Iran revolution or twitterlution?

There has been a huge hue and cry over the Iranian election protests in the last week or so, but to me as a neutral observer the situation is way more fuzzy than it looks.

First of all, let us study the facts. There can be no denyingl that Mir Hussein Moussavi has support in Iran, it is evident from the protests going on that the people who voted from him are angry at the result. They have come out in the tens of thousands since the election result against their leader but are their emotions misplaced or justified?

As usual the BBC and all the other media groups are making a big hullabalu out of these protests, not merely reporting on them but presenting them as some sort of new Iranian revolution. Frankly I met a few Iranians in a textile fair in Shanghai last week only and for them it was business as usual. In fact they claimed that the protesters were mostly from the elite class who is in favor of Mir Hussein Moussavi and did not matter as their numbers were very small.

In spite of their assurances one cannot deny the footage and the pictures coming out, but the point is are the worlds news services so crippled that they have to believe individual twitter streams coming out of the country? Twitter although a killer tech tool is also very misleading as not everyone on it speaks the truth or does any amount of research before broadcasting half truths and rumors.

For example, if I was in Iran how easy would it be for me to claim I am part of these protests and gain a huge number of  followers for being some sort of national activist. We have seen it happen in Pakistan often when people use causes like this one to further their own agendas and names.

Let us also not forget that most of the protests taking place are in Tehran where as per official results Ahmadinajad almost lost the election(as corrected by Alex; comments)  so the figures instead of being manipulated seem to point to the favor of the show of support for Moussavi. The protest going on, is in the area which voted for the opposition.

So no although my heart feels heavy for the emoting going on via twitter in Iran and how the twitterers names cannot be mentioned as the secret police will pick them up I cannot believe that the entire truth is being told.

In fact I would go so far as to say that this entire protest is being blown out of proportion by people who cannot bear their loss. If you look at the vote count Mir Hussein Moussavi has received a lot of votes, even if he has lost so the whole “where is my vote” issue doesn’t ring true to me.

That being said the Iranian government should not fall into the foreign trap of showing heavy handedness on the protesters as this will only result in further hype and revolution mongering.

I simply fail to understand why if the worlds media is as fair as it claims, there are no mentions of twitters on the IDP’s in Pakistan or the genocide taking place in West Bengal or the various African countries whos dictators are crushing their citizens daily to extract more money out of aid agencies. Why are there no twitters from the Saudi kingdom which does not even allow its women any status or let observers enter on any issue. Show me a dissident twitterer mentioned from any of the above places and I will hold up a banner saying “Go Ahmedinajad go”  until then I would like to stay off this bandwagon, thank you!!

  1. Hey Faisal,
    @alexlobov here from twitter 🙂
    Just some thoughts,
    I agree that Western media is blowing it out of proportion calling it a new revolution, however these protests are definitely the biggest seen in Tehran since 1979 so I think that does merit a certain amount of media coverage.

    I also agree that it’s a sad fact that most people are selective on the global crises they monitor and not normally on humanitarian lines, as they claim. The crises you mentioned are all equally important but we are children of the media and the media sensationalises things as it sees fit. For the same reason, it is absurd for us to commemorate every year the deaths of 3,000 people during 9/11 when we totally ignore the many more deaths happening in Sudan, Pakistan, etc.

    What is your source for the info that Ahmadinejad lost Tehran? From the sources I’ve seen, he is claimed to have won Tehran albeit with not as huge a margin as in other places. He is also have claimed to have won Moussavi and Karoubi’s home provinces which seems hardly plausible. Also Karoubi went from having 16% share of the vote in 2005 to 1% in 2009 which seems pretty nuts to me.

    In any case, as there is no proof, I am not saying the election was categorically rigged, but I do think you should look into some of the arguments abounding on the internet to suggest its rigging.

    My general position is that this regime is not justified in killing people and crushing these protests by force. Dissent must be allowed to flourish peacefully for a society to flourish. I am no blind supporter of Western-style “democracy” but a positive way of managing dissent and debate must be found in a country for it to work. Killing innocent people is disgusting. So yeah those are my thoughts and theres more on my blog if u wanna check it out 🙂

  2. Exactly ! i was thinking the same way ! its just like Pakistan and i think the protests are being hyped due to American involvement too !

  3. Very interesting thoughts Alex

    I do think you are correct in some assumptions that Ahmadinajad cannot win in Mussavis home provinces and cannot carry such a huge margin of victory but the point again arises what proof do we have that the election was totally rigged. I also agree that the government should not take these protests as an act of mutiny and solve this problem via debate instead of via police brutality.

    However how can a country allow its entire electoral process to be hijacked by a few thousand protesters? I may be playing the devils advocate here but to me the coverage is very lopsided.

    I will read up more on this but the more i read the more i become convinced that this is more a war of hype than a war of actual emotions of Iranis.

  4. The amount of protesters initially was much larger than thousands, although exact figures are hard to attain we have seen estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions. Arguably the flood has decreased to somewhat of a trickle due to the well-founded fear of brutality. I agree that mass protests are not necessarily a reason for them to take drastic measures such as cancel the elections, however a country well-governed finds a positive outlet for discourse. In that sense, Khamenei’s response has been fairly counter-productive, underlining his fear of dissent and discourse.
    From what I’ve read, I believe the more important events are happening behind the scenes among the political and clerical establishments in Qom. See if you can read up on it, it’s pretty interesting!
    These recent articles from Tehran Bureau & Slate may be of interest:

  5. Ahhh so all roads do lead to Qom Alex? well let us see if Rafasanjani manages to achieve anything. However i balk whenever any hawk in world politics is referred to as Talabanized.. if so then Dick Cheney should be called the head of the American Taliban as he has by far caused the most deaths.

    Very brave of you on the subject of America remembering 3000 deaths while it kills 30,000 a year or more in attacks around the world.

  6. I believe Khameini is afraid because the stirrings are not only in the public but amongst Irans power brokers as well. Surely though if the whole thing was rigged everyone must have been on board for it to be announced. I see all this in the context of my country where the loser always alleges the winner of electoral fraud. Always…

    I personally do not think Democracy in its American form is applicable to either our religion our culture or our way of life, that how i see it and have written in the past about it as well

    Ahmadinajad has proved to be good for Iran in his rule, although he may be a bogeyman for the rest of the world, so this insistent painting of a revolutionary landscape and clamor for change is by far misleading.

    You are right about the crowds, but then Mussavi got a lot of votes.. so why would his supporters be less than 100’s of thousands.
    All this can lead to destabilization but can it lead to regime change? Qom will determine that i suppose

  7. Nice post. I generally agree with most of the post as far as hype is concerned and the lack of credibility among twiterrers.

    I think some media coverage has been more sensational than others. For instance BBC “going green” made me cringe. That is journalism devoid of ethics and completely unacceptable.

    The first issue I would raise with your post is that media is a plural word, and should be used with that taken into consideration. I don’t mean grammatically but when one says the “worlds media groups” it is generally a gross generalization and therefore a misrepresentation of the truth. I don’t mean to nitpick, but I think your argument is stronger if you single out exactly which media org’s you are referring to. You are spot on about a lot of BBC’s coverage.

    For instance, since the output of the protests many media org’s made it clear that the protests werre not aimed at the system but rather at the voting which happens to take place within the system. Which was certainly the case until Khameini’s speech.

    What is interesting about this whole Iran thing, is that to me at least, it seems that since Khameini’s clearly partisan address he has by default created a line which means that protesting against ahmedinajad means protesting against the islamic system. I think Khameini has cornered himself. People who didn’t necessarily see themselves protesting the system end up being on that side. Its all becoming murky.

    What is for sure is that foreign media has had little access to the story and therefore twitter has come to the forefront. It has its advantages and disadvantages as you aptly pointed out. The point you made about ‘national activists’ is spot on and those who follow people on twitter should be extremely discerning of what is being spread over the streams. As far as I’m concerned most of it is pure propoganda. Some of it seems to be earnest, but then again of little consequence.

    I am not going to get into rigging and all of that, because clearly, there is little evidence for me to base a solid argument on. Everything is based on suspicion, circumstance and pre-election predictions.

    As far as this notion of elites voting for Moussavi and protests only inside Tehran is based on demographics from the time of the revolution. It is outdated information. The majority of Iranian’s live in urban areas so when ppl cite Ahmedinajad’s support amongst the rural class, that by no means the masses.

    Secondly, the notion that only elites in the cities voted for Moussavi is part propoganda that has been perpetuated by the right to create a populist aura around a’jad. No doubt, he has support of low income because he has made life better for some of the poor, so I don’t want to take away from his good work. And definitely elites voted en masse for moussavi, but that ignores the majority of Iranians who live in urban areas and aren’t considered “elites.” So the whole thing is murky. I wouldn’t be surprised if there has been foul play, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a’jad won. But I am surprised at the margin. I was speaking with a friend recently who is a mathematician of sorts. He was analyzing the numbers that the election commission has come up with and he said there is 95 percent chance that those numbers are man made. The percentages given do not make mathematical sense if they are truly arbitrary.
    Anyway I will stop there.

  8. The Twitterlution….. Love the terminology…. 🙂

    Iran – led by Ahmedinejad is a big thorn in the side of the US and the west. Thus, the entire media has magnified the protests to show a huge uprising. Twitter helped provide the “Tipping Point” for this and suddenly we see display pics looking like they got run over by some green fungus or something.

    Double standards have always been a shortcoming of the Americanos. Whether it is supporting dictators who dance to their tune, or turning a blind eye to human rights violations, or invading countries in the name of National Security and Liberation.

    This is just another of their manipulations to divide and conquer……

  9. Guys,
    I am no lover of US foreign policy, I detest strongly the inherent hypocrisy of supporting ‘friendly’ dictators (eg. Mubarak, etc.), ignoring democratically elected govts when theyre not ‘friendly (eg. Hamas) while calling for “freedom & democracy” where necessary. Having said that, I think it’s important to keep two things in mind:

    – do not paint “The West” with a broad brush. While the West may not like Ahmadinejad, he has hardly been a “thorn in the side”. The nuclear program and Iran’s foreign policy is entirely out of his control, that is the domain of the head-of-state and commander in chief, Ayatollah Khamenei. Everyone knows whether its Ahmadinejad or Moussavi, nothing will change on that front. And neither will denunciations of Israel, thats an essential part of the platform for any Iranian leader. Furthermore, it should be noted that Israel stated their preferred candidate is in fact Ahmadinejad for that very reason. Nothing under Moussavi would change for Israel but Ahmadinejad’s crazy rhetoric makes it easier to find supporters to fight against him among the international community.
    So yeah double standards are indeed a US specialty but each case should be assessed on its merits.

    – We need to make informed conclusion. There is no hard evidence of vote rigging, however there is also no hard evidence of a free & fair election. We can assume neither of these and we should respect the response of those in Iran who choose to contest it. The loser calling foul may be common in Pakistan but it is not in Iran, this is the first time in 30 years that the people have risen up like this and its because a lot has changed for them to be unhappy with. Aly B, can you tell me why you think Ahmadinejad has been good for Iran or what specifically he has done well? For example, economic management is one of the major jobs of the President, and Iran has experienced a windfall of revenue from oil & gas prices going up during A’Nejads term… however the people have gotten poorer, the standard of living declined and the gap between rich/poor has widened. Where is this money going? In fact there have been massive allegations of corruption levelled against A’nejad’s regime for some time now (from within Iran). If the theory that he is popular with the poor holds, why has life not improved for them?

    Guys, I know that Ahmadinejad is loved in many places because he supposedly stands up to the US but you guys need to think outside the box as much as Westerners do. Ahmadinejad is all rhetoric. He has zero control over anything that could actually hurt The West. None. Zip. Squat. Anyone can stand up with a megaphone on a soapbox and yell down with The Great Satan but Iran’s nuclear deterrent is being organised by Khamenei.

    And Faisal, re: democracy in the US form applying to the Muslim world, you may well be right. But if my knowledge of Islam is correct, the man who rules the ummah must do so justly and he must protect the muslims in his care, not murder them and beat them on the streets without mercy for women, children or the elderly. A muslim leader who does that doesn’t seem very just to me.

  10. If course the reporting is lopsided. And why shouldn’t it be: The purpose of mainstream western media outlets is serve their capitalist, imperialist masters. So any country, be it Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, etc., regardless of their religious beliefs, which doesn’t toe the western imperialist agenda, automatically becomes persona non grata. So issues are blown out of proportion. Anyone remember CNN/Fox/BBC coverage on Iraq’s WMDs?

  11. interesting debate here

    one thing to keep in mind is that while a lot of us feel that the media blows things out of proportion, that feeling is also not an objective one.

    a great example is the lawyers movement. sitting in karachi it felt weird for the media to portray it as a national thing. no one in our city seemed to care. then i traveled through punjab where the issue meant a lot lot more. and i realised that while it still may not be as big as the media might portray it, it was phenomenally bigger than what i had thought it to be.

    its simple to say bbc cnn etc are milking it for all its worth. but as alex pointed out, why has such an outburst never happened before? why the need for force? i detect an insecure state here. not an incorrect one maybe, but definitely an insecure one.

  12. When Ahmadinijad came to power the first time his opponents claimed that “that election” was massively rigged s well. You can check on this, one of his opponents even went so far as to claim that he went or a nap woke up and found out that Ahmadinijad had overtaken him the last time around

    @ alex If Allegations of rigging are what it takes to define the charecter of a leader and government then no American should ever act as an election appraiser on their own conscience because the most massive fraud was held in the vote counting in Florida by Jeb bush when Bubba frist came into power. is that specific enough? I am not a west hater or anti American at all but it pains me to see you exhorting the qualities of a good Muslim leader while your leader stands at the biggest pulpit of this world with a mega phone and shouts rhetoric of change while our countrymen’s funerals are bombed by drones “on the suspicion that al qaeda was attending them” 80 people died in a drone attack yesterday man, twitter that? that’s twice or more than that of what has happened in Iran till now…80 people your (closet muslim) leader does not seem that just to me either.

    @ KK The outbursts have happened before as well, but last time around twitter was not present for people to claim that a national disaster has happened when life goes on as usual in Iran

    i am glad someone mentioned the lawyers movement in Pakistan, it was the biggest sham brought about digitally in the history of our country. How come none of those blogs screaming judicial victory now scream for the judiciary to do something….or anything? Where is the great judicial revolution now?

  13. Guys again I’d like to appeal for informed opinion on specific things, not relativism. Western media is massively flawed, yes. Western coverage of Iraq’s war was shameful yes. But to suggest that this means every single thing Western media ever covers we must disagree with is incorrect logic, every issue needs to be treated on its own merits. Automatically opposing CNN/BBC on everything is as bad as following them on auto-pilot because you’re still letting them dictate what you do.

    your argument which boils down to “their president vs. your president” is a terrible argument. Firstly, I’m Australian, so Obama is definitely not my president. Secondly, it’s irrelevant, I subscribe to no universal national identity and refuse to align myself to any of these constructed geopolitical entities known as “countries” with any loyalty.
    I will be the first to tell you that my Government is far from perfect and the same goes for Obama. You would be an idiot if you locked yourself into a default position of either support or opposition to one person such as Obama. You noticed on my blog that I support his stance on Iran. However I deeply abhor the drone attacks, among many other things he does.
    However the fact that Obama is a “bad leader” or at least an imperfect one is irrelevant. National leaders will always do bad things and will never be perfect because the system of international relations that governs the world, the world order, geopolitical realism is deeply flawed and fails to take human life into account.
    We are talking about Ahmadinejad. Obama being bad or good does not make Ahmadinejad any better. The fact that i happen to come from “the West” and happen to be represented by imperfect and often bad governments should not mean my opinion on Ahmadinejad’s governance is invalid. I am making a simple point: killing your own people on the streets, ruling by repression and force, is unjust and un-Islamic.

    As for the previous election, there were allegations of vote-rigging and it may have also been rigged but they key difference is voter turnout, it was much lower and people were much more despondent then about the election. Voter turnout for this election was 84% which is fairly unprecedented in Iran and in many countries, and there was a large wave of euphoria about this election in Iran, thats why the anger spilt over onto the streets. What we see on twitter is maybe hundreds of Iranians represented max. It is merely a report for the rest of the world. The streets of Tehran (and the many other cities which saw protests) are a better gauge of how the people feel and if we take the conservative estimates, hundreds of thousands of people turned out to protest. You can’t ignore that.

  14. And the same goes for the vote rigging in Florida. I won’t compare the two (Iran & Florida) because I simply don’t know enough about what actually happened in Florida. But again, I’d like to point out, just because it happened in the USA doesn’t mean all of a sudden that all Americans or Westerners can’t criticise Iran’s election. Any vote-rigging in Florida was perpetuated by a certain group of people, none of which had anything to do with me or the average Joe on the street, so if vote-rigging in Iran did occur, our “Western-ness” should not preclude us from discussing it with reason and logic.

  15. @ Alex yeh but at the victory rally for ahmedinijad many more than hundreds of thousands turned out.. did u see that?

    When u call for informed debate, i think you should be objective also.. and should also realize that even though u aren’t a neo hawk westerner who wants to kill us for being Muslims we do realize the fact that u want to engage in discussion which is more than what i can say for your entire leadership we as Muslims are sick of people interfering in our countries telling us what to do..taking away our lives by sanctions and condemning us as if we are responsible for every asshole with a beard.

    U can be Aussie or whatever u are or feel you are but please try to understand a culture and the ground reality before u judge. As you have seen when we do the same it aint so sweet.

    We can discuss anything as long as you are willing to listen as well…the green revolution will have no result.. because the people will only go a certain distance, if muslims were willing to go the whole way no despot would ever rule us… that is the truth

  16. Faisal,

    My point wasn’t to compare rally numbers but simply that the local Iranian numbers behind the green wave protests signify a significant event in politics and for contemporary Iran. As I mentioned on my blog, this is no revolution, but this is a significant event that may change the political establishment. All roads lead to Qom as you said above.

    Of course it’s impossible to understand a culture perfectly. I spent a year living in the Middle East and have a lot of muslim friends, I’ve also spent a fair bit of time studying various things that relate to Islam, politics in the region, etc… but my knowledge/understanding is far form perfect (albeit better than your average Westerner). Much as, I’m sure, yours is also imperfect when it comes to a place like Iran. Since Iran and Pakistan are very different (though they also share much) we must all live with the fact that our knowledge is imperfect and discuss based on what we know, and learn from each other.

    But certainly I am willing to listen.

    I think the question of despotic leaders is a complicated one. I personally believe most of the current problems in the MidEast are rooted in Western colonialism during the post WW1 period and the nation-states that were fashioned for no other reason than to serve Western interests, filled with despotic Western-backed leaders and maintained in the same way. But hey that’s just my opinion.

  17. End this Ayatullah Government of Iran!!! they had failed and divided Shias and Sunnis for ever!!!

  18. I hope Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan form a bloc and kick the americans/nato out of our countries. They should also take their puppet politicians with them or we are going to hang ’em. I am so sick of the west meddling in our countries and colonizing us for their own needs! And I absolutely hate it when they start preaching us of human rights and democracy. There is no talking to or reasoning with them. We are past that. They aren’t going to hand us freedom, education and an independent economy. That would kill their ambitions in this region. Time to talk things in our own hands.

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