THE INTERNATIONAL GREEN MOVEMENT
Much of the world was captivated by the aftermath of June’s presidential elections in Iran, elections which saw Iranians turnout en masse to vote. Only hours after polling stations closed, state media announced that incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the overwhelming winner, a declaration that immediately generated widespread accusations of cheating and fraud. Angry voters spilled into the streets in the days follow- ing the election, wearing green to support the reform movement and defiantly engaging in peaceful protests that tragically turned violent when government supporters responded with brutal force. The international media were frantic to feature pictures and videos taken by Iranians who were risking their lives by documenting their partici- pation in these protests, demonstrations that international journalists were unable to cover themselves after the Iranian government restricted their visas.
Far from streets of Tehran, two local Iranians have been conducting their own protest campaign to support the Green Movement. This is a move that is just as brave as their counterparts in Iran, because speaking out means that they will no longer be able to visit their friends and family back home. At least not until things change.
Dr. Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, and Ebrahim Soltani, doctoral candidate in Political Science, are working locally to see that change is still possible in Iran. Both scholars traveled down to New York City to protest against Ahmadinejad and the post-election violence when the annual United Nations meeting provided him a forum. Together they also penned an editorial for The Post-Standard on September 21 about Iran’s Green Movement. Kahnemuyipour recently presented a talk at Thursday Morning Roundtable, an award-winning public service program sponsored by University College of Syracuse University, which brings together a mix of citizens to learn about and discuss community issues and problems. He also spoke at churches in Phoenix and Manlius. Soltani has been equally busy. He played a leading role in organizing a hunger strike (July 22-24, 2009) in front of the UN against the government’s brutal crackdown. Since then he has participated in a town hall meeting on human rights and solidarity with the Iranian people, as well as presented a paper at a conference at University of Maryland on “The Logic of Transition to Democracy in Iran.”
Kahnemuyipour and Soltani are also working with a group of Iranian political figures and scholars to organize a campaign to encourage the UN to put Iranian officials on trial for crimes against humanity. Kahne- muyipour thinks that other Iranians living abroad “should use the freedom they have in their respective countries to speak out in support of the Iranian people.” This does not mean interfering with internal politics, only standing up for human rights. He argues that if the world turns its back on the rights violations in Iran then “the Islamic Re- public of Iran has basically achieved its goal by raising their ‘Western meddling’ argument.” And Kahnemuyipour believes that things will change one day. He says that “the progress of the movement may seem slow to some people, but placed in its historical context, the progress has been quite significant and consistent. This is a non- violent social movement after all, which can only succeed with perseverance... It is only a matter of time before the Iranian people will see their rightful demands fulfilled.”