Recent reports from Iran about protests breaking out in the provincial city of Nishapour, following a recent hike in food prices and state-run TV broadcasting images of the long lines to buy chicken, have raised the question of whether the country’s latent Green Movement is poised to exploit popular discontent.
The US Congress recently passed the Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act that imposes fresh sanctions on firms engaged with Iran’s energy sector, including the national oil company and tanker fleet, as well as insurance and shipping companies.
But many observers believe pressure on the regime is unlikely to benefit the country’s reformists or Green opposition, making an “Iranian Spring” an unlikely prospect.
“The reformist movement in Iran has hit a total dead end,” Hasan Al-Omari, an expert on Iran and researcher for several think-tanks, tells Al Jazeera:
“Currently, the leaders of the Green Movement are either in prison, under house arrest or in exile, meaning they are unable to communicate with their followers, especially given that social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are filtered in Iran.”
In fact, the very integrity of the reformists, as a political entity, remains in question.
“It’s a movement that’s had to make some major compromises with those who have survived, and that has fundamentally changed the focus of the movement and even some of its ideological orientations,” said Roxane Farmanfarmaian, a political analyst specializing in Iranian geo-strategic affairs at Cambridge University.
Indeed, reformist and former president Mohammad Khatami, who chose not to run in the 2009 elections reportedly under threat of assassination, is the target of much criticism in the Farsi-language blogosphere, frequently accused of being in league with the hardliners. He’s also among reformists who have called for reconciliation with the Principalists, the party supporting the government of hardline Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“The reformists suffered so seriously as a movement that to come back at all in terms of putting in certain ideas and candidates, they have had to shift allegiances and have had to make alliances that are no longer really reflecting the old Green Movement,” said Farmanfarmaian.
But the reformist movement does not need its compromised former leadership to survive, said Ali Mazrooei, editor-in-chief of Rahe Sabz (The Green Path), an online reformist publication:
“It’s a horizontal movement,” said Mazrooei. “In Iran we have a very wide movement, and everyone in that movement is leading the movement.”
And despite the constant rounds of arrests in Iran – including a recent series of raids which saw 87 cafés shut down and an unknown number of women arrested by Iran’s “morality police” – Mazrooei says that reformists activists have had some success.
“People in Iran don’t want a revolution. They don’t want to change a system like they did in Libya or something that is happening in Syria,” said Mazrooei.
“Iranian people they have an experience of a revolution and they don’t want to do that again. They have patience and they have a voice,” he said.
“They are waiting.”
What effect has Iran’s Green Movement had across the region? Why is the Green Movement important now, three years after mass street protests garnered international attention? How are pro-democracy efforts in Iran viewed in the Arab world, particularly in light of the 2011 Arab uprisings? How did the emergence of Iran’s Green Movement affect U.S. interactions with Iran, and how can the U.S. relationship with the Iranian people be renewed and leveraged in a way that helps Iranians achieve their aspirations for a more representative government and freer country?
The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) presents:
The Legacy of Iran’s Green Movement: Film Screening and Discussion on The Green Wave
Thursday, August 9, 2012
West End Cinema
(2301 M Street NW)
“Exhilarating, ingenious and vital” – Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
POMED will host a drink reception at the West End Cinema from 6:00-6:30pm.
POMED is pleased to host a public screening of the groundbreaking documentary The Green Wave (2010), which examines the 2009 protests in Iran against the fraudulent presidential elections that summer and the subsequent crackdown on pro-democracy activists, members of what became known as the Green Movement. The film – a collage of direct video footage, live interviews, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and animation – won awards in 2011 at the Hamburg Filmfest, IDFA Amsterdam, and the Sundance Film Festival, and it will be released in theaters in the U.S. on August 10th and available on Movies on Demand.
6:00-6:30pm Drink reception, patio of the West End Cinema
6:30-7:15pm Panel discussion featuring:
Alireza Nader, Senior International Policy Analyst, Rand Corporation
Jamal Abdi, Policy Director, National Iranian American Council
Suzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution
Moderator: Stephen McInerney, Executive Director, POMED
7:30-9:00pm Film Screening: The Green Wave
Click here to RSVP for the event.
The Project on Middle East Democracy is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.