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The revolution will not be televised
Iran is using technology to shut down growing protests against the regime, but anti-government forces are fighting back.
April 18, 2010 3:37 by Iason Athanasiadis
His worries that a previous detention would result in harsher punishment dissipated after he realized that his previous offense had either not been registered or disappeared due to poor information-sharing between different intelligence branches. Last month, he successfully tested this theory when he returned to Iran to participate in demonstrations timed for Ashura and entered and exited the country unhindered.
But the shock delivered by Iran’s government in February was doubled by how tightly it shut down all methods of communication, both physically and in cyberspace. The generally unhackable Gmail was blocked, Internet slowed to a crawl, and hundreds of plainclothes officers infiltrated areas frequented by green movement supporters.
Eyewitness accounts described food delivery boys mounted on bikes zipping through the streets, only given away by the wireless antennae poking out of their pockets, or coats buttoned tight to hide weapons. The surveillance, isolation, attack and removal of opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi, Mohammad Khatami, and Ali Karroubi stopped them from developing into nuclei for protest.
“It’s very important for the opposition to use communications,” said Evgeny Morozov, a new technology guru who has been following the adaptation of communications in the case of Iran.
“Which is why, historically speaking, prospective revolutionaries are so fond of cutting telephone and telegraph lines to prevent the other side from mobilizing their supporters.”
Protesters are also becoming more street savvy. After the Intelligence Ministry published several images of protesters circled in red, appealing to loyalists to identify them, more cell phone videos are now shot pointing into the sky or to the ground to avoid identifying unmasked protesters. Protesters have their faces digitally blurred before their images are posted on the Internet.
But ultimately, it could be that the government’s crackdown was so effective it will kill opposition street demonstrations for the next few months.
“All of us who would attend the demos have decided that this way of protest has finished, the regime has got too good at short-circuiting it,” said Sara, a protester who gave only her first name.
“There has to be a new strategy instead of us going out to the streets to protest against the regime.”