This post commemorates the millions of Iranians who have taken to the streets in the spirit of Mohandas Gandhi’s satyagraha and Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful rebellion. The protesters mostly wear the lime-green chartreuse color (it’s a real “clash” of opinions) associated with presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. On Monday, at a rally in Azadi (Freedom) Square, Mousavi, who was the last Iranian prime minister before constitutional changes did away with the position, made his first appearance since Friday’s election. He urged his supporters to remain nonviolent and insisted he will “pay any cost” to fight the government’s version of the election results.
The protests’ scope hearkens back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, from which the current Islamic Republic of Iran emerged. Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly questions the legitimacy of the Holocaust, insists there are no homosexuals in Iran, and serves as the political face of Iran’s theocratic Muslim elites. Mousavi was ahead according to most polling data leading up to the election, but the government’s official version of the results had Ahmadinejad winning by a 2-1 margin. Whether or not the election results are fraudulent and the election was “stolen,” as protesters claim, remains unproven, but there’s substantial evidence that this is the case. First, all three opposition candidates have asserted the election returns to be inaccurate and unrepresentative. Second, all provinces reported the same percentage of votes for Ahmadinejad, a curious lack of variance which some have called “suspicious.” Third, although Iranian election results have previously not been certified for three full days after the election, the ruling cleric, Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei, certified these results within a day, which some view as an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Nevertheless, others believe the results may represent the actual will of the Iranian people and question the outpouring of support for the protesters.
Iran’s government has responded by stating that the results will be verified and insisting the election is an internal matter. Iran recently banned foreign journalists from covering protest rallies. Since the election, in a stunning display of the ability of technology and the inevitability of globalization in communication, many of the protesters have used Twitter to communicate with one another. Regardless of whether or not there was electoral fraud or what will be the ultimate result of the protests, it is important to note that what is taking place in Iran is a true testament to the enduring influence of Gandhi and MLK Jr.’s optimistic vision of change in the face of establishment pressure.