20 June 2009

A day of violence and confusion

Today was the day when the façade dropped in Iran. The regime escalated its violence into a serious effort to suppress the uprising, leading to fighting in cities all across the country, magnificently reported by Andrew Sullivan and the Huffington Post. There have been at least forty deaths (probably far more), and hundreds of arrests. A few observations:

-- As is usually the case early on in such conflicts, no one has a complete picture of what's happening. Even the regime probably doesn't. We don't know how many protesters were out overall, or how the violence has affected the mass public mood, or even who's winning. In some cases protesters were dispersed by force, while in others the Basîj were driven back or overwhelmed. It's said that the chanting of the massed people on the rooftops was louder than ever before, but will that translate into sustained action in the face of gunfire? We don't know yet.

-- The regime failed to cut off communications. Twitter reports and YouTube videos (including the shocking video of the young woman shot to death on Karekar Avenue, which may become the iconic image of the uprising) poured forth from Iran all day.

-- The MSM reportage, as best I could see, was far inferior to that of bloggers with much more limited resources. The MSM had very sketchy coverage of the actual fighting, focusing on the acts and statements of officials; Sullivan covered all of that, as well as the street reaction to it and much else besides.

-- Many Western embassies in Tehran took in wounded people and helped them, the hospitals being under the regime's control and thus too dangerous. A wise and humane move, and one Iranians will remember in contrast to the cynical congratulations offered to Ahmadinejad on his "victory" by fellow thugs such as Russia's Putin, Venezuela's Chavez, and North Korea's Kim.

-- As I type this (about 8:45 PM Oregon time), it's already Sunday morning in Iran. Protesters and policemen alike have had time to digest and consider the implications of yesterday's events. We may not have to wait long to see the results.

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