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Despite the distance, locals get involved in disputed Iranian election

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 17, 2009 7:20 AM

The disputed election in Iran seems so far away. That’s because it is; Iran’s capital, Tehran, is more than 7,000 miles from Iowa City.

But that doesn’t mean locals need be totally disconnected from the Iranian protesters’ plight. In fact, there are ways community members here in Iowa can — and should — be involved in the events unfolding in Iran.

Late last week, Iranian officials declared current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of the presidential election. However, protesters — largely students — have taken to the streets of Tehran, wielding signs asking “where’s my vote?” and crying foul at what they insist are faulty election results.

Locally, in response to the apparent hijacking of the Iranian election, a former UI student is planning a demonstration to be held on the Pedestrian Mall today at 11:30 a.m.

Yashar Vasef, the protest’s organizer, said the event’s purpose is multifaceted: Participants want to raise awareness about what’s going on in Tehran, show solidarity with their Iranian counterparts, and petition U.S. politicians not to recognize the election results as legitimate.

We encourage locals to take part in the protest because Vasef’s goals are all worthy causes.

In any social or political movement, awareness is key. And if that awareness can be made global, it will be made even more powerful. We fear there are dangerous many here — even on a supposedly informed college campus — who are unaware of the struggle for true democracy in Iran. To combat that, Vasef said, protesters will hand out fliers to passersby explaining the situation surrounding the disputed election in Iran.

Additionally, by banding together — even 7,000 miles away — protesters here can send a message of support to protesters on the streets of Iran. That sign of support — combined with similar sentiments spilling in from the United States and around the world — will surely act as a morale-booster for the Iranian youth who are standing up against clear political corruption.

Vasef’s biggest goal for the protest, though, is to collect signatures for a petition calling on elected officials — namely Iowa’s senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress — to reject the Iranian government’s election results. While politicians should be careful not to stick their heads too far into the affairs of other nations and further inflame the situation, they should make it clear that Americans will never sit idly by while government-sponsored fraud anywhere is made to undermine free elections.

Not a protest-going person? That’s OK. You can support the Iranian demonstrators without even leaving your home. The Internet has played a key role in the demonstrations going on in Iran. Because the government controls the media in Iran, activists have turned to social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter to report violence and organize protests. Much the same way as at a physical protest, you can use social networking outlets to help raise awareness about what’s going on in Iran. Mainstream media are ignored by many in our generation, but if the message is sent via Facebook, it will be harder to miss.

Many have asked why the election in Iran should matter to Americans. It’s a fair question. After all, even the reformist candidate in the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, emphasizes the need to advance Iran’s nuclear program. And, while Mousavi appears to be more open to diplomatic relations with the United States than does Ahmadinejad, he would still be far from a pro-Western leader.

However, this issue is much bigger than the differences between two candidates. If democracy is truly an American value, we cannot selectively value it. Each of us — whether we’re in Iowa City or Washington — must promote democracy unconditionally: at home — by voting in our own elections — but also abroad by voicing support for others who are, quite literally, risking their lives to protest for their right to govern themselves in a free, fair manner.

Additionally, this is an opportunity to stand up to the status quo and speak out against corrupt politics which dominate much of the world. The Iranians in power want to be legitimately recognized. We can weaken these tyrants if we — elected officials as well as average citizens — join together in denying them the legitimacy they crave.


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