By not voting in today's Parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, Iranian people are telling the world that they reject the mullahs' regime in its entirety, former Iranian political prisoner Farzad Madadzadeh wrote Friday for Forbes Opinion.
"On Friday, March 14, 2008 at around 10AM I went to a polling station in Jannat Abad, in western Tehran. Parliamentary elections were taking place on that day, just as [today] in Iran. The polling station was a school. Six individuals were present to monitor the voting process and four others were casting their ballots," he wrote.
"After looking over the room for a few minutes, I turned to leave and a surprised state agent stopped me and said, 'Why didn’t you vote?' I said I hadn’t brought my birth certificate and it would be illegal to vote without it.
He said, 'What do you mean illegal? The most important thing is that you vote.' But I insisted upon retrieving my birth certificate and after some back and forth with the official, he allowed me to leave with a promise to return a short while later."
"But the truth was that I had just gone there to monitor how many people had showed up to vote. That is not to say that I was not an employee of the Iranian Interior Ministry, which is in charge of holding the elections and monitoring the votes. Rather, I was part of the main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), which had divided large numbers of the major cities’ polling stations among activists tasked with secretly monitoring the process."
"Throughout the day I visited a number of polling places and found practically the same story everywhere. After the first polling station I learned to have an excuse ready and to exit the facility before being stopped by an agent."
"In the first polling station a car with five passengers caught my attention. I followed them. In the span of a few hours they voted in eight different polling stations. From their looks it was obvious they were members of the Basij, the militia organized under Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. On Election Day, the government had employed them on a mission to fill ballot boxes."
"In each election the mullahs’ regime uses this and other means to artificially inflate voter participation figures. These efforts are aimed at portraying the regime as having broad-based social support when in fact the opposite is true."
"When the state-run media reported 51% participation in the 2008 elections, I knew from first-hand experience that the figure was wildly out of touch with reality."
"The officials in Tehran had divided them up to deliver illegitimate votes. They identified major polling stations and ordered their agents to pour into each station at a specific time of the day. This contributed to the regime’s propaganda not only through statistics but also through images and video."
"State TV aired images of inflated crowds at those polling places and conducted interviews with people who claimed to be waiting in line for hours to cast their ballots. But throughout the day official TV reports from Tehran only covered these few polling stations – the same one to which foreign journalists were directed to by the Ministry of Guidance."
That year was the last time Farzad was was able to witness such scenes because he was arrested in February 2009 and charged with supporting the PMOI, after which he spent five years in the most notorious prisons, including Evin and Gohardasht, where he was subjected to harsh torture. After his release, he was able to secretly flee the country in the spring of 2015 and come to Europe to share his experiences not only as a political prisoner but also as an independent election monitor.
Farzad described the Iranian regime's election as a "selection."
"Under Iran’s theocracy, candidates go through a grueling, multi-layered vetting process with the last word belonging to the notorious Ministry of Intelligence. To get onto the ballot, one must prove one’s complete and utter loyalty to the supreme leader, in belief and in practice. It would be naïve to expect this process to lead to anything resembling free elections."
"The Iranian people, especially the youth and women, are well aware of this reality. Even the small percentage who listened to Hassan Rouhani’s campaign promises and saw hope for positive change in 2013 have since recognized his failing report card. That includes nearly 2,300 executions, a worsening crackdown on journalists and artists, and continuing support for the massacre of the Syrian people by Bashar al-Assad."
"Any talk of moderation by Rouhani is nothing but a hoax. Between the time when I was released from jail and the time when I fled Iran, I met dozens of Iranian youth who described Rouhani as a 'purple fox,' in reference to the color of his presidential campaign and the portrayal of the fox as an agent of deception in Iranian culture. These youth declared not only that they had ceased to support Rouhani but also that they would no longer vote for any member of the existing regime."
Iranian people, he said, are sending a serious message to the entire world by not voting. "The Iranian supreme leader and his president will attempt to conceal that fact. But Iranians are demanding real change in Iran, and they know that the first step toward it would be to remove the ruling theocracy in its entirety."
Mr. Madadzadeh is a former Iranian political prisoner who was released in 2014 and escaped from Iran in mid-2015.