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Choosing Nonviolence in the Green Movement, Part 1

19 July 2011 2 Comments

Women Protesting in Iran Credit: Hamed Saber

Ariana A.S.*

Editor’s Note: Connection Point Manager Najuan Daadleh speaks with Iranian activist Ariana A.S. about her involvement in the Green Movement.

**

ND: Ariana A.S. is an activist who started her social efforts at a young age and at the grassroots level. She has always kept a low profile in order to be able to carry on her activities smoothly without the government’s notice.  When she became more active at the political level with the presidential election of 2009, she spent some hours in detention and witnessed the harsh crackdowns by the government forces. She also wrote several articles about the election’s aftermath for different websites.  She hopes to contribute more to the process of social and political reforms in Iran.  This month, I asked her a few questions about the Green Movement, where it is today, and what she wants for the future of Iran.

ND: If you can share with me what was it like to be part of the revolution two years ago?

AAS: First, let’s not call it a revolution, it is a movement. Two years ago it was astonishing to see all the Iranians from different sects of life getting together.  In the streets of Tehran six months before the elections there was so much tension between people without any particular reason.  When the election season came people were so excited.  Everyone was together and the society was once again alive.

As you know, after the elections, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, but we didn’t believe that he actually won. In the past three years the government and the supreme leader have claimed that the green movement is dead. I would say, however, that it is pretty much alive, taking gradual steady steps towards achieving its goal.  It is focused on building a peaceful movement for reforms in society and in constitutional law. There are different people with different motives within the movement, and they want different changes.  Some want to change the entire system, some want the supreme leader out, and some want the so-called president out, but they have joined forces and they have been united in following the unofficial leaders of the movement: Mousavi and Karroubi. By listening to them and keeping it quiet and peaceful, people are still resisting.

You can especially see this among university students, who take every chance they get to show their resistance and activism and to show that they are still alive. For instance Tehran University has two or three events every year.  Unfortunately, every year there are more students who are suspended from their studies because of their political activism. That shows how scared the government is of these students and it shows that they know that the movement is still alive though they don’t want to admit it.

Demonstrators in Tehran. Credit: Hamed Saber

Four months ago there was another call for a march.  Demonstrations took place in Tehran and in other major cities, which resulted in Karroubi and Mousavi being placed under house arrest.  When Mousavi’s father died he was only allowed to visit his body for 15 minutes, and barred from the funeral. I attended the funeral, and while I was there a group of men, obviously sent by the government, took profile pictures of all the people who attended. Nobody hid from them, however. People even made faces in front of the camera. These activities or behavior by the government show that they do know that the green movement still exists though they do not acknowledge it, and that they have this great fear of us.

There is also tension within the government, between Ahmadinejad supporters and Khomeini supporters. There is so much going on in Iran right now, and the situation is so unpredictable, that you cannot know what is going to happen.  But it is not a similar atmosphere to that in Egypt, where people can go to the streets without the danger of being killed.

ND: You mentioned the green movement. Can you please tell us more about the movement and whether it has changed since it was created two years ago? What part are you taking in it?

AAS: What I personally call the green movement was something that was formed at the time of the presidential elections when Khatami was elected.  Even before Khatami was elected, people had started to call for clerical reforms.  People at that time were very much against religion because of the religious restrictions on their lives and behavior, but they still found Khatami to be a very liberal religious figure. So I would say that the green movement started at that time, and this is how people got the sense of being active and motivated and engaging in social activism.

President Khatami was accused of failing to achieve his campaign promises, and he was not re-elected.  Ahmadinejad replaced him.  He did win the election for his first presidency, mostly because people didn’t go to vote. Towards the end of his first term, people started to realize that they were not happy with his presidency and the motivation for reform started to rise again. Amidst this dissatisfaction, Khatami started to talk to people again, he ran for the presidency, and the green movement became alive again. People started campaigning for the candidates and at the beginning Mousavi and Khatami had separate campaigns. But their campaigns joined, forming a huge union of people.  It was amazing to see people who had been arguing and competing with each other joining forces.  Overnight they got together and went into the streets to protest.

In the two years since the elections I would say the only change is that people no longer wait for a call from me to go and protest.  (I ran the Mousavi campaign in northern Tehran.) In the beginning I would call people and ask them to go to the streets, and they were so ready to do so, they were waiting for my call. But as we went on and as the government became harsher and harsher, I would not dare call people and ask them to go to the streets. I felt a lot of responsibility and there was a lot of violence, so I wouldn’t dare to ask people to go to the streets. We wanted it to be a peaceful resistance, so we asked people to be more patient.

A lot of people say it doesn’t matter how many people will get killed, that we should still go to the streets. But this is not what the opposition leaders see.  They don’t want to lose more life.  We already lost 500 people and many more are still in prison. And people are being killed in prison, and there is no authority protecting prisoners.

You can read Part 2 of the interview here.

*A pseudonym, at the author’s request.

The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.


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