The struggle of the Iranian people is a quintessential liberal cause. The Iranian people are nonviolently protesting their unjust suppression of every type of right a human deserves, yet unlike Darfur or Africans suffering from AIDS, Hollywood has been almost silent on their behalf. Jon Bon Jovi is the one exception, having recorded a version of “Stand by Me” in English and Farsi with Iranian musicians to express his support of them. The Green Revolution, like all similar revolutions, lives on morale. Bon Jovi needs to be praised by all quarters for his contribution to this most essential element, and if the music can make its way to the Iranian people, I believe people will be surprised by the effect it has.
The technologically proficient Iranian population will make their own videos, playing the music in the background with images of the mixture of pain and hope that defines Iran today. It will be played in their homes as a form of protest and it will be played at rallies and demonstrations. It will be impossible for the regime to silence the music if each Iranian plays it loudly on their cell phones, laptops, portable music players, or even from speakers in their homes. The comfort they will feel as they walk down the street, fighting back the tears as they think of their loved ones being detained and beaten, while faintly hearing the music from another Iranian passing by will be immense. The rest of Hollywood needs to follow Bon Jovi’s lead, making awareness ads, fundraising for humanitarian aid if avenues to get it to the Iranians can be found (star power has a way of making things happen), and making similar videos so that Iranians can know that our short attention span hasn’t caused our ears to turn away from their voices.
The numbers of the demonstrators have indeed decreased, but it would be wrong to dismiss the intensity of the ongoing unrest. This uprising is very much still alive, although the protests are more scattered rather than in one large mass. No one should have expected the gatherings of hundreds of thousands, millions even, to continue indefinitely, particularly when the international community puts far more pressure on the coup plotters in Honduras than Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, but such crowds will assemble again in reaction to provocation or encouragement. The Green Revolution has not died but has entered a new phase, where the entire country will experience ongoing, smaller demonstrations that sometimes will quickly grow and crescendo into a giant mass, threatening the regime’s survival more and more each time it happens.
The bravery of the Iranian people has not subsided. On June 30, Iranians in Karaj attacked a Revolutionary Guards commander said to be involved in arresting and killing demonstrators. According to the report I received, he is now in a coma and his death is likely. On June 23, protesters spray-painted “Death to dictatorship!” on a Revolutionary Guards base in Kermanshah. Rumors are ongoing that workers in all sectors want to go on strike but are having difficulty coordinating one. Footage continues to surface of people fighting with the Basiji forces in Tehran, throwing rocks at thugs armed with guns on rooftops. Fissures among the mullahs remain, with one ayatollah telling demonstrators in Tehran that Ayatollah Khomeini did not want Khamenei to succeed him as supreme leader and another coming to Mousavi’s defense.
The increased security measures taken by the regime reflect that they are still greatly concerned about their stability. Iranians continue to report that Lebanese Hezbollah operatives are being used by the regime. Unconfirmed reports say that six demonstrators have been hanged in Mashhad. In Tehran, huge numbers of security forces remain and sometimes attack anyone seen using a cell phone. Those taken prisoner have reported being viciously beaten in an attempt to get them to “confess” to being involved with people outside the country, an attempt to prove that the demonstrations are a foreign plot. Another has said he was beaten with chains, given little food, and not allowed to sleep unless he signed a statement confessing that his professors had helped organize student protests. Other measures taken in the past appear desperate, such as playing movies on state television, including a Lord of the Rings marathon.
Luckily, some level of official help for the Iranians may be on the way. The bill to give President Obama the power to sanction companies providing Iran with refined petroleum products has veto-proof, bipartisan support. Senators Lieberman, McCain, and Graham are trying to pass legislation to increase funding for Radio Farda and Voice of America’s Farsi broadcasting, and to take other measures to help the Iranians “evade the censorship and surveillance of the regime online.” McCain has also said he is investigating firms that have sold the regime the technology used to block electronic communication between Iranians. The House is also stepping up, with the Appropriations Committee acting to try to end loan guarantees given to companies investing in Iran, especially those that provide the regime with refined gasoline.
The title of the song Bon Jovi chose to do a rendition of, “Stand by Me,” is exactly what the Iranians are trying to tell us. The producer of the video said it was “intended to be downloaded and shared by the Iranian people. The whole idea was to get it into Iran and tell them … to carry on, that the world is watching and we’re with you.”
Don’t give up on the Iranian people yet. Let’s stand by them.