This analysis is part 2 in a 2-part series, originally published by INN contributor @SabzPersian (MidEast Youth, on Twitter), examining the state of Iran’s Opposition. Here is Part 1.
While Iranians are working to keep the movement alive, there are still many obstacles that the Green Movement faces before reaching a victory like in Egypt and Tunisia where dictators were overthrown. When Iranians protested in 2009, thousands of political prisoners were arrested. Prisoners included, bloggers, reformists, journalists, students and lawyers. Since then, prisoners have been forced to endure torture despite the Iranian government’s denial against torture claims, and rarely have the opportunity to contact their families.
Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi recently decided that the absolute legal rights of political prisoners, journalists and prisoners of conscience are “special privileges” that can only be granted by Dolatabadi. Families of prisoners have had to pursue the approval of these rights by passing through administrative and bureaucratic hurdles in their efforts to secure Dolatabadi’s permission. In addition, many political prisoners are in dire need of medical attention, but are unable to receive it due to their lack of rights within prison. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran recently reported that opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Mehdi Karroubi’s health is in “grave harm” after spending 42 days in isolation. Sources have also reported that the Iranian government is inflicting psychological harm to Karroubi. The Iranian regime has chosen to ignore the statement released by 33 Iranian political prisoners calling for the release of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Since many activists currently remain imprisoned in Iran, it is even more difficult for the Green Movement to effectively disseminate its message.
After months of silence, in July, [a person or persons claiming to be] members of the Green Movement released the Green Movement Manifesto. The authors of the manifesto recommended the formation of a “Green Council,” which is to be led by ten “leading and known” political and intellectual leaders. Since the former opposition leaders are under house arrest and have reported health concerns, these leaders would assume the responsibility of Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi by participating in elections, gaining popular legitimacy within Iran and increasing resistance against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei and his followers. The manifesto reads, “This council, during the absence of these two men, would (a) establish the goals of the Green Movement; (b) coordinate forms of protest and demonstrations; (c) propagate the goals and actions of the Green Movement and propaganda against the coup regime.” In addition, the manifesto emphasized the importance of spreading support and organizing various “cells” of the Green Movement across the country. These cells would essentially be chapters of the Green Movement where supporters would organize into groups to further fight for the goals of the movement, which include: an end to exploitative wages for the working and lower classes, trade unions protected by law, and improvements in living standards and economic well-being. In addition, the manifesto emphasized the importance of cultural and ethnic autonomy, equal rights for women and an end to the abuse of religion by political opportunists. ”The point needs to be made consistently that, given the certainty of the eventual victory of the Greens, there will be a policy of forgive but not forget.”
Additionally, unlike Egypt and Tunisia where economies are focused primarily on tourism, Iran’s economy is controlled by the regime since it relies heavily on gas and oil. Additionally, the Iranian regime is a complicated hierarchical government making it difficult to identify which authoritative figure is responsible for repressing the public. Most importantly, Iranians believe that the international community does not support their efforts due to Iran’s turbulent relationship with the west. With the lack of information available to Iranians it is important for the international community to stand by their side and provide Iran’s opposition with the resources necessary to effectively fight against the regime. Iran’s communication and information technology minister Reza Taqipour Anvari recently reported that the first phase of the government’s plan for a national internet, more specifically: “halal” (clean) internet will begin to be implemented in August. The halal internet will have its own search engine in 2012 and will strive to “better manage national emails and information gathering with the country, and improve security.” As if blocking social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and forcing Iranians to download filter shekan (or filter breakers) to access information isn’t bad enough, now the regime is ramping up efforts to make it even more difficult. Police are notorious for breaking into people’s homes and confiscating satellite dishes, which provide people with news channels like BBC Persian and Al Jazeera. What is even more outrageous? Music videos about love are now banned from being produced in Iran. When will it end? The citizens of Egypt organized protests via Twitter. What outlet do Iranians have?
The internal conflict between President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, and the loss of close allies like Syria will play a significant role in delegitimizing the Iranian regime. Iran’s intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi reported that a group of the president’s allies have defected and joined activists who had protested during the 2009 disputed presidential elections. As tensions increase in Iran with political water gun fights and a new divide within the regime, Michelle Moghtader from CNN emphasizes that, “Perhaps patience is the best strategy for the opposition right now.”
(Photo credit: Mana Neyestani)