President Obama was right not to act in defense of Iranians protesting a fraudulent presidential election June 12. They will fight their own battle, and don’t need the U.S. meddling in what is sure to be recorded as the second Iranian Revolution. Indeed, Iranian history is repeating itself, but Americans can help document current events in that country without influencing them.
The extremely conservative ruling government has effectively shut down channels of communication needed to share news warning citizens of violence and alerting them to action. President Ahmadinejad, who was re-elected in the fraudulent election, and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, censor local media so heavily that cell phone reception was scrambled on election day. Those control methods are powerful tools the government seeks to expand.
Even Facebook.com groups that supported Ahmadinejad’s political opponents were blocked, and Tehran-based Twitter.com, Youtube.com and Flickr.com accounts were compromised. The list goes on.
Twitter users in Tehran risk their lives reporting the cries of revolution using 140 characters or less. The information they have is so valuable that our own government is monitoring the sites to document the live updates.
In response to the censorship, thousands of Twitter users have changed their location to Tehran to confuse and hopefully slow the process. Young Americans should tune in to this form of humanitarian aid because we are fully equipped to listen to or even join the international conversation.
The cause of the protests was a fraudulent presidential election polarized by two heads of the same political coin. Young people and especially women turned out in historical numbers to elect themselves some of the freedoms they remember from before the current government took control.
That government conducted a recount of 10 percent of the votes earlier this week and declared themselves the victors once more. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the president’s closest opponent, claims that 14 million ballots went missing before they were counted. Tally numbers for a third-party candidate were shown decreasing on live TV. Results of the recount matter not because Ahmadinejad wins every time.
We need to listen to Iranians whose only hope of being heard hinges on a dodgy Internet connection. Watch videos of the protests on Youtube. Track news about Tehran and the Iran elections on Twitter and do a blog search for similar news items. Start by following TehranBureau on Twitter, a reliable and frequently updated account dedicated to Iran coverage.
Whitney Hodgin is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to email@example.com.