Some thoughts on violence

2009/12/30

Today, three nights after Ashura, I feel that I would like to share some of my personal thoughts, because I noticed that lots of discussions are going on, and lots of emotions have started to break free, emotions that are related to one of my biggest concerns since the whole thing started after the presidential election in June – violence and fragmentation.

I spent Ashura at my pc, posting and translating, as usual, but with a growing feeling of unease, that I could not pay attention to due to a lack of time.
I saw videos. I missed something there, and I saw, or rather sensed, something that had not been there before. Let me put it very naively: I missed the color green in the pictures, and I sensed something huge hovering above the crowds that was just black.
There are many good reasons why the color green did not and could not dominate the pictures. Actually, it was not so much the color that was missing. It was rather that there was a shift in the atmosphere.

Many people seem to have noticed this as well, in this or another way. I noticed that people started to have worried or heated discussions, so I thought I would just share my thoughts.

First, in my perception Ashura showed two types of violence. The first kind was the aggressive, destructive, stupid and cruel violence used by the government forces that the world has been witnessing for the past six months, and that Iranians in Iran have probably been witnessing for their entire lives.
The second kind was new. The protesters fought back. They fought BACK. This is important. I, as everyone else, saw the videos that showed protesters freeing arrested people from police vans – with violence. I saw protesters cornering security forces who were visibly intimidated, if not profoundly scared, because the protesters did NOT offer them flowers. What they offered them was the feeling of being vulnerable, exposed to the rage, the sadness, the frustration of those who had lost a friend, a son, a daughter, a niece, a nephew, a brother, or a sister, or who spend their days and nights worrying about their loved ones in Evin or another place of hell.

This looked violent, but it was necessary. As Josh Shahryar put it: Iranians aren’t punching bags.

I saw pictures of security forces being protected by protesters, and led away from the furious crowds. I saw some minor violence applied when necessary, but it always seemed to serve a peaceful purpose – to save people from the arbitrary cruelty of the regime.

But the black thing I sensed in all those pictures is still there, sticky, filthy, scary. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it is the risk of fragmentation, the risk of being carried away by all too understandable emotions.

I love the green movement for its capability of being humane. I love it for its strength to not get trapped in destructive patterns. I am sure this has been one major reason why the international support has been so huge. My heart beats for the Greens. But I know that the Greens are not going through their immense struggle to be loved by their international supporters.

I feel worried and anxious, because things now seem to be reaching a point where people might not always be able to act the way they wish, or the way they know they should.

The Greens have already set a huge example for people around the globe. I will forever admire them for their achievements of the past months, for all they have done, and for all they have NOT done.

I am not Iranian. I am just a supporter from abroad. All I know is that there is a big difference between violence in a sense of cruelty, and violence with a purpose of self defense. And also, there is a big difference between self defense and revenge.

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10 Responses to “Some thoughts on violence”

  1. egherman Says:

    Excellent post. It is terrifying to see the regime close off every opportunity for peaceful resolution through excessive use of force, arrests of moderates, and repression.

    The cynical part of me believes that they are doing this on purpose: an explosion of violence from protesters could leave the Revolutionary Guards in a stronger position than before.

  2. shadi asadi Says:

    observing and analysing from your warm nest is easy. espacially when you’ve not even been through a hell called being a citizen in Iran. that people don’t wear green colour that often as before is not a sign of being in disagreement with ‘green movement’. it comes purely by security reasons. don’t forget you are in that country not even allowed to wear the colour which presents your political preferences. this and many other reasons has taken people to a stage of demonstrating and defending themselves when this absolute right is taken from them.

    • Julia Says:

      With all due respect, Shadi – but I don’t think you have really read that post.

      • shadi A. Says:

        based on what, dear??

      • Julia Says:

        “observing and analysing from your warm nest is easy. ” – Agreed. I wasn’t analysing anything, though. An analysis usually provides conclusions, advice, or something of that kind. I don’t think that I as an observer (and supporter) from outside am in a position to give the people in Iran any sort of advice. I can’t find any advice in my post either.

        “that people don’t wear green colour that often as before is not a sign of being in disagreement with ‘green movement’. it comes purely by security reasons.” – Agreed again. Here is what I wrote: “There are many good reasons why the colour green did not and could not dominate the pictures. Actually, it was not so much the colour that was missing. It was rather that there was a shift in the atmosphere.”

        “don’t forget you are in that country not even allowed to wear the colour which presents your political preferences. this and many other reasons has taken people to a stage of demonstrating and defending themselves when this absolute right is taken from them.” – Absolutely agreed. I wrote:
        “I saw some minor violence applied when necessary, but it always seemed to serve a peaceful purpose – to save people from the arbitrary cruelty of the regime.”
        and
        “All I know is that there is a big difference between violence in a sense of cruelty, and violence with a purpose of self defence. And also, there is a big difference between self defence and revenge.”

        I was trying to say in that post that, knowing where the movement is coming from, I will respect whatever decision they are forced make about their further ways of struggling for their rights, knowing that probably nobody in the movement is really keen on having to use violence. For me, it was important to have in mind that violence can have different faces and different reasons. The reason why I wrote something on this issue at all (without being asked or my opinion needed) is that I feel truly connected to what is going on in Iran right now, and am deeply concerned about what the people are and will be facing.


  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Nima Says:

    Some things are clear to me:
    The Rev Guard had planned to ‘provoke’ violence on the holy day to use it later on to condemn the Green movement.

    To the Rev Guard this violence is a sign of progress, as in their messianic ideology the uprising of the last Imam is predicted by it (and this is their last ideological line of self-defence to which they are fleeing). And though they are in position of power they still hold on to the Shia doctrine of ‘the suppressed will prevail’ and see themselves as the suppressed and offended by the engineered images of rioters ruining the mourning and insulting their God-led leader. Their hardheadedness in this stretches the struggles of the protestors and renders people outraged and desparate, leaving still less room for mutual sympathy and potential reconciliation.

    The pro-regime agents population is shrinking rapidly as many can’t fit this ideology with non-TV reality. In the end those few blinds have to be brought down by ‘force’. Hence I don’t see this being solved without humanitarian and moral mishappenings which makes me depressive.
    [Sorry for the length]

  5. shadi Says:

    You agreed with each sentence of my note. Where did the impression of not reading your note come from?
    Besides, analysis shouldn’t necessarily be accompanied with advice, unless you do some academic research. It is writing about more than the facts, the things behind the facts (like your violence classification). It’s good to read your point of view, comparing with the oppression in Iran which is rooted in centuries though it sounds so romantically superficial – with all due respect. And I’ll tell you why by giving you an example: as you sit in front of your pc – on Ashura day for example – someone enters your house by breaking the door and wants to know whom you are communicating with. When you ask what he/she is doing in YOUR house you get a punch in your face. You would probably intent to call the police. But what if that person is the police?
    And imagine in this desperate situation someone is standing to watch from distance with: ‘yes, this is horrible but I feel that the color of this is darker than that. I’m very sorry but I think how he punched you was another kind of punch than when you tried to punch back'(if you had the chance to, of course)
    I have no purpose to make you feel offended. I admire your concerns about Iranian people. Like so many others you could have been going on with your daily life. I’m living abroad for 20 years now, so I am also just an observer who happens to speak the language and red a couple of history books.
    Let’s both wish for a free and peaceful Iran. Those brave people deserve it.

    • Julia Says:

      Dear Shadi, thanks for your explanation. The impression that you did not read my note obviously came from some misunderstanding, because I felt that we both agree, yet you seemed to be unhappy with my note. I was not feeling offended. And I am not feeling comfortable with admiration, because all admiration belongs to the Iranians in Iran who risk their lives. I am glad we both agree, and I join you in your wish for a free and peaceful Iran.

  6. shadi Says:

    ps: my note is a reply to 6 julia.


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