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Iranian Protesters Should Be Time Magazine's "Persons of the Year 2009"

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It almost happened on Friday, June 12, 2009. At some point, and some point soon, we will see a separation of mosque and state in Iran. The mix of state and religion in modern Iran provides the Islamic Republic with the pretext for the most violent forms of political suppression in the name of religion. What is happening in Iran today is in the context of crimes against humanity.

We all recall the horrifying atrocities and political unrest that broke out after incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election-many thousands took part in peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country, condemning both the process and outcome of the election-only to be confronted by the Basij militiamen.

If an innocent girl is shot halfway across the world, does she make a sound? Yes, and the whole world hears her. The devastating and cataclysmic murder of Neda Agha-Soltan (1982-2009) is referred to by many as the face of the Freedom Movement and a powerful symbol of opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Neda died on Saturday, June 20, 2009 from a single gunshot wound to the chest. Her final moments were captured on a cell phone which shows her walking near an anti-government demonstration. The faces of the crowd rarely have come into focus. But the portrait of one woman, modestly covered with a headscarf tells us more than a crowd trying to avoid tear gas. "It's heartbreaking," President Obama said, referring to the video of the woman the world has come to know simply as Neda, which means "divine calling" in Farsi. "And I think anyone who sees it knows there's something fundamentally unjust about it."

Human rights activists took action around the world in solidarity with people of Iran, to demonstrate international solidarity with those whose human rights are being abused. Peaceful public demonstrations were held in more than 105 cities, including Barcelona, Beirut, Caracas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Dakar, Istanbul, London, Montevideo, Ouagadougou, Prague and Santiago. The freedom fighters called for the protection of freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as guaranteed by the Iranian Constitution and Iran's obligations under international human rights covenants, the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including journalists, students and civil society activists, an end to state-sponsored violence and accountability for crimes committed by state officials, and the immediate initiation of a UN investigation into the grave and systematic human rights violations which have taken place.

The events that unfolded in Iran following the contested presidential election have transfixed the world. Much of the information that came out of (and into) the country traveled over social media services as a result of censorship and blocking of communications systems by the government.

The crisis in Iran has allowed Twitter, the microblogging service, to mature into a legitimate and important communication tool. Twitter has played such a prominent role in allowing mobilization and documentation of the Iranian opposition that the US State Department at one point even asked the company to put off a scheduled maintenance so that Iranians could continue using the service. Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of Mashable.com, even posted an article: HOW TO: Track Iran Election with Twitter and Social Media. Through the use of social media to broadcast messages and images to the world, we all witnessed protesters being beaten and arrested. It was hard footage to watch because these were not violent crowds. The violence is all on the other side. It's like watching a movie that we know will end badly. These people, young, middle aged, and old, are voting with their bodies. They, in the true sense of the expression, put themselves on the line.

The question that always surfaces around this time of year is: who should be Time Magazine's Person of the Year? This is being discussed in offices, schools and homes around the world. And it all happens the week before Christmas. TIME is polling its readers and currently leading all candidates are the Iran Protesters. The courage these women and men have demonstrated is worthy of our shock and awe.