The state of the Movement in Iran (by Movement I mean that for freedom, secular democracy, and human rights sometimes called the Green Movement after its once signal unifying feature) is, in a word, moribund. At best, it’s comatose.
Credit for that sad state of affairs belongs equally to the Islamic Republic regime and to the Green Movement’s putative “leaders”, Mr. Mir Hossein Moussavi Khamenei and Hojat al-Islam Mehdi Karroubi, along with their close ally and fellow Followers of the Line of the Imam* alumnus Hojat al-Islam Mohammad Khatami. While my human rights sympathies tell me I should protest the house arrest without trial or even charge of opposition political figures, the no-nonsense pragmatic part of me doesn’t give a damn if Moussavi and Karroubi stay there until the next Big Crunch sixty trillion years from now.
*Here I am referring to the faction from the early Islamic Republic also known as Maktabis (Radicals), those most slavishly and sycophantly devoted to every utterance from the mouth of the first Rahab-e Enghelab (“Leader of the Revolution”), Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Mostafavi Moussavi Khomeini. The university students allied with them in those early days called themselves the Student Followers of the Line of the Imam, and they were the ones who seized the U.S. embassy in November 1979. Neither of these should be mistaken for the current Followers of the Line of the Imam and the Leader faction in the Majlis which is just as slavishly and sycophantly devoted to every utterance from the mouth of the present Rahab-e Enghelab, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that when we were recruiting members for a new student activist group on campus at UTC which became the Myles Horton Club that we had both pro- and anti-Khomeini Iranian students aboard. Not only at the initial meeting in September 1984, but a representative from each group on the board and usually at least one or two from each group at our various activities. At the time, I was beginning my junior year as a pre-seminary political science major with minors in history, religion, and psychology.
If not with brotherly love, the two Iranian factions were at least tolerant of each other, and if not speaking at least not actively attacking each other while in club activities. The Myles Horton Club was then perhaps the sole venue in the world where that occurred or was even possible, but then we were all gathered together against a common enemy: the crooks, liars, and thieves of the Ronald Reagan administration.
None of us knew why cocaine was so cheap and plentiful in our area (Southeast Tennessee-Northwest Georgia-Northeast Alabama), just that it was all over the place and that the price had collapsed from $100 per gram to $15-$25 per gram so that it was no longer just for the rich and shameless in bigger cities. It would be another two years before Eugene Hasenfus’ Southern Air Transport cargo plane was shot down over Nicaragua exposing Reagan’s secret cocaine-financed support for the Contras and another three before internal political feuding among Khomeini’s acolytes exposed the backdoor American and Iranian secret deals that formed the third leg of the tripod.
Fast forwarding thirty years minus one, among my friends on Facebook are Iranians who are Greens, pro-reformists, pro-Ahmadinejad, pro-principlist, pro-royalist, Basijis, Sepahis, atheist, Zoroastrian, devout Shia, Bahai, Sunni, pro-labor, Persian, Gilaki, Mazadarani, Ahwazi, Azeri, Kurd, Sufi, pro-Khomeini, pro-Shariati, pro-MEK, pro-Banisadr, National Front, and any combination thereof. A lot of these pro’s are anti’s of several of the others, but if I tried to list all the combinations not only would I go insane but this essay would grow longer than the unabridged Encyclopedia Britannica in its original hardcopy form.
My personal sympathies and political views where Iran is concerned align me with the National Front and with former president Abolhassan Banisadr. I am, naturally, anti-principlist but I am also anti-reformist, not because I oppose the so-called “reformist” movement’s supporters, some of whom, or their parents, are now some of my closest friends, but because I vehemently oppose the reformist leaders, every single one of them, the above-mentioned three of whom are at the pinnacle of reformist hierarchy.
I’ve been involved with the movement for freedom and secular democracy in Iran since it first started coalescing out of the ether of totalitarian theocracy in the spring of 2009, coming together primarily under the Moussavi campaign (but also under the Karroubi campaign) as an Iranian-style thumbs-up (the same as “giving the Finger” in America) to “the system”. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my activities with the Movement, it’s that any such movement should not pick as its leading figures persons whose first name after the end of the (hopefully nonviolent) revolution will become “Defendant” while on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court.
The so-called reform movement was not born out of recognition that the very existence of the Islamic Republic was itself an offense against the Iranian people, against Islam, and against all of humanity. The so-called reform movement was born because those afore-mentioned Followers of the Line of the Imam who had controlled nearly every aspect of life in Iran during the Islamic Republic’s early days found themselves out of power. The so-called reform movement is about putting back into power those who erected the very structures which the rank-and-file in the streets want to destroy. The so-called reform movement, including those myriad well-financed organizations which call themselves “Green”, is about offering the Iranian people lipstick on a pig when they want freedom and democracy in a secular Iranian Republic.
For Chattanooga’s contribution to the world-wide mobilization of the 99% in support of the Occupy movement on 15 October 2011, I wore my treasured “Democracy for Iran” T-shirt given me by my good friend and fairy godmother, Atieh Bakhtiar. An Iranian-American couple passing by to check out our rally praised the sentiments on my shirt but told me they couldn’t support the Green Movement because of its purported leaders. I replied that I didn’t support Moussavi or Karroubi either, and, hopefully, neither did my friends in Iran.
Those now styling themselves as reformists were heavily involved in some of the worst atrocities of the early days of the Islamic Republic, to which Moussavi and Karroubi said they would like to return in their last public statements on 14 February 2011. The hezbollahi, attacks on rallies by non-Islamic Republican Party groups, the komitehs, the early massacres, the Iranian Cultural Revolution, the suppression of labor unions, the Reign of Terror, the extension of the Iran-Iraq War beyond 1982, the Prison Massacres of July 1988-April 1989, the organization of Hezbollah in Lebanon (now actively supporting Bashir al-Assad in Syria)…in all these, the later so-called “reformists” were at the forefront and often in the director’s chair.
In his last months, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri completely repudiated both the Islamic Republic and the doctrine of velayet-e faqih, which he himself had drafted. And he admitted he had been wrong, that it was a mistake. Likewise, in an interview on 10 October 2010, former president Banisadr said, “This [the Islamic Republic] was an important experiment in Iranian history, and it proved that a blend of religion and state is doomed to fail. We see the results clearly today.”
“The Green Movement’s main goal has always been to revive the ideals and aspirations of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution,” said Moussavi in his 14 February 2011 statement. Speak for yourself, dude. “I remain faithful to the ideals of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution of 1357 (1979),” said Karroubi in his own statement that day. At least he made clearly he spoke for himself. Both statements are identical in essence to that of Khatami in the aftermath of Ashura 2009 on 12 January 2010, “Our position has been and always will be clear: Islam, revolution and the Islamic Republic.”
To support persons who clearly to go back to the “good ol’ days” like those mentioned above, who are not only unrepentant of their actions then but firmly defensive and proud of them is like it would be to support one faction of the leadership of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge against another and hope for a better outcome.
Elsewhere in that October 2010 interview, Banisadr said, “Iran is not just one color. Iran is full of different ethnic minorities, even religions. There are also different political tendencies; we can’t ignore them and say that they don’t exist. We can’t say they are all one color and that color is green; this is problematic. By the way, we have tried different colors before, green (sabz jameh), a different green, white, black, yellow and red. None has worked. Let’s say that in our history we haven’t had good experience with the different colors. If freedom is our ultimate goal, we must make this movement reflect all of Iran, the rainbow that Iran is. It embodies all colors except the color of being dependent on foreigners. Everyone can participate in this colorful movement.”
One of the main obstacles to change in Iran is that one section of the Iranian people can’t and won’t trust the leaders of another section of the Iranian people. That’s because the great game of politics in the Islamic Republic is between different factions within the regime using their supporters among the Iranian people as pawns, as leverage against the other factions. If the Iranian people would simply abandon their leaders to their sandbox and be citizens rather than subjects, they would attain goals they all want. It’s time for the Rainbow Movement.
And as Bobby Sands said in the diary he kept the first seventeen days of his hunger strike at Long Kesh in 1981, “Everyone, republican or otherwise, has his or her particular part to play. No part is too great or too small. No one is too old or too young to do something.”