'I Hope It Was Rigged'

Writing from Iran, university student Telmah Parsa surveys the post-election mood—from a friend who hopes the vote was rigged (because if it wasn’t, Iran just re-elected Ahmadinejad) to his parents, who say the “irreligious hipsters” out protesting need to face up to their defeat.

Ben Curtis / AP Photo

Plus, read more insight on Iran's election from other Daily Beast writers.

The Iranian regime has shut down text messaging. And the Internet is almost down.

While riots are ravaging the major cities and sit-ins can be found almost everywhere, millions of Iranians are celebrating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supposed election victory. Iranians are deeply polarized: A line transcending all biological and geographical boundaries is dividing the people.

“I had to wait an hour in the sun to vote,” said my friend Cyrus yesterday at the dormitory. “And I wouldn’t have voted in the first place if it weren’t for that son of a bitch Ahmadinejad. It really bums me out to see all that was useless. Dudes, we’re being screwed.”

“What if Mousavi had won after all? Power’s in the supreme leader’s hands. The president is powerless.”

“I was so depressed I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Daniel, another friend. “So I started watching Friends. I watched 20 episodes last night.”

Qadir, another friend, said: “I really hope it was rigged. Then we could say our government is corrupt. But there’s another possibility, too, a bleaker one—that our nation is corrupt, full of simpletons; that 24 million Iranians did vote for Ahmadinejad.

“On Friday, my aunt called my mother asking who she voted for.

“When my mother said Mousavi, my aunt replied: ‘Instead of Ahmadinejad? I would have voted for Mousavi, too, if you’d told me sooner.’

“See? I don’t think many people here understand what democracy is all about. It’s not impossible for Ahmadinejad to get 24 million votes from these people. Be that as it may, I hope to God it was rigged.”

“But it is rigged!” Daniel replied. “Everyone I talked to voted for Mousavi. My distant relatives who had never participated in any election voted Friday for Mousavi to get rid of Ahmadinejad.”

“Iran is a little more diverse than your family, you know,” I said.

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“Shut up, Telmah!” Daniel was still tense from his sleepless night. “The supreme leader himself said 10 million more people went to the ballots in this election. These were people who had refused to participate in previous elections. To say they were devout conservatives supporting Ahmadinejad is absurd. They had to be pro-reform. Now, according to the official figures, the reformist candidates’ total votes add up to 14 million. No way only 4 million ‘regular’ voters were pro-reform! Our votes were stolen.”

“I know. I was just messing with you!” I said.

“You know, if it were in my hands, I would have prepared a plan making at least a high-school education a requirement for all those who want to vote.” Qadir was apparently still following his “bleaker” theory. “Of course, it would be a long-term plan, taking effect in, say, 10 years.” “What if Mousavi had won after all? Power’s in the supreme leader’s hands. The president is powerless,” Cyrus said.

“They wouldn’t have bothered to rig the election if what you say was 100 percent true.” I replied.


In Iran, taxis work like buses; they pick up as many passengers as they can squeeze in. As I said goodbye to my friends and stepped into a taxi, I sat down beside a lady. She seemed to be in her 40s, and although she wore a chador, her headscarf was a little loose.

“I am telling you, this whole election was rigged,” she said, apparently, to the driver. “Why do they shut down text messaging? Why are they cracking down on our Web sites more than ever? This is absolutely ridiculous. Mousavi won the election and they know it.”

“I know,” the driver said. “Everyone I’ve been talking to voted for Mousavi.”

“[Former President] Rafsanjani has resigned from all the positions...Karroubi [the reformist candidate] just had a heart attack...This election was a fraud. Ahmadinejad himself is big fraud. He’s a Jew. It’s a fact,” the lady replied.

At hearing the last remark, I was just as surprised as you are right now. The woman wasn’t joking, though. Her passion and anger was genuine. However, her remark reminded me of something I read somewhere—that the reason Ahmadinejad denied at Columbia that were any homosexuals in Iran was that he himself is still in the closet.

At home the atmosphere was quite different. My parents were happy their candidate won. To them, the young demonstrators in the streets looked like a bunch of “irreligious hipsters” who just couldn’t face their defeat. To them, the idea that the election could be rigged was preposterous.

My brother and I are constantly debating with our parents. Our father’s typical argument against our grumbling is:

“Look at our house. While we are pro-Ahmadinejad, you and your brother are Mousavi supporters. Even in a small family there are different opinions. For the election to be rigged, thousands of like-minded people had to have conspired together. How could they do this without anyone knowing?”

Of course, as in any other debate, no one is convinced, but at least we express our differences and raise our voices.

My friends and I are confident the state will soon realize that the days when Ahmadinejad could clamp down on his dissidents without facing any consequences are long gone—and that voices are being raised that will not be silenced again.

The writer, who uses a pseudonym for his own safety, is a university student in Iran.