Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Dying on the Streets of Iran and... Today in 1972

The ongoing turmoil and unrest in Iran has thrown up some astonishing images and video, delivered via such sites as Twitter, YouTube, Picasa and Demotix, not to mention a number of live blogs aggregating the copious amount of content flying around the internet at the moment.

What will perhaps come to be regarded as one of the defining pieces of content from the current unrest is this video of Neda, a young Iranian woman shot in the heart by the Basij militia whilst on the streets of Tehran.

WARNING: This is extremely graphic, bloody and distressing. This is in no way suitable for minors.

DO NOT watch this if you are easily disturbed. Viewer discretion is advised.

I've embedded this video on my blog because I believe Neda's death, as gruesome as it is, should be told.

Here's another snapshot of what it's like to have the shadow of death hanging over your head, a blog entry from an "Iranian blooger with more courage than most of us will ever know".

“I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…”

This blogger was not only talking about events, but actively doing something about it. Neda too, was out on the streets, protesting for her rights, doing rather than talking and I can't help but wonder how people in this country would react in such circumstances. How many people in England would dare risk limb and even life to stand up for what they believe in?

Today in 1972

And finally, on a slightly different note, today is the anniversary of the publication of one of the defining images of the Vietnam war, Nick Ut's photograph of Kim Phuc:

Which raised a question in my head - what would things have been like had the Vietnamese, and American servicemen, been armed with such things as camera phones or had easy access to blogs and other social media?

Indeed, the war was one of the first to receive 'extensive' media coverage, with on the ground reporters broadcasting images from the 'frontline' direct to America's living room, bringing home the stark reality of war and helping to fuel the anti-war movement.

But with the immediacy of social media, how much sooner would opinion have turned if widespread uncensored footage of the devastation caused by Rolling Thunder, napalm, pesticides and the ground war were made public?

I don't know, there were many other factors at play then, including the bigger picture of a particular Communist enemy in a particular Cold War. Obviously, protests and violence on the streets of Iran are no comparison at all to near total war in Vietnam, but it's certainly something to ponder for the representation of future conflict.

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