The Change Within

Thousands rally to support Mousavi

Thousands attend a rally in Isfahan supporting Mousavi (photo: faramarz)

Today bloggers from around the world are uniting in support of the protesters and human rights in Iran. What’s happening in Iran is despicable and I’m proud to join them today; to see innocent people left beaten and dying on the streets, their free speech and hopes trampled into the ground, is something everyone should condemn.

I had planned to write a poem but I haven’t had enough time to finish it; it’s taken longer than I thought and I don’t want to compromise it, so I will post it later this week. I thought I’d post some more general thoughts about what’s happening in Iran and free speech instead.

Recently there has been a debate raging in Australia about censorship and free speech, particularly online. The government wants to introduce a mandatory internet filter to block child pornography and other harmful content but it has met strong opposition. The problem is that it slows connections and doesn’t work as intended; there are ways around it and it has blocked other content as well, including an abortion site and others which have nothing to do with abuse.

I’m strongly against the filter, not just because I consider it censorship and there is no way to know what’s on it but also because I fear it could be exploited later on. I would much rather have an opt-in filter that parents could use, rather than one which applies to everyone regardless.

But earlier today, while I was watching the scenes from Iran, I thought how lucky I am to live in a country where we can have an honest and open debate at all. So many countries can’t. That’s what we’re seeing with Iran right now.

I can’t imagine living in a country where I could be arrested for touching the hand of a female friend; to not be able to have a real conversation in public or listen to popular music; to have to follow a strict code of dress. Sometimes I think we take what we have for granted and I can understand the protesters’ anger, to have felt so close to those freedoms, only to have them disappear.

The situation in Iran has become much worse since my last post. The crackdown has intensified again, with local members of the British Embassy being detained by security forces and a violent clash with protesters outside the Ghoba Mosque on Sunday resulting in numerous injuries. Mousavi also appears to be distancing himself from the street protests and a partial recount of votes has found no sign of fraud or error, creating more doubts.

It’s becoming much harder to see how the protests can continue from here, facing overwhelming force and waning support. While the opposition seems to be entering a new phase, trying to be cautious and find new ways to protest, without the majority of clerics siding with the protesters it’s unlikely they will be able to succeed.

If change is to come to Iran now I think it will likely have to come from the inside out. It’s now become a matter of changing perceptions and pushing back boundaries, letting ideas spread over time; once the culture begins to change, there’ll be another chance. Even if it’s not until Khamenei dies.

Given how serious the situation has become I’m glad for events like this Bloggers Unite day. I know some people will dismiss it and other events like it as meaningless but I think what’s happening in Iran should be condemned by every person who values freedom and democracy in the world. This and the petitions online give us a way of showing our support.

I don’t expect anything to come from it but if it means that even one person in Iran is encouraged by our support and knows they aren’t alone, then I think it’s worthwhile. We live in an open society but being free also means we know what people have to lose, so I think it’s even more important that we stand up to show our support when it’s needed.

If there’s something we can learn from this, whatever happens, I hope it’s that people realise the world is a much smaller place than they think. Fifteen years ago it seemed like other countries and cultures were so distant but the world is a lot smaller now and as technology continues to spread, our differences fade away; we realise we want the same things — freedom, hope, peace — and that’s what I see on the streets of Tehran. That we are the same; the rest is just politics.

The more I think about it, though, the more I feel that if we truly want peace and change in the world, then we have to look within ourselves first. Even if it’s just to set an example, to show we’re willing to do more than just watch, that we will change our ways as well. By making a difference in our own lives, we can pass it on and help others in the world.

I wonder if people looked honestly at themselves, how many would want to make a change? Would their eyes be open enough to criticise themselves, to see their flaws? I know it’s something I want do more; to be less negative, less selfish, to see the world in a different way. Perhaps through the changes in my life, I can then help someone else.

That’s what I take away from what’s happening in Iran. It’s an opportunity for all of us to look at what’s really important, the things we want to change in the world and in our own lives.

If we do that then, whatever happens, the protesters won’t be forgotten.

To our friends in Iran, please stay safe. We’re thinking of you.

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
– Saadi