I have a confession to make. I did not want to write this article. Not on the Green Movement. Not on that elusive Iranian phenomenon that is as polarising a discussion topic now amongst Iranian communities as it was during its fiery inception. As an Iranian-born woman living in the West I was expected to join the movement along with my expatriate peers in 2009. But I only began to understand it while travelling through Iran this year. I understood, for example, that even though the Greens want to change the 1979-geared direction of the country, they are as much a product of the revolution as the ongoing power struggle in the regime. And despite their mutual antagonism, both the Greens and the Ahmadinejad-led nationalists are trying to challenge Iran’s ruling elite in a way that has not been done before. But whereas in 2009 people were debating whether the Green Movement would bring about regime change, today many are wondering whether it even has the support, organisation and resilience necessary to stay alive.
Both my parents were members of the Communist Hezb-e Tudeh Iran (Tudeh party), and in the mid 70s my father was punished for his dissent by the Shah’s regime. When, some years later, the Islamic Republic also deemed him an enemy of the state, this time the threat to his life was more serious. Iran was purging the country of leftist and nationalist groups and thousands were imprisoned or killed. So my family fled.
Before this, my parents, like many of their friends who suffered far worse consequences, welcomed the 1979 revolution, even if they were Communists and the revolution’s leader was trying to implement the Vilayat-e Faqih, a controversial innovation in Shia Islam which elevated the clergy to a legislative authority. ‘It was always the revolution we were supporting’, says my father. ‘The vast majority of Iranians wanted revolution. We didn’t support the religious leadership; we wanted an anti-imperialist, democratic revolution’. The 1979 constitution, a strange mix of western democracy and Islamic theocracy, made it seem that my father’s dreams would gradually be realised.