Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iranians Upheaval against Theocratic Regime

Iranians Upheaval against Theocratic Regime:
rallying for freedom and individual rights!

By: Dalia Ziada*

The scene in Iran today foretells the potential rise of a grassroots revolution against the thirty years of theocratic leadership. Last Friday, the disputed victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second presidency term over the moderate candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi disappointed not only Iranians, but also reformists all over the world. Yet, the nonviolent protests which followed the announcement of voting results came with bigger disappointment to Ahmadinejad, and his patron Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "sacred" Supreme Leader of Iran.

For three days, the Ministry of Internal Security and the Revolutionary Guards are trying, in vain, to control the nationwide rallies of millions of protesters. They killed tens of young people, arrested hundreds of dissidents, kept Mousavi in custody in his house, locked up text messaging services, restricted Internet and overseas telephone access, and threatened citizens via phone voice messages not to join demonstrations. Yet, millions of highly motivated Iranians are still there – in streets and on-line – standing up for their freedom; seeking a quick end to the thirty years of theocratic control over their lives.

The persistence of protesters, despite the rigid fist of the Iranian regime has become a threat to Khamenei himself. In the first hours after announcing Ahmadinejad victory with 25% margin, Khamenei told defeated candidates and their supporters to avoid "provocative behavior" and urged Iranians to respect the victory of Ahmadinejad the "chosen and respected president." However, unexpectedly, people did not "obey" him. After two days of fast-growing rallies, Khamenei changed his mind! The Supreme Leader who is supposed to be blindly obeyed by his people had to surrender to people's will and ordered investigating possible fraud of Friday elections. It is highly expected that with the continuity of protests, Khamenei might fear risking his own seat and subsequently give more space for Mousavi.

The current historic free-will upheaval of millions of Iranians is far beyond a mere support for Mousavi or a mere protest against Ahmadinejad. It is a nationwide rebel against the taboos of the sacred theocratic authority and the unbearable restrictions of the so-called Islamic state. Iranians are seeking their individual freedoms, which were stolen from them under the extremist president and the theocratic supreme leader, during the past years.

Ahmadinejad's government committed unlimited number of violations to Iranians' civil and individual rights. Dozens of Iranian journalists, cyber activists, and human rights advocates were arrested and assaulted for criticizing the extremist practices of the government. The most recent is that of journalist Roxana Saberi, who was arrested last February and accused of espionage while reporting from Tehran. Also, Iranian feminist Internet writer Jelveh Javaheri was arrested, in December 2007, for her online campaign "We-Change" in support of Iranian women rights. The veteran lawyer and Noble Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, among other human rights activists, suffered numerous forms of crackdown by the government for advocating civil rights in Iran.

Not only opposition members, but also a large number of ordinary citizens and young people tasted the sour of extremist leaders' suppression. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women and young people were arrested by "fashion police" for wearing "un-Islamic" clothes or cutting their hair in a "satanic" western style. The way people celebrate feasts and national holidays is decided by the government. According to 1979 Constitution of the Islamic revolution, The Supreme Leader is given control over every thing in the state. Apparently, this included the lifestyle of each citizen, too!

On another level, the confrontational foreign policy of Ahmadinejad added to the misery of the internal oppression. Under a president who does not care for establishing good relationships with key states in the Middle East and the world, people could not feel safe. The funds spent on feeding wars in the region and fulfilling the disgraced aspirations of illegitimate expansion should have been spent on internal social development projects.

In absolute contrast to his post-election statements, Iranians are fed up with the policies of Ahmadinejad. He cared for every thing the Supreme Leader wished and never paid attention for what his people really wanted. Iranians are now rebelling against the ugly face of dictatorship uncovered by the fall of the nice mask of religion. Iranians are supporting the reformist Mousavi in hope to lighten the heavy burden of unjustified restrictions imposed on their shoulders by the extremist supreme leadership. Mousavi is the choice of people not the Supreme Leader. Iranians see Mousavi as the key for change; for a bright future; for gaining back control over their own individual freedoms. Therefore, they will not go back to their normal life until their dream come true. It has become a matter of life or death; not only for the Iranian people, but also for their theocratic regime.

* Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian human rights activist, blogger, and North Africa director of the American Islamic Congress.