Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When a Crowd Loses Its Fear of an Army (EN)

Then a strange moment came, a moment of the kind that determines the faith of nations, because when a crowd loses its fear of an army the world changes

As the tension ahead of 22 Bahman (February 11) rises, with the Iranian islamo-fascist junta threatening a bloodbath in case of protests and arresting scores of journalistsopposition activists and others in anticipation, and with the opposition leaders standing firm and calling for people to show up in peaceful protest, it is tempting to think that some decisive development might happen this Thursday.

I hope this may be the case, but I am not holding my breath. The regime - notwithstanding the small cracks that emerged since Ashura, seems determined to cling to power through any means, even the most brutal and murderous ones. And all the guns are still on its side.
I however fully stick by my assessment that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime is virtually over and it lives on borrowed time.

Ahead of the much anticipated events tomorrow, I would like to offer some thoughts on what I think are a few common fallacies among some commentators of Iran these days.

Fallacy #1: We need to know what Mousavi and Karroubi ultimately stand for
I notice a nagging insistence from some commentators (supporters of the green movement) to get detailed clarity on whether the two present leaders of the opposition ultimately stand for the abolishment, or the preservation of the Islamic Republic and of Velayat-e faqih. I believe such an insistence is totally misplaced as the issue is ultimately irrelevant; and may actually create the danger of divisions within the resistance, thus aiding the regime's attempt to quell it. I elaborated on this viewpoint in a comment on one of the authoritative blogs watching developments in Iran.

I believe that to properly understand the dynamics of the situation in Iran one should avoid focusing exclusively on the gesturing, statements and beliefs of political leaders. The more important factor is the push from below, the dynamics of collective resistance and continued protest by the people of Iran. Make no mistake: the actual big story from Iran is not one of a couple of individual regime insiders who have taken on the establishment - but the incredible endurance, for more than half a year, of popular resistance in the face of ruthless repression.
When they came out in huge numbers on Ashura, without any call from the opposition leaders and defying threats, arrests, torture and killings, people showed that the movement from below can even do without a leader from the Islamic Republic establishment. By the same token, they effectively took their fight outside the framework of the Islamic Republic regime.
While I stand in awe at the heroism of establishment dissidents like Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami and others, my experience having lived through the anti-communist revolution in Eastern Europe suggests that their role in the future may not be so important. Gorbachev is still admired by many (mostly outside the USSR) for his courageous reforms, but he was eventually wiped out from the political scene when the critical mass dynamics broke the regime altogether in 1991.
It is therefore not important what these individuals may think deep down, as long as they side with the people against the regime. And once the regime collapses, they will not be in a position to decide by themselves what will follow.

Fallacy #2: Protesters should remain peaceful at any cost
It is noble and perfectly human to abhor violence. But when for months hordes of regime thugs brutalize and kill peaceful demonstrators with impunity, criticizing protesters - as some commentators appeared to do on Ashura - for failing in their adherence to a fully peaceful, Ghandian approach and not continuing to passively offer themselves as human sacrifice to the butchers strikes me as being either hypocritical, or plain senseless.
When dealing with a regime such as the one in Iran these days, which doesn't even care about its own pretended rules and is determined to go to any length to physically destroy opposition, the ultimate victory for non-violent resistance seems a rather improbable notion, however desirable. And in the meantime violence continues with impunity from one side.
While a non-violent resolution is by all means preferable, blaming unarmed people for reacting when they are attacked by armed militia is to me incomprehensible.
Actually, in a post on this blog after Ashura I highlighted the people's sustained reaction in self-defense, for the first time, as a possible tipping point:
Among all the death and destruction of today, however, one rather new factor is emerging. As the movement's base dramatically expanded - in the wake of Montazeri's death - across the country and across social groups, and as the regime almost completely abandoned its attempt to dissimulate its nakedly fascist character under the cover of religion, for the first time there are numerous and consistent reports, supported by ample video and photographic images, of the people successfully taking on the security forces. I cannot overemphasize the significance of this development and how it alters the entire dynamics of the situation.

On this, I am with Salman Rushdie's quote at the top.
And I actually felt encouraged when watching Ashura day videos like the (stunning!) one below:

No, I am not a violent guy, and I also hate violence. But putting an end to it sometimes requires that the main perpetrators face some consequences. Ignoring where the violence originates and blaming the victims will not cut it.

Fallacy #3: The regime also has many supporters - look at their rallies!
Trying to judge popular support and opposition to the regime based on how many people show up at opposition vs government rallies is at best very naive, more likely just very cynical. I pass on the fact that even this spurious argument has been thoroughly debunked. But as anyone having lived under a repressive regime can testify, comparing numbers of those bused-in by the regime to demonstrate support with those who risk their lives going out to protest is an idiocy.

Again, the big news from Iran is the people's continued resistance against all odds.

The future is on their side, whatever happens tomorrow.

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