So I drive back and forth from MN to Chicago frequently, which takes about 6-8 hours depending on traffic. About an hour into WI, the radio turns into religious music and country (both of which I can listen to for about two seconds). This means I end up listening to NPR for about 5 hours each way. Which I love, because I worship NPR, but it also can make me very solemn, sad, pensive, outraged and bitter, concerned and motivated. Yet this isn’t a review of NPR…
On my last trip the major topic was the Iranian “election”, the peaceful protests and not-so peaceful Iranian government reaction and the death of a young and beautiful woman, Neda. I listen to scholars, ambassadors, politicians, the American public, President Obama and Iranians express their horrors, disbelief and condemnation for the brutal actions that led to this woman’s death. But amidst the tragedy, there was an underlying feeling of awe and humble respect for this woman; she has emerged as a casualty for peace and an instantly iconic image that symbolizes the brutality of the Iranian regime.
I learned that two-thirds of the Iranian population are currently under 30-years old. The younger generation don’t remember the days of the revolutionary movement, or have the same allegiance to the current theocratic/political order that the older generation does. A major point of discussion was not just the current struggle that Iranians are enduring, but that the death of Neda, has moved the focal point of this movement to the power and presence that women currently have in this institution. In the last 30 years, women have been the primary victims of the revolutionary government; they lost a lot of the rights and freedoms before their 1979 revolution. During the Iran/Iraq War, the men became soldiers and many women had the opportunity to go to school, become educated and learn valuable skills. Though they still did not have the same freedoms of self-expression, they became an important source of intelligence and capability. Iranian women, it seems, have been protesting more visibly despite or possibly because of the patriarchal restrictions on their rights.
There are some images that are so striking a shocking that they instantly make a mark inside your consciousness. The looped footage from 9/11 and young kids being blasted by fire-hoses for wanting their civil rights come to mind. The cell-phone video of Neda’s death was one such image. The short and grainy video undermines any claim to moral legitimacy that might come from the Ayatollah’s regime. I say the Ayatollah, because Iran really has two governments. Or more accurately, Iran has many different governmental interests that have carved out their own governmental role. In the Iranian ‘theocratic republic’, the elected secular government is subservient to the religious authorities. And most importantly, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader.
Just hours after the cell-phone video was captured, it was emailed to Iranian expats and sympathizers around the world. The video can be seen as a powerfully aimed stone, shot with the combined speed and effort of millions of internet views, that knocks the Goliath theocratic-dictatorship to its knees. Repressive regimes around the world are taking notice. The regime has quarantined the press to their rooms, rigged a national election, and unleashed thousands of machine-gun and baton-wielding militia on their own people. But this is 2009, and the world now has video-sharing and social networking websites and most importantly, cell-phone’s with video capability. As one text-message eulogy about Neda said it best, “She died with her eyes open, how many of us live with our eyes closed?” Perhaps cell-phones can finally make the internet truly revolutionary.
What did you think of this review?