Monday, June 15, 2009

I know the pieces fit

I really love this picture of the rally at Azadi square in Tehran.

I've had a weird sort of special fondness for democratic movements in Iran, since some time in undergrad when I started reading about how Iran ended up with its current theocracy. As was bizarrely acknowledged by Obama in his Cairo speech (I say "bizarrely" because I didn't realize he was allowed to do so), Iran used to be a democracy, until 1953 when there was a western-backed coup. (Because the PM dared to nationalize the oil industry, of course, of course.) This was followed by the illegitimate, autocratic, and oppressive rule of the Shah, which was then overthrown in the Iranian Revolution. Although the Revolution led to a theocracy, it did not begin as a movement united behind Khomeini, but originally included liberals and Marxists, who had always been active in opposing the Shah.

So I think I'm so fond of the Iranian reformist movement because I especially love to follow a true story when I'm pretty sure the good guys are going to win.

Not that I'm particularly confident that that will happen just right now. But this recent round of unrest is the natural expression of the democratic aspirations and potential which have always existed in Iran, and are increasingly active. There have been protests in previous election cycles. But not on this scale. And this time, they have the public backing of top-level political figures. There are reports that there are plenty of police officers joining in with the rallies (not that an armed uprising has any chances of success). The regime's veneer of legitimacy is peeling terribly. For years, the majority of Iranian university graduates have been women (a good sign of other forms of progress). These are trends won't be reversed. Eventually, batons and tear gas and bullets won't be enough to keep them down. Inevitably, Iran will recover from the political sickness brought down upon it in 1953, and it will re-democratize.

Unless the west (or Israel) does something stupid, again. But, hey, what are the chances?

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