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Iranians Have Confronted Corrupt Regime With Courage, Ingenuity


It was late Monday night in Tehran when this editorial was composed. Darkness descended on a day in which tens of thousands of ordinary Iranians silently marched and jammed the streets, defying official governmental orders prohibiting demonstrations.

They were protesting what many people in Iran and around the world see as a crudely stolen presidential election. It was the third consecutive day of protests characterized by an intensity not seen in Iran since the Islamic revolution that led to the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi's regime in 1979.

This much already is clear: The Iranian people fearlessly have confronted brutality. They've shown ingenuity in the political use of digital technology — using text messages and Twitter feeds to organize and stage demonstrations and reveal to the world conditions on the ground in real time.

They've commanded the attention of a corrupt regime, even if only for the moment, earning the admiration of freedom-loving people.

Protests began over the weekend, after announcements that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-right incumbent president, claimed to defeat Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reform candidate who had served as Iran's prime minister in the 1980s.

There had been huge voter turnout. Soon after polls closed, Iran's election agency announced that a large percentage of the ballots had been counted — a dubious claim given that all ballots had to be counted by hand. Against all expectations, Ahmadinejad was declared to have won by a landslide — almost two-thirds of the vote.

The outcome lacked any credibility, leading many to conclude that it had been coerced by fraud or was an outright fantasy.

Angry voters took to the streets.

They were met by club-swinging security forces marauding Iran's cities on motorcycles. The military establishment harassed prominent political opponents, including Mousavi. Internet service, including Twitter feeds, was censured and cell phone text messaging was interrupted. Foreign journalists were asked to leave the country.

Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, displayed to his own people the same thuggish persona that has shaped his shabby international reputation. He shrugged off the protests, comparing them to unrest that sometimes follows a soccer match. He joked about the attempt to intimidate his rival, saying that Mousavi had run "a red light and was given a traffic ticket."

In Iran, ultimate political power resides in unelected clerics, and primarily with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ayatollah Khamenei at first ratified the power grab, calling the election results "a divine blessing."

Nevertheless, resistance has continued. Suddenly, the supreme leader appeared to do some backpedaling. On Monday, he said that the complaints of election irregularities should be subjected to a high-level inquiry.

The Iranian people's political outpouring may be crushed mercilessly, as Soviet forces ruthlessly ended the Prague uprising in 1968 and when Chinese communists rolled over the Tiananmen Square in 1989. We hope that the Iranian people, acting with courage and persistence under the watchful admiration of democratic societies, can persuade a repressive regime finally to respect basic political rights.




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