Tag Archives: Social Media

Blowback: Neda’s Death, Iran’s Future (Part II)

Historical Perspective

**Please note that historical events have been reconstructed as accurately as possible. Every event in Iran’s timeline is important; however, “lesser” events have been  left out for the purpose of  brevity.**

iran-map1I was twelve when the Iranian people revolted against The Shah. The details are murky; as most boys, there were far more important things happening right in my own backyard. The poignant memory for me is in that general time-period, a yellow ribbon was tied around a tree in our front yard. A yellow ribbon, hung in protest, for American citizens being held as prisoners. In 1979, Iranian extremists stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, seizing the Embassy as well as fifty-two Americans hostages. They were held for 444 Days. The assault on our embassy occurred roughly within a year of the revolution that ousted the Shah of Iran. The same Shah that was put into power by joint US-British intelligence in 1953.

It’s vital to note that Hollywood “good guys” & “bad guys” do not exist in this political mashup; the Iranian government and people mistrust and dislike Americans for reasons easily forgotten by US citizens. Time tends to erase the memory of “insignificant” events, and to the American people, our government was acting righteously, fighting the rise of Communism in the world. In 1950, the US entered into the Korean Conflict (The Korean War) on the side of the non-Communist South. Korea had been divided since the end of World War II, when the Japanese, who had been ruling Korea since 1910, surrendered to both the Soviet Union and United States simultaneously. To avoid conflict, the US and USSR divided Korea along the 38th Parallel. A Communist faction took control of North Korea in 1946, while South Korea set up a rival republic. The United States and Soviet Union, once allies against Adolf Hitler’s Germany, squared-off as adversaries.

In the last hundred years, Iran’s history, much like our own history a century earlier, has been heavily Image_AFPimpacted by the British. Without going into overt detail, the British have had a presence in the Middle East since the early 1900’s. In a region constantly afflicted with change, The Ottoman Empire (Turkish Empire) held much of the land now known as the Middle East prior to World War I. There was no sovereign state of Israel…the Jewish people were scattered across the globe, just as foretold in the Bible. Iran was known as Persia, and Mesopatamia was still a place on the map. Due to some Ottoman military defeats and the borrowing of money from western nations, foreign powers were granted “zones of influence.”  Britain was in Egypt, the French held Lebbanon and Syria, and the Russians were interested in Armenia. Italy and Austria-Hungary also had territory. Ruled by a Sultan, the Empire’s population was around 25 million when a group known as the Young Turks ousted the Sultan and resisted his attempt to re-establish power in 1908/1909.

Enter Germany. Turkey had requested that Germany aid in the reformation and modernization of it’s army following the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913 due to the army’s poor abilities at fighting and sustaining itself. Fearful of Russian expansion, when World War I broke out, Turkey sided with Germany, against not only Russia, but Britain as well.

This history would not have much significance if it weren’t for the discovery of vast quantities of oil around the same period. Concessions were granted to other nations to extract the oil, and the capitalization of the Middle East had begun. There were other periods of unrest, turmoil and war ( including World War II) that affected all present-day nations in the region, but for our intent, fast-forward to 1950.

Iran was led by Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq, a democratically-elected Prime Minister. Seeking to nationalize Iran’s oil industry from the British, and with heavy leanings toward Communist Russia, Mosaddeq concerned both the British and US governments. As the the world’s superpowers entered into The Cold War period, intelligence agencies such as the CIA, MI6, and Russian KGB were formed and covert operations that would forever alter the future were launched. Mossadeq succeeded in reclaiming Iran’s vast natural resource, an act which nearly resulted in open war between Britain and Iran. (The British company drilling in Iran became known as British Petroleum, or BP.) Instead, Britain labored to enlist the United States in an early coup of Mosaddeq. President Truman, already in committed conflict with Russian-backed North Korea, declined. Two years later, President Eisenhower was elected and Operation Ajax, a joint MI6 and CIA effort, aided (and funded) one of Mosaddeq’s former Generals, Fazlollah Zahedi in the overthrow of the Iranian governement. It was the CIA’s first covert operation against a foreign adversary.

The year was 1953, and the United States of America, supposed champion of fairness and Democray, staunch foe to Socialist and Communist regimes, had overthrown the ruler of a Democratic nation, propelling Iran back to it’s former state of government: Tyranny. Although it wasn’t realized at the time, the impact of this single event would ruin the United States’ credibility in the Middle East. Worse, an infection feeding on the living flesh of religious belief would spread, poisoning the entire body. Fundamental extremists, like white blood cells, would rise up to fight the source of the infection, and tear the fabric of the world.

NOTE:
I started writing this series for two reasons: The first being that I saw the video of Neda’s death and was profoundly impacted. The second was the realization that, in regard to Iran, my perceptions were formed by sound bytes.

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Blowback: Neda’s Death, Iran’s Future (Part I)

A Death Seen Round The World

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Image: Time.com

The burst of gunfire that shattered the air and a fallen victim. An assassination that could spell turbulence for Western, as well as Islamic, nations. The shot, witnessed the world over, did not hit a sitting US President, a world leader, or a prominent rebel leader. Rather, it hit a young, twenty-six year old woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether the shot was deliberate, fired by a sniper, or an accident, nobody knows. Unconfirmed news out of Iran states that it was intentional, fired from a rooftop. It ended her life in forty seconds. Such an event that creates martyrs.

She wasn’t a combatant. She wasn’t a leader. She wasn’t protesting, rioting, or rallying. She “simply was”…which is worlds away from “simply is.”  A young woman that died with fear in her eyes, she bled to death from a bullet to her chest. Her final moments were unfathomable, as blood spewed from her mouth, and those aiding her felt her life slip away. She simply died.

Did she have time to make peace with God? Did she have time to figure out what had happened to her? Did she feel terrible pain? That fateful morning, did she say goodbye to her mother, her relatives, her friends? Probably not. She was a nobody…and nobodies get killed everyday. And yet, she was also everybody…her death witnessed by millions; she’s become a single point of clarity, as well as solidarity, a rallying cry. Many know her by name: Neda Agha-Soltan. Much of the English speaking world refers to her simply as “Neda.”

Weeks ago, had Iran been wiped off the map, I wouldn’t have cared…well, that’s no entirely true. It’s simply that my view of Iran, then, and my view, now, has changed. Before Neda, Iran was a terrorist nation, full of extremists that wanted to kill Americans. While no doubt this is still true, the people of Iran have been made “human,”  full of fault, love, sorrow, and happiness. I can’t get her image from my head, her eyes, seeming to look right into my soul. Even now it’s her eyes; dread unfolds in the pit of my stomach, and I can’t keep from thinking that something terribly wrong is unfolding.

NOTE:
I started writing this series for two reasons: The first being that I saw the video of Neda’s death and was profoundly impacted. The second was the realization that, in regard to Iran, my perceptions were formed by sound bytes.

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Iran Elections Show Social Media User Mistakes

hand2After watching the Iranian revolution fall into the hands of “We, The People” on a global scale, a somber air of seriousness has settled across the online pages of Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, MySpace, YouTube, Hulu, TwitPic, and a plethora of similar social media sites. It’s almost the same as the days following 9/11, when the imagery, stories, and video shocked the American people into stunned, introspective silence. The footage making its way from the country once known Persia is both brutal and graphic, threatening to rend your heart in grief. For the first time since before Iran shifted power in 1979 to Ayatollah Khomeini, there seems to be a tenuous kinship between the people of the two nations rather than the fear & hatred that once permeated the air.
Iranian.Flag

The compassion of America, once aroused, can be powerful, far-reaching, and effective. Yet, in our effort to “help others,” there are precautions that we must take so as not to harm those we are working to help. On the sidelines, we have very little to fear; for the Iranian citizens, a mistake will most likely lead to their execution.

Today, the Cyberwar Guide for Iran Elections was posted on the site Boing Boing with “rules” on how we might help the most while causing the least harm. As the protests and killings continue, Iranian security forces have begun to use Twitter to spread disinformation, making it vital to not only clearly understand the gravity of the situation, but to take extreme care to ensure the “sources” being retweeted are valid. The worst mistake someone outside of Iran could make would be to give away a protester’s position…

Sometimes our well-intentioned acts lead to disastrous results for those in perilous fight for their lives.

Below is the Cyberwar Guide For Iran Elections in it’s entirety. Please read the “rules” listed closely.

“The purpose of this guide is to help you participate constructively in the Iranian election protests through Twitter.

1. Do NOT publicise proxy IP’s over twitter, and especially not using the #iranelection hashtag. Security forces are monitoring this hashtag, and the moment they identify a proxy IP they will block it in Iran. If you are creating new proxies for the Iranian bloggers, DM them to @stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely to bloggers in Iran.

2. Hashtags, the only two legitimate hashtags being used by bloggers in Iran are #iranelection and #gr88, other hashtag ideas run the risk of diluting the conversation.

3. Keep you bull$hit filter up! Security forces are now setting up twitter accounts to spread disinformation by posing as Iranian protesters. Please don’t retweet impetuosly, try to confirm information with reliable sources before retweeting. The legitimate sources are not hard to find and follow.

4. Help cover the bloggers: change your twitter settings so that your location is TEHRAN and your time zone is GMT +3.30. Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location and timezone searches. If we all become ‘Iranians’ it becomes much harder to find them.

5. Don’t blow their cover! If you discover a genuine source, please don’t publicise their name or location on a website. These bloggers are in REAL danger. Spread the word discretely through your own networks but don’t signpost them to the security forces. People are dying there, for real, please keep that in mind…

6. Denial of Service attacks. If you don’t know what you are doing, stay out of this game. Only target those sites the legitimate Iranian bloggers are designating. Be aware that these attacks can have detrimental effects to the network the protesters are relying on. Keep monitoring their traffic to note when you should turn the taps on or off.

7. Do spread the (legitimate) word, it works! When the bloggers asked for twitter maintenance to be postponed using the #nomaintenance tag, it had the desired effect. As long as we spread good information, provide moral support to the protesters, and take our lead from the legitimate bloggers, we can make a constructive contribution.

Please remember that this is about the future of the Iranian people, while it might be exciting to get caught up in the flow of participating in a new meme, do not lose sight of what this is really about.”

Digital Pivot Editor Jon Leung wrote a blog warning of similar pitfalls a few days ago. He also included relevant information on the importance of determining sources, avoiding biased views, and the author’s intent.

WhereisMyVoteAs Social Media enthusiasts, users, and experts, we often do not have the luxury of fact checkers or knowing if our sources are valid. We also, in many cases, do not have the benefit of receiving first-hand information, which means that it is our ethical and moral responsibility to print facts, check our sources for credibility, and neither add, nor detract, information that would alter the intent of the story.

Thinking back to 9/11 and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers, Twitter might have been used to aid the rescuers that searched for survivors. Remember that one of the major criticisms from the 9/11 Commission was the fact that the EMS services, police, National Guard, Coast Guard, etc. were unable to communicate with one another. Twitter certainly could have played a major role in coordinating rescue efforts.

Jeff Louis: Strategic Media Planner, Project Manager, and New Business Account Coordinator. His passion is writing. If you would like to get in touch with Jeff, please leave a reply or follow the links: www.linkedin.com or www.twitter.com.

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