It is difficult to be politically apathetic in Tehran these days. The New York Times had prepared me for the beautiful girls on rollerblades passing out Rafsanjani bumper stickers. Blogs readied me for small, undisturbed protests. Entering the airport brought on the realization that things are different during elections in Iran — soldiers smile, passport control officers wish you a happy visit, customs agents are on vacation.
Nothing, but nothing, could prepare me for the slick propaganda on television. It seems some of the nations brightest directors have worked together to produce what is arguable among the world's best campaign media. Round table discussions blend into gorgeous scenery from the corners of Iran which blend into shots of women in chadors hugging women in tight tunics under signs that scream “Together!”
All set to music that would make the most nonbelieving person weep. Interviews dominate all channels all evening. Questions about politics, questions about culture, questions about the economy, even questions about (GAGSP!) relations with the United States. Everyone talks politics, thinks politics, even drives politics — it's a wonder anyone can drive with all but 4 inches of windshields covered with “HASHEMI 2005” bumper stickers.
Against the backdrop of so much advertising, naturally, the question arises: to vote or not to vote? I haven't missed an American election since turning 18. I read my voter information pamphelet and take notes. I arrive at the polls prepared and early. I even wear the ridiculous “I voted!” sticker all day long. I write my Senator. I donate to my party. I even watch the conventions. How can a self-described politico boycott an election? Especially in the face of the onslaught of propaganda? Simple. I have a long memory.
I am not voting in these Iranian Selections for the same reason why I wouldn't have voted in Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany. Because in such a state, the mere participation in elections is a vote of confidence and faith in the system. Between two pro-Apartheid candidates, I would choose NEITHER. Between two Nazis, I would stay home and plot against them. And between two supporters, defenders, and engineers of the murderous Islamic Republic of Iran, which is responsible for the arrest, torture, and murder of countless individuals whose only crime has been to work for my freedom, I say the hell with both of you.
How can I cast a vote for any candidate when all have been hand-selected with an eye on their passionate belief in the Islamic Republic? How can I cast a vote for a system that holds thousands of political prisoners in torture chambers? How can I cast a vote for a system whose streets are home to hundreds of thugs, above the law, beyond logic, who hold in their hands the destiny of any woman who crosses their path when they are in a bad mood?
How can I cast a vote for a system in which nearly 50 candidates are set aside for no reason other than gender? How can I participate when that participation indicates approval, cohesion, and faith? I have been here one week and already three newspapers have been closed!
Freedom to wear lipstick is not progress. Neither is my tight manteau or my barely-existent roosari. It is an insult to the intelligence of all Iranians to try and fool us with such “freedoms” or to get us to the polls in the fear that we will lose such “freedoms.” I am not a child to be motivated by candy. This regime wears voter participation like a badge. They use it to justify their existence, defend their methods, and feed their mad hold on power. I will not allow them to use me, or my vote.