Nidra Poller: “On those frail shoulders the world could turn”

Nidra graces us with her unique insight into the Iranian election bloodbath.

On these frail shoulders
the world might turn

Paris 19 June 2009

Nidra Poller

Something is missing
from most of
the analyses floating around
this week as Iranians one by one proclaim liberty against
overwhelming odds. So many commentators seem to be afraid to capture
the moment in its near miraculous scope. I’ve been connected to the
résistance pipeline for years through friends like Banafsheh Zand
Bonazzi, Ken Timmerman, and Michael Ledeen. They think this movement
could push all the way past Ahmadinejad, past Mousavi, and topple the

I don’t know what
will come of it. Whether or not the revolt is crushed in blood and
broken bodies or, if it succeeds, goes on to build one more variation
on the theme of Islamic Republics, at this very moment we are
witnessing the unquenchable desire for freedom in its penultimate
stage. We see the living proof that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights…
No tyranny is powerful enough to resist this truth when its victims
believe in their rights.

It is so dramatic!
Why doesn’t it resonate in our free world? I feel uplifted at the
very thought that it might go all the way. Ayatollah Khamenei is
looking frail these days. Ahmadinejad has lost his glow. The very
of it is so fascinating, I can’t
think of anything else. You have a population crushed under the heel
of turbaned perverts that lapidate, hang, torture, gouge, slash, lash
and imprison at will. The tyrants build nuclear weapons, threaten to
wipe Israel off the map, menace Europe, the United States,
neighboring Muslim countries… Even though everyone in his right
mind knows they must not be allowed to get the Bomb, almost no one
has the courage and the means to stop them.

Wherever you turn,
it’s one big sigh of resignation. Our people living in wealthy
democracies are so languid it’s infuriating. No one is asking you
to go and bomb Natanz, buddy, just to say that it could be done,
someone should do it, and if someone does, the rest of us should nod
and say “well done.” Even that is too much for your average
conversationer. B Hussein O put them at ease with his
coming-out-of-the-Muslim-closet speech in Cairo. He said, among other
rhetorical atrocities, that no country can decide who should be
allowed to have nuclear weapons. Whew! Sit back and snore, there’s
no need to fret.

Now, in the space of one
week, something totally unexpected is happening. Even those who hoped
for regime change from within are surprised. Rightfully so. It’s
one thing to imagine a popular revolt, altogether another to watch it

We are, justifiably,
wary. Enthusiastic crowds brought down the Shah and we know where
that led. But, millions of individuals acting from their own
indomitable need for freedom can, this time around, bring down the
mullahs and make way for something like a decent government. This too
is possible. No one knows today which way it will go. I am not
thrilled to hear the cries of allahu akhbar. But it doesn’t destroy
my sense of wonder at the capacity of individuals to seize their
rights with their bare hands.

It’s uplifting,
because these crowds are composed of individuals, acting one by one
together. This is not crowd psychology in all its horror. Men and
women each one separately breaking the chains that bind them, each
one separately drawing courage from the depths of their being, each
one individually crossing the line from slavery to freedom. They are
telling us “I am not afraid anymore.”

No surprise that the
champions of the Palestinian cause are not inspired by the Iranian
people’s movement. The whole vocabulary of the Arab-Israeli
conflict is dumbfounded. Nothing the mullahs do is disproportionate,
the death toll got stuck at the number seven and no amount of blood
could push it upward, graphic images don’t provoke outcries and,
unless I am mistaken, no one is calling for a cease fire, no one is
going to the UN.

President Obama has
egg on his face but the media photoshop it away. Where’s the Obama
effect now? Wedged in between Hamas and Abbas, competing for the
intransigency award. It’s the Bush effect in Iran today. And the
smarties who kept telling us you can’t impose democracy with guns
and bombs are exposed. Truth is, they wouldn’t want to “impose”
democracy with flowers and candy. They don’t even want to help
Iranian citizens who are willing to go for it with their own blood
sweat and tears.

In France, the
capital of human rights, media coverage of events in Iran is
particularly opaque. No enthusiasm, hardly any debate or analysis, no
big picture. But our president took a stand!

Am I running away
with my hopes? Maybe, maybe not. What if it works, what if the
people overthrow the mullahs, what if their freedom is not snatched
away once more, what if Iran really becomes the nation that cowardly
western leaders have been pretending to see behind the snarling
little monkey-face tyrant? A dignified refined nation that deserves a
place at our table. A regional power that can have a stabilizing
influence on the region. An unclenched fist.

So where is the outstretched hand now?

On those frail
shoulders the world could turn. If they succeed, would it mean that
we don’t have to dread a nuclear attack on Israel or bear the
burden of an Israeli attack on Iran? Would it mean no more money for
Hamas, Hizbullah, and thousands of mini terror enclaves disseminated
throughout our free nations? Would it strike hope in the hearts of
other Muslims who are tired of living under sharia law? Couldn’t it
turn the tables, shift the balance of power, slice into the lethal
narrative and begin a new story, closer to the truth?

Whether they succeed
today and fail afterward, or fail today and succeed the next time,
nothing can deprive me of this moment of wonder at the power of one
single human being—or a million of them one by one– to transform
the world. This is why people like me fervently defend our right to
think for ourselves and express ourselves in our own words, without
making painful concessions to the multitude of guardians who stand
between us and our readers. And this is why I am never pessimistic,
never fatalistic.

What will happen to
the Jews in Europe, I’m asked. What will happen to Europe. Europe
is finished, isn’t it? If the Israelis don’t make peace with the
Palestinians and give them a state, what are they going to do, kill
them all? What are you going to do with all the Muslims in Europe…
There are a billion and a half Muslims in the world, you can’t be
against all of them…

Ah but that’s not
how these questions will be settled. Not by stale arguments and
twisted logic.
And not by peace processes!
There are upstarts hidden under every hard surface, and their power
is immense. Acts of courage show the way. They cast a brilliant light
on human events. Benjamin Netanyahu stood up to Obama. Avigdor
Lieberman did not cave in to Hillary Clinton. Young Iranians born
into a barbaric oppressive state know the taste for freedom. Their
elders remember. My heart goes out to them. No matter what happens
next, we have shared a moment of humanity. And the world has changed.

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