TitleThe Green Movement needs an intellectual resource

How the steel gets tempered

8 Mar 2011

■ Shafagh Ashna
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At last came the day that we all feared. Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi are now arrested. The prospect of the incident has been worrying people since last year’s protests began and the probability kept fluctuating according to the intensity of the protests. The regime has been extremely subtle in arresting the Green Movement leaders. It waited nearly two years and then realizing that the movement is once again coming to bud, it crept forward quietly and achieved its horrible aim in mere silence. Still, after more than three weeks since the opposition leaders’ captivity, the regime has not admitted to committing such action. Kalameh website announces that Mir-Hossein, Karroubi, and their wives have been moved to Heshmatieh prison, while Tehran’s attorney general says they are in their houses. Mousavi’s and Rahnavard’s daughters say that the lights of their parents’ house are out, while it is published in Keyhan newspaper that the sedition leaders have met their family. It is obvious that they want to unravel the news gradually and step by step in order to decrease the shock it causes.

Last week the Green Tuesdays plan had coincided with the news of the opposition leaders’ arrest and people were expected to react strongly, as they had claimed in their slogan: “There would be an uprising all over Iran”. It cannot be said that people were totally indifferent. The sidewalks were crowded with people on March 1st, in spite of all the security guards, but not the way I expected or I’d better say, wished. Well, maybe my expectations were wrong. Peaceful people, who demonstrate in silence, cannot bite the bullets anymore. The movement needs some time so that it can go along to the small towns and combine with economical problems as well.

But this is not the whole story. I accept that the Green Movement’s objectives have not dealt with economical problems so much, and that the movement has not gone on to small towns and cities, but after all, this movement has emerged from the political action of the middle-class. Isn’t it said that the middle class plays a key role in the political revolutions and transformations in the fabric of society? Wasn’t the middle class the major player in the 1979 Revolution? It seems that both the people and the leaders of the movement have made some mistakes in choosing their tactics and strategies, and this has caused a huge waste of energy and opportunity.

The regime thinks that it has cut down the movement’s head by arresting Mir-Hossein and Mehdi Karroubi. Although the incident has actually struck the movement, it is not able to prevent it from moving forward, because the Green Movement is not individual-centered and it is lead by a group of activists. On the other hand, people are far more progressive than their leaders and their primary demands are on a higher level compared to those of their leaders. Even the leaders sometimes acted as a brake on people’s protests. During these two years the leaders stood besides people and in some cases their actions were merely in response to people’s demands.

I exactly remember that after the revolution in Tunisia and the protests in Egypt people began writing in their websites “Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Karroubi, why are you so silent and passive? Do something! Appeal for a demonstration.” Even some people kept pestering that in Tunisia and Egypt people came into the streets and accomplished their goals within a few weeks, instead of making announcements or staying silent. Hence Mousavi and Karroubi appealed for a demonstration. They themselves couldn’t take part, but people who were so encouraged raced to the streets and astonished the government. Extreme fear was evident in all governmental announcements, rallies, and offensive words. So they chose the usual tactic of attacking, harassing, and at last arresting the leaders.

Being constantly disappointed and offensive and keep on complaining would lead to nowhere

Let’s go back to my discussion on whether we can expect more from the Green Movement, given its current potential and whether it has always chosen appropriate tactics and strategies. My answer to the first question is, yes, why not? I personally expect more from political activists, artists, intellectuals, and even ordinary people. Being constantly disappointed and offensive and keep on complaining would lead to nowhere. I believe that today Mohammad Khatami can play an influential role as he was Iran’s president for two times and is well-known worldwide. Khatami is expected to take action and keep people’s hopes alive in the absence of Mousavi and Karroubi. Shirin Ebadi, as Iran’s only winner of the Nobel Prize, too can help the movement much more. There are also other activists who have kept silent these days, and there are people who are involved in pointless and hollow disputes, rather than focusing on the main goal.

My answer to the second question is negative. The movement should employ different tactics and delude the regime this way and develop its capabilities in the best possible way. For instance, it is now 21 months that the demonstration path is going from Imam Hossein to Azadi Square. It certainly has some advantages. People have got used to the path and they know where to come on the days that there is no access to the internet or telephone. Moreover these streets have become somehow nostalgic and are a reminder of the 1979 revolution. They are also located in the city centre and are easy to access. But on the other hand, it is now 21 months that we have chosen this path, and this gives the government the opportunity to block all our ways by trial and error and build up a strong security barrier, so that people don’t dare to protest, although they come to the streets in masses.

In my opinion, the most important thing the Green Movement is in need of is an efficient intellectual resource that analyzes the situation and provides several solutions for the problems. This is more necessary now that the movement leaders are captivated. The movement is now facing a dilemma and its future depends on the days that lie ahead. It is now in a difficult phase and much consciousness is required. We should be extremely cautious about the future events, not to reach to a certain period of sadness and despair, like what happened during Mosadegh’s, the 1979 revolution, and the reform era.

Tehran Review
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