Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bahman 22, The Day We Learned Politics

Shortly after Bahman 22, we all, as if woken up from a sweet dream to a brutal reality, turned to the analysts, bloggers, writers, journalists , intellectuals, satirists, facebook and twitter subscribers, to make sense of what happened on that day. The variety of assessment of the success or failure of the event appeared on sites and other publications; though Google beat them all, on the grounds of realism, by sending satellite photos and films of the rather vacant Azadi Square, at least considering the bus trails which transported the rent-a-crowd from the provinces to the capital.

The first comment came right on Bahman 22, around 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (Tehran time was almost 2:00 am Bahman 23) from the Rah-e Sabz, a site affiliated with the Mousavi-Karoubi camp. The article blamed the Iranian opposition living abroad for trying to radicalize the movement, disregarding conditions in Iran, and urging the movement to demand what is unattainable, unconcerned with the limited options available to the people.

This article was consistent with a series of articles which appeared before, and even after, Bahman 22 in various blogs and sites affiliated with the Mousavi-Karoubi in which they had urged the outside opposition to stop meddling in the Green Movement’s affairs even by expressing their encouragement. Indeed, these articles all were in support of Mousavi’s conciliatory message to the Supreme Leader after the successful Ashura rally. The five conditions proposed in the letter were all weaker versions of the articles of the Islamic Republic’s constitution that has been deliberately violated by the regime through the years, including the period in which Mousavi was prime minister.
It was interesting that so little attention was paid that how irrelevant and unjustified was their objection; obviously, a call for radicalization could not have resulted in dispersion and divergence manifested in Bahman 22.
The day after, “lack of organization and managements” entered the language of some of the commentators very cautiously. They thought Bahman 22 was a mandate for Mousavi to be firm in assuming the “leadership.” Abbas Abdi, the theoretician of the reform movement during the Khatamee’s administrations, suggested “millions cannot go to the street to protest without a leader to tell them when and where to stop. Today people were in the street but when they noticed they were surrounded by the armies of bassijis and police, they had no leader to tell them what to do.”
Even few fair-minded comments reminded us that it was the high expectation from a single day affair, induced by the outsiders who wished to overthrow the regime that caused the disappointment that followed; otherwise the event was as good as any other previous demonstrations.
It was just two days later that Google satellite pictures revealed that indeed not so many had shown up in Azadi Square, where the regime supporters were supposed to gather, or anywhere nearby. And so the analysts tried to explain why those millions who were in the streets on Qods day and Ashoura preferred to stay home behind their computer desk or went their way to the Caspian Sea.
Among the articles there were a few which tried to give a realistic assessment of the situation. Masoud Irani wrote in Rah-e Sabz that people had not adjusted themselves to the so-called leadership’s goals and tactics; that the Green Movement in principal is a social, cultural, political, and intellectual movement and its main place to be developed and put into effect is not the streets but in groups, institutions, families and other social networks. He suggested, therefore, that the movement,  coordinating its behavior with its leaders’ will, they should take their protests off the streets to home, small family or friendly gatherings, and to exchange visits with them.
Soon a series of articles appeared all questioning if streets are good places for the reform movement and if the Green Movement is better off thinking up a new strategy to reach its goals and demands, such as assigning the responsibility of negotiation to the leaders. These articles implicitly referred to Mousavi and Karoubi as the leaders of the movement, and some even very explicitly advised Mousavi that it is one thing to say, “I’m not a leader” as a sign of modesty and another just to leave the movement leaderless.
It seems that what started as a people’s movement, demanding with passion their lost civil rights, is being turned craftily into a plain backdrop to be used in a showdown between the two powers in the regimes, reformists vs. fundamentalists. The passionate and energetic voices of people and their demands is directed gradually into become what is desired, in form and content, by the movement’s leaders, useful in the familiar war of real Islam and Khomeini’s noble ideals promised early in the revolution, and the diverted version of Islam practices by those in high positions in the regime.
While everyone boasts of the uniquely spontaneous nature of the movements, its unprecedented character, its exceptional vibrancy and freshness, there is also a great effort to deny and push aside whatever is in the nature of this movement and reduce it to a parody of itself, resembling more an improved version of what was once desired by the reform movement.
Thanks to the sixty years-plus years old leaders of the movement who are tied and committed to the Islamic Republic, and a chorus of affiliated bloggers and journalists, the movement at its infancy is offered a dress incongruous to the image it wanted to portray. What was intended to be a joyful and exciting carnival is lead artfully to become a mourning procession. And what originated as a dream of liberation is waking up, little by little, to a nightmare of sluggish movements of those walking with heavy chains on their feet.
Here, on the sideline, we the bystanders, watching the scene, as much as it is available to us, trying to say something, to give the signal, to wake everyone up, to shed some light; though, being in absolute dark and absolute stiffness, we just write and place words next to each other. We try to make sense of what we see and what we hear, make them coherent and give them a meaning. We try to shed light while projecting our observations and trying not to obscure it further, with the hope that this momentary silence of the Green Movement is just a conscious deliberation and a wise reflection on the situation before setting up the next step. I pray for their courage, and I pray for them to choose with the good mind the way they want to step in. The road ahead is very hazardous indeed.

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