The protests rocking Iran are of great significance for the politics and society of a Middle East regional superpower, yet one relies in vain on Western media coverage for a decent understanding of developments. Once again, the mainstream press seem incapable of analyzing crucial events in the Middle East without recourse to cliché, condescension, simplification, and decontextualization.
In terms of the election itself, this is not a case of goodies versus baddies. Mousavi, who has now become the principal political figurehead opposing the results of a highly suspect election, is not a random outsider, but a veteran of the Islamic revolution. As Prime Minister for most of the 1980s, he had low tolerance for dissent and was backed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini.
What is unfolding is more like two distinct, yet connected, phenomena: a bitter conflict over future policy direction within the ruling elite, and an explosion of anger by many Iranians demanding political and human rights.
On Sunday, I spoke online with a journalist in Tehran. Because he fears for his life, he must remain anonymous, so I shall call him N. He told me that the "regime" is killing people "brutally," and that he had himself witnessed people being beaten:
They are shooting people, just because we haven't accepted the result of that shameful election. I attended some of these demonstrations. Last week they were calm, millions of people attended. But after the speech of the Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khomeini], they [security forces] became so wild. They tried very hard to prevent people from gathering, but people gathered. So they attacked people, and so far at least 20 were killed.
I asked N. about the meaning of these demonstrations:
People want freedom and justice. It is about more than Mousavi