25th Bahman 1389

17 February 2011

As you might have noticed, lately things are burning in the Middle East. And while the events in Egypt and Tunisia are historical, and the events in Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Algeria are worth following up, today I want to talk about only the country of which I can tell you something new.

I’m speaking, of course, about Iran. And I want to highlight the difference between the protests that are happening right now, and the protests of last year.

Last year, people took to the streets to demand there vote back, after massive, barely covered-up election fraud brought president Ahmedinejad back to power for another term. People got killed, both during the protests and afterwards, after being sentenced in court for disrupting the peace.

This year, the stakes are different. People aren’t asking for their vote back. They’re asking for an end of the current dictatorship that holds the country in an iron fist. Maybe surprising, considering the people are actually allowed to vote for a president, but we’ll talk about that in a future post.

When I was in Iran, I asked one of my friends why people keep complaining about the president, while the real person that wields power in the country is the Supreme Leader. And the answer was simple. When complaining about the president, you risk being beaten up, maybe arrested for a while. Complain about the Supreme Leader, however, and you run the risk of disappearing. Perhaps shot by illegal police when you’re protesting, or jailed, tortured, raped and executed afterwards. When the first news came in of a planned protest in Iran, one correspondent of Al Jazeera made a great observation. “A good day of protesting Iran is worse than the worst day of protesting in Egypt”.

Two things, probably at odds with each other. I’m hoping Iranians will one day have the government the majority of them want and deserve. And I’m hoping my friends are ok.