By Rabbi Arthur Waskow (June 14, 2009)
The Ahmedinajad- Khameni regime has stolen an election.
And now the regime is repressing the nonviolent uprising that welled up to protest. Last night I saw more than 200 photographs from Iran, sent by the people of Iran through Email -- sent despite the regime's shut-down of cell phones and text messages.
What can we do? WEAR GREEN -- A SHIRT, A TIE, A SCARF, A RIBBON.
The photos -- I_ will give you their URL in a moment so you can see for yourself -- are full of protesters wearing green. The photos remind me of even harsher and more violent scenes of repression -- the South African army's Sharpeville Massacre in 1960; the Soviet Army's repression of democratic uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968; The Chicago police on the streets in 1968; the Chilean Army's murderous repression (fomented and aided by the US government) of its own people in 1973; the Chinese government's massacre of its own students at Tiananmen Square in 1998; US interventions to repress democracy in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala; and the violent Israeli response to the election of Hamas by the people of Palestine.
And we have our own American experience of stolen elections and their disastrous results.
First I want to recommend an action that is simple, that is not likely to bring political change in the short run, but can remind ourselves of who we are and who the people of Iran are:
WEAR GREEN -- A SHIRT, A TIE, A SCARF, A RIBBON.
Why? Because in the last week before the Iranian election, supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi began wearing green, and during that last week filled the streets of Tehran and other cities with tidal waves of green.
The wearing of the green can remind ourselves that these are OUR people, and that proposals for war against Iran are calls to attack, bomb, strafe these people.
It is not a foregone conclusion that the repression will work. When the Shah of Iran – with US support -- used the Army, torture, and prisons against the democratic up-welling that became the nonviolent uprising of 1979, the police and the Army ultimately quailed, and the Iranian Revolution of 1979 succeeded. From outside we – and probably even those who live there -- have no way of estimating how resolute the Green Wave will be, and how rigid the police and Army and the Ahmedinajad- Khatami regime will be.
So it is early to predict either the collapse of Iranian democracy or its success. And it is impossible tp predict whether even if the regime stays in power, it will seek international accommodations in order to ease internal opposition.
Whatever happens inside Iran, the United State should move forward to seek negotiations with whatever Iranian government emerges. Attacking Iran is likely to unite even an angry opposition in support of a national government they despise. It is likely to inflame religious and ethnic conflict in Iraq. And it is likely to bring great danger to US troops and interests near Iran.
The US continues to have an interest in moving Iran's desire for nuclear energy toward peaceful exploration, not a Bomb. We continue having an interest in ending the Iranian government's support for terrorism. We continue to have an interest in human rights for women and free expression of opinion and culture.We continue to have an interest in befriending the Muslim world, not making it an enemy.
We should be doing what we can to broadcast truthful information into Iran, to strengthen women's groups and the demand for human rights – all the while, making clear that the US is ready to welcome the Islamic Republic as a legitimate part of the international system, while making clear its friendship with the Iranian people.
The task of negotiation will be harder than it might have been. It will be difficult to walk the narrow line between negotiating with the regime and supporting a dictatorship. But God knows the US has done that before when our interests were at stake. The issues between our countries should still be resolved by diplomacy.
Meanwhile, we can make clear to ourselves and others that we the American people stand in solidarity with the Iranian people, and will not bring harm upon them or their nation.
The photos I mentioned are at
With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace –
P.S. For an analysis of how the election was stolen: See two reports by Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the author of Engaging the Muslim World (Macmillan, 2009), on our website – the home page at http:/www.theshalomcenter.org and