20 Years Later, Echoes of Tiananmen Square are Heard in Tehran

Posted by Dan Keeney

 Images made available from Mir Hossein Mousavi’s election
 campaign media operation, Ghalam News, via AP.
I have been sad today watching the events unfold in Tehran and other cities throughout Iran. I am not sad that these uprisings are happening. I am sad because I can imagine how it will end. Because those of us over the age of 20 have seen it before. When a tyranical state is challenged, it moves with swift certainty to eliminate those who threaten to undermine authority. I can’t imagine how it will be possible for the backlash against the sham elections in Iran to have a happy ending.

We can hope and send our good wishes and watch for updates. And color our Twitter avatars green and at some point surely there will be rallies of support in cities around the world.

20 years ago I was a 25 year old journalist — the news director of a Chicago-area all news-talk radio station. It was the most amazing time anyone could possibly imagine. Things that we assumed would last our entire lives were crumbling unexpectedly. The Soviet Union relinqueshed control of Eastern Europe and the people of Germany joyously climbed atop the Berlin Wall — to celebrate and to begin tearing it down. The change happened so swiftly that it was literally breathtaking at times.

But what really made those moments awe-inspiring was what had happened in June of 1989. The 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square was just a couple weeks ago.

I don’t want anyone to think I was there. I was not. But as story tellers, all journalists played a role in examining and explaining the meaning of what happened. In that respect, I did cover the events in Tiananmen Square, seeking to give it some context in between the weather, traffic and sports.

This video does a great job of explaining how events unfolded:

20 years later, China remains a superpower. It has never been more economically powerful and a good argument could be made that it has never been as politically or diplomatically powerful. As the U.S. struggles to find its place in a new world economy, China is calling more shots and flexing its diplomatic muscle like never before. I am not an expert, but from what I understand, China’s people enjoy more freedoms than in the past, but they remain under the control of single party rule. There is no free press. Dissent is not tolerated. 

There are clear similarities between the reform movement in China and the protests in Iran. Like in China, a charismatic leader is urging the young protesters on. The protesters are capitalizing on sophisticated communications techniques to disseminate images around the world. The provoked government provides just enough latitude for the leaders of the revolution to reveal themselves. At which point, swift, definitive, deadly action will be taken and it will all be squashed. Literally and figuratively.

It is a generation later. Many of the Chinese citizens who sought reform are now in the 40s. However, lacking the charismatic leaders who were killed or imprisoned for treason, they remain powerless and voiceless.

I fear for the men and women in Iran. I worry that in their urgency to act they may be helping the government rapidly dismantle a fledgling Democratic movement. If you look at the movements that brought change to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, you will see that they took a long time and blossomed from the inside out. Between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, it took nearly a decade to bring Democracy to Russia.

Can change happen more quickly? Certainly. But will that happen? No. I just hope that the impending slaughter does not set Iran’s reform movement back so far that 20 years from now — in the year 2029 — we are not wondering if Iran’s reformers will ever re-emerge.

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This entry was posted on Friday, June 19th, 2009 at 3:24 am and is filed under PR Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “20 Years Later, Echoes of Tiananmen Square are Heard in Tehran”

  1. Calvin Says:

    I suspect that Tiananmen and Tehran are happening because too many young people are following Gandhi’s example of peaceful protest. But my understanding is that Gandhi only succeeded because the British were losing a lot of money on their empire and were looking for any excuse to pull out. If Gandhi had launched his protests a decade earlier (or the French) had been in charge of India, we would most likely have seen the slaughter of tens of thousands of Indians. Malaysia/Malaya was another case of the British finding a face-saving way to leave. Ditto Russia (Soviet Union). Russia was going bankrupt holding the Soviet Union ogether.

    However, when we look at most of the recent successful revolutions, most of them were violent – Indonesia, Vietnam, North Korea, Palestine, South Africa. There was either outright war (sponsored by 3rd parties), guerilla warfare, terrorism or a combination of all three.
    Well, I may be wrong. My background was a computer systems analyst, not political analyst after all.

  2. kosar Says:

    I think iran will be very big country in the world and iranian young people study hard to help iran and I hope iran will the biggest country
    in the world.

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