MIT Middle East historian Pouya Alimagham described the effects of popular resistance in Iran’s political development following the 1979 Iranian Revolution at an event Oct. 3.

Iran’s Green Movement in 2009 represents the influence youth can have on a country’s political development, modern Middle East historian Pouya Alimagham said at an event Oct. 3 in the Intercultural Center.

The Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding hosted Alimagham’s discussion, which examined state ideology and popular protest in Iran since the Iranian revolution in 1979 concluded with the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Alimagham is a Middle Eastern historian specializing in modern Iran, Iraq and the Levant with a focus on revolutions, political Islam and post-Islamism.  

Understanding the Iranian government’s fusion of theocracy and democracy is essential to understanding Iran today, Alimagham said. Under the current system, the president, the parliament and the Assembly of Experts are elected. Religious forces maintain sovereignty through the supreme leader, the head of state, the judiciary and the Guardian Council, which has the power to veto legislation and decide who runs in presidential, parliamentary and assembly elections.

The Green Movement began when the Iranian government demanded popular participation in elections. In 2009, the government sought to alleviate this tension by encouraging public electoral participation. At the time, restrictions imposed on voting prevented popular participation, specifically youth participation, which led to the rise of conservative parties, Alimagham said. Such restrictions, particularly those on social media, were reduced in 2009 to bolster participation. 

“When the youth don’t participate in elections, typically what ends up happening is a right-wing party comes to power,” Alimagham said. 

The Green Movement was an important opening for Iranians, Alimagham said, as it was one of the first times individual smartphones and SMS messaging allowed the masses to broadcast their resistance to the outside world. The Green Movement was “really the first modern uprising in terms of the means it used to convey it to the world,” Alimagham said.

The state’s response during the Green Movement — deploying security forces and seizing control of the streets — escalated popular political activity, Alimagham said.

The evolution of the Green Movement, according to Alimagham, represents Post-Islamism, a recognition that politics rather than religion provides for welfare in this life, according to The Guardian.  

“If the Iranian Movement was a symptom of the times, then the Green Uprising will represent a new trend,” Alimagham said.

 The 1979 Iranian revolution marked a period of Islamic revival, while the Green Movement, Alimagham furthered, will show what happens when Islam achieves power. Moreover, the movement has grown to encompass other resistance groups, including those involving women, youth, and religious and ethnic minorities.  

“The Green Uprising is an umbrella movement,” Alimagham said.

One Comment

  1. You claim that “At the time, restrictions imposed on voting prevented popular participation”. Can you elaborate on what these restrictions were?

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