Don’t see Iran as freedom fighters

While Hugo Chavez shamefully embraces Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and utterly ignores Tehran’s horrific human rights record, Nasrin Alavi highlights the struggles inside Iran that deserve global support:

The Iranian state has to come to terms with the reality that, a generation after the revolution, no hardline Islamic student group is (or has been) able to gain control of any Iranian campus through free elections.

In the same week that Ahmadinejad was hailed as a hero of resistance in Lebanon, fellow inmates of the imprisoned human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told of her nightly interrogation sessions and the screams that could be heard from her cell. We have also heard from the father of student Hamed Rouhinejad, who has related his desperate efforts to get guards at the same prison to take delivery of his son’s medication for multiple sclerosis, “begging them to keep it refrigerated so it doesn’t go off.”

When a loopy preacher in Florida threatened to burn the Koran, there were violent protests across the Arab world, but when pro-Ahmadinejad militia attacked the offices of Grand Ayatollah Saanei last June, leaving his books and tattered copies of the Koran in their wake, a deafening silence was heard from Iran’s neighbours. Had these events taken place in the occupied territories, I suspect the response would not have been so mute. Is this not the same gross hypocrisy and double standard that we in the region often accuse the west of?

Today Iranians who are standing up for their rights deserve to be acknowledged by their Arab neighbours. Their struggle is part of a long walk to freedom that began with the creation of the first elected parliament in the region in 1906. By 1911 authoritarian rule was implemented as Britain and imperial Russia strangled the early aspirations of Iranians for democratic change.… A generation later, the democratically elected government of Mossadegh was finished off in a coup backed by Britain and the US.

Whether in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia or Iran, we are all familiar with pitiful old men who sit blaming and cursing the ghosts of a colonial past. These men are forever warning us of the enemies in the shadows who will conspire and thwart our every move.

But Iran is a country of the young, where two out of every three people you see on the streets are likely to be under 30. It is also the only country in the middle east where people can’t blame corruption, tyranny or even their daily hardship on their American-backed leaders.

We buried our colonial parents during the 1979 revolution. Today, the children of that revolution are banishing the ghosts that debilitated their forefathers by demanding that we hold ourselves accountable—both for our failures and for our successes.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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