More than a year has passed from the uprising in Iran that followed the presidential election in June 2009. People of Iran felt outraged and cheated with the seemingly rigged election result. So they took to the streets and demanded a vote recount and more rights and freedom in protest. Iranians abroad followed with rallies and protests all around the globe in support of the people back home. And thus the green movement was born which quickly became the most significant and important uprising since the revolution in 1979. For a while people seemed hopeful to see some positive change in Iran.
Initially the ruling party seemed shaken up a bit, but the government’s armed forces (mostly the Basijis and the revolutionary guards) retaliated, beating up and stabbing people in the streets, arresting them, and occasionally even killing people in public. Waves of arrests, tortures, rapes, severe sentences and even executions followed, as we all watched in rage and sorrow. And the movement was pretty much choked up to a large extent. Some even believe that an electoral coup was staged and armed forces took over. The majority clergy who were running the country lost control (though they may still look in charge) and Iran slipped into a military dictatorship.
NPR in a a recent report based on an interview with a reporter from The New Yorker who visited Iran and interviewed various people from both sides including Ahmadinejad, declared “In Iran, Green Movement has ‘Ceased to Exist'”. I think among the key reasons why the movement didn’t amount to much was because of lack of leadership and clear objectives. Did they want just a re-election, or more freedom as well? Or did they want to overthrow the regime all together? And then what? We still have Iranians who are rooting for a monarchy after 30 years! Mirhossein Mousavi, the runner-up presidential candidate who got most of the popular vote, emerged as the accidental leader of the movement, followed by a few others, such as Mehdi Karoubi, in the race who were all dismayed with the rigged results and raised their voices. They all dropped out because of threats and fear. Mousavi seemed to last a bit longer, but I don’t think even he realized what he was getting into. He was an IRI presidential candidate after all. In fact, many remembered him as being very much a part of the system, and responsible for ordering the murders of thousands because of political opposition and dissent some years earlier.
At the same time, though some people paid a very high price in the process, the movement in a way woke up the Iranians back home and exposed to the rest of the world what has been happening back home for many years. Now there is a sense of awareness among the Iranians and things will never quite be the same again.
These days there is an occasional sad and disturbing news from Iran about more trouble and oppression. For example, recently there was news about a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery followed by her lawyer seeking asylum! See here. And last week there was a hunger strike by seventeen political prisoners in the Evin prison in Tehran.
Once in a while there is an event, a voice, or an artistic work in the memory of the movement and in support of the people of Iran that makes it to the news, a gentle blow of oxygen to a fragile lit candle that is about to go out, providing people with some hope and excitement. For example, see this.