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Shirin Sadeghi

Shirin Sadeghi

Posted: February 20, 2011 04:03 PM

The Iranian people have been in the streets for decades. The big moments are crystallized in media memory -- 1979, 1999, 2009, and now. There are people in the streets in Iran this week, as they were last week. They do not want an Islamic Republic of Iran. They want Iran.

In 2009, it was declared all across the international media that these people -- young, old, men, women -- are part of an organized movement called the Green Movement. "Iran's Green Revolution" flashed across cable news networks and front pages worldwide.

Immediately, in the moments, then days, weeks, and now years of the discontent surrounding the election dispute, this green thing -- the scarves, the flags, the color, the word -- suddenly appeared in the protests and from the mouths of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and other figures who ultimately did not secure a win in the presidential election against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And then the phrase "where is my vote?" appeared. In English. On placards and posters, and t-shirts, and buttons.

You haven't seen any of this behavior in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen -- anywhere where similar anti-government protests have taken place in the last month. It is not how people protest -- they don't get together and name their revolution, then color it, and choose a catchphrase for it, then pour into the streets to let everyone know.

It didn't happen in Iran either.

The millions -- and there were millions -- who were in the streets in 2009 could care less about the Green Movement -- in 2009 or today. They want rid of the Islamic regime -- whether it is Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or the old guard of Mousavi, Karroubi and the "Greens" who were and still are, so powerful in the Islamic establishment.

The Green leadership is a morally-compromised faction of the establishment -- as any other element of the establishment -- that wants power in an Islamic Republic of Iran, but cannot seem to get it or regain it because old friends have become new enemies in the regime.

As their individual histories and powerful political records have clearly reflected, they are not secular, they are not democratic, and they do not care about the inherent rights of the Iranian people, let alone see them as a priority.

For most Iranians, the Green Movement is what the international media is calling the massive mobilization to dismantle the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Even outside of Iran, if you attend rallies claiming to be of the Green Movement, many of them are actually rallies against the Islamic regime. Some of the speakers openly address the fact that the Iranians do not want more figures from that regime, they do not want the Green Movement's leaders, they want the whole regime to be replaced with a government that is elected by the people.

And yet, the irony is that while so many Iranians say this, they know, and so does the US State Department and the UK Foreign Office and the other governments who support the Green leaders, that the Iranian people are so miserable, so trapped in a nation overtaken by Islamists and their massively powerful military and security complex, that they will accept the Greens.

Iranians will accept them -- there is no other option anymore. The hope is that change -- any change -- will finally open the door to serious reform. In a poverty so deep as that which the Iranian soul has experienced in the last 32 years, hope is the only chance for survival.

But Iranians are not nearly as politically and internationally naïve as they were in 1979 and 1999. After the current Green Leader, former President Mohammad Khatami, crushed the student protests of 1999, refusing to support the students, many of whom died or suffered in the violent prisons of the Islamic Republic, everyone in Iran realized that the Islamic Republic's establishment -- a boy's club of unshorn Islamists, many of whom are actually clerics -- has not produced individuals who care about changing Iran into a government that represents the people.

In the last 32 years, any individual who displayed any loyalty to the people of Iran above the Islamic Republic has been eliminated. Anyone who could have been a sincere leader of the people -- a person who valued inherent rights, a person whose religion did not supersede the people's needs -- that person was not allowed to live. So there remains no one powerful but those from the regime. The Green Leaders know this very well.

But what they don't know -- and the reason they shuffled into the background when they didn't get the power they wanted -- is that in this Internet age, in this age when Iranians are some of the most educated and knowledgeable people in the world, they do not need a leader to change their country. They are doing it themselves in the streets.

Listen to them this year as compared with 2009 -- they are no longer merely denouncing Ahmadinejad -- they are denouncing the system itself.

They have been shouting "down with the system", "down with the velayat-e faqih." Iranians have for millennia been of different tribes, religions and ethnicities but they have always survived as a nation. They do not want this 'velayat-e faqih' system -- rulership of the supreme Islamic cleric, to put it simply -- which is the foundation of power of the Islamic Republic establishment and the Green Leaders.

So as you watch the new protests -- these demonstrations that were inspired by recent Arab revolts which were in turn inspired by Iran's earlier demonstrations -- remember this: the Iranian people do not want the Islamic Republic, whatever shade it comes in.

They want a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. When the Green Leaders win the power they have sought for years -- and they will eventually win -- they will not be off the hook, because the people want real change, not another game of musical chairs.

 

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