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Shirin White Roses: Shirin Ebadi is with us and she is one of us!

10/15/03 By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

The beautiful creamy moon light brightened this city of ours tonight. However, the light was coming from another direction, this one was brighter, stronger and had tremendous energy. The core of Iranians' much-extended middle class Tehranies were at the airport tonight. Students, teachers, doctors, nurses, writers, journalists, artists, engineers, taxi drivers, housewives, retired people, factory owners and workers, managers, handicapped in chairs and even a couple of babies in their prams were all there.

Photo by Syma Sayyah

This was truly unprecedented since that of the Air France passenger's arrival so many years ago. But the air, mixture of people, and may be because we were all there to greet and welcome a Lady of our time, reminded me of the March 8th 1979 when women, without any organizations, got together and staged the very first demonstration under the new regime from Tehran university to Shahyad square which is near the airport. It was a great sense of nostalgia out there, for me at least, but I am sure I was not alone.

We checked it with many people who were familiar with crowd size and we took an average, there were about 20,000-25,000 people, give and take a couple of thousand max.

Photo by Syma Sayyah

I got home from my meeting just after 7:00 PM. I had arranged with my friends to meet in one place so that we could all leave together around 8:00 PM, as the plane was to land about 9:30. I booked the taxi and told the agency that we would be keeping the cab for many hours. We had decided to take as few cars as possible. By 8:00 the taxis had arrived, and a couple of friends were there with me, Golli a prominent writer & scholar and Ramin a very successful businessman. Two of the others were stuck in the traffic and three phoned to say that they go there by separate taxis. Two others who wanted to come were persuaded to stay home, as they were very ill with the terrible flu that has been going on Tehran recently.

We got to the airport just under 9:00 PM. We saw people parking their cars as we came down the bridge from Ekbatan (a huge building complex which is almost a town). It took us quite a few minutes to get down the airport's main entrance road; there we got off and agreed with the driver to meet there some times later. There were people moving in all directions, as we started. The officers were telling people that SHE will arrive in terminal 3, but not many believed them! Eventually the word got around that this was correct. Before we headed that way, I saw many police officers moving about and two groups of soldiers half-sitting half-standing near the junction between the terminals' road. It did make me feel a little uneasy and worried. Thankfully, they were there for our safety and all went well!

Photo by Syma Sayyah

Everybody had come on his or her own initiatives. Somehow, the word had gotten around that as a sign of celebration for this wonderful and special occasion, ladies were to wear white or light/bright color head covers. Almost everybody had done so, Golli convinced me to change my usual black one that I wear as a sign of quiet protest!

On our way, we had bought about 200 whites roses to throw on her path. As we were walking towards the terminal, Ramin kindly obliged a few ladies with a flower each. Then others came and asked for a white rose. We looked at each other and decided without saying much that these are Shirin Roses, so we gave them almost all to everybody that we passed. Many others had done the same and had brought their own flowers. I found Ladies wearing white head-scarf with a white flower in their hand, a most moving sign of hope. Yet, it sent shivers down my spine. We have been here before some 7 years back. People's hopes and expectations did not come true as it was supposed to have.

My heart deeply aches for Ms. Ebadi who has to carry on her shoulders the burden of hopes of so many thousands of her fellow country folks. I wish her strength, vitality and power to carry this heavy task before her. She knows that she can count on so many and we are all behind her like a wall of support, help and love. But it's her hour and her call. The good thing, this time, is that not only she is with us but she is also one of us too!

Photo by Syma Sayyah

At the airport, it was so moving, mother and daughters, aunts and uncles, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, friends and colleagues all alike. There were so many people scattered all around the huge parking lot. It felt like that we were all members of the same family.

On our way, someone somewhat jokingly asked: "is it true that the princess is coming!"

So many times people started to clap yet there was no sign of them. Eventually at about 10:30 PM she came out very briefly and said a few things, but I doubt if anyone heard what she said. It did not matter; we shall read it tomorrow, what mattered most was that we were there. The so many thousands of us from different walks of life. I saw people I had not seen for very long time. It was indeed very great to feel the bound that had brought us all there.

Jaye shoma kahli (we missed you!) but your spirits were there!

Photo by Syma Sayyah

Here are some of the slogans that people kept repeating:

Iran's National anthem that was written by late Dr Golgolab, aye-iran- aye-marze-pur-kohar, was also being song by people, although not always together, from the beginning to the end.

Photo by Syma Sayyah

Towards the end as we were leaving the parking lot, there were couple of banners by supporters of the regime. People started to bow them together, but others asked them to leave them be. I saw a young lady throw some old flowers at them. I loudly asked her to kindly refrain from doing so, because in a democratic society everybody should have a right to express himself or herself. She said but they do not know anything about democracy, and I replied "dearest, but we do and we must stand by our principle." By 11:30 the airport was back to normal and we all headed home in the taxi.

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