Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Iran's Green Protesters Rise Again

By:Rachel Bevilacqua
Photo by Getty Images CC BY 2.0

Last summer millions of people all across the world became swept up in the story of Iran's Green Movement filling the streets of Tehran to protest the June 12, 2009 disputed election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  With severe restrictions on journalists, many people joined Twitter for the first time just to follow one of the few sources of unfiltered news out of Iran, and turned their avatar icons green in support for the protesters.

As the regime became more brutal in its response, and the months went by without a 1979-style escalation into larger and larger protests, many pundits concluded the movement had been "quashed," as Time Magazine recently wrote.  It must have been quite a shock to them to find large-scale protests breaking out once again on December 7, "16 Azar" in the Persian calendar, or "Student Day," a holiday which memorializes the deaths of three peaceful student protesters, brutally killed in 1953 by the then-Shah of Iran for protesting a visit by Richard Nixon.

This Student Day, the Green Movement continued its strategy of erupting from seeming dormancy to take over official holidays in massive displays of peaceful solidarity to demonstrate that they have not forgotten, and they will not go away.  Committed to nonviolence, the Greens are composed of people from all ages and walks of life.  Their numbers are hard to estimate because in addition to the able-bodied people out on the streets, it's previously been reported by livebloggers on the ground that those who can't join the protests often open the doors of their homes for protesters to find refuge during violent clashes.  There is no way to tell how many Iranians secretly support the Green Movement.

Despite a brutal crackdown by the Basiji militiamen described by the Washington Post, protests continued on for a second day, and even a third, according to YouTube channels that have hundreds of protest videos captured by cell phones.  More large-scale protests are planned for December 18, the start of Islamic month Moharram and beyond, but smaller university-based protests may well continue every day until then.

If you only watch one December 7 protest video, make it this one showing students tearing down a massive iron gate that security forces had locked them behind to prevent them from joining with others in protest.  When you see it, you'll realize there's nothing "quashed" about these people.

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