The Soft Power of Iran’s Green Revolution
Commentary by Mary Liston Liepold
Demonstrations have dwindled in size since Monday, when the Guardian Council declared Iran’s recent election a fair one, and Western media will soon shift their attention to other hot spots on the globe. Fortunately, the Iranian women we hear from are less easily distracted. So are women in other nations, who see these events as part of a long-term process with an impressive backstory and an exciting future.
The protesters themselves refer to their movement as the Green Revolution. This references not only opposition candidate Mousavi’s campaign color, but also the wave of “color revolutions” that crested in Eastern Europe in 1989 and splashed into the Middle East in 2005. (The “Blue Revolution” that won the vote for Kuwaiti women wasn’t a regime change, but it was powerful and peaceful: the essential characteristics of nonviolent social change.)
The gradual, “velvet” revolution that may be underway is exactly what the rulers of Iran fear most. Roxana Saberi, the Iranian American journalist who was imprisoned earlier this year, and Haleh Esfandiari, who was imprisoned for 110 days in 2007, were both charged with collaborating with Western governments to foment “soft revolution”―the kind that uses ideas instead of ammunition.
According to the US-based Population Reference Bureau, Iran has the ideal demographics for this kind of change. It has the world’s largest “youth bulge”–a third of the population are between 15 and 29―and a quarter of them are unemployed. It also has large numbers of educated and relatively liberated women. Their leadership and active engagement will be critical in keeping the movement peaceful. Confident, coordinated nonviolence can disarm the soldiers and police who are sent in to crush the resistance (as it did in Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1989) and engage solid international support.
If governments extend support to one side or another, though, it can easily be seen as meddling and upset the delicate balance. Governments aren’t good at soft power; their feet are too big. It’s exactly the right size for citizens like us. Our Sudanese friend Dalia Haj-Omar reports seeing these words on a protest sign: “Calmness, Hope, & Patience: The Keys to a Green Revolution.”
Do YOU believe soft power can change the world? What do you expect to see next in Iran? How can women outside of Iran be most effective in support? Please click on Comment below and share your views.