Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ask Magdalen: Iran?

This is a question that I've received a couple dozen times so far now from different people, so even though this is not a typical "Ask Magdalen" question, I'll go ahead and answer it.

The Iran student protests have been going on since 1979. Some experts have called it the longest civil unrest movement in all of history.

What makes you think something new or different is taking place this time? Are there any signs that this won't just carry on to 2019. Maybe protesting and uprising has become a way of life for the passionate Persians, not unlike France at the turn of the century... the only difference being the French revolution was only a measly 10 years.

Your Devoted Fan


Dear SSDD,

I follow the Green Movement in Iran because it's fascinating, and there are a number of reasons why I'm certain they will eventually succeed in overthrowing the Khamenei Regime and installing a true democracy.  I wrote about some of these in my previous post "Countering Objections" but I'll elaborate further in this and upcoming posts.  Before you can understand why it's a sure bet the Greens are going to win, you have to know the whole story surrounding what's going on right now.

If you don't like stories that are incredibly complicated, about people living in another land, with a whole other calendar and language and time, almost an alternate Earth where history went differently and it's only the year 1388, you'll probably be bored by digging any deeper into the Iran situation.

All you need to know is, the Green Movement are the good guys, Khamenei & Co Regime are the bad guys, who've trashed the Iranian constitution, tortured, raped, and killed people for protesting, and basically committed a de facto military coup using the private armies commanded by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.  Just root for the Greens, that's all you need to worry about.

If, however, you're the sort of person who speaks Klingon or Elvish, you may be interested in learning more about the uprising in Iran, a real life situation with all the mystery and wonder of the greatest fiction sagas ever written.  In case you're interested, here's the basics:

Ancient History

Iran used to be called Persia, and it's mentioned in the Bible, most importantly in the story of King Cyrus the Great, who freed the Jews from Babylonian Captivity and returned them to their homeland.  Then King Cyrus issued the first known charter of civil rights, declaring all citizens could travel freely and worship whatever religion they chose.  Females had equal rights and could even become military commanders.

Time sure have changed.  About 1,400 years ago, Persia was invaded by Arabs who converted the country to Islam from its native religion of Zoroastrianism.  Since then a variety of kings have come and gone, but Iran emerged into modern history as an anomaly in its region.  Unlike all its Sunni neighbors, Iran is a majority Shia Islam country, and this has been a historical source of conflict that persists today.

Thirty Years Ago

In modern times, the Shah of Iran was very friendly to the United States, so much so that the US even restored him to his throne after his people threw him out the first time.  Although he had a relaxed social policy allowing Western dress and products, he was also very brutal and wasteful of people's money, and eventually the people did succeed in overthrowing him and installing the Islamic Republic of Iran that exists today.

You can watch a great mini rockumentary video narrated by Meatloaf covering this part of the story here.

Modern Iran

Fast forward 30 years to today.  The charismatic guru, Khomenei, who convinced so many to trust him with absolute power in his new system of government, "velayat-e faqih," is long dead.  His spell has worn off and the majority of Iranians are under the age of 30, and don't even remember him .

Without the guru, the repressive cultlike practices that have been the norm in the Islamic Republic of Iran become vulnerable to logical questioning and freethinking innovations, which inevitably lead to the conclusion that rule by one single individual, trusted to be divinely perfect, is a TERRIBLE way to run a government.  It is inevitable that this young majority will throw off the last remnants of Khomenei's experiment and install the democracy they've been trying to enjoy for 50 years now.

Catch Up With the Green Movement

To get up to speed and follow the story, check out this PBS Frontline documentary about how the protests began this summer, and how they first turned violent with the death of  Neda Agha-Soltan. Then this CBS interview with Maziar Bahari, the Iranian-Canadian journalist who endured months in an Iranian prison, will catch you up with most of what's gone on since then.

Mainstream news doesn't cover it much, but Green Movement activists hold student protests nearly every single day, and a major new demonstration is planned for December 7.  The blog Enduring America is a great place to find the latest videos and updates as the Iranian students reach out to the world to tell us about their struggle.  The absolute up-to-the minute news is always available on Twitter by searching the hashtag #IranElection.  I recommend using a Twitter client optimized for reading hashtags, like Twitterfall or TweetDeck.
Persians go for epics, not short stories, and this may indeed go on for years, but thanks to the internet the whole world can follow along with the developments and be aware of this amazing story


  1. Is there any connection between the Iranian Green Movement and the various environmantalist Green Parties in more democratic countries?

  2. harmfulguy, the Iranian Green movement does not have that much to do with environmentalist groups! It's more of a democratic, humanitarian movement.

  3. Harmfulguy, Anonymous is right, the color green is part of the Iranian flag and is sort of the "official color" of Islam, and of course it also universally represents new life, like a springtime after winter, which is how some Iranians have described the feeling that's taken hold over there.

    They say "the spell has been broken" and nobody's scared of the Ayatollah anymore. They even tore down his picture and trampled it a few weeks ago!

    But the color green also originally started out as the campaign color of candidate Mousavi, who is the one claiming vote fraud in the election, which is the issue that originally started the protests.

    Now people continue to use it for more of those symbolic meanings of peaceful Islam and new beginnings, and also to point out the hypocrisy of a nation that considers Green a holy color, and actually has a green stripe on the flag, banning people from wearing that color!

  4. Thanks. That's more or less what I suspected, though I've run into plenty of people who seemed convinced that there was such a connection. I figured it was just the Iranian equivalent of the various "color revolutions" that have taken place in Eastern Europe over the past decade, though I wasn't aware of the religious significance of the color.