The news from Iran

The turmoil over the election in Iran continues to dominate the news. And rightly so, for at least two reasons: First, it is becoming increasingly evident that the election results are questionable. Second, it is also becoming clear that the events of the past few days will have enormous implications on how the world gets its news in the future.

First, about the election results: This morning I read excerpts from a report by the Chatham House, a U.K.-based think tank on international affairs. Here are a couple of findings from their statistical analysis of the election in Iran:

Two provinces … have results which indicate that more votes were cast on 12 June than there were eligible voters, and that four more provinces had turnouts of around 95%. In a country where allegations of ‘tombstone voting’ – the practice of using the identity documents of the deceased to cast additional ballots – are both longstanding and widespread, this result is troubling but perhaps not unexpected.

… the table demonstrates that in the 10 of Iran’s 30 provinces highlighted red, in order for the official statistics to be correct, Ahmadinejad would have needed to win over all new voters, all former Rafsanjani voters, and also up to 44% of former reformist voters.

If these findings turn out to be correct, what responsibility—if any—does the international community have to the people of Iran? Should the U.N. declare the election a sham and impose sanctions? Should Ahmadinejad be forcibly removed? Or should the nation be left alone, to determine its own future? I’d be curious to hear others’ views.

Now, about the second point: Although many members of the mainstream media have already either been expelled or detained, accounts and images continue to stream out of Iran. Twitter and YouTube have become a voice of dissent.

Who would have thought that these social networking sites would become the mouthpiece for a mass protest with a global audience? It’s the beginning of a new era—for better or worse.

Update, posted 6/23/09:

A groundswell of opposition as the Guardian Council stands its ground

During my commute this morning, two stories on National Public Radio especially caught my attention.

The first was about the Iranian Guardian Council’s announcement that they consider the presidential election valid. On Monday, the 12-member council of clerics acknowledged discrepancies involving some 3 million votes, but said this was not significant enough to affect the outcome of the election. Incredible.

Shortly after came a brief about the international support—both on individual and government levels—that is bubbling up for the people of Iran.

The story mentioned two mass demonstrations in Paris over the weekend, and another in Hamburg in which German families turned up in droves to march with Iranian exiles.

The story also touched on 1) a Swedish file-sharing site that is helping users dodge their government’s newly imposed censorship, 2) the BBC’s addition of two extra satellites in Iran after the signals of its Farsi-language service were jammed, and 3) the Italian embassy’s decision to open its doors to injured protesters in Tehran.

Meanwhile, the news and images on YouTube and Twitter continue to galvanize public opinion.

Rarely have I had so strong a sense that I’m witnessing a historical turning point. My only hope is that it has a swift resolution, lest more innocent lives are lost.

My heartfelt condolences go to the family of Neda Agha-Soltan.

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