By Matthew Rothschild on June 17, 2009

What we’re witnessing in Iran over the last several days is the power of nonviolence.

Unarmed Iranians by the hundreds of thousands, and across all ages and classes, have flocked to the streets of Tehran, defying bans and brutal paramilitary squads, to demand one simple thing: that their votes be counted fairly.

The democratic longing, and the democratic thronging, shows no signs of letting up.

“Every day, the number of people attending the protests is increasing,” says Camelia Entekhabifard, author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth—A Memoir of Iran. “It’s drawing people from all generations and societies, from the very cultured to the very traditional. This is a national movement.”

Entekhabifard, speaking to me from Dubai, says she’s concerned about the safety of her family back in Iran. “My mother, my sister, and my brother, they’re hearing gunshots every night in Tehran,” she says. “They tell me that people are going to the rooftops to show their solidarity with the protesters and chant, ‘God is great.’ But then the civilian-clothed militia smashes down their doors. This is unheard of.”

Entekhabifard says the protesters don’t trust the government to do a fair recount, since the guardian council that is supposed to do it is packed with Ahmadinejad supporters.

“There is no option other than to repeat the election in the near future,” she says.

She believes that the most powerful man in Iran, the head cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will not be foolish enough to crack down harder.

“Today, there isn’t word about toppling the regime of the Supreme Leader,” she says. “But within a weak of a crackdown, the slogans will be against the Supreme Leader. I’m sure he wouldn’t want that.”

An Iranian-born friend of mine, Homi Moossavi, is not convinced that things will end peacefully.

“It is hard to gauge the events from outside,” he says from San Francisco. “Even those living in Iran are having difficulty predicting the future. At this moment, there seems to be still some chance for change, but there is also great potential for more violence and severe repression.”

But he feels uplifted by the massive, spontaneous nonviolent protests.

“It is the wave that I am inspired by,” he says. “Watching the sea of Iranian people demanding accountability and asking for their basic human rights, freedom, and democracy is truly moving. It indicates that some real political maturity has taken hold among the people whose only unifying slogan thirty years ago was ‘Death to the Shah.’ ”

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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