The Green Army take Vanak
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If you ask me, the change has come already, the TV debates set a precedence, the little moment of blocking Facebook, only to reverse the decision two days later, and the SMS mass-organising efforts stand as evidence. It's quite a different environment this time around, both online and off; street dancing, up-beat music pumped out from cars and houses and the girls and guys side-by-side, chanting together in unison; all officially outlawed. But don't let me paint you a picture of an oppressed struggling youth, circumventing these laws are very much part of daily life. The difference here is in its volume and its confidence; within the last few weeks the behavior has been observed by the authorities and not just tolerated.
It is just the two "reformer" candidates that have made statements to rid the streets of both tolerance or observance, by which they refer to the so called moral police, who indiscriminately pack you in a van for a lecture or maybe worse. It was only Mahdi Karoubi, the former head of the parliament; the other of the "reformer" candidates, that to my knowledge went further; publicly placing additional promises beside his candidacy, proposing at one point to have an income for mothers so they need not feel the pressure to work while fulfilling their desires, should they desire.
I put a call out on Facebook to learn more about the favoured "reformer", Mousavi. I'd asked if anyone had a translated English version of his campaign promises, but only had replies from others – Mousavi supports no less – that were also interested in seeing such a document. After the second call, this time asking for it in any language, I was presented with a link to a 103-page PDF. With my reading speed in Farsi, it'd be the subsequent election by the time I'd be done. But it struck me, among the Green Army that increases in numbers before my eyes, I never hear of campaign promises being used to convince me to "go green".
like the American elections before us, it is all about colourGoing green was smart, and since this development it always amused me that like the American elections before us, it is all about colour. Mousavi is a Sayed, meaning via his male lineage, he's related to the prophet Mohammad. To symbolise this, Sayeds use a certain shade of green, also shown in the national flag. Establishing this within his identity was great strategy, but also total luck, for each candidate was assigned a colour by which the state broadcasting group selected at random. For his main rival – the current President, Mr. Ahmadinejad – to identify with his selected colour, red, would be suicide. True, red is the only other colour on the flag but it is also the colour used to represent the enemy of Shi'a Muslims, Shem; the killer of Imam Hossein. So yellow became Karoubi's colour and the remaining candidate, the former leader of the still powerful militia group; Sepah, got blue. Neither of those colours hold any great association within Iran and even if they would, Mousavi struck out first and to follow would be a loser's game. But the current President's troops found their identity to confront the Green Army with; they wrapped themselves in the national flag. If you pass though Tehran's Valiasr, a corridor through the capital from north to south, you can see them 3-up on motorbikes weaving between the increasing numbers of green-clad cars, relentlessly sounding their horns and caped with the flag flapping in the wind behind them.
"Mr. Mousavi, I like you...", squinted the President, leaning in and preparing for yet another inappropriate statement during the second of the televised debates. To call these hugely popular events a debate would be misrepresentation; they were simply an opportunity to discredit the integrity of the opponents. It was "Dr. Ahmadinejad" that excelled in this practice, going as far defaming the character of his opponent's wife, and not content with that, finding senior players in the government to take down. "Shameless", shrieked the party crowd I sat with, who'd put a hold on boogying to see the leader of their Green Army get a opportunity to shoot down the man who they felt assumed an emperor like position in their republic. Shots were traded and cheers and gasps echoed around the living room, but this terrain is familiar for the President and as much as neither supporter would say the other won the battle, I'd say the President had them dancing. With such overwhelming fanaticism a shift in opinion was hard to find, and of those undecided voters, they were surely not won over by a great display of merits.
There's too much to be said about the debates and there's still so much being said about them. That single debate with Mousavi and the President sparked catchphrases and jokes that I doubt will be forgotten about anytime soon. That debate was to be my first exposure to Mousavi, for which I was hoping he would gain my support, but he failed. I looked to Karoubi to perform well against the President and for 5-minutes he did, but his ranting made the wheezing of this 72-year old man notice more. He hinged his opinions on religion as a good Mullah does but the foaming at the mouth, general bad on-screen behavior and uncontrolled anger made it an easy battle for his opponent. Karoubi failed too. He was so disappointing that a friend who'd been campaigning with the Karoubi Camp, whom I sat and watched with, went green.
As I write, it is the last day before vote day. As is the case, campaigning during this day is forbidden and may result in your right to vote being revoked. I've just revisited the place at which I exited my taxi upon coming home last night, a journey that took three hours due to the volume of supporters on the street, I got out of the taxi to what appeared to be a riot, with police struggling to keep the supporters from blocking traffic; revving their motorbikes before coming at the crowd with swinging batons. The supporters came back at them! Then the supporters came rushing in my direction and away from the police coming back at them. I'd survived a stampede. Today, in the light of day, I'd be forgiven in thinking I made it all up. The streets are clear and clean and pretty much no signs of an imminent election can be seen.
I've seen a face, I've seen the green and I see the desperate connection betweenSo up until today, I've seen a face, I've seen the green and I see the desperate connection between. I guess that Mir Hossein Mousavi is the most credible of the faces, for many, to bridge between the current reality and the future desires. As a dispassionate observer it's frustrating to see this shown in fanaticism. But the fanaticism is the change and going green, itself, is what's paving the way to the future desires. But on the other hand, the fanaticism surrounding Ahmadinejad's support is very much about his personality, thus we see a personality and it's antitype put before us on our voting slips.
So with a day to go, I'm still unsure of who to vote for and with complete ignorance to my British sensitivities, I'm being asked this with every greeting. The Green Army that surrounds me assures me that there is only one choice and any hint that I'd question that is seen as me playing silly, or even making a mockery of them and the nation. So I ask them why I should vote for Mousavi, and in nearly every case I'm presented with why I should vote against Ahmadinejad. This isn't my question though. On one occasion I was told of Mousavi's previous standing in government and how he help lead the country through it's most difficult times during the Iran, Iraq war. Commendable, but I'm still looking for campaign promises, and never hear them spoken about. As a friend put it to me, his campaign promises are very simple; they are to be the next president and to not be like the last.