Green Movement still divides Iranians

Green Movement still divides Iranians
Five years after anti-government protests were quashed, debate continues as to how to deal with the memory of the protest movement and its legacy.
3 min read
29 December, 2014
Moussavi led the so-called Green Movement in 2009 [AFP]

Former presidential candidate and leader of the Iranian reform movement Mir-Hossein Mousavi has returned to public life, with an article on the pro-reformist website Kaleme.

Mousavi, who has spent the last five years under house arrest, said he was ready to respond to all accusations levelled against him and the leaders of the reform movement - the Green Movement - in court.

     Anyone who was part of the 'foreign conspiracy', "cannot be accepted in any part of the Iranian political system."

- Ali Jannati

The government's measures against him and his wife, academic and artist Zahra Rahnavard, were illegal, he wrote, and an attempt to distract Iranians from widespread corruption in the country.

The long shadow of the 2009 protest movement

Mousavi led the protest movement that broke out after the June 2009 presidential elections. The former presidential candidate and his supporters questioned the outcome of the second round of voting, which his conservative opponent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won.

As the protests went on, however, its slogans changed. The original demand was for a recount. But this turned into pointed criticism of senior officials in the country.

That year's Ashura - a day of great significance to Shia Muslims, who commemorate the murder of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad - turned into the pivotal day for the Green Movement protests.

Mousavi's supporters took to the streets of several Iranian and clashed violently with security forces, chanting slogans against the Islamic Republic's government in response to a call for mass protest made through social media.

There were cases of vandalism and some banks and public institutions were broken into and burnt during the protests. That was a turning point. WIth Ashura sacred to the general public, not just conservative Iranians, the vandalism of the Ashura protests were seen as a disgrace.

Conservative leaders called for counter protests three days later in direct condemnation of the actions of the Green Movement supporters.

Since that day, Iranians have marked 30 December, known in Persian as "Nine Dey" as it happened on the ninth day of Dey, the tenth month in the traditional Iranian calendar. With Iranians loyal to the governemnt taking to the street, it effectively marked the end of Green Movement demonstrations.

The new red line

With conservatives getting ready to commemorate Nine Dey, politicians' statements regarding what is now called increasingly desribed as an attempt at "sedition" have become increasingly harsh.

Minister of Culture Ali Jannati, who is loyal to the moderate government led by President Hassan Rouhani, said that "The sedition of 2009 has become the red line in Iran."

He claimed there was a foreign conspiracy to destroy Iran from the inside. as a result, he added, anyone who was part of it "cannot be accepted in any part of the Iranian political system."

Member of Parliament Elias Naderan told the Fars News Agency the members of the reform movement should clearly state their position on what happened in 2009, because this is a good time to respond to the people who have called them traitors.

Head of the "campaign to commemorate the 30th of December" Ali Mohammad al-Naeeni said he would celebrate the occasion outside the former US embassy and in Tehran's Great Mosque. He will also screen films about the occasion all over the country.

Some reformists took a position against the Green Movement demonstrations months after the protests broke, saying the reform movement was a political phenomenon and should not deviate from the principles of an Islamic government.

However, the majority of them still demand an end to the house arrests of prominent leaders like Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Conservative hardliners still demand that Mousavi and Karroubi present formal apologies,

Divisions persist.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.