Meanwhile, in a country called Iran, elections are taking place…
A country where old men who hate women rule; a country where the religious elite is not religious any more resembling more a local mafia. Where bootleg alcohol is available at lower prices than in Turkey and where everyone below forty has been arrested at least once by moral police (alcohol, party, bad hijab) and either himself or his best friends are thinking of emigrating.
A country where you may walk for hours under the hot sun and not find a cafe to rest, a country where pleasure is forbidden, where women dressed as shadows roam the streets. A country cowed , hopeless , beaten into submission : form the Shah’s dictatorship to the Islamic state, from the reformist poet Khatami to Ahmadinejad, from green revolution back to the mullahs.
No one is expecting much from the elections – the dark shadows who rule will vet carefully the candidates in order to avoid any surprises , such as last time. Rafsanjani is out (allegedly because of his age – even though he is younger than Knomeini was when he returned to Iran).
And the men will continue to harass women in the trains and buses, and the word of a woman will be half of that if a man , and the words of the poets will mean nothing , as wine will become symbolic – and love and friendship will also turn into words …
People are describing a cleptocracy more than anything – (as in Gaza under Hamas) religion has all but disappeared and what remains is a system of control and a system of exploitation. Exactly as in Gaza under Hamas, social services are disappearing or privatized (Islam , like Christianity, believes in charity, not in social justice).
Two stories from current Iran:
A guy bought a used Land Rover. He did not have a lot of money so he is paying by instalments. He is crazy about it – he parks it outside his house, does not sleep as he keeps checking it every night, making sure that it is in place. One morning he wakes up to see that it has disappeared. He is inconsolable – he calls my friend, literally crying, he has not even payed all the instalments. A few months pass and one day, my friend (the first owmer of the car) sees his Land Rover, same marks, same colour at the traffic lights, Four peolpe are inside – they look like clerics bg white robes- two older ones i front and two young ones in the backHe runs to the traffic warden – asks him to stop the car. He is told that it is not his job, he must go to the police. He asks for a car, a motorbike to run after him. He is told to be patient – they are four in the car and he is one – what is he going to do? He records the number and goes to the police. Nothing happens – he is told there is no record of the car. He has a friend in the ministry of transport – he gives him the car license plate. He is taken aside “Can’t you wait a little? You will get you car – but after the elections..”. The high ranking clergy loves Land Rovers – problem is that with teh sanctions they cannot afford them any more, so, they “borrow” them.
Same person talking – “An old friend, member of Tudeh (the Iranian communist party, currently outlawed) had been in prison both during the Shah and during the Islamic revolution: He says “ At least during the Shah period they tortured you but did not break you, you could demonstrate and live to fight again – no one arrested by the Islamic police wants to fight again. They are much more successful in breaking your spirit than the Shah secret police.”
How much can you learn about a country in 3 weeks?
My feeling is that the country is at the verge of an explosion: The green revolution failed because it was supported mainly by the middle classes and the intellectuals – working class stayed at home. As the economy deteriorates and unemployment rises, the working class is feeling the pressure. Joining the intellectuals and the middle class of the green revolution will create an explosive mix.