A Few Thoughts on Returning from the UK, and Tribute to Neda, an Iranian Patriot

Returning tonight from London, I wanted to get down a few thoughts. Overall, I noticed a few things about media coverage across the pond: the war in Afghanistan is being reported with heavy attention to British soldiers’ fatalities and injuries, much in the way American troops’ fatalities and ghastly injuries in Iraq were heavily reported and discussed in media during the Bush years (more to come on why the emphasis has shifted since, in case that is not obvious).

In general, the mood in London is good. The streets are lively, Selfridge’s department store, the Wolsley restaurant and the electro music scene are all a blast, and, despite my security-minded friends’ justified worries about the spread of Islamist extremism, rumors of Europe’s impending demise seem to be premature (I did see a few women in full head-to-toe covering except for the eyes. But only a handful out of tens of thousands of people I passed. And I’ve seen that in the midwestern U.S., too).

It doesn’t seem like Churchill’s London, though. There seems to be a subtle difference in the way Londoners think about certain issues and the way liberals in the U.S. do. For instance, when discussing Guantanamo Bay, leftists in the U.S. will argue we can’t hold people due to concerns about their civil liberties. But they don’t seem, at this point, to actually argue anyone in Guantanamo is likely to be innocent, or that “there is no war going on.” The Brits are making arguments like that.

Interestingly, the London newspapers’ reporting of the democracy protests in Iran is more thorough and sympathetic than what I’ve read in the U.S.  This weekend The Observer featured an in-depth, exclusive interview of the boyfriend of Neda Agha Soltan, the young Iranian woman who was shot to death last June by Iranian police while taking part in a pro-democracy demonstration.

Her boyfriend Caspian Makan, who was imprisoned in Iran’s infamous Evin prison and, prior to his release, forced to sign a pledge to keep mum and never leave Iran, has managed to skip the country and has given two interviews now, according to the Observer.

He says that, far from being an uninvolved bystander, Neda was a student leader who was targeted by the mullahs. If Makan’s testimony is accurate, although Neda had no sympathy for either of the two opposition candidates who were challenging Ahmadinejad’s claim of victory in the election, she was a true believer in democratic reforms. Consistent with the theory that the hundreds of thousands of Iranian protestors are in actuality making the only pro-democracy statement they can under the circumstances, Makan says Neda was a peaceful warrior for democracy.

The story quotes him as quoting her thus: “Everyone is responsible for reaching democracy. If I get shot in the heart or arrested, it’s not important because we are all responsible for our future.”

This entry was written by and posted on November 18, 2009 at 1:46 am and filed under Blog.