Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shirin Ebadi on the Power of a Pivotal Event to Rally the Crowds

In her book, Iran Awakening, Shirin Ebadi relates the growing public dissatisfaction with the Shah and she highlights how certain events, such as the burning of a crowded cinema in 1978 and the death of 377 people, prompted people to protest and overthrow the regime:

“I realize only two decades later the momentous power of such a moment—how an egregious act can electrify a population until then ambivalent, and convince them that a confined dispute between political forces carried implications worthy of drawing them out of their living rooms, into the fray.”

“A month later, at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, one hundred thousand people poured into the streets, the first of the grand marches against the Shah. An ocean of Iranians as far as the eye could see filled the wide boulevards of Tehran and raised their voices against the Shah.”

“I found myself drawn to the opposition that hailed Ayatollah Khomeini as their leader.”

The author also exposes the negative aspects of crowd movements for their hailing of Ayatollah Khomeini quickly turned to howls of protest.

Source: Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Iran Awakening (London: Rider, 2006), 33.

A review of this illuminating book is posted at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: The burned out building of Cinema Rex in which doors were locked so people could not escape their death by fire.