Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We Believe In Iran: An American Perspective

This is sure to be a bit long, but I’m asking you to all bear with me. I feel this is very important to say. Even if you believe you don’t care much about the Iran issue or want to hear about it (especially if you don’t), I’m asking you to read this all the way though. All I’m asking for about five or ten minutes of your time. I feel that’s pretty reasonable.

I am an American. I have never been to Iran. In fact, as far as I know, I don’t even know anyone whose been to Iran. Still, like many people, I have been following by the news coming out of Iran. And it has affected me on a very personal level.

For those of you who do not know already, a concise summary of what sparked these events can be found here:

In a nutshell, a dictator was reelected into office, but the terms of his victory were suspect. People supporting the reformist candidate named Mousavi voiced their opinion that the election was rigged and took to the streets. People peacefully protested in the streets and the government sent forces to beat them, jail them, and even kill them, just for protesting in the street. Still, people continued to protest. The protests got large and larger until today, after a previous statement by the Supreme Leader of Iran, the government cracked down. It prevented people from getting to scheduled rallies, beat people, shot tear gas at them, and even killed them.

I’m sure many of you read that past sentence yet do not get the sense of what I am talking about. Many brave Iranian protesters have risked their safety to report what they are seeing on Twitter and other areas of the net, and many brave people from around the world are working around the clock to make sure as much information about this gets out as much as possible. Hearing the Iranians tell their stories, voice both their doubts and resolve, post pictures and videos of what’s happening in their country, is moving on a level that I cannot begin to convey…

I have seen photos of Iranian women whose heads have been smashed against the ground. I have seen pictures of men beaten and bruised to the point where they can not open their eyes. I have seen video of a woman shot and murdered in cold blood, guilty of nothing other than having an opinion different than that of the state. I have heard a brave Iranian see the violence that happened today and respond “I feel terrible and that is why I will go back to the streets.”

I had kept up on the news before today and, since rallies were scheduled after the Supreme Leader issued a stern warning to protesters, I knew something decisive would happen today. If it had been up to me I would have been on Twitter, posting and reteeting news that might be of some benefit to the Iranians…hell, if it had been up to me, I wish I could have been there for them somehow…but, I am sad to say, at that critical moment, I was at work. Doing a menial job that, in the grand scheme of things, served no importance at all.

I had been glued to news from Twitter and other sources for days. All throughout the day, as I performed the job, I could not help but think what was happening. When I could get a chance, I got to a computer and logged on at work, something I am not supposed to do at all. And I saw the violence that was happening, the horrors of it…and I saw that the people were still taking to the streets. I saw that people had doubts and were afraid, but they most still wanted to take to the streets.

The entire day, I felt like I was in a daze. The world seemed unreal. The day was one of the longest I ever experienced. Every moment I worked I was screaming at myself “What the hell are you doing? You should be doing something to help. I don’t know what, but dammit, do something!” I wanted to leave, and yet I could not. I barely remembered most of what I did all day, since my mind was focused on Iran. I did not feel like myself. I must not have looked like myself either. Several people asked me if anything was wrong. I lied and said I was fine. When they walked away, I wondered why I hadn’t told the truth. I told myself they wouldn’t have understood (I had tried to spread the word to several people before without much avail), but I still regretted not telling the truth. But even then I continued to lie…

I looked around and saw people going about their lives like everything was normal. Many probably had no idea what was going on. Many more, I suspect, must have heard something but was either decided not to worry about it, thinking it wasn’t worth their time to think about, believing it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Of course, among them I am sure there were people who were just keeping up appearances, acting like nothing was wrong while their feeling ate away at them from the inside. People lying just like me.

There were points in the day when, after thinking about all those innocent people…many of them who could have been dying while I was doing totally purposeless shit...I found it was too much for me. I went to the bathroom, found a stall, and shed a few tears as quietly as I could manage. I would compose myself as quickly as possible and return outside, nobody appearing to notice any difference (or if they did, not asking about it). I had to do this more than once. By the end of the day, I felt so overwhelmed that I felt physically sick feeling like I could vomit.

When I was finally done with work, I returned home, finally able to get a good grasp of what was going on (at least as much as humanely possible from the info available). I felt unclean. People were dying half way around the world and I had acted like nothing was wrong. I am a liar, a fucking coward. I should have done something, said something to people. In my last hours at work, I tried to think of what I would say to people who asked what was wrong if I had any backbone. I tried to word it right then, knowing writing was the only thing I seemed to be able to do right, resolved to write it when I got home.

That’s where I am now. If I was not a liar, if I was not a coward, this is what I would tell people.

I would tell people that people are fighting for their lives and dying for the chance to live in a place where their voices are heard, where they can express their opinions without being beaten or murdered. They are fighting with the hope that in the future, their country can be a better place than it is now, where the government will not be able to treat people the way it is treating them now. Many of them are afraid and have doubts, but are fighting anyway, because in their heart, they know it is the right thing to do even if the government and their media tells them it is wrong. They are exhibiting more bravery than I ever knew existed. They are much stronger than I. They are heroes and my heart and prayers go out to them.

And they need support.

I’ve seen with my eyes that there must be people who either don’t know about this issue or, more likely, aren’t following it closely. I urge everyone reading this to do so. Educate yourself. There are places like and where you can follow what’s actually going on. Human rights are being violated. This isn’t just about politics, this isn’t about an election, it’s about people having their rights violated and being killed for it. Most of them are in their twenties, college students, like a lot of us out there. They’re fucking kids and people are trying to murder them for wanting to make their country a better place. They’re not at all different from us and they’re getting killed. Look at the information out there. Look at the videos, look at the pictures. If you can look inside yourself and tell yourself that its not worth your time to take it personally, than go ahead. But if there’s one thing the support this cause has generated outside Iran has shown me already its that most people are basically good at heart and share the common ideals of justice and peace, so I doubt many of you will be able to tell yourselves that honestly if you looked at all the information out there.

Maybe you feel you can’t do anything, and that is a feeling I understand. But there is always something you can do. Just because you can’t be there fighting with them doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference, can’t do something. If you’re telling someone who didn’t know about this issue before and educating them about it to try to get the involved, you’re doing something. If you’re twittering news from RELIABLE sources to get the right info out there, you’re doing something. If you’re posting a piece of art or writing in an effort to spread awareness of what’s happening in Iran, you’re doing something. If you’re marching in a protest in your own country to support the cause, you’re doing something. If you’re posting a link to info about the cause, you’re doing something. If you’re spreading this piece around, you’re doing something (and feel free to do so if you feel it worthy to spread around. Link, post in journals or forums, blatantly steal, I don’t care what). If you’re wearing green clothes or wristbands and people ask why and you tell them, you’re doing something. If you’re calling someone in the US government or UN to do something about this, you’re doing something. Even if you’re following the news and telling others you’re doing so, you’re doing something. But for God’s sake, don’t do nothing. Don’t just forget about it. Don’t just lie to yourself and pretend this isn’t happening and it’s not important. You may come to feel bad about yourself like I have if you do so.

The people of Iran are not just changing their country. I believe they are changing the world. I used to believe people were desensitized to events and injustice far away from them, but I seen that is not the case. This could be the first step in making our generation rediscover our conscience.

Thank you for your time. If my tone has been too preachy, I apologize. If you have considered this worth reading, I ask you spread it around in any way you deem appropriate. If not, I apologize for the inconvenience, but still ask you educate yourself on the issue further.

After writing this, I do feel a little relieved. I feel a bit less like a liar and a coward now…but I still am not sure if it’s enough. But, then again, I’m the kind of person who feels like they can never do enough, I guess…

Yours Faithfully,


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