A Twitter in Tehran

A high tech game of subterfuge has unfolded in Tehran, as social media savvy Iranians work to keep one step ahead of their government.  Through social media and cell phones they are sharing at the scene experiences of the social unrest and protests in Tehran.  This explosion of street protests began after the contested results of the country’s June 12 election were announced in less than 2 hours with incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the victor over Mir Hossain Moussavi.  As of June 13 Iranian protesters have taken to the street to protest against alleged election fraud.  Social media sites Facebook and Twitter had added Farsi to their list of services, while YouTube is allowing the posting of graphic images taken from the streets of Tehran. The media age of Iran’s 70 million citizens is 24 years old – a group that is conversant in the use of social media. whereismyvotegroups

From sites including DigiActive, a guide to Twitter for Activism, Irainian ex-pats have learned different techniques to assist their fellow Iranians. Twitter uses are providing “cover'” by changing their time zone settings and locale information to appear as if they reside in Iran.  There have been conflicting reports of how effective this technique is inside Iran.  The June 17th on-line article in BusinessWeek noted that word of mouth, SMS text messages, and phone calls are galvanizing the suporters of Moussavi.  Social media has been dramatically effective in keeping the media’s attention focused on activities inside Iran.  On Friday, June 19, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced in a speech at Tehran University that street protests must stop and declared that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election fairly.  This speech has subdued some Iranians, but others took to the streets on Saturday with deadly results.


Female protestors in Iran

Iranian women have been on the front lines of the protest movement.  Sadly, a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan was killed during Saturday’s street protests.  Her death has become a rallying cry for Iran and has sparked protests against the Revolutionary Guard and Basij violence against the Iranian people around the globe.


Today, on June 22, the protests are continuing in the streets of Tehran and throughout Iran.  Current Iranian leadership is well aware of the power of public protest – they were part of the movement of 1979 that rose up against the Shah of Iran in a Revolution galvanized by Ayatollah Khoneini.  The people of Iran, coupled with the accesibility of social media, the mainstream news media, global support and their courage must continue their protests to realize true reform.  Sadly, there will be more lives lost in this struggle and the outcome is unclear.  But we must never lose hope for justice and freedom  for all of Iran’s citizens.

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