I’ve been doing my best to follow the Iranian elections, results, and aftermath as closely and accurately as possible for almost a week now, but it seems that the more I read, the more confused and conflicted I feel about the whole situation. There are many bloggers/writers/journalists out there who are doing an incredible job keeping us updated on what’s going on in Iran and they surely deserve a lot more attention than I do. I don’t really feel like I can offer some “new insight” on this, but if you’re interested in what my thoughts are, please read on and let me know what you think.
Prior to the election results, I read about Ahmadinejad’s opposing reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and my general impression was that he was going to win the election. One article in particular by Robert Dreyfuss stated that Ahmadinejad supporters were “hard to find” (in Tehran, at least, which ended up going to Mousavi). It really seemed like Mousavi was going to be the victor until, a day before the election results, I noticed a message that an Iranian friend of mine on Facebook wrote on her status: “If Ahmadinejad wins, Mousavi supporters will say, ‘it was rigged.'” When the results were announced, that is exactly what happened.
Perhaps it was rigged. There’s a strong possibility of it, sure. I mean, if the elections can be rigged in a democracy like the United States, then it could certainly happen anywhere else. But then I started hearing an alternative side of the story; something we’re not hearing a lot in the media: What if Ahmadinejad really won? All over CNN and other mainstream western media outlets, we’re seeing images of young Mousavi supporters protesting in the streets of Tehran, holding up signs that read, “Where is my vote?” and resisting against riot police. No doubt, these demonstrations are really powerful and inspiring, but what irks me a lot is the way the Western media is presenting the story.
First off, we hardly see anything about Ahmadinejad’s supporters. Their voices and presence seem conspicuously absent in most western media. I’ve heard people tell me, “no one voted for Ahmadinejad” or “the majority of Iran hates him,” but in actuality, he has a lot of supporters. Even if you believe the election was rigged, I think people need to be honest enough to admit that Ahmadinejad has a significantly large number of supporters. Secondly, the western media seems to present the current struggle as something like “secular reformists” versus “religious fundamentalism.” This is absolutely false and sheer misrepresentation of facts. Mousavi may be a reformist, but he is not a secular reformist. Contrary to what many westerners may think at first glance, Mousavi would not abolish the Islamic Republic, but rather bring forth a new and different interpretation of Islam. Even if you watch the video clips of Mousavi supporters, you’ll hear them chanting, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great). Furthermore, there are religious clerics and mullahs expressing full support for Mouasvi. In fact, a couple of days ago, Grand Ayatollah Husayn ‘Ali Montazeri questioned the election results and issued a statement in support of peaceful protests to “claim rights.” Presenting these protests as “anti-religion” is not only irresponsible, but also very misleading and counter-productive.
Thirdly, the mainstream western media neglects to inform us that many of the same people who said, “Bomb Iran” are now expressing their concern for the country. It’s worded much better in Glenn Greenwald’s article, “The ‘Bomb Iran’ contingent’s newfound concern for The Iranian People.” Here’s an excerpt:
Much of the same faction now claiming such concern for the welfare of The Iranian People are the same people who have long been advocating a military attack on Iran and the dropping of large numbers of bombs on their country — actions which would result in the slaughter of many of those very same Iranian People. During the presidential campaign, John McCain infamously sang about Bomb, Bomb, Bomb-ing Iran. The Wall St. Journal published a war screed from Commentary‘s Norman Podhoretz entitled “The Case for Bombing Iran,” and following that, Podhoretz said in an interview that he “hopes and prays” that the U.S. “bombs the Iranians”… Imagine how many of the people protesting this week would be dead if any of these bombing advocates had their way — just as those who paraded around (and still parade around) under the banner of Liberating the Iraqi People caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of them, at least.
I attended a rally for Iran yesterday and I felt really uncomfortable that some of the White non-Muslim supporters didn’t know what they were talking about (to put it bluntly). “Why do you support Mousavi?” I asked them. “I don’t really know much about him,” said one person. “I just know that he’s more moderate,” said another. A third person said, “I just hate Ahmadinejad.” I followed up with the question, “Why do you hate Ahmadinejad?” The response, “Because he ruined Iran’s image.” I followed up again, “How so?” The response was short and brief, “The comments he made about the holocaust, they completely ruined Iran’s image in the world.” A White man rode by on his bicycle and expressed his support by shouting, “Down with dictators!” Another White non-Muslim told me that she was showing her support because Iran is “so oppressive.” An Iranian-American (who didn’t want to be video-taped) told me that even if Ahmadinejad had more supporters, the protesting is good because it’s what Iran needs right now.
Ok, can I call time-out? I know there are a lot of passionate arguments going back and forth about this and I really don’t want to be censored from some of my favorite blogs in the blogosphere for speaking my mind about this, but hear me out for a minute or two. Remember during the Bush administration, many democrats, liberals, Iranians and/or Muslims alike would argue that Bush was over-exaggerating immensely about the “existential threat” of Iran? Do you remember Ahmadinejad’s “wipe Israel off the map” comment, which turned out to be a mistranslation and George W. Bush just pounding on his war drum? Do you remember Reza Aslan saying “Ahmadinejad is no Hitler” on Anderson Cooper? Many of us said that even though Ahmadinejad is not very popular in Iran, he is essentially a powerless figure (according to Aslan’s recent appearance on MSNBC, he doesn’t even have “the national security clearance to even look at Iran’s nuclear portfolio, let alone make any decisions about it”).
Now, suddenly, Ahmadinejad has transformed into this “tyrant” and “Hitler-esque” figure that many of us were rejecting during the Bush Administration. Ok, he made an idiotic statement about the Holocaust, but does that mean he’s a tyrant, oppressor, dictator, or Hitler reincarnate? I do not support Ahmadinejad, on the contrary, I would have liked to see Mousavi as President, but I am simply against misrepresentation of facts. Put this in perspective: Ahmadinejad released those British sailors, didn’t he? He also released Roxana Saberi even though she was a Fox News propagandist, and he even called for an extension on Delara Darabi’s trial, but sadly, she was secretly executed (an order that was carried out by an unfair court). It’s one thing to protest Ahmadinejad, but it’s another thing to misrepresent him and completely mistaken the amount of power he actually has in the country, which belongs to the Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Jasmin Ramsey at Pulse Media has a great piece on the western media’s biased coverage (and misrepresentation of Ahmadinejad) in which she writes:
If one dares to go beyond (though not necessarily against) expressing support for the protestors in favor of taking a more analytical approach to this extremely complex situation, they are almost immediately defamed or written off as someone who supports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ”the bad,” as Robert Fisk of The Independent has recently referred to him.
Anyway, as Ali A. Rizvi writes in his article, the election results are pretty much irrelevant now. The protests represent the larger picture and the fact that seven people have been killed so far is very troubling. Mousavi called for a day of mourning for his followers to observe in memory of those killed in the protests and I think this is strengthening his position even more. I hope that there’s a positive resolution to all of this and I pray that no one else is killed. It could very well be that Ahmadinejad won the election and it could also be possible that it was rigged, but regardless, the demonstrations right now show us that both candidates have thousands of supporters. Like I said before, there is a lot of information to absorb and there are passionate arguments on both sides, which can make it a bit difficult to sift through, but it’s clear that Iran is making history right now and that the people will decide the future of their country.
I’ve noticed that the arguments can get quite heated and sometimes we concern ourselves too much with one-upping the opposing argument that we forget what this is about in the first place. I am inspired by the energy and persistence of the Iranian people, I have always had deep affection for Iranian culture, history, music, art, and language, and I pray that whatever the turnout is, it is best for the people.