It’s not easy being Green: from election campaign to civil rights campaign

Feb 4, 20100 comments

Before the 2009 Election During Iran’s presidential campaign last spring, when I felt a growing optimism about the future of Iran, friends and acquaintances contacted me to inform me of Mousavi’s dark past. He was, after all, prime minister during the mass executions of the 80s. It was clear to me from the beginning, however, that the support for Mousavi had less to do with who he was and his past, than with who Iranians were and their future. Ahmadinejad and the forces around him had never made their disdain for democracy a secret. The first round of the 2005 elections were already in question by most in Iran, who did not believe that Ahmadinejad had really come out ahead. Karoubi mounted protests at that time that went pretty much ignored by most. In 2005, the Iranians I met were cynical and apathetic about the results. “No one votes.” “The ballots are always rigged.” “What difference does it make anyway?” The biggest pre-election boost to the Green movement unwittingly came from the regime itself when they disrupted rallies and denied permits, forcing supporters to become creative. This creativity culminated in the huge rallies of the last week, notably the Green Chain organized via sms and word of mouth that had supporters of Mousavi’s campaign line the sides of the road from the bottom of Tehran’s Vali Asr Street to the top (more than 12 miles!)

Well, for me it was a very unique feeling, and I had never such an experiment before. I was a part of a crowd that all were singing the same song, and I had the feeling that I can do EVERYTHING. Also for the first time in my life, I could feel and understand our previous generation who went out to the streets 30 year ago and did the revolution. I couldn’t stop myself comparing my current activities with them. I don’t know what happens on Saturday night, when the result of the election becomes clear, but maybe 30 years from now, our children will ask “Why the hell did you do these stupid things at June 2009?!” like what we’re always asking from our own parents! But I’m happy of what I did. I’ll vote on Friday, and I’ll vote for Mousavi. Not because he is the best, but because he is the better choice in our current conditions. Reform do not happen in one night, like what our parents did 30 year ago, what they called it “revolution”. Reform in Iran will take a very long time, in a road with many little steps. – Payam Moin Afshari

People I know in Iran told me it was a sea change. They looked around and saw that what they wished for secretly was what so many wished for: reform, more personal freedoms, slow changes. Read what women’s rights activist Maryam Hosseinkhah wrote before the elections:

But I will vote for small change. I will vote because I want to freely read a newspaper every morning. I will vote because I want to buy my favorite book. I will vote because I want to watch my favorite movie in the cinema. I will vote because I don’t want to afraid of being arrested in the street when my clothes are a bit short. I vote for these small wishes.

After the June elections and the subsequent protests, my dear friend told me, “I always thought I was in the minority and that I would just have to learn to live with this society. Now I realize that I am in the majority, and I am asking myself, ‘What do I need to do now? What are my responsibilities?'” From Election Campaign to Rights Campaign The Green movement is now a civil rights movement. It’s important to realize that it will take time to grow and develop, and it will take nurturing to do so. Those of us who feel that a tolerant, more democratic, and open society is inevitable may wish that it were as simple to achieve as turning on a light in a dark room. The truth is, that the Green movement is a long-term movement that is going to require our support for a long, long time to come. We are always going to have to struggle for civil and human rights and once they are attained, we are going to have to struggle to maintain them. In an interview with Moussavi published on Kalameh, he questions the success of the revolution against the Shah: “In the early years of the revolution, the majority of our people had been convinced that the revolution had erased all structures of dictatorship and autocracy, and I was one of these people,” he said. “But today, I don’t believe so.” (via LA Times blog) Mousavi continues:

He doesn’t care about rumors of illegally forced confessions. Nor does he care about the fact that the death-row suspects have nothing to do with the election riots. The important thing for him is to be an executive for intimidation. He is unaware of the power of the blood of the innocent and he has forgotten the fact that the flood of martyrs’ blood led to the overthrow of the shah regime. Even today, I see the resistance and firm determination of people in favor of their rights … as the continuation of the struggles of the days and months leading to the 1979 revolution.

How do We Become the Society We Should Be? If as Dr. Frans de Waal and other neuroscientists posit, we are by nature empathic, then how do we go about promoting the empathic norm that is Us and limiting the upheaval and oppression done to our societies by the small number who are willing to use violence and terror to achieve their ends? How do we respond peacefully and non-violently to that group? And how do we prevail? I hope that you, dear reader, will respond to these questions in the comments. It is easy to be in opposition. It is far easier to remain outside and critical than to take on the enormous risk of supporting a movement that may not always be everything we dream of. The future of oppression in Iran depends on passivity. It depends on the assumption that we will sacrifice those among us who are unknown yet outspoken and brave who have made themselves vulnerable through their actions to protect others and to move society forward, in return for stability and predictability. We all have to be brave and patient and work hard to achieve civil, compassionate, and open societies. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke) By T. Egherman