For the past week, I, like so many of you, have been riveted to my seat as I’ve watched the infancy of yet another Iranian revolution play out right before my very eyes.
Americans have devoured and disected every image, parsed ever morsel of information and formulated their own opinions on what is taking place in that Middle East country. And as Iranians have turned to Twitter and Facebook we’ve publicly followed and encouraged them while simultaneously praising their bravery in disobeying their governments’ bans.
Iranians have inspired us and made us extremely hopeful that for the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the majority in the country were finally prepared to take the first steps towards establishing a true democratic state.
However, as the week wore on and protesters’ calls fell on deaf ears many of us suspected that their demands would be rebuffed, at Friday prayers Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei confirmed a crackdown was immenient.
This past Saturday millions of us watched as grainy videos uploaded to Youtube made their way into our living rooms via national news channels showing demonstrators being beaten and attacked in the streets as they defied their Supreme leader and rallied in support of Mousavi.
But after all of this I am still unsure of how far these supporters are willing to go in support of Mousavi and if the movement I’m watching on tv and the internet has really morphed into a pro democracy crusade similar to the one that occurred in Lebanon?
I sense this is no longer about an election.
I believe this is no longer about deposing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and appointing Mir Hussein Moussavi.
And I know that the majority of protesters do not want the Islamic Republic to fall.
But what do they really want and are they willing to continue to spill their blood and sacrifice their lives in pursuit of a democratic state if that is truly their demand?
So far the death toll, as reported by the Associated Press, stands at 19.
However like most movements that oppose oppressive regimes expect that total to increase. And undoubtedly a critical point will be reached when leaders and protesters, enforcers and supporters start to play a dangerous game of chicken.
In Iran this game has been occurring at various levels for the past 30 years. The battle between democracy and despotism, modernity and tradition may finally have come to a head this past week but in the past these drives have been crushed and the reformers have always backed down.
But this time the elites and intellectuals, leading the movenment appear to have significant support among the mases and that could lead to significant societal change.
And if we are currently witnessing a regime change in Iran unfortunately and inevitably that means there will be hundreds more Neda Soltans. I don’t know if the protesters or the ruling elites and clerics are really prepared to accept that reality.