If you believe everything you read in the op-ed pages of The Australian or watch on Fox News, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Iran is a nasty dark country ruled by dark-skinned mullahs and populated by repressed dark-skinned women wearing dark burqahs chased by religious police everywhere they go. Only the Koran is read in school … woops … maddressas and each Friday citizens are drafted to participate in marches shouting chants of “Death to America” and “Death to the country Rupert Murdoch is no longer a citizen of”.
But if you live in the real world, you’ll know that things in Iran are a little more complex. Iranians are currently going through a process both they and we take for granted — an election campaign. Iranian elections aren’t exactly perfect and neither is Iranian democracy, but Iran is far more democratic than other “moderate” states (as in pro-Western) in the Middle East, most of whom are ruled by paramilitary dictators, presidents-for-life, kings and emirs happy to torture and kill terror suspects (especially domestic political opponents) at Washington’s behest.
Iran’s presidential election campaign has involved plenty of verbal biff. The main presidential rivals had a televised mass debate in which insults were thrown all round. Conservative candidate and incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad accused centrist Mir Hossein Mousavi of being backed by a corrupt clerical cabal that have enriched themselves.
The head honcho of that cabal, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, entered the campaign by writing an open letter to Iran’s Supreme Head Honcho, Ayatollah Khamanei, attacking him for not attacking Ahmedinejad for attacking Rafsanjani. Okay, it sounds better in Farsi.
But forget the mullahs. What about Iranian ladies? Which way will they vote?
Well, the electoral authorities may have ruled out even the most conservative female presidential candidates, but this hasn’t stopped many Iranian women from rallying around Iran’s first female university chancellor since the 1979 revolution, who goes by her maiden name and has been described by some as Iran’s future Michelle Obama. Dr Zahra Rahnavard, wife of opposition candidate Mousavi, has been happy to address huge rallies, often speaking on her husband’s behalf and calling for greater freedom for Iranian women.
What about that anti-Semite Ahmedinejad’s worst enemies and biggest victims? According to a leading Israeli newspaper, the vast majority of Iran’s 25,000 Jewish voters will support the man famous for allegedly calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Finally, if you’re really interested in the campaign, you can watch full coverage of the Iranian election from your PC at the state-funded but allegedly independent Iranian Press TV Channel. Or you can focus attention on a contest many Iranians will perhaps be far more interested in.