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The state of Iran's Green Movement today

Four years ago, hundreds of thousands went out onto the streets of Iran to call for fair elections. The authorities cracked down brutally on the 'Green Movement.' However, they were not able to silence it for good.

"Where is my vote?" and "Down with the dictatorship!" were the slogans of the Green Movement that took over the streets of Tehran and other cities after the 2009 elections in Iran. Images of men and women wearing green headbands and scarves and carrying banners calling for an end to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's rule went around the world.

The protesters took to the streets after the head of the election commission Kamran Daneshjoo announced before television cameras on 13 June 2009 that Ahmadinejad had been re-elected with 63 percent of votes.

Portests in Iran 2009 (Quelle: Kosoof, Lizenz: frei)

Thousands took to the streets in 2009 to protest against election fraud

Supporters of the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi said the elections had been rigged.

"I'm warning that I won't surrender to this manipulation," said an online statement by Mousavi just a few hours later. He warned "people won't respect those who take power through fraud" and said the decision to announce Ahmadinejad the winner was "treason to the votes of the people."

Crackdown begins

First, the reformist politicians and journalists were arrested. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets and thousands were arrested and jailed. Hundreds of journalists and activists were forced to flee Iran. Some 70 people were killed in the violence or tortured to death in jail.

Four years later, tension between the government and the opposition is growing and it is unclear whether the Green Movement will be revived.

Screenshot of Iranian protest movement database

The 2009 protests also took place online

The fact that despite international pressure Karroubi, Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard remain under house arrest since calling on their supporters to protest in solidarity with the Arab Spring two years ago is a clear sign that the Green Movement is still alive, says one of Mousavi's advisors Ardeshir Amir Arjomand who is in exile.

"The authorities know that Mousavi and Karroubi's supporters would re-organize if the house arrest came to an end," he explains. "That's why they started their arrests and crackdown well before the elections."

"I think that the Green Movement still exists."

'We have to get our supporters back on the streets'

However, the self-taught sociologist Abbas Abdi would disagree. "A political movement is characterized by the presence of its supporters in the public sphere. On 25 June 2009, there were about two million demonstrators on the streets. What about today? No demonstrator to be seen."

The reformist was one of those who stormed the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held US citizens hostage for months. He later became a critic of the system.

He says the supporters of the Green Movement did not have enough evidence to claim their candidate's victory. "I do not believe that there was any major election rigging. Mousavi and Karroubi's election observers weren't able to prove that there had been fraud in the final count."

Iran Green Movement Meeting in Cologne June 2012

Iran's Green Movement met in Cologne in June 2012 to discuss the future

The election observers said that they had not been able to access all the necessary documents.

However, Amir Arjomand refuses to lose hope of change and thinks the impending elections are a good occasion to mobilize regime critics once again. "We have to get our supporters back on the streets to put pressure on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. We will use all the democratic mechanisms."

However, one thing is certain: "The Green Movement can only be revived if house arrest for Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard is lifted and all three can move freely."

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