Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs I planned to spend as much time as possible outdoors last weekend. Instead, I remained inside watching TV and surfing the Web.
Revolution does that to me.
In this case, the pro-democracy Iranian Revolution - fueled by outrage about the sham re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as dictated by Iran's "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - captured my attention.
All Americans should support the revolution. The outcome will impact events here and abroad for decades to come. Specifically, the revolution may determine whether Iran remains an autocratic theocracy pursuing nuclear weapons and the annihilation of Israel while promoting terrorism or, just possibly, starts on the path toward the creation of a democratic republic open to detente in the Middle East.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran has sponsored terrorism around the world by providing funding, training and logistical support to terrorist organizations including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The U.S. State Department, along with the Council on Foreign Relations and other organizations that monitor terrorism, has labeled Iran the most active state sponsor of terrorism.
Just how active and deadly is Iran's Islamic theocracy?
In addition to slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians, Iranian-backed terrorists killed 241 U.S. servicemen in the 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon; kidnapped and murdered U.S. Marine Col. William Higgins in 1988; detonated the truck bomb that killed 19 U.S. servicemen at their residence in Saudi Arabia in 1996; and supplied bombs used to kill our military men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What will it take for this fledgling revolution to spread its wings in flight toward true democracy and the possibility of a small but important step toward peace in the Middle East?
What can each of us do to assist those Iranians protesting to have their votes count in an effort to bring about a change that could lessen the likelihood of future generations of Americans fighting and dying in the Middle East?
For one, we can bear witness to the brutality and repression of the Islamic theocracy that currently dominates the Iranian people and raise our voices in support of the pro-democracy movement as did the "Angel of Iran" - Neda Agha Soltan - the young woman who is now the symbol of the revolution.
Neda was shot in the chest and killed by Iranian security forces as she stood in solidarity with those protesting the fraudulent election near Tehran's Freedom Square last Saturday. The video of her murder - broadcast around the world on YouTube - is chilling. The plea in Neda's haunting eyes as she looks directly into the camera during the last moments of her life forever burns the soul of any viewer.
As reported by The Telegraph newspaper, Neda's boyfriend said she had gone to the pro-democracy rally because, "She couldn't stand the injustice of it all. All she wanted was the proper vote of the people to be counted. She wanted to show with her presence that 'I'm here. I also voted. And my vote wasn't counted.' It was a very peaceful act of protest, without any violence. She gave a big lesson to everyone even though she was very young. She only ever said that she wanted one thing, she wanted democracy and freedom for the people of Iran."
But how can we, half a world away, bear witness and make our presence known within Iran and, in so doing, raise our voices in unison with Neda's cry for freedom?
Certainly, Americans can stand with the pro-democracy forces within Iran indirectly through the timid voices of our elected representatives. Or, far more directly and powerfully, we can stand in solidarity and encourage those seeking freedom within Iran through social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.
For the first time in history, the unique power and freedom of the social media has transformed communication into and out of an ongoing conflict. In fact, social media sites have been so successful that governments and traditional media have resorted to using social media to gather and dispense real-time information because traditional means of information collection and broadcasting have been suppressed. Consequently, there is no doubt the new social media has emboldened the pro-democracy forces within Iran and will continue to do so no matter the immediate outcome.
So, in these critical days of the new Iranian Revolution - a revolution that will not end and will result sooner or later in a truly democratic government - we should all stand in solidarity with the Angel of Iran and raise our voices in ways never before possible in support of those seeking freedom.
To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail Rob.Douglas@Comcast.net