Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran Election Protests

I've been entranced by the goings-on in Iran for the past week, unable to stop seeking updates, and hoping for a peaceful, positive outcome for the brave souls who are willing to die for change. But I also know that the Supreme Leader is not likely to relinquish his grip gracefully.

The latest update from the BBC's website reports 10 additional deaths, the arrest of one opposition leader's family, and the use of tear gas and water cannon to prevent protesters from gathering. But their coverage, like everyone else's, is riddled with words that reflect the restrictions placed on them by the Iranian government. It's difficult, if not impossible, to verify what's happening, when the next protest will be, how many are dead. Even the eyewitness accounts can't do that -- as valuable and visceral as they are, they're too fragmented.

And that's been the most enthralling thing to me about this struggle: the unprecendented access to the voices of the people fighting this battle, from this amazing collection of young voices on the BBC's site to the Guardian's excellent aggregation of traditional media, social media, and items being e-mailed to them from inside Iran. Much is being made of the inadequacy of the traditional news media coverage of this story, but to me, it's fitting that it should be the people who figure out a way to get the story out by any technological means necessary.

One of those means has its origins in China: it's a piece of software designed by exiled members of Falun Gong to get around Chinese censorship. It "takes a surfer to an overseas server that changes I.P. addresses every second or so, too quickly for a government to block it, and then from there to a banned site." Thus the blockade of sites such as Twitter and YouTube is circumvented, and the world receives stunning images of people, struggle, hope and violence.

It is fascinating to me that the country that brought us Tiananmen also spawned a piece of technology that's illuminating a situation that has the potential to become another Tiananmen. Mowgli and I were discussing that scary potential last week, and when I said that I hoped it didn't go that way, he said he didn't think it would. With all my heart, I hope he's right.

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