The days of revolutionaries penning manifestos in candle-lit garrets are over, just as preconceptions about the nature of crowds in the streets are being tested. When English writer Thomas Fuller said, “The mob has many heads but no brains”, he surely wasn’t speaking of Iran, a nation where the literacy rate is nearly 100%, education is valued and political savvy is common.
Today, as events in Iran compel world attention, Facebook and Google pages are being translated from Farsi. The BBC has increased the number of satellites carrying its Persian television broadcasts to Farsi-speaking citizens in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in order to counter Iranian interference with its programming. Twitter, YouTube and bloggers have added to the “citizen journalist” pool, and more than a few commentators, looking particularly at the role Twitter is playing, have recalled another pairing of technology and resistance – the use of fax machines by University of Michigan students to spread word of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.
Given the massive flow of postings, it’s been especially difficult to sort facts from gossip, intentional disinformation and pure silliness. There are credible attempts, however, including Nico Pitney’s live-blogging of post-election events for the Huffington Post. Depending on the time of day, the latest bulletin from the Tehran streets or whether he’s managed to snag a little sleep, his view of things can be expressed more or less sharply, but his sources provide some extraordinary glimpses into the way Iranians themselves are experiencing events. This poignant posting of a woman’s quiet reflections (with English text below) is an example.
Tomorrow is Saturday. Tomorrow is a day of destiny.
Tonight, the cries of Allah-o Akbar are heard louder and louder than the nights before.
Where is this place? Where is this place where every door is closed? Where is this place where people are simply calling God? Where is this place where the sound of Allah-o Akbar gets louder and louder?
I wait every night to see if the sounds will get louder and whether the number increases. It shakes me. I wonder if God is shaken.
Where is this place that where so many innocent people are entrapped? Where is this place where no one comes to our aid? Where is this place that only with our silence we are sending our voices to the world? Where is this place that the young shed blood and then people go and pray — standing on that same blood and pray. Where is this place where the citizens are called vagrants?
Where is this place? You want me to tell you? This place is Iran. The homeland of you and me.
This place is Iran.
Across Iran, real people have been making real decisions and dying real deaths, and no matter how events in these days resolve themselves, the need for decision-making will continue. As the cries of Allah-o Akbar echoed across the roofs of Tehran, From Iran pondered participation in today’s events, looking at life against the horizon of history.
I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed.
I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them.
I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism.
This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, spokesman for Mousavi, seems to understand the process of self-examination and re-commitment happening around the election process. In a statement published in The Guardian, he reflects on larger issues fueling the resistance.
Many criticize us and wonder what does Mr. Mousavi have that is so special? They argue that after all he is one of the many in that corrupt system of the Islamic Republic and will never act against it.
My argument is that this is not about Mousavi, but about people realizing that they are not followers like a herd of sheep that goes anywhere it is summoned to go. They will know that the individual will does matter and that their actions can be effective and can speak louder than any specific person; this to me is the most important aspect of these events.
Now either Mousavi or anyone else who will end up in power, they will have the understanding of what people want and what they are capable of, and how they can voice their requests. This is the significant and important step and now that Mousavi has chosen to go ahead, we will support him.
Finally, there is this. In the same article from The Guardian, Makhmalbaf notes that, before the revolution,
Mousavi was a religious intellectual and an artist, who supported radical change but did not support the mullahs. After the revolution, when all religious intellectuals and even leftists backed Khomeini, he served as prime minister for eight years. The economy was stable, and he did not order the killings of opponents, or become corrupt.
In order to neuralise his power, the position of prime minister was eliminated from the constitution and he was pushed out of politics. So Mousavi returned to the world of artists because in a country where there are no real political parties, artists can act as a party. The artists supported Khatami and now they support Mousavi.
In a voyeuristic and celebrity-obsessed culture like our own, where politicians seem to prefer celebrity to accomplishment and celebrities imagine good policy can be implemented through press release, the thought of writers, film-makers, painters and poets serving as a party seems fanciful, if not absurd.
And yet, there was a Persian poet of the 13th century whose words seem prescient and perfect for this moment. Still beloved around the world, Rumi adds his own voice to the clamoring voices of Iran and the sudden silence of Neda, herself the call and voice of a rising movement.
Your way begins
on the other side
become the sky
take an axe to the prison wall
walk out like someone
suddenly born into color
do it now