The Road to Freedom Leads through Tehran
Today, many question the role that Americans should play in the future of Iran. It is generally accepted that it is in Americans' best interests not to support the resistance there through war or sanctions, but rather to educate the Iranian people. After all, supporters of the established tyrannical regime are mostly old, uneducated, or poor. Islamic volunteer vigilantes are imported via bus and provided with food, housing, and funds to support the government. The incumbency even imports foreign militant forces, such as Hezbollah, due to its lack of domestic support.
Activity on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and other sites has led to pro-democracy protests and helped galvanize the people of Iran. In response, the government decided to cut all ties with the outside world. Older Iranians, who are primarily responsible for imposing these bans, will likely never see the positive aspects of open communication. Americans, along with the rest of the free world, can have a positive influence on Iranian social policy through supporting educational efforts rather than being complicit with the government's suppression of free speech. Any future contributions offered by Americans to the Green Movement should be in support of the Iranian people and their pursuit of technological advancements.
Thirty years of the current regime has made many Iranians resentful of everything associated with the establishment. Unfortunately, older generations hold the majority of political power in the country and uphold the opposing viewpoint. In contrast, the younger, more powerful generation is growing up, and its members want political agency.
Academics and intellectuals agree that the people of Iran are pro-American. Iran also has the potential to become an affluent economic asset to the United States. Many items sold on Iran's black market are American-manufactured. It can be said that Americans and young Iranians have common goals. Americans have a lot to gain through a resurgent free Iran.
The best means of protection we can provide ourselves and the people of Iran is simply strength. Strengthis not gained through ignorance or denial; indeed, the people of Iran will find their strength in understanding their situation and realizing that they can make a difference. Their power to inspire change will strengthen once they join forces with others. The same holds true for Americans.
The Iranian Green Movement in 2009 was notable for its nonviolent approach, which put it in company with the history of the United States -- namely, the American Civil Rights era. However, the movement has received a number of crushing blows. Many members of the Green Movement have been violently silenced. Others have been put under house arrest, like former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and the cleric and one-time parliament speaker, Mehdi Karroub. Even these once-powerful figures have been forbidden to communicate with anyone from the outside world. As it stands, it appears that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp is staunchly in command. For now, the status quo remains firmly in place.
Many of the people brave enough to join the Iranian Green Movement have been forced to make extreme sacrifices. The backlash against the movement by the government has been much more severe then expected. Large numbers of people have been arrested. There have been unjust trials and tales of murder, rape, and torture. Exacerbating the political turmoil, a vicious feud between the country's Supreme Leader and the president has further contributed to the Iranian government's resistance to change.
Even with the aforementioned adversity, the Iranian Green Movement has been a success in many regards. As mentioned, the protests exposed the autocracy of the Islamic regime. Additionally, Iranians witnessed, perhaps for the first time, brave men and women fighting for change. Much of the respect that the world had for the Iranian government, along with the government's legitimacy, has eroded. The movement was also a factor in the revelation of the divisiveness and struggle for power to be found in the Iranian government, thus severely weakening the influence of Khomeinism.
The future of Iran remains uncertain. With the political power firmly held by the present government, it seems unlikely that the people of Iran will receive the revolution they desire, at least not of their own accord. Transforming Iran into a truly representative democracy will likely require outside help before definite, significant, and lasting change occurs. Education, the ability to communicate freely, and international support need to be given in abundance to the people of Iran by every country that values freedom of choice and equitable political representation. In other words, all democratic nations possess an inherent investment in the attempt to overthrow the current oppressive government of Iran. The Iranian Green Movement has proven a valiant effort for freedom -- one that the global community is duty-bound to help bring to completion.
Slater Bakhtavar is an attorney, journalist, foreign policy analyst, and political commentator. He has appeared as a guest on numerous nationally syndicated talk shows including G. Gordon Liddy, the Jim Bohannon Show, NPR, Crosstalk America, Mancow Mueller, Voice of America, and Newsmakers. He is the author of Iran: The Green Movement.