Islamic Republic: 1979-2009(?)
Not long after the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, the young people of Iran are on the streets protesting autocracy in their country. In 2009 I root for these young people just as I cheered on the young people of the Eastern Bloc in 1989.
The best video footage I have been able to find is from John Simpson with the BBC. The government is cracking down hard, beating people in the streets, and blocking communication, but all the same, people are spontaneously gathering in the streets and fighting back. There are stories and even video of police riding motorcycles in to scare crowds, who then turn on the motorcycles and leave them burning in the streets. As John Simpson points out, Iranians have since upped the ante and are driving their cars to block the streets: it is harder for riot police to thrash you that way.
Iran’s future: who does it belong to? (CC: Faramarz Hashemi)
SMS, web sites, and satellite TV are blocked as the mullahs broadcast reassuring images from Ahmadinejad’s victory rallies on domestic television. The government seems to be nervously botching the thing, because soon after the polls closed they very quickly announced lopsided election results. Why bother to even count the votes and fudge the figures if you think you may lose badly: just jump straight into repressive crackdown.
The political opposition is acting in unity. According to The New York Times, “opposition leaders have cataloged a list of what they call election violations and irregularities in the vote, which most observers had expected to go to a second-round runoff . . . Two of the three opposition candidates and a clerical group issued fresh statements requesting an annulment of the election on Friday . . . Those resisting the election results gained a potentially important new ally on Sunday when a moderate clerical body, the Association of Combatant Clergy, issued a statement posted on reformist Web sites saying that the vote was rigged and calling for it to be annulled.”
I saw one blog post that mentioned that it was student protests in 1979 that led to the overthrow of the Shah and the birth of the Islamic Republic. The rapidity with which that entrenched autocracy was overthrown and replaced surprised the world then. Today Iran has a 30% unemployment rate which means a lot of young people full of passion that their best years not be wasted, with plenty of free time to organize, with or without the advantages of SMS technology.
So, this week will be interesting: the progressive elements within Iran will fight hard and win some sort of victory, or they will be beaten down with greater ferocity. Although I have no power in the matter, I know who I am rooting for.