A Front Seat to Historic Change in Iran

Martin Luther King once said: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

From Obama’s speech on the events in Iran.

We are witnessing in Iran something both historic and profound. When the protesters this weekend chanted "Marg bar dictator" ("Death to the dictator!") the world should have stopped in their tracks and listened to it. When people are out on the streets in droves calling for death to their leader in a country where freedom of speech often appears to be a myth, that is the sound of a revolution.

The people of Iran have taken to the streets knowing very well that they can die. They have put their lives on the line in order to make their voices heard. This is no longer about a stolen election. This is about freedom, justice, and years of oppression. It's about voices that were held down for too long finally finding a way to cry out.

This is a revolution that is not only being televised, but publicized moment by moment across the world through the power of the internet. From blogs to Twitter, from YouTube to mainstream news sites,  events are being broadcast as they happen. Videos, photos, sound bites, 140-character play-by-plays of courage and violence.

The world needs to see that violence. We need to see these images; the world needs to see these images. They impact us. They allow us to see what is going on not only through the eyes of the regime and through filtered news reports, but with the eyes and ears of those right there. And to see the death and violence is to understand not only what the protesters are facing, but what freedom means to them. It means so much that they would put their lives on the line in order to obtain it. They know that what they are doing today may not result in their freedom tomorrow, but perhaps it will come for the next generation. They are willing to sacrifice to make their country a better place for those that come after them.

The day before the uprising began, an Iranian blogger wrote:

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 bachelor's 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.

That is courage and nobility defined. As people who already have freedom, we need to stand behind those who would face death in order to secure their freedom. The fight for freedom anywhere in the world is of great interest and importance to anyone who would love to see peace on earth one day. We certainly may not see it in our lifetime, but thanks to people in Iran who are standing up to a terrible regime, the world is taking a step forward in that quest.

What's most astounding is that the protesters are not just young and not just men. The crowds are made up of the youth of Iran as well as their elders. There are men and women mingling together. There are policemen unwilling to harm the protesters and the crowds urging the police to drop their weapons and join them. It is an unnerving yet beautiful thing to watch unfold.

Roger Cohen wrote in the New York Times:

I also know that Iran's women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I've seen them urging less courageous men on. I've seen them get beaten and return to the fray. "Why are you sitting there?" one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. "Get up! Get up!"

Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of "Death to the dictator!" and "We want liberty!" accompanied her.

What we are witnessing is the collective primal scream of the people of Iran, finally let loose.

Let "Marg bar dictator" be the chant heard round the world.