Mahmud Ahmadinejad is losing control of his people.
Over the past four months, Iranian civilians staged protests against his regime, cried “Allahu Akbar” from rooftops in defiance, and stood behind his opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, in a sea of green—the official color of Mousavi’s presidential campaign. They have challenged powerful ayatollahs, disregarded threats of imprisonment and death, and refused to be intimidated by Basij forces.
And on the last Friday of Ramadan, they did it again.
International al-Quds Day is meant to consist of demonstrations opposing Israel’s control of Jerusalem. Despite threats from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Iranians instead used the Quds Day protests as a platform to express their continued disdain for Ahmadinejad. Shouts of “Dictator, this is your last warning! The nation is ready to rise up against you!” and “Liar! Liar! Where is your 63 percent?” undermined Ahmadinejad’s antisemitic speeches.
Much of Iran has been in an upheaval since the disputed June 12 election. President Ahmadinejad claimed victory over Mousavi and two other opposition candidates, but it soon became evident that the election was rigged. For several weeks, Iranians staged massive protests throughout the country to show their support for Mousavi. More importantly, they displayed their solidarity as a people who would not sit idly by as an illegitimate regime tried to take away their voice.
Unfortunately, peaceful protests soon digressed into violence as plainclothes Basij began to beat and arrest civilians. There have been allegations of rape and torture, and reported death tolls range from 37 to 300 individuals. One protester, a young girl named Neda Soltani, has become the face of the revolution. The video of her brutal murder on the streets of Tehran has been viewed by hundreds of thousands on YouTube.
Because of government censorship, protests have largely been organized via social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Opposition web sites have been blocked, foreign journalists have been forced to leave the country, and state-run television channels ignore the unrest. On June 15, Twitter even postponed a scheduled maintenance because it recognized its position as “an important communication tool in Iran.”
I am greatly encouraged by the display on Quds Day. It shows the Iranian people cannot be pacified by a regime that tries to silence them, that they will continue to speak out until they are heard.
No, I am not Iranian, nor am I Muslim. I do not claim to understand what it is like to live in an Islamic state, or to know what these protesters and other civilians are experiencing as their country is turned inside out once more.
I do know that I admire these individuals and their resilience. To stand up against an oppressive regime with a military that has beaten, raped, and killed your friends—this is courage. As a citizen of the world, I stand in support of the Iranian people.
Kathleen Elise Murphy is a freshman with an undeclared major. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.