Who says that a math geek cannot become a super hero? Mahmoud Vahidnia is a math student at Tehran’s Sharif Technical University where he recently won the gold medal at the country’s National Math Olympics (yes, geeks have an Olympics of their own). Vahidnia, however, has become a political icon in Iran after he publicly chastised the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the brutal crackdown of protesters.
At first, Vahidnia was blocked by organizers from speaking and then one of the organizers tried repeatedly to cut him off. However, to the surprise of many, Khamenei allowed him to speak in a televised encounter. The government is now using the incident to show that freedom thrives in the Islamic republic, which is being described as “The revolutionary leader’s fatherly response to critical youth.”
The exchange lasted 20-minutes and Khamenei appeared taken aback at first. The criticism followed Khamenei denouncing the questioning of the presidential results as the “biggest crime” since he personally found Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the winner.
Mahmoud then raised his hand and launched into a criticism of the crackdown with such memorable statements as “I don’t know why in this country it’s not allowed to make any kind of criticism of you . . . In the past three to five years that I have been reading newspapers, I have seen no criticism of you, not even by the Assembly of Experts, whose duty is to criticize and supervise the performance of the leader.”
Khamenei insisted, “We welcome criticism. We never said not to criticize us. … There’s plenty of criticism that I receive.”
Indeed, the jails are filled with such critics.
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