In 2009, the ‘Green Movement’ harnessed social media as a tool for political change. Today, Iranian bloggers continue the trend, debating whether this was the right election for them to cast their vote.
To vote or not to vote? The debate has dominated social media platforms in Iran as users attempt to justify their opinions. Some Iranians believe the 2009 election was fraud, prompting lively online debates as to whether they should even bother voting this time around. This discussion was further fueled following the withdrawals of reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref and conservative Gholam Ali Hadad Adel, in favor of other conservative candidates.
Deutsche Welle's Persian desk conducted an online survey on its Facebook page to ask its audience if they will vote or not. The majority of participants believed that they should not vote, claiming the 2009 election was “fraud,” while others reported that they will vote for one of the candidates. A few stated that they had not decided yet.
Vote to keep hope
The writer of “A Dead Indian” blog was arrested after the 2009 election. After being tortured and imprisoned for several months, he wrote in his blog, “During the first four days of my arrest the guards did not let us sleep or eat, and we were forced to stand all the time. I was beaten severely and I totally lost hope during those days.”
He continued describing the torment. “When they wanted to transfer us to Evin Prison, a guard asked which one of you is not regretting that he voted for [opposition leader] Mousavi? I had raised my hand, and he started to beat me again while shouting ‘you are still stubborn.' ”
As for the blogger's voting intentions today? He said he will be casting his ballot for the reform candidate who promised to rebuild relations with the west.
“I am going to vote for Hasan Rohani this time; I don't even have enough reasons this time. Maybe I just want to remind myself that I am still stubborn for my rights.” Ali Malihi, a student activist who was imprisoned for two and half years after the 2009 election announced on his Facebook page that he will vote in the upcoming election.
“I will cast my vote to show the authorities that I exist in this society and that I don't think like them,” Malihi said. “I am critical and they cannot shut my mouth, although they imprisoned me for two and half years.”
But another Facebook user Saleh wrote that “keeping hope” for a better future in the current political system of Iran is futile. “This regime has always betrayed our trust,” Saleh wrote. “The regime had already told us in several ways that our vote is not important. Let's forget the hope that they will count our votes this time and start to think deeply about the important question: ‘What shall we do to force the system to take a step back?'”
What do imprisoned leaders think?
Both Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were reformist candidates in Iran's 2009 presidential election and were placed under house arrest after they questioned the validity of Ahmadinejad's victory. Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard was head of Alzahra University for women in Tehran until 2005 and played an active role in her husband's 2009 reformist campaign. The three later spearheaded the Green Movement, in which protesters banded together to demand the removal of Ahmadinejad. Some Iranian social media users believe that casting a vote while the movement's leaders are still imprisoned is a betrayal to their resistance.
Naiemeh, a blogger who was also arrested in 2009 wrote, “I cannot vote because Mousavi strongly stated that he will defend my rights, and he did. I cannot betray him or myself by voting again because he didn't betray my trust.”
But Zahra Mousavi, daughter of Mousavi and Rahnavard, said in an interview with Iranian news website Kalameh that during the last visit she had with her parents, both stated that they cannot advise people whether they should participate in the election or not.
Struggle for basic rights
Many who decided to participate in the election on June 14 insist that they don't seek any “big change.” Like the writer of “A Dead Indian” blog, many believe that a vote cast for Hasan Rohani is one step closer to avoiding a possible war and reducing international sanctions against Iran. This camp believes Rohani to be the most diplomatic and experienced candidate, especially considering his former post as Iran's nuclear negotiator with western powers.
Roozbeh, a young Iranian blogger wrote in his blog, “I vote and hope for little reforms, for a president who knows the basic rules of diplomacy. For now, a little window to boost civil society and reduction of sanctions is enough for me.”