Iranians seeking justice in streets inspires hope

Freedom New Mexico

It is almost impossible not to be inspired and inspirited by the sight of brave protesters in Iran filling the streets of Tehran with their strategically silent pleas to have their votes counted and their dignity respected by the cruel regime that rules that beleaguered country.

They represent a voice for something approaching a civil society that has gone well beyond the narrow disagreements expressed in the run-up to their recent election, a force that threatens to rock the regime to its core.

It is difficult to believe their bravery will not have some sort of leavening impact on Iranian politics for some time to come.

At the same time, President Obama’s carefully measured comment, assuring all sides that the United States government is not picking sides in this contest, that the U.S. wants only that the will of the people be respected and violence kept to a minimum, was probably as good an approach as could be expected.

While circumstances surrounding the official announcement of the winner — millions of handwritten ballots counted in three hours? — support allegations of vote fraud, and some fraud seems likely, we don’t have the hard evidence to support the charge.

It is even possible that incumbent President Ahmadinejad actually won the election but had his margin increased by vote-counting fraud.

The massive demonstrations suggest thousands, perhaps millions, of Iranians have had their fill of the repressive Islamic Republic and seek a more secular government capable of more normal relations with the rest of the world.

It is important to remember, however, they were not actually given that choice in the election contest between President Ahmadinejad and former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. All candidates were cleared by the Guardian Council of mullahs intensely loyal to the existing regime, and none threatened to upset the supreme power held by Ayatollah Khamenei.

And it is possible even a secular Iranian regime would still be interested in pursuing nuclear power, including a nuclear weapon, and in bolstering Iran’s regional influence.

As much as most decent people would like to see the Islamic Republic overthrown, there is no guarantee a replacement regime would be less a thorn in the side of the region.

All that said, however, the sight of so many Iranians seeking justice in the streets inspires hope and serves as a reminder that tyrannical regimes are always more vulnerable than they seem on the surface. The desire for personal freedom and dignity is expressed in different ways in different cultures, sometimes in ways we find difficult to comprehend.

At some level, every human being seeks dignity and respect, and every human being deserves a chance to strive for them.