Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Iranian Protests

I was asked over the Christmas Holiday what I thought of the Iranian Protests by someone on Facebook. I thought it might be interesting to repeat that conversation here:

Nick, I'm interested what your views are on the protester deaths in Iran, not however the typical response of it's awful, but what practically can the UK do? What can we as citizens do. I became aware of the reality of this through a youtube video

talking about the twitter revolution (which really is worth watching) but now it seems to be coming to a head with the bbc reporting between 8 and 10 deaths and opposition leaders being arrested in Tehran. Thanks, J

My response:

Hi J

That's a tough one, and to be honest my answer is 'I don't really know'.

It's very easy, as you say, to jump to a response that says 'it's awful and they should be conforming to western standards of human rights and democracy.' I'm not sure though that that's the right answer.

As an aside, I think one of our fundamental errors in Afghanistan is to try and impose a western style system on a society that is culturally opposed to such a thing. To try and impose an external solution on the situation could be doing a similar thing.

That said, we can not turn a blind eye to a government which is clearly using repression against its own people and you've asked what we can practically do.

Listening to the remenisences marking the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Eastern European dicatorships, I've been struck by the fact that the growth of access to western media, people and influences played a significant role in making the populations of those countries aware of the failings of their regimes.

I'm therefore led to a conclusion that the best thing our Government can do is to support those organisations, like the BBC's Farsi service, who broadcast independent news and information in to Iran. When those broadcasts are jammed we should find ways around that jamming and do what we can to ensure that people have access to an independent news source.

As individuals, the best thing we can do is to do exactly what you have done, ask questions, highlight the Youtube videos, support and encourage those in Iran who are making sure the world is aware of what is going on.

I don't believe we have the right to intervene in Iran and/or to impose our values on them. However we should do all we can to give access to information and an independent perspective to people there and encouragement to those who are fighting for their rights.

Sorry for such a long answer, I hope that helps a little.

All the best