What happens when you mix 39 million young people, years of repression, the biggest election turn out in a country’s history and more than slightly dodgy results? Hope.
As the election results in Iran were announced, mobile phones and email access were cut off in Iran — not to mention blogs and Twitter. So why would a government with veto power over all candidates and the ability to overrule the decisions of the President bother to tamper with election results? After all, the final say with most government decisions sits firmly in the hands of the Supreme Leader and not the President.
The answer is that they’re running scared.
This wouldn’t be the first time that an authoritarian government has become more suppressive because they fear losing power. For the first time in my memory the stories that have been splashed in the media about Iran have been able to hint at it’s real character. What most people here don’t understand is despite the repression, government surveillance and strict moral codes the people of Iran are among the most subversive in the world.
I went to school for a little more than two years in Iran. My favourite memory of that time is when a mullah came to our school to lead Friday prayers. I always thought that no one should tell me where or how to pray — so I was understandably dawdling and playing with my shoelaces instead of fastening on my chador. The mullah decided to ask me why I wasn’t part of the prayers — I asked why there weren’t any female ayatollahs. The school wasn’t entirely impressed.
My point is that despite the West’s beliefs, people — and more importantly women in Iran aren’t subservient mutes who can’t speak for themselves. The current generation of Iranian women are the most highly educated (their university entrance exceeds men almost two to one) and courageous Iran has ever seen. I have watched women in Iran argue with armed guards about their right to wear nailpolish, defiantly wear layers of makeup in public when it is supposedly banned and shorten their rosareihs until they look more like bandanas then hijab. These women are the biggest threat to the Islamic Revolution and the rule of the mullahs simply because after thirty years of oppression they haven’t surrendered and they never will.
The blow to the Iranian people from this election won’t soon be forgotten. I remember standing in line with my family to vote during the elections when Khatami was elected. I remember us talking about the different candidates at school, the zeal in the air on polling day and the excitement and hope that filtered through all our beings when he was elected — sadly I also remember that hope being eroded into numbness and disillusionment. From all accounts the mood around this election was twice as pertinent as the one I witnessed — after all young people went green for Mousavi and created a human chain from one side of Tehran to the other.
The next few weeks in Iran aren’t going to be pretty — not with hundreds of reformists already in jail. It’s time to come back to our earlier question. What happens when you mix 39 million young people, years or repression, the biggest election turn out in a country’s history and more than slightly dodgy results? Hope, because in a country of young people who are growing more and more restless, real change is never far away.