Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Remember Iran: A Day That Changed the Country, the Region, and the Media

I have absolutely no memory of 12 June 2009. Three years later, I count that date as a line in the sands of time, changing the country, the Middle East, the media, and my life.

Sometime in late May or early June, I was driving home from my work as a teacher. Stuck in traffic, I was listening to National Public Radio in a desperate attempt to reactivate my exhausted brain. As the cycle of headlines ended, a story captured my attention. Apparently, Iran was preparing for elections.

That was slightly interesting to me. Far more interesting, however, was the belief of several of the experts consulted by NPR that a reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was gathering considerable momentum and could be Iran's next President. The analysts explained that most Iranians were young, unemployed, over-educated for their positions, and yearning for a better life than what their regime had given them.

I began researching and reading about the story. I remember looking forward to the results. But I do not remember 12 June, Election Day. It passed like any other.

But I vividly remember 13 June, and 14 June, and every day for the next two weeks. I remember Tehran filled with protesters. I remember the rooftop chants of "Allahu Akbar" after sunset. I remember the teargas, the beatings, the arrests. I remember Neda.

I also remember how the media was kicked out, the Internet censored. I remember how "The Lede" blog of The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Los Angeles Times tried desperately to cover a story using Twitter sources and YouTube videos, while the world tuned in. I remember changing my Twitter location from Massachusetts to Iran, to be bombarded with information I did not understand. I remember how traditional media struggled to cover the story while new forms of media and new forms of journalism were nearly invented on the fly.

I also remember how a series of blogs, including Iran News Now, the Daily Nite Owl, and Enduring America, were able to provide better content about Iran than some titans of news.

I was hooked. Thousands of miles away, I watched a global community of individuals replace the media and engage in an incredible display of cultural exchange. Though I only played a "walk-on part in a war", I understood that something momentous had happened, not only in Iran but in the way the entire world approached events.

Three years later, 12 June resonates. It represents the successes and failures of a region struggling to gain independence from old ideologies or colonial pasts. It represents the ability for a single individual to use new technology to become an agent of change. It represents the struggle of the media to cope with this change, to engage and understand a globally-connected world in an age of shrinking budgets and slashed news rooms. It also represents where the seed of EA WorldView was planted.

I lost that teaching job when the budget was cut, I struggled to find new work, and I watched as my startup company struggled for business during the worst economy in 80 years.  At the same time, blogging about the world's news, once considered as a hobby, became recognised by many as a service. Books were published, interviews requested, articles quoted, friendships and partnerships forged.

I have buried myself into reading and writing about the Middle East, only to watch the governments we've known for so long struggle, fall, and rise again. I have seen protest movements conquer a continent, only to taste the bitter-sweet reality of the magnitude of the obstacles that they face. I have seen Azadi Square in Tehran, Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Clock Tower Square in Homs, and Pearl Monument in Bahrain.

In the next few days, EA staff will be reflecting on those events of 2009, considering how these relate to Iran, the Middle East, and the EA Worldview of today. We encourage readers to also share their memories and reflections.

We also ask that you consider donating to the effort that these events inspired. Each of the writers who has volunteered, then and later, for EA Worldview has done so from a belief that the seed planted in June 2009 would blossom. With reader support, what began with Iran will expand to cover many countries with their own stories, concerns, and hopes. 

It's been a long, exciting, taxing, stressful, sleepless, and wonderful three years. Thanks in advance for donating, and thank you for being a part of this long, often unusual journey.

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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