Protest Vote


More than a hundred Iranian reformists have been arrested in the turmoil following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hastily declared victory in the June 12th Presidential election. Among them is Saeed Hajjarian, who had been a political consultant to former President Mohammad Khatami. In 2000, Hajjarian was shot in the face by an assassin who was widely believed to have been in the employ of the intelligence ministry. Hajjarian had once been a high official in the intelligence apparatus, and he was suspected of being the source of stories in a reformist newspaper tying the ministry to the grisly murders of dissidents. He survived the shooting, but was left partially paralyzed and is dependent on the constant care of doctors and family. He speaks with difficulty, and his office in the reformist-party headquarters contains a hospital bed. His doctor says that keeping him in detention without proper medical care could endanger his life.

It is not a good sign when a government feels the need to imprison even the dissidents it has already shot. But the skies are full of ominous signs for Iran’s protest movement. In a sermon at Friday prayers last week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, defied any expectation that he might reverse course and call a new election under neutral monitors; instead, he demanded an end to the street protests and threatened their leaders with reprisals. The speech was surprising only in the light of the giddy, contagious hope that had risen from the sight of a long-suppressed citizenry’s refusal to be cowed. As one Iranian-American observer put it, using an indelicate Iranian expression, the leader has a saw in his posterior: he can’t go forward and he can’t go back. Unfortunately, even to hold still looks excruciating, most of all for the protesters at the wrong end of the batons, knives, and firearms of the Revolutionary Guards’ special forces.

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