Monday, July 6, 2009

The Persian Street

Pundits tend to harmonize about the Arab Street, that nebulous source of legitimacy, the Arab common man. So here comes the story of the summer, maybe the decade: a contested election in the Middle East erupts into popular protest when the common man smells a rat and tells their own government to stuff it. Except the common man isnt wearing a keffiyeh. He--and she--are dressed head to toe in Persian robes. Because it is the Persian street that is making their voice heard. And because I won't be in Tehran anytime soon, I can only stroll the streets of Damascus and wonder what the locals are thinking.

The answer is anyone's guess--I don't read minds, only start conversations. Most Syrians are hesitant to talk politics. Especially when the topic strikes too close to home. As a local girl told me, "Corruption in Lebanon, riots in Iran. Can you imagine what elections would bring to Syria?"

To find out what the elections have brought to Iran, I went to the source. "Nothing else will stop us," a young artist in Tehran wrote to a friend of mine. "Not this shootings, killings, violence, pressure. A re-run of elections,that is what we want as our right, and we are not gonna give up until we get it."

Perhaps my friend in Syria was right about what the Iranian elections could mean for Syria. Because the rest of the young Iranian artist's words have a lesson for the wider Arab world.

"This thing can only be compared to the revolution itself. Nothing else. They attacked the same dorm again and they threw people from windows. [This] is about a tiny guy who came on by fraud, and is trying to stay whatever it takes, and he has hands everywhere because his types have the power in every part of the government. They think that to keep the power, you can do anything--pressure, violence, fraud. This is not what the revolution was for--this is what the revolution was against."

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