The Iranian struggle: the students’ revolution needs to be known to be successful

February 3, 2010 — by Christine Bancroft

On June 20, 2009, a 27-year-old woman was killed by a sniper in the Iranian government paramilitary forces, the Basij. Her death was videotaped by two others, both of whom were protesting the fraudulent June 2009 elections that reinstated President Mahmoud Ahmidinejad.

Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman from a small neighborhood in Tehran, had been studying to become a musician before she was shot on the street. Soltan was watching her fellow students petition to place the opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, rightfully as president. The soon-to-be-married woman had been on her way to join the peaceful protests but was shot in the chest and fell to the ground, shaking, bleeding, with her eyes rolling back in her head. The pictures of murders that are dramatized on television were shattered with a 30-second clip.

Her murder was taped by several onlookers. Accusations flew between the government, saying she was shot by protesters, and the opposition, claiming she was targeted by the government. After her death, the Internet erupted with videos of her untimely death—bitterly marked by the day before Father’s Day in America, as the anguish of her father became the anguish of a nation.

On the Shi’ite Day of Martyrs, Dec. 25, another protest led to the deaths of seven more, including Mousavi’s 35-year-old nephew, Seyed. Many supporters have made Neda Agha-Soltan the face of the Iranian revolution, a martyr for their cause. Despite the violence, the United States refuses to intervene because the revolutionaries have made themselves clear: This is not America’s battle. It is the battle of the Iranian people.

At first, the struggle of the Iranians was not well known thanks to the frustrating lack of coverage by many news organizations. Still, even a week after the riots broke out, news magazines preferred to talk about the death of Michael Jackson, the first sign of the flawed news system in the United States. A journalist’s main job is informing the public of national and international news that affects them. (If citizens do better than reporters in performing that service, then something has gone wrong.) But instead, the only news came from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, leading to the revolution being called the “Cyber War.”

“I am a lover of Iran…I stand for Freedom. I will NOT STOP. I am Mohareb! Catch me if U can!” Tweeted one supporter of the revolution on Jan. 16.

The stories of people who fought and died in revolution against a government abusing its power and citizens remained virtually unknown. Protesters were overshadowed by pop stars even though America stands for freedom of speech, democracy and for all the rights that the protesters are fighting for. If the students’ voices are not being heard, no amount of protesting will fix their situation because they know that no one is listening to them. News organizations need to create a better system of deciding what stories to tell the public as Jackson’s death changed the world for a day, the protests held the potential to change the world forever.

Not only news corporations, but the United Nations should call attention to the struggles of these students, ban the censorship of Internet and allow free speech. Every time a protester’s words are shut down, it is another door being shut for that country and for progress democracy. What happens in the Middle Eastern nation affects the world. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Although the revolution will continue, both sides will become more violent and there will be more brutal deaths of innocent people, the regime will weaken. The government will need to bend to the changing will of the people. Neda’s death will be the spark that spurs the protesters forward and the reason the international community needs to watch the Iranian people continue to move forward in their democratic revolution.

In Farsi, Neda means “voice.” One YouTube commenter, after witnessing the video of her death, wrote, “Neda is one girl. Neda is all of Iran. She is their voice; their call to freedom. She is the voice of their revolution.”

This raises the question: If an innocent girl is shot halfway around the world, does she make a sound? Does her death lead to change or will she fade, as yet another casualty of this revolution?

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