Death to the Dictator essay

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Death to the dictator! A young man casts a vote in Iran’s 2009 Election and pays a devastating price is a political book written by a is a fictitious name or alias author, Afsaneh Moqadam. It is a one hundred and sixty page hardcover first published on May 4th 2010 by Farrar, Stroux and Giroux. This book generally covers the faulty 2009 Iran presidential election as suggested by its title (Moqadam, 2011).

The cover of Death to the dictator! Shows a riotous crowd, most of them raising the index finger alongside the middle finger in a sort of political sign .Most of the people on the cover are carrying a green flag, with some carrying green placards.

Death to the dictator! A young man casts a vote in Iran’s 2009 election and pays a devastating price begins with an ending that also serves as a prologue. The prologue opens with the protagonist Mohsen Abbaspour arriving home on August 29 2009 after being dropped from a white van in the outskirts of Tehran city. The young man is barely recognizable as he looks starved and half crazed. After a tearful reception by family, Mohsen requests for a quiet moment with a friend, Shadi, who requests, or rather pushes him to tell the story of what happened.

Beginning at chapter one, the reader is taken back to three months earlier in June 8 2009, four days to the Iranian presidential election. The mood around the time is dressed in optimism as a former prime minister Mir Hussein Moussavi has a sure shot at the Iranian presidential office, till then under President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad (Moqadam, 2011). The protagonist is a twenty something year old who cannot find employment after completing his college education. He opines this is mainly due to his family being unconnected. Mohsen finds solace in contemporary Persian poetry and underground pop music.

Previously an indifferent young man, Mohsen and his friends are caught up in the sudden momentum of Mir Hussein Moussavi’s campaign after attending one of the former prime minister’s rally with his mother and finally decide  voting will be good enough. Mir Hussein Moussavi has huge support as evidenced by phone calls from cities around Iran.

Upon close of polls, Ahmedinejad is announced winner, beating Mir Hussein Moussavi by a large margin. The writer cites that Mahmoud Ahmedinejad won by 62%.This causes many Iranians to take to the streets. Mohsen joins the protests after a tension filled dinner with family. Mohsen finally shakes off his earlier indifference, instead wearing a radical and defiant personality fuelled by anger. A situation that shows his newfound personality is when he demands an arrest warrant from a militia man who with others has raided a Moussavi demonstration. Mohsen then refuses to bow in honor of the militia man; attracting a rebuke from him .Afsaneh connects this with the later arrest of Mohsen. The protagonist is later detained in the infamous Kahrizk detention center. In the camp he faces brutal torture and rape.

This is a fast paced political documentation that aims at saying things as they were through the first persona’s eyes during the tumultuous period that was the Iranian post-election protests in 2009.It gives very little room for historical speculation let alone explanation. The writer hits right at the moment; from electoral campaigns to election time and the eventual post-election protests, all beginning in June right through August. The writing shows a deep understanding of Iranian culture, showing societal expectations on young people represented by the young Mohsen Abbaspour (Moqadam, 2011). The writer is at the heart of a political rebellion, talking of meetings on rooftops and pure incarceration in Iran .We get to see a nation making a decision that will determine its future. This is a time they choose whether to be silenced to submission by dictatorial powers that be or to stand up for what they believe is theirs after ten presidential elections. It would as well be noteworthy to mention that this was the main character’s first time to vote in the Iranian presidential election.

While the quick turn of events is an enticing reason to keep on turning the pages as well as the writer’s sure and authoritative writing, a need for explanation into the event slowly builds up in the reader’s subconscious. One who is not a citizen of Iran may not be able to piece the bits together to get a solid story based on historical facts. Afsaneh Moqadam deprives the reader of the bigger picture. The writing also suffers from vagueness. In Death to the dictator! The pronoun ‘they’ is used to refer to antagonists in the unfolding story ‘.They’ refers to the hard line militia (Basij), Ahmedinejad supporters and even president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and even Ayatollah Khamenei. This ends up being a blurred reference that spares no room for persons to take responsibility.

Additionally, Afsaneh Moqadam takes hard line positions through the character Mohsen Abbaspour. We are all led to believe that Ahmedinejad is bad, and so is anyone taking his side. Similarly, Mir Hussein Moussavi and anyone affiliated to him good. We do not know these leaders in detail in order to hold them accountable, yet the writer does little to enlighten the reader. The writer could also make her remarks on international politics a little diplomatic. This was seen in the instance where the Chinese and Russian governments are rebuked for execution of Muslims while at the same time they maintain bonds with the Islamic republic.


Several themes come into play in the book Death to the dictator! Religion of the Iranian people is largely explored. For instance, president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad believes he is the one to pave the way for the twelfth and last Imam who is also the  Messiah born in the ninth century but hidden by God till the time he comes to redeem the world (Moqadam, 2011).

The theme of oppression also comes into play as explained in the brutality of the government on people exercising their freedom of expression such as Mohsen. Also projected is the theme of change. The people want a break from the past. They want leaders they can hold accountable. Then again change attracts resistance from the people holding on to power in Iran. They exercise the suppression of change even through brutish means such as rape. Similarly prevalent is the theme of oppression where dissidents are forced to reveal the names of their fellow protestors through torture. Contrast also works well for the writer in that the dark and nightmarish events take place over the bright summer season. This is a good reason to celebrate the book “Death to the dictator!” as memorable. The same contrast can be seen where Mohsen tells a story of a dark period of twenty four days from the safety of his parents’ apartment.

The book Death to the Dictator is an insightful read. It helps the reader grasp what took place during the 2009 Iranian post-election protests as the writer was seemingly at the eye of the storm. It comes across as a good tool for one to understand the influence of contemporary media on young people especially for phones that give access to the internet and ultimately the social networking sites. Through the writer and the character followed all through the book, we get a peep into the Iranian society, its beliefs and practices as well as the nurturing of its urban youth. It would be wise to say that Death to the Dictator encompasses not one, but many aspects of a country that has come to its awakening after ten presidential elections.

"Death to the Dictator!" is an ambitious, timely and a moving account with power and immediacy.  It comes in a time when Iranians must decide whether to abandon hope or risk their live ultimately. The author writes with an authoritative, granular understanding of the real picture of the Iranian society. This covers the sociology of the youth in Iran quite precisely, and distills some of the most crucial political context and fictions of class, worldview into thin vignettes among other urgent factors.

In the book “Death to the dictator!” the role of contemporary media is highly felt. No wonder the Iranian revolution is referred to as ‘The Twitter Revolution.’ The large influence of former Iran Prime minister Mir Hussein Moussavi was enabled via telephone connection and availability across Iranian cities. This helped people realize when their elections were rigged knowing who they had voted for. Many calls for protest among the Iranian youth were via social networking sites most notably twitter. This shows to what extent contemporary media has enabled mass action through quick and easy dissemination of information.

The writing by Afsaneh Moqadam would definitely be referred to in any Contemporary media deliberations. While it is a dark story of brutality, war and incarceration, it is also a great insight into change, the effects of change and the role of contemporary media in effecting the yearned for change (Moqadam, 2011). One gets to see how contemporary media has broken traditional barriers between audiences and carriers of information hence enabling society to communicate much more freely and even more aggressively

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