Human Flower Project

The Soft Power of Flowers

Who’ll prevail in Iran? Craig Cramer, looking at confrontations past, finds that flowers usually point toward victory. See Ellis Hollow for more of Craig’s insights and artistry.

imageZahra Rahnavard, wife of Iranian presidential candidate Mirhossein Moussavi, at a June 9 rally in Tehran. Moussavi, who campaigned on broadening the rights of Iranian women, is challenging the official outcome of Friday’s election.

Photo: Reuters

By Craig Cramer

In case you missed it, there were elections in Iran on Friday and a coup d’état over the weekend. Popular challenger Mir Hossein Moussavi, who was Iran’s Prime Minister during the the bloody 8-year war with Iraq in the ‘80s, had strong support among the country’s youth and progressives. He had been expected to defeat incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a Holocaust-denier.

But as Josef Stalin supposedly said: Those who cast the votes decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything. Some are saying they didn’t even bother to count in Iran. Ahmadinejad was declared the winner by a ridiculous 63 to 34 percent margin.


A man throws flowers of protest Saturday in Tehran; the outcome of last week’s

Iranian presidential election remains in dispute.

Photo: Olivier Laban-Mattei, for AFP, via Atlantic

As I write this on Sunday, students – like the Moussavi supporter pictured above hurling flowers in protest – continue to take to the street, clashing with armored motorcycle-mounted police, who look like they came straight off the set of some Hollywood dystopian fantasy.

We may never know exactly what went down. Despite a government-imposed Internet shut-down, the images and YouTubes and tweets that continue to sneak out of Iran paint a picture of a struggle that we may point to months or years from now as the beginning of the second Iranian revolution.

Iran’s population is disproportionately youthful. And most yearn for the freedoms that we mostly take for granted – including the right to have the their voices count in matters of state. I want to be hopeful. But as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof observed, remembering Tianamen Square, “when Might and Right do battle, it’s often prudent to bet on Might, at least in the short run.”


A peaceful protest of the Vietnam War, October 1967, Washington, D.C.

Photo: Bernie Boston

Looking at Laban-Mattei’s photo, I began recalling other, older pictures; this wasn’t the first time I’d been moved by images of flowers challenging power. When I was just a kid with a penchant for toy guns, my life was changed by this iconic image from the 1960s.

(That guy had some stones.)

Much later, I came across a similar though more proactive variation on this theme – by London graffiti artist Banksy.

And now I see protesters launching bouquets and protecting riot policeman from the angry mob after they’ve disarmed them and set their motorcycles afire.

In the long run, my bet is on the soft power of the flowers.

For more information on the Iranian situation as it unfolds, see the stellar coverage on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/15 at 09:51 AM


Right on, Craig! I’d heard the radio news on the suspected numbers killed, but had not seen the images. Thanks for pointing them out, along with their power.

Posted by Lynn on 06/17 at 12:54 PM

Nice guest post, Craig. I have never thought about “the soft power of flowers” before, but I really like that idea…

Posted by Blackswampgirl Kim on 06/17 at 12:59 PM

This is a great article… going to tweet it Julie. smile

Thanks for an awesome blog.

Posted by Brandon on 06/18 at 10:38 AM

Great post.  I actually remember that Oct 67 protest.  Here’s what I blogged in solidarity to the youth of Iran last night:

Posted by Chavo on 06/18 at 05:26 PM

What a wonderful post—and a nice reminder to visit this site more often. I just tweeted a link to it out. Thanks so much.

Posted by P.Price on 06/22 at 09:28 AM
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