Iranian citizens show courage by speaking out

As foreign journalists have been blocked from protests by the Iranian government, local citizens have stepped up to fill the void. Traffic to the site from Iran has dropped 90 percent since it was banned by the government last week, but footage of the riots continues to be posted through users in the U.S. YouTube videos depict protestors being beaten by police, an attack on a dormitory at Tehran University and the shooting of Neda Agha Soltan, who has become a martyr in the Iranian resistance movement.

As advocates of the right to free speech, we commend the Iranian citizens for having the courage not only to resist their oppressive government, but also for risking their own lives to document their resistance.

In the violent chaos of the Iranian streets, anyone who draws attention to themselves becomes a police target and taking pictures or video is one way to draw that fatal attention. Citizens who report on events from Iran never receive a byline or credit for their work, but nevertheless put themselves in the line of fire. “They’re shooting directly at civilians, but the civilians are undeterred. Have we ever been able to watch a revolution like this in real time?” wrote Atlantic Monthly commentator Andrew Sullivan. Citizen journalism in Iran sets a precedent for people around the globe fighting oppression.

Keeping the rest of the world informed about the Iranian government’s abuses serves a noble purpose. While President Obama has so far resisted intervention in the Iran situation, it is essential that the world community be able to see and hear reports of the violence if any country or group of countries plans to take action to help the Iranian people.

In a country that censors access to blogs, YouTube and other Web sites, reporting itself is an act of resistance. The observer who took a video of Neda Agha Soltan’s death sent the video to a friend who forwarded it to the London Guardian and other newspapers who publicized it worldwide. The publication of the footage transformed Neda from an anonymous victim into a hero of the Iranian resistance movement.

Every picture and video that escapes from Iran is a crack in the brick wall that the Iranian government has built to squelch dissent. Our hats are off to the Iranian citizens who have courageously taken on the duty of documenting their resistance for the world. Through sheer grit, they have become the world’s window into one of the most important struggles for freedom of our time.