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(Fact check corrections made)

n515814078_1622.jpg It started with a man who delivered the heart-rending footage of Neda dying. Some days after the video spread across the globe, a message appeared, one I had a feeling was imminent after he spoke anonymously to the press. Many networking accounts have been hacked. Some of the more reliable sources in the twittersphere stopped posting over the last week, reappeared under new aliases, or are now being managed by someone else. Some have fallen silent altogether.

Some emails started to go unanswered, alarm bells sounding. I could tell many of my friends and contacts were high off the feeling of power they suddenly gained marching by the millions in the streets chanting “Death to the Dictator!” The unthinkable had come to pass, and the formidable turnout in the days after the election tipped the balance just enough to create the specter of liberty, but they were forgetting something vital: that it was still too early, that the revolution had occurred in the streets but not yet where it counts. The taste of freedom, even if only a dream, can be intoxicating. People were getting careless, and now, I fear they may be paying the price.

Today I learned that one of the most reliable bloggers inside Iran is on the run and has joined the ranks with the dead, disappeared, detained and dumb. The silence is deafening, the unspoken more potent than the tales of horror that unfolded on YouTube over the last two weeks. Scenarios are played out and corrupted by the imagination. The well-documented cases of torture in Iran are better left unexamined by the faint of heart.

To take just one example, Zahra Kazemi, the 54-year-old Canadian-Iranian journalist who was arrested taking photographs outside the notorious Evin prison in 2003, died a merciless death in custody. The doctor who is said to have performed her autopsy, escaped and acquired asylum in Canada to later reveal that she had a fractured skull, broken fingers, missing fingernails, and that she had received severe trauma to the stomach. A female doctor inspected her genitals and found evidence of rape. The Islamic establishment and its goons take retribution for dissent seriously, and the silence on-line is cause for deep concern.

For members of the uprising, the sacrifices have been tremendous, and the state crackdown continues while the relative lull in street protests allows them to comb communications data for likely suspects of sedition. My hope is that many of those who are no longer talking to us have gone underground, but how many will have to take their place while they run? Brothers get arrested in their stead, family members are made to “disappear,” comrades take a decade-long vacation to Evin. The backlash is always a true test of the psychology behind a movement. How much do they want this and how far are they willing to go?

The opposition leadership seems to be both under a great deal of pressure from the state as well as making some tactical decisions and retooling for the next step. In the meantime, the fight has gone to the top, rattling the very foundations of the 1979 revolution. In the Ayatollah face-off some say Rafsanjani has chickened out, others that the schism has widened. Near half the members of government are reported to have refused an invitation to join Ahmadinajad at his election victory dinner. No one knows what to expect.

The propaganda war is on as the state seeks to convince the public that the unrest is a CIA/SIS/Western media ploy to undermine the government by poisoning the minds of Iranian youth with the truth, sorry, western ideals. Given the history, and the widely reported George W. Bush covert destabilization and democracy-promotion plan in place in Iran since 2007, they might not be so far off mark. But if the Islamic establishment sincerely fears western influence, nothing could be more ironic than Ahmadinajad’s chosen campaign slogan, “Yes We Can.”

It remains to be seen if the foreign interference fear factor can stand up to the trump card in the opposition’s deck: a 39-second segment of a beautiful 26-year old girl shot through the heart, bleeding to death in the arms of screaming men. Nothing in the last few years of covering war zones could have prepared me for the raw immediacy of such a symbolic and unnecessary death. The iconic event is sure to have a sizeable impact on a society that places so much importance on martyrs, but the power structure in Iran may step up it’s brutal measures and silence all dissent for years more to come.

The mainstream Western media is looking for a quick, cheap, packaged answer. “Is it over, or is it just beginning? Is it 1979 or 1999 revisited?” Flip a coin. There’s no way of telling which way the pendulum swings, but one thing is of general consensus: lines have been crossed. In 2009, anything is possible in Iran, a country where many believe that every political cycle has a lifespan of exactly 30 years.


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