Dedicated to the memory of Neda.
On 12th June 2009, the people of Iran went to the polls to elect the president of their choosing. It was, once other candidates dropped out of the running, largely a two candidate race between the established president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
Unlike the US president or the British prime minister, the Iranian president is not the first in command of his nation, but second. The primary office of Supreme Leader is currently held by Ali Khamenei, successor to the infamous Ayatollah Khomeni.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is very hostile to the West, arguing that our sanctions, oimposed after the US-Iran War, are too harsh, and calls for Isreal to be wiped off the map.
He has also called for a population expansion programme, aiming to abolish reccomendations to keep families small and limit couples to a maximum of two children, in moves not unlike those practiced in China. By scrapping this, with the belief that his country can easily support another 70 million people, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad risks giving Iran too many mouths to feed at a time when they already have a crippling inflation problem. His policies will also cause problems for women, as he calls for husbands to be able to take in second wives if desired. His human rights record, especially in relation to dissidents, is very poor, according to groups like Amnesty International. He is also acused of Holocaust denial.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi is a former president of Iran, though he stepped down from office 20 years ago, having been unpopular with the Ayatollah Khomenii. Mir-Hossein Mousavi was a shrewd econonomist, who was not happy to keep his country isolated and unwilling to compromise with the West, and he was instrumental in freeing the American hostages held in Iran, as the Carter administration ended in the US.
His entry into the 2009 election was a bolt out of the blue, and he campaigned with promises to end corruption, improve the economic stagnation of his country, and adopt a more liberal approach to justice and social reform. He wanted to free the Iranian TV networks from State control. He was also campaigning for greater women’s equality. He is more supportive towards Isreal and clearly shows willingness to work with US president Barack Obama.
Whoever won the president would still be answerable to Ali Khamenei and his ruling council. Mir-Hossein Mousavi had secured office after criticizing Khomeni’s human rights abuses, but Khamenei, a Muslim cleric, was to prove to be a hard line opponant of dissenters himself, though not as extreme as his predecessor. His conservative outlook is closer to the spirit of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than to that of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and he has stood by the 2009 election winner solidly.
It is the Supreme leader who controls the Iranian army – not the President, so it is primarily Ali Khamenei’s decision making that releases war upon the people of Iran.
ELECTION RIGGING ACCUSATIONS
Not surprisingly, Mir-Hossein Mousavi was the favoured candidate in the West, and it seems many in Iran love him too, so the loss to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his two third majority election landslide victory provoked considerable anger and disbelief. This was not just sour grapes by a poor loser as many indepebdent observers expressed concerns about irregularities in the way the election was conducted. Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s campaign office in Qam, Iran, was burnt down a short time before the election, . electronic phone jamming devises were used to block celll phones on election day, even affecting BBC coverage of the election, and access to Facebook was stopped throughout much of Iran.
The electoral turn out was high and most opinon polls gave Mousavi the majority claimed by his opponant. According to news reports quoted on Wikipedia “In two Conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of more than 100% was recorded”, – in other words, there were more votes counted in those towns than there were people who were entitled to vote – that shows clear electoral fraud.
Protests began in considerable anger as soon as the results came out, and they were initially peaceful, but the situation soon changed as tension reached fever pitch. Mousavi himself beseeched his supporters to remain calm and refrain from violence, though some undoubtedly lit fires and broke windows. On the 15th of June, millions of people took to the streets, with Mousavi addressing his supporters directly, imploring them to avoid violence, and both sides reported a near total absense of violence and vandalism.
As night fell, and the protesters peacefully dispersed to go to their homes, the situation changed. The Basij. The Supreme Ruler’s feared paramilitary militia forces, moved in and targetted several isolated groups of protesters, injuring several and killing at least one.
Undettered, protesters reconvened the next day, and each dayy after, often colliding with rival protest groups set up to represent Ahmadinejad, and clashing with the Basij. The government have imported Lebanese mercenaries and other hard-line foreign supporters to assist their ongoing crackdown on the dissidents and supporters of Mousav. As well as attacks on demonstrators, many prominent dissidents and students have been arrested in their homes, and many are simply disappearing without trace of their current wherabouts.
The State are controlling the media and much of the international press are finding it hard to break the story, but the online community, especially on Twitter, are finding ways to break the news and interact with the outside World as never before. The protests and counter-violence escalate daily now, with the Western media largely dumbimg down the scale of the attrocities being imposed on the pro-democrasy supporters. For many, the election was so rigged it amounts to a coup, with the democrats forced into the role of counter-revolutionaries, and Iran should be seen as being in a state of civil war.
TWITTER AT WAR
The extent of social media coverage in this pro-democracy revolution is extra-ordinary and unprecedented. History is being made before our eyes, and our own tweets contribute some modest way towards it. . Normally, peaceful protests outside a war zone, and from countries beyond the war’s borders will amount to petitioning, rallies, marches on embassies, letters to MP’s and attempting to get word out through a largely indifferent media. Here, the online community is having a direct say and impact on events – so much so that some pro-Iranian government officials blame Twitter for stirring up the conflict. Twitter, and to a lesser extent, other social network groups, allows Twitterers to communicate directly with the people at the heart of the conflict. Many are watching and offering support to the frightened but determined front line protesters. Others are directly tweeting the government and army and its supporters, calling on them to stop the slaughter. Imagine what that must be like by thinking what you might have said had it been possible to tweet allied army or Resistance relatives fighting in Normandy in 1944, or being able to directly communicate your feelings to the SS, Gestapo, or right to Hitler. That is in effect the kind of power twitterers have with this crisis – It’s a far cry from being in danger of being shot or subjected to chemical attack as happens to be the case every minute in the front line, but twittering has power and it is making a difference mostly in favour of humanitarianism and peace.
Direct statements from people under fire as the protesters came under attack bring the situation home with powerful immediacy. Claims that helicopters were spraying corrosive acid chemicals on protesters causing skin to blister are frequent. This is on top of the use of water cannons, riot batons and increasing use of live round bullets. Tanks have also been reported as appearing on the streets.
Twitterers from outside of Tehran have struggled to maintain contact with family and friend caught up in the conflict. There are many heart wrenching requests for information on people who have lost touch in the chaos.
Some tweets have offered potentially life saving advice, such as information on how to treat tear gas inflammation and chemical burns, i.e., using vinegar rather than water. One chilling piece of advice is for the injured to be taken to the embassies and not to hospitals, as the army are attacking patients showing symptoms acquired by being in the protests. Twitterers are pressuring the embassies to keep their gates open for refugees, and calling for blood supplies and doctors to head for the embassies too. Austrian and Italian embassies are proving very supportive to the injured.
Scarily, the army has picked up on the trend and they are positioning troops between protesters and the embassies, in effect, putting the wounded at greater risk of dying from injuries that could be healed in most circumstances. This is paramount to attempted genocide.
Many Iranian protesters are stating a willingness to embrace martyrdom, though it is hoped that injuries and fatalities will remain low in numbers.
Youtube and other video broadcasting media systems online have been used to show videos of some of the terrifying events in the front lines, including the awful gun-shot death of a young woman called Neda while her grieving family and friends watch helplessly. http://tinyurl.com/m5bmwu
Here is a comment by a doctor who tried in vain to help her.
At 19:05 June 20th
Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim's chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about 1 kilometres away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gas used among them, towards Salehi St. My friend who was standing beside me shoots the film.
Some twitterers are taking unusual steps to show solidarity with the Iranian democracy supporters by having their profile pictures shaded in Green and / or having their computer time settings reset to Iranian time. I haven’t done that as I have too much online activity not relating to this crisis, but I do feel committed to supporting the call for peaceful protests in favour of some form of democracy.
Some hackers from the West have used Denial Of Service Attacks to interfere with Iranian government web and phone Internet access, but they may also be interfering with the pro-democracy web users unaffected by widespread government censorship of the Internet too.
Another problem is that the flood of messages of international support have made it harder to pinpoint messages coming out from the front lines, and some spammers have noticed the popularity of the Tehran and Iranelection threads on Twitter enough to start posting messages with Tehran – Buy Our I Phones Model xxx (followed by an appropriate sales website address) With this type of insidious junk getting into the mix. The battle-lines become very difficult to read.
I see my limited stance as entirely humanitarian. My Twitter posts have been retweets of interesting and moving messages from the front lines, and messages of support for the pro-democracy side. I have also sent direct messages expressing my anger to the supporters of the government regime.
SOME OF MY TWEETS ON THE CRISIS
10 Youtubes charting the #iranelection protests and counter-protests http://bit.ly/2jVzr (NB - this includes the Neda video linked above)
@AmnestyOnline iranelection protesters could use passive resistance & the World must press for peaceful resolutions rather than revolution
Make your feelings about attacks on innocent Iranian civilians known directly to the Iranian government here @iransource45 #iramelection
@iransource45 You’re outnumbered by love. By firing on your own Iranian people you lose – you cannot win this. Go – just go.
TWEETS I’VE READ ON THE CRISIS
EllyGoodman: '140 characters is a novel when you're being shot at' #iranelection
ArmandoValle: Change your twitter location to Tehran, Iran, GMT +330 temporarily all! It makes it difficult for the regime there to block bloggers
oli2be: Al-Arabia reporting that Iranian clerics looking to replace Khamenei http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/06/21/76567.html #iranelection
THE ELECTION COVERAGE ON WIKIPEDIA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_presidential_election,_2009
ADVICE TO PROTESTERS improving your effectiveness and survival chances.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
LINK TO THIS PAGE http://arthurchappell.me.uk/iran.election.bloodshed.2009.htm
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