Saturday, July 18, 2009

OP ED: The Symbolism of Green/Black in Iran

by Julie Jigsawnovich

Today a friend in Iran posted a photo of someone flashing a victory/peace sign, with one extended finger wrapped in a green ribbon and the other in a black ribbon. Next to it, he posted an illustration of an upraised green fist with a black ribbon near the wrist, replacing the Islamic Republic symbol on the Iranian flag. These may be a significant developments in terms of symbolism.

Green has come to represent democracy and freedom, is associated with the Moussavi campaign, and is an important color to Islam. There have been days of mourning when protesters wore black instead of green. Does the combination of black and green show sadness for slain protesters and continuing demands for democracy and human rights? Or could this combination also signify new political developments in Iran?

In Europe and in New York, black combined with red represents a combination of Anarchist and Communist sympathies--which could land anywhere on the political spectrum from a desire for militant overthrow of Capitalist Democracies, to a non-Totalitarian, non-Fascist desire for community-based cooperation combined with personal responsibility.

In the West, an upraised fist has tended to represent willingness to organize and /or use violence to attain or defend rights. It has sometimes been associated with secular Communists, but not always. The upraised fist of the American Black Power movement tended to be associated with Islamist Malcomb X. In Iran, militant Communists may find few friends, since the MEK aligned themselves with Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war.

The democracy movement in Iran has been compared to the peaceful civil rights movement in the US lead by Martin Luther King. I remember water cannons, and possibly police batons being used against the King-led civil rights peaceful protesters here. But I do not recall swords being used to hack at them, nor live bullets repeatedly fired into them--as has reportedly been done to peaceful protesters in Iran. Can a completely peaceful movement survive in the face of such extreme brutality? There are already reports of hundreds of bodies stacked up in storage in Tehran--protesters killed by militia.

How do you survive a fight against someone brutal and cruel without becoming brutal and cruel yourself? There are some really core ethical questions here that anyone may ask themselves.

Does the symbolic combination of black and green, and the increase in symbolic use of fists rather than victory/peace signs indicate that the democratic movement in Iran is moving from being one of protest to being one of Revolution? Do the majority of Iranians want to retain the Islamic basis and retain the current Constitution, or do they want to completely overthrow the regime and become more secular? What mixture of Capitalism and Socialism would the majority of Iranians choose? Will they demand free public schools, as we have here in the US? Your emails are welcome:

Update 7-22-09: Here's a link to a photo of a giant green fist at the hunger strike in front of the UN:

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