Iran’s Opposition ‘Hibernating’ One Year After Disputed Election

BY Robert Zeliger  June 17, 2010 at 12:05 PM EDT

Last summer, huge crowds clogged the streets of Tehran and other cities after a disputed election gave Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term as president. A year later, protests have faded.

In June 2009, the losing candidates — including leading reformists Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi — cried foul and their supporters marched by the tens of thousands demanding the vote be overturned. One year later, the demonstrations have dwindled after an intense government crackdown, including mass arrests and trials.

Video edited by Larisa Epatko and Meghan Welsh

The Green Movement is “hibernating,” says former New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer, who is also the author of “Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future.” He traveled to Iran earlier this year as a guide for a tour group and spoke with Iranians who both supported the opposition and the government.

How do backers of the Green Movement view the mass protests of last year?

“We tried that but it didn’t work,” Kinzer, who also works with our partners at GlobalPost, told the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan. “They beat us and they put us in jail and we don’t want to be beaten anymore and thrown in jail any more so that’s over for now.”

Hooman Majd, a journalist and author who was born in Tehran, agrees. He traveled to Iran in April and found an opposition movement that had been quieted by the government’s heavy hand.

“It was radically different from the images we saw back in the summer of 2009,” he says.
Majd, the author of the forthcoming “The Ayatollahs’ Democracy,” was previously in Iran in the run-up to the elections last year.

Kinzer said the opposition is hobbled by a lack of direction.

“The Green Movement does not really have a coherent leadership. It doesn’t have a really coherent program. In fact, it hasn’t even been able to answer the main question, which is, ‘do we want to overthrow this regime or do we want to change it?’”