People power

The Iranian elections show that the people’s democratic will can no longer be held in, writes Hamid Dabashi*

Published on AlAhram, by Hamid Dabashi*, June 25, 2009.

(Khonak an qomarbazi keh bebakht har cheh budash,
Benamand hichash ella havas e qomar e digar.
[Lucky that gambler who lost all he had,
Left with nothing but the urge for yet another game]
– Anonymous Persian poet

The Iranian presidential election of June 2009 will go down in history as one of the most magnificent manifestations of a people’s indomitable will to achieve enduring democratic institutions. The beleaguered custodians of the Islamic Republic, thoroughly aware of their own lack of legitimacy, were quick to use the occasion as a vindication of their illegitimate rule. They are wrong. This was not a vote for their legitimacy. It was a vote against it — albeit within the mediaeval juridical fortress they have built around the notions and principles of citizenry in a free and democratic republic. The feeble “opposition” to the clerics abroad also rushed to admonish those who participated in the election, insisting on regime change, at a time when upward of 80 per cent of eligible voters willingly participated in the election. Both these desperate, hasty, and banal readings of the election, predicated on bankrupt positions are false … 

… The sole winners of the presidential election of 2009 were the Iranian people, whoever they voted for — some 40 million of them, out of an eligible voting population of 48 million, upward of 80 per cent. This election showed the democratic will of Iranians has matured beyond any point of return, no matter how violently the unelected officials of the Islamic Republic wish to reverse it. It is too late. As made evident during the presidential election of 2009, Iranians are perfectly capable of organising themselves around competing views, campaigning for their preferred candidates, peacefully going to polling stations and casting their vote. It is high time that the Shia clerics pack their belongings and go back to their seminaries, and for regime change charlatans like Paul Wolfowitz to retire in ignominy, and for career opportunist comprador intellectuals of one think tank or another in Washington DC or Stanford University to go back to the half decent teaching position they had before …

… All Arab and Muslim potentates ought to know that their young are watching events in Iran with a keen interest. It is not only Iranians that are wired to Facebook and Twitter, so are their brothers and sisters around the globe, throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Young Arab and Muslims around the globe are not immune to the demands young Iranians are exacting at the heavy cost, courageously exposing their bare chests against the bullets and batons of tyranny. This is a post-ideological generation. They could not care less about their parents’ political hang-ups. They demand, and will exact, human, civil and women’s rights, through a grassroots, entirely legitimate uprising, without compromising an inch to the imperial machinations of the United States or the colonial thuggery of Israel. The custodians of the Islamic Republic are in violation of Article 27 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic. To the best of my knowledge, this is not a revolution to topple the Islamic Republic. This is a grassroots demand for civil rights. Iranians being clubbed and shot in the streets of Tehran are not the stooges of the United States. The Arab and Muslim mediaeval potentates suffocating the democratic aspirations of their people are. Fear the day that young Arabs and Muslims learn from their Iranian brothers and sisters and demand their inalienable human rights, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, equal rights for men and women, economic opportunity, respect for human decency and for the rule of law. (full long text).

* (The writer is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York).

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