This lesson is structured to be completed in two class periods. In this lesson students will analyze the unprecedented events after the June 12, 2009 presidential election on Iran. For the first class period, the lesson provides teachers with background information on Iran’s political history and level of democracy. Teachers can present this information in ways and to whatever degree they feel appropriate for their students. In the second day, students make an in-depth examination of events after the election through viewing NewsHour news segments. Teachers can assign viewing these news segments as homework. Students will then discuss the details of the historic importance of the events and write an op/ed essay on the chances for substantial democratic reform as a result of the events surrounding the June12th election?
Since the 1979 revolution, the government of Iran had been led by an authoritarian theocracy. Virtually most of the government’s operation and authority is vested in a small group of clerics. But in the past 30 years, there have been parliamentary and presidential elections that on the surface, give the impression that Iran has some level of democracy. The truth is, all presidential candidates are pre-selected by the Council of Guardians and the same body vets all parliamentary decisions.
In the 2009 election, four candidates ran for president: incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karrubi and Mohsen Rezai. Most pre-election polling predicted a very close election but almost as soon as the polls closed Iran's official news agency, announced that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election with 66% of the votes cast and almost as quickly Mousavi and his supporters contested the election results. What came next was an unprecedented wave of public demonstrations and protests in the streets of Teheran and other cities as citizens form all ages and walks of life disputed the election outcome and within days began calling for broader reforms and even challenging the supreme authority of the government.
Day 1 Procedure:
1. Provide students with some background on Iran’s political history, particularly as it pertains to relations to the United States and its brand of democracy by reviewing with students highlights from the NewsHour timeline on Iran.
2. Bring students up to date on U.S. relations with Iran by having them review President Obama’s speech reaching out to Iran and his statement addressing the civil disturbances after the June 12, 2009 election. Then have students review Senator John McCain’ criticism of Obama’s response on the disputed Iranian elections.
3. As a whole or in groups discuss the following questions as a class: • What was President Obama’s main message to the Iranian people? • Generally, how was the message received by the Iranian government? By the Iranian people? • Summarize what the United States wants from Iran and what Iran wants from the U.S. • What was Senator John McCain’s central criticism of President Obama’s tepid reaction to the disputed outcome of Iran’s election? • What is your assessment of President Obama’s speech? Do you feel it was too strong or not strong enough? Explain your reasons.
4. Provide students background with NewsHour's “Governing Iran.” Pass out the political structure handout and have students in pairs or groups fill it out. For further information on Iran’s level of democracy here.
Day 2 Procedure:
After a week of public demonstrations following the June 12th election, the political situation in Iran was very fluid and very volatile. The focus of the protest over the June 12th election moved from a public outcry over a possible fraudulent election to a challenge against the ruling regime. The week was one of massive public political expression that hadn’t been seen since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. On Friday, June 19th, Iranian’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of the election. He went on further to state that leaders of the protests would be responsible for the blood and violence that would come if they didn’t stop the protests. Violence and blood did come over the weekend as protesters defied government orders and riot police and Basij militia (a volunteer paramilitary force) broke up crowds with swift and brutal force.
To provide students a sense of the importance of the week following the election, have students review the following NewsHour stories, here, here and here.
- Divide the class into three groups.
- Distribute one of the student handouts to each group and have them view the NewsHour news analysis stories and take notes on the discussion questions. (This can be assigned as homework the day before.)
- Regroup students into groups of six with two members of each of the three original groups in the new groups.
- Have students discuss their findings following the group analysis questions on their handouts.
Have students write an Op/Ed piece on the question: What are the chances for substantial democratic reform in Iran as a result the events surrounding the June 12th election?