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Makhmalbaf opens up on Green Movement

14 Oct 2009 02:379 Comments
20090912elpepicul_1.jpgHana Makhmalbaf interviewed her father, prominent filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the Paris-based spokesman for opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, about the future of the Green Movement and the prospect of a democratic Iran.

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.

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9 Comments

Nepotism isn't just prevalent in the Larijani family. Someone should take a closer look at the Makhmalbafs. What was Hana Makhmalbaf's "Green Days"? A 12 year old with a camera could have done better. Just b/c she wears a green scarf and looks like her dad who was once a good film maker.

"pessimistic and optimistic" outlooks?

Really?

Did Mr. Makhmalbaf come up with that on the spot or did he take a few days to study for the interview?

Pedestrian / October 14, 2009 6:13 AM

"Armed resistance: an underground radical grouping may take up arms secured through Kurdistan and attempt to assassinate regime figures." - spokesman for Mir Hossein Mousavi

Well, that says it all, doesn't it? And he says this from Paris, no less.

Unfortunately, it's looking more and more like the Iranian political establishment was right about an intended color coup. At least, Mousavi's opposition spokesman is sure making it look that way.

It really doesn't matter from which part of the political spectrum you adhere to, I don't think anybody can deny that this is treason. And you really have to expect any government to act accordingly.

Poor leadership all the way around, I'm afraid.

Pirouz / October 14, 2009 6:44 AM

i dont understand the makhmalbafs. Their father was himself a hisbollahi and his daughters are still wearing the islamo-arabic hijab. Are these people really pro democracy and secular people?

I find this hard to believe.

rostam / October 14, 2009 9:02 AM

مرسی! Thanks a lot! Merci beaucoup! Tack så mycket! Táshákor! Jenquie! V

Nahid Hamidy / October 14, 2009 10:18 PM

Pirouz, I'm not even sure where this "representative" business came from. He CLAIMS to be a rep, but when did Mousavi ever say that he was? He said that once and everyone picked up on it, but as far as I know, it has never been verified by the Mousavi camp in Iran.

Pedestrian / October 15, 2009 1:35 AM

i don't trust Makhmalbaf! does he really speak for the movement? same as Sazgara.

binandeh / October 15, 2009 10:51 PM

I am disapointed with the comments of Iranian opposition here. With the attitude of attacking harshly each other, we are going no where. A united front is needed, not to mention being an example of toleration of diverse opinions (what are we complaining about if we can not "live" democracy). People should realize that at least Makhbalbafs are acting and are helping the Green Social movement. On the comment of attacking Makhbalbaf's once "revolutionay hezbollahi" past that is politically immature, saying in effect we don't like people evolve. Also remember living in Iran, means respecting the culture, we agree or not.

Observer / October 16, 2009 12:49 AM

This is totally absurd. Critical questions are not asked: How many types of green movements are out there? We kmow at least 3. Mr. Makhmalbaf himself has admitted that and masterfully pretends to speak for all three. The fact is, he speaks only for the Green Movement whose days are long gone. Mousavi is irrelevant. Iranians have spoken loud and clear (independence, freedom, Iranian Republic) meaning Islam does not have a place in the future secular form of government in Iran. Mousavi is a staunch supporter of Islam and will not deviate from an Islamic form of government. The Islamic government of Iran is seeking the atomic bomb, based on Khomeini's personal wish after the bitter Iran and Iraq war and defeat. It was then that the plan for building a nuclear bomb was conceived. For Makhmalbaf to say mullahs are not after the atom bomb is dishonest and misleading.

Arash / October 17, 2009 7:01 AM

I guess were going to have to get used to the Guards cyber-warfare unit piping up everytime anyone comments on the situation in Iran. They certainly have the resources of the country at their disposal to make the US Congresses pittance look miserable.Their blog/operatives are pretty obvious by their lack of historical knowledge and veneer of western education. The Guards self-image seems to be that of Islamic business executives ready to throw themselves into James Bond-type situations rather than what outside observers see-corrupt and opportunistic carreerists who are in the process of wasting the nations oil wealth to safeguard their and Khameneis hold on power. I find Mr. Makhmalbaf far more credible.

pirooz / November 17, 2009 5:23 AM