Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran, so far away

I've been distracted for the past couple of days by events in Iran. I wish I could say I'd been following the politics and events in that country more closely for a long time, but the truth is that I, like too many of my fellow Americans, have only been taking in the drips and drabs coming through our more mainstream media outlets.

Which isn't to say that I consider myself completely ignorant of what's going on over there, or of that nation's history. But considering how important a role Iran has played in the region--both negative and not--it's a shame that all many Americans seem to know about it is that we don't want them to have nuclear capabilities.

And rightfully so! With Ahmadinejad and his ilk in charge of anything, it wouldn't be much of a safe bet. But it was entirely likely that the majority of the people of Iran were finished with him, and the prevailing wisdom in this past weekend's elections seemed to be that challenger and reformer Mir Hossein Mousavi would become the next president. Iran was ready for change.

Only, Ahmadinejad and his supporters appear to have thwarted the will of the people. The election results were announced by state media just hours after polls closed--despite many of the ballots being cast by hand, and the lengthy logistics related to counting them. Irregularities in the process cropped up almost immediately. And in great numbers.

In response, hundreds of thousands--if not millions--of Iranians have taken to the streets in protest, facing violence from angry mobs of Ahmadinejad supporters (most notably the Basij) and even death. It's a monumental event, perhaps the largest protest in the history of the country, and a clear-cut demonstration that many, many Iranians are tired of the far-right, inflammatory ways and words of Ahmadinejad.

If there was a time for those of us who believe in democracy and the freedom of people to live as they wish to stand up with and for everyday Iranians, this is it.

And yet, our mainstream media has so far done a relatively piss-poor job of covering what's going on. Instead, the best way to get real, up-to-date information and analyses is via Twitter, blogs, and some international press.

Andrew Sullivan, blogging for the Atlantic, has long been keen on current events in Iran, and his continuing coverage of the elections has been stellar.

Tehran Bureau, whose website crashed for unknown reasons (but has since found a re-route through an alternate server), has been diligently updating their Twitter account with news from on the ground.

The only bright spot in CNN's coverage, or lack thereof, was Fareed Zakaria's program on Sunday that featuring on-the-ground reporting from Christiane Amanpour (aka My Favorite Journalist) and some very decent in-studio analysis.

Point is, you've got to go to new and/or international media sources to get decent coverage of important events happening outside of the US these days (and sometimes inside the US, too). For all of the hullabaloo about the "death of traditional media," it doesn't appear that many traditional media outlets are doing much to help their case.

Anyway, I wanted to express my solidarity with and support for the protesters in Iran who are seeking a more meaningful and honest democracy. It's especially impressive when you realize the seriousness of the consequences often faced by those willing to stick up for something other than the hard line. It makes something of already great importance all the more crucial.

EDIT TO ADD: Read this article for a much more in-depth description of the power politics at play in this election, and how it's all breaking down.

(photo by .faramarz on Flickr)


Anonymous said...

A political Analysis
Irans Chamenei`s endorsement of Ahmadinedschaft looks like a bet on the wrong horse. The people are sick and tired of "Ahmadi" for various reasons,mainly the runnaway inflation a missmanaged economy and for kicking iran out of the international community. My prediction is due to the fact that this is a real threat to the Ajatollas,they will decide to have a new election to maintain in power.

Anonymous said...

hehe nice title. if it wasn't for my annoying need for a "real" job, i'd still be rocking a Seagull hairdo.

i feel a little sick at the way that the Iranian elections are being covered myself. i can see many potentially good things coming from the generational shift over there, though. the vast majority of votes against Ahmadinnajacket ( or for Moussavi) were from younger voters. much like our election in November, this shows that younger voters will shift the balance of powers in the long term, if not the short term. this is true, however, only if they are shown international support for their views and rights.if they lose this battle, and don't see any support from those outside their own country, i believe many will become disillusioned and may revert to a "what can you do?" sort of mind set. that said, i was heartened by Obama's staement that it is the responsibility of Iranians to choose their own leaders, not the U.S. Bush would have called for mobilization and "liberation"

George H. said...

I am following on the Guardian website. Agreed: More news sources necessary. Read the McClatchy stuff, too. Background is that few media can afford to cover overseas these days. If you drink lite beer, you may be satisfied with Twitter. Support for the media that cover these things in detail and depth would be nice, and if you don't see it, ASK for it. Sometimes all it takes is someone in charge knowing that people are interested in more coverage of a certain issue. I think Iran is a Big Story and I am asking for more, too. Good issue, Emily.

The Lost Albatross