The majority of Iranians just don't believe it. The persistent assertions by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader, that the official election results reflect the true will of the people are greeted with disbelief, as is the Guardian Council's insistence that there was no major fraud. The question Iranians – especially the young, who form two-thirds of the population – demand be answered is: "What happened to my vote?" When they shout "death to the dictators" from the rooftops, death it is because they fear that their nation might end up with a Mugabe, or a Hitler.
The obvious question posed again and again is: if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the choice of people, worthy of a landslide victory, then why is he not willing to put this to the test again? Why risk going down the route that led to revolution some 30 years ago? As Mousavi, Rahnavard, Karoubi and Rezayi have stated repeatedly, they and for that matter much of the population, do not want to topple the supreme leader or Guardian Council. The presidential candidates had all risen from the very heat of the revolution – they wanted to enhance, rather than undermine the Islamic government.
However, more than anything, the opposition seeks to avoid a 1979-style blood bath. They do not want to see any more innocent victims. If the opposition leaders are clear about the need not to endanger life, then obviously those of us who live in the safety of other lands must not demand of our compatriots to put their lives on the line.
However, perhaps for the first time in three decades, the diaspora has a potentially crucial role to play. This revolution is a battle of ideas among the Islamic hierarchy and between the old disconnected leaders and the young who no longer believe the propaganda. They are voicing their views, and the flames of anger are fuelled by the inhumanity of the forces of the regime – in uniform or plainclothes – wielding bullets, knives and razors. It is the armed against the unarmed, the powerful against the disempowered. But what the crowd has is access to the kind of technology that enables them to broadcast the information instantly. The horrific pictures go round the world in an instant. Since western reporters in Iran are virtually confined to quarters in an attempt to silence them, it falls on the diaspora to disseminate and broadcast the information coming through.
In sharing these stories and images from Iran, we cannot be cowed by absurd claims that the protesters' views are those of a small elite, or that they have been duped by the BBC – a travesty of the truth that hardly requires denial.
For the leaders of Iran to bring out the old chestnut of British or US intervention is a further illustration of how out of touch they are with the majority of Iranians. Khamenei's attempts to brandish the BBC as the cat's paw of imperialism merely highlights his inability to understand the depth of opposition among Iranians to the president and his henchmen.
Since Obama's election, the image of the US as a Great Satan no longer holds among young people. The Persian BBC is run largely by Iranians born after the revolution and raised in the Islamic republic, who began their careers as journalists in Iran and left only after their papers were closed; it is perceived not as propaganda, but a reliable source of information, quite unlike the state-run stations that continue to voice the government's myopic denials of the reality on the ground.
I have been getting an avalanche of emails from Iran, many written in Persian and all asking for the truth to be told. When one site is attacked, immediately another is opened. When the emails were interrupted I got a message about joining Twitter – something that I had never dreamt of doing. Now it is essential that all Iranians reflect the views of our young compatriots at home. The people of Iran cannot be seen as either passive followers of the regime or as mere puppets manipulated by western powers. They are informed and educated; they are among the most active bloggers in the world; and they do not wish their country to be made a pariah. This generation, like so many of their contemporaries elsewhere, wish to be citizens of the world.
Given the negative propaganda generated by the regime, it is essential that the US and Britain continue to remain cautiously impartial. With the burden of the history that they carry in the Middle East, to wade in clumsily would be counterproductive. So where it is acceptable and necessary for the French and the Swiss ambassadors to be withdrawn, such a gesture is not an option for the UK and US.
No one, however, should remain silent about the brutal attacks on Iranians and the denial of the most rudimentary elements of human rights to them. This may prove to be a long, drawn-out struggle; what those of us who have the ear of the world can do is to ensure that the voices of the embattled Iranians are heard and their views reflected in the west. We cannot stand by and allow them to be strangled.
Haleh Afshar, crossbench peer in the House of Lords and teaches politics and women's studies at the University of York.