Iranian Protest vs. London Protest

Iranian police beat protestors

Protests: London

Police repression of a country’s urban populace is never an edifying spectacle. When snipers kill unarmed women in the street and the array of modern gadgets in the hands of spectators makes her choking, blood-soaked last breaths a public spectacle globally, it is wholly predictable and quite right that calls for justice mount.

Twenty-seven year old Iranian Neda has become a figurehead for the “green revolution” on the streets of Tehran. An attractive travel agent in Iran’s capital, she was apparently shot in the chest by Iranian police; her death was captured on a mobile phone camera and made its way from twitter to blog to CNN in a few short hours.

Cue global hysteria and endless media coverage: live blogs, rolling footage; the snuff movie as martyrdom for all the family’s viewing and endless scenes of cars burning.

European and American image-consumers love such feisty expressions of democratic discontent; burning cars, throwing bricks, beating the crap out of riot police unlucky enough to come off their two-stroke motorbikes. Because dissent is laudable overseas: At home it’s undemocratic.

You see, self-righteousness and anger as engines of change are exported, projected, displaced. In Iran we can admire the passion of Tehran’s glamorous youth (Playboy magazine is currently running a feature on Iran’s “Lipstick Revolution”); abhor the conservative clerics and watch the cars burning with a frisson of detached admiration.

God forbid such a thing happen on the streets of London. Not so very long ago, there was a protest in England’s capital, as far as I recall. It wasn’t very violent: one window of one bank was smashed; no cars were burnt, no policeman beaten and the only things thrown were juggling balls. And not in anger.

The protestors largely rather politely demanded that the bankers who had run our financial institutions into the ground return their multimillion pound bonuses. Please. And that the leaders of the G20 push for jobs, fair distribution of wealth, and a low-carbon future.

For their pains, they had the crap beaten out of them by London’s Metropolitan police, who covered up their badge numbers, backhanded women across the face, punched protestors, dragged teenage girls backwards across the street by their hair and killed an onlooker after slamming his head into the pavement.

Britain’s political establishment praised the demonstrators for their civic mindedness and engagement in the democratic right to protest, and called roundly on the police to be accountable for their murder of an innocent bystander.

“Oh? Hold on a minute?” (Checks earpiece…) “They didn’t?”

No, sorry, they did nothing of the sort. They roundly praised the police for doing a “difficult job in tough circumstances” and smeared the protestors with all sorts of unsubstantiated allegations. Not a single senior figure stood up to condemn what amounted to manslaughter of an entirely innocent man. Not one.

Oh? You mean sexy Iranian girls waving green banners or coughing up blood on Tehran’s street make us feel good and superior about not having any religious police, but the pallid face of a former alcoholic comatose on the pavement in London town after a savage attack by police and their snarling German Shepards is something we’d rather forget?

As Marina Hyde as recently written in the Guardian, “Britain needs anger management. Not to calm the fury but to gather its force.”

Go on Marina, I know you’re angry about the corrupt politicians using taxpayer’s money to buy 9000 pound Bang and Olufson TVs. I know you’re angry about bailout money for banks going out the backdoor to shareholders who got their institutions in this mess in the first place. I know you’re angry about having a Prime Minister who hasn’t been elected. I know you’re angry that police forces are now using drones to monitor people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge… I know…. I know.

In fact, you’re so angry you could burn a police car right? Shouting “where’s my vote?”

Oh? You don’t want to have your head slammed into the pavement by the Met? You don’t want to be dragged backwards across the street by your hair? You don’t want to be detained without trial for 42 days? You don’t want to face trial without a jury? You don’t want to have your house raided and all your communications equipment permanently confiscated?… You don’t….?

Why not settle for that glass of wine like most of us and watch the Middle East on TV. Bless those impassioned Iranians.


Protests: Iran

9 responses to “Iranian Protest vs. London Protest

  1. There is something cathartic about watching another country’s violent struggle for freedom from the warm and comforting glow of your computer screen. Like Shakespearean audiences, we nod in support of their righteous cause and tsk-tsk at the Basij forces who so brutally keep the country in the dark ages. Because it is so much easier than actually taking on that 300 pound cop in the street who just can’t wait to let loose. But who knows where this will lead … there, they seek to overturn an entire theocratic system. In the West, most it seems just want to see a little more justice.

  2. True in a way. But the implication then is that they are struggling to overcome a system from the dark ages and we are struggling to fine-tune a functioning system. I think that that is essentially bullshit, and a very useful myth for the established powers in the west. Think about it: Iran is a democracy basically, even if a majority of political power does remain with the clerics: England is a democracy, but a majority of power lies with an established elite who also fiercely protect their prerogatives. A “little more justice” sounds rather trite. I want to see our former Prime Minister tried for war crimes for the invasion of Iraq; I want an election: now; I want the police that killed Tomlinson to stand trial publically. The thing is, in England, the status quo is so entrenched that seeing these demands enacted would be tantamount to overturning a theocratic system.

  3. Yep, we can learn a lot about ourselves if we sometimes see our responses to other events or people as projective identification.

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  5. For all the anti-semitical nutters linking to this story for some unknown reason, I have no sympathy for your ravings. What I was trying to do with this no-doubt clumsy article – written in a fit of pique – is expose the double-standard of the western media in covering legitimate protest at home and abroad; I heartily support the right of the Iranians to protest, and wish that protests gaining numerically much more substantial numbers of participants (such as the anti-Iraq war march of 2003) would also gain reams of fulsome newsprint. That’s all. I don’t think the world is run by lizards; the Protocols of Zion were utterly fraudulent; Israel has a perfect right to exist (if not to behave as it does) and there are no black helicopters irradiating us with freaky wavelengths. I still think flying a helicopter drone over revellers at Stonehenge was pretty insane though… Cops and their toys. Idiots.

  6. hey great article. So I live in Minneapolis Minnesota in the U.S. and last september the republican national convention came to my town. Angry because i knew the elections are orchestrated puppet shows, that my country is responsible for terrorism and wars around the world, and knowing fully that this government is pretty fucked up beyond repair, I took to the streets. I was meet with hundreds upon hundreds of asshole cops just waiting to beat people up and use tasers and batons. The protests were kind of a joke, why, because the people are so complacent, they submit to every little order shouted at them, the police say lay down and everyone runs for cover. Not a single person there “clashed” with police and relatively nothing happened. the protests in america are a joke. the numbers of people were significantly low also. I guess what im getting at is that we in the west would rather from the comforts of our homes applaud and cheer on protests in the name of “democracy” in foreign lands, all the while police march outside our doors waving guns in our faces that we must submit and obey the way of this shit government, society, and culture. Stand up for god sakes and do something about your situation rather than talk about other peoples. Fuck America.

  7. Hi Benbata. I totally understand your frustration at that kind of mindless policing. There are so many people just itching to abuse their power out there. That said, I think that encouraging physical clashes with the police isn’t the answer, tempting though it may be when you see how they behave. Have you read Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”? Here it is… You might also be interested in radical scholar Charles Beard. Just google him… Good to get some different perspectives on American history… It has a very healthy tradition of dissent which is now sadly – as you point out – pretty atrophied.

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