Memo From the Streets of Tehran
As Iranians dispute the results of Friday's election, Parvez Sharma sends The Daily Beast an on-the-ground dispatch written by a friend enmeshed in the Tehran protests.
My friend, Arash Aryan, is a 40-year-old poet who has managed to write beautifully and succinctly about yesterday’s events in Tehran. Internet access is intermittent on proxy servers and he had to send this to me in pieces. Like many of his fellow citizens, he has not slept many nights and his feet continue to pound the pavement. Arash will write more soon, Insha’allah. These are his words, un-edited and as far as I know, unfiltered.
Shoot me in here: Arash Aryan from Tehran
The Iranian people are experiencing one of the widespread civil movements in modern history. Every day, near to the end of the protests, people get informed of the next move and the next venue for gathering. According to the word of mouth which is the only means of communication available, people were supposed to gather in Haft-Tir Square and march toward Valiasr Sq. at 5 p.m. Wednesday 17th June 2009.
A young man had attached a piece of paper on his chest which read: Shoot me in here.
My family and I started our move at three from a relative's home in the poor southern areas of Tehran. We chose the subway as the best way to join the protesters because we predicted heavy traffic in the central parts of the city. As soon as we entered the subway station, we felt a heavy and intense atmosphere. People looked puzzled and talked to each other in small groups. The violence of the previous days has made people more cautious when in small groups. Only one of us had a small green ribbon attached to her dress button. Many young people who saw the sign reacted by making a victory sign with their fingers. We entered the subway and rode toward Haft-Tir Square. The population grew more and more people could be seen clad in black as a sign of mourning and carrying green badges as the sign of reformists. When we got out at Haft-Tir Station, we found ourselves among the familiar crowd. Huge masses of enthusiastic people revealed their identity all at once. While onboard the train, faces were grim and we didn't know who is with us. As soon as these people got off, suddenly all unveiled their hidden masks and showed their true identity as people determined to fight for what they want. It took us about 15 minutes to come out of the subway because of the density of crowd. Outside, masses of people could be seen stretched all over the Square and into Karimkhan Street.
Part of my observations and remarks:
1. Nearly everybody was carrying a piece of paper in hand. They included pictures of the young men and women killed during the past days of the movement. Many carried papers with sentences expressing grief or pieces of poetry showing solidarity with the dead. Pictures of some of the members of the secret police were distributed among people. These shocking pictures had identified some of the Ahmadinejad supporters and members of the Islamic Guard Corps among the militia known as "Non-uniformed" who perpetuated acts of violence and put fire on buildings and damaged public and private properties. One such instance is the picture and salary statement and the residence address of a man with a dagger in hand attacking the peaceful protesters. His salary statement identifies him as Mohammad Javad Farahbakhsh, a colonel in Islamic Revolutionary Guards and a member of Sarallah Base in Tehran. His residence address and mobile phone number were also disclosed. Another picture showed a group of six of the militia beating an elderly woman. This picture was very shocking to the people. Because in the Iranian culture, women and especially older women should be respected in any occasion and according to Islamic teachings, which these people claim to subscribe, a man should not touch a woman or disrespect her.
2. The protest was very peaceful. No word or utterance was heard from the people. Having learnt from previous experiences, they were told to go home before dark because at dusk, the militia come out like hyenas and commit any crime under the veil of the night. So, people scattered at the end of Keshavarz Blvd., although a large group had already marched to Enghelab Square and were in Azadi Avenue.
3. A man wearing green and riding on wheelchair attracted much respect and support. His both legs were cut from knee and he was riding his wheelchair with both hands up in sign of victory and with a green smile on his lips. His resoluteness and his determination inspired all around him.
4. A young man was carrying the picture of his brother: 16-year old Meysam Ebadi who had been killed by the militia. He said that the dead body of his brother has not yet been delivered to him.
5. A young man had attached a piece of paper on his chest which read: Shoot me in here. This sentiment of being ready to die for this cause is common to many people I have talked to these days. Those who killed our young boys and girls and our students in their bedrooms did not know what they did to the nation. Iranians have suffered a lot during the past years. To them, life has no value when your brothers and sisters are killed. Later at night, when we wanted to go home, a lady who was riding in a white sedan stopped and asked us to get in her car. On the way, she said that she was working in a research institute and that from among all people working there only two have voted for Ahmadinejad: One was the head of the security department and the other was a girl who had been employed by using connection in a high position non-relevant to her degree and who enjoyed special benefits like attending the workplace anytime she desired. She said: These people voted for Ahmadinejad because they are enjoying special privileges. Her words impressed me a lot. She was a middle-aged professional woman. She said: I am ready to die today on the hope that 10 people may live a better life tomorrow. Her natural tone shocked me to my bones. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. She was not pretending. I could feel it. She said: May God give patience to those who were martyred. When a Shia Muslim says "Martyr," they usually have Imam Hossein in mind, who is the symbol of fighting against tyranny. If people see those killed at the hands of the Islamic republic as martyrs, then the Islamic republic who has always acted in the name of these imams should reconsider its position.
6. The IRIB (Islamic Republic Broadcasting) continued its campaign to prove that elections were fair and just and that the defeated candidates should seek legal means to deal with their objections and the supporters of reformists should isolate the small minority who come to streets and perpetrate illegal acts. The Head of Election Headquarters came on TV and repeated his lies. They are also attacking the BBC Persian and VOA Persian and are alluding fingers at foreigners and colonial powers (as usual). IRIB remarks make people very angry. Some placards which people carried were addressed to this organization. Examples included: Shame on IRIB; IRIB Reporter, if you have the slightest honor, resign and so on.
7. Iranian national football team were playing South Korean national team in Seoul as part of the World Cup qualifying games. Some of the Iranian footballers went to the playing field with green wristbands in support of Iranian people and played the first half with those wristbands. In the second half, they didn't have those wristbands. People were both very happy for the support of their national team and were also questioning the credibility of authorities who forced the national team to remove their green wristbands in the second half of the game.
8. Some of the more common placards included: " My green vote was not your black name!!!", " Liar, where is your 63 percent?", "Ahmadinejad beware! We are a nation, not criminals", " We want revolutionary people, we don't want bystanders", "Where is my vote?", "The song of those killed echoes in our souls", " Iran mourning over its heroes", "Congratulations to the Murderers", " We are outside the time, with a bitter dagger in our backs" (a poem by Ahmad Shamlu), "Suppose you can cut, suppose you can tear, what can you do with the inevitable growing of sprouts" (poem by Shamlu), "Shame on IRIB", "Condolences to the families of martyrs on this green path", "My martyred brother, I will take your vote back, even if I do", "Viva Democracy", " Silent but fully able, come fellow-countryman, join us, stay", "See, how loud is the shouts of our silence", "Free political prisoners", "Where is the courage of pine? Here, the weed leads!", "Green License", "God does not like liars" (Holy Koran), "When suppression becomes law, disobedience is duty", "You fool, I am not your enemy, I am your denial " (poem by Shamlu), "Stones are not hard, throw words", "Time gives control to the ignorant, you are a man of knowledge and this is your sin" (addressing Mousavi the reformist).
Parvez Sharma is the director and producer of A Jihad for Love . He is in constant contact with friends on the ground in Tehran and has also been blogging on The Huffington Post.