Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Sobering Moment

I wanted to put this on my blog for my own future reference and I didn't initially want to make a whole separate blog post.  But in the end, I decided: why not? This is my journal anyway.  

I just watched the horrific youtube video of the Iranian woman named Neda who was shot on her way to a Tehran protest. She did nothing more than get out of her car and she was brutally murdered by paramilitary figures. The following are quotes from this article that I wanted to remember. If you feel like reading it, you can too: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,528441,00.html.

Her family scheduled a memorial service to be held in a mosque in northern Tehran, but the government forbade ceremony. She was buried quietly at Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery on Sunday with only her family present, says Soona Samsami, executive director of the Women's Freedom Forum, who has been relaying information about protests inside Iran to international media.

All mosques were given a direct order from the government barring them from holding any memorial services for Neda, and her family was threatened with grave consequences if anyone gathered to mourn her, said Samsami.

Soltan's loved ones were outraged by the authorities' order not to eulogize her.

"They were threatened that if people wanted to gather there the family would be charged and punished," Samsami told FOXnews.com.

Much of the attention and blame for Neda's apparent murder is now being focused on Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose threatening speech Friday preceded the violent protests Saturday at which apparently Neda lost her life. Khamenei is now the prime target for protesters' outrage, Khalaji said.

I just wanted to comment on how tragic it is that an innocent woman's family is now denied the ability to mourn her in their traditional way because of governmental fear that she will become a martyr and add fuel to the ongoing protests. She is not the first to lose her life in this struggle, nor is this struggle the only tragic event occurring right now, but it struck a chord with me tonight. It's a very sobering moment to read about.

Sorry. I promise to bring back happy postings soon! I just had to make mention of my thoughts this evening.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Renegades Return

I don't know how many of you have been following the state of unrest in Iran right now over the reelection of Ahmadinejad, but it brings back some very specific memories for me.  In an earlier post I talked about a book called Iran Awakening and it's inspiration, Shirin Ebadi.  If you missed that post, you can find it here.  The reason that I am reminded so much of this book as I read of the continuing protests and riots is that they are so reminiscent of the ones that occurred in the 1979 revolution Ebadi speaks of in detail in her autobiography.  I knew nothing about Iran before reading this book and have since become very interested in the country's history.

Thirty years ago, Iran was a much more modern country.  Students in college in the 60's and early 70's dressed in mini-skirts, just like in the U.S., women were welcomed in college classrooms and Ebadi, herself, was once a very prominent judge in the judicial system.  However, when the U.S.-backed government was toppled by the revolution at the close of the 70's, many unintended consequences rocked the country.  Women were suddenly required again to wear the burqa, and Ebadi and her female colleagues were demoted to secretarial positions within the judicial system.  

Now, I'm not a feminist, but I used these examples to show just how far regressive the new government was as far as modern progression goes.  For more about Ebadi and her book, you can read the Wikipedia article on her.  In any case, I think Iran Awakening is a fabulously enlightening read that everyone should pick up, especially because the woman won the Nobel Prize for her lifelong work and dedication to pursuing justice.

I digress.  In my enthusiasm for the book, I forget what I began writing for.  I write because today marks the fifth day of protest in Iran over the election results that many in the country believe were rigged.  There are many articles on the subject, but one in particular caught my attention: 

This is big--especially if the riots at the university and in the cities are as much like those of the 1979 revolution as many experts have expressed.   There are at least fifteen people who have died in the protests since last week's election.

I don't know much about the opposing candidate, Mousavi, but I liked that he was straightforward enough to say to Ahmadinejad in a public debate on June 3rd, "I don't think you're a dictator but your attitude will lead to dictatorship."

By the 15th Mousavi claimed he was under house arrest.  I tend to think that something was going on under the tables here, especially since days after the protests began the Iranian government began to forbid foreign journalists to leave their offices to report on the events. Anytime there is a banning on reporting, you know the country is afraid of something.  And in this case it is almost surely afraid of the world opinion. 
But more than anything I wonder what will happen--if the rioting will quiet or if the protests will turn into something more like a revolution.  Seems far-fetched to turn the protests into that at this point, but I would so love to see the Iranian people take back some of the freedoms they once had.  Then again I have been brought up on American ideals and principles.  

Perhaps I'm just like Thomas Jefferson who had so much faith in the perseverance of democracy and the rights of man that during the first few months of the French Revolution he continually assumed each disturbance was the last and that the French monarch and aristocracy were taking heed.  I tend to believe, perhaps naively most of the time, that the people in Iran want out of this rigid form of government in their country, but it appears that many Iranians also support and wish Ahmadinejad well.  It is probably a waste of time to speculate, but I still wonder.  

Well, what do you think?  Talk to me.