Iran’s failed Facebook revolution

In Foreign Policy, Cameron Abadi writes:

A group of Iran’s green movement activists had a grand and detailed vision for what was supposed to happen on Feb. 11. They called it a “Trojan Horse” strategy: Backers of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, camouflaged in unassuming attire, would attend the official regime-backed rally commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Then, at a pre-arranged time, they would assemble in front of the cameras of the foreign news media, reveal themselves as enthusiasts of the green movement, and denounce the brutality of the government for all the world to see.

As we all know, however, there was no great reveal at the official rally: The plan didn’t work, and Feb. 11 will be remembered by Iran’s activists not as a triumph, but as a disappointment. And the scale of the setback, which has placed a significant damper on the movement’s spirits, is closely tied to the specificity and grandiosity of the visions that were being cultivated in the preceding weeks via blogs, forwarded emails, and social networking sites.

Iranian activists have long reaped the benefits of Internet communication, but especially in the months since the June 12 election, they have also fallen prey to its pitfalls. Reassured by their own online echo chambers, activists and participants allowed their optimism to grow like a market bubble — a bubble that, many say, was popped on Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times describes the way protesters were treated in the notorious Kahrizak prison last summer:

Over the five days, beatings came regularly — when someone complained or whenever the guards felt like it. To make an example of an inmate who protested about the conditions, guards hung him by his ankles and beat him with plastic pipes.

Amir Javadifar, a young filmmaker and actor, had been badly beaten even before he got to Kahrizak, and his condition worsened.

“From the first night in Kahrizak, he lost sight of one of his eyes due to being battered by a hard object, as later we would see in the report of forensic doctors examining his dead body,” Nikbakht said. At night, the soldiers stomped on the tin roof, or smashed the walls with their batons or the butts of their rifles. “The noise drove us crazy,” Hatef said.

One morning early in the detention they awoke to find Mohammad Kamrani, a nephew of an official working in Ahmadinejad’s office, in dire condition.

“He was unconscious,” Hatef said.

They also found that they couldn’t revive Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of a political advisor to one of Iran’s top conservative politicians. The guards had been pounding on him.

“He was suffering from a broken head due to being hit by a plastic pipe,” Hatef said.

The guards showed no mercy to those who were already badly injured.

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