Editor's note: The writer, an Iranian woman in Minneapolis, submitted this commentary on condition of anonymity because she has family still living in Iran. For more on this subject, see In the Loop.
It is one thing to read about the powerful in books. A personal event, such as the one that has unfolded over the last several weeks in Iran, can make the concept of power considerably easier to grasp.
Iran's presidential elections, which occurred on June 12, were seen as offering a chance for change, and change was needed.
The country's oil revenues were among the highest in the world, yet there were more poor people than ever. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had served for four years. Simply put, it was time for someone else.
Hoping for change, many people went to the polls. Yet a country that usually takes a day or two to count the votes announced the results in a matter of hours. Ahmadinejad was said to have won by a landslide. To the thousands of protesters pouring into the streets of Iran, this landslide was a humiliating lie.
People filled the streets, assembling peacefully, only to be shot, gassed, called names, arrested and jailed.
In all of human history -- at least from the amount that is accessible to us -- and in all areas of the world, the powerful have managed to suppress the powerless in order to solidify their status. I can say, through my tears, heartache, anger, anxiety and depression, that now I know how it feels.
I have gone through a wide range of emotions over the past few weeks. My cousin told me that I have to be able to keep an emotional balance, otherwise I will go crazy. But everything has happened so fast, unbelievably incomprehensibly.
What can possibly be the limit of human capacity to carry out such violent acts? How far can the struggle for power take us?
I grew up learning and practicing the following concept -- all humans are equal. No one should be considered superior to another. However, there was a moment when I noticed a shift in my thought processes.
When people on the streets of Tehran were called "dust," it made me wonder: Do I want my 50-year-old teacher in Tehran, from whom I have learned more about humanity than from anyone else, to be treated like dust?
Do I want the talented and passionate young individuals with spirits of gold I have worked with to be treated like dust? Do I want my grandfather, who would always bring in the jasmines for my grandmother, to be treated like dust? How can I? How can I possibly not place them above others in my thoughts?
When we make "the other" faceless, it becomes a lot easier to behave this way -- to destroy. But if we think about the other as an individual, a person, a human being, the pain of thinking what may happen to them -- how shall I say it? -- brings you to your knees.
The events of the past few weeks in Iran have created a small model of what happens to all people, all over the world. Those who tune in are like me when I tuned into what went on in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
I, on the other hand, do not need to tune in this time, as the pain of what the people feel rings out from my body, my entire being.
All I have to do is to listen to the voices I know from home -- my grandparents, my cousins, my teachers, my friends -- and the reality of it all faces me head on. I only hope for patience, for myself and for those who have so courageously stood up in the face of it all.