Both of my parents were born and raised in Iran, so I have felt especially invested in the historic, heart-wrenching, and at times, horrific, events in Iran during the past week. I have been constantly checking liveblogs (I highly recommend Nico Pitney’s blog over at Huffington Post), mesmerized by the power of citizen journalism. I am overwhelmed by the courage young people my age (and of every age) are showcasing in Iran, a courage I doubt I will ever even begin to comprehend in my lifetime. The graphic and raw image of the young protester Neda dying captured on camera hasn’t left my mind since I watched it and probably never will.
Commentators are asking if Iran will be the next China or Zimbabwe, but being in Serbia, a country that has struggled to find its footing after bringing down its own oppressive regime only a few years ago, is really coloring how I see the events in Iran. In interviews I’ve watched with leaders of the resistance movement in Serbia, they explain how many people did not want to get involved at first because they didn’t know what the alternative to Milosevic would be. In time, they were convinced that, first things first, Milosevic had to be brought down. The catalyzing moment in Serbia was when Milosevic rejected claims of a first-round opposition victory in elections for the presidency in September 2000, a situation somewhat similar to that in Iran today. The people had had enough. They refused to accept the state line any longer and took to the streets. Was the opposition candidate perfect or ideal? No, but the people felt that it was time for their voices to be heard.
The following quote by a female architect in Iran sums up what I believe is a similar sentiment in Iran: “Many criticize us and wonder what does Mr. Mousavi have that is so special? They argue that after all he is one of the many in that corrupt system of the Islamic Republic and will never act against it. My argument is that this is not about Mousavi, but about people realizing that they are not followers like a herd of sheep that goes anywhere it is summoned to go. They will know that the individual will does matter and that their actions can be effective and can speak louder than any specific person; this to me is the most important aspect of these events. Now either Mousavi or anyone else who will end up in power, they will have the understanding of what people want and what they are capable of, and how they can voice their requests. This is the significant and important step and now that Mousavi has chosen to go ahead, we will support him.”
And so the Iranian people have had enough, and they are bravely fighting for their rights, for their voices, for justice. Of course, I am full of hope, but at the same time, being in Serbia has created a set of fears and anxieties about the future of Iran I doubt I would otherwise have. In 2003, Prime minister Zuran Djindic, who many Serbians saw as a statesman of hope who could bring a brighter future, was assassinated. Since then, many politicians from the Milosevic era have found their way back to power.
We were in Northern Serbia last week interviewing a WIB activist, and her friend was curious to hear our impressions of the Serbian people. He asked if we saw the Serbian people the same way he did. I told him I didn’t quite understand what he meant, and he responded, “well, I think we are a….what’s the word….raw? rugged?…people now.” As we continued talking, I realized the word he was looking for might have been “broken”. They fought so hard for change that now that what they have isn’t what they expected, the will to fight again is simply not there. My statements are based on limited conversations with a specific subset of the population, but I have been really affected by their despair. The road to freedom can be long and arduous, but it seems that maintaining that freedom might be the true challenge. No individual should feel broken as a result of the broken state of his or her nation. I can only hope that Iran will not be a China or a Zimbabwe or a Serbia, but an Iran, a model for people around the world who are tired of not being treated with the respect they deserve as human beings.
Posted By Donna Harati
Posted Jun 21st, 2009