Monday, April 19, 2010

Revolution, 2.0

Of course the regime in Iran would blame foreigners for the agitation in the streets. They have to. Sure, they could admit to a modicum of legitimate disharmony after contentious elections, but in Iran appearances are everything.. If the mullahs owned up to the discontented streets, they would appear weak. No, better to scapegoat unknown alien agents from satanic, godless lands.

Yet, maybe the beards had something else on their minds. It isn’t just the agents of infiltration in public spaces. Virtual space has emerged as a new, increasingly dangerous battlefield, a battlefield strewn with the latest weapons of war: Web 2.0, personal communication technologies and internet monitoring software.

Jim Sciutto, having recently returned to Iran writes:

“The protest movement has lost momentum, suffering from a lack of
leadership and exhaustion after ten months of an often brutal crackdown.”

Part of this crackdown has been on information. Social networking technologies like facebook and twitter acted as a force multiplier in emerging protest movement that erupted after the contentious elections of June 2009. It was a cell phone video bearing witness to the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan that gave the movement a tangible human element. And bloggers continue to challenge the Iranian censors and information police to tell their stories to the rest of the world. The regime’s response to these threats has indeed been brutal, as evidenced by the recent death of Omid Reza Misayafi. Omid, a blogger and journalist, was sentenced to two and half years in prison for allegedly insulting religious leaders and engaging in propaganda against the regime. He died on March 18th while serving his sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Omid was being held with actual convicted criminals, and some believe this may have led to his death. However, if nothing else, Omid’s story - that of a known intellectual expressing his natural right to free speech and being persecuted by a religious tyranny - betrays the boundless audacity of the Iranian government. Furthermore, both the events that shook Iran 10 months ago and the subsequent crackdown on a nascent civil rights movement prove the power of information and the potential for effective organizing through Web 2.0 and related interfacing technologies. If they are shooting at you, it means you’re doing something right, and the mullahs have bloggers and the web in their sights.

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