Iran News ...


3/24/04

End of the Year Thoughts

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

 

We have had the first rains of the spring here in Tehran. I am sure many families woke up today to the terrible sound of thunder and witnessed the wonderful rain which followed, at nearly five in the morning [1].  I felt the spring breeze through the half open window and almost tasted the lovely fresh air that welcomed itself into my room. The next thing that went through my head was: "oh my god, I have so much to do today, and the traffic!" I nearly felt nostalgic about the long holiday that we had not so long ago.

 

 

Tehran is always wonderful when there is a long holiday - there is so much less traffic. During the last such occasion I managed again to get here and there, in the middle of the day, something which on a usual day in the middle of the week would seem impossible. 

 

We had the Tassoua va Ashoura [2], recently.  A lot happened during this period. There was a candle vigil by very smartly dressed young men and women in Mohseni Square which was severely opposed by the Hazboulah.   I also noticed many young people, well groomed, with fashionable haircuts, in their new expensive cars with latest car audio equipment, putting on religious tapes and turning the volume full blast so that it could be heard by those even far away! I could not decide whether these mostly young men were trying to mourn in a new modern way, or whether they were making fun of the authorities since they could not be easily told off when listening to what is known as 'rouzeh' [3], or if they wanted to share it with others.

 

There were also several big tekeyeh [4] in the streets of Northern Tehran where many would go to in the evenings during the ten special days of Moharram, listen to the rouzeh, and feel the pain suffered by Imam Hussein and his devotees. Moreover, I was overwhelmed at the sight of many 'Westernized' Tehranis who stood in long queues to get their share of the Nazri [5], throughout the streets of Northern Tehran. It would be more appropriate in southern parts of the city, but it was everywhere. Nazries, mostly gheymeh va polou [6] made me more confused. I wondered - was this hypocrisy?!

 

At the same time, many of us were still thinking about the results of last month's election; even though for many this is indeed yesterday's news.  Of-course everybody knew what the results would be. Nevertheless many were surprised at the final turnout of people who cast their votes. One may wonder as to where all these people sprang up from.

 

Whether you like it or not, the numbers were truly there. Even if the exact figure is an exaggeration, it is only a slight one.   The system used all possible marketing tools: modern radio/TV or old fashioned ones - the Seyed Presidents almost begging people to go out to vote. They used every possible means of encouraging, forcing [7], enticing, reaching out to and for all kinds of worldly and unworldly stuff.

 

On that day, I was out on the streets in the north and center of Tehran most of the day, and in the evening, taking care of family or social responsibilities. The streets were exceptionally quiet in the morning. It was a very calm Friday morning. In the afternoon there was a little traffic but then people visit friends and family on Fridays or meet each other for lunch.  About noon I was near the Governor's HQ and there were more security personal than people coming to vote.  I spoke with a couple of friends who had been up and down Tehran from Shermiran to Share-Ray near Behest-Zahra; there was no queue anywhere to write home about. However in the evening it was a different picture. There was a visible movement and change in the air as I passed by a couple of polling stations on my way to and from places I had to go. The voting had been extended until 10 pm, and it seems that at least a third of all votes in Tehran were cast between 7 to 10 pm. I wondered who these people were. I could see them, families of middle class and the new middle class, mostly government employees with good jobs and even better perks, got the warning signs and acted out of consideration for their own material advantages or social benefits, which one must understand!

 

Most of them in their mid 40's to mid 50's with grey hair here and there, in their Peugeot 1600 cars, with all the trappings of managerial perks within the system, who drove over and cast their votes along with their mostly nuclear family units. There were some other groups who just wanted to match what the Jones did. Many in this group probably had decided to abstain and leave all this game to its players; yet at the last minute, when they realized that many of their neighbors or colleagues or family members had voted, they suddenly changed their position and decided that it may not be "good" for them to not have the Election Stamp on their ID, and so they went and voted too.

 

Again fear has prevailed.  Many young people, very modern ones as well, who for one reason or another need to work with the system, or to register for this or that, voted as well. As one of them told me "when I vote, my name is entered into the computer and that will be good for me, one never knows!" Again a mixture of fear and self-interest - future one indeed - prevailed.  My only regret is that many of these people who rushed to vote for anyone just to get their names registered, if had thought about this before they could/would have at least chosen candidates who were more in line with themselves.  Nevertheless, all those people who did or did not vote exercised their rights in this process. Choice is the essence of democracy. One can only hope that this choice will come to be free in every respect for all.

 

Considering what has been happening in the political spectrum, I simply wonder in amazement how can the 'system' be so na´ve.  They have the power; they have the control; so why do they bother with little silly acts [8] that can only undermine and make the related events seem totally out of proportion? Last week I came across an article which I had cut and kept in my files, from International Herald Tribune [9], published many years ago, titled Liberal Democracy is About More Than Voting. How well that applies to our situation here in Iran. Not perhaps, but indeed it is still too early for the real practice of democracy to be exercised. But no matter what is happening now, the forces of change are here to stay, and the real thing will eventually take place.

 

[1] This was before we had the snow a few days later.

[2] Tasoua va Ashoura are holy mourning dates in the first month of Shia Islam 's calendar called Moharam. Imam Hussein and his knights fought and died in Karbella at this time

[3] Rouzeh is a kind of sermon in Shia Islam which remembers the pain and agony that Islam's devotees suffered in the heat and the sacrifices they made.

[4] Tekeyeh: is a temporary tent set up for people to gather in during ten special days in the holy month of Moharram.

[5] Nazrie is food cooked as an annual custom, usually during the religious holy days, to give away to friends and relatives as well as those in need.

[6] Geymeh is a stew made from meat-lamb or beef-lentils cooked in tomato paste with dry lemons and served with rice and fried potatoes.

[7] There were many rumors during the day that if one did not vote, then one could not do this or would not be eligible for that.

[8] The cancellation of Iran Pen meeting and the 8th of March gathering.

[9] Liberal Democracy Is About More Than Voting, by Stephen Rosenfeld - International Herlad Tribune, Monday, December 8, 1997 page 8.

 

 

... Payvand News - 3/24/04 ... --



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