I just viewed some of the footage shot by civilians (via cell phones) during the recent crackdown by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard against the street demonstrations that have risen in Iran during the past week. The people are protesting what they see as a fixed election result. The recent “landslide” election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi (the expected winner) has the Iranian people calling “foul!” and they aren’t taking this one sitting down. They are in the streets. This looks oddly familiar to the protests demanding the ousting of the Shah in the late Seventies.
The visceral footage (and there’s plenty of it) brought me to tears. The now viral video of “Neda” shows a young woman felled by a gunshot wound to the chest as she lay dying with her wailing, helpless friends at her side and her death has become a rallying point for the demonstrators and their supporters worldwide. Imagine: running through a crowd of screaming, horrified chaos. I witnessed the images of bloodied victims, littered streets and utter terror as I ran -via the photographer- willy nilly through the streets. It was horrifying.
I couldn’t help but feel connected to these people and awed by their bravery. I mean really, ask yourself: when was the last time you took to the streets for a cause, knowing that at any time you may be mowed down and executed by your own government troops? I believe the closest scenario I could imagine would be the Civil Rights Marchers who were beaten and hosed by the police in Southern Cities in the U.S. during the sixties. Did our government promise to squash the movement and kill all those participants if they did not cease and desist? Were they called traitors? I think not.
Note to all citizens of the US who complain bitterly about our country and government. It is your right to voice your disdain. You don’t expect to be shot (by your government) in the street for it.
Iran has been troubled for decades. I knew about the Iranian people’s struggles even in my flighty youth of the late Seventies – if only through keywords and phrases like: The Shah, the Shah is deposed, Islamic Revolution and the Ayotollah Khomeini. I knew that the clerics had taken control with their interpretation of Islam and implemented strict codes of behavior. I reasoned that the Ayotollah believed that he had a divine power to control and dictate morality and politics. Yes, the Shah was deposed but I never felt that Iran had solved its problems with freedom and civil rights. It always seemed to me that the monarchy was replaced with a different kind of iron fist cloaked in dogma. I have an open mind about the Middle East. I never jumped on any bandwagon that hailed Islam as evil or alien and nor held a grudge against the Arab world because of 911. That would be like hating all white people because of Slavery – you know? But I never believed the citizens of Iran were better off (the women certainly were not better off) when inflexible ideologies and strict codes of behavior are used to control a people.
I just watched a documentary film by Iranian filmmaker Nahid Persson Sarvestani called The Queen and I The filmmaker was an anti-Shah communist in the Seventies whose seventeen year old brother (and fellow communist) was executed by the Shah’s forces. She – who relished the ousting of the Shah of Iran – later found herself equally endangered by the new Islamic Revolutionary government. The freedom that was promised to the people did not come with the ousting of the Shah and she, like the Shah’s wife (Queen Farrah) were living in exile in Europe. They can never return to their beloved homeland upon fear of death. She and the Queen were both exiles longing for their country, unable to return and helpless. They are both watchers now.
I feared for the people of Iran when I first read of the government’s warnings that there would be bloodshed if the protests did not stop. I wondered: Will this scare them into their homes and off the streets? Surely history has taught them that this government was not fucking around when they issued those threats. But they marched on. When the government shut down the journalists so that the world could not see, the people used their technology: social networking and cell phones to let us see the fight. When the government scrambled satellites and shut down web sites, citizens around the world set up proxy sites that would enable them to get through. You really could sit in your house and help a revolution. Powerful stuff y’all…
I hope our President will continue to stay cool and stay out of it. The Iranian government has already tried to place blame on us for inciting the street protests and encouraging the discord. The situation is too fragile right now for us to put our big mouths in it. We must let the natural course take – and watch for now. We see what our past intervention in grown ass folks’ problems got us…
Tags: 911, Ayotollah Khomeini, civil rights, exile, Facebook, Hossein Moussavi, internet, Iran, Iran's revolutionary guard, Iranian film, Iranian government, Islamic Revolution, linked in, Lynne Jordan, lynne jordan and the shivers, Middle East, Nahid Persson Sarvestani, Neda, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, protests, queen Farrah, slavery, Social Media, The Queen & I, The Shah, The Shah of iran, United States
Filed under: In the Life of a Diva