This is not about some abstract concept, but a genuine concern. The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.
Her cell was 10 by 14 feet. It had no bed. The lights were always on. Neon lights. It was part of the torture.
After almost a year since my release, in October 2009, I still receive threatening phone calls from Iran. The callers tell me that I should be silent about what I saw and endured in prison. “Otherwise you will be brought back in a bag to Iran,” they say. I am not sure what threats Sarah Shourd received in the days leading to her release, but I am sure she’s been threatened that if she talks … she would jeopardize the release of her fiancé and her friend.
I have been deeply supportive of Iran’s Green Movement. I wrote glowingly about it, highlighted it on television, and showcased its advocates. But I do not think there is much evidence that it was likely to overthrow the Iranian regime. To believe that, one has to believe the government in Tehran is deeply unpopular with a majority of Iranians, holds onto power through military force alone, and is thus vulnerable to a movement that could mobilize the vast majority in Iran who despise it. None of this is entirely true.
The Iranian regime has many, many opponents, but it also has millions of supporters. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have actually lost the presidential election of 2009, but it was a close contest in which he got millions of votes. What little polling has been done in Iran, coupled with the observations of people who have been there, all suggest that the regime has considerable public support in rural areas, among the devout, and in poorer communities.
Iranians have a word, roozmaregi, which means in essence “to live one day at a time.” It’s an apt description for Khamenei’s style of leadership. He is a skillful tactician. But he appears to have no long-term plan for the country, or even for his own political survival. If he thinks he has defeated Iran’s Green Movement because there are no more protests, he’s wrong. The fact that Iranians are prevented from publicly demanding their rights does not mean they’ve forgotten their ideals.