The next 24 to 48 hours in Iran are critical. Why should we care?
The next day in Iran is very critical. The country is at the breaking point. This morning in his prayer-speech, the chief cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came out swinging at the opposition movement that has been in the streets for the last week in massive numbers – all in support of their reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi’s people, the “Green Wave”, plan to be in the streets again tomorrow – directly disobeying the Supreme Iman.
Tomorrow – Saturday, June 20th, there will be a showdown and it may be very bloody.
The “Twitter Revolution” meets the tanks. This could happen within hours. This could be very ugly, very terrible for many, many Iranians, and very tragic.
Tehran, the capital, is most probably on the brink of an Iranian-type Tiananmen Square – named for the massacre of hundreds and even thousands of Chinese students and workers almost exactly twenty years ago. It was the absolute public destruction of the pro-democracy movement led by Chinese students, who had staged massive demonstrations during early June, 1989.
The massacre in Mexico City just before the Olympics in 1968 also comes to mind.
Will the government and para-military forces of President Mahmoud Ahmahadinejad crack down on unarmed demonstrators with lethal weapons and kill scores, hundreds or even thousands of those faces that we have been watching in the seas of humanity in images brought to us via the internet, Twitter or Facebook?
The demonstrators have been demanding that last Friday’s election be thrown-out and a new presidential election be held – claiming that there was blatant electoral fraud, which denied the candidate that they have rallied around, Mousavi, his electoral seat. The government has up until just a few days ago, responded with brutal displays of militia and police actions, resulting in as many as 32 deaths from around the nation. They have been since arresting scores, including well-known politicians, journalists and academics.
In todays speech Khamenei pushed a showdown with Mousavi and his supporters, basically ordering the protest movement to go home or he will unleash his dogs of war if they continue their demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the protest movement is calling for a peaceful and massive protest march in Tehran Saturday, against the explicit directives of the top cleric in this Islamic nation. The demonstrators are at very serious risk at that moment when they face the punishment of more batons, tear gas and even guns and tanks.
Yet, there is the possibility that Mousavi’s Gandhi-like movement will eventually split the ruling clique and cause the government of Ahmadinejad to stall out in any attempts to physically shut-down the demonstrations with military might. There are some signs of fissures within the cleric-military-state apparatus now. This could eventually lead into some type of Iranian glasnost period, a political and cultural opening that occurred in the old Soviet Union. Ghandi’s nonviolent movement, of course, eventually forced the British out of India.
I have seen just about every video and every photo published and posted, have read a week’s worth of the blogosphere, have followed many of the live blogging, the twitters- some of it cutting edge exemplary displays of citizen journalism.
Yet as I have been glued to the monitor so I wouldn’t miss a single update or new video, I have been frustrated as I know intuitively that this is extremely important for not only for Iran, the Middle East – but for the rest of the world, even for us Americans, but haven’t been able to articulate why.
And let me quickly add, I don’t want our American government to do anything. With two wars going on, how can we preach to anyone about human rights? Obama can say a few universal truths. But our history with Iran is way too sordid for us – as a foreign nation – to do anything. Before we can lecture we need to do some apologizing. Start with the Shah.
What our government should do – nothing – is very different than what we are feeling, understanding and learning as a people thousands of miles away from that ancient land of Persia, yet as close as Twitter, facebook and our keyboard.
We can be freedom loving and support and stand with the people of Iran without any American intervention. We can love freedom-fighting peoples everywhere, whether in Burma, Thailand, Peru, or in Tehran. And we can understand and learn from their forms of resistance to autocracy.
There is a form of resistance going on right now in Tehran, a city enveloped with the darkness of night. Directly disobeying the supreme Imam, people are shouting out “God is great!” and other chants in a sign of defiance and solidarity with the Green Wave. The chants are reportedly louder than ever. Listening to this video of the chants with the low voice of the woman moderator was very emotional for me. I couldn’t see anything, and I couldn’t understand the narrator, and all I can hear are these chants, male and female, close and far – and then the woman narrator starts crying … The sheer bravery. There are gun shots in the distance. … see if you can keep a dry eye.
Things, events, arrests are happening by the hour, by the minute. There’s a report that everyone close to Mousavi has been arrested.
Nothing is as important in the whole world as what happens in the next 24 hours in Iran.