Reform, not revolution – about the goals of the “Green Movement”
Published on German public radio channel “Deutschlandradio” on January 9 2010
Source (German): http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/einewelt/1101749/
About the goals of the “Green Movement” in Iran
By Katayoun Amirpour
Earlier this week, five exiled Iranian intellectuals published a statement summarizing the goals of the protest movement in Iran: What they demand is not a revolution, but merely a reform of the existing constitution.
The regime in Tehran is enforcing their massive actions against the critical public, for example, by imposing strict censorship, and banning any open political discussion and exchange of views between the people in the country. What remains is the internet, the virtual space – like the youtube channel of the Green Movement, where Hamid Dabashi, Professor for Iranian studies at the American Columbia University, invited for a review of the past week.
Internet access, however, is being more and more impeded too, especially opposition websites are often being blocked. This is why many Iranians in Iran resort to the American channel “Voice of America” and the British BBC, i. e. BBC’s Persian program. Those who look for information or want to discuss and exchange issues, listen to radio programs. Like Tuesday night of this week. The outstanding subject: The declaration of the Five, the list of demands of the “Green Movement”.
Five of the most renowned Iranian intellectuals, all of them currently living abroad due to the repressive situation in Iran, demand president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s resignation. They maintain that he is not the elected president of Iran and owes his new term in office to electoral fraud. They call for fresh elections and demand the release of all political prisoners. They call for freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and generally for all office holders to be elected for a limited period of time. This demand includes the position of the religious leader, the supreme, most important figure of the state who at present is being elected for life. He, the religious leader Ali Khamenei, of all is held responsible by the five intellectuals for the bloody crackdown on last summer’s protests, by which in their view he has lost the legitimacy to rule.
The five intellectuals want to replace the “despotic jurist”, as they call Ali Khamenei. For many Iranians, this breaks a taboo, while for others it is a long overdue demand. However, the five intellectuals want to achieve this by acting within the framework of the constitution. Thus, Mohsen Kadivar, one of the authors of the statement, stresses that they by no means seek to abolish the Islamic Republic:
“This statement is based on what is currently possible in Iran. We have tried to avoid the very mistake that is made by most expat Iranians abroad. The mistake is that some [expat] Iranians, who have not visited Iran for decades, do not consider whether their demands are what the majority of Iranians really wants, and whether an implementation of these demands is actually realistic.”
Mohsen Kadivar has been living in the USA for 18 months. Originally he accepted an invitation to teach Iranian studies for 2 semesters. Based in the USA, however, he has now become one of the major mouthpieces of the “Green Movement”. Due to limited communication it is difficult to estimate how many supporters or sympathizers this movement really has today. The movement itself assumes that during the past months several millions of sympathizers have added to the number of nearly 70 % of the population, who the opposition believes to have voted for Mir Hossein Moussavi and not for Ahmadinejad – according to official wording. The regime has made too many mistakes. The events of the past months, the bloodshed, the killings and torture in the prisons, the show trials – all this allegedly has motivated even more people to support the “Green Movement”.
However, despite the fact that more and more people turn away from Ali Khamenei and the regime, Kadivar cautions against a misinterpretation of the situation. People abroad often talk about Iran being on the verge of a new revolution:
“Thirty years after the last revolution, the majority of Iranians have no desire for a second one. Instead, most Iranians want institutional and basic changes of the system. This is why we can refer to this movement as a reformist movement that has revolutionary goals, but is acting absolutely non-violently, cautiously, and within the framework of the existing laws. Therefore, in our statement we were mindful to be in line with the constitution of the Islamic Republic. And we tried to highlight those parts of the constitution that comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with the principles of democracy. However, in places where the regime rules a dictatorial interpretation of the constitution, we want to point out that there is another, a democratic reading of our constitution.”
For this reason, Kadivar is basically very optimistic about the future of the movement:
“What has been happening in Iran during the past months is unprecedented, nothing similar has happened in the past 30 years. One result of the “Green Movement” is this: Previously, it was a certain social class that criticized the rulers, it was the elite, the intellectuals. Today everybody does it. For the people know about the crimes and the code violations committed by the Islamic Republic. Another result is that the people have begun to believe in their own strength. They now say: We are all together, let’s not be afraid. This can be heard in the universities and in the streets of Tehran all the time now. Yes, the feeling of togetherness is new. In the past, people were afraid. Now they have become brave. And this bravery is worth a lot.”
In the “Green Movement”, Iranians of different age and social background come together. Similarly different are the views of the five intellectuals who now published their list of demands. Akbar Ganji, for example, is known to be a radical secularist. He caused a stir in the past months saying that the Quran is not the word of God. This is a view that Mohsen Kadivar as a cleric does not share.
However, the fact that these five signatories with their different views represent different streams is their major strength – they can unite many people. Moreover, all members of this group of five say that what they have described in their statement is their least common denominator, a working basis. Where Iran and the movement will be heading in case these minimum demands will be implemented is an open-ended question.
Akbar Ganji also had an interview with BBC:
“Our statement intends to support the opposition leaders in Iran. We must clearly express our minimum demands so that a consensus can be reached. This will help us to bring forward the Green Movement.”
The protests against the regime do not stop, and the regime feels more and more cornered. This is probably the reason why giving interviews to BBC is now a punishable act. However, that the persons in charge in Tehran do in fact listen to BBC can be understood from the unfriendly comments made about the group of five in the official Iranian media.