Barbara Slavin: Dawn of a New Iran?


(An Iranian bank note modified by Green Movement member; A re-write of a saying on the left side, which says ‘Iranian people will find “knowledge” no matter where – Prophet Muhammad’ – changed to say ‘Iranian people will find “justice” no matter where’; photo credit: NIAC Insight)
This is a guest note exclusive to The Washington Note by Iran expert and well-known diplomatic correspondent Barbara Slavin, author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.
Barbara Slavin will be speaking today at a New America Foundation forum titled “What do Iranians Really Think?” featuring New America Foundation Geopolitics of Energy Initiative Director and Race for Iran publisher Flynt Leverett, World Public Opinion Director Steven Kull, Washington Post Director of Polling Jon Cohen, and Iran expert and The Ayatollah Begs to Differ commentator Hooman Majd. Steve Clemons will moderate the meeting which starts at 12:15 pm today and will air live here at The Washington Note
barbara slavin twn.jpgDawn of a New Iran?
Iran is now marking the “10 days of dawn” – the period from Feb. 1 to Feb. 11, 1979 that began with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s triumphant return from exile and ended with the fall of the Shah’s last government. During these days, Iranian state television typically runs old footage of adoring crowds greeting Khomeini and of the Shah’s soldiers firing on peaceful protesters during the final days of the revolution. This year, however, the bloody bits are not on view.
An Iranian acquaintance tells me that state TV is only showing “calm rallies” from the 1978-79 uprising. “They are focusing on the people who were totally obeying Khomeini,” my friend says, and also deriding those who “betrayed the revolution” and who later fled or were executed by the regime.
The message for Iran’s restive populace is clear: forget staging another revolution.
The regime wants Iranians to behave themselves on Feb. 11, “Revolution Day,” when crowds are encouraged to go into the streets in support of the government. In Tehran, thousands usually congregate in Freedom Square, the central plaza where the Shah erected a huge white concrete arch to celebrate Iran’s pre-Islamic achievements and to glorify his soon-to-be ended rule.
I’ve been to three Revolution Day celebrations in Freedom Square and I know the drill: The president gives a rousing speech proclaiming Iran’s independence and decrying evil foreigners who conspire against it. A man known as “the minister of slogans” leads the crowd in chanting “Death to America,” “Death to Israel” and “Death to” whatever other target is annoying the regime at the time. Peddlers mill about selling candy and balloons. School kids and factory workers, who are given the day off, are bussed into the square to fill out the frame for state television and foreign media.
This year promises a different sort of spectacle. Despite the pointed propaganda on TV — and the execution this week of two political prisoners — hundreds of thousands if not millions of Iranians are likely to take to the streets to demand their civil and human rights.
The government will be hard-pressed to distinguish loyalists from the opposition in the throngs. Will authorities arrest people wearing green? In the past, students bussed to Freedom Square have worn green headbands proclaiming Iran’s right to nuclear energy.
But green is now the color of the movement that has swept Iran since presidential elections last June 12 gave a fraud-tainted “landslide” victory to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Coverage of this year’s event in Freedom Square presents another quandary for the government. Foreign media is almost certain to be heavily restricted and Iranian state media will likely censor any protests. But that will not stop citizen journalists with cellphones from capturing images and sending them around the world via social networking sites.
For sure, there will be clashes. Another Iranian acquaintance tells me that the government is refusing any compromise despite conciliatory feelers in recent days from opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
If the opposition, which has already shown its power on Jerusalem Day, Students Day and Ashura, manages to dominate the scene on the Islamic Republic’s most important national holiday, it will be a powerful boost for the Green Movement’s morale and momentum.
No one can say how long Iran’s creaky theocracy cum military autocracy will survive this outpouring of popular outrage and frustration. Mass arrests, selective assassinations and even prison rapes have only fed the opposition’s anger and resolve.
For those who have been privileged to spend time in Iran among its extraordinarily welcoming people, this is a moment of great hope and anticipation. Iranians deserve a better government and perhaps in the not so distant future, they will finally get one.
— Barbara Slavin


7 comments on “Barbara Slavin: Dawn of a New Iran?

  1. JamesL says:

    Thanks POA for 9:12


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “If you really want to do something for the Iranian people then open up. Allow full trade, shun visas, visit them and welcome them. That is how you spread ideas. Not by financing rioters or by dropping bombs”
    You mean cutting off their fuel supplies and starvin’ them won’t do the trick???
    Gee, why do you say that???
    I mean hey, look how well it worked in Iraq!


  3. Ali Mostofi says:

    You are right, and in fact this was happening so well at the time of the Shah, that Iran was going to be too big of an industrial giant.
    That’s why they shipped in Khomeini.
    All it takes to change the regime is to ask, and everybody to ask, what the regime could do in the face of a General Strike.
    And the final thing to do is to ask Wal-Mart to make a choice, stay in China who are keeping the mullahs in power or get out of there.
    This is not rocket science. Fact is, the US administration does not want to do it. Moreover the media does not ask the right questions.


  4. MoonofA says:

    Well – in the actual discussion posted above this thread, the camera somehow pictured you along a sign belonging to the facility that said “Trash”.
    That is where what you wrote and said belongs.
    After the elections in Iran there were riots by some uncomfortable with the predicted and achieved results. Some protested and some rioted.
    Do you know of any state that allows riots? Beating up policemen? Burning down banks and ships?
    So the rioters were caught – they tried again, without the legitimate protesters, on another day were caught and shut down again.
    Now you promise a third round?
    It will end just as the first two riots did.
    The people of Iran are, according to the polls, comfortable with their government. The opposition candidates all acknowledge Ahmedinjad’s position.
    The “green movement” is over. This was just another hickup like the student protests in the late 1990s. The government will adopt.
    If you really want to do something for the Iranian people then open up. Allow full trade, shun visas, visit them and welcome them. That is how you spread ideas. Not by financing rioters or by dropping bombs.


  5. ... says:

    poa – thanks for saying it better then i could!


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, gee, why don’t we assist them by cutting off their fuel supplies, and see if we can starve a few hundred thousand kids, like we did in Iraq?
    Better yet, lets use the suggested Israeli model, and just bomb the shit out of ’em.
    One thing about America, by God, we’re always willing to help.


  7. WigWag says:

    What an interesting seminar! What an interesting organization the New America Foundation is to host it! What a great and generous service Steve Clemons provides to his loyal readers to broadcast it for us!
    Anyone who enjoys reading the “Race for Iran” as I do, knows that Mr. Leverett and Ms Mann-Leverett have a take on all of this that is completely different from Barbara Slavin’s. I am surprised that the Leveretts are not promoting the panel discussion on their website; oh well, perhaps they will mention it later in the day.
    I have read Ms Slavin’s very entertaining book; it is excellent and should be read by anyone interested in this subject. (Note to Ms Slavin: please have your publisher release the book for the Kindle!)
    With Flynt Leverett in attendance, there is one thing we know for sure; the “crack-cocaine” will be flowing freely (figuratively of course).
    With these great panelists I am sure the discussion will be interesting, informative and civil. But if any of the panelists pepper their comments in order to support one side to the dispute or the other with chants of “Death to Iran” or “Death to America” at least we know that cooler heads will prevail; after all the circumspect and temperate Hooman Maid will be in attendance. Anyone who has watched Steve Clemons chair one of these events in the past knows that like always; he will do a brilliant job.
    I hope there will be a way for people who are not around at 12:15 pm to watch the discussion on “You Tube” or somewhere else.
    Thank you for allowing Washington Note readers to participate in events like this.
    Thank you Ms Slavin for your great book!


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