All Eyes on Iran

This is breathtaking. Estimates say that 1-2 million people were there. The protests are still going on and will probably continue despite the pro-Ahmedinejad Guardian Council’s agreement to re-count. CNN had only minor coverage until Twitter users shamed them but using the hashtag #CNNFail which became a top trending topic that day. Since then CNN has been covering the protests extensively and even set up a webpage just for the Iran election. People are speaking of a cyber-revolution and are marvelling at the active role Twitter users have played, some staying up all night just to desemminate messages coming from inside Iran. Iranian government has attempted to block almost every online information-dessemination tool, and protesters have managed to find workdarounds almost everytime with the help of tech-savvy twitter users.

The question of whether or not the election was truly rigged is not one that we can answer for sure at this point. I agree that it is “curious” that Moussavi lost in his hometown and lost Azerbaijan even though he’s Azeri. This in addition to the many irregularities that have been pointed out (lost ballots, speed of anouncing results, immense number and diversity of those protesting the outcome, etc.) But it is not impossible for Ahmedinejad to have won. That is up to the Iranian people to decide.

Which is why I am satisfied with Obama’s relative silence on this matter. This situation provided ample opporunity to sensationalize the situation using Bush-esque rhetoric along the lines of “the Iranian people are following our example of democracy because they want to be free like us, we must support them or else the scary Muslims terrorists will win”.  Expectedly, it is the right-wing neocon republicans (yes, I realize those are all somewhat synonymous) that are criticizing Obama the most for not speaking up.

I don’t know how this situation will turn out. Nobody knows, despite those who may claim otherwise. A line was crossed the day the conflict turned violent – with several videos emerging on YouTube of unarmed civilians being shot (reportedly by Basij militia) and killed for no apparent reason. There has been a sudden increase in overnight Iran experts, and predictions are as varied as they come (e.g. a ballot recount that forces protesters to accept Nejad as winner and stop protesting, a power-sharing agreement between Nejad and Moussavi, an all-out revolution toppling the current regime, etc.). A key point is that the protests are slowly shifting away from a pro-Moussavi affair and towards an anti-Khamenei movement. This raises the question of whether even a power-sharing agreement would be enough to quell the protesters.

Related reading:

You can follow Tweets coming from Iran in real-time through http://iran.twazzup.com/

Article by Ibrahim Eissa (Arabic) http://dostor.org/ar/content/view/25133/64/

Article arguing that the Iran situation is an intra-Islamist conflict, and not a struggle between Islam and Western Secularism (English) http://arabicsource.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/what-islamist-backlash/

Op-Ed in NYT by Roger Cohen describing his experience there (English) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/opinion/21tehran.html?th&emc=th

An overview of the Iran situation by al-Masry al-Youm journalist Joseph Mayton (English) http://bit.ly/148gXl

Videos of the protests http://www.mideastyouth.com/2009/06/20/round-up-of-todays-protests-in-iran-from-youtube/

Op-ed in NYT about use of Twitter in the Iran protests http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/weekinreview/21cohenweb.html?_r=2

June 16, 2009 - Posted by | International Affairs, Media/Press

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