Following the Iranian Protests Online...
In response to an election that was supposed to be extremely close, hundreds of thousands of Iranians are pouring into the streets of Tehran to protest its official results (which showed a much larger than expected victory for Ahmadinejad, signaling "voting irregularities", otherwise known as election fraud). It is against the law in Iran for people to hold public protests.
For those of you who don't want to wait until tomorrow morning's newspaper to follow the breaking developments over there, here are a few ways to track the story online through citizen journalism.
- Twitter Search - Twitter is hands-down the best source of second-by-second information for breaking news in Iran. People on the ground and around the world are discussing every breaking update they can find using the #IranElection hashtag.
Twitter has become so essential in providing Iranians a media outlet that the website's scheduled maintenance last night was put off so as to not give the Iranian government a chance to censor the site's content.
Twitter has even become an organizing tool for the opposition, as Mousavi1388 has been posting the call for rallies in Tehran using the site.
Also, there has been a movement among Twitter users to change their avatar color to green as a show of support for the protesters.
- YouTube Videos - A simple YouTube search for terms like "Iran protests" or "Iran riots" will show you some incredible footage of what's happening without any of the filters imposed by the traditional media.
- First-hand Accounts in Blogs - If all cyberspace was good for was regurgitating the same material that the traditional media was putting out there, then why would we bother? Take advantage of the internet by reading first-hand accounts from people who are actually in Iran. One of the better blogs throughout this drama has been Revolutionary Road, if you need a place to get started.
- Flickr Images - For those of you who are more interested in photo journalism, Flickr is your scene. Again, a simple search for something like "Iran Riots 2009" will yield tons of results for you to sift through.
Many of these photos, posted by ordinary Iranians on the ground, also go a long way towards contradicting the government's claims that all of the protests have thus far been peaceful. Take a look and judge for yourself. This is citizen journalism at its finest.
What seems to be getting lost in this whole story is that, in the end, the results of the election probably won't even matter from our point of view. As much as the Western press would have us believe that these protesters are in favor of staging a new revolution to overthrow their theocratic government, the truth is that all of these protests are only a show of support for another politician who has also been approved of by Iran's clerical establishment. In other words, both candidates are the mullahs' guys. Mousavi may be slightly more "reformist" than Ahmadinejad, but he too was only allowed to run for the presidency after the mullahs approved him and judged that he would not pose any substantial threat to their rule.
The protests and riots are definitely a big deal for a society which hasn't seen this kind of anti-establishment fervor in decades. However, we ought to be careful not to look at this situation through a Western lens and interpret events as something other than what they are to the people who are living them.