Monday, June 08, 2009

Fight Club Campaigning

A short telephone conversation to a couple of friends in Iran yesterday turned into an afternoon-long debate about the upcoming election. My family and friends all know of my plans to vote. Some disagree with me. My simple question about the latest campaign news produced brand new jokes about the candidates. They tell me that they have heard all these promises before and remind me that it wasn't long ago that the president was Khatami.

Those like me who are planning to vote, only do so because they cannot take it anymore. One even told me that he feels like putting his head out of the window and yelling, "I am mad as hell and I can not take it any more."

To be honest, I never imagined that the presidential election in the Islamic republic of Iran would turn into such a public fight between the different groups running for president. Looking at the last couple of TV debates between the different candidates, one can conclude that the election campaign has turned into a nasty fight between people who have done everything they can to make sure this Islamic system would stay as it is for the last 30 years.I am not naive to think there is not much difference between the different candidates who are running with slogan of change, I know there is a difference. Who ever wins this election cannot pretend that this system is holy anymore. Instead of discussing how they plan to address the fundamental problems that we face, the candidates are busy accusing one another of corruption. Before this election, a normal person making the same accusations in the public sphere would be accused of being anti-revolutionary. Now the candidates are publicly stating what most Iranians have been saying for decades: the whole system is corrupt.

I am deeply afraid that Mr Amadinejad could be elected again, not because people will vote for him, but only because his government and the right wing supporters of his presidency are doing everything -- I mean everything: legally and illegally -- they can to ensure his victory. This situation is so bad that a couple of days ago, a group of employees from Iran’s Interior Ministry (which is in charge of supervising the elections) rightfully warned the nation that a hard-line ayatollah, who supports President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has issued a Fatwa authorizing the changing of votes to favor Guess Who.

This is especially worrying because right after the last presidential election, one of the reformist candidates, Mr. Karoubi, who is currently running as well, protested of vote fraud to the leader of the Islamic republic stating that there had been clear violations of election laws because of interference from the Revolutionary Guard and the Basiji.

Considering all of the amazing public fights and debates in Iran, If people vote Mr Ahmadinejad out of office, it is not just to send him, alone, home, it will be a vote that questions the whole system with Mr Khameneie on top. People want fundamental changes, and they show this by supporting the only possible opton they have during this election.

My old friend for 25 years, who is on vacation in Amsterdam, told me, "Kamran, some of your dear and innocent friends were executed after a 3 minute trial in the so called revolutionary courts during the 80's." He continued, "You are naive to trust these people. It is all just a game for some candidate to get elected. Nothing will change," he told me from his heart. He said, "I will call you in one year again. You will see that nothing will have changed because their version of human rights and freedom is totally different from that of most Iranians. This election is only to make some people billionaires who feel they have been cut out of their share."

In a couple of days, I will take a 45 minute train trip to go to Iranian embassy in The Hague to vote. I am looking forward to my friend's call in one year, but I am not really sure if I will pick up the phone. I am not sure if those so called reformists will keep thier word and all those nice promises they have made in the past couple of weeks if they all elected. For most of my fireds this will be the last chance the reformists ever get. If they don't walk the talk, I will not be shocked if the future battles are about the entire system.

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