Monday, June 22, 2009

It’s Tehran, er, Tiananmen, er, 8888 again

It’s emerged that up to 20 Iranian citizens have been murdered by their country’s state security forces, and associated bully-boy militias, for exercising their rights to peaceful political protest. That number likely will escalate into three figures by the time the dust settles.

The Iranian popular uprising has inevitably invited parallels with the Tiananmen Square uprising, and subsequent massacre, in Beijing 20 years ago, in which hundreds of protestors were murdered. For example, is this Tehran’s Tiananmen Square?

It’s inevitable that the media will frame a story in terms of recognisable or iconic antecedents (a tendency sometimes taken to absurdity, as in the current ‘Utegate’ scandal here in Australia). However, I don’t recall any news outlet in 1989 characterising the Tiananmen massacre as “China’s 8888”.

The 8888 Uprising in Burma began, as the tag suggests, on 8 August 1988, not one year before the Tiananmen events. Estimates of murdered Burmese citizens are in the tens of thousands. Unfortunately, perhaps, for the Burmese, their tragedy wasn’t represented in our media with dramatic, memorable footage of, say, a student protestor in a danse macabre with a tank.

It’s to be hoped that the current events in Iran will become neither their 8888 nor their Tiananmen. Both those uprisings yielded no tangible results for the respective citizenry, and most of the world merely shrugged and moved on.

Yes, here’s hoping the effort and blood of those brave Iranian patriots will not be in vain nor so easily lapsed in the world’s consciousness.