This is no green revolution
In all the hundreds of thousands of words I read this weekend in the media about the Iran elections, it wasn’t until Monday morning, when Christopher Hitchens at Slate weighed in that I finally saw something in Western media that wasn’t dipped in chartreuse.
Hitchens eviscerated the idea of “free and fair” elections in the “Iranian Republic” (his quotes, not mine) — and rightfully so. Can a country whose unelected religious governing body picks the candidates, and where no Christians, Jews, seculars, women or even Sunni Muslims can be considered for election, really be called “free and fair”?
“Four hundred people applied to run for president and only four were accepted as legitimate candidates,” says Kaveh Shahrooz, a lawyer and Iranian activist who has written widely on the massacre of political prisoners in Iran in the 1980s. ”It’s counter to the idea of a free and fair election, and the Western press will acknowledge this, but then in the same breath talk about an emerging freedom in Iran. And that’s ridiculous.”
Since the results of the election were announced, Shahrooz had struggled to stay on top of the news that’s coming out of Iran. His remaining family in Iran are among those protesting last week’s election results. And while he supports the protestors, he wishes they would use the attention of the Western world to push for real demands for freedom, rather than simply rallying around the failed election of Mir Hussein Mousavi.
Western bloggers like Andrew Sullivan have feverishly chronicled the fall-out in Iran in the days following the election. Sullivan is among those in support of the elections, but not in support of the results. Today, to show his solidarity (or perhaps lack of solidarity) with Iran, Sullivan colored his blog green, the campaign color used by Mousavi.
But the Western connotations of green — as earth friendly, progressive and perhaps even revolutionary — neglect the heavy religious significance of the color in Iran, says Shahrooz. There the color green has a long history, and in Muslim cultures in general, where it is typically adopted in the state flags of Islamic nations. It was partly associated with Mousavi during his campaign because of his long Islamic lineage — which can be traced back to the prophet.
This color-blindness has obscured Mousavi from view from the Western press, where pundits and journalists have voiced their support for him over the radical militant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It has perhaps even blotted out questionable parts of Mousavi’s past: that some of the worst human rights abuses in Iranian history occurred while he was prime minister of Iran in the 1980s and that Mousavi refuses to answer questions about his role in the dark days of the Islamic Republic of Iran even twenty years later.
In reality, the lime-light of the Iran revolution illuminates the very problem with the Islamic Republic in general: the Iranian people are not being given a real chance to change the fundamental regime of Iran, which still rests in the un-elected Shiite theocracy.
But this is perhaps more a failure of the movement than Mousavi himself — which has now tethered itself to the candidate, for better or worse.
“The protestors should use this moment to make real demands instead of rallying around Mousavi,” says Shahrooz. ”Mousavi is just change around the margins.”
Like this post on the Iranian election aftermath? Check out these other posts from True/Slant contributors:
Phil Zabriskie: ‘Winds of Tehran Part II’
Jonathan Curiel: In droves, Iran’s women have come out of their political closet
Mark Drapeau: How the Iranian Elections Turned “CNN Fail” Into a Media Success
Joshua Kucera: What if Twitter is leading us all astray in Iran?
Ethan Porter: Obama engages by not engaging
Marc Herman: How Iran ‘Jams’ Election News
Ryan Sager: Iran: Knowing Nothing