Iran does not have truly free elections. Iran has elections designed to strengthen the status quo and keep the Islamic revolution in power. But they’re voting in Iran today, and keeping in mind that country’s relationship to ours and the lack of real freedom there, take at look at this:
An Iranian democracy activist doesn’t have any good choices today. Protesting seems to be off the table, and after the violence many activists suffered in 2009, it’s not hard to understand why. Voting is an unattractive option, since the regime is clearly using today’s vote in an attempt to boost their own legitimacy, and participating would help them out. But boycotting is never an effective choice, since it only ensures the activists will further marginalize themselves. And, even if candidates range on the ideological spectrum “from pitch black to dark gray,” as Karim Sadjadpour told the New York Times, that’s still a chance to effect some tiny change. The dilemma seemed to trouble even opposition figure and former President Mohammad Khatami, who first called for a boycott and then ended up voting, enraging some activists who saw it as a betrayal.
So you’ve got to hand it to the young man in this photo, who seemed to figure out a clever way to protest the election — wearing the flag of his government’s #1 enemy — while still making sure his vote is included. It’s a small but brave way to thumb his nose at the system without excluding himself entirely, as boycotters did today.
Godspeed and prayers for that young man. Maybe there’s a Breitbart in Tehran.