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Stick it to the Patriarchs in Iran: Social Media, Women, Revolution and re-stocking the United Nations

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"Open your eyes!" the Iranian man screams in grief and desperation. I think of the deep love his sorrow expresses. His daughter, Neda, dies instantly with her wailing father bent over her bloody face and limp body. I can almost smell the blood and heat of the moment. I can't get the image of the young woman's murder out of my head, and have cried each time I see the YouTube video. And I shouldn't let go of her. She died for me, you and all those who hold freedom and justice dear. Possibly merely watching, not even protesting, a police sharpshooter hit Neda's heart and all of ours too. Lest you or anyone else ever think that young people or females are insignificant to revolution or social progress, think again. (I believe we owe it to Iran and Neda's family to witness her sacrifice. It's graphic and real, shot on a camera phone. Go to: http://tinyurl.com/ltvyzm)

Twenty years ago, technology made it impossible for the Chinese patriarchs to hide the Tiananmen Square tragedy. Chinese youth had smartly used the newest technology at the time: faxes. Now, Neda's murder in Tehran is just as iconographic as the young man who squared off with the tank in Beijing, and is being shared with an even larger world via YouTube, camera phones, FaceBook, and Twitter. Just weeks ago those who scoffed at Twitter and "tweets" can't deny its power now. Twitter is being used to organize street protests in Tehran, along with coordinated attacks on government web sites in order to prevent the Iranian government from tracking the subversives. A former scoffer, as an act of defiance, I now promote Twitteracy. Get Twitterate. (Sign up for a Twitter account and "follow" the revolution in Iran. Go to Twitter.com and follow the directions.)

However, regardless of technological advances in communication, the most lowly of low-tech technologies is still desperately needed: talk. We need face to face talking, person to person, family to family, country to country and leader to leader.

This is especially a time to Think Globally, Act Locally. In my community of Southern California, on June 12, the very day of the Iranian "elections," Pasadena City College launched a Model United Nations (MUN) conference that included 3 local high schools from the Pasadena Unified School District. "Let these be the new leaders who bring us world peace and prosperity," I thought, as I observed the 135 Pasadena high school students simulate the work of the United Nations while they role-played as ambassadors. This could have been an MUN conference anywhere in the world. And indeed, the more MUNs there are, the more quickly teen leaders will get into the world where we need them.

One thing we can do to preserve Neda's memory is to encourage our students to be peaceful word warriors. Wanna stick it to the "man?" The old-fart patriarchs that kill in the name of theocracy? Whether you are a parent, educator, or self-declared global citizen, please join an on-going community, nationwide and international effort to make MUN (www.unausa.org/modelun) more accessible and available at schools everywhere. Take action now so that your local schools can join in the up-coming 2009-2010 conferences.The more schools that participate, the better the experience for everyone since all the schools split up their students into diplomatic teams for specific countries. We who care about global issues and the importance of the U.N. need to improve the U.N. by training leaders when they are young with an emphasis on girls being included.

Being at the conference as an adult observer and long-time United Nations Association member, I couldn't help but reflect on how the so-called "adult" U.N. must practice gender equity and emulate the MUN. The real U.N. is a stubborn bastion of male-only voices. The high schools in Pasadena had as many girls as boys: the nascent international "choir" includes as many altos and sopranos as basses and tenors. Ironically, Neda means "voice" in Farsi.

Neda could have been one of those college or high school girls I watched as the young women presented the arguments of whichever country their high school was representing in the mock position papers, negotiations and simulated debates. I saw their courage. Many of them came from homes where girls and women have traditionally been silenced, and even their educations were secondary to their brothers. It's hard to stand up, whether it's in front of a group of others or in protest against a tyrannical theocracy.

The MUN approach to education provides learning not available through books, classrooms or street demonstrations. The student learns by doing through adopting a country... let's say, Iran. She or he will become an expert so they can recreate the Iranian position within the U.N. system. They learn how to draft position papers and resolutions; they learn how to speak in front of large groups, and in effect "perform" the roles of ambassadors and experts on their adopted country. Hence, the more schools, the more countries, and the more "real" the MUN experience becomes. And hopefully, MUN can be utilized to propel more women into the halls of power because they "practiced" in high school. In large part, defeating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be a huge defeat for toxic patriarchy.

"Open your eyes," he cried. Yes, indeed. He could have been saying that to all of us. Neda has been silenced forever. But in a larger context, open your eyes to the danger of the patriarchs of any fundamentalist religions: across the board, they are the ones that are most dangerous to women and girls, and thus, dangerous to democratic ideals for men and boys too. Open your eyes to how badly we need to support democratic, peaceful revolution that remembers and includes its women and girls.