The Iranian people reminded the world on Friday that they will not let themselves be ignored or forgotten. Despite the orders and warnings of the regime against any opposition protests, defiant Iranians poured into the streets in the thousands.
The occasion was Quds Day, the annual day on which Iran shows its support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people. Iranians can empathize with Palestinians today more than ever, but not in the way that Iran's self-proclaimed President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants them to.
Since the likely fraudulent presidential election in June and the ensuing murders, arrests, torture and show trials, the so-called Islamic Republic of Iran has lost pretty much any credibility it had left among its own people. In the process, the regime has become both oppressor and occupier, and as such, today's young Iranians are having a great deal of difficulty telling the difference between the tactics of the Israeli Defense Forces and those of the Revolutionary Guard.
By proclaiming their support for the Palestinian people while continuing to falsely imprison, torture and abuse their own citizens, the leaders of the allegedly Islamic Republic have achieved an entirely new level hypocrisy, and this has not been lost on the Iranian people.
For far too long, Iranians have witnessed their leaders chide Israel for being a Jewish state while avidly supporting a theocracy at home. Now, these same misguided leaders have the nerve to reproach Israel for killing and maiming Palestinian civilians, while aiming tear gas, water hoses, bullets and batons at Iranian civilians.
Today, the purportedly Islamic Republic of Iran has become just as contemptible as the state of Israel among the many young Iranians who comprise the great majority of the population and the opposition movement.
Unlike the regime, the Iranian public (which boasts the largest Jewish minority population in the Middle East outside of Israel) does not generally oppose the existence of Israel so much as it opposes the oppression of the Palestinian people and the illegal occupation of their lands.
Likewise, the Iranian people do not oppose the existence of a strong Iranian state, free from foreign control, but they do oppose the oppression of their own people by a brutal, discriminatory and illegitimate rule.
In effect, the current administration in Iran represents an oppressive occupying force, and so long as it continues to tyrannize its own people, it is in no position to scold Israel for violating the rights of Palestinians. But as the regime persists in championing the Palestinian cause, it draws even more attention to its own hypocrisy and vicious treatment of Iranian citizens. In doing so, moreover, the government is only fanning the flames of the opposition and ultimately, contributing to its own demise.
Iranians are used to a hypocritical government, but what they are not used to and what they are now refusing to put up with is the injustice, fraud and violence that comes with it. Before this past June, Iranians tolerated the regime's hypocrisy. They even made jokes about it. But that annoyed tolerance immediately transformed into implacable rage the second the first innocent civilian was murdered in the streets of Tehran at the hands of government forces.
The Iranian people have reached a breaking point. They are no longer willing to simply endure this regime. The very same restrictions that were once merely irritating, such as dress codes and government censorship, have now become absolutely suffocating. Compounded by the murders, arrests, false confessions, unlawful detentions, and kangaroo courts of the past three months, even the slightest limitations on basic liberties have become excruciatingly intolerable.
Young Iranians are beginning to realize the power of being in the majority, and they are growing up fast. As part of this young generation, I am downright giddy at the prospect of a secular democracy in Iran. Like many other Iranians who have no memory of the Islamic Revolution, I am far more optimistic than my parents, not only because I have faith in the relentless determination of Iran's youth, but also because I have faith in the regime's extraordinary capacity for self-destruction.