The Green Movement One Year Later

Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd has written a critical appraisal of the so-called Green Movement in Iran one year after the disputed presidential election. I agree with many of his claims, in particular his denial of a quasi-revolution comprising a serious risk for the present regime of being overthrown. I suppose it’s clear, however, that the regime would not have allowed a different outcome than a great victory of the sitting hardliner president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by a clear margin. Claims of election fraud, immediately articulated by defeated candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (Mohsen Rezai, fearing severe consequences, had quickly been silenced) and the West, could never be proved. There is no hard evidence for a stolen election, which certainly does not mean that there is evidence that there was no fraud.

While the brutal crackdown of any opposition, or Green, movement is more than obvious in particular after Ashura (27 December 2009), Majd makes more or less Iranian exiles, for example royalists, and exaggerated expectations of the West accountable for its collapse.

“[A]ccording to a senior reformist in Tehran, who didn’t want to be quoted by name, is that “the Green Movement has been hijacked.” A raft of Iranian opposition groups and individuals, mostly abroad, have jumped aboard the Green train – in some cases even claiming the mantle of leadership – and their basic agenda (overthrow of the Islamic regime) invariably contradicts the Green Movement agenda (electoral transparency and civil right). Statements of support from the Mujahedin-e Khalq [considered even by U.S. standards a terrorist organization], based in Paris, and the green wristband, or worn by the shah’s son Reza Pahlavi, were godsends to the government, which has from the start labeled the Green Movement a “velvet” or “color” revolution backed by foreigners. Green leaders have taken pains not to advocate the end of their government, since this is clearly the regime’s most potent charge against them. Though a few of their ranks may harbor seditious dreams, the movement writ large is about civil rights, not pro-Western revolution.

He might in a way be right. But we have not heard too much of the Shah’s son or terrorist organizations after the election. Rather, we were amazed seeing, for the first time, young and brave activists using new and fast media and networks, which amplified the message in real time all over the world.

“The government crackdown often cited Western critiques – particularly any statements of support by the U.S. and Britain – and its severity flummoxed the Green Movement. The government may have acted clumsily in conducting, reporting, and validating the election, but its crackdown banked on at least tacit support for the regime by many Iranians and therefore brooked no dissent.” (Emphasis added.)

Well, that is frivolous as usual. Majd should be clear here: has the election been rigged or not? He certainly doesn’t know. But as an insider (an advisor of and translator for former president Khatami and the incumbent Ahmadinejad), he should better clarify that free and fair elections are useless, and in fact unlikely, in a theocratic dictatorship, where the supreme leader cannot be overthrown and has the final say in any sensitive matter.

“Commentators abroad who desperately wanted to help the Green Movement not only hindered but actively hurt it. To begin with, there was the sheer inanity of equating the Iranian opposition with revolution and a movement to overthrow the Islamic system (not recognizing that even Ahmadinejad, and certainly Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, still enjoy a fair measure of support).”

How can he know? Those who demonstrated in the aftermath of the elections in Tehran and other big cities, millions on June 15, did not look like defenders of the Islamic Republic. These were young people, fed up of the whole system.  

It is interesting to listen to Majd’s greatly amusing rant in a talk show organized by Janera at Norwood Club, New York, NY on June 2, 2009, just ten days before the Iranian election. Nisid Hajari interviews Hooman Majd who has, as usual, a great and entertaining performance, highly frivolous and, to a great extent, lacking real seriousness; in particular when it comes to democracy or democratic structures in Iran and its elections in the past. He actually mentions, with a mischievous wink, the possibility of a ‘green’ or color revolution (12:15). So, it wasn’t the West just after the election but Majd himself flirting with an overthrow even before. (To be fair, he reports that “Mousavi had been accused of starting a color revolution.”)

Listening to his pretty enthusiastic narration of a true ‘wave’ of support for Mousavi, partying youngsters honking in the usual traffic jam on a Friday night in Tehran, just a fortnight before the crucial event, may in fact contradict all claims that, since polls three weeks before the elections gave similar results in favor of Ahamdinejad as they turned out on election eve, there is proof for no substantial fraud. Majd, who had apparently favored the reform movement, tried to make it very clear that Mousavi gained dramatic support in particular among the youth (Iran’s vast majority) just a few days before the election. But who really knows?

See a critical review of Hooman Majd’s “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ” of 2008 here.


Last update June 17, 2010.

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