Protesters in Iran shocked the world with their response to the rigged election, while Iran’s Revolutionary Guard appalled us with its brutality. That the West was so viscerally angry about the mistreatment of Iranian protesters is a good sign – it indicates that notions of justice and liberty still run deep within us. But the fact that we were shocked suggests that we have not been paying attention. Are we surprised that an election is faked in a country where real power is held by a theocratic Supreme Leader, subject to a religious text and not his people? Are we caught unawares when protesters are beaten in a nation which arrests its own citizens for being homosexual, not covering their heads, wearing makeup, or other forms of ‘social corruption’? The Iranian government has a long history of oppressing its own people under strict Sharia law and suppressing political opposition.
After enduring this treatment for 30 years, the tinder was lit in the streets of Tehran, and change seemed to be on the horizon. Ad hoc protests could not be sustained indefinitely, however, and activists looked to world leaders for support. Since her founding as the first country designed to protect individual rights, America has stood as a symbol for freedom for most of the shackled populations of the world. Surely the President of America could make a strong moral statement in support of freedom in Iran.
Sadly, for ten days, Obama could not muster even a rebuke. When the crisis deepened and political pressure forced him to take a stand, the criticism he delivered was followed with an immediate concession of Iran’s sovereignty and a promise not to meddle in its internal affairs. While men and women were being brutalized and gunned down in the streets, the message sent by this administration is that there were “irregularities” in the election process, which needed to be investigated.
The call for an investigation was a travesty. What would such an investigation bring? In America, where limitation of powers was a founding principle, corrupt politicians such as Blagojevich and Tom Delay are shunned and brought to justice. In Iran, internal investigations are as contrived as the election was.
The Guardian Council did in fact announce an investigation into the election. This time, few of us were shocked to see a decision in Ahmedinejad’s favor. Supreme Leader Khomeini announced that some rigging had taken place, but not enough to change the outcome of the election. The result stands, and Iran can say that they have complied with all that the international community has asked of them. With fading hope, the protests have faltered and failed. There will be no justice for Iranian citizens.
Obama’s timid response was worse than silence. Rather than validate and inspire the opposition, the leader of the free world bestowed the Islamic Republic with a veneer of legitimacy. This legitimacy serves as a powerful weapon in international debate, and is decidedly undeserved. So long as he continues to evade the danger of a nation such as Iran, which aims to violently spread Sharia law to the rest of the world, Obama will lend sanction to a very dangerous regime.
For an idea of how an American President should have commented on Iran’s crackdown on protestors, read Debi Ghate’s excellent op-ed here.
Photo by Farhad Rajabali, released under Creative Commons.