Makhmalbaf opens up on Green Movement
14 Oct 2009 02:37
Hana Makhmalbaf: Will the Green Movement succeed?
Mohsen Makhmalbaf: That's difficult to predict, but generally speaking, there are two outlooks on the future of the Green Movement: pessimistic and optimistic.
Let's start with the pessimistic outlook.
Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards will suppress opposition dissent, and will buy the West off with a few attractive economic contracts.
And the optimistic outlook?
There are several reasons to be hopeful, given the attributes that define this movement:
* Numbers: an unprecedented 40-million turnout at the polls, the majority for saying No to Ahmadinejad. 3 million marching on June 15 and a million on Qods Day despite the history of killings, arrest, torture, and rape.
* Breadth, Depth, and Weight: the Movement extends nationwide and even to the Diaspora, outside the borders. It encompasses a large swath of society -- notably across classes and ethnicities. It also boasts the backing of public intellectuals and artists, students, and some top clerics.
* Momentum: the Movement exploded onto the political front like an earthquake, and new strides are being made every day as the post-election climate grows more radicalized.
* Decentralized leadership: the grassroots nature of the movement helps it invent diverse and creative ways of fighting for its goal.
* Potent symbols: the color green, and the V sign [have created strong branding]
* Civil, peaceful, and secular: the Movement is peaceful, strives for civil rights, and rejects political Islam.
What is the fate of the Green Movement in the near future?
The Movement will spread. If it does not succeed in the present phase, it is likely to split into four strains:
* Armed resistance: an underground radical grouping may take up arms secured through Kurdistan and attempt to assassinate regime figures.
* Exodus: many may leave the country. A mass wave of departure would mean massive 'brain drain' for the regime.
* Retreat: due to the clampdown, some will withdraw into forced silence
* Civil disobedience and street protests: the large part of the movement will stay the current path of peaceful, civil protests.
What is the Green Movement's game plan? Mousavi speaks of a 'return to the constitution,' people on the streets call for a [secular] 'Iranian Republic,' and the diaspora 'greens' each have a different wish for Iran.
There are basically three approaches the Green Movement can take:
* Compromise: this is what Mr. Mousavi advocates. Talking to the regime and reaching a middle line. He maintains that the constitution holds great potential that must be revived; this means: elimination of non-elected oversight councils [e.g., the Guardian Council], freedom of speech and press, minority rights, release of political prisoners and dismantling of the police state.
* Confrontation: those who chant the 'Iranian Republic' slogan want full regime change. They believe that the regime is impervious to reform and that following the Reformist method of compromise is to 'test the failed.'
* Neutrality: some believe this Movement is a spontaneous flood that will organically wash away despotism and does not require leadership or strategy.
Due to the security climate, communication is cut off between the movement's body and its symbolic leadership. People ask why Mousavi is so late in issuing statements?
Mousavi's circumstances are similar to that of a leader under house arrest. All the phone, mobile, and internet lines in his home are microphones that transmit information to the Revolutionary Guard's intelligence center. The surveillance systems installed at his home are so numerous that in meetings with his circle, they have to turn up the TV volume and whisper for decision-making. All his visitors are monitored. A great deal of the time of the leadership figures -- Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami -- is taken up with security issues. Also, there is psychological warfare. Several times there has been news or messages that these leaders will be arrested, and they have had to arrange their affairs in anticipation of imminent arrest.
Is there really a chance they may be arrested?
Three options were examined at a meeting of the coup government, in the presence of Khamenei. The first was house arrest, in the manner of Ayatollah Montazeri. The second was exile, the next-best option. The third was detainment.
Khamenei is not likely to choose the third option. Rumors of Mousavi's arrest were circulated in newspapers once or twice to gauge public response. Aziz Jafari [commander of the Revolutionary Guards] had proposed two "arrest lists" to Khamenei. One had 150 names, the other 300. He told Khamenei, "If you let me arrest these 300 people, I will crush this movement." But Khamenei was afraid of the backlash of mass arrests, and especially of detaining the movement's leaders. He thought the scale of the reaction would be hard to control.
Therefore the Supreme Leader sanctioned "trickle arrests" -- arresting a few at a time, letting some go, waiting a few days, then arresting some more... this phased arrest-and-release was designed to avoid giving a shock to the public that would provoke a large-scale reaction.
How can the communication problem between the movement's leadership and its body be solved?
A Green radio or television station would help.
Excerpted from an interview published on Rooz Online on Oct 13, 2009. Translated by Saya Ovaisy for Tehran Bureau.