This year three key elections are taking place, following in the footsteps of our own recent history making election that resulted in a liberal, black man, taking over the office held soley by white men since the inception of our country. I voted early as I was scheduled to be flying to Afghanistan on election day. I watched in Dubai as the results came in and arrived in Kabul to the news that Obama had been declared the winner. Never had I been so personally invested in my own country’s electoral process and outcome.
The first of the three key elections of the year, possibly the decade, came last month in Lebanon – the democratic and multi-cultural jewel of the Middle East. A country that has work steadfastly to put together a patchwork representation of its diverse religious and ethnic foundation. Shite, Sunni, Maronite Christian, and Druze all hold political positions. Different factions within that including Hezbollah run for office, despite being labeled terrorists, because they are allowed to take part in the process if they play by the rules and those that support them will cast their votes in their favor. Conflicts and
With a 54% voter turnout, Hezbollah lost the election and the pro-Western Hariri’s coalition claimed victory. Did this cause Hezbollah to denounce the elections and cry foul? Quite the opposite. Having won 58 seats, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah graciously accepted defeat, and congratulated the winners in both the majority and the opposition. Would the West been as accepting had Hezbollah come out the victor?
Next up was Iran. We find ourselves in the middle of history unfolding as this country’s citizens dared to make themselves heard despite crackdowns in free speech and media. This election did not go as smoothly as Lebanon’s. When Ahmadinejad was declared the victor in a landslide victory, fraud was called and supporters of the opposition took to the streets demanding What began as stunningly moving peaceful and silent demonstrations have turned violent as the clerics move to silence the opposition and when that didn’t work, to take aim. Literally. Now we are looking at full scale demonstrations and violent clashes that leave innocent men and women gunned down in the streets while they give their voices to change.
Stories and photos of a young woman, Neda Agha Soltan, have flooded YouTube and the web after she was shot clean through the heart by Iranian militia. She has become the poster child of the opposition movement and humanizes the opposition to those following the demonstrations in the West, as the heartbreaking video flooded the media. One innocent among the many that died a senseless death simply trying to speak out. www.bloomberg.com
Today’s headlines turned my stomach when I read how another nineteen year old boy, Kaveh Alipour, was shot in the crossfire over the weekend. Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back. www.wsj.com
As one Iranian stated, “Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tear in these early hours of Tuesday 16th June 2009, I glorify the courage and bravery of those martyrs and I hope that their blood will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.”
All of this sets the stage for the elections in Afghanistan this fall. An incumbent in the form of Karzai, deemed corrupt by the citizens, and catering to the ultra conservative Islamic vote, despite coming onto the world stage as a moderate, modern thinking leader supported by the West. If the elections do happen, will they be free of corruption, will they move Afghanistan forward, will the results be respected by the people and by the international forces that influence the country? Will the people of Afghanistan that have endured over thirty years of conflict have a say in the course of their country’s destiny? Only time will tell, and as we continue to watch Iran’s election results unfold and hope that those that wish for peace, and hope for freedom, can find both in the upcoming years.