Michael Totten

Weep for Iran, cheer the Iranians

The news from Iran is overwhelming and overwhelmingly tragic. The Islamic Republic was never, as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed on June 19, 2009, a “religious democracy.” It was always a dictatorship with some window dressing of constitutionalism and representative government.
As Samira Makhmalbaf, an Iranian filmmaker “said”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/20/world/middleeast/20iran.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all on the same day:
bq. “Until Friday we had 80 percent dictatorship and 20 percent democracy, and since Friday we have 100 percent dictatorship.”
Iran is bleeding. Iranians are, however, demonstrating great courage. They are on the streets defying a bloody regime. They know that their government will stop at nothing to stay in power. Yet still they turn out on the streets and absorb the blows of the police and the vigilantes.
For some Americans, Iran can seem a place only of menace and darkness. If you are worried by the conduct of the Iranian regime, you have understood the country better than many commentators. What Americans now see is that Iranians are a people with spirit who are not easily broken. For all the claims that Americans are an unsophisticated bunch, they know that a regime and its people are not one and the same. What has happened in recent weeks has confirmed that instinct.
Are those protesting true believers in democracy? We do not know, because they have never been given the chance. What we do know is that they reject the dishonesty of a repressive theocracy. For that reason alone, we should stand with them.
Let us weep for Iran. Let us cheer the Iranians.