Youth Power in Iran sans Extremist Tendencies

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The people of Iran are going through their own version of people power. With the disputed presidential elections in Iran, young people and women support the opposition amid arrests of journalists and other social activists. According to NY Times, this is the most sustained challenge to the Iranian government since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

There were, however, growing signs of divisions within the alliance united behind Mr. Ahmadinejad. Members of Parliament upset with the brutality of the government crackdown summoned the interior, justice and intelligence ministers to a hearing.

“I don’t think anyone really knows what comes next,” said an Iranian political analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution by the government. “Most likely, we are going to enter a period of relative uncertainly, with ebbs and flows, until the Islamic Republic of Iran is altered or finds a new avenue for legitimacy.”

Interestingly, about 70% of Iran’s population are under the age of 30.

I have been reading the commentary about the news at NY Times, reading the take of some Iranian, American and Islamic scholars about the Iranian situation. According to Hamid Dabashi,

If you were to follow youth culture in Iran at the turn of the century — from the rise of a fascinating underground music (particularly rap) to a globally celebrated cinema, an astonishing panorama of contemporary art, video installations, photography, etc. — you would have noted the oscillation of this generation between apathy and anger, frustration and hope, disillusion and euphoria. In their minds and souls, as in their blogs and chat rooms, they were wired to the globalized world, and yet in their growing bodies and narrowing social restrictions trapped inside an Islamic version of Calvinist Geneva. Read the full story at NY Times.

Dabashi grew up in the youthful idealism of his generation. But he has aged and said: “I thought my generation had courage to take up arms against tyranny. Now I tremble with shame in the face of their bravery.”

The political demonstration of young people are peaceful, devoid of the ideological machinations and push for military revolution. Seventeen demonstrators have been killed and the cold-blood murder of Neda Agha-Soltan has heightened the call for greater social justice in Iran.

Neda Agha-Soltan has become the symbol of Iranian young people’s aspiration for better government and a better country. According to Babak Rahimi, professor of Iranian and Islamic studies at the University of California, San Diego:

“I wish I was Neda,” a young Iranian man utters in remorse. This statement reveals how death at the face of tyranny is ultimately gender-free. In Neda, both men and women can realize the ultimate act of sacrifice for a noble cause. Neda has also come to represent the sorrows of so many young Iranian women, who suffer under the crushing legal apparatus of a regime that has denied their basic civil rights.”

This is sheer youth power at work. Back in 2001, young people went to EDSA to demand the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada. While a lot of people have repented of going to EDSA Dos, the young protesters of Iran are fighting for more than just the opposition bet for presidency. They are demanding for a better life in their country and a better means for them to become citizens.

If the Iranian government will increase the level of violence, it might end an era in Iran and usher in a new one. Whether they succeed or not, we are going to witness an interesting juncture of history and the power of young people in effecting social change!

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