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June 22, 2005
The Four Forbidden Words Of Iranian Elections

George Carlin practically built his career around his famous comedic protest against American broadcast censorship, "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV". The Iranian Guardian Council, which is not known for its sense of humor, apparently has its own list of dirty words that will get your electoral material destroyed -- words like "democracy" and "freedom":

Iranian security officials on Tuesday confiscated more than half a million wallet-size cards and posters endorsing Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for president from a printing house in Tehran, according to employees of the shop.

Employees said the posters and cards contained the words "repression," "terrorizing," "freedom" and "democracy."

"They said, 'The words you are using are offensive,' " said Mahmmoud Reza Bahmanpour, managing director of Nazar Printing House in downtown Tehran. He and other employees said several plainclothes agents, displaying a handwritten letter bearing the seal of Iran's judiciary, carried away 500,000 wallet-size cards and 70,000 posters. The material endorsed Rafsanjani, the former president whom Iran's reformers have rallied around in order to defeat the clerical establishment's apparent favorite in Friday's runoff ballot. ...

Bahmanpour, the printing shop's managing director, said he asked the agents if the cards could have been printed if the words "democracy" and "freedom" were omitted. They said yes.

Of course, this makes perfect sense. Perhaps instead of censorship, this just represents an effort by the Guardian Council to enforce Iranian truth-in-advertising laws. Who would be foolish enough to use the words "democracy" and "freedom" in conjunction with an Iranian election? Besides Jack Straw, that is.

The Washington Post's Karl Vick reports that the mystery of Teheran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's surprise second-place finish to Rafsanjani may be solved. The low turnout apparently gave the mayor and the Guardian Council an opening for the Revolutionary Guard to do some major ballot-stuffing on his behalf, leading him from single digits to the runoff election. The hardliner has already made his feelings about democracy well known; he was quoted during the election as saying that the Islamic Revolution didn't occur to bring democracy to the ummah.

The Guardian Council obviously agrees. They engineered the candidate list in the first round to keep reformists out, and they stuffed the ballot box and then simply made numbers up out of thin air to get the two most acceptable candidates for the runoff. Now they have outlawed the mention of freedom and democracy during the final election campaign -- where Iranians get to choose between a man who openly disdains democracy and a former president whose previous term in office demonstrated his lack of passion for it.

They can destroy all the signs they want at the printers' shops. It doesn't take a big effort to read the writing on the wall.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 22, 2005 5:49 AM

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Tracked on June 22, 2005 8:28 AM

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