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The Iranian Circus (cont.)

Only a fool, or the ultimate insider, would try to predict the outcome of the elaborate passion play--aka "elections"--now being staged in Iran.  But clearly the hatred an awful lot of Iranians harbor for the regime is now being played out in the streets of Tehran and, most likely, many other cities across the country.  Reporters in Tehran are using very strong language to describe the anti-regime demonstrations:

From the London Times:

It was open insurrection, a rebellion of a sort seldom seen in the 30-year history of the Islamic Republic, an eruption of pent-up rage against the repressive Government of President Ahmadinejad.

“Death to the Government,” chanted the several thousand Iranians packed into a football stadium in Tehran. “Death to dictators,” roared the young men and women, draped in green shirts, ribbons, bandanas and headscarves to signal their support for Mir Hossein Mousavi.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Tens of thousands of demonstrators formed a 12-mile human chain across Iran's capital city Monday, chanting for change, in scenes reminiscent of the 1979 revolution.

These are accounts of two different demonstrations, one in a football stadium, the other on the main street in downtown Tehran.  Both cite demonstrators shouting "Death to the dictator," "Death to the government of lies," and other phrases that leave no doubt about their desires:  they want an end to the oppressive regime.

Their candidate is the former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, an architect who designed some of the most oppressive features of the Islamic Republic when the Ayatollah Khomeini was the country's Supreme Leader, and who has been absent from public life for twenty years.  By all accounts he is an uninspiring figure, a boring speaker, and an ineffective debater (he was beaten badly in a televised debate with President Ahmadinezhad the other night).  So what can account for the frenzy on his behalf?

For one thing, he is not Ahmadinezhad, for whom there is a lot of hatred.  The current circus is taking place against a background of mounting repression, featuring public executions of many young people (some said to be homosexuals), mass arrests, summary closing of the few remaining quasi-independent publications, increased censorship of telephone and internet communications, and a lot of nasty action against young people who do not meet the strict dress code and decorum rules imposed by the theocratic dictatorship.

That so many people would openly defy such a regime is certainly significant, and it may well be that the reporters who see the current demonstrations as revolutionary, or at least insurrectionary, are quite right.  I have long said that the Iranian people despise the regime, do not want an Islamic Republic, and wish to be part of the Western world, not part of a fanatical regime whose essence consists in supporting anti-American and anti-Israeli terrorism, denying the Holocaust, and singing praises to martyrdom.

In that way, Mousavi can be viewed as similar to the failed "reformer," Mohammad Khatami, who was unexpectedly elected president in 1997.  I once wrote that Khatami was the empty vessel into which the Iranian people had poured their passionate desire for freedom.  Khatami did not reform much of anything, and many Iranians came to view him as a stalking horse for the regime's hard-liners, luring dissidents into the open so that they could be marginalized, tortured, incarcerated and murdered.

But I think Mousavi is different.  And the big difference is his wife.  As the Times tells us:

The biggest roar of the afternoon was reserved for the main speaker, Zahra Rahnavard, Mr Mousavi’s wife. “You’re here because you don’t want any more dictatorship,” she declared. “You’re here because you hate fanaticism, because you dream of a free Iran, because you dream of a peaceful relationship with the rest of the world.” The candidate himself was nowhere to be seen...

That Ms Rahnavard has become a central figure in the circus is a big surprise, and perhaps revolutionary in itself.  As we all know, women are diminished in the Islamic Republic (as throughout much of the "Islamic world"), to an extent unthinkable in civilized countries.  Women are officially worth half a man, have no property rights, have little formal say in the education of their children, have severely limited job opportunities (Khomeini ranted against the shah's regime in no small part because women were permitted to teach boys) and of course are compelled to cover their bodies, including their hair, lest the sight of them corrupt the otherwise virtuous men.  Even Shirin Ebadi, the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, is regularly silenced or put under virtual house arrest when the rulers decide they've had enough of her prattle about human rights.