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Second Letter from Tehran: The shock continues

06/17/09 - On Monday people gathered despite no permission and threats in the Azadi Square. I personally saw the tip of the crowd entering the Azadi Square at 4:50pm and the people were pouring in continuously well beyond 7:30pm. There was no car traffic and all the lanes were full of the people who were marching in. There is so much footage of this to leave no doubt. I walked back from Azadi against the flow of the crowd at 7:10pm and people were still coming. A Sharif Professor told me that he walked back from Azadi Sq when it was filled all the way towards Enghelab Square (4.83 KM of a 6 lane Blvd) and the people were coming. He described this bigger than the biggest rallies he has seen in the past 20 years for 22 of Bahman which is the anniversary of the success of the revolution. Some other reliable participants told me that the march started from Imam Hossein square (exactly 9.99 KM away). Needless to say that IRIB (Iran's official broadcast company) every year encourages the people for a whole week before the anniversary of the revolution to participate in the march. I liken the event in magnitude and hopefully impact to the famous Tassoa-Ashura demonstrations at the time of the Shah.

People heading to Azadi sqaure in Tehran on June 15

Here is a listing of the slogans that people repeated in various groups. There was no central organization and this demonstration could for all practical purposed be called spontaneous.

Allaho Akbar, Allaho Akbar (God is the greatest, god is the greatest)

Nasro men Allah va fat-hon gharib, marg bar in dolate mardom farib (With the help (overcoming) from god, success is so close, death to this people-deceiving government). This was one of the key slogans of the revolution 30 years ago.

Nange maa, Seda va simaaye ma (Our shame, our TV and Radio broadcast companies). This refers to the Radio and TV company total news black-out on the opposition candidates and demonstrators.

Ahmady goossaleh, baazam migi footballe? (Oh Ahmady "the calf", do you still call this soccer?) Calf is a symbol of stupidity in the Iranian culture, and Ahmadinejad had likened the protestors to losers of a soccer game! It also refers to a very famous slogan of the revolution time referring to general Az-haari the head of the shah's military cabinet who had called the chants of Allaho Akbar at nights from the roof-tops as cassette player recordings. At the time under martial law people would run from one roof top to another to chant. That slogan said: Az-haari bichaare, bazam migi navaare, navaar ke pa nadare (Oh Az-haari "the miserable", do you still call this cassette tape? Cassette tapes do not have legs to run!).

Ahmady be hoosh bash, maa mardomim na obaash (Ahmady wake up [be alert], we are people not hooligans). This was referring to Ahmadinejad's insulting characterization of protestors the day before.

Khaso khaashak to-ee, doshman in khak to-ee ("Dust and garden garbage" is yourself, the enemy of this land is yourself!) Again referring to the characterization of the protestors the day before by Ahmadinejad.

Gofteboodam agar taghalob beshe Iran ghiamat mishe, hala taghalob shode, Iran gheiamat shode (I had told you that in case of cheating in the elections there will be an uprising [like in the hereafter], now there has been cheating and there is an uprising in Iran.

Yaa Hossein, Mir Hossein (Oh Hossein, Mir Hossein). The first Hossein refers to Imam Hossein the great icon of Shiite Islam whose martyrdom 50 years after the prophet by the ruling government that had gradually deviated from the true teachings of the prophet is an everlasting inspiration for Shiites and the 2nd clause is the first name of Mr. Moussavi drawing a parallel.

Marg bar dictator, che shah bashe che Doctor (Death to the dictator, whether he is the Shah or the Doctor). The Shah refers to the last Pahlavi king and the doctor refers to Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Mijangam, mimiram, rayamo pass migiram (I will fight, I will die, I will take back my vote)

In shasto seh darsad ke migan koo? Doroughgoo! (Where is this 63% that they talk about? You liar). The government claims that AhmadyNezahd won 63% of the votes. So by this slogan people are referring to their own sheer numbers and are asking to see Ahmadinejad's supporters. The word liar became synonymous with Ahmadinejad during the campaign when he claimed that the inflation rate is 15%.

Taghalob 1 darsad 2 darsad na panjaho seh darsad (Cheating can be 1%, or 2% not 53%). This exaggerates that Ahmadinejad has only won 10% of the vote.

Yesterday there was a gathering in Vali Asr square of Mr. Ahmadinejad's supporters. In the last thirty years I do not remember political gatherings to have been held in Vali Asr Square. Choice of this location is a new invention to hide the numbers. Yet this relatively small number of supporters compared with Moussavi's was shown with Helicopter footage for hours on our national TV (See figures 1 & 2).

The sheer number of the people on Monday in Azadi Square (216000 square meters plus the 6 lane 4KM Azadi Ave. up to Enghelab Square which is another 80,000 square meters) and a fair comparison with Tuesday gathering of Ahmadinejad supporters in the Vali Asr Square (10,000 square meters I measured personally today using a GPS, and also measured in the Google map in figure 2 including all the connecting Blvd's as they were shown for hours on the IRIB helicopter footage does not exceed 32000 Square meters. This is 9 times less area and hence less supporters.). This should convince all that we are passing through a great moment in our history as the massive numbers claimed for Ahmadinejad are just not there. It is also so sad that in front of the amazed people of the world so much effort and energy has to be spent to measure square meter areas to prove our point while putting the details of votes per individual polling boxes in an excel file on internet is as simple as a few computer strokes for our ministry of interior. What is more important than numbers is the dignity and honor of the Iranians that feel so strongly and react in masses when they feel violated.

Figure 1: Azadi Square without Azadi Ave measures 216000 square meters. With the 4KM distance to Enghelab square people densely covered an area estimated to be 296000 square meters. (see high resolution)


Figure 2: Vali Asr Square with all the connecting Blvd's included and with an area more than what was shown on IRIB footage for hours covers 32000 square meters. That is 9 times less than Azadi Square. (see high resolution)


In the Monday Azadi rally people called for a gathering in ValiAsr Square on Tuesday at 5pm and when Ahmadinejad supporters called for a gathering at the same place at 4pm I was concerned about clashes. I have personally seen plain clothes security people and bassijees with sticks and weapons in previous days. The killings at the end of the peaceful massive and unprecedented Azadi rally made me so concerned about "unarmed people" against organized "plain clothes and armed basijees" under the guise of "people" against "people" clashes. Interestingly simultaneous with the Ahmadinejad supporters in ValiAsr Square there was a silent walk from Saeei park towards Tajrish square heading away north. This was a spontaneous gathering too it was a very smart move showing that Mr. Moussavi's supporters want to be peaceful and were walking away from Ahmadinejad supporters. Interestingly, people carried their slogans on pieces of paper. One written slogan one participant told me was "Ma khasso khashak nistim, bademjoon foroush" which means "We are not dust and garden garbage, you eggplant peddler". This refers to Ahmadinejad characterization of the protestors, and the eggplant peddler refers to Ahmadinejad's campaign film in which he showed his small home garden where he grows eggplants implying that he is such a modest man. Another written slogan was "Ey Akharin Monji bia va benegar ke beh naame to cheh bar saremaan avarand" (Oh You the last savior (i.e. Mahdi for Shiites and Messiah for Christians) do return and watch what is being done to us under your name). The same person told me that a police officer watching the peaceful march of the people in the Valli Asr street heading north smiled and said we are "green" too referring to their green apparel which is the adopted color of Moussavi supporters.

The silent march on June 16 in Tehran - photo by Syma Sayyah

Despite all this it is amazing that IRIB continues its adamant refusal to give coverage making a mockery of whatever that may be called professional journalism. No interview have been conducted with Mr. Moussavi, Mr. Karroubi or even Mr. Rezai who were the other candidates or their supporters for 4 days after the election. There is still no SMS throughout the country. Mobile phones are cut-off in the areas where there is people gathering. Access to so many previously accessible websites remains restricted including simple news web sites and access to Moussavi web sites and many other web sites are only possible through strong filter breakers.

In the last few days IRIB pretty much sounds like the Iran TV and Radio 30 years ago when people overtook Tabriz for 3 days at the time of the shah. At that time, the Shah government blamed foreigners who had come down from then Soviet border to Tabriz!  At the time the TV broadcasting organization conducted interviews with government agents posing as normal people condemning the "hooligans". All yesterday and today the IRIB was broadcasting interviews with supposedly ordinary people and parliament members condemning violence and destruction of property implying that all protests are only violent.

On Tuesday night Mr. Haidari the respectable TV host of a popular political analysis program was the first voice of reason that came out of IRIB. He raised a smart question. Are we converting an opportunity to a threat? He was conducting an interview with two relatively moderate right wing parliament members.

There was a rumor about University professors resigning. I did check with several professors and they think that the Ahmadinejad government may actually welcome their resignation converting that to an opportunity to deplete the universities from the more experienced and responsible faculty who oppose his policies. Nevertheless, this option has been seriously considered.

Again these are key questions that we ask our esteemed leader His Spiritual Highness Mr. Khamenei:

  1. Your Excellency gathered all the 4 candidate campaign staff in a meeting with you yesterday (Tuesday). We need your positive intervention. IRIB which is known to be controlled by your office is making this great country of ours look like a police state to the outside world. The denials of IRIB and this government of all the events will only hurt our system bringing us close to political illegitimacy.
  2. As a 50 year old Iranian I was so concerned about how we want to deliver the effort of the last 30 years to our next generation. Thirty years from now neither me nor you will be around to tell our new generation what to do. For any country with 80+ percent participation in the elections after 30 years with no coercion and no threat, is a dream for government. Your IRIB calls the protestors "hooligans" while this is a new generation who is chanting Allaho Akbar (god is the greatest) from their roof tops every night and in marches and critical of a president who is degrading people with his actions. What IRIB does is done in a way that I have not seen in years emulating the TV broadcasting company of the Shah.  What IRIB has forgotten is that at the time of the shah there was no internet, no email, no mobile phones with cameras and yet the truth came out. Now the truth is coming out instantly and broadcast all over the world, with this write-up being another prime example. The coverage of IRIB and blaming the US and UK and France and Germany for the people's truly legal requests is making a mockery of our system in the eyes of the world. This is again something unprecedented in the past 30 years.
  3. Please embrace all of our youth including the majority of our new generation for their care for Iran and the revolution, for their lack of fear of plain clothes security forces, for their lack of fear of the ominous sounding anti riot motor cycles with baton wielding co-riders and for their dignity that is bringing them peacefully to the streets despite the threats.
  4. Remove the head of the IRIB who has totally disgraced all that we achieved in the last 30 years in the last one week.
  5. Remember the late dear Imam when he said people "With the power given to me through repeated confirmations and demonstrations... " it is nice that you are following the law. But be kind to note that as a great moslem nation we have been insulted in the past few days with lack of transparency when it comes to election data, lack of means of basic communications like SMS, lack of proper channels of communication for the opposition candidates, ransacking of the student dormitories in Isfahan university of Technology and University of Tehran, killing of peaceful demonstrators in Azadi square all bringing our system to the brink of illegitimacy quite unlike the solid, strong, confident and united people as we were last week. Not only the previous precedence of the late Imam but also the nature of your office and the letter of the law allows you to nullify the election and embrace our insulted people. This is indeed one of the key strengths of the office of jurisprudent.
  6. My concern is that delays in this action will result in more street clashes, destruction, killing and combined with the strange IRIB behavior will result in new demands by the opposition and conversion of the slogans to things that will target our whole system rather than a president whose remarks and actions have humiliated the people. If you do not take proper action then conversion of a major opportunity to a threat and the possibility of true foreign intervention and manipulation will be a self fulfilling prophecy.

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