Iranian elections: voting from afar

June 12, 2009

Leili Sreberny-MohammadiLeili Sreberny-Mohammadi is a British-Iranian based in London, and sometimes Tehran. The opinions expressed are her own. —

The images of a human chain along the 12 kilometres of Tehran’s main artery, Vali-Asr, has given me a gut-wrenching urge to book a flight to Tehran, to take part in what seems to be a historical moment, or what is at least being constructed as such.

Instead I have been busy scouring articles in English-language media describing the public mobilisation for the two leading candidates, Mir Hossein Moussavi and the incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as the largest political mobilisation of the public since the revolution in 1979. I wasn’t there then. The electric energy coursing through the city has also been likened to the atmosphere during the world cup in 1998. Nope, wasn’t there then either.

This is the predicament of Diaspora; caring about a place that you might rarely be in, wanting to understand events that you are miles apart from. But in 2009, it is easy to keep up with far away events by the magical means of the internet.

My constant online status has meant that Facebook, YouTube and Skype have been key ways in which I have kept in touch with what has been happening. Facebook provides a dominant source of photos, videos and links, plus nightly Skype chats with friends and family has helped me to understand what the opinions and atmosphere on the street is really like. Not able to watch the first ever televised debates between candidates live, YouTube has been the next best thing.

While the use of cyber-space has been key for campaigning, primarily for Ahamdinejad’s main rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and a means by which we can stay engaged in this presidential race, it has also been used to directly motivate Iranians outside of Iran to vote. An inspiring video filmed across major world cities featuring Iranians holding up signs in Farsi and English with the slogan “we vote” has been doing the rounds.

My inbox has also been inundated with emails from numerous individuals inside Iran with details of where to vote in the UK, U.S. and elsewhere. We are being asked to not sit idle simply watching the events unfold in recent weeks, but to demonstrate that we care about Iran’s future and participate. I, for one, will do just that and suggest that us in Diaspora should dust of our Iranian passports, and on June 12, finally put them to good use.

While we might not be able to march down Vali-Asr, we can certainly march to the embassy and cast our vote.


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With a population of 70 million, Iran is not the nation it was before or during the revolution of 1979. Life under the Sha grew repressive (following an assassination attempt) and his reign was viewed as that of a puppet government, this forged the alliance which rules today’s Islamic Republic of Iran. The facts driving a push for reform in today’s voting are found in demographics as well as Persian history. There are similarities in the current ‘reformist’ movement and the upheaval of 30 yrs ago despite that fact that more than two-thirds of Iran’s present population are under 30 years old.

Is history repeating itself in Iran?

As the Mantra of Hope and Change spreads in Persia the outcome of this election hangs in the balance. People across the globe watch and pray for peace and prosperity. God willing it will succeed!

Posted by Folklight | Report as abusive

One needs naiveté in significant quantities to believe this election to be anything more than a blatant farce. Seriously, did anyone really think the Ayatollah would allow Moussavi to win? This election will be seen as historic for its superb contrivance, not for its validity.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

So long as clergy ( Khamenei) holds the reigns of the governance there will never be democracy.I read that the leaders of the administrationn should not be criticize
( within the framework of civillity) for their policies. One who criticizes should be jailed. How so? There are no two ways of doing this. Iran should keep the clergy out of Teheran once for all. This is unlikely to happen at least in the near future. Iran in near future, can not emulate US or India to bring in democracy as is defined.

I must say the demonstrations in the street against the rigging of elections is an indication of fearlessness, hopefully, the elected administration behaves and overlooks the protests.

Posted by Azad | Report as abusive

The reality is that Tehran is not Iran. Most of the population is rural, working class and relatively disadvantaged. It is hardly surprising that they voted for Ahmedinejad in very large numbers. It is easy for the affluent Iranians around the world, most of whom were openly complicit in the brutal tyranny of the Shah and plundered the wealth of Iran, to create similar conditions again. But despite the selective media images of Tehran showing big support for Moussawi most Iranians are far more ambivalent and unsure. They also realise they need a leader that will complete the nuclear project because that is the only guarantee from attack by the US / Israel.

Posted by Haroon Abbasi | Report as abusive

Haroon Abbasi- Tis much more surprising to believe the total vote could be counted in such a short time span.
Also, perhaps by rural you mean easily manipulated?

Professor Azar Nafisi stated in Al Jazeera interview: east/2009/06/2009613181040285185.html

“It was really amazing and interesting to see what Mr Mousavi chose as his platform to win. He didn’t just campaign against Ahmadinejad but against the very foundations of the Islamic Republic. The fact that Mr Mousavi risked his political career to take up this position suggests that a sizable number of the population don’t want what exists now.”

This article highlights the power of incremental change, brought about by discussion of issues one person to another. Truth and Ideals are more potent than bullets though both have their usefulness. Reformers must not be misled into assisting further entrenchment of Theocratic power. They must know their movement & own it.

Iran’s Theocracy is facing social revolution and a repudiation of the underlying source of their continuing power. The dream of a caliphate is not a national dream, rather it’s a fading dream of ideologues. You can not force anyone to believe something, humans must choose to believe. That is God given volition.

The Wise Choose to use it in pursuit of truth. 53:

Posted by Folklight | Report as abusive

Democracy is an ideal and as such has different meanings and manifestations in different societies. It would be wrong to hold the U.S. example of democracy as a standard bearer around the world. For one we have very few representatives with regard to the size of our population and our credibility around the world is still diminishing because of our government’s policies and actions.

Thomas Jefferson stated that “Rebellion in the streets every generation or so is healthy for the Republic”. John Locke would look favorably upon the current demonstrations in Tehran regarding accusations of vote fraud. Whether recognized by all or not the power of any government rests with the people. The people of Tehran are reminding their government of this fact right now. Where was the American public outrage when the Supreme Court appointed George Bush President?

Posted by anubis | Report as abusive

Who says that Iran is a backward medieval nation?

By shooting unarmed protestors, they have proven that their nation has finally reached the 1970s.

At this rate, they will be modernised by 2050. Assuming their first nuke doesn’t become their last…

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

The growing reformist movement in Iran has taken the world by surprise. The movement and the mullahs response to it is very fluid and evolving rapidly. Professor Mark Levine writing about Iran on the Brink makes crucial points: “It seems that the Iranian elite has been caught similarly off-guard, and is still trying to read its own society to understand how broad is the societal discontent reflected in the mass protests. This calculus is crucial – in some ways more so than whether the results are legitimate or, as some claim, electoral fraud.

It will determine whether the Iranian power elite – that is, the political-religious-military-security leadership who control the levers of state violence – moves towards negotiation and reconciliation between the increasingly distant sides, or moves to crush the mounting opposition with large-scale violence.

The religious establishment is itself split into hard-line, moderate and more progressive factions, each of whose members are tied to factions within the economic, political and security elite, producing a complex and potentially volatile set of competing and contradictory loyalties and interests.

Ahmadinejad’s and Khamenei’s decisions in the coming days will be telling. If the official tally was in fact broadly accurate, then they will likely be more willing to agree not just to a recount, but even to a run-off election, if that is what it takes to pacify the angry protesters”.

There is much in his logic I agree with however I have a differing perspective on the nature, scope and source of the world system he recognizes. I further believe humanity is totally incapable of extricating itself from the grip of this “system” whose origins and source of power operate in various dimensions or realms, being spiritual in nature. In short humans are caught in an epoch and universal struggle that has engulfed earth.

We have been given volition and can choose, individually or collectively, to resist this “system”. Being born in this matrix was not our choice, being of it and owned by it is optional. Through disciplines of logic and meditational prayer, the truths of Biblical teaching shine ancient light desperately needed in our confused “modern” era. Pray for Peace…
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Posted by Folklight | Report as abusive