TitleThe Green Movement did well and is alive

Tunisia could, and so can we!

7 Feb 2011

■ Shafagh Ashna
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Many breathtaking events are taking place in the Middle East and North Africa these days. Each one of them gets you stuck behind your computer, eager to follow the news. The situation has become so disputable because of its similarity to incidents that happened last year in Iran, and everyone tries to judge and analyze it from her/his own point of view.

This note is actually an answer to those who follow the course of events in Arabian countries with regret, and compare any success they achieve with what happened in Iran and start complaining: why could Tunisia succeed but we couldn’t? Don’t the leaders of the protest movement in Iran have anything better to do than just making announcements? Why didn’t we finish off the job on the 25th of Khordad? The people who keep complaining like this are those who were very optimistic last year during the mass demonstration and haven’t even taken back their votes and believed that the regime would soon fail. These are the ones who committed violent acts sometimes and objected any peaceful act, all the time willing to direct the rally to the radio and television building or the Pasteur Square. I would like to talk to these people in the following note, so we can have a better understanding of the real state of affairs in Iran.

First I’d like to declare, despite my deep happiness and respect for the people of Arabian countries, that what happened in Iran’s streets last year, namely the Green Movement, is far more progressive and has deeper roots. I believe that Iran’s movement is somehow the godfather of recent events. Moreover, the Green Movement, whether in the form of street rallies or in people’s homes living in the virtual area, is a polygonal movement including people of different types and social stratum. Furthermore, the way Iranian people behaved and what they demanded (taking back their votes), demonstrates a level of relative intellectual maturity at least in the urban area.

They grumble, nag and ask furiously why on earth Tunisian people could kick out the dictator in one week but we haven’t succeeded even to take back our votes after twenty-one months? I answer them: have you ever spotted Tunisia on the map? It is smaller than some provinces in Iran. Its population is less than one million people. No doubt it is possible to finish the job in a week there. However, isn’t Tunisia going through a revolution? We revolted 32 years ago and kicked out the dictator. So what happened? Tunisia must follow the same path now. And after all can all the problems be solved by a revolution?

They say: ‘see how Egyptians are harassing Mubarak!’ His son has run away from the country. Do you hear them saying Mubarak should go? They sleep in the streets. Have you forgotten that Kyrgyzstan also accomplished the task in one week? My answer is again: Wait! Wait and see where Egypt will lead to. Have you forgotten what happened last year? An innocent girl walking in Amirabad’s alleys was suddenly shot. A young boy was sentenced to death because he threw a stone at the police. More than a hundred people have been executed last month. Don’t you remember how the truck rode over people? Don’t you remember they called the protesters Mohareb? What does Mohareb mean? It means a person who fights against Allah! Fighting against Allah is definitely more difficult than struggling with Mubarak!

Fighting against Allah is definitely more difficult than struggling with Mubarak!

I accept all the flaws. I admit that the three million people on the 25th of Khordad could do lots of things. I know that people came first, prior to Mousavi. Of course, Hashemi Rafsanjani is not the man. Khatami is over-conservative as usual. But in spite of all this, I believe that the Green Movement and its leaders have done well. After all didn’t we know how everything was in the first place and took part in an election we all doubted? Didn’t we want Mousavi to be our president who claimed to be a conservative reformist? Well, now we are too much ahead of what we thought we would achieve. Many things have become clear and decided upon now. I remember talking to my professor in those eventful days. He said “Be patient. I will not be happy if this movement succeeds right away. We made a mistake in 1979, we should not make it again!”

Thinking about the magnificent day millions of people walked in silence from Enghelab to Azadi Square and did their historical duty still cheers me up. I am proud that our silence astonished the world and made them admire us. One of my friend said the silence was mostly because of people’s fear from clashing with a government that is born out of a revolution and has gone through eight years of war and is still strong after 32 years. Even if it was because of fear, it was wise to do so, I answered. Those days walking among the people and seeing them from all types and with different looks, I was sure that this movement is deeply rooted in society and cannot be destroyed by guns and bullets. Maybe if we staged a sit-in in Azadi square the result would be better. But I’m sure there would be nothing like what happened in Tunisia.

All dictatorships have lead to miserable failures. This is how history works. But every person and every country has its unique characteristics. It is not possible to imitate other countries. Their protest styles and strategies can be helpful, but if Gandhi succeeded with non-violent protest, we cannot expect to succeed the same way, or if tomorrow someone burns her/himself out in Azadi Square, this doesn’t necessarily mean that street rallies will start again.

But there is one thing I am sure of: the Iranian Green Movement is still alive and there are several reasons for that. First, people didn’t behave harshly (at a wide scale) so the government couldn’t suppress them completely. Second, leaders of the movement stood by people and developed (although partially) step by step. Finally, the Green movement is not bound to a small community, as it was during the sixties or in Tir of 1378. This time most of the people are involved. This can be said for sure. Also poverty and the bad financial situation cannot be ignored. People are socially under pressure; they are unemployed. Lack of freedom is a major issue in Iran. We have seen people shouting in the streets and also heard them mutter. There is no reason for being hopeless. There will be brilliant days when we finally feel hundreds of years of effort and struggle for liberty have reached somewhere, just like now when we admire Arabian countries and feel happy for them.

Tehran Review
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