Sunday, April 3, 2011

What happened in Iran in '09?

Yearning for freedom
In Iran there are hundreds of thousands (close to a million or so) in the street to protest rigged elections of June 2009. They yearn for freedom. The people protested in silence at times, so the regime couldn’t use what they say against them in the media, or have an excuse to use force to quell violence. It turned out they didn’t need an excuse and when the state began using force to break up the gatherings, it turned violent. At that point the state ended up shooting Neda. Neda Agha Soltan was a fiery young 27 year old in Iran who became activist only after the 2009 election debacle.
She was beautiful as you can see by the picture. She was often rebellious and defied the regulations against lipstick and high heel shoes at the university.
She was the subject of a shaky cell phone video that went viral (around the world via the internet in minutes). This was the moment that could have broken Iran’s leadership according to the HBO documentary For Neda. If there had been pressure from other heads of state, the people of Iran would have moved their liberty ball for at least a first down. Instead, when President Obama was asked to comment about the event, he commented that it was "tragic", and "there’s something fundamentally unjust" about what happened.
Well…that was powerful…good effort…look at him go…
Neda’s name means the voice and there isn’t anyone in Iran who doesn’t know her name. She definitely gave a voice to the opposition in Iran. There were people, after her death, so moved by the symbolism behind the event that there was a movement which manufactured and distributed thousands of masks with the image of Neda. It’s a spooky image to see that many gathered in the streets each with the same face. Some who were wearing the masks were also holding signs asking "Where is my voice?"
Neda’s family was offered pensions and benefits if they would admit that the demonstrators were the ones who shot Neda and not the government. They refused and now, as a result, her grave has been desecrated, having the headstone vandalized and toppled and gunfire tearing at her epitaph.
The reason I’m going to all the trouble to single out this story from Iran is to point out the level of control that regimes are capable of. That’s what it’s all about - control. There was a viable candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, opposing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent. So who voted for Ahmadinejad? All the hundreds of thousands in the street were supporters of the opposition candidate. No one knew anyone who actually voted for Ahmadinejad. Yet, he won the election in a landslide.

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