More on the death of Neda

A US Congressman eloquently stakes a claim for the meaning of Neda’s death here. He can’t resist a tilt at Carter and a plug for Reagan, though. Is he a Republican by any chance?

Silence in Iraq

Is it a coincidence that the bodies of two British hostages are ‘released’ (they think they are doing us a favour) in Iraq by the Shi’ite militias just in the middle of the upheaval in Iran? There is an eloquent silence on the part of leaders of the Shi’ite communities in Iraq on the subject of the unfairness of the election.

Little Terorist!

Election results show internal evidence of fraud

It seems that people making up ‘random’ numbers are more likely to include 7 and exclude 5. This is exactly what we find in the values officially reported for the Iranian election. There is only a 4% chance that the results could have occurred by chance, that is through the random operations of an actual election. For more detail see here and here.

A logically independent critique of the validity of official results comes from the report published on 21st June by the Chatham House/University of St Andrews Institute for Iranian Studies (as already much reported). This may be downloaded at the Chatham House research website. This:

±      dispels the myth that rural areas contributed a massive pro-Rat vote

±      reveals that voter turnout in excess of 100% was registered in provinces the remoteness of whose borders from population centres negates the official explanation of cross-border voting

±     shows that  in a third of all provinces the Rat’s vote would have required him to sweep up all centrist voters, all new voters, and half of all previously reformist voters

±      shows that provinces with greatest increase in voter turnout showed no swing to Ahmadinejad.

The validity of the election is affirmed by the Guardian Council (who are supposed to oversee the election and thus to oversee themselves), which is in turn overseen by the Supreme Leader, who has announced the validity of the exercise prior to any investigation and cannot be gainsaid! No pinnacle of authority is immune, however, to criticism on the grounds of implausibility, logical inconsistency and self-contradiction.

Secret voices

It’s as if the fabric of the Islamic Revolution itself has been torn

says the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, both in an article following his return from Iran and in a Radio 4 programme which can be listened to again for a week by clicking on the iPlayer link here. His analysis is the same as Amir Taheri’s (reported yesterday), but he is inclined to think there has not yet been a putsch in which the military dictatorship crushes the Qom clerics.

Death to everyone!

How hard it is to get at the simplest facts straight. An ICM telephone poll of 500 British Muslims aged sixteen or over was conducted for the BBC between 5-10 June 2009 and reported exclusively via BBC television, BBC radio (summary only) and the BBC website. The contradictions are startling. Either 15% (television report) or 11% (website) thought it was legitimate for guerrilla fighters to target British or Nato forces in Afghanistan. 72% thought that the Pakistani army should (Mark Easton’s voiceover) or should not (text on screen) take military action against the Taliban.

What are we supposed to think? At any rate, 72% were opposed to a British military presence in Afghanistan. As we saw in the case of the Orthodox church supporting the Serb butchers in the Bosnian conflict, ordinary morality is suspended for one’s co-religionists. Membership is all.

A new opposition leader?

There are suggestions that a little known political activist outside Iran, who therefore need not fear arrest, could command sufficient popular support to organise the opposition protests. Mohsen Sazegara has a website from where he calls for a boycott of Iranian oil, surely an idea entirely without legs . . . but nary a turban in sight. A historian, journalist, publisher and former would-be president of his country, it took him ten years as a senior official to grow tired of the engelab. But, after several arrests, sixteen weeks in Eveen Prison and two hunger strikes, he now offers his CV from exile in the US.

John Simpson and others perhaps underestimate the extent to which the opposition seeks to avoid entirely any perpetuation of clerical rule, desiring only to separate religion and the state. But expatriates perhaps overestimate their appeal in the mother country amongst those who stayed at home and bore the heat. Consider the example of the Russian revolution.

Nine-hour anaesthetic trilogy

Meanwhile, back in our pampered burrows, Iran’s state-controlled TV is playing hours and hours of Lord of the Rings in an attempt to keep people indoors, instead of stalking the streets, confronting the Evil Empire and the Lords of Darkness.

In-fighting and out-thinking

As is constantly reported, the sound of muffled in-fighting continues to emanate from the dark-garbed masses huddled upon their roosts in Qom and elsewhere. Thuds, squawks, expostulations, the gnashing of beaks. Many details can be found here.

The Economist has an excellent piece today, 27th June 09, ‘Why the turbans are at odds’ (p. 71), addressing the theology of velayat-e faqih (or guardianship of the jurists). This dubious innovation, in the revolutionary constitution of Ayatollah Khomeini, enshrines a Supreme Leader but was rather undermined at the outset by Khomeini himself, who swerved away from Montazeri at the last moment. The issue became undiscussible but has now been blown wide open by the spectacle of a Supreme Leader as a rambling old chap who ought to be in a rocking chair somewhere.

It may seem too charitable, but it is hard to resist the conclusion that these eastern clerics, like the peoples they govern, know rather little about politics and government. Not surprisingly, as they have had a long history but little experience.Country mouse!

In the West, whatever that may be, we accept as given many cardinal features of a free society that were hard fought-over in the past:

  1. no taxation without representation
  2. one person one vote
  3. voting by secret ballot
  4. freedom of speech, assembly and press
  5. separation of church and state
  6. separation of powers (civil service, parliament, judges)
  7. equality before the law (justice is blind)

and so on. These are not divine virtues but commonsense safeguards, because although nobody knows how nations should be governed, we all know how nations should not be governed. Democracy substitutes accidental government for arbitrary government.

These brown-robed duffers seem to know nothing that might help them. For instance, they seem genuinely to believe that a general election is simply an opportunity to shore up the current government. They cannot conceive of independent-minded criticism, of one party (way of thinking) replacing another painlessly, of there being some obscure connection between a policy and a mandate.

On the other hand, they believe that merit can descend from the Prophet down 41 generations (the sayeedi or descendants of Mohammad have a headstart in the leadership stakes), although geneticists point out that all similarities cease after about four generations. They believe in kinship, succession by inheritance, nepotism, patronage and ‘connections’. These are all dysfunctional beliefs, though most of the middle east is ruled by families, frowning out from their Islamic grottoes on the outside world.

In our society there are legal safeguards, not always effective, to ensure impartiality and competition on merit. We have learned long ago the lessons that are only now being visited upon the unfortunate peoples of Iran. To learn all this from experience is especially bitter. Why not learn from the experience of others?

I think again of the words of the great Persian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967):

I love our Tehran, come what may. I love it and it is only there that my life finds its raison d’être. I love that scorching sun, those oppressive sunsets, those dusty streets, and those unfortunate, ill-starred, low-born, depraved people.