By Kambize Rostami
Today, on February 26, 2011, CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed, Reza Aslan, author and commentator and self-professed expert on the Middle East.
While Mr. Aslan’s answers seemed in line with the daily news coming out from the region, he did not provide any particularly insightful or extraordinary information.
His comments about what is often referred to as the Twitter or Facebook Revolution and the influence of these social networking sites in facilitating the changes we have seen in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain was very banal and basic.
Interestingly, Mr. Aslan, who presents himself as an expert in Middle East affairs, who has often directly or indirectly presented himself as a supporter of the people of Iran during the uprisings and the subsequent government crackdowns that followed the disputed presidential election in 2009, did not once–in the entire interview–mention that the brave, young Iranian people are in fact, effectively the initiators of the use of social media to organize, mobilize and disseminate information to rise up against a totalitarian regime in the region and the world–the activity that the term “Twitter Revolution” was coined from–nor does he recognize in his remarks that we are seeing a resurgence of what the Iranian people started in 2009 today–right now–in Iran itself.
There have been two major days of protest recently, with many tens of thousands protesting in solidarity with Egypt and Tunisia and against their own dictatorial government. Chants of “Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it’s the turn of Seyed Ali [Khamenei]!” and “Down with the dictator!” could be heard in Tehran and many other cities in Iran.
No mention by Mr. Aslan of the 25 Bahman (February 14) protests. No mention of the 1 Esfand (February 20) protests. And no mention of the planned 10 Esfand (March 1) protests.
And no mention of the house arrests of Iran’s prominent opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, or Mehdi Karroubi.
One has to wonder if Mr Aslan is fully up-to-date with the events in the Middle East, particularly in his own country!
Is he intentionally ignoring the very urgent and important political crisis in Iran? I’m not sure what’s worse–wanton or willful ignorance.
It should go without say that Iranians have endured a hellish nightmare under the current regime, and that the bravery they have shown under the most brutal and violent repression that we have witnessed is a testament to their desire to be seen and heard.
And with a media blackout imposed on the people of Iran by the government, and the extreme risk and difficulty involved in using mobile phones to film and report upon what is happening there by the brave citizen journalists and people, someone that has the opportunity to talk about the situation, especially an Iranian such as Mr. Aslan, would be well within the realm of reasonability if he were to bring attention to their plight! In fact, I would argue that this is a duty–especially for a self-professed “expert”.
His failure to mention Iran, when his own people are facing death as they seek freedom and human dignity raises serious questions about his credibility.