intellectuals in general are among its main losers.
What we are witnessing today may indeed be the commencement of a full-fledged civil disobedience, led by an aging revolutionary, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, battle-tested, literally, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), a war hero to his followers, and then gone into seclusion for almost 20 years (reading, writing, teaching, and painting), and has now come back with a vengeance against the opportunist populism of Ahmadinejad. The movement that he has led has been fortunately peaceful so far, except for at least 12 reported fatalities, perhaps more. Demonstrators have been savagely beaten up both in streets and in student dormitories. But by and large this civil disobedience has been relatively peaceful.
Tomorrow we need to see how the dialectic among three forces will unfold: (1) a mass cross-section of society supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi and demanding at the very least a recount of the rigged votes; (2) the leadership of this movement by Mousavi, Karrubi, and Khatami, and the Reformists in general; and (3) opposing them are the brutal and vicious charlatanism of Ahmadinejad, the autumn of the Vali Faqih's patriarchy initially supporting him, and the platoon of conservative clergy like Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi in Qom.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi has the make up of an Iranian Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr. in him. We have to wait and see.
About the author: Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.
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