I knew about the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in the glorious year 1989, when the Iron Curtain crumbled. I can even remember the Singing Revolution in Estonia about the same time. But this is something new: a Silent Revolution. The huge throng that marched through the Iranian capital last Monday spoke nary a word, Theirs was a silent vigil for a liberty not so much lost as never gained, from Shah to Ayatollah.
Whenever someone in the crowd would shout a slogan, others hushed him. The organizers of the march had prepared signs that read only: SILENCE! Only the sound of marching feet could be heard, like the oceanic wave of a people patiently rising, till the inevitable gunshots rang out as a confrontation was sparked.
After the silence of the day, people gathered on rooftops under cover of night to shout Allahu Akhbar! and Death to the Dictator. It was a prayer and call to action at the same time.
The big question about the latest "election" in Iran isn't whether it was rigged. The candidates were screened by the theocracy from the start, and the more active members of the opposition jailed before the first votes were cast. The big question is whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his gang stole the election or just inflated his margin of victory into a blowout.
We'll probably never know, as anybody can testify who has studied the history of elections in Cook County, Illinois, or of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, where the Ahmadinejad of his time and place was named Leander Perez. Rigged votes are scarcely confined to the Islamic world.
But the vote-stealing in Iran lacked the discreet charm of political bosses like Mayor Daley I in Chicago, who had enough restraint in 1960 to hold his ballots back till he knew just how many Jack Kennedy would need to overcome the Republican vote downstate. In Iran, the mullahs were less subtle. Any election in which almost 40 million paper ballots are tallied in only a matter of hours, and the winner declared before the votes could possibly have been counted, is bound to raise suspicions.
The electoral fraud was so obvious that even the ayatollah-in-chief had to qualify his earlier announcement that Mahmoud the Rabid had won by saying there would be an investigation and a recount of the more suspect votes. His Holiness may be willing to countenance a few score million stolen votes, but not a landslide.
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