John Steinbeck’s novel The Moon Is Down depicts the darkest hours of a small Norwegian town under Nazi occupation during World War II. Last night, the moon was down in Iran, but in the midst of the night, millions of Iranians shouted “God is great” and “Death to the Dictator.”
They broke the silence by turning to God to complain against a regime that uses God and religion to legitimize itself, and they wished death, not for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s hated head of state, but for dictatorship as a mode of government.
Iran’s pro-democracy movement has called for demonstrations today in solidarity with the people in Tunisia and Egypt. The regime in Tehran — which has used its entire propaganda machinery to depict the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as Islamic revolutions inspired by the revolution of 1979 in Iran — has hitherto denied demonstration permits to Iran’s pro-democracy movement. The regime’s argument: People power is good in Tunisia and Egypt, not in Iran.
Over the past week, the regime in Tehran has arrested many pro-democracy activists, and as I am writing these lines, the security forces have forced former president Mohammad Khatami, presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi, and their family members into house arrest.
However, Iran’s pro-democracy movement does not need a demonstration permit — or leaders, for that matter. As I write this piece, there are demonstrations in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Gilan, and many other cities. These demonstrations may not topple the regime, but they serve as a reminder of the will of the Iranian people to resist dictatorship. All occupations come to an end, and even the darkest nights will give away to the dawn of freedom. I just wish the U.S. administration had given Iran’s pro-democracy movement the same moral support and encouragement it gave the pro-democracy movement in Egypt.
— Ali Alfoneh is a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute.