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Not Defeated

by ALI CHENAR in Tehran

24 Feb 2010 19:3715 Comments
20_8604070086_L600.jpg[ comment ] The month of Bahman, the 11th in the Iranian calendar, has ended. Politics will pause for a moment while Iranians turn their attention to their beloved Norouz, the New Year, which starts March 21st. Stores will advertise holiday sales, housewives will turn their attention to spring cleaning, and families will plan their vacations. To any outside observer, it may seem that the turmoil of the past eight months has all but disappeared. Many are commenting on the end of Green Movement. Some did not even wait for the sun to set on the anniversary of the Revolution, 22 Bahman, to consign the movement to the annals of history.

After the large-scale protests that had been hoped for failed to materialize, some blamed poor tactics. Others put forward a more sweeping analysis, pointing to the supposed radicalization of the Green Movement. Those offering critiques included a diverse range of veteran political analysts. Among them, the comments of Abbas Abdi, a longtime observer of Iranian affairs, struck an old chord--placing blame for the stalemate on people asking too much, rather than the political establishment's stubbornness in refusing them. He told reporters that the Green Movement set expectations too high, thus missing an opportunity to reach a compromise over the election results. He emphasized that it was irrational to increase expectations when the movement failed to persuade the authorities to conduct a recount. Another observer, USC's Dr. Muhammad Sahimi, wrote in a piece for Tehran Bureau of the necessity for "dynamic tactics" and "strong organization." He suggested that hardliners had learned from previous demonstrations and preempted Green Movement supporters from gathering on the anniversary.

These critiques draw the conclusions one usually does in evaluating past events. However both perspectives focus excessively on the shortcomings of the Green Movement and not on the political establishment and its supporters. It must be remembered that since day one, the primary slogan of the movement has been "Where is my vote?"

In the first week following the election, protesters staged huge demonstrations. They stunned Iranians--no one could have believed such protests were possible in the country. According to one estimate, 3.5 million people gathered in Tehran to oppose the election results. Maybe that was the golden moment. Maybe Mousavi should have asked his supporters and other protesters to stage a sit-in at Azadi Square until the government granted their requests. However, he did not. Demonstrators carefully navigated a path that avoided violence and provocation. When they were nonetheless attacked, government forces were blamed for their pitiless aggression. And ultimately, the spontaneous, spirited demonstrations changed nothing. The political establishment, Ahmadinejad's administration, and the Guardian Council were unmoved. No recount was promised. One week later, in a Friday sermon, the Supreme Leader validated Ahmadinejad's presidency. There would be no compromises, no solutions, no negotiations. The Supreme Magistrate had spoken.

Nevertheless, the Green Movement carried on. From the day after that Friday sermon, Iranian police forces proved that they were well trained to deal with such contingencies. Their tactics aimed at preventing protesters from gathering were well orchestrated, and they lacked in neither manpower nor crude aggression. Whereas the Green Movement avoided organization, the government forces' primary advantage lay in their coordinated efforts.

Certainly one of the questions about the Green Movement is why it has remained a grassroots movement and not become a political organization. One reason might be that it does not care to become identified with a specific ideology and risk alienating various segments of the society whose support it currently enjoys. In the past eight months it has instead walked a fine line, remaining a popular but amorphous phenomenon, encompassing all political factions and social groups seeking justice. It has avoided intensifying the conflict, avoided pressing for regime change. Rather than evolving, it has maintained a state of entropy. Yet over the past several months, its inclusive nature has helped it sustain its momentum and survive.

What the Green Movement has achieved already is enormous. Many would tell you that the events of the past eight months have permanently changed the social and political landscape. A new era has begun. Those groups critical of the government now map the very fabric of Iranian society. They include both traditional conservatives and secular liberals, progressive students and cautious businessmen, men and women alike. As one observer told this correspondent, "Everyone has realized that everyone else thinks the emperor is naked too."

Had Mousavi and Karroubi pursued and reached a political compromise, would the government have recognized it? Had they played the roles of leaders in more conventional fashion, would they have had the ability to protect and safeguard their followers? It seems many observers have forgotten the concerns these men grappled with, and the bloody, violent realities on the ground. The Green Movement has done more than anyone could have predicted. And it has done so because of the courage of ordinary Iranians. Without appreciating their challenges and sacrifices, their risks and persecution, one simply cannot venture to tell them what to do, what they should have done, or where they went wrong.

Archive photo.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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The Mullahs will hang.

They have lost face, and that is fatal for Dictators.

The genie is out of the bottle. This is not some constipated cleric in France...its a technology flood that will drown these vermin.

Shah / February 24, 2010 8:47 PM

I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for the Greens - in many different respects. I don't agree with the concluding sentence however. I believe that as an organization the Greens suffered from lack of focused leadership, which in turn enabled opportunistic elements to hijack and defocus their main message. The movement was also slow to adjust to both the external influence that was pushing for goals not broadly supported by the populous, and slow to devise tactics to deal with the regime suppressing the movement.

Having said that, I should add two points. First, the movement has left a lasting impression, and it is not done yet. If it focuses its message on the desires of the majority of Iranians living in Iran, and articulates a message that is separate from external elements, it will become a major force of democracy to reckon with in the years to come. Second, it is easy for me to analyze in retrospect - not so easy to have forecast the turn of events as they were unfolding. However, an analysis is not necessarily the assignment of fault or blame! It can be a great learning tool that helps continue the drive toward a genuine, indigenous democracy in Iran.

jay / February 24, 2010 10:23 PM

Actually the green is walking a fine line agree but in the end the Islamism will go away. For the generation that grew up in it...this word "Islamic" label will be eliminated from all brands offered by a system! even if people may remain Muslim or whatever, which is a different matter.

Anonymous / February 24, 2010 10:51 PM


Thanks for your sober and perceptive comment on Mr. Chenar's article.


An apocalyptic 'heads up' leavened with ennobling verbiage: 'fatal', 'hang', 'constipated', 'vermin'. Thanks?

I await your reply to my questions on your post in the thread, "Was Rigi's arrest by Iran staged?".

Ali from Tehran / February 25, 2010 1:25 AM

When i read this i keep telling my self some time to win a war you don't need to win every battle you just need to win the important one.

Now lets look back and learn from history. In 1999 summer the student revolted against the system, it was a short lived hope few weeks and it was all over. Than we had the next protest at the Universitys and now 2009 we had 8month of blood and hell.

What does this tell us all:

A) People want better life. Better quality of life. Iran is a rich country but it is not managed well. I don't think the revolt is all about replacing the system but rather request for better fininacial system and more money in the pocket.

B) More trade with European and Western countries.

C) More freedom.

On the point A i think that is the key, if whoever runs the state can provide that to the people of the Iran people will not bother. All the Green movment is doing is giving people hope instead of blaming all the problem on the west. If the leaders of the current system can't provide more money to the people the system will colapse and when it does there is nothing which will stops the mullahs to go.

I still feel Iran is like a vulcano , at some point it will erupt in full scale and if / when it does next time, there will be no stopping it. We just need to be a bit more Patient change will come as i see Iran right now, strike will hit the country in ½ year - 1 year and once the country goes into halt that is when the true revolt will start. The revolution will not happen in one day it will take many months.

EssaM / February 25, 2010 1:56 AM

If we have nothing to go back to, then it would be no different than if we were all dead.
We are not all dead. In fact, we won this in June. The aftermath has been giving identity to that birth. Without it, our movement wouldn't have matured.

Anonymous / February 25, 2010 1:58 AM

Why people commenting on other people's article spend a good deal of energy on what it should be or must be, expressing themselves not actually commenting. I believe this article draw a rather realistic picture and for the first time trying to think from a humane point of view.

Ali / February 25, 2010 2:08 AM

1. The Green Movement is alive and well as long as its members still believe in its goals.

2. We must not forget our people who are in the hands of the regime prisons. We cannot even contemplate taking a breather until they all come home. That's the least we can do to show our appreciation for their bravery.

Bahman / February 25, 2010 3:26 AM

The question of whether the Greens are defeated is moot.

In '79 no movement was actually winning....it was a mish-mosh of National Front, Tudeh, Militia, MEK, and lastly Mullahs...all exploiting eachother.

They recycled/used up PM Emmami, Baktiar, Bazargan, Gotzbadeh, Bani Sadr and other patsys.

Same here; Moussavi/Karroubi are the Baktiars of today...served up before the rest all get torched.

What matter is a resistance movement has been born and will only cease with complete destruction of the current regime.

ps, Ali you are welcome, you might be waiting for awhile.

Shah / February 25, 2010 7:35 AM

I also do not agree with Jay that the goals are hijacked...goals of the people go as far as breaking framework by the people. Green is not yet all inclusive. I expected it to become passive and I think it will be for a while not because it went too fast just because it is too scared of going! Because the demands are bigger than what you may think...it is even overwhelming for the people...Green will go on and is alive but it will be passive for a while! Its leaders are scared of the over throw of the system and many r not yet ready to risk their lives for such leaders but sooner or later they will show up again!

Anonymous / February 25, 2010 7:45 AM

When these thugs came to power 31 years ago - I never thought they'd last this long. And now - with the green movement - for whatever reason - shifting positions - and talking of compromise - well, it doesnt sound good to me at all.

The government of Iran is not even ruled by the Mullah's anymore - its the Guards - and they wont go anywhere - because they have no where to go. Therefore there is no compromise to be made.

31 years ago - I never believed that the people of Iran would tolerate the Ayatollahs for too long. I never thought that our women would go under the veil again. I never thought that people in Iran would be so thuggish against their own people.

Well, a whole generation has come and gone - and the people of Iran in fact did all the things I thought as unthinkable and adjusted their realities to what we see today.

Its a slippery slope my friends - and now the road to the abyss just got more slippery! And alas, another generation of Iranians will come and go. Before we realize it - Iran as we knew it - and as we know it today will cease to exist.

I have always believed - that people get the governemnt they deserve. If the Iranian nation is still waiting for Mehdi to show up or Hossein to save them from tyranny - well, they're going to be waiting for a very long time. What they need to do is to revolt against the regime and vote under UN supervision for a new form of government.

I say all of this - with the heaviest heart. I know that inside Iran, things are tough and lives are in danger and people are in prisons.... and its way too easy for me, sitting in my office outside of Iran and make such grandiose remarks.

But no one ever said it was going to be easy. Mullahs will not leave without a fight neither will the Guards. Someone had to blink and I think the people just did.

In hopes of seeing an Iranian government one day - chosen by the people and for the people.

Ally Bolour / February 25, 2010 8:22 PM

Dear Shah,

In your post of 23/02/2010 @ 4:22AM on the thread, "Was Rigi's Arrest by Iran Staged?", you dismissed Rigi's capture as a farce and claimed that the aircraft seen in newsclips was not a Dassault Falcon, but actually a 1970s vintage Learjet assembled in Pakistan.

Relying on your expertise in matters aviation-related (not to mention your punditry in economics, finance, politics and Maybach sportscars), I asked you to identify the Learjet model, because I was unable to find a Learjet whose exterior looked similar to the aircraft that Rigi was shown disembarking from.

Given that you can clear this up for us with a brief flourish of your knowledgeable fingers on the keypad, why hesitate?

Your humble student, Ali.

Ali from Tehran / February 25, 2010 10:38 PM

The Iranian people have Exposed this regime to the while world and that's Huge ...

The people's Movement is alive and ready for a proper Brave Heart leader to unify and lead them ..

Unfortunatley Regime's element such as Mousavi and Karoubi have successfuly mislead and slowed people's movement and their lack of leadership and poor plannings led to what we witnessed in 22 Bahman !!

It's very silly to think that someone who was the prime minister during 1980s Mass Executions & was approved by khameneii to come in as one of the presidential candidates can now be trusted !! Aka Mousavi !!!

In Ashura Mousavi m Karoubi did not middle and people took over the streets and won the day.

On 22 bahman these men told people to dress up like Pro-Regimers and march through Government selected streets because it's safer???!! Lol results was many arrested!! And those who did make it to Azadi Sq became part if Ahmadinejad's fake Show!!!

People need a Leader who's not afraid to walk in front of the line and repeat what people's demanding!!
A leader who's strong and has solid plans and is willin to die for Iran :)

Already greens are preparing for Chahar shanbe soori
March 16 and many are talking about retaliation!!

That's not good for the country !!

Mousavi m karoubi are not to be trusted unless thy clearly Denounce Khameneii 'a Supreme leadership and demand his removal an also the removal of Mandatory Hijab..

Praising Khomeini and showing belief in the position of
supreme leader is all they have done !!

We must move fast before Mullahs arrest n Mass execute all the Freedom Fighters n possibly start a War to guarantee the end of people's movement.

A Solid Leadership with a Clear Goal (Regime Change)
must Rise soon before it's too late.

See you on March 16 The Persian Celeberation of Fire

Long live Iran and Death to Khameneii

Jefryslash / February 26, 2010 4:26 AM

@ Jefryslash

You're absolutely correct!

I believe Musavi and Karrobi should not be trusted. Specially Musavi! In every demonstrations since June he was never present and his excuse was that he was under house arrest and so on. We all know each of these demonstrations have been planned from previous months. He could always hide someplace else days before and show up on the day of event. You're correct about that Iranians need a solid, brave and devoted leader who will sacrifice his/her life for their belief. The leader should be in front of the line not hiding behind his people followers.

I think people are so desperate with no hope that they're even satisfied with these so called leaders.

Hope to see a free democratic Iran (NOT ISLAMIC)!

From Washington, DC / February 26, 2010 10:34 PM

@ Jefryslash

RE "On 22 bahman these men told people to dress up like Pro-Regimers and march through Government selected streets because it's safer??"

---That is incorrect. That idea was introduced by some websites and personalities outside Iran.

Moussavi days before 22 Bahman: "we must keep and demonstrate our green identity" meaning: wear green, do not do the Trojan Horse idea that was going around Balatarin, etc.

Karoubi was smart enough to pick a different sq. so his supporters wouldn't clash or blend in with Govt supporters in Azadi. Smart move, but announced too late.

RE "Mousavi n karoubi are not to be trusted unless thy clearly Denounce Khameneii 'a Supreme leadership and demand his removal"

--that would be reckless/suicide at this time. and unproductive. It would be an excuse for "Mullahs arrest n Mass execute all the Freedom Fighters"... Your strategy would be the greatest gift to AN and Khr as it would give them the excuse they need to finish them off once and for all (see what happened to MKO?)

RE "Solid Leadership with a Clear Goal (Regime Change)
must Rise soon before it's too late."

---Already there, just not verbalized. see above.

This is a marathon Jefryslash, not a sprint. Be patient.

Ahvaz / February 26, 2010 10:58 PM