x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Green Movement still alive in Iran despite two years of repression say supporters

Silent march by opposition in Tehran on anniversary of elections fails to reach goals, but Green Movement is 'waiting for the chance to resurface and change the country's political scene', activists say.

The 'Green Movement', supporters of the defeated presidential election candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, is still capable of putting protesters on the street.
The 'Green Movement', supporters of the defeated presidential election candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, is still capable of putting protesters on the street.

TEHRAN // Two years after it was launched in reaction to the Iranian presidential election of June 2009, the Green Movement is waiting for the chance to resurface and change the country's political scene, activists say.

The government says the opposition movement is finished. It has quashed efforts to hold large demonstrations and tried to decapitate the movement by putting its leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi, under house arrest in February.

The administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has imprisoned hundreds of Green Movement activists.

Two years ago, millions marched in Iranian cities to protest against the election that kept him in power. Now pro-democracy protests attract a fraction of that number.

The "silent march" yesterday on the anniversary of the 2009 vote did not bring a million people on to the streets as organisers hoped.

Eyewitnesses in Tehran reported crowds marching the short distance along Vali Asr Avenue, which runs from central to northern Tehran. There were unconfirmed internet reports of dozens of arrests and shots fired into the air.

Ali Alizadeh, a visiting philosophy lecturer at Middlesex University in London and Green Movement activist, said last night: "The problem with the movement is not the incarceration of the figures considered as the leaders of the movement, but rather its voluntary self-limitation of demands and tactics, its lack of long-term strategy … and its failure to produce a momentum around the incarceration of its symbolic representatives.

"Despite all these shortcomings the Green Movement, as the latest episode in Iran's century-old fight for democracy and formal equality, is still far from being dead."

That the regime had to deploy large numbers of security personnel yesterday to disperse quiet pedestrians gives an indication the movement is alive after two years of harsh suppression, Green Movement supporters and activists said.

Some also argue the pro-democracy movement in Iran is merely redefining itself, while the coalition of hardliners that united to bring Mr Ahmadinejad to power is weakening as a result of infighting and economic woes.

One political analyst in Tehran said last week, on the condition of anonymity; "The Green Movement was an umbrella movement that gathered under its shade a huge number of people who knew what they didn't want but had little opportunity to discuss what they really wanted."

But the lack of large street protests has caused disillusionment among some supporters of the movement.

"I guess people are not going to turn out on the streets," Saeedeh, 29, a photographer in Tehran who declined to give her last name, said two days before yesterday's march.

"The bloodshed on the streets seem to have gone to waste."

On Friday, Reza Hoda Saber, a dissident journalist and Green Movement activist, suffered heart failure in Tehran's Evin prison during a 10-day hunger strike. Saber died early on Saturday morning.

He had been on the strike to protest against te circumstances leading to the death of Haleh Sahabi on June 1.

Sahabi, 54, a Green Movement activist and human rights campaigner, fell to the ground and died at the funeral of her father, a prominent dissident politician.

She had reportedly been beaten by plainclothes security men.

 

msinaiee@thenational.ae