Protests in Iran: Not Just About Stolen Votes

The socio-political problems facing the Iranian people will not be quelled with the declared election victory of either Ahmadinejad or Musavi. On the domestic front, both candidates have records of human rights abuses in their personal and political careers, both are extensions of the political establishment in Iran, and neither is calling for fundamental changes within the Iranian state.

As for international relations, both are willing to engage with the new American administration so long as the meeting is held without preconditions. And no doubt, President Obama will sit with either candidate (and Europe will follow suit) given the realization that stability in the Middle East is predicated upon Iranian participation. Granted, demonstrators are calling for an investigation into the election results with the contention that Musavi is the victor. But their chants, placards, writings, and their personal risks in demonstrating indicate that they are also calling for relaxed social laws, political freedoms and an end to the brutality of the Islamic regime.

As important is the realization that these protests are not a call for foreign intervention. Nor are they a call for increased economic and political strangulation of the Iranian state and people. Attempts, for example, by Canadian MPs to pressure and alienate Iran through parliamentary bills such as the Iran Accountability Act, which promote divestment from Iran to hold it accountable for its human rights violations, are counter-productive. They instead increase state pressure on voices in Iran calling for social and political freedoms. Such policies fail to recognize that the problems in Iran can only have a domestic solution, without interference from the imperialist powers, and that the Iranian people are the ones who can and must hold the regime accountable for its many violations.

Whether this is a revolutionary movement – and of what kind – is hotly debated, particularly among Iranians. The scenes and chants remind many activists of the political atmosphere in Iran in the late 1970s. However, the limited potential of these demonstrations in overthrowing the Islamic regime is well known to both protesters and the keen observer, given the state’s unequal access to arms and resources. That said, lessons from the last revolution forces the realization that we simply do not know where these protests will lead. Those truly in solidarity with the Iranian people must maintain a sober analysis regarding the demands of this movement, awareness of the machinations of imperial and regional powers, and pay attention to the political direction of its participants. • read article

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