The AP reports that cell phone service has been cut in Tehran but is functioning in others parts of the country. On election day text messages were blocked throughout the country. The Mousavi campaign has used SMS extensively to rally its supporters. Pro-Mousavi websites are now blocked.
Several people have been injured in protests in the capital and one young man is reported killed. Police are suppressing what they say are unapproved mass gatherings. Reuters picked up this snippet of conversation:
“We are going to stay here. We are going to die here,” demonstrators shouted as one woman was struck on her back by policeman’s baton, while others were kicked.
“The time of dancing and shouting is over. They are going to break your leg if you stand here,” a senior policeman was heard telling one man.
Two things could radically shift the direction of events right now:
1. Election fraud: revelations of ballot box stuffing, Mousavi supporters being turned away from polling stations, or ballot miscounts.
2. Police brutality on the streets. Thirty years ago, the Islamic Revolution was fueled by tales of martyrs who died in street clashes with the SAVAK forces (the Shah’s brutal police service).
Themes of protest and individual sacrifice for common ideals run deep in Persian culture. An able propagandist might be able harness the immense dissatisfaction that Tehran residents are feeling right now and direct it toward a movement that could seriously unhinge the current regime. Such a movement would be fueled by the youth generation, who are too young to remember the repression that followed the Revolution and are unaffected by the horrors of the Iran-Iraq War. Their parents brought down the Shah without social networking sites and SMS, let’s see what they can do now.