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UPDATED Iran: A Tale of Two Twitterers

The Latest from Iran (27 June): Situation Normal. Move Along.

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UPDATE 29 June: see Scott's new post, "Iran: More on 'Two Twitterers' (and on the idiocy of 'The Times)"

UPDATE 28 June 2100 GMT: "Change_for_Iran" is back. He/she resumed communication an hour ago, after a three-day break: "Reza released from Hospital yesterday he is banned from university and now is a starred [marked by government] student. He spent his first 48h of arrest at level -4 of ministry of interior building without food or water." The connection is poor, however, so reports may not be sustained.

UPDATE 28 June 0615 GMT: No further news overnight, I'm afraid. We are monitoring closely.

UPDATE 27 June, 2230 GMT: Reports coming in via Twitter that "persiankiwi" has been arrested.

UPDATE 27 June, 1230 GMT: I am sorry to write that "persiankiwi" has not returned to Twitter since we posted this. After his/her brief revival after the beating by the Basiji, "Change_For_Iran" has not written in two days. A campaign has started to recognise "persiankiwi" through a "CNN Heroes" award.

Originally I was going to post this as an item in our Rolling Updates but, on reflection, I think it deserves more attention.

As events unfolded after the election in Iran, we had to make judgement calls not only on information coming out through "established" media but via newer sources such as the reports on Twitter. There was a lot of chaff out there, but there was also a lot of wheat. To put the point bluntly, in the early days of the crisis, the best sources on Twitter were complementing material from print journalists and broadcasters such as CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and Press TV; in recent days, as those reporters and outlets have been blinded (except for Press TV, which serves its role as spokesperson for the Iranian Government), the Twitter sources took the lead in information or indications on events.

One of those sources is "persiankiwi". He/she, passionately caught up (and possibly participating) in events, is far from neutral, but the information was valuable and much of it stood up under cross-checking.

However, as Aric Mayer writes in a blog today, the events at Baharestan Square yesterday, though far from clear, seem to have pushed persiankiwi beyond the bearable limits of trauma. A series of anguished notes began with "Just in from Baharestan Sq - situation today is terrible - they beat the ppls like animals" and ended with "thank you ppls 4 supporting Sea of Green - pls remember always our martyrs - Allah Akbar - Allah Akbar - Allah Akbar....Allah - you are the creator of all and all must return to you - Allah Akbar".

Then there is the story of  "Change_For_Iran". Another key pointer to developments, he/she suddenly dropped off the Twitter map early on 21 June. Today, he/she resurfaced:
I'm only posting this to say I'm still alive & not in Tehran, I had a bad incident with Basij and couldn't use computer....Shayan's brother's fate is still unknown, Reza has been released yesterday & at hospital right now & I think Masood is safe....As soon I can walk properly again, I will go back to Tehran....I will twitt again at night, my back & neck hurts a lot & I can't sit here anymore....And to everyone out there specially IRG [Revolutionary Guard]: no it's not the end & it will never be until we get what is rightfully ours.

In part, I'm posting this as a rebuke to all those who have passed snap judgements about Twitter in recent days. The information technology is just the medium here. What matters are the messengers.

And right now I am grateful for those who, under conditions much more strenuous than the safety of a keyboard in central Britain, have persisted in recent days, not from professional duty or self-promotion, but because they believed that it was the right and necessary thing to do.

Reader Comments (24)

Why are you publishing the names of Iranian twitterers? Are you trying to get them killed??

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDennis McCann

Please redact the names of Iranian tweeters. The IRI is gathering data, and this could get them killed.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDennis McCann

Dennis- I've asked Scott to look into this but as far as I can tell he's only posted names (or pseudonyms) which can be found on" rel="nofollow">persiankiwi and" rel="nofollow">Change_for_Iran's public Twitter pages- nothing that the Twitterers themselves didn't want published.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Dunn


Thank you for the comment. I appreciate your concern but the Twitter usernames and their posts are already in public domain (and thus, if Twitter is being monitored, known to Iranian authorities). I have double-checked my post, and also privately double-checked with contacts, to ensure nothing here gives away any clues to the identities of the two Twitterers.


June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas


Twitter usernames, locations, bios, etc are all non-identifying information. They exist as plain text variables in the Twitter API, so as to be accessed from twitter applications and twitter search (summize). The idea that the IRGC is typing english keywords into Twitter search, as opposed to using their multimillion dollar Chinese and German telecommunications equipment, is flat-out ridiculous and ignorant. There is zero danger in reprinting any information from Twitter.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterUJ

Thanks to all the brave and courageous people in Iran who are working to get the truth of what is happening in Iran to the outside world. They put their lives at risk every day!

I have concern...In the past they all have told us NOT to use people's names, yet , here they write the name of the brother etc...

It is known that the Government is taking over accounts of people they have arrested and using those accounts. There are accounts that people can see have been compromised.

I pray for the safety of both PK and CFI and all the other Freedom Fighters.

Our hearts are with you.

Let us use discernment, please, peoples lives are at stake here.

June 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterravenheart


Good article. I've had a couple comments like this on my website when I wrote about Change_for_Iran. Except I had some F words in my comment which I deleted.

I even read one of the "Original Tehran Twitterers" as I call them in my posts write that we could use their names. I can't remember which one.

It does seem kind of ridiculous that people demand we delete their names. In the case of @stopahmadi, he tweeted earlier that Iranians in America are getting death threats who are organizing protests. He's asked that close up photos of protest leaders not be published. I will probably delete the ones I took the other day.

Again, Thanks for the post.


June 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian H.

I am new to twitter and only joined to find out about the public reaction in Iran to the elections.

I confess to shedding tears when reading Change_For_Iran's last tweets and have been beside myself with worry over persiankiwi since reading their last missives.

Thank you for acknowledging their bravery and help in explaining to the world how it feels to be an Iranian just now. We respect their sacrifices.

June 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Truth is that any tweet can be googled for the original tweeter. Our friends have been on twitter long enough to know that and to do it anyway. It is what must be done. tears welling up in eyes, lifting prayers

June 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterin2joy

Our prayers are for the sisters/brothers of the world whose voices to the injustice that crule men/bad gov make them live in. May those who are blind to injustice see the clear someday soon.

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSaintJames007

I, like many, have been following PersianKiwi and Change_for_Iran on Twitter constantly since the "election" in Iran, and they always proved to be reliable with their information.

It is amazing to me how many in the world have become "attached" to both, even though we have never seen them, let alone MET them!

And now, those of us who follow/ed their tweets, find ourselves sick with worry and praying for their safety... and wishing there was something we could do to help!

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmazed

My heart is broken. I can't eat or sleep. I want to do something anything. I had to scream into my pillow and my husband thinks I am crazy. I know that some are saying maybe they are in hiding and we need to keep quiet but the media brought Iran's election to the world wouldn't it do the same for our missing friends.? Shouldn't we be screaming at the top of our lungs where are they? Would this not put more pressure on the government to show they are alive?

They are heroes and I will pray continually for their safety.

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBLueCATDeMoCrAT

I am praying for all Iranians who want to be free. I am hoping and praying that persiankiwi is safe and Change_for_Iran will be well soon. There are many twitterers on #Iranelection that I have become attached to. The one's mentioned I followed everyday. Please offer prayers for change in Iran come soon.

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Lenoir

Great Article. So great, in fact, that I've posted it to Twitter and it's been retweeted many times. The problem is, you've changed the link since yesterday.

If you don't use Permalinks on your site, you will find that people will become frustrated when they reach your site and find a "404 Error Message" instead of the recommended article.

PLEASE post a redirect at the old URL, as yesterday's link is still being retweeted as we speak:

Yesterday's link:
[SEE: ]

Today's link:

Thanks again for a great article!

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNoetical

Noetical- thanks for pointing this out, I've added a redirect from the older link to today's (using" rel="nofollow">this plugin (which is great, if anyone's interested)). I'm not sure why the permalink got changed- I'll check with Scott.

Thanks again for the tipoff, and thanks for tweeting the post!

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Dunn

That's awesome Mike!

Thank you for the fix—and thanks for attending to the problem so quickly.

Keep up the great work of telling the tales that need to be told and; I'll keep spreading the tword!


June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNoetical

Please be careful. The Christian world is behind you 100%. May God bless you and protect you!
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
deceive the people

pretend to be religious
cover for your corruption

absurd thought -
your Supreme God says

it will just educate
way too many sheeple

absurd thought –
your Supreme God says
MAD mullahs MUST be in charge

beating students and children
and freaking over tweets…

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterUSpace

I find it strange that the "CNN Heroes" link DOES NOT have an "IRAN" option when you fill out the nomination application. I tried to nominate these brave Twitterers, but it woudn't accept w/o putting in a country -- but "Iran" isn't on the list!
I too, have been wrapped up in this whole #iranelection #neda saga these last few weeks. I hope for the best, but reality tells me this military coup has prevailed and many are, as we speak, being tortured at Evin [sic?]prison. As for putting these 2 screennames in print, cat was out of the bag days ago. Iranian agents know about them and are on Twitter constantly. Easy to spot them. Iranian women are the bomb!!!

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBobKat

I really appreciate the way you wrote that piece. They, the Iranian bloggers, ALL deserve a special award as well as freedom and the education that they will have lost if this ends badly. I Cannot fathom the strength it takes to keep going after some of the horrors they've been through.

Thank you

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDellaRae

Dennis, this obsession with not retweeting Iranian user IDs and with changing the location in settings to Tehran is downright silly. If we in the West really want to do something to help the Iranians, we can be out on the streets demonstrating, or writing letters to the editor, or contacting our lawmakers. If Iranian Twitterers could be chased through their IDs, they would all have been disappeared weeks ago. When in doubt, ask. I know of a grand total of one who asked that his ID not be included in RTs.

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPinkMuslimah

We are watching and the whole world is watching the regime.

June 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAria

To BobKat:

I went to CNN and noticed the same thing... Iran is not listed as one of the options for "Country."

Does anyone know how to get "around" this? Or is there a different name we are missing???

June 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmazed

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My heart breaks for you. I have been watching Twitter for so many days and so many hours that my eyes hurt with so many tears,
Worried about our 2 friends from Twitter and devastated about the dead, injured, beaten, tortured and just everyone fighting for Freedom.

I just dont understand how a Regime who rule in the name of Allah, dare to carry out these atrocities in His name. He also has wrath when others commit crime in HIS name.

June 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Chilling words in the last few days from a young Iranian woman:- "to understand death u have to understand life.what is it worth if u dont have freedom?death isnt a fear it a release."

We are here, we bear witness. We watch even when we would prefer to turn our faces from the screens spewing out such atrocities.

We do what little we can when & wherever we may simply to help pass on information. Often all we're able to offer is words of encouragement to our brothers & sisters in Iran.

Iran must be free to create its own democracy, reflecting its own rich culture & traditions. But, in their time and at their own speed, not anyone elses.

You will prevail. Strength & courage, brave ones.

June 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLadyNico

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