Iran: settling in for the long term

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It has now been 15 days since the election, and the situation in Iran isn't showing itself to be anywhere close to being resolved. The hope at the beginning was that a large enough swell of people would result in it simply being too obvious for the government to ignore that Ahmadinejad had not won in a landslide and in fact not won at all, and that they would then decide to take a look at the election results again and either proclaim Mousavi the winner or decide on a runoff election between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad.

Since the 19th when Khamenei made his speech warning of a crackdown and the real crackdown that began on the 20th and every day afterward though, the situation has become much more desperate and divisive than before. It has become obvious that Khamenei is not an apolitical figure but rather a partisan one that prefers Ahmadinejad as president at any cost, and this has completely changed the view of the people toward the government. Since this election was a sham, then there's no reason to think that the next one won't be, and if they are willing to do whatever it takes to force through an Ahmadinejad win then there's also no reason to think that they won't come up with some excuse to remove the two-term limit for the president, for example. Even worse, Khamenei reportedly wants to see his son succeed him as Supreme Leader. All this is unacceptable to the people of the country and shows a complete disregard for the government they would like to see.

At the same time though, the crackdown has been hard and protesters have been intimidated to the extent that it makes it very hard to gather, not to mention the technical barriers that have been put up. It seems that the existing government has won the first round, but bear in mind that the last time Iran overthrew their government it took over a year (January 1978 - February 1979), so that one was not a short-term event either.

What is needed then is a long-term approach, especially now as mainstream interest begins to fade. Plus, even if the ideal situation happens to occur here (let's say Khamenei somehow gets deposed and is replaced with Montazeri and Mousavi becomes president) there's no reason to think that allies of Ahmadinejad will simply give up and go home, so a long-term approach is needed even in the most ideal of situations. Google Trends shows us that interest is still higher than it was before the election but has fallen quite a bit since the first week or so.

At the same time though the hashtag #Iranelection is still near the top on Twitter, which is definitely something for the members there to be proud of (and this is after Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson unfortunately passed away, mind you). So there is still a large amount of support online that can be put to use in the long term.

So here are a few ideas of what might be effective in not only the short term, but afterwards as well (feel free to add your own below if you have any).

  • #Iranelection naturally needs to be maintained on Twitter, so keeping up the reporting on the situation needs to continue. The longer it stays up the more those that would not normally have an interest in Iran will eventually begin to notice.
  • Why not try learning Persian? It's easier than you think. If you've been obsessed with the events in Iran since the election and would one day like to visit, then you might as well start learning the language now. Nothing keeps you informed of the events in a country like learning/knowing the language.
  • Keep an eye on these links as well in order to find information written in Persian (automatically translated) as soon as it goes up.
  • If you know Persian or are learning it, consider submitting better translations to Google to help it improve the service. Google released Persian quite quickly after the election in order to provide a tool for those looking for information in the language as well as those in Iran that wanted to quickly get information out in English, and because of this it's still in alpha mode and is quite rough. The more accurate this becomes the easier it will be for people to obtain information without having to wait for someone else to do a translation for them.
  • If your activity until now has been completely internet-based, it might be worth it to look around your city to see what organizations there are where you could meet overseas Iranians in person to get a better or more direct idea of how the situation is, and of Iranians in general. Metro Vancouver for example has a particularly large Iranian population, as do many cities, so it shouldn't be too hard to start meeting like-minded Iranians in person for those living in large cities.
  • If you haven't joined sites like Reddit and Digg yet, consider doing so. Simply voting up submissions that are about things that matter (Iran) and voting down those that don't ("don't matter" is usually personal preference so no examples here) can help.


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