Monday, June 15, 2009
History in the Present Tense
Absolutely amazing. Breathtaking. Awe inspiring. I need more cliches to describe this. Iran is erupting in protests over almost certainly faked-election results: the incumbent Ahmadinejad appears to have rigged the election to prevent his defeat by the reform candidate Mousavi (whose supporters wear green, explaining the sea of that color in all the videos and pictures). Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest, and it sends chills down my spine the more I read about it. These people are getting beaten by state police and plain-clothes policemen, people are being killed, but they are standing up and not taking it. It is stunning. This in a country that only a few years ago was declared part of Bush's new axis of evil (though the broad stroke lacked the nuance one might desire from our head of state, he definitely had a point: the country hasn't been doing too much right recently). A country where candidates in presidential elections have to be OK'ed by the unelected religious clerics. A country whose president has denied the Holocaust and called the US a western devil and who knows what all else. This. Is. HUGE. Included below is one of the best raw, powerful videos I've seen yet on youtube of what's going on; it was taken earlier today (Monday) in a large square in Tehran where Mousavi spoke. Huge crowds, chanting, the sounds of freedom.
This next clip shows Mousavi a bit as well:
One of the most important sources of information (though by nature also fragmented and prone to rumor and exaggeration) has been Twitter, believe it or not. Here's a link to a collection of tweets from Iranians (warning: includes two pics of bloody protesters). Yes, they're out of context, they're short--but they're first-hand accounts of the panic and elation that is coursing through the Iranian people right now.
From the videos I've seen, there has been some violence on the part of protesters, though it seems remarkably little compared to the beatings they seem to be enduring. I've seen a few fires burning and some rock throwing, but at the same time there have been amazing pictures of protesters shepherding lone riot police who have gotten caught in the midst of the hostile public to safety (pictured at top--see another similar incident, in video form, here). The Iranians are hungry for democracy, and by and large they are going about it peacefully. If the regime keeps responding with force, though, I don't know how long it will stay non-violent.
Right now I'm praying for a relatively peaceful outcome and for the will of the people to ultimately prevail. And of course keeping up with the latest every chance I get. I've seen amazing coverage from The Daily Dish (actually the same blog that had the great series on abortion I mentioned in my previous post), Andrew Sullivan there has been all over every new angle as it unfolds. FiveThirtyEight.com has also had some great coverage of the statistics of the election, with this post being a great example. BBC and NPR are also covering things pretty well. The perennially superb Big Picture blog also has a great collection of photographs which show protestors being beaten, fighting back, marching peacefully, the aftermath of raids on Tehran University, and more.
Again, this is amazing. We are either witnessing the birth of a much more direct democracy or about to see a regime strike hard against its own people. Let's hope this is more of a USSR falling thing rather than a Burma or Tiananmen Square thing. I certainly hope so.