2009 elections [via aljazeera.com][/caption]The elections for a new Iranian president will take place this Friday. According to an NBC article yesterday, the only reformist candidate, Mohammad-Reza Aref, has just dropped out, leaving five conservatives and one moderate to campaign for the position. Despite this dropout, reformists still hold hope that some of their goals, mostly centered around gaining more personal freedoms, will be realized through uniting behind the moderate candidate, Hassan Rowhani. For America and other world powers concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, the lack of candidates willing to limit its growth means that negotiations about the issue will probably remain at a standstill at best, if they continue at all. The last presidential elections took place in 2009 and sparked widespread protests from reformists who disputed the victory of current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as fraudulent. The Iranian government cracked down on demonstrations, resulting in the death of at least 30 people, according to Human Rights Watch. In response to this outrageous act by the regime, one Iranian-American who goes only by the name Amir to protect his family still in Iran, decided to develop a means of protest that could not be killed or detained: abook. Amir’s New York Times bestselling graphic novel, titled Zahra’s Paradise and illustrated by a man named Khalil, is based on the tragic story of an Iranian mother burying her son after he was killed in the protests of 2009. Just in time for Friday’s elections, Amir and Khalil haveannounced that the novel’s protagonist, Zahra, will run for president. Here is her campaign promise: “A vote for Zahra is a vote for an Iran in which we say no to the clowns, no to the executions, no to fears, and no to lies. An Iran where we vote yes to life, yes to love, and yes to laughter.” In a BBC video, another activist involved in the campaign, Hadi Ghaemi, asserts: “A real person cannot be allowed to run in the election under such a platform.” This new utilization of a book on the Internet gives supporters of a freer Iran hope that someday, protesters won’t have to fear violence for peacefully speaking out against corruption.By declaring Zahra’s candidacy, Amir and Khalil present their own challenge to the Iranian government and present voters with the following question: “Granted that I am a fictional character, would you prefer me to the current candidates?” Given the lack of real reformers in the running, it’s likely that most liberal Iranians would respond with a resounding yes. To read the original article, click here.

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