December 1, 2006

EXCEPT THEY WON'T BE VOTING:

An Iranian Awakening (JONATHAN PARIS and NAZENIN ANSARI, December 1, 2006, NY Sun)

A worsening economic situation and dwindling political space inside Iran today spurs a new wave of highly skilled university graduates and working-class Iranians to come to London and Paris. Frustrated with the shortcomings of those in power in Tehran, the new wave and the existing Yuppie professionals and older political elite are coming together behind this alternative vision for Iran. Their counterparts inside Iran are listening.

For the first time ever, monarchists, communists, republicans, fedayeen, former regime reformists, members of the student movement, ethnic and religious minorities, and Mojahedin Khalq supporters stood together to protest the visit to London in early November by Mr. Khatemi. The only other times that Iranians abroad came together was in support of the Iranian National Football team during the World Cup in 2002 and 2006.

We have seen this transcendental awakening before in Persian literature. In the "Conference of the Birds" by Attar, a 12th-century Iranian mystical poet, a group of birds embarks on a tumultuous voyage in search of the infinitely wise "Simorgh." When 30 remaining birds reach their destination, they see their reflection in the lake and realize that the wise Simorgh, which means 30 birds in Farsi, is none other than their own selves. The Simorgh spirit is awakening among members of the vibrant Iranian community and their counterparts inside Iran.

In the last 28 years, Iranians with different orientations and prejudices were forced out of their country. Dialogue among them was not easy, and years of mutual distrust and animosity prevented any union, let alone any capacity for collective action against the theocracy in Iran.

But the experience of living in democratic societies for nearly three decades has taught these Iranians the merits of tolerance and the benefits of interdependence. Iranians of all persuasions are increasingly ready to forgo their own preferred ideologies and preferences and embrace principles that will allow them to live freely side by side with their integrity intact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 1, 2006 9:55 AM
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