This observer in Tehran can inform you that the (English-language) media frenzy and its sensationalism has breached the limits of reality and has hijacked the essence of debate in Iran.
It is used as a diversion to eclipse a rejuvenation of a democratic process. The hyped protests, all within a square mile in west of Tehran, are simply a storm in a teacup and all of it must be framed in perspective. A civil war, a revolution or regime change, it is not.
Let us first remember that Iran is a country of about 72 million people, a third of whom are under 25 years old. A turnout of some 50,000 angry mobs (or even one million people, something that has not happened) is not exemplary of the rest. The other 71+ million people also have rights, lives and a desire for quiet pursuit of happiness and peace. Isn’t democracy about the will and rule of the majority, as well as the rule of law and civil order? Or should it be narrowly interpreted (by foreign media) as the right of a select tech-savvy few with computers, email and foreign language skills to project a distorted scuffle and civil disorder? Are elections not about discipline and order, after all? Or should the rules be overturned at random by crying foul and burning down banks and shops, simply because losers dislike the results of the very same system in which they signed up and ran campaigns?
Secondly, the blatant sudden turn of events after the election has not been properly explained to most Iranian youngsters and foreigners with a cursory knowledge of Iranian affairs. In fact, it has nothing to do with the election itself. The violence of June 20th marked the 28th anniversary and a rerun of a major street battle in Tehran between the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MKO-MEK) and their rivals during the early days of the Revolution. The rivals won 28 years ago and the MKO-MEK (a Stalinist, violent group that has no mind for the democratic process or even internal elections) was forced into exile. Many of their members were arrested and jailed when Mr. Mousavi was prime minister.
The MKO-MEK can be best described as the Persian speaking wing of the degenerated Iraqi Baath Party and an earlier species of Al Qaeda back in early 1970s– a contemporary of the Red Brigades and the Baadermeinhof terror organizations in Europe. For decades, it has been designated as a terrorist group by most countries. They murdered American military advisers in Iran prior to the 1979 Revolution. MKO was on Saddam’s payroll to kill Iraqi Shiites, in exchange for having a base in Iraq. The source of their budgets remains murky, but MKO maintains an underground system in most European and North American cities, with lobby networks and a few chameleon fronts and disguised names that mask the organization.
MKO’s Camp Ashraf base was under protection of American forces and, despite the terrorist designation, they did “business” with Mr. Rumsfeld’s secret Task Force 20 for a few terror jabs at Iran in a hostile, ill-conceived regime change dream concocted by Mr. Cheney & Co. After the pullback of American forces in Iraq, the Iranian and Iraqi government have negotiated to close Camp Ashraf north of Iraq and extradite the key figures, the final round of which has been postponed until after elections in Iran. Hence the tsunami of one-way, ill-informed pressure on mostly English-speaking media by the MKO-MEK lobbies machine, an attempt to derail recent events beyond reality and divert attention away from formation of democracy. In other words, modern politics is snuffed out by a wave of violence, using uninformed young protesters as a shield—many of whom were not even born 28 years ago and are clueless about it all.
Otherwise, why would a legitimate Iranian “protester” hold up a sign in English, a foreign language, and pose for cameras if the idea is to protest against the Iranian state in Persian?
Recent developments in Iran are two distinct different matters, albeit foreign media have stitched it all up into one big bubble of insane hype. Somehow, all have forgotten about the purpose of an election. Simply put, the foreign mass media has been duped by a terrorist organization with modern (terror?) techniques of vilification in an abusive manipulation. Polluted prejudice and a lazy default on absurd vocabulary and zingers such as “regime change”, talk of “rogue behavior” or relapse to the perception of the 1953 coup has hijacked reality.
It is time for the world to realize that the Iranian political system is maturing. It is futile and silly for foreigners to insist upon their perceived views of Iran, even if media outlets turn to full time bullhorns of hostile policies of their governments. In the real world, in a territory about the size of Western Europe, Iran conducted a peaceful and historical election without peer in the region and Iranians have embarked on a new course of democracy, not a violent revolution or a coup or a crackdown plan to serve divide-and-dominate games of hostile foreign governments.
It is sad to see civil disorder in any place. But it must be framed in perspective and it is nothing short of a travesty to see the essence of a democratic process is summarily trampled in favor of sensationalist views of the relative few troublemakers with a questionable past and foul intentions.
Democracy is a process, not a project. It must be encouraged with cool heads and it must even-handedly left to the indigenous people to find their own way over time. Within living memory, meddling by foreigners in Iranian politics bluntly delayed and damaged the century-old desire of Iranians for a democratic system.
Iranians have not forgotten that and chances are that an absolute majority of Iranians are not going to let such meddling happen again.
Dr. Ali Ettefagh,
(Dr. Ali Ettefagh serves as a director of Highmore Global Corporation, an investment company in emerging markets of Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East.)