Internal turmoil resurges in Iran
Last June, nationwide demonstrations broke out across Iran. Masses of young people, including many women, came together to protest what they viewed as a questionable conclusion to the country’s presidential election.
According to the BBC, voter turnout for the June presidential election was estimated at an unprecedented 85 per cent. The impressive turnout led supporters of reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi to anticipate a strong showing and a close election against current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
However, this was not the case. Upon securing 63 per cent of the vote, President Ahmadinejad came out on top in a landslide victory.
After receiving only 34 per cent of the vote, Mousavi quickly denounced the result and alleged widespread voting irregularities. Mousavi’s allusion of a rigged election sparked protests throughout the country. The mass demonstrations that followed adopted Mousavi’s campaign colour of green, and became known as the Green Revolution.
Today, the Green Movement is in its seventh month. The drive remains a pro-democratic, pluralist movement.
According to the Huffington Post, a Jan. 3rd manifesto issued by five principal Green Movement figures, calls for “the resignation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the abolition of clerical control of the voting system and candidate selection; the recognition of law-abiding political, student, non-governmental and women’s groups; labor unions; freedom for all means of mass communication; and an independent judiciary, including popular election of the judicial chief.”
Abdolkarim Soroush, one of the five signatories, claims that although the previously outlined manifesto is not an extensive list of demands, the script outlines the “most common points” associated with the movement.
Interestingly, each of the five Green Movement signatories are native Iranians currently residing outside of the country.
Foreign Policy’s Hooman Majd explains that the current situation unfolding in Iran should be considered a civil rights movement, rather than a revolution. Further, Majd says that the success of the Green Movement should be measured over time. This is because “the movement’s aim is not for a sudden and complete overthrow of Iran’s political system.”
Majd also believes that compromise is within reach in 2010, as “both sides realize that continuing unrest threatens the country’s stability and neither side is looking to reform the regime into oblivion.”
In an effort to ensure success, many observers have called for foreign support of the ongoing Green Movement. However, Majd rejects the notion altogether.
Majd believes that “it is insulting and patronizing to suggest, as many commentators do, that without foreign help or support the green movement cannot be successful, that Iranians on their own are incapable of commanding their own destiny.”
He claims that contrary to popular belief, an endorsement from the U.S. would only serve to hurt the movement rather than help it.
“Coming out squarely on the side of the opposition in Iran is likely to undermine its credibility, and perhaps even lend credence to the government’s assertion that the movement is a foreign inspired plot that will rob Iran of its independence,” Majd argues.
Choosing between evils
The perceived leaders of the movement are Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mohammed Khatami and Mehdi Karroubi. All three were once high-ranking officials in the Islamic Republic. As well, according to Foreign Policy’s Mehdi Khaljali, all three “would likely keep much about the Islamic Revolution in place.” Kahlajali contrasts this with the young protesters who he argues “are aiming to bring down the very system of which their leaders are a part.”
Kahljali claims that these leaders were “swept into power by a spontaneous and improvised groundswell” and that they played a minimal role in organizing and creating the movement. “The government had carefully vetted candidates, keeping anyone too reformist from running.”
Consequently, Kahljali explains, “The grassroots movement was left with a choice between two evils: Mosavi, the lesser one, and Ahmadinejad.”
Kahljali argues that the ostensible leaders of the movement do not necessarily represent the views of the Green Movement and that “democracy in Iran will emerge only through a rupture with the late Ayathollah Khomenini’s ideals and Islamic ideology – concepts to which the accidental leaders of the Green Movement are still loyal.”
It is difficult to attain reliable information regarding the conflict directly from Iran due to the government’s restrictions on freedom of press and foreign media. Consequently, one is left to rely on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for information regarding the current situation in Iran.