Friday, Dec. 17, 2010

Tehran Remains Dark

From the Jan. 11, 2010 issue of TIME Magazine

At the heart of Shi'a Islam is a 1,400-year-old passion play of political succession: the hero is Hussain, grandson of the Prophet; the villain is Yazid, the usurper of the Caliphate; and each year on the holy day of Ashura, their bloody conflict is re-enacted as a Shi'ite cri de coeur. Iran, the pre-eminent Shi'ite nation, commemorated Ashura amid its own power struggle. Tens of thousands took to the streets, chanting, "We are the army of Imam Hussain ... supporters of Mir-Hossein." Hussain had become Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the declared loser in last June's presidential election to the "usurper" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The authorities reacted ferociously, with bullets and batons, killing several people. The opposition responded with fists and stones, almost boastful of its long-lived defiance. The protesters, whose campaign has lasted for more than six months, acted on the belief that light will eventually overcome darkness. It's worth remembering, however, that Ashura is not a joyful festival but a day to mourn martyrs: in history, Yazid defeated the beloved Hussain. And for now, darkness still reigns in Tehran.