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February 4, 2011, Cairo, Egypt


We … would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.
RONALD REAGAN, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

For every man who lives without freedom, the rest of us must face the guilt.
LILLIAN HELLMAN, The Watch on the Rhine

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1953

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, letter to H.L. Pierce, Apr. 6, 1859

True freedom is always spiritual. It has something to do with your innermost being, which cannot be chained, handcuffed, or put into a jail.
OSHO, Freedom: The Courage to Be Yourself

Without freedom there can be no morality.
CARL JUNG, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology

May the light of freedom, coming to all darkened lands, flame brightly–until at last the darkness is no more.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, Second Inaugural Address, Jan. 21, 1957



protest and prayer in cairo

On the Ropes

For the Iranian people victory is near

by ramin ahmadi

The military regime in Tehran is in its final days. The signs of an imminent collapse, perfectly traceable on the Iranian streets, are evading the most prominent Washington experts. The slogans on the walls, the nighttime chorus of Allah-o-akbar on the rooftops, the crowds chanting “death to the dictator,” all signaling a collective defiance despite the brutal backlash, and all reflecting a mass mobilization unseen since the 1979 revolution.

The recurring cycles of peaceful protests and state violence is part of a larger transformation sweeping through Iran. But in Washington, this magnificent collective action spurs only arrogant dismissal on the part of the Iran policy industry. Democratic revolutions have always been about idealism, selflessness and a passion for solidarity and freedom–all concepts entirely foreign to the pragmatic, conceitful, double-talking policy insiders.

It was not surprising that hours after millions of Iranians poured into the streets, mourning the loss of the country’s greatest dissident cleric, grand Ayatollah Montazeri, all that is heard from Washington are babbles about lack of leadership or a broad-based coalition among Iranian opposition. To Iranians, this is no big shock. Washington’s inability to read Iran accurately is reminiscent of it insisting on remaining loyal to the Shah when monarchy had all but been dismantled. But this revolution, as did the previous one, goes forward with the prospect of a final encounter between the state and revolutionaries looming ever larger.

The next several days in the month of Moharram, marking the sacred Shiia mourning days of Ashura and Tassua, will be detrimental for Iran. Traditionally, thousands of mourners take to the streets to grieve the slaying of the Shi’a Imam Hossein Ibn Ali, a martyr who was killed for refusing to obey the illegitimate ruler of his time in 680 AD. The coincidence of the shared names between the beloved martyr and the current leading opposition leader, Hossein, seems ironic to foreign observers, but to the revolutionary guard generals of Iran, it’s no less than a colossal disaster. In a recent statement, the guards have threatened to deal harshly with those who intend to defy them during the Ashura and Tassua, though even they know the hollowness of their own threats, especially in light of the events of Dec. 18, 2009.

On that day, the Guards had called for their supporters to rally. A week earlier, the opposition demonstrators had committed the ultimate act of defiance yet, by tearing the image of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, into pieces before the rolling cameras. The opposition hunkered down, leaving the streets to the Guards and their supporters for the day, who had once managed to draw out millions. On Dec. 18, however, no more than 2,000 to 3,000answered the Guards’ call.

The significance of this failed show of support needs some further explanation. According to the numbers given by the Iranian regime in the past, the Revolutionary Guards comprise an estimated 120,000 active duty members and some 300,000 reservists. More than half have been traditionally placed in and around the capital. In the past, the regime effortlessly mobilized the reserves and their families.

Only a year ago, for the anniversary of the Islamic revolution, the state put on a convincing show for the foreign reporters and brought herds of people to the streets, by rounding up supporters in small towns and shuttling them to the capital and other major cities. Foreign correspondents and visiting peaceniks subsequently reported Iran’s regime stable and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his nuclear intentions as popular and popularly beheld.

But Dec. 18 was a watershed, revealing to the generals that they have been abandoned by their own faithfuls. Clearly, they can no longer win the streets with a disappearing base.

In the next few days, it is increasingly likely that the guards, faced with several hundred thousand peaceful mourners, will be unable to fire. The demonstrators, not the guards, will be in control of the streets, and their protest can take a different turn. This time, strategic locations such as the radio and television headquarters, the Ministry of Interior and the prisons are the places to watch. If the 1979 revolution had any lessons to heed for today’s demonstrators, it is that these are the last bastions to conquer for their victory to be complete.

In the meantime, the Iran policy cottage industry in America also needs to take note. If the United States is to ever have a place in Iran’s future, it cannot do so without reading the country properly. It is a literacy that can only begin by listening to the voices of the people.

Ramin Ahmadi is co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. This article was first published in

iranian rooftops

June 20 2009, Saturday

God Almighty, last night we called you so much…
We cried out for you so very much.
Why wasn’t this — the day?
I have not yet lost hope,
but I’m not that hopeful either.
Listen, the cries are louder,
Much louder.

Why are you sleeping?
Why don’t you say something?
Why don’t you show some reaction?
We have put our lives in the palm of your hands.
Why don’t you show yourself?
We are all doing the best we can.

Allah o Akbar! (repeats in the background from the rooftops, growing more loud)

This is our voice.
A voice that has no other outlet.
This is our voice that comes from the depths of our souls.
Oh God! Why did you leave us so defenseless?

Oh God! they’re calling you, Listen!
Listen Up! They are calling to you!
If you are sleeping, Wake up!
This is no time for sleeping.
This time you must listen!
Listen closely.
Listen, so you won’t have any excuses when we meet in the afterlife…
So you won’t say “I didn’t hear your voices.”
Don’t say we didn’t call for you to hear us!
Listen closely.
All of them are calling you.
Listen closely.

“We exercise our leadership best when we are listening, when we recognize the world is a complicated place …When we show some element of humility and when we recognize we may not always have the best answer but we can always encourage the best answer.”   –Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama is on the last leg of his debut trip on the world stage as president. He is trying to rebuild ties with Muslims after anger at the invasion of Iraq and war in Afghanistan, made more urgent by a strengthening al Qaeda and Taliban insurgency.  (Getty Images)

The Obamas in Turkey


The Obamas with the Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livia Klausova


U.S. President Barack Obama (C) and Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (L) visit  Byzantine era monument of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul April 7, 2009.  (Reuters)


monthly archives


Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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March 2020



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory