“Tahrim” is a legitimate and noble tactic of peaceful resistance. But it has its time, place and circumstances. It is not a tool to be used lightly at any opportunity. As I tried to point out in my last article, any voter boycott must be accompanied by a vast and well publicized social movement. Boycotts work because they can hurt the ruling powers in real, measurable terms.
There are great examples of boycotts that have been successful protests and achieved real results. But only because able movement leaders were able to use near-unanimous support from their rank and file to put serious pressure on their opponents.
Martin Luther King's 1955 Montgomery bus boycott drained the white-controlled city of its precious bus revenues. Gandhi's boycott of British goods and services in India threw the colonial system into financial turmoil. Iran's own tobacco boycotts of 1892, not only hurt the Shah and the British financially, it also brought Iranians together to push for real constitutional reforms.
The not-so-great voter boycotts of 2005 will not accomplish anything like these. Instead, it has so far served to take away an important position from Iranian reformists to express their frustrations and force a public confrontation with the ruling clerics. This boycott has not and will not hurt the Islamic Regime.
The argument I keep hearing is that a boycott would “de-legitimize” the Islamic republic, perhaps “exposing” it as “undemocratic” and presumably leading to some kind of change. I'm only guessing because no one has ever presented any kind of a workable plan on how we get from A to C. How will a 65% or even a 45% turnout change anything fundamental regarding the regime? How exactly will rewarding the most repressive elements help make Iran freer?
No one has the answers because the reformists who want this inside of Iran are too angry to think straight. And a vocal minority of the ones outside, have nothing to lose personally, so they say “what the hell, nothing else has worked, so let's try this.” They may think twice, if it's their own behinds that has to live under Ahmadinejad's fascist rule for the next 8 years. But since we're talking about the majority of the Iranians who can't afford luxury villas in southern California, it's no big deal to take chances with their lives. “Az Kisseye Khalife Mibakhsheed?”
If I may be so cynical as to suggest another factor: That certain opposition groups stand to directly benefit from American government if they can demonstrate they have the power to make something happen on the ground in Iran. These people may get some dog-bone hand-out or some token of approval by the US Congress if they can fool Americans into thinking they are responsible for the success of the boycott.
Some others are still hoping to ride back into Tehran on the back of an American military Humvee. How patriotic of you “Persians!” Dr. Mossaddegh is rolling over in his grave.The truth is that no “Boycott” will bring down the regime. But it just may be able to kill the only real country-wide movement that has a chance of making things better.
Does anyone seriously thinks Ahmadinejad gives a rat's ass how many people vote to make him President? If he's lucky, only the most liberal democrats will stay away, just like last Friday, giving him the boost he needs to legitimately claim the support of the people. It's not like it hasn't happened before. How do you think Ahmadinejad even became the mayor of Tehran? I hope the boycotters who handed him that invaluable gift can sleep well at night knowing they made Ahmadinejad happen.
Some still say it doesn't matter what's happening inside Iran (which is a cruel and egregious statement by itself), the boycott will expose Iran as a theocracy to the world. It will take away “international legitimacy,” they say.
I wonder if these people know that if you blindfold yourself, and tie one hand behind your back, and with the other hand throw a dart toward a map of the world, you will probably hit a country that in real terms has the same level or less democracy than Iran.
With over half the world living under dictatorships in one form or another, you think our little 35% boycott (and that's generous) will unite the entire universe into “freeing” Iranians in chain? Is the “World” going to drop ethnic genocide in Sudan, Tibet, central Africa and Indonesia, starvation in North Korea and east Africa, severe political repression in just about every other country in the Middle East plus another 60 others worldwide and jump for the plight of that MINORITY of Iranians who didn't like any of the eight presidential candidates?
Whatever the fantasy may be, as proven last Friday, most Iraninans aren't even aware of the boycott movement. Uptown Tehranis and Tehrangelesi's both forgot that for most of Iran satellite dishes or Internet access are still unaffordable luxuries. So while we can sip tea and discuss the finer points contemporary political thought, they are busy looking for a paying job and better life. Let's not forget about them either.
Let's wake up, shall we? Let's not reward the most repressive elements of the regime by giving them a free pass to take over the whole government LEGALLY. If this is all for show and the regime is truly dictatorial, let's force their hand, let them take power by force AGAINST the will of the people, not WITH it. That act will give Iranian democrats 1000 times more credit then any boycott.
This is not the time for reformists to wash their hands and sit out on our future. It's our name and resources that will be wasted for the next decade, if we're not involved. This is the time to find creative ways to advance our agenda. This is the time to force the vulnerable Rafsanjani to give the reformists cabinet positions or other democratic concessions. We need to use our power not relinquish it without a fight.