By G. Monty Manibog
(Editor’s Note: Former Monterey Park mayor, Monty Manibog, is a regular columnist offering legal tips and commentaries on high profile legal cases and events.)
“The world is watching, stop the violence. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and Iran must govern through consent, not coercion”—President Obama to the Iranian regime as millions of demonstrators protesting what they conceived to be a rigged presidential election, are met with violence and a few deaths from police and security forces.
Due to rapidly moving events on the ground in Tehran and other Iranian cities, by the time this article goes to press there may either be a regime change and a democracy established through “people power,” as happened in the Philippines in 1986.
Or, the current repressive dictatorial regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Council of Mullahs headed by Ayatlollah Khamenei, will retain power through a bloodbath and the slaughtering of a multitude of its citizens, as did the Chinese Communist regime at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.
A third possible conclusion, of course, is that the demonstratons will simply fizzle through lack of organization, leadership and fatigue retaining the present regime in power without widespread bloodshed, but keeping the seething population bottled up until the next explosive provocation.
As Americans, we take our constitutional rights for granted (right of free speech and peaceable assembly, among others), knowing that the laws will always protect us in the exercise of those rights.
This is because we live under a “government of laws and not of men,” and no one is above the law. Under a “government of men and not of laws” (e.g. North Korea, Cuba, People’s Republic of China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, among others), the men in power pretty much make and dictate the laws and the people are powerless to resist, short of a bloody or peaceful uprising that brings about regime change.
In 1986, a million Filipinos massed at the Philippine army headquarters demanding a return to democracy, having endured years of dictatorial rule under President Marcos who remained in power through a declaration of martial law. However, he refused the calls from his generals to fire on the masses, instead resigning and accepting President Reagan’s invitation to live in exile in Hawaii (where he eventually died), restoring full democracy in the Philippines without bloodshed.
Similarly, the Russian soldiers refused to stop Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically elected president of Russia following the fall of communism, when he rallied the masses of people from atop a Russian tank during an attempted counter revolution by the Russian generals and former Politburo members in 1991, strengthening Russia’s new fund democracy.
The irony of the events that are happening in Iran is that the present regime came into power through a violent revolution (1979) and its now facing a peaceful one. The demonstrations, however, may be compelling the Islamic leaders to confront those same ideals that have been spreading like wildfire across the globe – the prevalence of justice, official responsibility and openness, recognition of the people’s will and equality of rights and privileges.
Former President George W. Bush had repeatedly stated that establishing democracy in the Middle East would become contagious to the area. Now, authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, the Gulf States and Jordan, to name a few, nervously note that, under U.S. sponsorship, free elections established democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
Will Iran be the next to fall in the Middle East? In retrospect, George W. may have been an accurate and idealistic visionary.