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Interview: Green Movement Leaders Must Stay With People, in Iran

By Sara Samavati, Rooz online


Habibollah Peyman in Exclusive Interview with Rooz


Habibollah Peyman

Rooz has discussed the green movement's situation since the February 11 rallies (the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 1979) with Dr. Habibollah Peyman, leader of the Jonbesh Mosalmanan Mobarez ["Movement of Combatant Muslims"].  

Rooz: Mr. Peyman, observers continue to analyze the events of February 11th.  In your opinion, what was the impact of what took place that day on the green movement and the government?

Habibollah Peyman (Peyman): On February 11the, after security and police forces filled the areas and rally location were filled with secure people, only two options remained: one was for some [green movement] forces to come forward and engage in clashes, which is essentially against its philosophy and strategy.  The second option was pretty much what actually took place. People who participated were not able to express their presence with green symbols.  Despite what is advertised however, February 11 was neither a defeat for the green movement nor a victory for the hardliners.  

Rooz: So therefore nothing was accomplished?

Peyman: There were accomplishments!  I actually wanted to say that events of February 11 had considerable accomplishments which must be examined as the green movement devises its future course.  One important achievement was the understanding that a civil opposition movement should not remain limited to a few tactics.  Many thought that the movement's resilience and demands could be sustained through street protests alone.  They have now realized that that tactic could be successfully blocked, and that they must find other tactics.  Secondly, the opposition movement's growth had created the impression among many that it could accomplish its demands in the short term because the movement was backed by millions of people and it had opted to remain within the confines of the Constitution.  Most people have now realized that the transition from a society grappling with various forms of dictatorship to a free, healthy and democratic body is a long-term and gradual transformation.

Mohammad Khatami (l) with Mir Hossein Mousavi


Rooz: How can this gradual transformation take place with tactics other than street protests?

Peyman: I have to clarify that what happened on February 11 doesn't negate street protests. This method should be used whenever permissible. But the green movement must undertake two fundamental tasks.  One is to devise a strategy to reach out to social groups belonging to the lower social strata which are still disconnected from the movement, by addressing and promoting their social and economic concerns and demands.  Members of this group which include laborers, teachers and farmers are the under-privileged and suffer the most from the government's social and economic policies.  The relationship between their problems and the government's wrong economic policies must be brought to light for them.

Rooz: Let's imagine that the green movement succeeds in this and takes this notion to these social strata too and even won their support, but how do you translate this discontent and protest into a movement?

Peyman: Our country is full of mediocre and poor foreign products. It has always been said that foreign sure is hoarded in the country, while the government has not done anything about it, and sugar produced by Khuzestan Sugar Company is wasted in silos. The green movement can invite the public not to buy or use sugar for a week, as a measure of solidarity to the workers of the sugar plant.

Our sugar producers are always loosing money while the market is full of imported sugar. The same is true for farmers that grow apples or oranges. The movement can call on the public not to buy foreign rice and not eat it. Such civil disobedience campaigns can be launched. This is what the green movement should do and through it the social groups and forces will strengthen their ties to it. Showing solidarity with deprived and hurting groups in society are not battles with the core of the regime, but civil battles with wrong policies of the government and at the same time exercises in civil disobedience and social solidarity.

Rooz: But importers too are part of the national economy and their loss will hurt the national economy as well.

Peyman: No. Importers are a very small minority of dealers who use government subsidies and because of the relations they have established go around paying their custom taxes and in fact inflict damage to all small domestic producers and sellers, and consequently to the whole national economy.

Rooz: You said there were two tasks. What is the other one?

Peyman: The other task, which is as important as the first, is to change the existing view of democratic change and transformation, and deemphasize the idea that democratization occurs only through regime change.  A new type of hermeneutics must take shape which must take place in social awareness, among regular people and intellectuals. This type of thought is unfortunately alien in our society because of many years of suppression and despotism.

Rooz: But with the limitations that the green movement has, how does it plan to take these efforts to the people?

Peyman: By building social solidarity, the very thing that Mr. Mousavi has mentioned. What I can add is that this network should not be used just to organize street protests or the user of the Internet. Its most important role is to use it to engage in social debates on common social, cultural, etc issues based on democratic values and principles. This should be based on solidarity with the struggles and needs of people, both in the material and spiritual spheres. Through such debates and the establishment of such relations inside the groups, small groups with democratic, free and human relations will be established as models. This way, we shall prevent the repetition of failures of the constitutional movement, the nationalist movement and the 1979 revolution.

Rooz: But if the regime embarks on a widespread crackdown won't that demoralize the public regarding its peaceful struggle, thus pushing some outside peaceful activism?

Peyman: If crackdowns were to demoralize the public, then nothing is going to take place. If this takes place, then only one way will be left, i.e. to meet violence with violence, and we know the results of such a course of action. So society must accept that this is a long-term battle. Europe too took hundreds of years to go through it and when it arrived at democratic life, the independent, reasonable and rationale man was born through the long process. The same must take place in our society, and this is the best opportunity for it. Forces of the green movement have this potential.

Mir Hossein Mousavi (l), Mehdi Karoubi (c) and Ayatollah Sanei (r)


Rooz: In his talk this week, Mr. Mousavi again stressed the pursuit of demands within the confines of law and said that the demands can still be provided by the regime. Do you think the regime has this capacity?

Peyman: Yes, definitely. Any force that pursues its goals peacefully and gradually and is founded on social forces creates a negotiations bridge with those in power and authority. The communications between the two may be direct or indirect. IN all similar social movements, because of this type of relationship (peaceful and gradual), many inside the ruling establishment change their views and course of action in favor of people and even join the calls of the public. So the green movement too must keep the door of critical negotiations open. Furthermore, the ruling establishment attacks when it sees its existence or core in danger and is not willing to give any concessions. This is because of the fear that any concession may be interpreted as a weakness. But when the threats are not against its core or existence, it usually accepts to talk, remove some of the problems and even launch reforms.

Rooz: What examples do you have?

Peyman: The constitutional movement. When that movement took form and was organized, the king was prepared to talk and agreed to the Majlis. In those days too some of the ruling establishment changed positions and supported the calls for a national assembly, which all led to the decree agreeing to a constitutional monarchy. The same thing happened in the oil nationalization movement which resulted in the nationalization of oil and Mosaddegh became the prime minister. In Europe too, the same course was pursued.  As I said, long and gradual movements result in positive and solid results. It is only through this long process that ideas of freedom and democracy become institutionalized. What is important is a change in the type of relationships.

Rooz: How can the current regime come to this point?

Peyman: Protestors and dissidents can always find a common language to talk to the regime. National interest is an example. Both could believe and say that they are interested in preserving the national interest, the independence of the country, etc.

Once this common language is found, then issues can be discussed. Lets suppose we want to have a government that is strong and effective in the region, or internationally, talks could begin on this basis because both sides agree on it. Other common issues could be industrial development, economic growth, technical progress, etc.

Mehdi Karoubi


Rooz: Are you concerned about a break in the organization of the movement among its leadership and damage to the movement?

Peyman: Yes, I am. There is now one trend that is moving towards a decentralized leadership that is spread out and diffused. But since our society has had a long history of centralized leadership, this new notion will need time to take form and be widely accepted and understood. This is why we are now in transition and have elements of both models. Every member of the movement must think for himself, while being a part of the movement and network. Still, I think today we still need a leader who has more experience and who is accepted by the public. This can exist in a relationship in which the leader consults and announces the results to the masses and civil activists. It is very important to have this now.

Rooz: Can you comment on the suggestions that the current leadership should move outside Iran or a new leadership should be formed there?

Peyman: I do not believe in either of these two. The leadership of any movement must remain within that society to have direct contact with realities in that society and its different strata. We are not following a secret society or movement like a guerrilla movement when leaders left the country because of threats and danger and led the movement from outside. This is a legal, massive and civil movement. Its leaders must definitely stay among the people. Those sincere individuals who have lived outside the country make suggestions which in most cases are not practical. Their ideas are not pursuable and have in fact created problems. This is what also happened on February 11 and some people made some recommendations which were absolutely wrong and had they been implemented, the movement would have suffered. So the leadership must be inside the country. Forces outside the country can and should provide ideas and participate in the exchange, but the final decisions must be taken inside the country by the current leadership and I do not believe there is any need leave the country. There is pressure, prison, arrest, release and those who are freed from prison return to activism. This is a civil movement not a secret revolutionary one.

... Payvand News - 03/10/10 ... --

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