Nurettin Taşar: The massive new protests and Green Movement in Iran

Posted: 2018-01-04
Written by: EU Network
Category: Battle of ideas
Tagged: protests iran green movement

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The Green movement is a social movement developed in Iran during and after the presidential elections of June 2009. The movement’s major issue was the making of democracy in the Islamic regime. However, this movement failed to take over authoritarian rule. People have faced new demonstration in Iran today. Green movement came to exist in Iran because of rigged poll, on the contrary, new movement have come to exist because of Iran’s economic situation. I am going to examine the green movement regarding the role of women, intellectuals and new generation and subsequently explain why the movement failed by the wayside. In addition to that, I am going to compare to Iran’s new protests with the "Green Movement" of the past.

The role of women: Women have become the new social force that challenges the Islamic Republic regarding maintain the disparity between men and women in the name of Islam. The new generations of young women are conscious ıf it fundamental equality with men, having had the same achievements in schooling and higher education.

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The role of secular intellectuals: After the Islamic revolution, the major critical sources against the regime come from secular intellectuals. For instance, they paid attention the subject of civil society. Hoseyn Bashirieyeh is an example in this case. He translated Kurgen Habermas, Barrigton Moore, and Hobbles’s books. He raised the issues of democratization progress and totalitarianism. He instructed all generation of Iranian students in Tehran University. In this sense, Even through Iran is ruled by an Islamist theocracy, the dominant political, culture within society is reformist thought, not fundamentalist or radical Islamist.

The role of new generation: New generation, less ideological and more concerned with personal freedoms that are threatened by the theocracy. The new society had broken away from the old ideological tenets which was previous Islamic approach. The myth of the gradual democratization of the Islamic theocracy made new social movements possible with a democratizing initiative such as the Green Movement.

The Green Movement: The presidential election in Iran is officially based on people's vote, but 12-member Council of Guardians must approve candidates for the presidency. The 20th may 2009, the Guardian Council declared the list of approved candidates consists of conservative candidates: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohsen Rezaee, also reformist candidates: Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hussein Mousavi.

(For detailed information about the president election system in Iran see: https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/34206/1/gupea_2077_34206_1.pdf )

For the first time, candidates were criticizing each other face to face. The television debate enhanced the feelings among large fractious of the society that the election would be honest this time. It played more crucial role in mobilizing the society, namely, the freedom to organize debates on the street.  For this reason, there was 80 percent increase of eligible voters, almost 40 out of 46 million people voted, in 2009 election in Iran. This was the most magnificent manifestation of the political maturity of Iran as a nation and their collective democratic will.

However, official result of the election caused a deep shock among the side of the movement.
Millions of Iranian was angry and heartbroken with the official results of the historic election. Mousavi and Karroubi openly questioned the validity of this result. Ahmadinejad declared to be the winner, he also received more than 62 percent of the votes in the first round unlike the negative projections. Moussavi only received 33.75 percent of the vote. There were a lot of questions regarding the outcome of election. Contrary to all predictions, Karrubi and Reza won less than 3 per cent of the votes. Another problem was the lack of voting booths, particularly in the rural areas.

The first week after the announcement of official results of the vote witnessed huge demonstration in Tehran and other some large cities almost each day. In spite of the hardening of the repression, demonstrations were continued.

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Slogan was "Where is my vote?"

The president of Shiraz University resigned and the president of Tehran University expressed his concern publicly regarding demonstrations during this period. Meanwhile, Iranian vocalist Muhammad Reza criticized the government. Moreover, the famous Iranian footballer used green on their wrist bands, and wear green jerseys as well.

The second week, repression intensified and most of the organizers of the reformists’ candidates were arrested. Musavi and Karrubi were surrounded and their ties with the external world were cut off. The government cut off mobile phone and Internet. The regime shut down the foreign news agencies as well as the web sites and social networking. The news from Iran was that the English sites of BBC and CNN were filtered. The movement failed to take over elected Ahmadinejad’s government.

This movement was the first democratic, gender-orientated, and culturally innovative one in post-revolutionary Iran: through the massive participation of the youth, the Green Movement underlined the new political culture in which respect for law and political pluralism were the major demands.

However, the movement failed in implementing the democratic reforms within the regime and represented the end of the reformist movement in Iran. Many reasons can account for this failure. First of all, its leaders were all the elites of the Islamic Republic. Since the all candidates are elites, a part of the demonstrators rejected the candidates as the initiators of such a movement. For instance “death to the Dictator” was banned by the leadership.

Another weakness of the movement was its inability to attract the workers and more generally, white-color employees Green movement remained essentially as a youth movement, mainly supported by the students at its core.

On the other hand, Green Movement’s aim was to reform the Islamic theocracy. Musavi, Karrubi, and Khatami belonged to political elite of Islamic Republic. However, the nature of the reformist movement has radically changed and the regime has become more and more repressive and less and less legitimate in the eyes of a large section of the population. Such a significant segment of Iranian society lost its trust in this regime which was particularly Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. These elections were not the point of a healthy democracy. The moral voice of the Green movement said that this regime was neither Islamic nor a republic.

Iran’s New Protest: In the demonstration has no clear leadership that has emerged for protests almost everywhere. Some opposition activists, who was in green movement, are unsure who are involved in protest now. However, crowds of largely young men and women have marched in the demonstration with videos showing which have proven persistent and organized. Supporters on social media say that it is a leaderless popular movement like Arab Uprising, which was a revolutionary wave of demonstrations in North Africa and the Middle East that began on 17 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution. Rouhani who is the seventh President of Iran, said that Iranian have a right to protest. Reformist are calling for changes in economic policy to defuse the unrest. However, the most significant protests in eight years in Iran, state media reporting that the casualties was at least 20 between demonstrators and security forces by now.

In addition to that, there is an expression in Iran that says "the knife has hit the bone." This is used to explain the character of these demonstrators. Besides, unlike those who behind Green Movement,  the demonstrators are not shouting slogans the names of any opposition leaders or wearing green scarf in support of reforms. Lastly, the protests show that the reason of frustration in the Iranian society is, particularly, economic difficulties they have been facing.

04.01.2018. Nurettin Tasar, for EUNetwork.lv.

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