What we’re witnessing in Iran over the last several days is the power of nonviolence.
Unarmed Iranians by the hundreds of thousands, and across all ages and classes, have flocked to the streets of Tehran, defying bans and brutal paramilitary squads, to demand one simple thing: that their votes be counted fairly.
The democratic longing, and the democratic thronging, shows no signs of letting up.
“Every day, the number of people attending the protests is increasing,” says Camelia Entekhabifard, author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth—A Memoir of Iran. “It’s drawing people from all generations and societies, from the very cultured to the very traditional. This is a national movement.”
Entekhabifard, speaking to me from Dubai, says she’s concerned about the safety of her family back in Iran. “My mother, my sister, and my brother, they’re hearing gunshots every night in Tehran,” she says. “They tell me that people are going to the rooftops to show their solidarity with the protesters and chant, ‘God is great.’ But then the civilian-clothed militia smashes down their doors. This is unheard of.”
Entekhabifard says the protesters don’t trust the government to do a fair recount, since the guardian council that is supposed to do it is packed with Ahmadinejad supporters.
“There is no option other than to repeat the election in the near future,” she says.
She believes that the most powerful man in Iran, the head cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will not be foolish enough to crack down harder.
“Today, there isn’t word about toppling the regime of the Supreme Leader,” she says. “But within a weak of a crackdown, the slogans will be against the Supreme Leader. I’m sure he wouldn’t want that.”
An Iranian-born friend of mine, Homi Moossavi, is not convinced that things will end peacefully.
“It is hard to gauge the events from outside,” he says from San Francisco. “Even those living in Iran are having difficulty predicting the future. At this moment, there seems to be still some chance for change, but there is also great potential for more violence and severe repression.”
But he feels uplifted by the massive, spontaneous nonviolent protests.
“It is the wave that I am inspired by,” he says. “Watching the sea of Iranian people demanding accountability and asking for their basic human rights, freedom, and democracy is truly moving. It indicates that some real political maturity has taken hold among the people whose only unifying slogan thirty years ago was ‘Death to the Shah.’ ”