In the aftermath of Iran’s June presidential elections, the streets themselves proved unequivocally to be the most spontaneous and effective outlet for expression from the people taking part in the protests.
People poured into the streets to protest the results that secured the reelection of the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the wave of protests were not confined to the streets of Tehran. Iranian residents of countries all around the world expressed their dismay at announcement of the results over what they deemed to be untrustworthy conduct.
In the absence of independent media outlets that could communicate their sentiment, people in Iran felt the need to resort to the street. However, this was not only a matter of post-election unrest and turmoil.
For several days prior to election day, the supporters of the four candidates had begun campaigning in the streets: holding gatherings, staging rallies, sticking advertorial materials to their cars, and marching along the main squares and streets. This was something noticeably absent from past elections.
The happenings in the streets transcended usual interminable screeching and buzz of vehicles. The earsplitting chants of people shouting slogans en masse, holding megaphone ping-pong games around the city’s central squares and intersections, could be heard from the late evening until the early hours of the dawn.
The hard-hitting and unexpectedly controversial televised debates of the candidates also escalated the street enthusiasm. Mobile phone text-messaging from the streets served as a major channel for communication and played a prominent role in helping people release their passions immediately following the live televised debates.
Generally, the 10th presidential campaign season events mark a clear break from past elections. The post-election developments and international attention they received were a further testimony that the 2009 election was unexpectedly unprecedented in Iran’s contemporary political history.
A number of people who had come to the conclusion that their participation in electoral campaigning and pre-election street rallies would make a serious impact, at least on their short-term destiny, protracted their presence in the streets, but with a different purpose this time: criticizing the official results of the elections and protesting the state reaction to the dissidents who were exercising their rights under the 27th article of the constitution to peaceful demonstration.
The Iranian street became an outlet or their frustration and successfully drew the attention of the globe to Iran. The attention would have faded away had they striven to convey their frustration through conventional channels such as newspapers or websites. Instead, foreign news agencies look to the streets of Iran to get a sense of the political equation instead of trawling around the official media for statements from governmental figures.
Elsewhere in the world, the streets have long been vital centers of sociopolitical gathering, union demonstrations, celebrations, and protests. Recent events have shown that the streets of Iran can similarly be effectively employed as an outlet for the furies and sentiments of the public.