Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nausea in Iran

Trigger Warning: Violence

She died in front of my eyes, on a video from Iran, a video I hadn't intended to click on and then it was too late. I'm bent over double with nausea. She was a young woman, demonstrating against her government. Now she is a young woman, dead. It's not a movie and she will not rise again, laughing while wiping off all that ketchup from her face. It's real. It's for good. And it's wrong, on so many levels.

My nausea is unimportant. But not the general nausea of these events, the nausea elicited by those Americans who use all this for political gamesmanship, turning it all against Obama or for Obama, checking first on blogs which side they should be supporting, checking if they should be for the demonstrators or for Ahmadinejad, based on the overall political value of each package. And I wasn't that far removed from those types of thoughts. Because on some level the total package does matter, of course, and on some level it's the clerics who are going to keep almost all the power, whatever the results of this election. And I wasn't at all certain that women's rights in Iran would be improved from their current level, whoever won the election.

But then she dies in front of my eyes and it doesn't matter how much I tell myself that people, women and men, are killed all the time for their political beliefs, all over this damn planet. She got butchered on the street, just like that, for demonstrating. And still the Iranian women go out there:

I also know that Iran's women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I've seen them urging less courageous men on. I've seen them get beaten and return to the fray. "Why are you sitting there?" one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. "Get up! Get up!"

Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of "Death to the dictator!" and "We want liberty!" accompanied her.

There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.

"Can't the United Nations help us?" one woman asked me. I said I doubted that very much. "So," she said, "we are on our own."