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December 17, 2009

Where are their votes this TIME?

Credit Corbis

It is widely believed that millions of Iranian voters had their votes stolen during June’s Presidential election. Now, once again, the Iranian people had their votes taken away when Time Magazine awarded Ben Bernanke the honor of Person of the Year.
For those of you who, like me, were upset that Time didn’t choose the Iranian protesters as their person of the year, there is some consolation knowing that the rest of the world did.
In fact, more than 536,000 people recognized their courage and voted for the Iranian protesters outnumbered the 2nd and 3rd runners up combined. Despite that, it was disheartening to see them eliminated from Time’s shortlist which appeared on Tuesday, a day before announcing their final choice of Ben Bernanke. (See the full results here).
But, why even conduct a poll, or election for that matter, if the votes aren’t going to be counted?
Seeing as the title is Person of the year, perhaps Time wanted to walk away from awarding the prize to another group. If you remember in 2006, Time received a lot of criticisms for choosing “YOU” as person of the year. So why even include the “Chinese worker” on their shortlist, especially if they weren’t in the initial poll? (See the short list here)
If Time did not want to choose another group, then why not choose Neda, who has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in Iran? It seems like she fit their description of a person who, “most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.” Apparently they rarely give awards to people who are dead (Einstein was the only one, but he was Person of the Century). Though if you ask anyone who follows the plight of the Iranian people, Neda is far from dead—her memory carries on as she continues to move thousands in Iran to hit the streets and inspire countless artists around the world. Who else has done all of this without uttering a word?
The Iranian government wants more than anything for people to forget Neda, and the other millions of protesters—they’ve gone so far as to call her murder staged and refused to let people visit her unmarked grace. In a way, Time has done part of their Iranian government’s job for them.
Perhaps Time didn’t realize the impact that this award could have had for the Iranian people. While I’m sure Bernanke is happy about his award and perhaps it will put pressure on him to really fix the economy this time the impact of the award for the Iranian people would have been much more tangible. Honoring them would have shown Iran that the world is still watching; as a result, putting pressure on the government to reform its behavior. The Iranian people want to be part of the international community, but how can they, especially if we fail to recognize them?
Time is not solely to blame; in fact, this Person of the Year episode is symptomatic of most media—in the words of one disappointed protester “typical short memory Americans.”
The Iranian people have shown us that the Green movement is not just a trend. They’ve shown their ingenuity as they’ve turned insults into rallying points, (see the campaign to free Majid Tavakoli), money into organizing flyers and they continue to break Iranian government’s internet filters  to keep us informed of their activities. Won’t we at least do them the honor by paying attention longer than a few weeks?

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