The battle on the streets of Tehran and the provincial towns of Iran arises not merely in a disputed election but in the clash of two views of Persian history that have become hard to reconcile. For Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared the 10th president of the Islamic republic in what even his supporters hail as a “miracle”, history ended on 1 February 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile in Paris to inaugurate the new revolutionary government. The story of humanity, which up to that moment had been the persistent thwarting of God’s will by Jews, Arabs, heretics, kings, drunkards, liberals and the British, had now entered its end phase. It was just a matter for a learned cleric to administer first Iran, then the whole world, until the Lord of Time revealed himself to his favourite nation and ushered in an age of justice and the end of the world. The Lord of Time, or Mahdi, the 12th descendant of the prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatemeh, escaped Arab persecution as a small boy in Iraq and went into hiding in 874. Present in the world in flesh and bone, the Mahdi passes unrecognised through the Shia cities, walking perhaps even among the Tehran crowds streaming between Enqelab and Azad. Yet for many supporters of the defeated candidates in the election, there is another view of history that rejects Khomeini’s fantastic theories of clerical government, the religiosity of Ahmadinejad, the grinding air of eschatological menace and, above all, the regime’s metaphysical liberties with the truth.
more from James Buchan at The Guardian here.