WHENEVER I observe the ordinary people of Iran, I am always filled with awe and admiration.
Here is a nation with one of the most ruthless oppressive theocratic regimes on the planet.
Had it been in Iran, even someone like myself would have long been thrown in jail for the material that I write — which largely speaks for voiceless Zimbabweans suffering under the political elite’s wanton abuse of power, and blatant human rights abuses.
Not to mention characters in the mould of opposition activist Job Sikhala, or journalist-cum-anti-corruption champion Hopewell Chin’ono, and numerous others, they would have since parted with their heads for exposing the ruling establishment’s brutality against the ordinary citizenry, and rampant looting of national resources.
The Iranian regime has no qualms at all, barbarically shooting to death, in cold blood, anyone who may dare stand up for themselves, or speak out for their rights — with a dark gory history spanning the past 43 years, especially after the so-called “Islamic Revolution” of 1979, when all opponents of the establishment were regarded as US-sponsored puppets who deserved nothing less than death.
Yet, in all this, there is one thing I admire and adore about the people of Iran, which fills me with inspiration.
Just over the past few days, in spite of the real threat of a savage response hanging over their heads, multitudes of Iranian women have been protesting over the suspicious death, in custody, of a 22-year-old lady arrested for violating the country’s strict hijab laws (a traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women, covering the hair and neck, usually after the age of puberty in front of non-related adult males).
Although, the protests started in the capital, Tehran, and to be expected, were met with disproportionate force, leading to the cold-blooded killing of scores, this has not deterred more and more Iranian women (progressively joined by their male counterparts) taking part, thereby spreading all across Iran, and to major cities around the world.
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As if that was not enough, Iranians, and other progressive forces, were gathered in their numbers at the United Nations headquarters yesterday, energetically demonstrating and loudly expressing their disdain and disgust with the regime, as President Ebrahim Raisi addressed other world leaders.
Nevertheless, a quick look at the reaction of the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, to their indescribable poverty and suffering at the hands of the heinous administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa leaves my mouth dry.
Actually, despite the widely-publicised plans to protest Mnangagwa’s arrival in New York for the UN General Assembly two days ago, barely 40 people reportedly turned up.
Where were all those Zimbabweans residing in the United States, or nearby in such countries as Canada, if our cries and outrage at the Zanu PF regime are genuine, and to be taken seriously?
Are we to assume that, of all those Zimbabweans in that part of the world, only 40 are truly aggrieved and angry enough with the Mnangagwa regime, and are prepared to make that sacrifice in travelling to New York in order to make our grievances clearly known to the President, while at the same time bringing the global spotlight back on the harrowing plight of our people?
What excuse did we have this time around for failing to stand up against this callous, bloodthirsty ruling elite, in a more democratic country, where their activities would have actually received the protection of security forces, as opposed to a brutal crackdown (which would have definitely been the case back home)?
Similarly, those of us here in Zimbabwe are always hiding our pathetic inaction behind the obvious merciless barbaric response by the regime, a horrendous scenario we have witnessed many times before, particularly after the coming in of Mnangagwa’s so-called “new dispensation”, with several protestors already having been sadistically gunned down on the streets of Harare in August 2018 and January 2019.
Of course, such risks have clearly never stopped Iranians from taking a firm stand against their government, and repressive laws in that country.
Yet, Zimbabweans always seem to have a handy excuse at the ready, to explain away their inaction and apathy at the unimaginable misery and pain they are continually subjected to by those in power.
It is either we are terrified of the regime, or we are afraid of losing our jobs, or are too busy making a living to lose any time demonstrating or staying away, or we tell ourselves nothing will ever change, or we fool ourselves into believing there will be a new government after next year’s elections.
Is it any wonder the world does not even know what we are going through, and so we cannot expect them to stand with us in solidarity — something they are doing with Iranian women, with demonstrations over the recent arrest and death in detention of the young lady spreading across the world like wildfire.
And, here we are in Zimbabwe, forgotten by the world and enduring the hideous wrath of the Mnangagwa regime on our own.
Should we be surprised or shocked?
Why do we choose to sit back, yet we cannot even afford the most basic of necessities, failing to access medical care, and wallowing in poverty — while those in power loot everything with arrogant impunity, and living in grand splendour and opulence?
Surely, what change are we expecting in spending our time on our smartphones, and in front of our laptops — moaning and even expressing outbursts of rage at the regime — in the absence of real concerted peaceful action, as enshrined in our Constitution?
As much as modern technologies have, to some extent, replaced (and, even eased) strenuous physical engagements and processes — but there is certainly no substitute for mass action on the ground, where we exercise our democratic right to expression, peaceful demonstration, and petitioning.
If we are not prepared to stand up for ourselves — then, maybe we do, indeed, deserve the suffering we are enduring under Mnangagwa.