I was glued to my Twitter all weekend.
During the weekend, there was almost no coverage of the protests and riots. Some news agencies, including Al Arabiya, had their offices closed, and state networks in Iran didn’t report on any of the civil unrest. So we turned to Twitter. Thanks to Twitterers from Iran, we’re getting a picture. But how complete is it? A majority of those Twittering seem to be Mousavi supporters. I kept getting a gnawing feeling, like I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
It’s easy to get carried away by Iran’s Twitter revolution. The Twitter universe can feel the anxiety and intensity of tweets coming from Iranians in real time, which sweeps us away with revolutionary dreams of an Iran that we want to see. But in recent years, there have been plenty of protests against Ahmadinejad, plenty of universities and homes raided, and nothing ever came of it. Are the hashtags #IranRevolution leading to a real revolution, or will the protests evaporate after a few days?
The problem is we still don’t know the actual outcome of the elections. Ayatollah Khamenei (the guys who’s actually in charge of the country) has ordered a review of the election results just two days after heralding Ahmedinejad’s win. Iran’s Guardian Council has announced it will reexamine the votes and announce its findings in 10 days. Perhaps Ahmadinejad legitimately won. He did have supporters.
The elections reminded me of the Bush-Kerry race of 2004: neither candidate was much different from the other, and neither could offer their country a great change. But the man who was ultimately worse for the country won, and half the country was irritated.
And here we are again, with a president (this time in Iran) nobody seems to want.
I wanted Mousavi to win, of course. Mostly because, from where I stood, a vote for Mousavi was a vote for his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard. Mousavi ran on a platform of change, expanded legal rights for women, and economic reform. Most of his supporters are young, educated, and many of them are women.
If Ahmadinejad legitimately won, why would so many people be so angry and go to such lengths for a vote they felt wasn’t counted? Videos of protests, Basij members trying to disperse crowds, and the images of attacks on university dormitories can’t be ignored. People have died and been badly wounded, and not just in Tehran. There are reports of uprisings in Ahvaz, Mashhad, and Tabriz. Anyone who wasn’t angry at the election results may well be angry now, after government anti-riot forces and Basij militias have attacked students, women, and children and caused extensive property damage.
Perhaps Mousavi will create more change by losing than winning. Countrywide revolts and the Supreme Leader’s caving to public calls for recounts are clear signs. Of what, it’s yet to be determined: until the forest clears, there are too many trees.