CNN is on here at my hotel room in Buffalo, and the main news story is how “citizen journalists” in Iran continue to cover the breaking stories with cell phones, Twitter, and FaceBook. Iranians are risking their lives to submit video footage to network news stations. Over on Huffington Post, Nico Pitney is blogging about Iran, using sources from all over the web, and doing a bit of vetting to discount some fake citizen journalism.
As some of you may know, I have stencil work from Iran over on Stencil Archive. I don’t know the artist’s real names, nor any details about their lives. But I do understand that doing graffiti in Iran comes at a great risk. Larger than the risks that other artists face, since graffiti is considered an evil Western-influenced activity by some fundamentalist Iranians. Since the protests started, I have been concerned about the artists, fearing their safety and hoping that they’re keeping things real in the streets. They’ve gotten in touch and are OK. But extremely excited and concerned about losing their votes in the recent election. They have reacted by doing what they do best during these amazing times in Persia. They’re keeping art in the streets!
My data mining has dug up some blogs, and Dub Gabriel has started blogging for a friend in Iran who is telling his version of the story. Here’s a photoblog that I have gone to to look at photos. Here is a Flickr stream of some current art in the Iranian streets. Iran is blocking some major web sites (like YouTube), but Flickr seems to be available. And it’s easy to get around the government blocking: Dub Gabriel is easily helping his friend in Iran post information, probably via simple email exchanges. So posting some of these sites is a simple act that I can do to help the thousands of green-clad people in the streets of Iran.
Twenty years ago, Chinese students occupied Tianamen Square, and were eventually brutally crushed by the People’s Army. Last night at my presentation at Hallwalls, I showed some photos of the street art and stencil work in Iran. I made the comment that things might have ended differently in 1989, had the students used cell phones and cameras to let the whole world instantly watch and witness their experience with seeking freedom and democracy. I don’t know if today’s coverage in Iran will bring a huge change with their culture, but I know that our ability to witness it first hand is a sweet experience. CNN is showing international rallies supporting the Iranian democrats, and I am sure that those attending these rallies are snapping pics and taking phone vids of the scene. And they’re MMS’ing them to friends in Persia. And they’re instantly posting them online.
Together, we can witness what is happening half the world away, and thus our compassion expands for those who desire the basic freedoms we all should have. Hopefully, this will drive change in the world and bring lessons of unity and equality that we should’ve learned over and over again. If not, then we will once again have to see similar uprisings happen, and have to relive the painful images of oppression. That being said, don’t forget the recent struggles in Tibet, the ongoing pain in Palestine, and other suffering around the world of people who don’t have the technology to give us the first-hand experience.