Before anything else, I must say that the great problem of the pro-democracy movement in Iran, which is the most important cause for intellectual progress in the country, is not a lack of thinkers.
In recent years, owing to the many efforts made in the reformist years, and due to a rise in the number of educated Iranians, we've been able to form important groups of thinkers, publishers, producers of cultural content, intelligentsia and press.
In addition, some of the most important educated Iranians considered to be amongst the country's intellectual assets, reside abroad and are in contact with Iranian society through various means.
Our great problem is the difficulty in linking those who produce thoughts and ideas, with a population bombarded with a populist regime's non-stop propaganda. With full force, the government prevents the forging of links between leading intellectuals and producers of thought, and the people.
Two years have gone by since the birth of Iran's Green Movement. Currently, the movement finds itself in a favourable, yet difficult position. Favourable, because it enjoys the support of society, and difficult, because forming ties between the general population and organising social forces is complicated. Before anything, I think it's necessary to mention a number of points you might be less familiar with:
Firstly, that the Green Movement is not a religious movement, but a secular one with religious leaders. This appears to be a way for the advance of democracy in the Islamic world.
Secondly, the Green Movement has a distinct leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi is the leader of this movement, but he and other movement leaders like Khatami and Karroubi have never claimed to be the leaders of the movement, due to the fact that the leadership style in the Green Movement is very modern.Also there's a reciprocal relationship between the leaders and their supporters. Despite the imprisonment of two of the movement's leaders, spokespeople and forces linked with the movement are moving it forward.
Thirdly, the Green Movement is a peaceful movement. The excessive violence perpetrated against the movement, which has left thousands arrested and tens of people killed, is the result of the government's fear of the movement's expansion. But the forces within the Green Movement are not in favour of violent action. After six months of street protests, a year of pressure on the movement body, the Green Movement has ceased its presence on the streets, as it unifies the regime's forces.
Fourthly, currently, a dramatic weakening is taking place amongst the ranks of regime loyalists. In the past two years, some members of parliament and supporters of the regime have sided with the people, the sons of two Ayatollahs who backed the leader are in prison, and the majority of the country's prominent clerics have are opposed to the leader and the regime. Following the political turmoil, three or four of the country's ten most powerful figures remained in power, and the rest have left quit the government. There are differences even between the president and the leadership. We're trying so that their rifts continue.
Fifthly, in Iran, almost all the media is under the control of the state, but the people have effectively pushed state-media aside and spend their time watching a few Persian language entertainment channel. Despite the widespread filtering, Iranians follow and react to the news through social networking sites and the internet. A number of radio and television stations outside Iran are providing news, and despite their weaknesses, they're finding more and more viewers. Our great advantage is that out of the 70 million population of the country, the regime aims to keep its 5 to 10 million supporters, and thus its broadcasts are tuned to the liking if its religious backers. As a result, people are not affected by the continuous television propaganda, because what is interesting for regime loyalists is not appealing for the majority of Iranians who have a modern outlook on life.
Sixth, the Iranian uses three methods to prevent any form of political activity in Iran: censorship, creating mistrust, and not allowing for organisation to be shaped. These three are among the most important tasks carried out by the Intelligence Ministry. Yet our great advantage is the internet. In practice, and especially in particular instances, the internet makes up for the three intelligence and security limitations, and acts as an important organisation, it removes censorship and paves the way for restoring trust. But what is dangerous about the internet, is our great problem, meaning the infiltration of the Intelligence Ministry and their access to our data and finding out about our plans. This is easier on social networking sites and more difficult when it comes to mail boxes and personal websites.
Seventh, one of the best weapons at the disposal of the Green Movement was websites such as Balatarin, Facebook and Twitter. This website has been attacked by the regime's cyber army. The site has lost its popularity amongst the people after it became a place for publishing anti-religious material, radical content supporting terrorist group and turning into a place dominated by offensive language. Nevertheless, social networks, especially Facebook, have had very positive results for freedom of thought in Iran. At the moment, in addition to being a social network for political and social activity, Facebook is a bridge between the intellectual elite, artists, leading thinkers and the general public. In reality, we open in cyberspace, the doors closed by the authorities in the real society. In the past two years, five main websites Balatarin, Facebook, Rooz Online, Kaleme and Jaras have played the role of news websites and have been able to make up for the lack of organisation and the atmosphere of censorship.
Eighth, It's now easy to say that the despite state-propaganda and with the exception of a small portion of the low-income population, people in rural areas are neither supportive of the regime nor Ahmadinejad. Contrary to common misconceptions, the freedom movement in Iran does not only comprise of the middle class. It is a movement for all; most of those killed and imprisoned from the movement are from the low-income classes, and the country's newly rich millionaires and billionaires are most of the military commanders and the religious forces. Most of the educated are considered to be among the poor in comparison with the rest, and the country's rich are a ruling, military and religious class. Contrary to the misinformation campaign, the most important groups fighting against the government and for the separation of church and state are the moderate religious groups or the democratic Muslims.
Currently, a great intellectual movement is taking place in Iran; the Silk Road which was closed four centuries ago and led to Iran's intellectual isolation, has been opened through the internet and Iranian society is attempting to transform itself from an isolated society with eccentric behaviours, to an active and productive one. Many Iranians have entered the realms of intellect, arts, economics and politics after the age of internet. Despite having a backward government delusional about the satanic nature of western civilisation, the people of Iran, as easterners who love eastern civilisation, are attempting to engage in the exchange of thoughts with the west.
The government's refusal to back independent cultural producers has effectively worked in favour of intellectuals and has created a suitable groundwork for intellectual production. For the first time in the past thirty years, a TV series titled "Bitter Coffee" whose director is among the most successful Iranian filmmakers, released its last series in DVD and was greatly welcomed by a population that had been suffering from the state-TV's propaganda. A number of relatively successful private TV channels based abroad have been able to make some of the most popular programmes. The production of music outside the country has become significant, while most of its audience is inside the country. The production of ideas, literature, and books without borders is taking place. The middle class in Iran is standing up to the regime's ideological war by producing content works in the field of art, culture and thought. In this battle of ideas, when we triumph is not important, but what is important is to preserve its continuity. Artists, intellectuals, thinkers and filmmakers try to defeat the colonels, clerics and the police officers; this is the layer beneath Iran's movement. A movement whose aim is to reach a civil society and whose means of doing so is intellect and raising the people's awareness.
Ebrahim Nabavi, 12 August 2011, Milan
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