By Holly Heiberg
In a statement posted Jan. 29 on Facebook, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who challenged incumbent Ahmadinejad in that election, wrote that “the starting point of what we are now witnessing on the streets of Tunis, Sanaa, Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez can be undoubtedly traced back to days of 15th, 18th and 20th June 2009 when people took to the streets of Tehran in millions shouting ‘Where is my vote?’ and peacefully demanded to get back their denied rights.”
Outside of that comment, the Green Movement in Iran has been fairly silent. Many wonder if what is unfolding in the Arab world will echo back and inspire the Green Movement once again.
The reality on the ground for the Green Movement is complex.
Some experts have questioned whether the Egyptian and Tunisia momentum stops at Arab borders. Persian culture stands apart from Arab culture. However, the simplicity of the message—ending repressive regimes—has potential to transcend ethnic and cultural boundaries.
The Iranian regime has tried to co-opt the Egyptian movement, saying it is an extension of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Westerners and the Green Movement have largely discounted that, as religious nationalism has not been a key message in either Tunisia or Egypt. However, the Iranian regime’s message on Egypt seems to be making it difficult for the Green Movement to leverage the momentum created in Egypt and Tunisia.
Others speculate that the Green government is biding its time, waiting for the right strategic moment to re-emerge without having to share the spotlight.
For its part, the Iranian regime has taken advantage of the fact that Western media is looking elsewhere. In the month of January 2011 alone, the regime executed 89 political prisoners. Brute force may work in the short term, but such tactics often backfire. Absent any apparent concessions from the Iranian government, the Green Movement will likely continue to build resilience. Movements adapt, and come back stronger. Resolve is increased. They gain stronger moral footing and deepen their narrative.
Will the Green Movement re-emerge as a street movement, echoing its recent past and that of Tunisia and Egypt? Will it adapt and counter the regime in other ways? The significance of the Green Movement’s sheer survival indicates that at some point—perhaps not next week or next month—it will pick a time and a method of its own choosing to make democratic reforms.
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