Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bast

During the 4 p.m. EST hour, someone on CNN said that if Mousavi is not granted a permit for his protests tomorrow, he will seek sanctuary in the shrine of Imam Khomeini. It was said hurriedly and I don't know the source of the information, but it seems unlikely enough to have been coughed up randomly as a rumor that it's worth considering a bit more fully.

I presume "sanctuary" refers to the old Iranian tradition of bast, by which someone can seek refuge in a mosque, shrine, or certain other sites and in theory remain free from government interference. This was used during Iran's 1905-06 Constitutional Revolution, both at the shrine of Shah 'Abd al-Azim, a Shi'ite martyr from the 9th century, and later at the British embassy, which became the site of a huge tent city.

I am unsure how this would work in a 21st-century political context, but the symbolism would be powerful.

Please note also that this is in contrast with information that Mousavi is under house arrest. Even if he is, however, there may be something to it, such as a call for others to gather at Imam Khomeini's shrine.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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4 Comments:

Anonymous First said...

Quality coverage. Like the way you've combined updates on what's happening with snippets of background info on Iran's traditions as in this post.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Thanks - I'm a historian by trade, so I figure that's what I have to contribute.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous First said...

Yeah, I was wondering what your view of the election was as a historian - I mean in the context of Iran's political history does it look that bad?

Ok, so the winning candidate's an idiot and a scoundrel, and has obviously cheated massively, but even so he'd have probably won anyway. And in the context of Iran's history and political culture that's the point. We're not talking about Sweden or Britain here - there's no Iranian version of the Rights of Man or even the Magna Carta. As such we shouldn't we cut Iran's clerical establishment some slack, and say that while flawed this is about the best that can be hoped for?

7:41 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I'm not sure he would have won anyway. I'm also not sure what you mean by "cut the clerical establishment some slack." The tone of my coverage has been aimed mainly at major shifts within the configurations of power and wondering what will happen, obviously hoping for the best. Andrew Sullivan is the one shouting "Freedom" from the rooftops.

The scale here in a presidential election is unprecedented, and represents a power grab by the Leader-President-IRGC axis I mentioned yesterday. That's a break with a 30-year pattern of history which has seen managed competition among a range of political views and power centers.

7:57 PM  

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