The Iranian Tempest

It is now clearer than ever that the confrontation in Iran is not simply a major dispute about a legitimate or fraudulent voting result. It is more an ideological battle between an intolerant, repressive government (who uses the Sharia as a political weapon, supports terrorism and has bellicose ambitions) and an ever increasing number of the educated and informed population in favour of moderation, modernisation and freedom.

Under such circumstances those who contest the election results have little chance of obtaining any satisfaction, other than revealing that 'Iranian democracy' is even more of a masquerade than was previously believed. This despite what seems to me to be a fact that Sharia law is incompatible with democratic law. (If this is indeed so, granting communities the right to practice Sharia law in Europe or in any democratic state or continent is incoherent, dangerous and should be categorically denied as illegal and unconstitutional).

Under the present circumstances the Iranian authorities can therefore no longer pretend to represent a democratic republic. When elections are fairly won, there is never any need to use repression. One resorts to justice which can only be based on the truth.

If the 'Supreme Guide' of Iran supports repression and lies, more than justice and truth, then he cannot be qualified to guide anyone, including himself. He cannot represent anyone, and certainly not God.

International Petition.

The undersigned demands the Iranian authorities to seriously reconsider the claims of their people in order that justice determined by these claims and the essential rules of democracy prevail.

Either- To persuade and reassure their people, not with force but with reason and justice, that they are wrong to believe that the rules of democracy have been violated, so that order can be properly, fairly and peacefully restored.

Or- To allow their people the opportunity to prove, not with force but with reason and justice, that the rules of democracy have been violated and to act in consequence of such evidence to insure that justice and democracy prevail peacefully.

For as long as doubt is permitted to triumph over justice, Iran cannot be properly governed or pretend to be a democratic republic, or be considered as such by the Iranian population and the international Community.

La soussignéé demande aux autorités Iraniennes de reconsidérer sérieusement les revendications du peuple pour que la justice déterminée par ces réclamations et les règles de la démocratie prévalent.

Soit- Pour pouvoir persuader et assurer leur peuple, non avec la force mais avec la raison et la justice, qu'il a tort d'assumer que les règles de la démocratie aient été violées, pour que l'ordre puisse être restoré de manière juste et sans violence.

Soit- Pour accorder à leur peuple l'opportunité de prouver, non pas avec la force mais avec la raison et la justice, que les règles de la démocratie ont été violées, pour que tous les iraniens et les autorités puissent prendre acte en conséquence pour assurer que la justice et la démocratie prévalent paisiblement.

Car tant que le doute est permis de pouvoir triompher au détriment de la justice, l'Iran ne peut pas être gouverné de manière efficace, ne peut pas prétendre être une république démocratique, ou être considéré comme telle par le peuple iranien et la Communauté internationale.

Signed this day of the 22nd June, 2009.

The fresh breeze of change..


Witnessing the unfolding of events such as those of Iran. Having this increasingly sophisticated access of information, one is aware of the velocity in which the world is changing.
To try to block this access as part of a futile attempt to perpetuate unsubtle myths such as the clumsy scenario of 'Iranian democracy' only increases one's awareness of this fresh breeze of change. Naturally it also increases the determination of well informed people to reject the lies or exaggerations of those who pretend to represent them.

One sees that the young Iranian students, despite the efforts of the Iranian regime to insulate Iran from Western influence, and despite religious diversity, are really no different from the young students of Europe and the USA.
They too are the inheritors of fabulous history, and theirs is far more ancient than that of European civilisation. Their history is also their guaranty, that no one, especially those who are not worthy of them, can deprive them from the freedom they have every right to. The freedom of choice that is the essence of democracy.

The claim of this freedom, as well as international awareness, are superbly revealed by the placards on which one can read English and French inscriptions- "Where's my vote", "Solidarité nationale, Iran est dans le sang", "A bas le dictateur", etc.

This resemblance thus indicates a remarkable increase in international awareness through the sharing of information and culture via Internet. It's truly revolutionary.

The rabid efforts of fundamentalists who consider freedom to be a direct threat to their obsolete cause, the pathetic masquerade of democracy in Iran and elsewhere, the dated, military, ambitions of die-hard junta in countries such as North Korea, Burma, and still to an extent in Libya, China and Russia, can never control the elements, the tides, the winds, nor even these little, fresh breezes.

Naturally this process, the sharing of information, cannot be controlled, prohibited or censored for any great length of time. It would be like forcing a family to live locked up in a house without windows. Windows that would otherwise be open to let in this fresh breeze of change.
This little breeze can really be felt, and it's an exhilarating feeling.

When the economical crisis seriously began in the USA in 2008, most of the world including Europe, smugly supposed that it was 'their problem', and that it was 'inevitable', etc. Some even seemed delighted about it, predicting the end of 'Western capitalism' and the reign of the dollar as a world currency. They never considered the domino effect. It had never occurred to them that the world is like Noah's Ark and if it leaks in one place, we are all going to eventually get wet. So we've all got to help repair the Ark and bail it out to prevent it from sinking.

Naturally ecological problems are parallel. If China or any country believes it can abuse nature, waste and pollute her resources by continuing to churn out far more products than are necessary, and this with impunity, it's on a disaster course, possibly dragging a good part of the world in its wake.

Today in Europe there is more intercontinental exchange of view points and sharing of information than ever. There is a need to establish a European identity, not a mere 'common market' identity, but as Europeans who defend European values, have a common objective, a reason of being, an ideal and aspirations. Europeans, and proud of being so.

Perhaps this is another reason why there seems to be a disorientation of national political polarity. There is no longer a right wing or a left wing way of governing. There is only the best way possible. And this is determined by international, economical and environmental constraints and considerations, 'geopolitics' and international security.

European identity is gradually developing into an ideal that may eventually dwarf national political tendencies. If this is so, it can only be a natural and positive process.

We are all together on this small planet, our Noah's Ark, and it's the only one we have. Whatever one's religion there is no doubt that we all share the same dream of freedom, simply because it's human nature.
It's not 'Western corruption' or an American invention or dream. It's the aspiration of every human being who merits the freedom of being him or herself, to realise his or her full potential. The dream of all men and women who want the best for their families.
The freedom to open the window, to see the sun rise again, to smile and take a deep breath of fresh air.

Image by courtesy of Boston Globe. 'Supporter of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi'. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) Tehran, Iran. Tuesday, June 9, 2009. Text © Mirino (PW) June, 2009

The lucid witness

Similar to Samuel Pepys habit of lapsing into French or even a bit of Italian to underplay, if not hide, his regular, affective adventures, and also perhaps to comfort himself in not having omitted anything in his diaries, Cœurdevey would lapse into his more fluent German, also disguising whatever else he considered personal.
But his particular case, confronted with the rigours and horrors of the Great War, would excuse him should any excuse ever be thought necessary.
The enormous value of Pepys notes, naturally including his endearing, affective adventures, are also beyond any bigoted dispraise.

Having read over 300 pages of almost 900 of Edouard Cœurdevey's diaries written during the whole of the first world war, I recently came across another particularly interesting passage :

8 juillet, 1916 (Somme)

'Les journaux ont le parfum du vin chaud. Trois nouvelles riches de promesses et d'espoir :
Les Russes arrêtés sur le Styr depuis trois semaines par les contre-offensives austro-allemandes ont eu le dernier mot, et leur victoire se développe hardiment. Les Anglais ont lutté durement mais valeuresement contre la Garde prussienne. "Ils" ont fait donner la Garde! Signe de temps. Enfin, plus grande victoire encore de nos Alliés- ils ont mis Lloyd George au ministre de la Guerre. The right man in the right place... Les veinards, ces Anglais, ils ont toujours eu et découvrent constamment, dans leurs crises graves, l'homme de la situation, l'homme audacieux, l'homme de l'avenir : Pitt, Gladstone, Lloyd George... et leur mérite, celui qui révèle le grand peuple qu'ils sont, c'est de le reconnaître, cet homme, et de lui faire crédit, de lui accorder une confiance hardie... Nous sommes moins favourisés et moins sages.' (Apparently written before Pétain, Foch and Clemenceau were to excel themselves).

Had such intelligence been put to better use, certainly in the first half of the Great War, (and this was a constant criticism that Cœurdevey himself often made in his diaries) perhaps there would never have been such an appallingly tragic and wasteful loss of lives, especially regarding the French, but that's another story.

For 'les Anglais' this is a moving and heart-warming observation of Cœurdevey. It also shows how perceptive and visionary he was, because history continued and still continues to reveal how true this observation is.
But it would be chauvinistic and unrealistic to attribute this exclusively to the Brits. History reveals that this is a global quality of humanity based on the will to survive and defend one's freedom and identity against those who directly threaten it.

It seems highly probable that Edouard Cœurdevey spent far more time writing in his diaries (carnets de guerre) than taking on the 'Boches'. It's just as well for posterity, and maybe also just as well for the 'Boches'.

To name only a few right men in the right place at the right time, omitting further English figures and national heroes of all other nations during the critical periods of history from the 18th century : George Washington (Commander of the Revolutionary forces against the British forces and the first President of the USA. Considered one of the greatest U.S Presidents. He symbolises republicanism and the founding of the United States of America). Abraham Lincoln (reunited the USA, made the famous 'Gettysburg Address'). Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (abolished the Sultanate, substituted Koranic laws with European ones and modernised Turkish Islam, defended Turkey and its national identity against the Allies at the end of WW1 and the Ottoman Empire). George Clemenceau ('Le Tigre' and 'le Père-la-Victoire' of WW1. Advocated 'la guerre jusqu'au bout'. With Foch and Pétain, in spite of the increasing doubts in French public opinion, adamantly led the French to victory). Maréchal Philippe Pétain (Verdun July, 1916, WW1). Ferdinand Foch (supreme commander of the Allied armies of WW1. Was to encouraged peace terms- Treaty of Versailles- to ensure that Germany would be militarily disabled. His declaration: "This is not peace. It is a 20 year Amnesty," proved to be fatally true).
Roosevelt (WW1 exponent of the submarine in the war effort, rejecter of U.S. neutrality in 1939, the start of WW2). Eisenhower, (allied commander WW2, 34th President of the USA). Charles de Gaulle (leader of the Free French Forces, principal encourager of French resistance against the Nazi German occupation of France, reunited the French population at the end of the war).

Sources- With grateful thanks- Edouard Cœurdevey Carnets de Guerre 1914-1918, Terre Humaine, © Plon Wikipedia, (Image- frame from First World War footage. Water-colour and montage of poppies by M). Text © Mirino (PW) June, 2009

Consequences. Iran

The pre-Islamic Persians of Aryan language founded two empires in the south-west of Iran, the Achaemenid VI-IV BC and the Sassanid (III-VII AD). They imposed their culture throughout much of the Middle East.

From the beginning of the first decade of mediaeval history, Persia was perhaps the most important cultural centre in the world. The Persians were among the first to translate the medical wisdom of the Greeks. And if one was then fortunate enough to have studied medicine in Persia (Christians weren't admitted) one would certainly not have been considered a charlatan. Islam then required a high standard of knowledge in several other sciences, in order to specialise in only one of them.

If levels of Persian knowledge of sciences were destined to reach a limit however, this, ironically, would be due to the rigours and exigencies of the same religion that allowed the initial acquiring of such knowledge.

The name 'Persia' (Latinised from the Greek Persica or Persis originating from 'Pārsa', the people of Cyrus the Great's empire) was to last until 1935 when Reza Shar Pahlavi issued a decree to rename the country 'Iran'. This caused a serious conflict of opinions as the Persian intelligentsia suspected there were connotations (Land of Aryans) with nazism. (Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, Economics Minister of Nazi Germany had also alluded to the Aryan origin of Persians).
'Persia' is far more evocative of the larger, cultural aspect than 'Iran' which seems to evoke more of an insular, autocratic and political one.

Persia is the land of one of the world's most ancient civilisations (from 7000 BC) and was to become a major influence in literature, art, philosophy, medicine, alchemy, astronomy and mathematics. During the reign of Cyrus the Great (pre-Islamic Persian Empire) what is sometimes alleged to be the first 'human rights charter' was established in the form of The Cyrus Cylinder (British Museum). It is perhaps more accurately regarded as ancient Mesopotamian propaganda proclaiming Cyrus to be 'King of the world'.

The history of Persia is obviously vast. A long sequence of wars, conquests, dynasties, rebellions with intermittent periods of anarchy, and even more so after the Islamic conquest of Persia. But the Persians were never 'arabised'. They enriched their culture with Arabian influence but they always essentially retained it as well as their own language. This paved the way to the 'Islamic Golden Age' which shined gloriously throughout the 10th and 11th centuries.

One of the most terrible events was the invasion of Genghis Khan in 1218. Half of the population of Iran was massacred. Pyramids of severed heads of men, women and children were carefully built and were cynically surrounded with the carcasses of dogs and cats. 90% of a population of 2,500,000 perished between 1220 and 1260 due to continued extermination followed by famine.
Two hundred years later 30% of the surviving population was decimated by the Black Death.

Yet Persian empires rose again and the first Islamic Shi'a State was established during the Sfavid Dynasty (1501 / 1722) by Shah Ismail I. Although this Dynasty often warred with the Ottomans, the Uzbeks and the Portuguese Empire, it was nonetheless a great patron of Persian arts.
Other, ambitious dynasties followed, and despite several wars with Imperial Russia in the 18th century (Qajar Dynasty) which resulted in the cession of almost half of Persian territory to Imperial Russia and to the British Empire, then the Great Famine of 1870-71 which caused the death of an estimated two million people, Iran always retained her sovereignty and was never colonised.

The Qajar Dynasty was overthrown by Reza Khan in 1925. He industrialised Iran, constructed a railway system and established a national education program. But his position regarding Germany at the beginning of World War II worried Russia and Britain. In 1941 they invaded Iran, also in order to use the Iranian railway in the war effort. The Shah then had to abdicate in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The elected Prime Minister of 1951, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, nationalised the oil reserves of Iran. This made him enormously popular in Iran but less so elsewhere. Britain reacted by embargoing Iranian oil and plotted with the USA under President Eisenhower to depose Mossadegh. 'Operation Ajax' was to prove 'successful'. Mossadegh was arrested in 1953.

The Shah Pahlavi had the support he needed from the USA to modernise Iran's infrastructure, but his regime became overly autocratic. Any political opposition was systematically crushed.

These were the seeds of circumstances that grew into the radicalisation of Iran, the flames of which were also fanned by Ayotollah Khomeini. The Iranian (or Islamic) Revolution began in January 1978 when Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile. It marked the end of the Pahlavi Dynasty ten days later when rebels overpowered the Shah's troops. The Shah and his family fled.
On the 1st April, 1979, overwhelmingly approved by national referendum, Iran became an Islamic Republic.

Abolhasan Bani-Sadr was elected the first president of the Islam republic of Iran in January 1980, and represented a degree of moderation and hope. But he too fled to France after being dismissed from office and charged with conspiracy and treason.

Unsuccessfully Saddam Hussein tried to gain access to the Persian Gulf in September 1980 (Iran-Iraq war). Iranian casualties were estimated roughly between 500,000 and a million. More than 100,000 deaths were directly caused by Iraqi chemical weapons.

Although there then followed the relatively moderate regime of Khatami who advocated freedom of expression, the revolutionary ideology was to become even more extreme, if not vindictive, under the actual regime presided by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In addition to Ahmadinejad's disdain of Israel, his open threats to the Jewish State, the regime's hostility towards the USA, its open support of terrorist activities (including those of the Hezbollah, Hamas and even the Taliban) and its political exploitation of obselete Sharia law; its continued denial that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear arms, only increases international distrust and preoccupation regarding the regime's purpose of developing them.

Such are the consequences. But in spite of what could be considered short-sighted, imperialistic irresponsibility on the part of Britain, Russia and the USA, and whatever one's religion and political sympathy, such a conclusion amounts to a sad and regressive result for Iran, in relation to the more grandiose periods in the history of Persia.

Sources- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Le Larousse, Wikipedia, infoplease. Satellite image by courtesy of Nasa.
Text © Mirino (PW) June, 2009