I also remember another spark, following the first one. This spark sent three almost unconscious fragments of thoughts through my brain: "electoral fraud" - "protest, blood" - "revolution". I told myself not to be stupid - I knew almost nothing about this country, and my ideas certainly lacked any reasonable foundation.
I remember Saturday, June 13. I was getting myself some coffee in a coffee shop, when I saw it on the news screen: Ahmadinejad had gained 62,3%.
Tears of rage came into my eyes, I could hardly prevent myself from cursing aloud in the middle of the street.
Part one of the sparks had come true. From that moment on, my heart was with Iran.
The following days allowed me to witness something incredible:
Masses of people coming to the streets in unity, in peaceful manner, in great strength and justice, in modesty, but with unyielding comittment. I saw them being beaten, killed, arrested, I saw them dying in the streets, I saw them protecting security forces from the rage of other protesters. I saw them moving forward in incredible strength, focus, and sincerity. What I witnessed was the essence of being human.
I could feel that this would not stop soon. Those people were driven forward by something I believed I had in me as well. I could suddenly feel Iran. At some point during those days, I became Iranian.
I suddenly was proud of my Iranian passport, that until then had just been a formality to me due to marriage. I started dreaming of a time when I would go to Iran, take out that passport and say "I am proud of this".
From that time on I have been looking for ways to support the movement. I posted articles on Facebook like crazy, translated newspaper articles for noone ever to read, just to have them ready when needed, I went to protests for about the fist time in my life, I hustled about like crazy to do, do, do... just because I had to. Most of it hasn't been of much use, as a matter of fact, but I just had to keep digging.
And all of a sudden, I realized something, and with the realization came my fear.
I had never before experienced big crowds of people, highly emotionalized, being able to stay focused and unified for longer than, let's say, one month. The time span does not matter. What I am saying is, I never before saw such a unity, such an integrity, such an imperturbably focused common mind in crowds driven by pure emotion.
Daily I expected this monolithic (in a positive sense) creature to fall apart into factions and groups arguing and weakening themselves and each other, I expected self-elected "leaders" (no, I am NOT referring to Ahmadinejad here) appearing out of nowhere, using the opportunity to seize some power, influence, importance, or what else entraps people who need attention, and distract the focus of the movement, mislead the people into violence, revengeful thinking and aggression.
Nothing of that kind happened.
The people of Iran have shown me something I did not believe it existed. And it made it very, very easy, almost enjoyable, to take sides with them, identify myself with them to the bone. People all over the world must have felt the same way, since an unseen wave of international solidarity was born and is alive until now (at this point, I inevitably remember the contribution of Ougadougou/Burkina Faso to the internation day of solidarity on July 25).
This is nothing the Iranian people should feel grateful for, because they alone invoked this feeling in the people around the world. We, the others, should be grateful to the Iranians for inspiring us.
Yet, the fear has not quite left me, and it keeps coming back. I, as a German, have a very ambiguous notion of mass movements. A mass movement, on the background of recent German history, to me is a brainless object that can be brainwashed, manipulated, moved around and utilized - especially when emotionalized and being presented with a collective enemy through which it can reach a treacherous sense of identity and integrity. To me, emotionalized mass movements are always highly vulnerable to manipulation and destructive influence from individuals who act on their own behalf rather than on behalf of the people they claim to be leading. But this brainless object, of course, has not always been there. It has formed, and been formed, from former individuals, human beings with a brain, a conscience, and a moral concept. The transformation of individuals into a brainless object is a very slow, subtle process, usually we only realize it when it is almost too late.
Will this happen to the Green Movement?
What will the movement do when all options of peaceful protest are exhausted, when the leading figures, who at the moment are still able to serve as focal points (such as Mousavi, Karroubi, even, to some extent, Rafsanjani) will no longer have the capacity to be respected authorities to the people? I believe this moment will come, since the people in their concerns and goals seem to have already moved beyond what Mousavi and other parts of the political establishment are able to offer them.
What will happen if the movement starts fighting back not just with reason and common sense, but with weapons?
Is there a possibility that hatred will take over and turn the peaceful attitude of the protesters into a violent one?
Which are the political options for the movement? Do the existing reformist factions offer sufficient possibilities for reforms, and will the people be satisfied with reforms within the existing system?
And if not, are there any persons other than the leading figures like Khatami, Moussavi, Karroubi who could take over and bring fundamental reforms to the country?
Which status will religion have in the political system of a reformed Iran?
---Strange as it is - but the question that used to worry me most some weeks ago (will there still be unity among the people once the movement has succeed in achieving an overthrow of the regime?) is not worrying me so much anymore. My trust has gained ground.
But it's still a long way to go, and I am still afraid of the movement falling apart and/or changing into something I could not side with any longer - something brutal, revengeful, "brainless" - which would be a human thing to happen - but no longer humane.
It would force me to sadly and disappointedly turn my back on it. It would deprive the whole world of an example for what culture and humanity is capable of.
There still is a long way to go, and the options seem to become more restricted. Soon it will be time to chose a direction for the movement to proceed.
I pray that you will stay as dignified, compassionate, focused and wise as you have started. A part of me knows that you will. Another part is afraid you might not - and noone could blame you for that. But if you do, you will make the world proud.
I am interested in your views. Comments are welcome.
Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, July 25 2009:
Links related to the issue
http://www.iranian.com/main/node/76035 (by Omid Habibinia)
http://www.hetvrijevolk.com/index.php?pagina=8948 (Quo vadis, Iran?)
http://www.payvand.com/news/09/jul/1226.html (Need for Discipline and Self-restraint in the Green Movement)