Iran and Me

London Protests

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have noticed that the bulk of my output has been about the current crisis and government brutality in Iran. Some probably find it overwhelming and maybe considered unfollowing me (and I don’t have a problem with that) and some have written to be to say how much they appreciate my updates.

Firstly, why Iran? I’m appalled by the situation in Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe. I’m concerned about the regime in China and the treatment of religious minorities in many parts of the world (Christians in Eritrea for example). Why don’t I bang on about them all the time? Well I do, just not as much. The difference is that I felt, and feel, like I could make a difference. Was I kidding myself? Who knows?

The situation in Iran is terrifying but the protest is also inspiring. It shows people power at its best standing up to a terribly repressive, brutal and deceitful regime. Iran has suffered under the Shah and under the Mullahs but Iranians are capable, resourceful people.

Iran has a relatively young population who are relatively computer literate and a high proportion of social network users. I heard Farsi was the second most common language on the net. It has a rich history of culture, art and civilisation (well so do lots of countries but not all have faced the kind of brutal social repression that Iran has faced. Surely the time of the Mullahs is limited now when clearly most of the country realises their lies and wants more of what we in the West take for granted – freedom.

It’s no surprise that Iran hates Britain. There are valid historical reasons for hating Britain; not least Britain’s imposition of a puppet Shah. The reason that the Mullahs hate Britain so much now though is more because the following values are, rightly or wrongly, associated with Britain as defining characteristics:

  • respect for the law
  • tolerance of difference
  • valuing democracy
  • Equal rights

All are plainly in opposition to the values held by the puppet tyrant Ahmedinejad and the dictator Khamenei – they see them as a threat.

I feel I can make a difference in the Green Revolution because I hear first hand from protesters in Iran and Twitter, in particular, was proving invaluable in getting news in, out and around Iran. People tweet me details and I pass them on, reaching more people in Iran and the world and keeping Iran at the top of the agenda when the global community so quickly forgets. I am also able to encourage Iranians involved in the process and help them directly with information.

Guardian article on Iran and Twitter

It seems (or perhaps seemed as now I more frequently despair over the brutality of the government oppression) like a turning point in world affairs. Would Tiananmen Square have been the same with Twitter and Youtube, what about Burma, North Korea? Some conservative American politicians have demonised Iran but what this makes clear to all is that it is the government which is dangerous and unhinged not the people.

There are some great and well informed commentators to follow on twitter. I’m not going to name any sources actually in Iran but I would recommend following @StopAhmadi, @aefpix, @dominiquerdr, @EileenLeft, @DeepVision, @Jason_Pollock, @Amysco and @lotfan.

There are occasionally unconfirmed and unsubstantiated rumours that fly around: this is an information war. Anyone even thinking of retweeting Iran related material has got to keep their BS filter activated. Many pro-government and government instigators post false information occasionally posting as protesters and trying to entrap protesters and occasionally a rumour can spread like wildfire but prove false. I am spending a large amount of time and energy on this though and what I retweet can usually be relied upon to the best of my knowledge and skill.

Recently I have become a little overcome with sadness at the brutality I’ve heard used against the protesters. The government has used torture, forced confession, chemical agents, indiscriminate beating and shooting, large-scale detention camps, put agents in hospitals to arrest those with bullet or other wounds, tear gas and other things. They will hold onto power by any means. They are scouring Twitter to track people down, arresting or beating anyone using a mobile phone; destroying property; attacking women and children and using foreign terrorism groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas to attack protesters – even peaceful vigils. I get messages from people and wonder if it is the last that I will hear from them. I am sustained only my my faith, my family and the conviction that the right side will win in the end.

The other thing I have had to be mindful of is linking to graphically violent images or videos. I have seen things which have traumatised me. I have tried not to link to things directly but once, sadly, linked to a particularly gruesome image which one of my friends, using a different Twitter client which auto-previewed it saw – rendering my warning (like on the above Neda video) useless for him.

I’ve been down to the protests at the Iran embassy which were a gut-wrenchingly powerful emotional experience. I was taken that the London protesters were 99.9% Iranian and there were lots of them – so passionate. They translated Farsi for me – though many assumed I was Iranian and spoke Farsi and were very organised. They handed out banners and water for people to drink. They will be there every day for a while and I pray that they will have a free-er Iran one day.

Neda and Hitler

Neda is a suitable figurehead because women are playing a key role in the protests; I saw women leading the London protests and they have been playing a pivotal role throughout Iran.

What can we do?

  • If you know any Iranians make sure you talk to them and offer them your support
  • If you’re on Twitter you can make your profile green. Some might think that meaningless but the people I’ve spoken with in Iran have been very grateful for knowing the rest of the world cares and the green avatars make that very visible.
  • If you use Twitter, change your profile address to Tehran and your timezone to Tehran GMT +3 hours to confuse Iran government searches – I know it confuses me!
  • If you know an Iranian source please don’t retweet any of their stuff without removing the username of the source.
  • Don’t retweet anything without thinking long and hard about its reliability
  • Try to think of your tweet’s impact on those in Iran who are reading it
  • Pray, if you believe in God
  • Make sure your colleagues at work and people in the community know what is going on in Iran
  • Useful Links
    Paulo Coelho’s blog
    Iranian Blog
    Who was Neda?
    Some amazing pictures
    Iran Revolution
    Stunning picture
    Fake Iranian Election Tweeters
    Must-read letter in NY Times
    Huffington Post Iran Live Blogging
    Was there a coup in Iran?
    How the Iranian Diaspora can help

    My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Iran.

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