Iranians are at the polls today to cast their ballot for president for the first time since the 2009 “Green Revolution.” The Human Rights Channel will be monitoring the election and its aftermath through citizen video, adding to our new playlist “Iranian Presidential Election.”
This time around, Iranians and observers say that authorities are already taking steps to stifle dissent, limit voters’ options, and restrict free distribution of and access to information. Several of the reform leaders, for instance, are behind bars, and many political activists have been harassed in recent weeks.
Furthermore, the internet within the country has slowed to a point that it is nearly impossible for regular citizens to access information or share content like video. Despite the technical challenges and threats to free expression, some Iranian citizens have managed to record political rallies in the past few weeks and share them on YouTube, giving us a glimpse into voices of dissent and activism within a repressive regime.
Uploaded by YouTube user by setadsalam June 9, 2013: Hundreds of people chant for the release of imprisoned reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi during a Mohammed-Reza Aref campaign rally in Yazd.
In addition to reports trickling out from inside Iran, there are organizations based outside the country that are working to strengthen civil society. One such organization is the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) which is dedicated to documenting human rights abuses inside Iran by gathering and analyzing written, audio and visual evidence of purported violations. They have been working to verify accounts of violations in the lead up to the election.
In an email interview with IHRDC’s executive director Gissou Nia, she noted that,
This election cycle, we have not seen the same kind of momentum build around a candidate like we did during the last presidential election in 2009…
However, despite this and the recent internet slow-down and difficulties facing Iran’s web users in accessing their email and using file transfer services, there has been a steady stream of video footage of incidents at campaign rallies and other events, as well as written and oral accounts of arrests, intimidation and other pressures from Iranian state forces. [These reports] need to be assessed for authenticity and reliability and contextualized.
Ms. Nia pointed to video examples from June 12 the last day of campaigning. The footage below “shows a crowd chanting for the release of political prisoners at a rally in Mashhad for Hassan Rowhani, the moderate/reformist candidate.” And another video shows crowd enthusiasm in support of Mr. Rowhani in Tehran.
Our social media team here at WITNESS also identified the following Twitter users as some of those sharing information (in both Farsi and English) and contributing to a robust discussion of the election: @ohiomail @jennanmoussa @aghezelbash @tavaana @steve_hanke @oli2be @IAY4Iran @SaeedKd @IEN88 @Maziari @negarmortazavi @jasminramsey @gesfandiar and @GissouNia (quoted above). You can also follow the hashtag #iranelection
If you’ve seen video from Iran’s election we should know about, please tweet us at @ythumanrights.