Is the Green Movement of Iran Dead?
Opinion article by Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD International Law
The anniversaries of the Green Movement passed in Iran with almost no serious events. In fact the conflict between the two factions of the Principlalists had taken the center stage in the political scene of Iran. At the same time, while the Arab Spring is turning many countries in the Middle East and North Africa upside down, it seems that these developments may have no effect in Iran. Many of the supporters of the Green Movement have gone silent. The so-called traditional leaders of the Green Movement are under house arrest and their representatives out of the country have a hard time even to identify themselves and they have proved to be ineffective in mobilizing the people. There is deep sense of political depression in the Iranian society.
Why it did not work?
Disagreement in the Green Movement of Iran existed from its early inception. Immediately after the June 2009 elections (which resulted in victory of Ahmadinejad for the second time), the divide between the so-called leaders of the movement (Mir Hussein Mousavi, the former Prime Minister of Iran and Mehdi Karroubi the former Speaker of the Majles, and to a limited sense, Mohammad Khatami. The former reformist president of Iran, and even to a lesser degree Hashemi Rafsanjanj, the former president of Iran) and the body of the movement, the people who actually demonstrated in the streets, was obvious.
Most of the demonstrators were people from the young generation of Iran that were fed up with the Islamic regime and they wanted to move Iran towards democracy, freedom, human rights and against the religious fanatics, while the so-called leaders never intended to move in such directions. Because they were well aware that if the regime of Iran collapsed entirely, they would also go down.
These differences wore down the movement, along with couple of other reasons:
- Suppression by the regime: the regime of the Islamic Republic has been thinking of and making preparations for such days from long ago. They had made many practices for tackling with street demonstrations and they had put their resources on this issue. The suppression was implemented with high efficiency. During the last couple of years, the regime has used all of its resources for indentifying and neutralizing all elements related to what they call “Fetneh” (Sedition) . One of the main strong points of the Green Movement was its wide use of social media and similar things, but the regime has used the same methods against them. The unethical and unprofessional use of the social media by the supporters of the Green Movement (through spreading all kinds of lies without any attention to the consequences of such acts) helped the regime in tackling with those tactics.
- The misguided leadership: the leadership of the Green Movement was so sensitive to keep its relations with the regime that they kept repeating issues in their statements that were exactly the reason for the revolt and protests of the people. They always talked about Constitutional Law of the IRI (which contains the Velaye Faghih or the government of the top Mullah) and they always expressed their desires for restoring the golden days of the Ayatollah Khomeini. This looked and still looks ridiculous for the body of the Green Movement.
- The mistakes in tactics suggested by the leaders and their advisors for preservation of the movement. Some of the tactics which were used in the very sensitive and crucial junctures, proved to be disastrous such the “Trojan Horse” tactic. According to this tactic the supporters of the movement were supposed to take part in the demonstrations on the occasion of the anniversary of the establishment of the IRI, without carrying anything that indicated their affiliation to the Green Movement, and at a crucial point to take out all of their Green signs and banners and start to demonstrate. No one knew when was the crucial point and the suppressive forces were ready to tackle the problem because they were fully aware of it. The operation failed and the regime called this the strategy of “Trojan Donkey”. In another occasion, the Green Movement supporters took part in the Friday Prayers while disregarding the basic rules of prayer and they made themselves a laughing subject for the Islamic zealots and their allies.
- The lack of support from wider society: the movement failed to get the support of important layers of the society such as the government employees and workers. Also, the movement was much limited to certain parts of certain cities. It was limited to the educated, middle class, computer-aware, email- sending, and twitter-receiving types of people.
- Reformists trying to go their own way: the reformists have been trying during the last couple of years to take a distance from the Green Movement. Mohammad Khatami, the former Reformist president of Iran, has recently said: the Green Movement deviated the Iranian reforms. At the moment, some of the supporters and main figures of the Reforms, are trying to go back to the Reforms in the limited sense and they even ask for national reconciliation (asking the leaders of the regime and the people to forgive each other).
- Lack of foreign support: The foreign countries out of concerns about the policies of the new comers, and at the same time due to the international situation (economic crisis) and the negotiations with the government of Iran on the nuclear issue, didn’t show any concrete support of the movement.
- Ambiguity of ideology and policy. The Green Movement tried during the last two years to overcome this issue. They compiled and published a manifesto but it still contained many ambiguities. It is not clear what the leaders of the Green movement want to Achieve. What is their policy about relations with the US? What do they think about the Universal Declaration of Human rights, and what is their view on the UN Convention for Eradication of All Forms of Discrimination Against women. And what they see as a good policy to get out of the nuclear problem of Iran.
Due to the above reasons, some people believe that the Green Movement is dead. The regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran is among the factions that believe the Green Movement is dead.
However, the answer to the above question lies in what you consider as the Green Movement? In the limited sense of removing the current president and replacing him with some others in the Mousavi-Karoubi gang, it is definitely dead. However, the Green Movement as a part and a stage in the process of the struggle of the Iranian people to gain democracy and rule of law and human rights is still alive. It is only enough that the ruling regime relaxes its suppression, to see the widespread support of the Green Movement is all of its forms. The majority of the people in Iran are dissatisfied with the ruling regime and its strict religious ideology. The pressures of a corrupt and sick economy along with the implications of international sanctions and effects of the implementation of targeted subsidies have created a potential dangerous situation in Iran. The high inflation rate, the rising costs of utilities, and the unemployment are fertile grounds for the sudden start of the public demands for extensive reforms and even change of the regime at any minute. The Arab Spring and the interventionist policies of the Western countries in defense of the people of countries in confrontation with the dictators have made the leaders of Iran worried that the internal dissatisfaction and dissent may find a way to connect with the external forces (especially due to the concern resulting from the nuclear program of Iran) and open a way for toppling the entire regime. The Green Movement in the sense of a link in the chain of Iranians quest for democracy is alive and it may emerge at any time with a different color or name.
Parts of a Speech by Bahman Aghai Diba in the American University in Washington DC, 27 March 2012
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