Iran’s Green Movement: Why Peace Activists Should Care

by Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi

We are peace activists and supporters of the Green movement in Iran. We adamantly oppose any military attack on Iran, and we stand in solidarity with the democratic struggle in Iran. We see these positions as inextricably linked, as forming a consistent position based on the principles of peace, social justice, and human rights. But there’s a lot of confusion about this in the peace movement. We offer the following food for thought in hopes of clarifying some of the issues at hand and encouraging peace activists to learn more about the Green movement.

The Green Movement is Gandhian in Inspiration and Tactics

“Democratic, nonviolent change is at the heart of this movement,” the Iranian religious scholar Abdulkarim Soroush has remarked. If the Green movement has a godfather, he has said, “it is Gandhi.” Echoing Soroush, the Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo refers to this as a “Gandhian moment” in Iran: “Iranian public discourse has changed by drinking deeply from the well of nonviolence,” he observes, pointing to parallels “between the civil disobedience movement in today’s Iran and successful nonviolent movements led by Gandhi in South Africa and in India.” Farhang Jahanpour, a former professor at the University of Isfahan, considers the movement’s “attitude to violence” among its principal achievements. The Green movement, he notes, “does not use force against force; its strength lies in peaceful resistance, even in the face of brutal atrocities.”

Green Movement Adamantly Opposes a Military Attack on Iran

Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s leading human rights and women’s rights activist and the winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, couldn’t be clearer on this issue: “The military option will not benefit the U.S. interest or the Iranian interest,” she recently declared. “It is the worst option. You should not think about it. The Iranian people — including myself — will resist any military action.” An attack on Iran, she said, “would give the government an excuse to kill all of its political opponents, as was done during the Iran-Iraq war.” Indeed this is the unanimous and unambiguous position of all of the major figures in the Green movement in Iran, notwithstanding the bogus claims of neoconservatives to the contrary.

Familiarizing Ourselves with the Positions of the Green Movement Better Equips Us for Making the Case Against War on Iran

One of the strongest arguments one can advance against attacking Iran is the fact that the Iranian opposition itself opposes it. There is considerable confusion about this issue, thanks in no small part, once again, to the efforts of neoconservative warmongers who falsely claim to speak on behalf of the Iranian opposition, when in fact the positions of the neocons and the Green movement on the issue of attacking Iran are diametrically opposed. Peace activists should be familiar with the positions and arguments of the key voices in the Green movement and be able to quote them to this effect. We should be prepared to refer, off the top of our heads, to the fact that the imprisoned pacifist and human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi, the imprisoned trade unionist Mansour Osanloo, the student activist and political prisonerAbdollah Momeni — and myriad others in Iran’s democratic opposition — oppose any military action against Iran. But how can we marshal these arguments unless we’re familiar with these figures and their perspectives?

The Green Movement Actively Seeks Out Connections with, and Solidarity from, Progressives and Peace Activists around the World

Human rights activists, trade unionists, and democratic dissidents in Iran have made it abundantly clear that they want the moral support and solidarity of their international counterparts. This is another issue on which there is considerable confusion. To be clear, the Green movement does not seek the support of foreign governments, the CIA, or neoconservatives – in fact they want nothing to do with such forces. But the Green movement does seek solidarity from global civil society – that is, from peace activists, human rights advocates, writers, intellectuals, and people of conscience. Shirin Ebadi has exhorted“human rights defenders… university professors…international NGOs” to support the popular struggle in Iran. “All defenders of human rights,” she has said, “are members of a single family.” “When we help one another we’re stronger.”

According to the Green Movement Charter: “The Green Movement strongly emphasizes the importance of our country’s national independence and draws a line at foreign intervention. However, it does not seek isolation from or direct animosity toward other countries… Justice, freedom, independence and human dignity are universal values. Learning from the experiences of those nations that have struggled to realize such values while accepting criticism and insights from all freedom and peace seeking people who have similarly struggled for human freedom and dignity, is also part of the Green Movement’s way.”

For all of these reasons, peace activists should lend their moral support to Iran’s Green movement and know that in doing so, we are in no way fueling the fires of warmongering. Just the opposite: in supporting the Green movement, we are aligned with a social force that has deep roots in its own society and that staunchly opposes foreign military intervention of any kind. As in South Africa, Central America, East Timor and other struggles, by answering the movement’s call for critical solidarity we are fulfilling an ethical imperative that has guided other struggles and solidarity movements in the past and must do in the future, as the drumbeats for an attack on Iran will likely beat louder in 2011.

Useful Resources on the Green Movement

The Week in Green with Hamid Dabashi
Green Voice for Freedom
Khordad 88
EA Iran
Tehran Bureau
Iran Labor Report Φ

Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi are co-editors of The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future, which will be published on February 1st (it can be pre-ordered now). Postel participated in FOR’s February 2007 Delegation to Iran and is Communications Coordinator for Interfaith Worker Justice. Hashemi teaches Middle East and Islamic politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and is the author of Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies.

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