But what makes this outburst different, says The Jerusalem Post's Sabina Amidi, just returned from Teheran, is that many pro-Islamists have turned on the regime as well
Way back in the days of the Shah, Sabina Amidi
tells me down the phone in one of the few lighter moments of our conversation, it was easier for Iranians to get visas to Tel Aviv than to Mecca.
So lots of Iranian Muslims came to visit the Jewish state.
'This friend of our family, a middle-aged woman, was telling me last week about how she'd come to Jerusalem in the mid-1970s, gone to the Western Wall, and seen all the Jews there praying to God and leaving messages between the stones,' Amidi
went on. 'She felt left out.
also wanted to leave a message for God.
told me she
too went up to the Wall, and wrote a plea: that she
would find a good husband.
Six months later she
met the love of her
life, they've been deliriously happily married for more than 30 years, they have three children... and she
- this very conservative Muslim lady - still talks excitedly about that trip to Israel, and about how God answered her
prayers at the Western Wall.'
And this lady too, Amidi
continued, in serious mode now, this devout Muslim friend who lives in fealty to Islam and its laws, today shares the widespread sense of betrayal that so many Iranians feel with regard to the regime of the ayatollahs.
not been out on the streets, risking her
life to scream 'Down with the dictator.' But she's
watched the brutally suppressed protests from her
apartment window, and she
hopes, sooner or later, that they'll have their effect.
THE AMERICAN-based Amidi is a courageous young reporter who flew to Teheran a few weeks ago to cover the presidential elections for The Jerusalem Post.
had anticipated a fascinating but thoroughly nonrevolutionary sequence of events - expecting that she
would reconnect with friends and family there, report on an expertly manipulated exercise in mullah-style democracy, and leave the country much as she
entered it: increasingly frustrated by the government's stifling of freedoms, but quietly seething rather than openly defiant.
What the outside word hasn't quite understood, Amidi
goes on, is that this youth-led, pro-Western opposition to the regime has been joined by many religious conservative Iranians, 'Iranians who supported the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago, Iranians who wanted the Shah out, Iranians who want to live according to Islamic law.
'And that,' Amidi
stressed, 'is why the marchers out on the streets, and the less courageous Iranians joining in at their windows and from their rooftops, haven't only been shouting 'Death to the Dictator.' They've also been shouting 'Allahu Akbar.' These are the slogans of the revolution from 30 years ago, now directed at those who were supposed to be the guardians of the revolution.
This wasn't only a pro-Western outpouring of frustration and a desire for change.
It's been carried, too, by some of those who fought to oust the Shah.
It is a pro-Islamic protest, as well.'
, like the more sensible commentators, is disinclined to predict how this upsurge in public anger will now be channeled.
is adamant that although 'the riots have been dying down' in the last few days, unsurprisingly, in light of the regime's demonstrable readiness to use murderous force to quash them, 'they'll rise again,' and the more force the regime uses to deter open opposition, the more widespread that opposition will gradually become.
Then came the shock of the results, and everything that we saw happening next. 'You should know,' says Amidi
, 'that CNN and the BBC
are now blocked.
But sooner or later, Amidi
says, the regime will have to restore greater communications capacity, to enable the country to start to function again. 'And when communications improve, the opposition will reorganize.'
HOW DID the regime get itself into this mess, how did it allow its iron grip to slip, how did it fail to effectively stage-manage elections for which it had already filtered the candidates, elections it had already rigged?
believes it underestimated Mousavi, a seemingly grey candidate who had been reliably hardline in the 1980s and had been out of the public eye for so long.
'Iranians don't hate Israel,' says Sabina Amidi, just back from a few weeks' reporting from the Islamic republic, and 'plenty of them are uncomfortable with [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's relentless denunciation of the Jewish state as godless and his calculated incitement to wipe it out.
In the context of Iran's nuclear drive, Amidi
also stresses that Iran has no record of invading or initiating attacks on another country. 'It was Iraq that attacked Iran in the 1980s' - on September 22, 1980, to be precise. 'And in my opinion, Iran would not initiate an attack on Israel.'
goes on - and it's an immensely significant 'but' - this Iranian regime emphatically does have a record of supplying its advanced technologies
to third parties, notably including Hamas and Hizbullah.
'It's not Iran pressing the button, it's Iran supplying a nonconventional weapons capability to a non- state actor,' she
says with a sigh. 'From an Israeli point of view, that's what I'd be worried about.'