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Death to the Dictator!: A Young Man Casts a…

Death to the Dictator!: A Young Man Casts a Vote in Iran's 2009…

by Afsaneh Moqadam

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"Death to the Dictator" by an author with the pseudonym of Afsaneh Moqadam, exists as not only one of the best books I have read about the Islamic Republic of Iran, it also deserves bragging rights for being one of the top texts I have ever read. Do not allow its small size to mislead you--it packs a punch that goes beyond the surface of the reader. Its words reach the depths of one's heart and have entrenched themselves into my soul. Not a single word wasted as the author brings the reader on a journey through a brief and intense era--it was that of the 2009 presidential election of Ahmadinejad.

Iran's "Constitution allows the people to vote for a president and a parliament...after the candidates have been vetted by the Council of Guardians for their adherence to Islamic tenets and their aptitude for office" (pg. 11). At this point it is important to note that Khomenei supporters "were hostage-takers and, in the manner of ideologues everywhere, advocates of death for anyone who didn't agree with them. Now they changed. They are democrats and supporters of women's rights...definitely preferable to the hard-liners, the conservatives--'The Principalists'" (pg. 11). This group makes up the reformists.

Principalists include Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei. Do not confuse the latter with Khomenei the revolutionary, because Khamenei was disputable but the author conveyed that people sucked up to him, jockeying for position.

Ahmadinejad electoral opponents for presidency in 2009 were as follows: Mohsen Rezai (in charge of Revolutionary Guard during the war) , Mir-Hossein Mousavi (president during the war, didn't stop widespread jailing of Iranians, endorsed by Khatami and (therefore) had a better chance of beating Ahmadinejad ), and Mehdi Karrubi (backed by Reformists in 2005 but did not like the country's state of affairs at the time; was proactive and/or receptive to improving women's rights; a vote for him would split the Reformist vote and empower Ahmadinejad).

I learned via this book that green is the color of Islam; in the election it became the color of the Mousavi campaign. The character Mohsen worked on Mousavi's election campaign. Mousavi's popularity and electoral positioning had gained momentum and seemed to be greater than that of Ahmadinejad.

However, election fraud became easily apparent given the unprecedented number of voters that entered the polling stations and the actual count of votes not being sufficient to add up to the numbers provided to the public. Secondly, the speed at which the results were provided were record-breaking and revealed prior to the closing of the polls. The results were not consistent with the Mousavi fervor of the populous: the figures were not representative. Votes were obviously disallowed. Soon after, there were blatant attacks by the regime against the Reformists. They were publicly named as foes; intimidation tactics, punishments, abuses and tortuous imprisonment became almost pandemic.

It was rumored that prior to the end of the election, Ahmadinejad signed arrest warrants for high-ranking Reformists and their supporters. The Revolutionary Guard and Basijis started rounding up commoners s well and funneling them into a secondary, parallel judicial system of "safe houses" that were another form of imprisonment outside of the reach of the regular legal processes. It was a very much feared system without any constraints as to what they would do to people without consequence.

"Death to the Dictator" explained the author's role in the electoral campaign, how it was determined the vote tallies appeared falsified, educated the reader regarding voter turnout as well as the sociological makeup of the voters, and defined both domestic and international political scenarios that appear to be contradictory but actually come together for the sake of power.

This book easily earns its five-star rating. ( )
1 vote LibStre | Feb 6, 2014 |
This is a brilliant and chilling book that made the shortlist for the 2011 Orwell Prize for political writing.

In it, the pseudonymous author tells the tale of Mohsen Abbaspour, a young Iranian who is caught up in the 2009 election, starting with merely campaigning for Musavi, the reformist candidate, in order to impress a girl he likes. Soon, he's being more daring and committed than most of his friends, furious at the betrayal of his friends and family and his country by corrupt and violent leaders.

What is most impressive about this slim volume is the way the author portrays the story through Iranian eyes, and how revelatory this can be. For instance, it's not until the election results come in, showing an unbelievable swell of support for Ahmadinejad, that the real fury erupts. Iranians, the author writes, could have tolerated electing a candidate who proves disappointing or ineffective in office, but not having the election stolen from them. There are acute observations about the way the Iranians view the outside world as it views them -- they, the current embodiment of an ancient civilization, must surely be the focus of the world's attention and concern, constantly? So they analyze even offhand remarks for hidden meanings, and conspiracy theories flourish.

The book does an excellent job of taking the reader inside the state of mind of those Iranians we watched take to the streets on our television sets and it's a reminder of the heavy price many of them paid for their activism as well as the harsh realities that no one is a hero under torture. It's polemical, and there are a handful of descriptions of that torture (although done very carefully, so it's the atmosphere rather than the graphic details that are most chilling), but it's an excellent book. Highly recommended; 4.5 stars. A wake-up call to those of us tempted to become complacent and suggest that others just insist on their democratic rights -- and a reminder, in the wake of the recent events in the Middle East, that this isn't always as simple as we would like it to be or as we may perceive it to be from the outside. ( )
7 vote Chatterbox | May 5, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374139636, Hardcover)

Tehran, June 12, 2009. Mohsen Abbaspour, an ordinary young man in his twenties—not particularly political, or ambitious, or worldly—casts the first vote of his life in Iran’s tenth presidential election. Fed up with rising unemployment and inflation, he backs the reformist party and its candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Mohsen believes his vote will count.

It will not. Almost the instant the polls close, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will declare himself president by an overwhelming majority. And as the Western world scrambles to make sense of the brazenly fraudulent election, Mohsen, along with his friends and family and neighbors, will experience a sense of utter desolation, and then something else: an increasingly sharper feeling—the beginning of anger. In a matter of weeks, millions of Iranians will flow into the streets, chanting in protest, “Death to the dictator!” Mohsen Abbaspour will be swept up in an uncontrollable and ultimately devastating chain of events.

Like Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families and Ryszard Kapuscinski’s incisive reportage, Death to the Dictator! stuns readers with its heartbreaking immediacy. Our pseudonymous author was a keen eyewitness in Tehran during the summer of 2009 and beyond. In this brave and true book, we see what we are not supposed to see, and learn what we are not supposed to know.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:05 -0400)

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