I don’t have anything terribly deep to say on the subject; what I knew about Iranian politics a week ago would have made about one medium-sized paragraph, and that was it. But I’ve been following the news since the election, and want to download some of these thoughts out of my head.
I still don’t know that much about Mousavi’s politics. I know enough to suspect that, if you were to park him in front of me and say, are you happy with the idea of this guy running Iran, I’d say no. He may be the reform candidate, but that doesn’t make him the Persian Obama. On the other hand, 1) he isn’t crazy like Ahmadinejad, 2) he favors a policy of actually talking to the West/America, and 3) he’s the guy whom the Iranians appear to have voted for, so I support the guy. I’ve also seen several analysts (by which I mean “people who have proved they know their head from their ass when it comes to Iranian politics,” not “random talking heads on TV”) say Mousavi could be to the Islamic Republic what Gorbachev was to the Soviet Union, which from an American perspective sounds positive; at the very least, his leadership could encourage the general trend of reform and relaxation in Iran, away from the hard line Ahmadinejad preaches. I’m in favor of that.
The most fascinating thing to me has been the tenor of the protests, and even the crackdown against them: remarkably non-violent. It’s hard to say that when there are reports of deaths, when the basij are clubbing people in the streets and preventing them from going to hospitals or vanishing them into prisons . . . but nobody seems to have opened up machine guns on the crowds. A lot of the analysts I’ve been reading have talked about the reasons why Khameini et al. haven’t done that, and it isn’t out of the goodness of their hearts, but however cynical and political the reason, I’m glad.
I’m even more glad that Mousavi’s supporters haven’t resorted to mass violence. It’s a smart one: by marching peacefully, by chanting “Allaho akbar” or walking in total silence, they help negate the hardliners’ best weapon, which is to paint them as pro-Western, anti-Muslim enemies of the Islamic Republic. The pictures I see are of masses of green-wearing humanity as far as the eye can see — not people throwing Molotov cocktails through the windows of businesses. It might yet come to that; it depends on how things go. But they’re holding fast to the peaceful approach, while they can.
The image that has stuck with me the most actually comes from a video I saw. You may know this one; it’s been in many places. It shows one of the riot police, without his helmet or shield, looking as if he’s taken a blow to the head, in the hands of Mousavi’s supporters. I don’t speak any Farsi, so I can’t tell what the shouts from the street are — whether they’re hostile or not — but Mousavi’s people look like they’re sheltering the guy as they lead him off the street and onto the steps of some building, where they sit him down, give him water, clean the wound on his head.
I want to be on the side of those people. I want to support the ones who will take in a guy who might have been their enemy just a moment ago, lead him out of the way of potential harm, and take care of him.
Unfortunately, I can’t do much to support them from here. I’m glad the U.S. hasn’t gone barging in there, trying to throw its weight around; thank whatever God you believe in (or none at all) that we’ve got a more cautious administration now. Given the circumstances, American support is not what Mousavi needs. The real support has been civilian, and subtle: setting up proxies, so Iranians can get information out to the rest of the world. Twitter, rescheduling its planned maintenance so it’s in the middle of the U.S. working day rather than the Iranian one. Etc. I can’t do that kind of thing, either; I lack the know-how.
But I can watch, and I can hope, and I can root for the guys who give a captured riot policeman a drink of water.