Photo caption: on the last day of campaigning prior to election day.
Theme song for my trip to Iran. I should’ve said this earlier in these blogs; I’ve been playing the 9th song (Sound of your heart) of Benyamin’s latest CD in my head. All the songs in this album are pretty good and I recommend the CD.
Tehran is a megapolis 15 million and counting, not to mention Karaj which for all intent and purposes is now part of the greater Tehran. Vali Asr was the hub but Tehran was green, green everywhere. During my stay I also visited few other cities and it was the same story; more Mousavi signs and exuberance than Ahmadi’s.
On the Election Day we went out and voted and there were lines everywhere. I actually took 5 family members with me to the polling station who’d not have voted if I wasn’t there. All and all I’d say count me in for about 8 - 10 votes, not bad. It was a nice sunny day and everything felt good. It was a promising day. I went to bed too tired to stay up and watch the election results. The next day I got up the usual 8ish and the first thing I did was to turn on the TV. I saw Ahmadi with 63% of the vote. WTF?? It didn’t sound right. I felt crummy and told others the news but they already knew it.
I went out for the morning bread and at the bakery the mood was somber. One man was explaining that Ahmadi won because some people had broken the sanctity of the color green (color of Muhammad and his family root) by turning it into dog leashes, ties and belts. Someone else responded that it was basijis who did it; none of Mousavi’s supporters would do such a thing. Later that morning I went to get the morning paper and at the newsstand someone was saying this is the biggest cheating ever recorded. It was no different in the cabs.
I had actually planned an outing in a restaurant with family and friends Saturday night. I had figured it’d be a good time to get together and celebrate Mousavi’s victory. I thought it’d feel a little like Obama’s victory and cause for celebration. They don’t have Inaugural Balls there so I figured we can have one of our own! Later I had to cancel when guests started calling and saying things are happening and not a good time to go out and eat!
It must have been around 3 or 4 in the afternoon when I heard the first news of actual burning of motorcycles and trash cans in the streets. We came out and walked only 2 blocks and saw the streets once again blocked in traffic like in the days before the election with peaceful rallies. We could see smoke in the distance and people running around and neighbors looking out their windows. Shops were closing around 4 PM and by 5 it felt like a general strike by default!
We went back home and brought our cars inside. Internet and satellite news media as well as cell phone were all blocked. That day I felt like it was 9/11 in another way. People were worried and wondering.
At night we heard the first chants of allaho-akbar and death to dictator. It became louder by around 11 and it must have gone on for another hour or so before I fell asleep. Allah-o akbars at nights would become louder one night and less the other.
While people did not expect this result, even Ahmadi’s supporters didn’t expect the 63%, I believe they saw this as an opportunity to continue the movement and fight for their rights. The cat was out of the bag during the debates and regime was trying to use the huge turnout to their advantage. They had a sign of “epic 22 khordad” (epic election day) on all TV channels in the corner. This was a spit in the face of all who voted. Something this regime is never shy of is mistreating its own people. However, people would use this epic thing as their basis to naturally think they could go out and protest peacefully and quietly like they had done prior to election day.
I believe Iran’s non-violent movement started with the debates (not much was happening prior to debates), huge voter turnout and people’s raised expectation and a cry for democracy. Many outside Iran were calling for boycotting the election. Had people followed their advice and not voted would we be seeing these protests? In fact people in Iran “woke” these people out of their ‘rabbit sleep’. I don’t know where exactly these protests are leading but they have established a foundation to build on. I believe their immediate demand is for rule of law and equal protection under the law.
Within a month some outside Iran are calling for armed response and general strikes. A month! You need more than a month to plan a one week Caribbean vacation. So hang on if the non-violent movement is not to your liking or too slow for you. People in Iran are not protesting and risking their lives and livelihoods for those sitting outside and making noise. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there does it make a sound? I believe if a non-violent movement doesn’t exist people in Iran want to create one and if one has already begun they want to grow it.
They protested ‘silently’ 2 or 3 days after the election day with a rally from 7 Tir (previously 25 sharivar) to Vali Asr square in response to Ahmadi’s claim that those protesting are “weeds”. It was a huge rally and Karoubi’s paper published a picture on Karimkhan bridge full of people with a caption saying the “rally of the weeds”! By the way Karoubi’s paper (etemad melli) was more expensive than other daily papers. While others were 50 toman (about 5 cents), his was 400 toman (40 cents).
The victory sign was all they needed. In fact in one cab I was talking to a young cab driver and told him I wish our youth (ala My Cousin Vinny :-) all the success in the world and talked to him about the clashes, burnings and protests. He said there is no longer a need to “chant” anything. All we need is the victory sign and no more talking. He was right and as you walked in the streets people would show each other the victory sign and smile and move on.
I remember prior to election I asked some of our young family members what are you going to do if Ahmadi wins. They said the popular belief and plan is that ‘we will have another revolution’. They said they are worried Ahmadi will change the constitution and make himself president for life like his buddy Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Many were concerned about the possibility of an upcoming brutal retaliation and how it’ll dampen the mood and make things even worse than before. With Khamenei’s Friday prayer it became clear that was coming. That Friday night the allah-o akbar and death to dictator chants were louder. That day people were talking about how he has lost his “prestige” and how people are fed up with him now that he is threatening them.
I believe the major difference between 1979 and 2009 is the fact that in 1979 Shah turned his military against the people and the enemy was clear and in front of them which was his military. Where were Shah’s supporters, where did they show up to protest and how many were there? Silent majority don’t count. In 2009 this regime has bred an army of poor/dependent people which it uses to boast its popularity in times of need such as this. They bus them around and have rallies and Friday prayers where they chant death to this and that.
In effect Khamenei’s solution is to turn one group of people against another and both sides have large enough numbers. Not to mention the backing of security forces and their brutality under the guise of Islam.
This ‘culture of creating poor depending on Govt handouts’ was brought to light in Rezaei-Ahmadinejad debate. Other candidates made the same point but Rezaei’s was more prominent and clear in form of calling out the “sahmiyeh edaalat” (Justice Fund). By the way Rezaei also brought up the negative vote counting on TV, here’s photo proof showing his votes were “reduced” few hours later.
Many small businesses suffered because they couldn’t open their shops due to violence around and people won’t go out for shopping or eat in the afternoons.
It is the responsibility of the Govt to allow organized peaceful rallies so people can voice their concerns and objections. But that is not about to happen and violent response is all we’re seeing for now. People want a peaceful movement because they know having one is a huge victory against the regime. No non-violent movement has ever been violence free; in fact many of them were born out of the violence.
As one blogger said recently Iran’s non-violent movement is a dream but dreams can come true! They’ve come this far and I hope their desire to keep this movement becomes a reality and we can find our own Gandi or Martin Luther King. If Mousavi is to be the man so be it. People can change and he is capable and has a strong following. The jury is still out on him. Don’t forget Mousavi, until identified otherwise, is the official leader of the green (read non-violent) movement. I think this is more than what he bargained for but it is what it is.
The idiots in regime are worried about velvet “revolutions” and they are so stupid that they forget the so called “velvet” part is when Soviet Union “collapsed” and its satellite states went their own way and since their economies were so dependent on the Soviet economies, it was their economy that collapsed first and since there were no other alternatives, western style economy and democratic aspirations naturally prevailed.
I wish strength, luck and courage for Iranians and in particular our younger generation in every corner of Iran. I wish for a strong non-violent movement like other parts of the world where they can raise their voice and just demands. If there is anything we can do is to follow their lead. There was the student movement and then women’s movement with their one million signature campaign and now this movement which is bringing in more diverse sections of society.
Now since Iranians are notoriously impatient I give you a topic; Iran’s non-violent movement is neither non-violent, nor a movement. Discuss!
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