Rough Diplomacy

Revolutionary Colors

When there is a revolution a name or image is usually added to the movement to distinguish the characteristics of change.

The White Revolution

(  انقلابسفید‎‎ Enqelāb-e Sefid) In the 1960s and ’70s the shah sought to develop a more independent foreign policy and establish working relationships with the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations.  In subsequent decades, per capita income for Iranians skyrocketed, and oil revenue fueled an enormous increase in state funding for industrial development projects. Some regarded him ,at that time, as an American puppet. His records however, give important insight.

From 1941 to 1979, Iran was ruled by King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah.

… He [the Shah] often grew impatient when American diplomats urged him to modernize at a pace faster than his careful crawl. ” I can start  a revolution for you ” he apparently told an American diplomat , “but you won’t like the end result .”

The Shah advertised the White Revolution as a step towards modernization, but there is little doubt that he also had political motives; the White Revolution (a name attributed to the fact it was bloodless) was a way for him to legitimize the Pahlavi dynasty.

Thus the White Revolution in Iran represented a new attempt to introduce reform from above and preserve traditional power patterns.

Shah distributing land deeds.

Part of the reason for launching the White Revolution and implementing land reform, was for the Shah to ally himself with the peasantry in the countryside. He hoped to sever their ties with the aristocracy in the city , eliminate of the landlords’ influence ,and create a new base of support  with the peasants and working class which would weaken the threat of an increasingly hostile middle class.

Recap some achievements of the White Revolution:

1 Land reform – 90% of Iran’s peasants became land owners.

2 Massive government-financed heavy industry projects.

3 Granted women more political power – the right to vote.

4 Poured government money into education – especially in rural areas where illiteracy was very high.

5 Profit-sharing for industrial workers.

6 Nationalization of forests and pasture lands.

“The White Revolution had been designed to preempt a Red Revolution. Instead, it paved the way for an Islamic Revolution.

Scenes From the White Revolution Shah -to Khomeini

Though the White Revolution contributed towards the economic and technological advancement of Iran, the failures of some of the land reform programs and the partial lack of democratic reforms, as well as severe antagonism towards the White Revolution from the clergy and landed elites.

Also the use violence ad torture by the SAVAK (secret police) to remain in power. The Shah’s reforms also insulted devout Muslims. Ayatollah Khomeini preached revolution in mosques (the Cassette Revolution )would ultimately contribute to the Shah’s downfall and the Iranian Revolution in 1979

The Velvet Revolution

November 1989, In response to a peaceful student demonstration being suppressed by riot police, protesters took to the street for almost a month in Czechoslovakia , Named the Velvet Revolution due to its relative peaceful and bloodless nature.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – NOVEMBER 17: President of Czechoslovakia (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)

The Velvet Revolution (Czech: sametová revoluce) or Gentle Revolution (Slovak: nežná revolúcia) was a non-violent transition of power in occurring from November 17 to December 29.

Popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia combined students and older dissidents. The result was the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and conversion to a parliamentary republic.

On November 17, 1989 (International Students’ Day), riot police were called to a student demonstration in Prague.It marked the 50th Anniversary of a violently suppressed demonstration against Nazi occupation. The event sparked a series of demonstrations. By November 20, the number of protesters assembled in Prague grew from 200,000 the previous day to an estimated 500,000. A two-hour general strike involving all citizens of Czechoslovakia was held on November 27.  The entire top leadership of the Communist Party, including General Secretary Miloš Jakeš, resigned.

“I really do inhabbit a system where words are capable of shaking the enitire structure of the goverment, wener words can prove more powerful than ten military divisions.” Vaclav Havel 

In response to the collapse of other Warsaw Pact governments and the increasing street protests, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announced on November 28 that it would relinquish power and dismantle the one-party state.

Two days later, the legislature formally deleted the sections of the Constitution giving the Communists a monopoly of power. Barbed wire and other obstructions were removed from the border with West Germany and Austria in early December. By June 1990, held its first democratic elections since 1946.

The Yellow Revolution

The yellow revolution also called the The People Power Revolution (also known as the EDSA Revolution and the Philippine Revolution of 1986) was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines, mostly in the capital city of Manila in 1986. There was a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and alleged electoral fraud.

Yellow Revolution name is derived from the color of ribbons protesters used

The nonviolent revolution led to the departure of President Ferdinand Marcos along with his authoritarian regime and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.

PresidentNixon bids goodbye to Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos after their White House meeting,

According to leftists who rioted during the First Quarter Storm, the  disparity of wealth between the  wealthy and very poor who made up the majority of the Philippines’ population led to a rise in crime and civil unrest around the country. These factors, including the formation of the New People’s Army and a bloody Muslim separatist movement in the southern island of Mindanao.

Filipinos give soldiers flowers in front of the People Power monument during the 30th anniversary of the fall of the then President Ferdinand Marcos EPA/MARK R. CRISTINO

President Marcos had attempted to change the constitution to allow himself a third term, but was barred from running for a third term as president in 1973. in September 1972, by virtue of a presidential proclamation (No. 1081), he declared martial law, citing rising civil disobedience as a justification.

Through this decree and after obtaining voters consent through the plebiscite, Marcos seized emergency powers giving him full control of the Philippines’ military and the authority to suppress and abolish the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and many other civil liberties.

Marcos also dissolved the Philippine Congress and shut down media establishments critical of the Marcos government. Marcos also ordered the immediate arrest of his political opponents and critics. Including his opponent Ninoy Aquino .

Despite warnings from the military and other pro-Marcos groups, Ninoy Aquino was determined to return to the Philippines. Asked what he thought of the death threats, Ninoy Aquino responded, “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

funeral for Ninoy Aquino

At that time, Ninoy’s passport had expired and the renewal had been denied. Ninoy therefore acquired a plan to acquire a fake passport, The passport carried the alias Marcial Bonifacio (Marcial for martial law and Bonifacio for Fort Bonifacio, his erstwhile prison).

On August 21, 1983, after a three-year exile in the US. Aquino was assassinated as he disembarked from a Taiwanese commercial flight at the Manila International Airport (which was later renamed in Aquino’s honor). His assassination shocked and outraged many Filipinos, most of whom had lost confidence in the Marcos administration. The event led to more suspicions about the government, triggering this revolution.

The Jasmine Revolution

The rebellion that launched the Arab Spring is named after Tunisia’s yellow state flower. Protests broke out in Tunisia in late 2010, sparked by a street vendor setting himself on fire. The discontent spread to other nations in North Africa and the Middle East, leading to uprisings in Egypt and Libya, and an ongoing civil war in Syria.

A child holds a placard bearing a slogan which translates as ” Freedom for all the prisoners” during a demonstration in Tunis on January 8, 2011 in support of prisoners held after clashes between demonstrators and police in December 2010 i AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

The Blue Revolution

This revolution started in 2002 and culminated in May 2005 when more than a 1,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Kuwaiti parliament to demand women’s suffrage. The demonstrators wore pale blue to demonstrate the long struggle for suffrage. The color of the signs of the protesters led to the naming of the revolution.

The Orange Revolution

The Orange Revolution (Ukrainian: Помаранчева революція, Pomarancheva revolyutsiya) was a series of protests and political events that took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, which was claimed to be marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud.

Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, was the focal point of the movement’s campaign of civil resistance, with thousands of protesters demonstrating daily. Nationwide, the democratic revolution was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement.

The protests were prompted by reports from several domestic and foreign election monitors as well as the widespread public perception that the results of the run-off vote of 21 November 2004 between leading candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych were rigged by the authorities in favour of the latter.

The nationwide protests succeeded when the results of the original run-off were annulled, and a revote was ordered by Ukraine’s Supreme Court for 26 December 2004. Further information on this is posted in a series of posts written earlier on this website.

The Purple Revolution

The term Purple Revolution was actually coined by US President George W. Bush when he stated to the media in an event held by Slovakians refering to the ink stained fingers used during a previous Iraqi elections.

The Saffron Revolution

Named after the color of the robes of Buddhist monks in Myanmar (Burma), in September 2007 hundreds of thousands of monks, students, and political activists protested the country’s military junta and demanded democratic reform.
The uprising began in response to the government ending fuel subsidies without warning, causing massive spikes in prices in food and transportation.

The Green Revolution

Demonstrators took to the streets in the summer of 2009 to protest the Iranian government.

The activists pioneered the use of dating websites and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook when communicating with other protestors and the media. The protestors, who accused the government of voting fraud, wore green ribbons in support of defeated presidential candidate Hossein Mousay.

The Rose Revolution

The Revolution of Roses, often translated into English as the Rose Revolution(Georgian: ვარდებისრევოლუციაvardebis revolutsia), describes a pro-Western peaceful change of power in Georgia in November 2003. The revolution was brought about by widespread protests over the disputed parliamentary elections and culminated in the ouster of President Eduard Shevardnadze, which marked the end of the Soviet era of leadership in the country. The event derives its name from the climactic moment, when demonstrators led by Mikheil Saakashvili stormed the Parliament session with red roses in hand.

Rose Revolution

Consisting of twenty days worth of protests, the Revolution triggered new presidential and parliamentary elections in Georgia, which established the United National Movement as the dominant ruling party.

Following the Rose Revolution, Georgia pursued a decidedly pro-Western foreign policy and declared European and Euro-Atlantic integration as its main priority; this change in trajectory contributed to Georgia’s tensions with Russia, which continue to this day.

Tulip Revolution

The Tulip Revolution or First Kyrgyz Revolution led to President of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev’s fall from power. The revolution began after parliamentary elections on February 27 and March 13, 2005.

The revolutionaries alleged corruption and authoritarianism by the Akayev, his family and supporters. Akayev fled to Kazakhstan and then to Russia. On April 4, 2005, at the Kyrgyz embassy in Moscow, Akayev signed his resignation statement in the presence of a Kyrgyz parliamentary delegation. The resignation was ratified by the Kyrgyz interim parliament on April 11, 2005.

Tulip Revolution


In the early stages of the revolution, the media variously referred to the unrest as the “Pink,””Lemon”,”Silk”, or “Daffodil” revolution. It was Akayev himself who coined the term, “Tulip Revolution”. In a speech of the time, he warned that no such “Color Revolution” should happen in Kyrgyzstan.

Using a color or floral term evoked similarity with the non-violent Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2004), the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution (1989) and the Portuguese Carnation Revolution (1974).

Askar Akayev
1st President of Kyrgyzstan

Givi Targamadze, a former member of the Liberty Institute of Georgia and the chair of Georgian Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, consulted Ukrainian opposition leaders on the technique of nonviolent struggle. He later advised leaders of the Kyrgyz opposition during the Tulip Revolution.

Post-election violence

Pro-Akayev candidates performed well at the February 27, 2005 parliamentary election. However, the result was criticized by foreign observers. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was critical of the Kyrgyzstan government. Protests began, especially in the western and southern cities including Jalalabad, Osh, and Uzgen. On March 3, 2005, a bomb exploded in opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva’s apartment. The Akayev government denied responsibility.

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan — President of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev,  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Steele C. G. Britton)

On March 10, 2005, the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, joined protestors outside the parliament building in Bishkek. Bakiyev and 22 opposition parliamentarians issued a symbolic vote of “no confidence” in the Akayev administration, three thousand people in Bishkek and fifty thousand in Jalalabad joined public protests. On March 20, when protestors occupied government buildings, the Kyrgyz government deployed interior ministry troops in Jalalabad and Osh, protestors took control of all the large cities in the southern part of the nation and demanded Akayev’s resignation. The “KelKel” (“renaissance and shining of the good”) youth movement was active in the protests.

On March 22, 2005, Akayev refused to negotiate with protestors. Ten of seventy-one parliamentarians sided with the protestors.

Potential leaders

Although the opposition claimed significant gains in control of the country, it suffered internal division and lacked an obvious leader. This is in contrast to the Ukrainian and Georgian revolutionary forces which demonstrated united fronts against the state.

Roza Otunbayeva was a potential leader of the Kyrgyz opposition. In 1981, she was the Kyrgyz Communist Party’s second secretary of the Lenin “raikom” (district council).

Kurmanbek Bakiyev was another potential leader. In 2002, Bakiyev had resigned from his position of prime minister of Kyrgyzstan after police shot and killed five peaceful demonstrators in the southern town of Asky.

Anvar Artykov was a previous governor of Osh. He had the support of the “kurultai”, a traditional Mongol and Turkic opposition council. Artykov said, “We will keep this authority (parallel administration) until all of our demands and problems are resolved.

We are an interim power. We can talk about the fulfillment of our tasks when the current government has been replaced by a government that is trusted by the nation.”

The opposition was at its most united at the Jalalabad protest on March 21, 2005. Otunbayeva said, “Policemen, including high-ranking officers, took off their uniforms, changed into civilian clothes and joined our ranks. So we have substantial support.”

On March 22, 2005, the opposition leaders met in Bishkek and formed an interim government. The Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court ruled that that previous parliament was the legitimate and rightful ruling body but then on March 24, 2005, it recognised the interim government. Bakiyev was appointed acting prime minister and new elections were planned for July, 2005.

Regime change

After protests on March 19 and 20, 2005, Akayev ordered the Central Election Committee and the Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court to investigate claims of election fraud put forward by the opposition. Akayev asked these bodies to “pay particular attention to those districts where election results provoked extreme public reaction … and tell people openly who is right and who is wrong.”

On March 22, Akayev dismissed Bakirdin Subanbekov, the minister for the interior and Myktybek Abdyldayev, the general prosecutor.

On March 23, 2005, Akayev deployed riot police and thirty people were arrested. The Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry representative stated, “The people of Uzbekistan, which is a close neighbor of Kyrgyzstan, are concerned about the events happening in Kyrgyzstan, especially in its southern regions”.

On March 24, 2005, Akayev fled with his family. He went first to Kazakhstan and then to Russia President, Vladimir Putin offered him exile. On April 3, 2005, Akayev gave his resignation.

When Akayev fled, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev resigned. The opposition took control of key state services such as the television broadcaster. Police melted away or joined the protesters. Imprisoned opposition leaders, including Felix Kulov, were released. The Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court declared the election results invalid.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev was made acting prime minister and acting president by the interim administration. He named an interim cabinet. Mobs were looting stores and automatic teller machines in Bishkek and buildings were set on fire. Three people had died in the unrest. Bakiyev appointed Felix Kulov acting minister for the interior. Kulov appeared on television and appealed for calm. On March 26, 2005, armed supporters of Akayev made an abortive attempt to enter Bishkek under Kenesh Dushebaev and Temirbek Akmataliev. On March 29, Akmataliev announced he would participate in upcoming elections. By March 28, 2005 a gradual political stabilisation had occurred.

The interim administration announced presidential elections for July 10, 2005. However, media entities accused Bakiyev of lack of transparency, failure to restore order and discrimination against Russian minorities.The appointment of Adakhan Madumarov to the fourth deputy prime minister position was unpopular because it was seen, since he was a presidential candidate, as a conflict of interest. Bakiyev was also criticised for re-employing some of Akeyev’s cabinet in the interim government.

On May 13, 2005, Bakiyev and Kulov united to contest the July 10, 2005 presidential election. The agreement was that if Bakiyev retained the presidency, Kulov would be made prime minister. The alliance lasted until January 2007. It united the northern and southern parts of the nation; made the election of other candidates more difficult; and helped to stabilise Uzbekistan.

Problems for the interim government

Land rights

The interim government was faced with the challenge of peasant land rights claims in Bishkek. Police had been unable to stop forced seizures of land by armed peasants. In a related matter, Usan Kudaibergenov, a leader of Bishkek civilian patrols, was murdered.

Alleged Akayev corruption

On March 24, 2005, Akayev’s diaries were produced as evidence of corruption. A commission of citizens, public servants, bankers and non-government organisation representatives was empanelled to investigate corruption by the Akayev administration. On April 21, 2005, the commission published the details of forty-two enterprises controlled by the Akayev family during Akayev’s presidency. The interim government also alleged that through violence and arrests, Akayev had disrupted peaceful political protest against his administration. It was alleged that on March 24, 2005, Akeyev’s men, dressed in civilian clothing, had assaulted protesters.

Andijan refugees

On May 13, 2005 a massacre occurred in Andijan, Uzbekistan when government security agents fired shots into gathered protesters. Up to six thousand Uzbek refugees entered Kyrgyzstan. Refugees were unable to return to Uzbekistan due to harsh Uzbek government actions.

Initially, Bakiyev supported the Uzbek government’s stance despite calls for compassion from human rights activists. Later, with assistance from the international community, the Kyrgyz interim administration gave legal status to Andijan refugees. International NGOs were able to provide shelter, food, water, and other necessities to the refugees.

Akayev legal action

Akayev took legal action against the chair of the Bakiyev anti-corruption commission. He also sued a Kyrgyz newspaper journalist for defamation, on the grounds that the accusations of corruption made against him were inaccurate. Bermet Akayeva, Akayev’s daughter, took legal action against the Kyrgyzstan Central Election Commission for defamation and for preventing her election to parliament. Some of Akayev’s personal possessions which had been seized in the revolution were returned to him.

Pre-election unrest

On June 10, 2005, the parliamentarian, Jyrgalbek Surabaldiyev was shot dead in Bishkek. He may have been involved with the attacks on anti-Akayev protestors on March 24, 2005. On June 11, 2005, two government security guards were beaten and coerced to give information about Bakiyev’s and Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov’s travel itineraries. On June 13, 2005, six people were injured in violence between protesters and parliamentary security agents in Osh. In this incident, security agents had opened fire on protestors congregating outside the Alay Hotel. The parliamentarian, Bayaman Erkinbayev was implicated in the violence and accused of taking illegal ownership of state property.

On June 17, 2005, protesters gathered in Bishkek in support of Urmat Baryktabasov, an old ally of Akayev. He had previously expressed an intent to be a presidential candidate but was denied the right to register because of his dual citizenship (Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

New elections

On July 10, 2005, the promised elections took place. Bakiyev won ninety percent of the vote and the following day was made president. Kulov was appointed Prime Minister.

In the months after the election, Bayaman Erkinbayev and Raatbek Sanatbayev were killed. Tynychbek Akmatbayev died during a prison riot orchestrated by the Chechnyen thief in law, Aziz Batukayev. Ryspek was shot dead leaving a mosque in May 2006.

The OSCE sent 60 observers to monitor the election runoffs. In its initial assessment the organisation found that the second round of voting showed “some technical improvements over the first round”. It also emphasised “significant shortcomings”.

Election observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) disagreed.,hailed the runoff elections as well-organized, free, and fair. CIS observers also praised local authorities for showing restraint and competence in dealing with political unrest in several regions.

This contradiction in the findings between OSCE and CIS observation teams formed the latest in a series of such contradictory findings (see CIS election observation missions). Russia supported the CIS reports and rebuked the OSCE for its findings.

The New York Times, reported that American funding and support, from governmental and non-governmental sources, helped to pave the way for anti-Akayev demonstrations by providing the means for printing literature.

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