An Iranian young person’s idea of freedom and my own ideas about freedom are more than likely not the same thing in every minute detail, but our ideas about freedom do share the common thread that we will not be governed without a voice by a facist military complex directed by an obtuse theocracy. The protestors in Iran have switched from their original cries of voter fraud and support for opposition leader Mousavi, to a broader demonstration against the Iranian leadership. This weekend, the murder of a woman named “Neda” (a Farsi term that means the voice or the call) brought about a clear vision for the protestors and a new cry in their march for freedom.
A video has been making the rounds on cable news, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube of this young woman who had apparently been shot while protesting by either a police officer, pro-government militant or some kind of accidental shooting, but regardless of where the shot came from, the video is a stark reminder of the risks involved in speaking out in a country where there is not the freedom of speech we enjoy in America. There has been no freedom of the press either which has left most news agencies scrambling for footage they can get from any source since they are not on the ground. We are also reminded what happens in a country that is unarmed against the government. Neda has become the symbol for the protestors in a crisis that continues to escalate, even as our President gives tepid responses about being “deeply troubled”. Any strong response from him now would be too little, too late. The man has revealed his soul to us once again as he was confronted with this crisis. The call of freedom means nothing to this man. He would rather have peace at all costs and bow before the feet of our enemies if that is what it takes to leave a legacy of peace in his personal history. He obviously does not understand that peace will never come to the Middle East and that it would serve America and the world better if he joined the world in condemning the acts of the Iranian leadership. Stand up for freedom, Mr. President!
The AP is reporting about the traditions of the Muslim faith that are going to play a key role in these protests, “For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat – a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran’s rich history. During the revolution, the pattern of confrontations between the shah’s security forces and the revolutionaries often played out in 40-day cycles.” This same occurence took place during 1978 and 1979 when several clashes lead to the Shah of Iran being overthrown. Could we witness the same type of overthrow of the Iranian leadership now?
Neda has also been referred to as a martyr which is important in tradition as well. There is a belief among the Shiites that martyrdom is central to modern politics as well as Shiite tradition. They have used their observances of martyrs to carry them through the 1979 revolution and the war with Iraq. The protests have crossed an important milestone and I pray that they continue because the overthrow of the current government could be a very good thing for the world as long as the youth of Iran choose their new leadership wisely. A leadership that believes in embracing the outside world and cooperation with that world.
Neda, Neda, Neda – the cry for freedom!