The Question of the Stolen Vote

Nov 30, 20090 comments

”Where is my vote ?” ask millions of protesting Iranians on the now bloodied streets of Iran’s cities. It is a question of their stolen votes, the votes they placed in the ballot boxes on June 12. But they are also indicating something existential, something that goes deeper into the soul of  the people. They cry out their disappointment, despair and the pain of their existence: “Where is my vote?” The despots that have ruled Iran have certainly never listened to the people. But I must admit in saying so that I am being unfair to the shah now. I remember what he said in a radio transmission shortly before the overthrow. “You, the Iranian nation. I too have heard your message of revolution. I guarantee that the Iranian law in the future shall be based on the constitution, social justice and the will of the nation, without despotism, cruelty and atrocities.” That was an impossible dream. We were not used to a king who listened. It was our duty to listen to the king and not the other way. We heard his last talks, but didn’t really listen, it came too late. We were already out in the streets and shouting marg bar shah, marg bar shah, death to the shah, death to the shah. But it did not become better after him. The leader of the revolution, Khomeini, and his successor, Khemenei, were transformed into dictators, they who love their own voices and suppress others.  For thirty years now they have, in God’s name, violated the Iranians, most often in subterrainian torture chambers, but now also to the wide-open eyes of the world around. They use lies, cudgels, chains and bullets. Before Ahmadinejad became president four years ago, he had built a picture of himself which scared many. As a former mayor of Teheran he had come up with the idea to replace the peoples’ libraries in some of the parks by mosques. He had plans to build a fountain which would spray red water, as a symbol of all the blood that had been shed in the war with Iraq. And at his place of work he managed to carry out one change: he compelled men and women to use separate elevators in the town hall. In his sick mind it was unthinkable to allow such closeness between the sexes. During   Ahmadinejad’s time as president censoring was increased, on the day of his installation the performance of the famous theater producer Bahram Beyzaeis´ play was prohibited in Teheran, where it had already been performed 21 times. Soon art galleries were forced to close, censorship of books became more severe and arbitrary. The writer Yaghub Yadali was sentenced to prison because a woman in his novel had a relation with a man although they were not married. Today it takes two years to receive an answer from the censorship authorities regarding permission to publish. In addition to that a new permission is required for reprinting of already existing books. Many publishers are threatened by bankruptcy. During Ahmadinehads time the number of copies per edition has decreased from 5000 to 3000. Censorship has become so extensive that the Iranian  writers union talk of “cultural extermination.” Ahmadinejad’s cultural politics are brutal, but protests from with the cultural sphere are strong.  As a protest against the censorship no free literary prizes were awarded this year. “How can we find literary talents when no new books are published?” was the greeting from the writer Golshiri’s foundation. Recently the popular singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian has forbidden his songs to be  produced by Iranian State TV and radio. “My whole body starts shaking when I hear my voice  over your radio and TV. I am shamed,” he wrote in his letter. Shajarian is now more popular than ever before, people sing his song: This common pain can never be cured individually… When will we hear the radio talks by Ahmadinejad and Khamenei in which they will admit that the voice of the nation has been heard? I am afraid it may be too late. People are already out on the streets, shouting marg bar diktator, marg bar diktator! Azar Mahloujian, first published in the Swedish Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, 23 June 2009,Translation from Swedish: John Meurling