- Share it! - Tweet it!

Posted in: Iran

Published on Jun 21, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Obama Fiddles While Iran Burns


Iran is on fire. And as I watch a potentially revolutionary, internet-driven uprising unfold over vote-counting, (vote-counting!) and not over the torture, unlawful imprisonment, and mass murder of Iranian citizens by its own leaders, I only now begin to appreciate the possible psychological impact of that first free, public election held in Iraq, courtesy of brave American blood.

I have been watching the coverage and reading the news about what is happening in the streets of Teheran. I've also been contacting Iranian dissident friends and colleagues. I am terrified and outraged (by the heartless Iranian regime), thrilled (by the bravery of so many young Iranians), mortified (by my own government's cautious refusal to "take sides"). After all, we are talking about a nuclear-obsessed tyranny that has threatened to genocidally exterminate Israel and to re-establish a world-wide Caliphate. Yes, on American soil too if they can.

Several young Ivy League students tried to explain it to me. Quite simply: If America does anything, we will be accused of "colonialism, racism, imperialism, and over-reaching."

Oh, is that all? Thus, while Iranian youth risks its life and its lifelong health in the streets, our youth, fatally indoctrinated by the professorial disciples of Stalin and Said, remains primarily concerned with how the world sees us, with whether we look good or not in the eyes of evil tyrants. President Obama represents them well, he's their main man.

Yes, I appreciate Obama's ostensible eloquence, and the genuinely "pretty" figure that he cuts; he could easily be a movie star, a rock star, a basketball star. I am now convinced that many young American voters want a President who looks like this and who sounds like a "cool," left European.

While America may not be economically able to ride to the rescue each time evil rears its ugly head abroad, and while we may have an economy, an educational, and a health care system in urgent need of rescue first—still, are we not obliged to have a principled and universal view in favor of freedom, democracy, human rights, and women's rights?

Yes, even if President Bush had one too? Yes, even if we ourselves are imperfect? After all, aren't we the country that finds torture abhorrent? Is torture only abhorrent when Americans allegedly perpetrate it on Muslim jihadists captured in battle—but not when Muslims perpetrate it on innocent Muslim civilians? What kind of diabolical double standard is this?

Anyway, the fashionable European approach will not work. Appeasement never does.

Even after Obama bowed, low, to the Saudi King, flattered the Islamic world in Cairo with lies and half-truths—offered it Israel's neck on the chopping block, threw Muslim women under the bus, and refused to condemn the Iranian regime for seven days—even then, the Ayatollah, his henchmen, and their supporters called for "Death to America, Death to Britain, Death to Israel."

Dr. Afshin Ellian who teaches Philosophy of Law at Leiden University, Netherlands, sent me a copy of his Open Letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, just published in the Times of London. (I will either link to it or reprint it below).

He writes to me: "Iranian people are really in danger. I hope that democracy and reason overcome the tyranny and irrationality of militant Muslims. The distribution of this letter is very important, please do what in your opinion is necessary. Maybe we can influence the opinion of politicians."

Ellian describes the monstrous tyranny that has imprisoned all Iran for the last thirty years: The mass, anonymous graves, the continuous torture and murder of political opponents and of peaceful dissidents alike. Ellian writes: "The ruling elite is despised by the people…your puppet Ahmadinejad is reviled. The revolution that had begun in freedom, ended in the rule of President Ahmadinejad, with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial…many like me feel a deep shame at this uncivilized and un-Persian anti-Semitism."

While noting that the "mothers of the members of my family who were executed will never forgive you," Ellian nevertheless promises Khamenei that "they will let you withdraw peacefully, for the sake of freedom and of their grandchildren." Ellian's Ph.D thesis is on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Based on this work, Ellian believes that it is, theoretically, possible "for a political transition to take place peacefully (in Iran) and without the shedding of blood."

I know, I know: Moussavi (unless he's just had a massive change of heart and mind), is not that different from Amadinejad. I realize that the people are not just risking their lives because of uncounted votes; rather, they are protesting thirty years of being confined in a prison state. I know that women's rights are key to their protest. Even Moussavi has called for an end to the stoning of women.

Soona Samsani is a religious Iranian Muslim who lives in exile but who never ceases to fight for Iran's freedom. She is a member of the National Council of Resistance, a group led by Maryam Rajavi that has wrongfully been classified as a "terrorist" group.

Samsani is the one who helped organize a very impressive United States Senate press hearing on the matter of Iran. I spoke for her group in D.C., about Islamic gender apartheid on a panel whose words were beamed up live via satellite into Europe, the Middle East, and Iran and simultaneously translated into Farsi, Kurdish, and Arabic.

I again spoke for her at the United Nations where I saw Samsani personally and impressively face down eight hijabbed members of the Iranian delegation. She also organized the Iranians who "sat in" to protest Amadinejad at the United Nations. In fact, she came to visit and brought two other Iranians along, including a Zoroastrian—a very sweet man who described the extraordinary persecution of his people by the Islamist Iranians.

Samsani responded to my note of concern and support in this way: "Please write a story in support of women and youth in Iran demonstrating. So many killed today." Others have told me that at least 40% of the demonstrators are women. There have been some unconfirmed reports that, in the last 24 hours, women have been shot on sight for not wearing any—or for not wearing proper—"covering." She told me about the very large rally just held in Paris. Now, she tells me this:

"Hundreds of students from universities in Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and many other cities have been arrested in recent days. Agents of the mullahs' notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) late on Tuesday raided the dormitory for female students at Abu-Ali Sina University in Hamedan. They assaulted the female students and arrested a number of them, dragging them on the ground into vehicles belonging to the MOIS."

I wonder whether or when American and European feminists will stand up for the women and pro-women activists risking their lives in Teheran? I have just been told that the long-time NOW leadership has been ousted and that a new day has dawned. Stay tuned for more details. I will certainly press them to issue a statement on behalf of freedom in Iran.


We are not accepting comments at this time, please go to the Facebook page to generate discussion!

Back To Top