November 23, 2003

Another Velvet Revolution

Being in touch with Iranian activists of different stripes, I can tell you that what took place over the last few days in the one-time Iranian region known now as Republic of Georgia (Commonwealth of Independent States) is significant beyond the borders of this little-known Caucasian country.

What is being labeled as a "Velvet Revolution" was exactly that, a revolution. A public uprising against what they perceived to be a corrupt government, ending in the overthrow of a regime. There was some overtures for Shevardnadze to keep his post until a new government is put in place, perhaps resembling more of a reformist transition than a revolution, but the peaceful (although forceful) invasion of parliament by masses ended such speculations and the President resigned today.

This has suddenly put a third option in front of many activists in the region, particularly in Iran. The Iranian opposition has so far been divided in two primary camps; those who wish to take the country through a transitional period of slow reforms to eventually lead into a more democratic system, and others who advocate a ferocious revolution, at times with friendly overtures towards foreign "help" by some. Tbilisi presents a new option, where people force the hand of the regime, counting on the security forces to stay off violence and allowing for a change of government within hours, not days or even years. There has already been a few that have suggested this to be possible in Iran, citing examples such as Shah's army crumbling under the public pressure.

I am not yet convinced if that option applies to Iran. I believe the missing factor and what has not been an issue in Georgia or other examples of this peaceful transition of power, is religious fundamentalism. Despite the damage this regime has inflicted to the foundation of religion in Iran, we still have a sizeable portion of our population who are deeply religious. Within this segment, there are a smaller group who can only be described as fundamentalists. Although their numbers are limited their shear brutality and sense of dedication, plus access to weapons provides this fraction formidable power. Unlike the Georgian internal police, this group when cornered like a rat, will fight with every ounce of strength to preserve the system that has nourished it so well. A single act of aggression by these people, will bring about the bloodshed and carnage that this entire process is suppose to avert and could even cause an escalation of the violence on both sides to a regretful outcome.

So far, I'm still in the camp that believes the non-violence long-haul change routine is our best course of action and although the process is long and wearisome, the long-term results will be more mature, steady and long-lasting. Even the fundamentalists need to reach a stage where they will not be blowing themselves up in every government building in tomorrow's free Iran and that can only be achieved through the rule of law and a slow transition towards respecting the wishes of masses.

Is this even possible? yes. If we fail to consider this as a real and viable possibility, the road down to asking U.S. paratroopers to land in Tehran is not that far. Many fundamentalists (on the governments side or opposition) of the past twenty-odd years are now flag-bearers of a non-violent democratic approach to government. Why would it be impossible to expand upon that progress and achieve our ultimate goals independently?

Posted by Pedram at November 23, 2003 07:44 PM

I too hope and pray that this "third way" can apply to Iran. What better possible solution can there be to free a nation of a tyrannical government? Unfortunately, however, I believe that this regime, which has been responsible for so much violence and misery, will only come to an end through the same means by which it has stayed in power. In the meantime, I'll continue to look for encouraging signs of change and pray (and do whatever else I can do) for another sweeping velvet revolution.

Posted by: Jason at November 24, 2003 08:05 AM

Bravo! to Pedram.

I salute his being in "the camp that believes the non-violence long-haul change routine is our best course of action" and agree with it.

Emerging gently from tyranny does not mean it must take place slowly.

For those unaware of the terrible recent history of Iran I suggest a breif look at this Web site:

Let's pray for the peaceful movement to be successful

Posted by: stephen at November 24, 2003 09:50 AM

Pedram jaan, have you seen this film: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised ( The similarity is striking.

Posted by: Khodadad at November 24, 2003 09:15 PM

Thank you, for another subject of interest to study. I know nothing about Georgia, very little about Iran either, actually.

One: about Georgia, one of my Russian friends' comment was "Poor idiots", about the overthrow of the government by the people, which she had considered a "good" one. She only lightened up when she saw the temporary woman president.

Two: about Iran, if only, if only an improvement could be obtained through peaceful means! But I always remember the example of India, where Gandhi achieved independence from England through peaceful means, which only turned at the moment of independence into one of the most horrendous bloodbaths of history.

Posted by: nobbog at November 24, 2003 11:11 PM