Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tehran's Election Aftermath

I've been sitting at my computer most of the afternoon, riveted to the screen. I have at least seven windows open, all tracking independent news sites, Twitter feeds, YouTube and Facebook videos, and contraband BBC coverage. All of it is covering the reaction to the announcement that Ahmadinejad has been reelected president of Iran. For the past two days, there's been thousands of people roaming the streets in Iranian cities and armed guards and secret police beating people left and right.

Unlike other serious news events that I grew up learning about in the past tense, this is unfolding around me. Every time I refresh the pages, there's more video. More fires, more wounds, more shouting. It makes everything feel like it's happening just past my fingertips, even though it's thousands of miles away.

It's the 21st-century equivalent of reading Anne Frank's diary to read repeated messages from a guy who locked himself in his house and reports about riot police storming down the streets beating people while voices cry out for help.

As immersive as this information is, I think people (myself included) have to be careful about aggrandizing the events. Is this a country-wide revolution? No. Is this even a significant minority of the population, or just a few people in one place? I can't say. The major news networks have some stories, but they're very hands-off and detached. Is that because they don't want to fan people over some minor incidents? Or is it because Iran confiscated NBC's equipment, disrupted most internet and cell phone sites and traffic into and out of Tehran, and kicked the BBC out?

As an armchair watcher, I have no idea.

All I can say is that hearing reports of men and women standing on their roofs at 2 and 4 AM local time and shouting "Marg bar diktator" ("Down with the dictator") and Allahu Ahkbar ("God is great") such as previously happened in the 1979 revolution, is sobering.

Hearing the actual videos is even more so.

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