Iran: A Green Light for the Future

Urja Mittal, Special to the Pulitzer Center

Urja Mittal is a Pulitzer Center intern at a Washington, DC-area high school.

The future of Iran and the government opposition Green Movement have fallen into murky territory since last June's presidential elections. Now, for some, the reformists' cause is a lost one. But others remain staunch in their beliefs that the opposition is here to stay.

The dissipation of critics' conviction in the Green Movement began on Feb. 11, the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The big day failed to see large crowds of opposition protestors despite turnout predictions to the contrary. Several commentators decried the low numbers as evidence of the fading strength of the Green Movement. But the reduced opposition presence was maintained by the strict government police and the paramilitary Basijis, which attacked not only common citizens but also 2009 reformist candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami, and candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi's wife that day. Being beaten into submission may not indicate a loss of faith, but rather, a temporary physical deterrent. Both the large December protests and the following February ones proved that the Green movement, once set in motion, will not be stopping anytime soon.

Skeptics say that the Islamic Republic will not collapse. And they might be correct in saying so. In fact, most protestors support the Islamic Republic while opposing the current government's abuse of human rights and negation of free speech, both online and in the streets. After all, the Green Revolution's primary goal is the restoration of these rights, not the destruction of the entire system.

In his post-election reporting, Iason Athanasiadis wrote about the slow but steady liberalization of communal ideology in Iran. The country's entire population does not crave Westernization, but the people's desire for freedom is growing. The government's denial of basic rights to its citizens and consequent militarization to enforce tyranny has only mobilized more of the public against President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad's regime. Athanasiadis described the Iranian political culture as one that follows the "party of the wind," with people adapting to the prevailing ideology of the country at the time. Today, that ideology is that of the opposition movement.

For the Green Movement, the election impetus was too strong and its immediate reaction too fervent for the cause to have died out. It will return in the coming months, at times of critical policy changes and at times of important political and cultural occurrences, again. No doubt, the movement's very existence is evidence of the overwhelming belief that the current government is intolerable in the long run. At the very least, and barring any extreme occurrences until then, the 2013 presidential election will be a hotly contested race, in which the reformist candidate may very likely turn out to be the winner.