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Charlotte Safavi

Charlotte Safavi

Posted: February 10, 2010 08:44 AM

Iran's Green Stubborn Streak

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With the 31st anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution coming up on February 11, two facts remain clear about the Green Movement, which has sprouted like a spring lawn since last year's much-disputed June 12 Iran election.

The first is the opposition remains loosely organized, despite harsh crackdowns by hardliners. (Judging by the social networking sites, their activity has picked up in recent days.)

The second is the Green Movement demonstrably lacks what sociologist Max Weber referred to as a "charismatic leader." There have been significant opposition players -- though all part of the status quo -- like Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Ayatollah Rafsanjani and the now deceased Ayatollah Montazeri, but none took the steering wheel.

On the other hand, Ayatollah Khomeini, who led Iran to being a country alien to me, was just such a charismatic leader. He brought not reform, but revolution, an earthquake of the highest magnitude, one from which an entire country was rebuilt in a new mold.

Max Weber defined the essence of a charismatic leader as "...a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities..."

Such a person can then "...inspire loyalty and obedience from followers..." and thereby establish his charismatic authority, which Ayatollah Khomeini unquestionably did in Iran when he overthrew the Pahlavi Dynasty.

Since Ayatollah Khomeini's death, however, power has been transferred. With each transfer, the pressing question becomes will Iran's current leadership keep driving or will they continue to drive the people into an unbridgeable chasm?

Iran's Green Movement will almost certainly brave the streets again on February 11, a day in which crowds in Iranian cities traditionally amass to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with similar pomp and spirit to our Fourth of July.

But what can the leaderless -- yet relentless -- opposition hope for? Without a leader, there is no revolution. Is there a fighting chance at reform?

I think of this as the green stubborn streak. Iran is one of the world's oldest major civilizations. Why my elementary age son studies the Kingdom of Mali not the Persian Empire in his school curriculum is beyond me. There is a certain pride among the people that comes with that, irrespective of any political or religious standing. Call it a cultural trait.

Pride's cousin is stubbornness. The same stubbornness that characterizes Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad is the same stubbornness that characterizes the men and women of the Green Movement who risk their lives by demanding reform.

Neither Iranian will turn around and walk away.

 

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