Iran News ...


06/18/09

Ely's Diary: An Extraordinary Day In The Life Of A Tehrani

By Elham Ahmadi, Tehran, RFE/RL

I woke up with a splitting headache this morning as the sounds of honking cars, loud explosions, and screams and chants of last night were still echoing in my head.

After sipping a dark coffee I headed toward the newspaper where I work.

To my surprise, the editor asked all ladies to leave the premises and not to come back to work until the situation calmed down. The secret police and "Ministry of Information Militia" have warned all journalists and anybody who works in newspapers that their lives are in their own hands. So the editors and the managers didn't want to take any risks and they respectfully asked all female employees to leave. It seems that the "modernizing traditional" society of Iran still considers all women "zaifeh" (more meek).

Kaffeeklatsch

I met a friend of mine for lunch at a hip coffee shop at 1 p.m. and our conversation -- like every other conversation at every other table -- was about the election, cheating, riots, and killings.
 
Rumors of foreign mercenaries doing the actual beating and shooting were interrupted when one person said, "The guns may be Russian-made, but we have to accept that our own people are killing us."
My friend, Maryam, was feeling unwell; she had been in Atieh Hospital in Shahraq Qarb, in northwest Tehran, that morning and had witnessed two people being treated in the emergency rooms: one person shot in the head and the other having lost a kidney after being struck with an ax.

As Maryam was speaking, a man sitting next to us took out a picture of a person who was shot during the June 15 demonstration near Azadi Square. Conversation flared up as everybody in the room lost their appetite and anger grew over the killings and the utter violence of the ruling elite in their attempt to control the situation and scare people off.

Rumors were floated of foreign mercenaries -- suspicions that Russians, Venezuelans, Lebanese, Sudanese, or Palestinians might be the ones who are doing the actual beating and shooting. But then one person said, "Hey, these are our own people, with their twisted fundamentalist mentality. The guns may be Russian-made, but we have to accept that our own people are killing us. We have to find a way to bring them back to us..."

His words rang in my ears.

'Don't Hit Us'

I knew that communication would be cut off in the afternoon (thanks to interesting technology provided by a particular Scandinavian IT company that enables the widespread disruption of communication among mobile phones). So I called my friends and coordinated our actions for the afternoon demonstration on Haft-e Tir Square and started to move to the area around 3 p.m.

On my way toward Haft-e Tir Square on Hemmat Highway (traveling west-to-east), I saw a column of black automobiles (VW vans and Toyota trucks) transporting antiriot guards toward Haft-e Tir Square. They were from the Sarallah Garrison, 13th division.

At first I wanted to roll down the window and start swearing at them from the bottom of my lungs, but then my ears started to ring again. So I rolled down the window and screamed "Khaste nabashin!" (a phrase in Persian that wishes relief of hard work for the other party) while flashing a victory sign with my fingers. It worked. A couple of them smiled back at me, and one of them secretly showed a V-sign while holding his hands hidden from others. The ice was broken. "Don't hit us," I cried as Maryam sped us off.

5 p.m., Haft-e Tir Square

Ever fearful of persecution, we met with our friends on a small quiet street off Bucharest Avenue (north of Haft-e Tir Square) and decided to walk in groups of two -- just as we did for the June 15 mass rally -- to reach Haft-e Tir Square.


Protesters in Tehran on June 17 (photo by Syma Sayyah)

 
As we walked down Bucharest Avenue and then Ghaem Magham Farahani Avenue (the continuation of Bucharest Avenue south of Motahari Boulevard) our numbers grew. It was like small streams of water coming together to make a large, thunderously roaring river.

I wondered whether we had sufficient unity to bring about change and whether our civilized restraint, while necessary and admirable, might allow a brutal fascism to prevail.

By the time we reached Haft-e Tir, the green of Musavi supporters and the white and red banners of the smaller groups of Karrubi supporters dominated the whole square. I lost all fear. Safety in numbers!

There was no sign of the darkened vehicles or any of the guards. The demonstrators started to educate the world. It was the most peaceful, civilized, and quiet demonstration that I had ever seen or heard. Over half a million people refrained from chanting a single word for over three hours.

What's To Come Of Us?

After 8 p.m., the "annoying but effective honking of car horns" campaign restarted.

As I headed home, I didn't see any burning dumpsters, tires, or motorbikes.

But I wondered whether we had sufficient unity to bring about change and whether our civilized restraint, while necessary and admirable, might allow a brutal fascism to prevail.

Right before I went to sleep, I heard the far-off sound of explosions.

Elham Ahmadi is pseudonym for a journalist in the Iranian capital, Tehran. He contributed this piece to RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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