The Legacy of Iran’s Green Movement: Film Screening and Discussion on The Green Wave

Presented by the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) 

Thursday, August 9, 2012
West End Cinema
(2301 M Street NW)
6:00-9:00pm

“Exhilarating, ingenious and vital”
- Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
(trailer here)

POMED will host a drink reception at the West End Cinema from 6:00-6:30pm.

POMED is pleased to host a public screening of the groundbreaking documentary The Green Wave (2010), which examines the 2009 protests in Iran against the fraudulent presidential elections that summer and the subsequent crackdown on pro-democracy activists, members of what became known as the Green Movement. The film – a collage of direct video footage, live interviews, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and animation – won awards in 2011 at the Hamburg Filmfest, IDFA Amsterdam, and the Sundance Film Festival, and it will be released in theaters in the U.S. on August 10th and available on Movies on Demand.To provide context for the film, Iran experts Alireza Nader, Jamal Abdi, and Suzanne Maloney will provide remarks about the legacy of Iran’s Green Movement, what effect it has had across the region, and opportunities for international actors to constructively and peacefully support democratic change in Iran. Why is the Green Movement important now, three years after mass street protests garnered international attention? How are pro-democracy efforts in Iran viewed in the Arab world, particularly in light of the 2011 Arab uprisings? How did the emergence of Iran’s Green Movement affect U.S. interactions with Iran, and how can the U.S. relationship with the Iranian people be renewed and leveraged in a way that helps Iranians achieve their aspirations for a more representative government and freer country?

6:00-6:30pm

Drink reception, patio of the West End Cinema

6:30-7:15pm

Panel discussion featuring:

Alireza Nader
Senior International Policy Analyst, Rand Corporation

Jamal Abdi
Policy Director, National Iranian American Council

Suzanne Maloney
Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the
Brookings Institution

Moderator: Stephen McInerney
Executive Director, POMED

7:30-9:00pm

Film Screening: The Green Wave

_________________________________________________________________________

On Thursday The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) hosted a discussion and screening of The Green Wave (2010) which featured speakers Alireza Nader, Senior International Policy Analyst for the Rand Corporation; Jamal Abdi, Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council; andSuzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. The discussion was moderated by Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of POMED. The trailer for the film can be viewed here.

For full event notes, continue reading below or click here for the PDF version. 

Alireza Nader opened the discussion with his hesitance to classify the Green Movement as an organized opposition. During the protests there was a split between leadership figures such as reformist candidate Hossein Mousavi and followers who did not believe that reform of the prevailing system was possible.  Many followers’ rallying cry, Nader said, had started as “where’s my vote?” but then developed into a call for an Iranian Republic rather than an Islamic Republic; and this idea of the separation of church and state is absolutely necessary for true democracy to develop. Although the regime still has sizeable support due to its deep roots in Iranian society, a large percentage of the population has changed its mode of thinking and developed democratic ideals and a desire for change.

Jamal Abdi reflected that the Green Movement is a largely forgotten phenomenon [as opposed to the nuclear issue] among policymakers and commentators, including in Washington. The last time he saw the movement mentioned was in a Wall Street Journal editorial arguing in favor of sanctions, and the last time he heard the name of killed protester “Neda” invoked was at a rally for the People’s Mujahidin of Iran, or MEK. But this movement was a call from the Iranian middle class for civil and human rights which presented a very different image of Iranians than what many on the outside were accustomed to seeing. Although the Obama administration has been more interested in human rights issues than past administrations, the net effect of their policy, especially sanctions, has hurt the prospects of this movement coming to the fore again. Although we cannot engineer change in Iran, we can identify what aspects of our policy are harmful. God forbid there is a military conflict, Abdi said, it will only hurt Iranians’ democratic aspirations.

Suzanne Maloney placed the blame for the narrow interest on the nuclear issue and sanctions on commentators, analysts, academia, and even everyone in the audience; those who are interested in political developments within Iran like the Green Movement need to demand more discussion on the subject, she said. Iran is a very political country, and always has been, but still the protests in 2009 were totally unexpected and shocking. We should be careful not to sanctify the movement, though, because in the end it did fail. We can and should, however, be talking about what the U.S. can do to encourage such movements when we have so many influential Iranians here in Washington.

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