Moussavi’s words, “We demand the unconditional enactment of the constitution and the return of the Islamic Republic to its original ethical foundations. We demand an Islamic Republic, not a word more, and not a word less,” have been echoed by the protestors in Iran since the questionable elections in June, 2009. Over time as disillusionment has manifested itself within the protest movement the demand has evolved into “Iranian Republic, not a word more, and not a word less.” Obviously, these two statements describe factionalization within the protest movement. On the one hand are those who still hope for and believe in refolution the idea that the Islamic Republic can redeem itself given the right leadership. On the other hand are those who believe that the current regime is beyond redemption. That its ills can only be corrected through the complete and utter change of a revolution.
Thinking that the current situation in Iran is defined by these two oppositions viewpoints is dangerously myopic. No, I am not referring to the danger that the regime presents to the movement, nor am I referring to fragmentation due to those who favor return of the monarchy or any of the other opposition political groups. No, what I am calling dangerous is ignoring the desires and feelings of the common Irani, the workaday people more interested in raising their families in peace and security than in political activism.
Who am I to say what the common Irani citizen wants? I’m an American born and bred. Nevertheless, I believe most of the people in Iran are like most of the people in the USA. They are more concerned with providing the necessities of life to their children and themselves than with who is running their country at the moment – so long as that leadership is not endangering them.
Watching the videos of protests posted on the internet I have been struck by the appearance of people who obviously were not part of the protest nor part of the government forces against the protestors. Simply people who happened to be in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ hurrying to escape from the confusion and avoid being identified with the protestors. Other videos recording simple, day to day life in Tehran and other cities reveal that, for the most people, life goes on as usual. They go to work, come home, walk in the parks, go for ice cream, have birthday parties, attend to their parents’ needs… ordinary folk going about ordinary activities. These are the people who, I believe, represent the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Iran… but what do they want?
It’s all too easy to listen to the voices of the students and protestors in the streets chanting, “Marg bar dictator”, and come to the conclusion that only complete rejection of the Islamic Republic can create a peaceful, prosperous and secure future for Iran. All too easy and fraught with the danger of more bloodshed in the streets and even the potential of creating a civil war with all its ‘collateral damage’ to be born by innocent bystanders.
It’s also all too easy to listen to the voices of the reformers who think that a simple change of Presidency in Iran will result in creating an Islamic paradise on Earth where human rights will be respected, judiciaries will judge fairly, people speak without fear of retribution and the Supreme Leader will provide enlightened guidance not only on spiritual and moral matters but also on national and international affairs.
What do I feel, personally, with regard to these two positions? Does that even matter? More importantly… what does the common Irani think of these alternatives? It is, after all, the common Irani that must live with the choice, not you nor I. Is there a middle-ground between an Islamic Theocracy and a secular Iranian Republic? Could it be an enlightened Islamic Republic as envisioned by the idealists of the 70’s before it was subverted by Khomenei, his henchmen and their successors? Is there another path? Perhaps a secular democracy acknowledging the spiritual and moral guidance of the ayatollas?
Only the common people of Iran can answer those questions. I am not qualified to speak for them. I am only qualified to express my personal points of view… what I feel and what I hope for the Irani.
Peace! That is my “not a word more, and not a word less”.