While the oppression of pro-Mousavi supporters in Iran by the incumbent hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is clearly unacceptable, western media and supporters of the protesters in the western world must be mindful of the implications of our own involvement, and the information we have access to (which is clearly limited and surely biased) in this undeniably tentative situation.
First and foremost, the sheer scale of the protests – least not, in number – and the unerring duration of them, leaves a government in power with very little choice but to use necessary means to restore public order. Should this happen anywhere in the world today, any power in control has an obligation to maintain command on the streets – for obvious reasons. And if the public aren’t standing down on their own volition, other measures must surely be taken. Unfortunately, in this case, the attempt to dissolve the public’s hostility (and dissipate their hugely disruptive numbers) resulted in some violence against those opposing the government’s re-election.
Although Ahmadinejad’s orders cannot be excused, let’s not forget that the same situation arose in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago, and with far more catastrophic results.
Secondly, while our point of view on the banning of western media and the restriction of photography and other reportage might lead us to think that Ahmadinejad has something to hide, surely there is a case to be argued for the fact that some images and biased points of view – in the hands of pro-Mousavi supporters – will also serve to exacerbate an already volatile situation.
Are the biggest media powers not controlled and owned by those who are against Ahmadinejad? – And while we argue that he is corrupt and unfair, unjust and unscrupulous, unethical and indiscreet, oftentimes, so too (and I refer loosely to the media) are those who have their hands on the wheels of power. People simply won’t be buying newspapers in the same quantities as they would if they were reporting peaceful protests instead of violent, hostile situations, as they may well have been on the streets of Tehran and its surrounding cities.
There can be no argument that what the pro-Mousavi supporters have done, has surely compromised the Ahmadinejad regime. Although they may not have achieved exactly what they wanted (an annulment of the result) they have definitely weakened the government’s position, and thrown a ‘cat amongst the pigeons’ within the political parties of both sides. This is a great result for democracy, freedom of speech and human rights.
Weeks of western media attention on the negative results of the elections in Iran has clearly tainted what should have been heralded as a victory for democracy in the country. With unseen amounts of voters – male and female – turning out to cast their votes (perhaps reflecting opposition to the government) but at the very least, showing confidence in the possibility of their opinions being heard, there is a lot to be said of the necessity, and then the level of western involvement, especially now that opposition protesters have themselves, clearly weakened the positions of Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.