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Toward democracy

June 10, 2010

One year ago Iran's disputed election led to the rise of the so-called Green Movement. Twelve months later Deutsche Welle's Jamsheed Faroughi analyzes how we should interpret the protest movement and its goals.


On the first anniversary of the disputed reelection of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the opposition plans to stage new mass protests this Saturday. However, many members of the opposition are scared they will be arrested if they participate in the demonstrations. The opposition against the government was called the green movement. But what was it, a failed revolution or a first step toward democracy?

What was the so-called Green Movement? At first glance, it was a protest movement against an ultra-conservative president. But in reality it was a freedom movement of a young and cosmopolitan society which had lost all illusions about a contented life under the rule of the ayatollahs and was looking for an exit strategy out of Iran's theocracy. The protests were a sign of life in a society with a lost past and a future without prospects.

It was no blind revolution. The Green Movement was an audacious uprising for freedom, democracy and for a better life - for which the Iranian people have yearned for a long time.

These goals correspond precisely with the demands of the constitutional revolution of 1905 and the proclamations of the Islamic Revolutions of 1979. But there is one important difference. This time around the driving force behind the uprising isn't simply the utopia of a better life, but a vision with clear ideas and realistic expectations.

Jamsheed Faroughi
Jamsheed Faroughi heads Deutsche Welle's Farsi editorial team

The past year was marked by a breach of trust, a crisis of legitimacy by the government - and indescribable brutality. After the disputed presidential election, the Iranian rulers did everything and used every means possible to quell the mass protests.

Peaceful demonstrations were dissolved violently, political prisoners were abused, tortured, and a number of them were executed. While all of this has prevented further mass protests in the past months, it has made a reconciliation between society and state all the more unlikely.

The most effective remedy against the yearning for democracy and freedom is not violence, but the ability to engage with the Iranian people and to tackle the social problems at the root. It is the exact opposite of what the Iranian government is doing under Ahmadinejad.

The ongoing crisis which is the result of economic mismanagement and rampant corruption leads to further discontent among the people. By now even many conservatives don't identify any longer with Ahmadinejad's economic and foreign policy.

The conflict between parliament and government is no longer a secret, but public knowledge. Add to this volatile mixture the consequences of increased international sanctions and the increased pressure of the global community against Tehran's human rights violations and you end up with a potentially explosive situation.

It all started one year ago and yet there is no respite in sight. The power struggle continues unabated and no one knows how long it will last. Only one thing is sure: Despite all the violence and the tremendous bloodletting over the past 12 months, Iran's society has already made a huge step toward democracy.

Author: Jamsheed Faroughi/mik
Editor: Rob Mudge