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I'm not sure that they're protesting theocracy. After all, the opposition candidate doesn't represent a big change from the supposed winner. And both are approved of by the Islamic Republic's supreme leader. If I understand correctly, nobody even runs in Iran without such approval. Given that state of affairs I'm inclined to think that they're simply protesting the rigged nature of the election, not necessarily the policies of Ahmadinejad.


They may not be protesting theocracy, but they are certainly defying theocracy by protesting...

ko shon Bob Hanson

Hi Greta
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One of the things that I find most interesting about the protesters is that they are using green to represent themselves. Green is traditionally the color associated with Islam, yet they are going against the supposed voice of Allah in Iran.

I haven't managed to develop that thought any further, but it somehow seems significant.

John the Drunkard

I am old enough to remember the shocking courage with which Iranians took to the streets against the Shah. Like most leftist westerners, I shared their loathing of hereditary despots and failed to recognize the threat of the theocratic variety.

Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are monsters. I hope they won't be replaced by another set.

I'm troubled by the green displays (and the fact that the Iranian system permitted such an obvious use of religious symbols by an 'opposition' candidate), by the pre-fixing of elections by religious screening of candidates, and by Moussavi's association with previous theocrats.

Still and all, I hope they can bring this batch of bastards down.


Two thumbs up, Greta.

G Felis

I think the recurrent quibbles (see the first comment by scott above) that Moussavi is also a Islamic Revolutionary Council-approved candidate rather entirely miss the point: Moussavi campaigned on a platform of reform, and his campaign prominently featured his wife as an active independent campaigner - just one indicator of his comparatively progressive agenda. The people's protests make it abundantly clear that they want the sort of progress Moussavi represents, and I think it is quite beside the point to focus on whether or not Moussavi would actually turn out to be as progressive in office as his rhetoric was on the campaign trail.

Moreover, the people's rejection of the regressive politics and failed policies of Ahmadinejad - which is represented by the fact that he clearly lost the actual vote by a wide margin, whatever phony election results were published by the Iranian powers-that-be - is probably less important than the people's willingness to stand up to the thuggery of the Ayatollah Khameini's post-election crackdown. The Iranian people's ongoing protests indicate not just support of Moussavi and rejection of Ahmadinejad, but opposition to their entire illegitimate, tyrannical, totalitarian theocratic government. I think it is not just implausible, but simply false to assert that this protest is solely about the transparently rigged election - because the words and actions of so many Iranians indicate otherwise.

One need not support Mir Hussein Moussavi in particular to support the Iranian people's fight against theocracy. So stop quibbling, and stand up and be counted in support of the Iranian people already.

John the Drunkard

It is not a 'quibble' to worry about the bona fides of supposed reformers. Has G Felis forgotten Khomeini, the late, great 'pro-democracy-human-rights-supporting-ally-of-progressives?'

Or our own great 'reformers' like Huey Long, Hoover and Reagan?

Azar Majedi has a post on Dawkins' site [] which balances the concerns of us 'quibblers' with the hope for a real revolution in Iran.


As I understand it, Islam doesn't recognise a single religious leader who must be obeyed. There are only scholars of Islamic law and tradition, each with a greater or lesser degree of seniority and respect. So from a religious perspective, for a Shia Muslim to defy Khamenei is not nearly as bad as, say, a Catholic defying the Pope. In fact, while he sits at the top of Iran's political hierarchy, Khamenei is not particularly senior among the religious scholars. (And Ahmedinejad is not a cleric at all, he is an engineer by training and former soldier.) So I don't think the protesters are breaking any tenets of Islam, or even necessarily opposing the concept of theocracy, when they resist Khamenei and Ahmedinejad.

I think the conflict in Iran is best understood as the hardline religious, against the reformist religious and the secular. The reformist Muslims may be just as devout as the hardliners, they just have a different interpretation of the religion.

BTW I am a British atheist and not an expert on Islam or Iran, this is just based on what I have read. The BBC has some useful material, for instance:

Having said all that, the protesters in Iran are brave and admirable, and I hope they win.

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