Unrest in Iran goes past election

During the summer, many were shocked to see Iran embroiled in civil unrest and brutal retaliation from the government. However, one Iranian-American at UH sees the struggle as an important moment for the country and the world.

In June, presidential elections were held in Iran and soon after, Tehran’s streets were packed with protesters. This was dubbed the Green Revolution, and it was covered by media outlets from across the globe.

Supporters of Independent Reformist candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, took to the streets after incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory was announced. This was followed by violent efforts to put down these protests and counter-protests in favor of Ahmadinejad.

More than 170 people were arrested for participating in these demonstrations, according to police reports. The Iranian government has acknowledged 20 deaths related to the protests, but some reports say that as many as 250 were killed by attempts to quell the rallies.

Debates became increasingly heated as the election approached, dividing Iranians into two groups.

The first count gave Ahmadinejad a clear victory with 62 percent of the vote, while Mousavi finished a distant second with 33 percent.

Mousavi’s supporters claim the election was hijacked by the government. Those in favor of Ahmadinejad see the massive protests as an attempt by the defeated party to seize control.

In a concession to protesters, Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced a recount that concluded Ahmadinejad was the legitimate winner. The demonstrations did not stop, however as Mousavi’s supporters remained unsatisfied.

Some students at UH have a direct connection to Iran and its people, and for these students and researchers, the protests represented real danger to their friends and families.

Advertising senior Nader Lotfi has lived in Iran and the U.S. his entire life. After coming stateside in 2000, he became naturalized in June.

Lotfi remains concerned about the violence in his native country. He maintains a Web page as an ongoing record of the actions and people of the Green Revolution in Iran.

‘Our country has been robbed and raped by (the government),’ Lotfi said. ‘In terms of potential, in terms of wealth, in terms of everything.’

In Lotfi’s eyes, the massive protests and demonstrations are not fueled from a desire to see Mousavi in power, but an overarching populist movement in Iran that wants to see their concerns and fervor for their country acknowledged.

‘What they’ve done is given us fuel for our opposition by pointing out their hypocrisy,’ Lotfi said. ‘The issue is whether or not it should be OK for a regime to take these kind of measures when we are expressing our basic rights.’

While the people of Iran take to the streets for their country, the U.S. government has been decidedly quiet. Lotfi believes the tactful approach is most effective at this time.

‘They (the Iranian government) are shooting themselves in this foot,’ Lotfi said. ‘Why would you say anything at this point?’

Despite Ahmadinejad’s anti-American stance, Lotfi is hopeful for future relations between Iran and the U.S.

Earlier this year, Obama gave a short speech directed to the people and leaders of Iran on Nowruz, the Persian New Year. He praised Iranians and their culture, ending the speech with part of a poem by Iranian poet Sa’adi.

‘If that’s not an olive branch, I don’t know what is,’ Lotfi said. ‘There’s definitely a backing of Obama (in Iran), and he’s doing great.’

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