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Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Mullahs don't change! Justin Bieber for president of Iran."

On Friday, June 14, Iranians went to the polls to choose the next president of Iran. It is an oxymoron to say that Iranians chose the candidate through a democratic process. In reality, the candidate has to be approved by the guardian council and must meet the standards of the Supreme leader. Therefore He is usually first hand-picked and approved by the Ayatollah.
Hassan Rouhani emerged as the clear winner garnishing over 50% of the vote and at the end of the day most Iranians were celebrating in the streets. Thankfully this time there was no blood and violence like there was four years ago in the last presidential election. Instead there was a renewed sense of hope among most Iranians.
Rouhani declared himself to be a "moderate" instead of a conservative hard-liner, willing to have more constructive dialogue with the West. The Iranian regime, realizing they could not afford another bloody confrontation like four years ago, used Rouhani's moderate claims to appeal to the masses and insure a more peaceful result.
Elections in Iran are vastly different compared to what goes on here in the United States. Ordinary Iranian citizens are coerced or forced to come to the polls on election days or else suffer the loss of important government benefits. At the polls a government representative stamps their identification cards, noting who voted and who didn't. If an Iranian stayed home and boycotted the election, his or her card will not have the stamp on it and they will be considered "anti-government."
I have a dear friend in Iran who has to remain "unnamed" for security reasons. She is a young Iranian girl that I met online through Facebook. She does not embrace the "Muslim Faith," as most her friends are required to do. Instead she tells me that she has a love for Jesus and not the traditional Imams or Mullahs (Islamic clerics).
My friend shared with me a very amusing and interesting story about election day. She said that a lot of her friends embraced Rouhani's message and voted for him. Unlike her other friends, she protested and said, "Mullahs don't change, all of the candidates are the same."  She held out little hope than any of them would make any difference in their desperate situation with the economy and the ongoing abuses of human rights. I want to share with you what my friend did on election day. I will quote from her own words with a few minor corrections to her English:

" I didn't want to vote. I stayed home on election day until 10 pm when the election was almost over. Then some close friends of mine urged me to vote or risk losing my government benefits. I freaked out and rushed to the nearest voting station. It was against my will to vote but I went anyway. They took my ID and registered me into the computer. Then they handed me a voting card and asked me to write the name of the candidate that I was voting for.
Instead of writing the real name of a candidate, I instead wrote down the name of my favorite singer, Justin Bieber and voted for him because I didn't like any of the real candidates."

When my friend shared this with me
 I burst into laughter. Justin Bieber for President of Iran! Out of the masses of people in Iran, Justin Biebers name appeared on the ballot for president! WOW!
My friend did this for a very important reason.  In essence she was making a bold statement against the corrupt political system in Iran. She was tired of the coerced tactics of the Iranian regime and was declaring, "This is who I choose to vote for, not who the Supreme Leader decides I should vote for!"
She is very courageous and yet very desperate! My heart goes out to her. If she lived here in the United States she would not be coerced to vote but have the freedom to vote for the candidate of her choice without fear. I have said this many times before but it is worth repeating.."We take our freedoms for granted!" My friends story is a story of great courage in the face of fear and oppression. I pray that my friend will not suffer consequences for her brave act. I believe there are many more Iranians just like her but are too afraid to speak out.
 "Justin Bieber for President of Iran..hmmmm...He is very talented..has a lot of great songs..brings lot of fun, joy and happiness to millions...young girls and women love him...hmmm. Come to think of it, He is just what Iran needs. I think he would make an outstanding president!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Please God, no more blood and broken hearts!

"In a land where there's no freedom, If an election could change
 something, they wouldn't hold an election!"
                     ..Mark Twain..

 The mood and climate of my friends in Iran is one of hopelessness and despair. On Friday, June 14, Iranians will go to the polls to elect a new president, but most of my friends lament to me that it's waste of time and they won't be participating. They remember all too well the bloody and violent outcome of the 2009 election, when protesters took to the street outraged at what they perceived was a rigged election!
Since January, the Iranian regime has arrested countless journalists and bloggers in order to silence the truth and prevent the mass demonstrations and violence that occurred in the last election. In addition to that, activists and journalists who were imprisoned during the 2009 elections are being systematically rounded up and returned to their captivity behind bars. 
One can understand the mood of despair among my Iranian friends. To them, the upcoming election is a joke! It has nothing to do with democracy and fairness, so why vote?
Just recently, I read two emails from Iranians describing their feelings of despair and outrage about the upcoming elections. The first one is from Farhad, writing a brief letter to his friend, Bahman Nassiri. Bahman is the executive producer of the "The Golden Veil," a film exposing the truth behind the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Farhad is an Iranian citizen living in Tehran. He writes:

" As you have often said, a picture is worth a thousand words, but since I can't send you a picture, I send you these words and you can paint a picture with these words of the present day Iran.
Depression, suicides, hunger, unemployment, hyper-inflation, corruption, rising crime, fear, executions, hopelessness.
My young brothers sleep at night with hungry stomachs, hoping they won't wake up in the morning.

The second email that I received was from my dear friend Atefe who lives in Tehran. Atefe has an incredible way of words. Her stories and experiences have been the subject of many of my blogs, including the book, "The Rose of Nowruz," that I wrote for my friends in Iran.
Atefe captures the mood of the Iranian climate in a way no one else can. This is her email in her own words:

"As we reach the date, I remember the memories four years ago at the same time..My friends and I were so enthusiastic and energetic about the upcoming election. We used to think that those dark and exhausting days of Ahmadinejad is going to end .We were so happy..We used to think Mousavi (Iranian candidate in 2009) means freedom..means happiness..but as it went by and the result was revealed, everyone was shocked! We couldn't believe our eyes! How could this happen to us?
Now when I think about those damn days..I don't even give a damn to participate in this election. I am sometime afraid of this election..I'm afraid because of my people..they can't bear the power that stands against them..they are so weak!  I'm afraid because of the young people who were killed, whose mothers are still mourning every weekend by their graves..I'm afraid that more young people will get killed and harassed   I really don't care anymore about the result because I came to the conclusion that being a president here doesn't count and the election is just a democratic show!
Mark Twain says: "In a land where there's no freedom, if an election could change something, they wouldn't hold an election!"  
This is really true about Iran. I just want to pass this week quietly and calmly without any more blood and broken hearts. I really wish that God would help us pass this stressful time more easily...."

Wow! Atefe's words, Farhad's words,
 leave me speechless and in tears.
They are both crying out for fairness, for justice, for freedom!
After reading this I can feel the mood and the despair they are feeling. My heart aches for all Iranians and my only response is a prayer from Psalms.
Today, I'm crying out to God to give them hope in the midst of despair.

"He will rescue the poor when they cry out to Him. He will help the oppressed who have no one to defend them.
He feels pity for the weak and needy, and  He will rescue them.
He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to Him."
                                              (Psalm 72:12-14)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Sliding down the slippery slope towards a tyranny."

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people
 of good conscience to remain silent."
              (Thomas Jefferson)

  "I feel we won't have a free country. I know that we won't! In this country every single action done by people must be monitored by the government! It is ridiculous! Should we ask the government's permission if we wanna die? I hate, hate, hate this government!"
The above statement echoes the outrage by many Americans in reaction to the recent scandal of the NSA (National Security Administration) and their unjustified invasion of our privacy,through monitoring, collecting and storing our personal data. Our email, cell phones conversations and  daily computer activities, are undergoing a stepped up surveillance by the National data center, a facility located 25 miles outside of Salt lake City  used to combat cyber-terrorism and secure our nation against sudden attacks.
Ironically, the above statement is not a quote from an American citizen, but rather from a personal friend of mine. Her name is Nahid. She is a an English teacher living in Tehran, Iran. She knows firsthand the reality of what life is like living under the scrutiny and surveillance of an oppressive government that are masters at fear and intimidation.
The Iranian regime forbids any freedom of speech and arrests every journalist, blogger and lawyer that would dare to speak their mind or voice their opinion in opposition to any government policy.
"Oh come on, Randy, but that's Iran! Everyone knows they are a dictatorship! We have the bill of rights and the Constitution to protect us."
While that is certainly true, you could have fooled me! The present administration in Washington seems to ignore the protection and wisdom afforded by our forefathers who drafted these great documents to protect us from the reality of a tyrannical government.
In the recent weeks we have all been shocked and offended by the arrogance of The IRS targeting conservative groups and denying them a tax exempt status because of their religious and political orientation. It seems like our government is spinning out of control and sliding down a slippery slope towards a tyranny.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, issued a warning that we need to pay close attention to, declaring, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
 Unlike Iran, we have the freedom to disagree publicly, write blogs, make videos, protest out on the streets and let our voice be heard everywhere. To remain silent is to invite a tyranny to slowly and subtley get its tentacles around our cherished liberties and suffocate them out of existence. Thomas Jefferson understood the "tentacles" of a tyranny, the oppressive power of a government out of control. As the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson served an ultimatum on the government of Great Britain  freeing the colonies from an oppressive empire that prevented them from enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The NSA would have us believe that this type of surveillance is necessary to protect us from sudden terrorist attacks and in the end, its totally justifiable. But does the
end justify the means? 
Benjamin Franklin, another wise political thinker and american statesman, once said,
"Any society that would give up liberty to gain a little security, will deserve neither and lose both."
Have we become so arrogant to ignore the wisdom of our forefathers? They labored day and night writing our precious constitutional documents in order to protect our freedom and insure our liberties. We need to heed the warning of Jefferson and avoid the danger of becoming complacent and silent. We need to stand face to face with The NSA and proclaim our fourth amendment rights that protect us from the unwarranted invasion of our privacy.
If we fail to defend our constitutional rights, we could end up sliding down the slippery slope to a tyranny. History sometimes teaches us bitter lessons that we wish we could forget. Iran learned a bitter lesson in 1979 and it didn't just happen overnight. Gradually, forces opposed to the rule of the Shah, decided they had enough of a secular government that had been too influenced by the west. Suddenly Iran was transformed from a Monarchy to a dictatorship, from the rule of a king to the tyranny of an Ayatollah. 
Secular freedoms were soon swallowed up by the oppressive policies of a cruel dictator who ushered in a new law under the guise of the glory of Islam.
My dear friend Nahid is sending a message to you and me. She is desperate for our way of life and for our freedoms. She is trapped under the bondage of the government of Iran. Her cry for freedom is a warning to us.
We must not remain silent. The time is now to stand up and defend our rights while we can!