Date: Saturday, February 13, 2010
Ali Shakoori-Raad is a well known figure within Iran’s reform movement. He is a member of the central committee of the reformist party The Islamic Iran Participation Front, as well as a former MP.
In its political trial against government supporters during the annual 22 Bahman celebrations [commemorating the victory of the Islamic Revolution on 11 February 1979], the Green Movement proved unable to prevail. The greens had announced beforehand that they would participate in the parade while displaying green symbols, but despite being present in large numbers they were unable to show green in public.
This meant that government supporters were able to turn the number of greens to their own advantage and portray them in official propaganda. This was not a trial of strength under equal conditions and its results do not lend themselves to an evaluation of the true state of society. Those who support the present conditions did achieve a victory of propaganda – not the eviction of the Green Movement.
While government supporters have the luxury of accessing a great many tools and opportunities, as well as the security with which to plan and organize, opposition supporters are deprived of all such prospects and do not even enjoy the security of making a telephone call. Such conditions notwithstanding, the people’s protest movement has been alive for eight months now and despite all the pressures upon it, continues to wax strong, which by itself is hardly a small victory. For government supporters, a real victory would be the silencing of popular protests, while for the protest movement, victory is endurance and growth. Government supporters are not victorious because they have been unable to silence the Green Movement, and they were forced to employ all of their resources in order to prevent it from showing its strength on 22 Bahman. What’s more, just as they were unsuccessful in their attempt to hijack the votes of an alleged forty million during the elections, so, too, were they unable to enlist a great mass of participants in the 22 Bahman parade. The presence of members of the Green Movement in the 22 Bahman procession was no more a mistake than participating in the elections. Moreover, those who did not take part in the parade are at fault in the same way as those who did not take part in the elections (but who subsequently announced themselves to be part of the Green Movement). That is to say, these are the same people who are most vocal in announcing their disillusionment and who, thereby, (whether intentionally or not), provide grist for the official propaganda mill.
Mousavi did not make any statements instructing people to participate in the parade bearing green symbols and chanting slogans different from the official ones. He called for maintaining the movement’s identity, for peaceful behavior, and for avoiding extremist slogans. The remaining leaders and parties supporting the Green Movement announced similar requests. No one printed or distributed posters bearing slogans or pictures of leaders of the Green Movement. No one handed out green fabric. No Green Movement member had a loudspeaker at his/her disposal. No organization was involved in planning and directing the presence of the greens, nor in providing a means of transportation for them. Yet despite all this, government forces were terrified. Night-time arrests continued until the night before the parade. Websites were filtered and the media was restricted. Many influential individuals were arrested and all means of communication were tightly controlled. Members of groups and organizations which had done no more than publish statements on filtered websites were threatened or received summons. Yet once again, the presence of the greens provoked fear and panic. Tehran had never seen security forces gathered in such numbers. They did whatever was in their power to ensure that not a squeak was heard. Lest any other voice be raised they placed a loudspeaker at every fifty paces, from which were issued constant slogans and official songs. Plain-clothes militia marched step-by-step near the parade, walkie-talkies in hand. There were so many placards, posters and banners that had someone even displayed a green symbol, it could not have been seen. The amount of propaganda was greater than one document per head of government supporter. Thus, if anyone should claim that there was nobody from their side who was not holding an official propaganda item, they would not be talking nonsense; and likewise, if anyone were to claim that anyone who was not in possession of such an item was necessarily a green, they may once again be right.
The greens attended the parade but did not expose their identities because for some of them, 22 Bahman is a day for unity, not for dispute. Some [concealed their identities] to avoid the violence of police and security forces [both against themselves and their families]and others, due to fear of arrest. None of these [reasons] deserve criticism. Everyone should try to keep the cost of protest and struggle for [intrinsic] rights to a minimum. A higher cost will marginalize some people and this is what the opposite side wants. Contrary to the impatience, intolerance and ‘intellectual’-style whimpering recently found online, while what took place on 22Bahman was considered a victory for the authorities, it was not a defeat for the Green Movement. It was, in fact, the maturation [of the green movement]. [The authorities] were prepared for a confrontation – we recognized this and did not engage with them. A clash would not have borne any fruit for the Green Movement, nor any sympathy on the opposite side. Those who will benefit publish magazines like Hemmat to show that they care for nothing less than the disintegration of [this] country. When I was returning home from the rally I walked past a row of anti-riot guards who were carrying batons. They seemed to be standing in that position for hours. Someone who appeared to be one of the greens asked one of them: “Would you hit people?” He replied in grief: “I swear, we don’t want to.” Then something caught my attention: the air was clean but some of them were wearing white masks. Was it a result of fear or shame – I did not know.