When he had not yet officially taken office, the sheer thought of him being the president caused the markets to collapse. I thought it would all be temporary and the country would soon go about its usual business, because after all, he might be the president but he will have to leave the day to day affairs to the people who know, more or less, what they are doing.
When he claimed he was surrounded by a glow of light during his UN speech last November, I simply thought he is just a delusional man who is, in a rather twisted way, obsessed with the idea of being among "the chosen ones".
When he called for Israel to be wiped off the map, I thought he was a tiny man trying to please his islamic vigilante audience; someone who has forgotten that he now represents a country, and not his neighborhood's company of Baseejis. The world took it very seriously, but I thought there is no reason to be alarmed, as he could not even manage to move an exhibition complex out of Tehran, let alone a country out of the Middle East.
Then, he started with his election-time gestures, maneuvers, and publicity stunts, disregarding and bypassing the institutions and the beaurocracy that he himself is the head of, making everyone wonder if he actually realizes that the election is long over, and that he indeed is the president. He continued with his ridiculous trips to the provinces, and holding cabinet meetings in different provinces, as he had promised, spending God knows how much money on the trips, and collecting what is now claimed by the state radio as close to 3 million letters of request from people. When Saeedi, his "executive deputy", who is also in charge of dealing with these letters was asked about the costs of the trips, he said we only eat bread and cheese, and the president himself most often does not even eat that. "So what?" I said. "Populism works for them, and they are simply taking advantage of it. Millions of dollars have been being plundered each year during the past three decades. A few more wasted on these populist shows won't make much of a difference."
Then, he decided to play "chicken" with the EU and the UN security council, and poke fingers into the eyes of pretty much everyone on the planet whom he sees as infidels, ironically except for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Threat of sanctions and military action started hovering over our heads. I started getting a little nervous about the prospects of having to relive the experiences of 1980's, when I was a child, this time, however, as an adult. Thanks to George Bush's insane way of handling the affairs in Iraq, and North Korea's just-in-time adventurism, Iran went off radar screens every time it got close to a serious showdown.
Right before Nowruz (the Iranian new year holiday), he decided that the idea of daylight-saving time is a nonesense and that "there is no evidence that it actually helps reduce electricity consumption." "It just causes inconvenience for people's noon-time prayer," his spokesman said. But as usual, I brushed it off as yet another one of those things the people will have to cope with when they elect someone like him. "It would cost the people a lot of money but I suppose it won't kill anyone," so I thought.
Then he decided to write to George Bush, and then Angela Merkel, and then Jacque Chirac. I thought that he made a complete fool out of himself and that we were once again the laughingstock of the World, but then again, weren't we already? So I actually did not worry about it and even hoped that in their twisted idiotic ways, "The Luminescent Man" and the other not so bright politicians in the world would indulge in what one might call a harmless ranting in writing, if not "dialog among the civilizations".
Then, when the political atmosphere was anything but tense, and for no apparent reason even by Islamic Republic's standards, he started attacking peaceful gatherings and arresting people. First, it was the women's gathering near the city's theatre complex. Then, it was Ramin Jahanbegloo, a philosopher who was very careful not to step on anyone's toes or cross anyone's "read lines". Then it was another women's gathering along with the arrest of a former parliament member. Then his police force started raiding homes again, to bring down people's satellite dishes. Then, an executive order was issued to stop providing high-speed Internet services to people, putting a 128Kbps cap on the bandwidth. During all that, I said to myself: "well, it's only natural for him to do so. He is an extrimist fundamentalist. What did people expect when they voted for him, Roosevelt?"
During all that, and much more, I was silent, or in denial, depending on how one looks at it. Not that I usually would, or can, do much, but I did not even write about it on FToI. It was, for lack of a better word, insipid to complain about something so obvious. To me it was all clear. He is a guy who took office, partly through coercion and vote-rigging, and partly, and a great part I might say, through the votes of simple-minded uninformed people. "They asked for it. And as for you, well, I suppose it is time for you to cut your losses and leave Iran like almost everyone else you know," I said to myself.
Recently however, The Luminescent Man's actions and words have become very alarming. Not that they have necessarily become any more idiotic or more irresponsible than, for instance, the "wipe off the map" speech, but his latest comments concern matters that are prefectly within his realm of control as the president, as opposed to his delusional babblings about the world affairs. A few weeks ago, he suggested to dissolve the "planning and management organisation", a place where all key and strategic policies ought to be conceived, assessed, and planned, not to mention laying out the country's annual budget. By doing this, he is practically dismantling the final remaining institutional elements that stop him from running the country like a grocery shop in a small village. Not stopping there, he suggested that the "no more than two children" policy enforced with so much difficulty by previous administrations was a nonsense, that it is "yet another one of those vices of the West induced upon us, because they are so much affraid of the idea of us outnumbering them." He said: "we have the capacity for a population of 120 million people." He suggested that working women should be persuaded to stay home by getting a full pay but having to work a lesser number of hours depending on how many children they have!
Last Tuesday was the Fitr holiday, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan. The government, at the very final hours declared both the following Wednesday and Thursday as national holidays bringing the country to a four day long halt. Some people say he is planning to abolish the Nowruz holidays and replace them with a four day holiday at the end of Ramadhan like many Arab countries. I would say we would be giving him too much credit by assuming that. This deranged man is out to ruin this country, not by any calculation but by sheer madness, which makes him even more dangerous. The world has every right to be affraid of him, and I am now just as affraid of what he will do, to me, to my family, and to my country. I have to agree with Saeed Hajjarian this time, that the abolishment of this government is an immediate necessity.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
- Martin Niemöller