The following is from the June 22, 2009, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Darab Ganji is a political economist and guest lecturer at SMU’s John Tower Center for Political Studies. Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, is diplomat in residence and an adjunct professor at the Tower Center.
June 26, 2009
Despite attempts to shield the increasing brutality through an international media blackout, the world is witnessing the Iranian people heroically and courageously defying the authority and ruthlessness of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Republic system.
Iranians are expanding their nonviolent demonstrations and expressing legitimate demands for freedom and human rights, despite violent and indiscriminate suppression attempts by the mullah regime’s Basij militia and thugs.
The decision of Khamenei to personally address the protests at Friday’s prayer event and to violently attempt to quell the latest demonstrations speaks volumes about the seriousness of the threat of the civil disobedience.
The overwhelming majority of Iranians do not support the mullah regime, and they realize the government has retained power through the use of sheer brute force. Iranians have long been aware that their elections are a sham to serve a two-fold purpose of legitimatizing the Islamic Republic system and showcasing a make-believe democracy for the outside world.
As the world is witnessing, there is a tech-savvy, vibrant Iranian freedom movement challenging the mullahs that predates the recent presidential election. This is much more than a spontaneous uprising. Since the contested June 12 election, the mullah leadership is ever more divided and the foundation of the system is severely fractured. The continuation of the current state of affairs has broadened the internal rift within its various political elites.
The Iranian people are aware that Mir Hossein Mousavi has been part of the Islamic Republic power structure and thus is not a viable long-term leader of the reform movement. However, they also realize that Mousavi is a useful figure to temporarily rally around because the leadership initially was hesitant to try to crush the massive protests perceived to be organized by one of their own handpicked presidential candidates and former prime minister.
Going forward, the genuine leadership of Iran will emerge from the figurative brothers and sisters of Neda, the heroic young lady who appears to have been brutally murdered by the regime’s thugs Saturday.
Meanwhile, at the opportune time, the freedom movement will bring increasingly massive numbers of Iranians into the streets in a sustained fashion to overwhelm the security forces. Some of these forces may well refuse to suppress the demonstrators. The scale of the protests also will expand to include strikes in the bazaar, petroleum and mass transit sectors, and further challenge the theocratic system.
An obvious next objective could be the open call for regime change to create a free and secular government and perhaps a United Nations-monitored referendum on the Islamic Republic system.
Today Iran is at a historical juncture, the outcome of which will have significant long-term effects on the Persian Gulf and beyond. Success for this freedom movement would certainly become a powerful stabilizing force.
The unpleasant alternative would likely be more lost decades of totalitarian rule, human rights abuses, regional threats and the continued export of international terrorism, potentially abetted with nuclear weapons.
It is vital for the international community and all freedom-loving people to support the home-grown movement in Iran through means that do not undermine its independence.
The ruling mullahs must understand that they will ultimately be held accountable for their brutal attempts to forcibly destroy the nonviolent civil disobedience and the aspirations of the Iranian people to be governed by a free and just system.
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