Riots in Iran

It is so disappointing to see the riots and subsequent deaths in Iran over the outcome of the presidential elections, which saw the incumbent conservative president, Ahmadinejad, re-elected with two-thirds of the vote.

Such a country - with an embarassment of riches from culture to design, landscape and natural wealth - deserves better.

Judging from the feelings of the people I spoke to in Iran until two days before the elections, nobody thought that a candidate would get the required 50% plus one vote on the first round, and would go back to the polls a few days later for another crack at filling the second-from-top spot. So for Ahmadenijad to get such a large majority is just sloppy, in my book.

Most of the campaigns I saw on the street supported the reformist candidate Moussavi, Amhadenijad's followers were conspicious for their absence.

The Moussavi campaign attracted a lot of women as the candidate's wife is a career woman in an prestigious Iranian university, and he has declared his support for women's advancement, breaking such barriers as abolishing rules that see certain degrees, such as engineering, allowing only 20% women to 80% men. His popularity with women and students is undisputed.

In contrast, Ahmedinajad's support is in the religiously conservative provinces, and I was told he has increased pensions exponentially to the elderly, thus ensuring their support (shades of Australia's John Howard!) Inflation's running at around 25%, unemployment at 11%.

One of the fears people had about the elections is that they remember the last ones in 2005, which were followed immediately by a crackdown on morality issues. The newly elected then Ahmadenijad demanded sleeves to go back down to the wrist (they were sneaking up to a risque elbow), a return to segregation between the sexes and, memorably, Iranians recall with a defiant giggle, even shop mannequins heads to be covered with scarves.

The population was caught unawares, back in 2005: one day last week, a woman in my shared taxi was arguing gently with the driver why she was going to vote for Moussavi. She told him: I remember my son being beaten for talking to a girl at that time. Why would people support a return to violence?

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