The revolution will be twittered, apparently.

June 14, 2009

More than a little off the usual path of this blog, probably, but I thought I’d touch upon this whole Iran thing. For those who haven’t heard about this yet, since Thursday’s election in Iran supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh have been protesting and rioting in the streets in Tehran and elsewhere (mainly cities), seemingly nonstop. Very, very scary stuff. This is because Ahmadinejad claimed victory, and the government said that he won in a landslide, which Mousavi supporters believe is untrue.

Beyond this, things get fuzzy. There are, of course, many Mousavi supporters claiming that the election was rigged, that ballot boxes from certain districts were burned or ordered burned, and other such happenings. At first I was worried that this was just a violent reaction to a real loss, and that Mousavi supporters were mistaking vast support within their own horizons for vast support nationwide. It seems more and more like the election was in fact rigged, though: apparently the voting tallies by region are all very similarly 2 to 1 in favor of Ahmadinejad, in city and rural areas alike, despite the fact that Mousavi was supposed to have much greater support in cities than Ahmadinejad. Also, the president of Iran’s election monitoring commission apparently rejected the results of the election Saturday night, even though the Government as a whole still claims the election is legitimate. As for the actual events outside of the election itself, things are even more fuzzy. Reporters for foreign media are being chased out of the country or arrested, and communications inside Iran are being blocked by the state, especially the internet, so we don’t really know that many reliable specifics outside of the general chaos.

Despite the communications block, some Iranians are still using proxies to get small bits of information outside of the country, which is why my night last night was so surreal. People who are managing to get to the internet were and still are, amazingly, Twittering. After I first heard about what was going on from my Blog-Hero Andrew Sullivan (who I strongly recommend reading, current revolution or not, though his coverage of these events is fantastic and thorough) last night, I followed this guy among other Twitter feeds for a couple of hours, along with scouring the internet for information. (Way to start covering two days into it, CNN!) The guy with the twitter feed I pointed out, especially, was incredibly surreal and scary to watch. He’s a university student at the University of Tehran, and was describing how the police were beating down on student protesters and breaking into dormitories. I mean, I saw this guy tweet nothing but the words “tear gas”, then go quiet for 20 minutes. Man. Not to mention listening to people crying “Death to the Dictator” on youtube.

I don’t know what to make of the whole situation yet–whether or not this is something that will be another 1979 for Iran, I can’t really tell, though I doubt anyone can at this point. I’ve got to wonder if Ahmadinejad and the old government could have much legitimacy after this, though. Nor am I sure that a vote that really did show at least some support for both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, even if it was rigged for the opposite of the true outcome, can rightfully start violent revolution in principle, though I guess revolutions always have factions within them. I can tell you, though, that this is probably going to be a gamechanger, and not just in Iran. It isn’t coincidental that Mousavi’s campaign and style lends itself to many similarities to Obama’s, in themes and in style, nor that Washington is walking over each piece of Iran election news on a tightrope. This one’s going to be very interesting beyond the timespan of the event itself, I think.

That said, I’ve been following this stuff like a hawk, so if you’re interested, want to know more or wanna talk about it, please do hit me with some communications. There is a lot more going on than what I’ve mentioned here. A couple more links: Photos and video. (Note: Very graphic stuff, here.)
A collection of all Twitter updates related to the riots and election. Updated insanely quickly and often.
The New York Times blog–good for seeing what’s happened so far.
Andrew Sullivan’s blog, the Daily Dish. As mentioned, he’s kind of my hero, and his blog’s a joy to read in general. Also some of the best coverage of this thing, though maybe a little bit biased. (I am probably am too, anyways.)

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