The green movement is alive


Published in weekly newspaper “Die ZEIT” on November 4, 2009

Batons, tear gas, shootings: on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran the regime tries everything to prevent protests. But the civil resistance keeps finding new ways.


Tehran on the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy: Several hundreds of opposition supporters are trying to use the official governmental event for voicing their protests; © Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

By Martin Gehlen

Tehran, on the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the US Embassy: Several hundreds of opposition supporters try to use the official event of the regime for their own protests.

Iran’s calendar of political celebrations is packed. Six weeks ago, the green activists managed to turn the Quds day, an event established by Ayatollah Khomeini, into a demonstration on their own behalf. This time, the regime mobilized hundreds of thousands of uniformed militias and revolutionary guards in an attempt to remain at the wheel this time, at the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of youths were for hours playing cat and mouse with the police and intelligence agents in the entire city.

Police and protesters engaged in street battles, security forces used batons and tear gas. On their motorcycles, they hunted down supporters of the opposition. According to the oppositional website Mowjcamp, bullets were fired in Haft-e Tir Square in the center of the Iranian capital. Already at daybreak countless units of Revolutionary Guards and Basij militias had been present in streets and squares.

The turmoil in the country continues, despite mass arrests and show trials, hateful speeches and threats of harshest possible penalties. Most reformist newspapers were banned, foreign journalists are not permitted to enter the country. Yet, the civil resistance movement still keeps finding new ways, and their internal communication via internet and sms is working.

For example, the governor of the Iranian central bank recently deplored that more and more money bills in Iran have “anti-revolutionary slogans” written on them. That is a crime, he raged helplessly. The opposition mockingly replied that each bill contains a message. At night, cries of “Allah-o akbar” are heard from the rooftops.

The people in the streets wear green wristbands and scarfs, women paint their nails green – and demonstratively use the term “Iranian Republic” instead of “Islamic Republic”. Every week there is a protest in one of the universities all over the country, students chant “death to the dictator” and “Ahmadi go home”. On the campus of the Tehran University, Ahmadinejad even had to take his heels when confronted with raging students.

Even five months after the controversial presidential elections, the regime does not dare to arrest the opposition leaders. The new chief of the judiciary obviously wishes to get through with the embarrassing show trials against almost 140 reformist masterminds behind the scenes – with an arbitrary mix of toughness and mercy.

Every few days, information emerges about exemplary high penalties against individual defendants. Others, however, are released without trial and further explanation. The leading figures of the opposition, Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, however, adamantly stick to their approach: a long breath and no violence – this is what they keep telling the people on every occasion.

The hopes of the opposition are based on the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is still standing on shaky ground. The attempts of the controversial president to gain new prestige abroad and new legitimacy at home by compromising about the uranium issue in the nuclear talks in Geneva and Vienna are on the verge of failure.

The extent of disagreement and fragmentation within the country’s political elite is such that they are not able to coordinate nuclear decisions of such far-reaching impact. There are many scores to settle, not only between Ahmadinejad and his opponents in the presidential elections, Moussavi and Karroubi, but also within the ranks of the conservative regime. And thus, Iran meanwhile has fallen silent about their own negotiator’s proposal to have large parts of low-enriched uranium processed in Russia. And again, Tehran displays the familiar picture: big speeches on the outside, and many little backdoors inside.

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