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The Ongoing Protests in Iran

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Neda Agha-Soltan,Iranian woman killed in Tehran protests

Tears swept over this reader as he read the account by Nazila Fathi, an exiled journalist relating an account of some of the recent protests occurring in Tehran, Iran.

Fathi, an Iranian herself, raised and educated in Tehran, was a recent reporter there for The New York Times. After the disputed June elections in Iran, she was forced to leave her native country. As we have learned, those elections were seen as fraudulent by most Iranians that resulted in widespread protests and the subsequent officially sanctioned repression by the regime. As the protests ensued, Fathi and other reporters were forced to leave the country because as she said, "Our offense was that we covered them too thoroughly."

Now reporting out of Toronto, Canada (she had acquired dual citizenship there while a student at the University of Toronto in the 1990's), it has been the internet, the ingenuity of the Iranian protesters and the contacts she has made with the Iranian ex patriot community in New York (while on assignment there, she was covering a hunger strike in support of the Iranian opposition), she met old "contacts" (ex parliament members, activists and bloggers who had been exiled from Iran years ago) but were some of her former "sources" while she reported from Tehran.

Though these "sources" were no longer in Iran, she realized they were "surprisingly informed" as they were kept in the know by protester's accounts sent over the internet.

We too in the U.S. and elsewhere have been kept abreast of the continuing protests in Iran by the video streamed images taken and sent by the protesters (despite the regimes draconian efforts to clamp down and prevent these images from being distributed).

The key image that Fathi reported was from December 30, where a Basij militia member was seen firing wildly into a crowd of protesters when suddenly that crowd yelled, "Hemlah!" " Attack" and dozens of men and women rushed "menacingly" toward the armed attacker. Fathi indicated it wasn't clear as to the outcome of the incident but she believes an "amazing turnaround" has happened; that" fear had evaporated among many of those who joined the opposition that day."

Though she admits there is no way to predict where "any movement may be heading or when it may be stopped," the protests "were entering a new phase."

What seems clear to this observer is that the protests are authentic and not stage managed. The repressive tactics used by the regime are backfiring. The protesters are becoming bolder and their actions more strident, even in the face of official brutality (arrests, beatings, killings).

In light of the events happening in Iran, it would be counter productive for the U.S. and other countries to exact new sanctions (even sanctions that focus on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard) that will assuredly hurt the Iranian people. The protesters have said to the West, "Do not initiate more sanctions against the regime," but verbally support their efforts in opposition to that regime.

This is truly a grass roots opposition movement that continues to expand and flourish in Iran. Its cause is just. It must be allowed to play out without foreign interference (which will only embolden the regime that insists that foreign elements are behind the protests). It requires a little "benign neglect" on our government's part.

Ordinary citizens throughout the world are watching the events unfold in Iran. They are on the side of and identify with the protesters. They know they are on the right side of history.

We in the U.S. can learn much from the Iranian's protesting in the streets. Let us hope our government will exercise restraint and avoid temptation and react harshly with Iran. Harshness at this time would be a critical error with unintended consequences that would surely turn out badly for the people in Iran as well as us.
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