Iran after the elections: 19 June 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hi - if you're here due to a Twitter update, check the bottom of the post.

I'll be updating this post throughout the day as events warrant.

Very interesting development today - back in March I wrote about how Persian-language users wanted Persian to be added to Google Translate considering that it had already been available in some 40 languages or so including languages like Estonian and Maltese. Also, yesterday there was quite a bit of momentum around asking Google to turn their home page green for a day in support. Well, Google one-upped everyone (although still very late!) by releasing an alpha version of Persian-English-Persian on Google Translate. I'm trying it out right now and it seems to work well enough. Google Translate also works quite well as a dictionary, especially when you want to look up more than one word at a time (you can do that by separating each one by a period).

To see it in action yourself, take a look here. That's automatically translated. Still clearly an alpha service but much, much better than nothing.

One other benefit of the service is that it will make it easier for English users to help out in spotting disinformation written in Persian on sites such as Twitter. Iranians are understandably busy with other things right now but English users all over the world are trying to find ways to help, and this is one more tool for them to use.

Here's a video from Al-Jazeera from yesterday.

Some have noted that over the past few days even state-owned Press TV has been covering the rallies and recent developments. For about two days after the election it was like Press TV was in its own world, with articles that made it look like Ahmadinejad won in a landslide and everybody was happy. The headline just after the election was something like "Ahmadinejad re-elected in landslide, Israel rages", as if Israel was all "Consarn and dagnabit, foiled again! Time to raise my fist to the sky!"

A picture from the demonstrations yesterday in Shiraz is a good reminder that they are not limited to Tehran. This is in Shahcheragh (شاهچراغ, Shah = king, Cheragh = light/lamp)

You can see the area on Google Maps here.

View Larger Map

One tweet in Persian says that there were about 3000 people there. Shiraz has a population 11 times less than that of metro Tehran (1.2 million compared to 13.4 million for Tehran), so that is the equivalent of 33,000 people in Tehran. You can see that as soon as you zoom out a bit from Shiraz there's nothing there whereas Tehran stretches on and on.

I see a tweet in Persian saying that Canada's CBC has compared Mousavi with Gandhi:

You can see Gandhi's famous quote in Persian here from a picture yesterday.

Crooks and Liars has a video here of Congressman Mike Pence, who is trying to get a resolution passed that supports the protesters in Iran. This is naturally a very bad idea, as the more one side is able to tie the other side's support to an outside influence the better off they'll be. These links here and here show that even Ahmadinejad's visit to Russia is being used by the opposition as it is easy to make the accusation that Ahmadinejad is giving up Iranian sovereignty to the Caspian Sea in exchange for good relations with Russia, and here he is meeting with the Russian president just days after the election in the midst of all the protests.

Individual help is a much different matter - translating content to and from Persian, keeping people up to date, providing proxy addresses etc. are both highly effective and hard to pin down, since we're talking about more or less anonymous individuals and private companies. A resolution from the Congress though is both useless and easy to pin down considering its prominence. Luckily the Obama administration is doing a very good job at the moment of keeping a distance, and even saying that Mousavi might not be as different from the current government as one might expect. I think that's a tactic on his part.

It's just after 12:00 in Tehran now - more updates in a few hours in a new post.


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