The Iranian Presidential Election will be held this Friday. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, Hossein Mousavi, a moderate and progressive candidate (by Iranian standards) has emerged as a serious contender to the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
While his “Green Revolution,” at first seemed nothing more than a Sisyphean struggle by a group of young moderate Iranians against a totalitarian and despotic government – destined for failure despite their greatest efforts – the winds of change have dramatically and suddenly tipped in Mousavi’s favor and, at this point, it’s anyone’s race.
Iran’s state-controlled media has given Mr. Mousavi no air-time, the government has banned his party from hosting peaceful rallies in sports stadiums and other public venues, and those rallies which have occurred spontaneously in the street have been met with hostilities from government officials. Still, his candidacy built momentum.
So how did Mr. Mousavi, whose supporters promise “a new greeting to the world,” emerge as a serious contender to Mr Ahmadinejad despite a state-wide government campaign to quell his movement? The answer: FACEBOOK. Mousavi’s supporters – mostly young people and educated urban dwellers – have taken to the Web, garnering support and enthusiasm on Facebook and on blogs, posting videos of their candidate on YouTube, and organizing impromptu street rallies by mass-texting fellow supporters literally on the fly. The result: a highly organized, energetic, and sophisticated force for change.
Mousavi supporter Emad Mortazavi, a 24-year-old sociology student, said, “Last week, there was suddenly this feeling that it was possible, that Mousavi could get enough votes. Social-networking sites and text-messaging have played a big role in spreading the message.”
In typical form, Ahmadinejad blocked Facebook in May in an attempt to silence his opposition, but to no avail (it was opened back up three days later). In the end, Iran’s youth proved more tech-savvy than anyone in Ahmadinejad’s government.
In an uncanny mirror image of the U.S. election last year, it appears the Net-Generation – people born between 1980 and 1996 – may once again anchor the winning candidate by embracing progressive attitudes and exploiting the power of the internet to collaborate and organize for their candidate. Evidence of a seismic demographic shift, the precipitous rise of Mousavi proves that young Iranians are a force to be reckoned with.
The AFP reports:
“With more than 60 percent of Iranians born after their nation’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the under-30 vote will be crucial in next week’s election in which hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being challenged by three fiercely critical rivals.
Several analysts predict a high urban youth turnout in favour of former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi…Tehran has been gripped by a new fashion frenzy ahead of the June 12 vote, with scores of teenagers and 20-somethings sporting green wristbands, scarves and T-shirts.”
Iranian youth ultimately face many of the same problems as young people in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. In a time of economic turmoil they want a candidate who can answer their questions and who can appeal to their better instincts; not some religious zealot who spends most of his time demonizing the Western World and threatening the extinction of its neighbors. The DailyKos writes,
“The economy is a key issue, and many young people with college degrees cannot find jobs or acceptable living arrangements in Tehran and other major cities…the ruling elites cannot ignore the desires of such an enormous percentage of the nation for long. Iran is in for some major shifts due to demographics alone.”
Tomorrow, the Iranian people will take to the polls. The sun may rise Saturday morning on a very different looking Middle East.