What Is Happening in Iran?

What is happening in Iran?

If you’ve managed to find a source of news from Iran, you’re probably not watching the mainstream media. Networks like CNN and Fox have been criticized for their lack of coverage of the crisis in Iran, a crisis that began when millions of Iranian citizens heard the results of their recent Presidential election and felt their vote had been stolen, that the results were rigged.

It is still unclear why most major American media outlets are avoiding Iran coverage — CNN spent most of the week focusing on domestic issues, such as President Obama’s speech to North Korea, and the controversy involving Sarah Palin and David Letterman. Fox News continued its “in depth fair and balanced” coverage of Sonia Sotomayor. MSNBC should get credit for covering the Iran crisis better than any other American news source, but that bar wasn’t set very high.

Here’s a timeline of events in Iran over the past week. This isn’t an all encompassing history, by any means, but should get you up to speed if you’ve been depending on any of the mainstream American sources. Please be aware that much of the information coming out of Iran is being communicated through Twitter, Facebook, and private email — the Iranian government is shutting down internet access as well as journalist’s access more and more every day, making exact reports nearly impossible.

June 10 — Excitement for the coming election builds even as political analysts in the West expect a “poor turnout”. Twitter posts from within Iran show an unbelievable amount of election frenzy, especially from Iranian young people.

June 11 — Just a few hours before the polls open in Iran, all SMS and other text messaging services go down nationwide.

June 12 — Election Day. Because of an unexpectedly high turnout, polls are open for an additional four hours. Live updates from Iran in the form of tweets and Facbeook posts appear throughout the day and into the night. As the polls close and election results begin to appear, Twitter activity skyrockets. Only a few hours after the polls officially close, President Ahmadinejad is declared the winner, with just a couple of million of ballots counted.

June 13 — Protests on the streets, some peaceful, some turning violent. The first deaths from the so called “riots” are reported. Twitter reports of “escalating violence” appear. There are reports of even more communication services being bocked throughout Iran, including attempts to shut down all social networking and news Web sites. Citizens of Iran figure out how to get around the government’s Twitter and Facebook blocks and begin reports to the outside world.

late June 14th, early June 15th — The second and first large wave of violence and government repression starts. Violent riots spread to all of the large cities of Iran. Violence against Iranian citizens is rumored to come from members of Hizbullah. Sometime on June 15th, the first repots of firearms being used against protestors appear. Protesters gather in and around Tehran University dorms, and are attacked by various military groups. The first reports of “prisoners” being taken pops up in non American news media and Twitter feeds. Der Spiegel, who will continue to report from Iran even though other Western sources won’t, claims that 5000 Hizbullah fighters are masquerading as Iranian riot police.

evening, 15th of June — The so called “third wave” of violence begins. Plainclothes militia fire weapons against civilians during a peaceful protest. Photographic evidence supports this claim originally made through Twitter. Some counts hold that around 2 million protesters took to the streets of Tehran. Reports of fighting and rioting all over Tehran circulate via Al-jazeera and Der Spiegel. At least twenty people have been killed by the end of the 15th of June.

early morning, 16th of June — Reports that students are being targeted are confirmed even in the Western mainstream media through photographic evidence — dorm rooms torn apart, computers destroyed, and students being taken as political prisoners. Der Spiegel reports that students are fighting back. Iranian Tweeters report that telephones are being bugged and the “riot police” are rounding up people known to be Tweeting or sending photos or videos outside of Iran. ISPs are shut down, while government sponsored hackers are locating sources of Tweets. According to Al-jazeera, reports of students vanishing are on the rise.

Students take over a militia base, killing its commander and eventually burning the building to the ground. For the first time, Twitter reports from Iran show that the Iranian police are somewhat on the side of the people, often joining them in protest and refusing to cooperate with militas.

16th of June – Supporters of Moussavi march in protest. People are asked to dress in black and are told to protest silently. They cooperate. The crackdown on technology and telecommunication is growing. According to Twitter reports, “Anyone with a laptop, camera or cellphone is being attacked in the street by plainclothes militias”. Tehran hotels and other buildings are under lockdown to keep the foreign press from reporting. They are told they can only file reports “from their hotels”.

late 16th of June to early 17th of June – The “fourth wave of violence” starts, but was very mild compared to previous days. The Basij, a plainclothes militia group, did not attack the pro-Moussavi march, instead they used the march as a kind of diversion and chose to attack the Tehran University dorms yet again. 2000 of the plainclothes Basij attempt to once afgain storm the male occupied dorm, but are turned back by Iranian Revolutionary Guard helicopters. Another amazing sign that certain elements within Iran are not supporting Ahmadinejad, but are backing the student’s revolution.

As of the 17th of June, Iran’s telecommunications abilities are basically dead. A list of what the government shut down or attempted to shut down:

Gmail and GTalk
AmericaOnline Instant Messenger
Phone lines
Iranian ISPs
Twitter and many private proxies
Cellphones and SMS

As the Iranian’s ability to communicate with the outside world goes away, so do reliable sources of information on the situation there. We know that the government is faking Twitter reports, as most of the citizen’s posting to Twitter have lost their connection.

If you’re interested in following what little real journalism is coming out of Iran, there are still a few sources reporting accurate information. Der Spiegel and Al-jazeera are the most accurate and trustworthy sources as of now.

If you want to support the citizens of Iran, wear green. Green is the color of Ahmadinjead’s rival (and most likely winner of the election) Moussavi. Wear a green armband and tell people what’s really going on there. Remember the 1,000 to 10,000 political prisoners who have been taken in just the past week. Viva la revolucion.