Saturday June 12th will mark the first anniversary of the rigged Iranian elections. The blatant electoral fraud sparked protests throughout Iran which the Iranian regime only managed to crush by remorseless force. The brutality of the crackdown opened the world’s eyes not only about the nature of the Iranian government, but also about the dissent and the courage of a large part of the Iranian people. Since then, protests have flared up, been struck down, and flared up again.
For the past 52 weeks, Iranians and non-Iranians have gathered outside Iran’s embassies and consulates and other institutions of the Islamic Republic all over the world to protest against this government. They will do so again this Saturday.
I have been asked by many friends: “What is the point of these protests? What will it achieve?” and I am prone to joining in the disappointment. For on the face of it, we – if I may use this inclusive term for all those who care about freedom, democracy and human rights in Iran – have not achieved anything. Iran is still governed by an autocratic regime which ignores the wishes of its people, oppresses all dissent, stifles free thought and speech, performs executions and demeans the female half of the population. For those who care more about international security or stability than about the domestic situation (although these two issues might be far more correlated than many outside Iran want to believe), the picture is none less grim: Iran continues to sow mischief in the region and has not been brought to a halt in its apparent striving for nuclear weapons.
The disappointment about the obvious lack of any progress is understandable. I share this disappointment. And the time might indeed have come to step up the actions, both for the international community in their handling of Iran, but also for activists and protesters.
So why will I still join the protests on June 12th despite my disappointment? In the end, for one reason:
In June 2009, I was in Iran myself. I had flown there to witness and join the protests in the streets of Tehran. On June 25th of last year, I was arrested by the Iranian Intelligence Service and taken to Evin prison for what should become the toughest week of my life. On the late evening of June 25th, after having been stripped of my clothes and possessions, being blindfolded and not being told where I am and why I am being kept, being shouted at in a language that I did not understand, I was waiting under guard in the yard of Evin prison for transport to a cell. At that moment, it turned 10 o’clock at night and like every evening, the city of Tehran burst into a loud and vibrant chorus of shouts of “god is great”, a slogan which had become the symbol of the resistance. Even being surrounded by guards and still aching from a previous beating by the police, full of fear and uncertainty, I could not suppress a smile as I heard these chants from the rooftops and windows of the surrounding neighbourhoods. I felt that I was not alone. I felt that people like me were not forgotten outside of these darn walls.
Since then, I know about the value of moral support. It’s the very least that each and every one of us can do.
I hope to see you on Saturday!
(Because I didn’t yet have my own blog in June 2010, Potkin Azarmehr, one of the most informed and outspoken bloggers about Iranian politics, posted my piece: http://azarmehr.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-i-will-join-protests-on-12th-june.html )