Why is there no news coverage of the protests in Iran?

An analysis of the lack of reportage of the Iranian conflict, tracing back to the U.S. relationship with the Middle East

Why is there no news coverage of the protests in Iran?

Bella Makeig, Contributor

In recent months following the death of young woman Mahsa Amini, protests have broken out in Iran’s capital Tehran and all across the country. Amini was arrested for disobeying Iranian dress code and was taken to police custody, where she was beaten. She died after three days, and protests have been rising since. According to Samya Kullab of the PBS News Hour, an estimated 233 were killed by the fifth week of protesting. Since then, there has been little to no information from both Iranian sources and Western media on protests death tolls and government action. The history of the U.S. and Iran helps give context to the significance of these protests and why American media is not sufficiently recognizing them.

In August of 1953, the U.S. government used the CIA to overthrow Iranian Democracy. According to Lawerence Wu and Michelle Lanz of NPR, over the course of four days, Kermit Roosevelt Jr., grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, launched two different operations to destabilize the Iranian government. These attacks were in response to the Iranian government’s denial of the continuation of the British company Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.’s control over Iranian oil. The British appealed to the United States for help in gaining back a foothold in the Iranian Oil Industry. According to Britannica, this led the CIA to overthrow the new democratic Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Prior to this, Iran was controlled by a Shah, or a monarchy with almost absolute power. The U.S. launched a coup that led to Mosaddegh’s arrest. Once the United States restored the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi rose to power and Mosaddegh was sentenced to three years in prison and house arrest for the rest of his life. 

The U.S.’ interference with the government, among other disputes, has led to a shaky relationship with the Middle East. It is important to note the immense power and wealth that lies in oil. Throughout history, all of the global powers from the British to the United States have played a role in the exploitation of oil. Because of the money coming in from Iran, from an economic standpoint, the United States’ best interest lies in cooperating with the authoritative Iranian government. This leads to the demonstrations in Iran; Amini’s death was a symbol of the oppressive treatment of the Muslim supremacist government. It was a clarion call for justice for all women that are subjected to unfair laws and policies like that of the mandatory enforcement of head coverings.

In an attempt to regain control over the protesters, the Iranian government has been shutting down the internet throughout major cities like Tehran. All news sources within Iran that report on the protests have been accused of cooperating with the U.S. government. For example, two female journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi that reported on Amini’s death and allegedly helped to plan protests were detained by Iranian officials in the notorious Evin prison, where they were labeled as CIA foreign agents, as stated by Deepa Parent via The Guardian.

Despite the government’s efforts, with the use of modern technology, everyone is able to document and report on the protests. Now, the majority, if not all of the information and documentation of the efforts for freedom of expression is taken by young people: college students, too educated to allow fear of violence stop them from demanding their rights as citizens, as women, and as human beings. The bravery of the people of Iran is equal to that of those fighting for their country in Ukraine, so why is it that there are so many resources to find out what is happening in Ukraine, but the documentation of the revolution in Iran is almost nonexistent? Scanning credible sources like the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post, it is impossible not to notice the stark lack of reporting of these protests. As demonstrated, the U.S. government is closely interwoven with the economics of oil, and with the regime in power right now, the Biden administration is not willing to lose an important financial asset.

Shiveh Laal, a junior at Oakland School for the Arts, shares, “Facebook is blocking and taking down Persian users and others sharing about protests. Videos that my family and people at Farsi school were posting were taken down.” She attended a protest in San Francisco following Amini’s death. She recollects, “We got back from the protest jazzed up and excited because so many people were there… We got home to see if there was any news and there was nothing. We flipped through all the channels. We looked up news and there was only one independent article that was also Persian that had written about it.” Laal’s experience further proves the disparities between Western conflicts and conflicts in not traditionally white countries, demonstrating a larger issue with equitable journalism. 

Though the women of Iran are not getting the spotlight they deserve from Western media, they are far from letting their voices go unheard. Their outcries for freedom and equality deserve to be recognized on global levels. It is important for Western countries to understand the significance of these protests, and the gravity of the situation in Iran. As Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”