(Please note: The video linked to the Guardian article below, while not the complete video of Neda Soltani's death, is shocking, and I urge caution in viewing it.)
I'm surprised there hasn't been more (any?) discussion here about the dramatic events unfolding in Iran...do folks feel that what's happening there doesn't concern them? I know we're an LGBT-focused blog, but we're also global residents, living in a time of incredible change.
As well, folks are dying in Iran in an effort to make their votes count and voices heard. It seems the least we can do is pay attention, especially being Americans whose government set in motion more than half a century ago the events that led directly to what's happening today in Iran.
Moreover, many of us consider ourselves political activists. Although the official policies of the two front-running Iranian presidential candidates didn't differ that much during the campaign, the brutal, authoritarian tactics of the government since the election was stolen has enormously widened the gulf between the two sides.
Likewise, the groundbreaking amalgam of technology and grassroots resistance has changed the face of political activism for some time to come.
Demonstrators are using cell phones, Twitter, YouTube, and other technology not only to plan and coordinate protests and evade roadblocks, riot-police, Revolutionary Guards and government-sponsored thugs, but to circumvent the government's media blackout and offer a powerful alternative narrative to the government's official story. To back it up, activists and everyday people both are providing video, photos, and moment-to-moment text messages of what's going on.
The twitter feed "persiankiwi" is a great example, among others, of what's possible, communicating as it does incredibly immediate, electrifying, and riveting snapshots of a revolution in the making.
The technology seems democratic in the extreme, proving as it does vexing if not impossible for authorities to counter or shutdown. As quickly as the police block one technological avenue, protesters open another, moving from house to house, computer to computer, roof top to roof top. They strip phones of sim cards to avoid betraying friends and supporters if arrested, but then use the phones to take photos, record video, and transmit the images via Bluetooth or USB cable. Once the pictures hit the internet, they're essentially irrepressible. Remove one video from online, someone else re-posts it. Meanwhile, supporters across the globe chime in with encouraging messages, disseminate ("retweet") information and updates, such as the names of embassies who are taking in wounded, and change their Twitter time zones and locations to Iran's to confuse security forces. Proxies and servers are set up, to replace those shut down by the authorities.
And now, as a direct result of this technology, the revolution has a martyr. Neda Soltani, 26, was tragically murdered on Saturday. Within minutes, a video showing her death--filmed on a cell phone and transmitted to an Iranian asylum-seeker in the Netherlands--raced virally across the internet and throughout the world.
Without the new technology, it's likely that Neda's death would have had little impact beyond her immediate friends and family. With it, she has become a galvanizing and powerful symbol.
I heard about her death first on Saturday morning my time via Twitter, and initially regarded the story with skepticism. The next day, I saw what I thought was the complete video. Therefore yesterday, when I was surfing for news and saw a link, I clicked and hit play, thinking to watch it again. Only to realize, too late, that I hadn't seen the entire video.
It's very short--11 seconds?--and absolutely gut wrenching. I wish I hadn't watched it. It has haunted me ever since.
As much death as I've seen, and for an American my age it is a lot, I'd never before seen the instant when a person goes from living to...not. Neda's eyes, as she lays on her back on the street, blood pooling under her, are panicked, then suddenly, there's nothing. They're blank. An instant later, blood pours from her mouth. It's horrifying. Especially to see someone so young and full of promise die so violently, tragically, and--in many regards--needlessly. What? So a cabal of scared, old, superstitious men can try desperately to retain their grasp on power and wealth?!
It is no wonder that her death has galvanized the world, as well as the resistance movement in Iran. The death of this gifted, beautiful, idealistic, and beloved daughter, cut down in her prime and broadcast across the globe, has ensured that the days of the current Iranian regime are numbered. Some 70% of Iran's population is under the age of 30. The government of such a democratcally-minded people simply cannot commit an atrocity of such magnitude on camera and survive. Their demise may take weeks or months, maybe even years, to play out--although I doubt it. And who knows how many more innocent lives will be prematurely ended.
But the cabal has lost.