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Lydia Khalil Headshot

Iran's Unresolved Revolution

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After Iran's protest's last month we've heard precious little from the protestors. Have they run out of steam? Have they been defeated by the efficient crackdown? We shouldn't dismiss the movement just yet. As I argued in a recent op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor:

The events we are witnessing in Iran are not the makings of another revolution, but rather a continuation of the struggle for reform that began in 1979 and has not yet ended. This is the latest installment in Iran's unresolved revolution...

The shorthand narrative of the 1979 revolution tells us that the Iranian people, under the charismatic leadership of Ayatollah Khomanei, rose up against an unpopular shah, a dictator whose misguided reforms alienated large swaths of his country.

But it is important to remember what happened after the shah was overthrown. There were two phases to the revolution that began in 1979. After Iran's diverse segments from both rural and urban classes -- students, professionals, the religious establishment, the bazaaris (Iran's commercial class) -- came together to overthrow the Pahavli dynasty, another, more meaningful, struggle began.

Traditionalists and reformers, after working together to overthrow the dictator, became pitted against each other. The hard-line religious establishment and the bazaaris originally triumphed against the more secular, democracy-minded reformers. But these reformers never really gave in and have sought over the years to usher in a more democratic Iran, along the original ideals of the revolution that got away from them. The recent protests are merely the latest manifestation of this long process of change.

Consider the student uprisings in the late 1990s, the disappointed expectations of reform under former President Khatami, the countless activists who continued to agitate against the clerical regime. These are not isolated incidents or actions, nor are they failed or fizzled reform movements. They are a part of the continuous struggle of Iran's reformers that began in 1979...

More and more, Iranians are coming to believe that the supreme leader has become the shah by another name and that the unfulfilled goals of the 1979 revolution are truly necessary. More Iranians are joining the ranks of the original reformers -- agitating for greater personal freedom, fairer political representation, and greater exchange with the outside world.

Mir Hussein Mousavi is the unlikely face of this change. He is a product of the clerical revolutionary establishment that originally only sought regime change, not full-scale reform. But he has come to represent Iran's original and newly converted reformers.

Vast numbers of Iranians are supporting him for myriad reasons, pinning their diverse desires on his candidacy in much the same way American voters were drawn to President Obama. His growing legion of supporters demonstrates that a large number of Iranians are still seeking fundamental reversal in Iranian society...

Let's not dismiss the protests as another fizzled attempt at reform. No doubt there will be more to come.