Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why Mourning Matters

Mousavi’s call for Thursday to be a day of mourning for the protesters already killed demonstrates that he is both savvy and that he knows his history.

During the 1979 Revolution, mourning demonstrations honoring killed demonstrators were a means of unifying the otherwise disparate groups who had taken to the street in opposition to the Shah. That all these groups, with different goals and different beliefs could be brought together, into the street, as one corpus under the aegis of mourning served as a fundamental organizing principle in 1979.

In 1979, mourning also served as a means to build and sustain momentum: every day a demonstrator was killed, the next day there would be a mourning demonstration. And then again, 40 days later, at the end of the traditional mourning period, there would be a further demonstration. Invariably, a demonstrator would be killed during the mourning demonstration which would then give rise to another demonstration the following day. And so on, and so forth.

Mousavi’s choice of this tactic is cunning. It is not, I think, an accident that a man steeled in the first revolution would reach back for a tactic prominently used then. I also do not think the parallels will be lost on the older generation, the members of the government who can still remember 1979.

No comments: