A man watches a riot cop's burning motorcycle in Tehran. Getty Images.
Here's a brief roundup of images and analysis to try to add some more clarity to the momentous and chaotic situation in Iran. A hell of a day again, with Ahmadinejad trying to rally his supporters (and has left for Russia), while the Guardian Council approves a minor recount but orders reporters off the streets. Is their will beginning to crack or are they preparing for an even nastier crackdown?
Don't view this monolithically, as simply Rebellion vs. Authority. Behind the universal appeal of millions rallying for basic freedoms there exists an extremely complicated political situation. If the Green Revolution is victorious, those dynamics and machinations will play just as much of a role as popular will.
What gives them a chance right now and the reason this has not simply been crushed quickly -- as many revolts in recent years have -- is that the Green Revolution's leaders seem to actively be exploiting every hole in the current system they can find. Rebellions win by infection.
While Twitter has truly come into its own as a powerful tool over these days, these events have also provided a reminder of why aspects of old school journalism remain vitally important. While many of the cable channels and other mainstream outlets failed abysmally, the BBC, PBS, NPR, Getty and others have performed valiantly, helping to bring a context to all the raw data, rumors and jarring images coming in.
The following report by Britain's Channel 4 (who have had the guts to defy the Iranian regimes reporter ban) is an excellent example.
There's some word that as the crowd has grown, riot police have begun to back down. The entire situation is chaotic, and it's impossible to truly tell what's going on. What we've got right now is raw information, the inside guts of a revolution in progress.
But Mousavi doesn't seem to be backing down and neither do the huge numbers of supporters who have come out. The riot police, Revolutionary Guard and militias have been bloodying them for two days solid now and the momentum seems to be growing. This may go down in history too as the moment Twitter truly came into its own. Andrew Sullivan's demonstrating why he's still one of the best damn bloggers out there (and is facing a digital attack for it).
Just days ago, neoconservatives were publicly yearning for an Ahmadinejad win, hoping that it will give them an casus belli to live out their war fantasies by seeing Iran bombed into nothing. The extremists and bloodthirsty on all sides need each other to feed; they need their enemies to give them an excuse for horror and control.
They could receive no greater a rebuke than the masses of Iranians who have taken to the street and refused to go home. Cultures may vary radically, but this is proof again that within every one exists a yearning for more freedom, a desire to rebel against oppression that is as old and primal as our own flesh.
Tyrants may manage to press it down, for a time. But it can never be denied.
Look. There is no monolithic "other" thirsting to slay us in our sleep. There is no Great Satan, here or across any sea. Look past, and see only people. In the regime: scared, weak people, now in fear for their own paltry power and authority.
And who, on the streets, has shaken that power to its core? Students, grandmothers, workers. Other people, come for their due.
Here's video of a battle in Isfahan. It looks as if riot police are retreating, but it's impossible to tell given the chaos of the situation.
The excellent blog Iran 101 is the best round-up of videos and photos I've found so far, and the best place to follow the emerging chaos.
I hope that the Green Revolution wins out, hopefully without too much further violence, and I hope that everyone around the world that longs for a better future for all will support their efforts to fight back against tyranny.
Iranian women queue up to vote in Qom. Times of London.
And now, can we get an "oh hell." Iran's election -- the one where crowds were turning out to chant "death to the Taliban" and turnout pushed 80 percent -- looks likes it's only the beginning of the story. The regime's declared Ahmadinejad the victor, but the Green Revolution doesn't seem to be lying down. "Scuffles" are already breaking out:
Iran faced turmoil last night as the hardline President and his centrist challenger both claimed victory in a bitterly contested election.
The offical news agency reported that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won, and the state elections chief said that the President had 69 per cent of the vote with 35 per cent of the ballots counted. However, the main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, insisted that he was the “definite winner” by a substantial margin, and an aide suggested that he had taken 65 per cent.
The official result will be announced today, but the huge turnout ─ close to the historic record of 80 per cent ─ appeared to favour Mr Mousavi’s claim. Urban, middle-class Iranians, who seldom bother to vote, did so yesterday because they thought Mr Ahmadinejad’s first four years in office a disaster.
It was widely alleged, but never proved, that vote-rigging secured Mr Ahmadinejad’s unlikely victory in 2005. He entered that election an unknown, but was backed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.
If Mr Ahmadinejad is declared the victor, there is a danger of violence in Tehran and other cities. On Thursday Mohammad Atrianfar, a Mousavi adviser, said that the President could win only by cheating, and predicted riots and chaos if that happened. Saeed Laylaz, a respected political consultant, said that he feared a “Tiananmen Square-style experience”, with the military crushing protests.
Scuffles broke out in central Tehran last night between Mr Mousavi’s supporters and police. Several websites, including the BBC, appeared to have been blocked.
Earlier yesterday the Interior Ministry banned all rallies until the result is announced, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appealed for calm. “Passion and motivation is high among people,” he said. “If some intend to create tension, this will harm the people.”
Public sentiment is hard to gauge in country's facing theocratic regimes, but I could easily see this getting really big really quick. Most of the reports had the feel that Mousavi's rallies had so much energy because millions were taking their pent up frustrations and putting them into election instead of rebellion. If they feel cheated, or denied, watch out.
Iran's always felt just near the breaking point to me, and possibly in a good way. Despite often being depicted in the West as a block of monolithic fanatics, it has a huge youth population, one fairly well educated and more connected to the world than often depicted. Historically Persian society has also been more averse to austere fundamentalism than one might think from the current regime.
Well, the light might finally be breaking through. Reformer and presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi seems to be giving Ahmadinejad a serious fight, backed by legions of young supporters who seem just plain ready for something new, and undeterred by those accusing them of being part of some Western conspiracy. The Green Revolution may be coming:
Mr. Moussavi and his supporters seem unbowed by these sorts of accusations though. Chants of “Death to America” at rallies for Mr. Ahmadinejad this week were answered by chants of “Death to the Taliban — in Kabul and Tehran” at a rally for Mr. Moussavi. The candidate’s articulate and engaged wife has even been compared with America’s first lady (though, when asked this week about her role in her husband’s campaign, she stated simply: “I am not Michelle Obama”). On the streets of Tehran, and on Flickr, the opposition leader’s green-clad supporters have been seen waving posters of him bearing the promise, in English, of “a new greeting to the world.”
That last slogan makes it clear that Mr. Moussavi shares more than just a middle name with the new American president. Mr. Obama’s speech in Cairo last week was called “A New Beginning: Engaging With Muslims Worldwide,” and throughout his own campaign, Mr. Obama argued that his country needed a new leader who could abandon the confrontational foreign policy of the previous administration. Looking at the size and intensity of the demonstrations by his supporters in Tehran this week, it is clear that Mr. Moussavi has convinced some Iranians that their time for change has come, too. On Friday we will find out if a majority of the country’s voters feel the same way.
Yes, that's right. Crowds in Tehran are shouting Death to the Taliban. Take a second to process the implications of that.