domingo, 20 de septiembre de 2009

Selected Essays: On the Iran Election Protests

Our Sister's Keeper?

written after the elections in Iran, 2009

June 23, 2009


Against my basic instincts, and perhaps judgment, I forced myself to watch the video of Neda Agha-Soltan’s violent death. I could not hold back the swelling tears from my eyes as this young woman, a startled look in her face, was helped desperately by her screaming friends and blood started pouring out from her mouth and nose, as her lungs obviously filled up with it, and her life drained away into a blank stare. The common pain shared by us all when seeing a young life’s dream and potential cut short is insignificant compared to what her family and closest friends must be going through and, as best as I can, I convey my sympathies to them.

Such graphic and violent images have made Neda into an unwilling symbol of fratricidal warfare, the consequence of sowing hate and divisiveness between brothers and sisters purportedly out for the best interest of their country and people, but with particular views and agendas as to what is “the best” for their country. Either side of the multiple parties and positions in the particular case of Iran is undoubtedly supportive of the Islamic Revolution that has made this country into what it is now: a culturally rich society with aspirations to a better life based on mutual respect in a society of nations, except… there is that caveat: the evangelical drive to convert or violently reject non-converts.

Frida Ghitis (Theocracy Mortally Hurt, Miami Herald 6-23-09) reports that the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran includes the directive for “extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world”. When interpreted by sectarian fundamentalists, this directive can and has resulted in international terrorism. When interpreted by tolerant pragmatists, this could result in cultural exchanges. The people of Iran have had their own voice on this matter in this election, and it seems that the pragmatists have gained the upper hand. However, what we are witnessing in Iran we are viewing through distorted, raw information that leaves ample room for misinterpretation. For those who would take sides at this time it should be noted that self-determination and the will of the people is very hard to assess with the knowledge we have. For all we know the riots and protests are being conducted by a very small group in a very limited, yet photogenic area of town. Maybe the whole of the countryside is revolting and large yet remote cities are in strife. Iran is not a society open to the free flow of information and all factions within will try their best to manipulate it in their favor.

President Obama’s hands off attitude to the situation at hand is the right action at this time. He, after all, already reached out with his hand to influence the hopes of reformists with his Inaugural Address, the Nowruz (Iran’s New Year) speech in March, Ankara, and his Cairo Address. We can only hope that the emerging side after this tragic turmoil will see the U.S.’ posture as one of respect for their own self-determination, not as one of indifference or one of interference. That is when diplomacy kicks in, and we have to remind ourselves of our moral standing as our Sister’s Keeper.

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