Maria notes: This question could be addressed to both the movement inside Iran as well as to the movement outside of Iran.
In early December 2009, we observed a conversation on Twitter where a variant of this question was raised and discussed as pertains to the movement inside of Iran. The exchange is reproduced here.
Later, Mission Free Iran held its January 24 protest against executions in Iran. This protest was meant to demand an end to executions, torture, and political imprisonment in Iran. In addition to making this demand, this protest had additional purposes:
1) to bring together all of the ideological factions that support the movement for freedom in Iran, but may have different visions of what a free Iran should look like (thus, it was not billed as a “green” event because the “green” flag alienates some groups who want a free Iran but do not subscribe to the reformist agenda, which makes a claim to the “green” movement).
2) to reach out directly to the non-Iranian community and encourage mainstream Americans to see themselves as part of this struggle, and to participate more directly in the movement; it should be noted that the Washington DC January 24 protest was the first protest against the Islamic Republic to be organized by a non-Iranian member of the community.
3) to practice the principles of freedom of speech, which, in the DC area, had been trampled at all prior protests by the organizers of the protest events; this was accomplished through the mechanism of having an open microphone, and encouraging vocal subgroups from within the community to share the opportunity to lead with agreed-upon chants, rather than compete or shout down the chants being called by the organizers of the event.
Unfortunately, our protest was boycotted by major local (and international) Iranian organizations. In Washington DC, the Solidarity Committee to Protect the Iranian Peoples’ Will refused to circulate our flyer or promote the event. United4Iran, after initially promising support, reneged on that promise.
Independent-thinking members of the Iranian community did come to our protest; afterwards, the consensus of those in attendance was that while it was the smallest protest event they had attended since June 2009, it was also the best, because of our dedication to bringing all members of the community – Iranian and non-Iranian – together to protest the Islamic regime’s executions, and because of our dedication to the principles of freedom of speech. An example of the feedback we received is here:
You guys are awesome! Washington DC had an amazing event on 1/24/2010! The turnout of the protest was a very diverse crowd – different ethnicities and political ideologies, but everyone was unified and came together in support of human rights, civil rights, and in protest of the I.R.I. oppression. Thanks so much for organizing and making this a global movement!
Sasan // February 3, 2010
Subsequent to our event, we wanted to try to find out why people chose not to come. There had been some rumor circulated that it was a “Communist” event, which didn’t really ring true to our ears. Again, our consensus was that people chose not to come because we explicitly did not support the reformist agenda. So we asked people in the community whether they really wanted velayat-e faqih in Iran. Of course, they said no.
This left us with a lingering question: if you don’t want VeF, and especially when it is clear from the chants in Iran that a sizable proportion of the movement that you claim to support inside Iran ALSO does not want VeF, then why don’t you say so?
Posing this question/problem to our own members has garnered some interesting responses:
Goat Boze, when asked for his opinion on how to interpret and deal with a situation like we faced in Washington DC, replied as follows: “As the revolution goes forward in Iran, the movement gets more radical, and the split among the reformists has already started. We are trying to get support from progressive forces both inside and outside Iranian community. I think if you start and gradually grow, the revolution in Iran helps you. We started 6 months ago and after 6 months, we are able to make ourself known as a radical and open organization and we attract more people since the revolution in Iran is going forward and people see the reality.”
Mehran Mahbobi had the following to say: “A good metaphor for revolution is like an egg that is becoming a chicken. The embryo is feeding itself by the yellow substance in it (yolk). The substance in this case is some faction in the regime itself that they have to talk for revolution (not yet chicken). It needs this faction just to grow and as it becomes a whole chicken, all of the yellow subtance would be finished. 24 Jan is just a start of the whole process. We could not expect for the community all of sudden to come and support you just because you are a good guy. No, they have their own cause to follow. This cause, which is to hold onto the system, is in deep root of their politics. As the revolution goes, they are getting defeated over and over and will be finished in the end. At that time we have our chicken out from eggshell. We have seen this in London for example when greens were attacking the police and gave our guys to create such a scene that all admired us there. 24 Jan was one of the events that did take place, and its effect is that all demos coming after that are done very dofferently. We have all factions cooperating with each other. That is a good sign. But they did not support us just because they were not used to it just with such sudden impact. They had better have to get used to it; if not they should leave political scene all together.”