Our wonderful composer, Andre Barros worked with us to produce beautiful music for WOUNDS. Here’s the music video of the title song:
Our wonderful composer, Andre Barros worked with us to produce beautiful music for WOUNDS. Here’s the music video of the title song:
Some students and I had an exchange with NSA recruiters today. The audio and a rough transcript below.
The NSA came to recruit at a language program at the University of Wisconsin where I am spending my summer learning a language. Two recruiters, a redhead who looked more like a middle-aged mother (listed as “NSA_F” below) and a portly, balding man (“NSA_M”), began to go through slides explaining the NSA and its work.
I had intended to go simply to hear how the NSA is recruiting at a moment when it’s facing severe challenges, what with the Edward Snowden and all. Dismayingly, however, a local high school teacher had thought it was good to bring 5 of his students to the session. They were smartly dressed, some of them even wearing ties as if there might be a job interview, young faces in a classroom of graduate students. They sat across from me at the roundtable. It was really their presence that goaded me–and I think a couple of other students–into an interaction with the recruiters.
Roughly half an hour into the session, the exchange below began. I began by asking them how they understood the term “adversary” since the surveillance seems to be far beyond those the American state classifies as enemies, and their understanding of that ties into the recruiters’ earlier statement that “the globe is our playground.” I ended up asking them whether being a liar was a qualification for the NSA because:
@Madi_Hatter a 2008 slideshow for college seniors considering CIA careers asked potential applicants: “Are you good at manipulating people?”
— David Mehnert (@Savants) July 2, 2013
The NSA’s instrumental understanding of language as well as its claustrophobic social world was readily apparent. One of the recruiters discussed how they tend to socialize after work, dressing up in costumes and getting drunk (referenced below). I can imagine that also exerts a lot of social pressure and works as a kind of social closure from which it would be difficult to escape. The last thing I want to point out –once again– their defense seems to be that it’s legal. What is legal is not just.
Someone else happened to record it on an iPhone, hence the audio quality. It’s been edited mainly to cut garbled audio or audio that wouldn’t have made sense and edit out questions and comments from people who didn’t explicitly say it was ok to post their audio.You’ll hear the sound drop out for a second to mark the cuts.
Me: You said earlier that the two tasks that you do: one is tracking down the communications of your adversaries and the other is protecting the communications of officials. So, do you consider Germany and the countries the US has been spying on to be adversaries or are you, right now, not speaking the truth?
Me: I mean do you consider European countries, etc, adversaries or are you, right now, not telling us the truth and lying when you say that actually you simply track – you keep focusing on that, but clearly the NSA is doing a lot more than that, as we know, so I’m just asking for a clarification.
NSA_F: I’m focusing on what our foreign intelligence requires of [garbled] so, I mean you know, You can define adversary as enemy and clearly, Germany is not our enemy but would we have foreign
national interest from an intelligence perspective on what’s going on across the globe. Yeah, we do. That’s our requirements that come to us as an intelligence community organization from the policymakers, from the military, from whoever –our global so–
Me: So adversary –adversaries you actually mean anybody and everybody. There’s nobody then by your definition that is not an adversary. Is that correct?
NSA_F: That is not correct.
Me: Who is not an adversary?
NSA_F: Well, ok. I can answer your questions but the reality is—
Me: No, I’m just trying to get a clarification because you told us what the two nodes of your work are but it’s not clear to me what that encompasses and you’re being fairly unclear at the moment. Apparently it’s somebody who’s not just an enemy. It’s something broader than that. And yet, it doesn’t seem to encompass everyone.
NSA_M: So for us, umm, our business is apolitical. Ok. We do not generate the intelligence requirements. They are levied on us so, if there is a requirement for foreign intelligence concerning this issue or this region or whatever then that is. If you wanna use the word adversary, you ca– we
might use the word ‘target.’ That is what we are going after. That is the intelligence target that we are going after because we were given that requirement. Whether that’s adversary in a global war on terrorism sense or adversary in terms of national security interests or whatever – that’s for policymakers, I guess to make that determination. We respond to the requirements we are given, if that helps. And there’s a separation. As language analysts, we work on the SIG INT side of the house. We don’t really work on the information assurance (?) side of the house. That’s the guy setting up, protecting our communications.
Me: I’m just surprised that for language analysts, you’re incredibly imprecise with your language. And it just doesn’t seem to be clear. So, adversary is basically what any of your so-called “customers” as you call them –which is also a strange term to use for a government agency– decide if anybody wants, any part of the government wants something about some country, suddenly they are now internally considered or termed an ‘adversary.’ That’s what you seem to be saying.
NSA_M: I’m saying you can think about it using that term.
NSA_F: But the reality is it’s our government’s interest in what a foreign government or foreign country is doing.
Me: Right. So adversary can be anyone.
NSA_M: As long as they levy their requirement on us thru the right vehicle that exists for this and that it is defined in terms of a foreign intelligence requirement, there’s a national framework of foreign intelligence – what’s it called?
NSA_M: the national prioritization of intelligence framework or whatever that determines these are the issues that we are interested in, these are how they are prioritized.
Me: Your slide said adversary. It might be a bit better to say “target” but it’s not just a word game. The problem is these countries are fairly –I think Afghanistan is probably not shocked to realize they’re on the list. I think Germany seems to be quite shocked at what has been going on. This is not just a word game and you understand that as well as I do. So, it’s very strange that you’re selling yourself here in one particular fashion when it’s absolutely not true.
NSA_F: I don’t think we’re selling ourselves in an untrue fashion.
Me: Well, this is a recruiting session and you are telling us things that aren’t true. We also know that the NSA took down brochures and fact sheets after the Snowden revelations because those brochures also had severe inaccuracies and untruths in them. So, how are we supposed to believe what you’re saying?
Student A (female): I have a lifestyle question that you seem to be selling. It sounds more like a colonial expedition. You know the “globe is our playground” is the words you used, the phrasing that you used and you seem to be saying that you can do your work. You can analyze said documents for your so-called customers but then you can go and get drunk and dress up and have fun without thinking of the repercussions of the info you’re analyzing has on the rest of the world. I also want to know what are the qualifications that one needs to become a whistleblower because that sounds like a much more interesting job. And I think the Edward Snowdens and the Bradley Mannings and Julian Assanges of the world will prevail ultimately.
NSA_M: I’m not sure what the —
Me: The question here is do you actually think about the ramifications of the work that you do, which is deeply problematic, or do you just dress up in costumes and get drunk? [This is in reference to an earlier comment made by the recruiters in which NSA_F said: they do heady work and then they go down to the bar and dress up in costume and do karaoke. I tweeted it earlier.]
NSA_M: That’s why, as I was saying, reporting the info in the right context is so important because the consequences of bad political decisions by our policymakers is something we all suffer from.
Student A: And people suffer from the misinformation that you pass along so you should take responsibility as well.
NSA_M: We take it very seriously that when we give info to our policy makers that we do give it to them in the right context so that they can make the best decision with the best info available.
Student B: Is that what Clapper was doing when he perjured himself in front of Congress? Was he giving accurate information when he said we do not collect any intelligence on the US citizens that it’s only occasionally unintentionally or was he perjuring himself when he made a statement before Congress under oath that he later declared to be erroneous or
at least, untruthful the least truthful answer? How do you feel personally having a boss whose comfortable perjuring himself in front of Congress?
NSA_F: Our director is not general Clapper.
Student B: General Alexander also lied in front of Congress.
NSA_F: I don’t know about that.
Student B: Probably because access to the Guardian is restricted on the NSA’s computers. I am sure they don’t encourage people like you to actually think about these things. Thank God for a man like Edward Snowden who your organization is now part of a manhunt trying to track down, trying to put him in a little hole somewhere for the rest of his life. Thank god they exist.
Student A: and why are you denigrating anything else with language? We don’t do this; we don’t do that; we don’t read cultural artifacts, poetry? There are other things to do with language other than joining this group, ok. [last line of this comment was directed at the high school students.]
NSA_M: This job is not for everybody. Academia is a great career for people with language.
Me: So is this job for liars? Is this what you’re saying? Because, clearly, you’re not able to give us forthright answers. Given the way the way the NSA has behaved, given the fact that we’ve been lied to as Americans, given the fact that fact sheets have been pulled down because they clearly had untruths in them, given the fact that Clapper and Alexander lied to Congress — is that a qualification for being in the NSA? Do you have to be a good liar?
NSA_F: I don’t consider myself to be a liar in any fashion and the reality is I mean, this was billed as if you are potentially interested in an NSA career come to our session. If you’re not, if this is your personal belief and you’re understanding of what has been presented then there is nothing that says you need to come and apply and work for us. We are not here — our role as NSA employees is not to represent NSA the things that are in the press right now about the NSA. That’s not our role at all. That’s not my area of expertise. I have not read–
Me: Right, but you’re here recruiting so you’re selling the organization. I mean I’m less interested in what your specialized role is within in the NSA. I don’t care. The fact is you’re here presenting a public face for the NSA and you’re trying to sell the organization to people that are as young as high schoolers and trying to tell us that this is an attractive option in a context in which we clearly know that the NSA has been telling us complete lies. So, I’m wondering is that a qualification?
NSA_F: I don’t believe the NSA is telling complete lies. And I do believe that you know, people can, you can read a lot of different things that are portrayed as fact and that doesn’t make them fact just because they’re in newspapers.
Student A: Or intelligence reports.
NSA_F: That’s not really our purpose here today and I think if you’re not interested in that. There are people here who are probably interested in a language career.
Me: The trouble is we can’t opt out of NSA surveillance and we don’t get answers. It’s not an option. You’re posing it as a choice like ‘oh you know people who are interested can just sit here and those of us who are not interested can just leave.’ If I could opt out of NSA surveillance and it was no longer my business, that would be fine. But it is my business because all of us are being surveilled so we’re here.
NSA_F: That is incorrect. That is not our job. That is not our business.
Me: That doesn’t seem to be incorrect given the leaks. Right, and the NSA has not been able to actually put out anything that is convincing or contrary to that.
Student A: I don’t understand what’s wrong with having some accountability.
NSA_F: We have complete accountability and there is absolutely nothing that we can or have done without approval of the 3 branches of the government. The programs that we’re enacting–
Student B: Did you read the NY Times? Did you read about the illegal wiretapping? Why are you lying?
NSA_M: Did you read the Senate judiciary report that said there have only been 15 (?) instances, and they were all documented and done correctly by the FISA courts–
Student B: I’d love to read the opinion of the FISA court that says that
this program one of the NSA’s programs was violating the 4th amendment right of massive amounts of Americans, but it’s a big ‘ol secret and only people like you who will not talk with their wives when they get home about what they do all day are able to…[garbled]…protecting us from the ‘terrorist threat’, but let’s let everyone here hear more information about karaoke.
In a heartrending report in the Los Angeles Times today, Alex Rodriguez describes how Sunni bus riders managed to save the lives of Shias by refusing to identify them to the attackers:
One Sunni, college student Ghulam Mustafa, 19, confronted the militants, saying that killing Shiites was wrong. He was shot dead, the gunmen pumping seven bullets into his back, chest and head.
Sunni passengers were then asked to point out people they thought were Shiites. Many could have done so because they came from the same villages. Yet they refused to cooperate, which survivors say saved at least 10 people.
Full story here.
Since there’s more to Pakistan than mullah madness. One of the striking features of Pakistan’s economic landscape are the sheer number of workers’ protests and strikes that happen here. Labor violations are flagrant, and workers demonstrations are heated. Last week, fifteen thousand workers went on strike in one of the largest protests of shipbreaking workers in Gadani, a small town on the southern tip of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and most destitute province. A friend went to check out their protest, and we’ve pulled together a video:
Some details on the strike:
Interestingly enough, despite crises in other national industries, ship-breaking in Gadani has actually seen a boon in business over the past two years, owing partly to a government decision to cut the import duty on arriving ships. Moreover, the worldwide crisis has even benefited yard owners, as a slumping shipping industry has been discarding defunct ships at lower-than-usual prices….
According to the union, this recovery has gone hand-in-hand with super-profits for the yard’s owners. In a recent press conference held while negotiations were still ongoing, representatives from GSBDWU highlighted, in some detail, the miniscule fraction of total revenue which accrues to workers. An additional chunk-roughly as high as a third of the amount made by the workers, collectively–is taken by the contractor, or jamadar (under Pakistani labor law, it bears repeating, this arrangement–whereby employers wash their hands of responsibility to their workers through a system of contractor-based employment-is manifestly illegal; yet you would be hard-pressed to find a company, in any industry, innocent of the practice). It scarcely needs to be reiterated that the rampant inflation of recent years has rendered the workers’ share in wages entirely inadequate. Moreover, at the aforementioned press conference it was added that workers find themselves pitilessly exploited as consumers, too-food in the few canteens made available to them sells at extortionate prices.
Arguably even more damning than these levels of exploitation, though, are the horrific conditions in which Gadani’s workers toil. The absence of safety equipment and regulations have been the central tenet of the union’s recent campaign-workers are denied goggles, harnesses, belts, etc., and there are no emergency medical facilities in the near vicinity. As a result, a staggering eighteen workers have died, on the job, in this year alone-the most recent man was only twenty-five years-old. He fell to his death while climbing an oil-coated ladder in near-darkness last week.
Read Adaner’s full article here.
Karachi based activists have organized a protest against the recent attacks of the Pakistani Army on Pakistani which resulted in numerous civilian deaths.
This is their press statement:
More than 73 civilians have been killed in an air strike by a Pakistani Army jet on a remote village in the country’s troubled North-West, media reports said Tuesday.
A unnamed military official disclosed that the bombing in the tribal Khyber region took place on Saturday, but news of the operation emerged only now.
The same jet was also used for bombing Taliban positions in neighboring Orakzai tribal region where the militants fled to in the wake of the Pakistani Army’s major push to snuff out Taliban strongholds in the Swat region.
Reports of those killed in air strikes in the area vary greatly with the Army terming them militants while locals say there were several civilian casualties as well.
According to the official, initial reports indicated that the military jet strayed from its course and mistook a village for a Taliban camp resulting in the deaths of civilians.
The injured are being treated under heavy guard at the Hayatabad medical complex in Peshawar and reporters have been barred from speaking to the survivors.
Moreover, in a bid to contain the fallout, the Pakistani Army establishment has imposed a “gag clause” preventing military personnel from divulging operational details including deaths of civilians to media.
It is said the Army is under severe pressure from the U.S. to go after Taliban militants in the restive tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and the ongoing offensive against insurgents has displaced close to one million residents of the region.
PROTEST ARBITRARY KILLINGS OF CIVILIANS
WE DO NOT CONDONE SUCH INHUMANITY ON THE PART OF OUR MILITARY
Oh, NYT, why must you tempt me with your strange tales of stranger lands.
1) PALESTINE. Ethan Bronner’s article which was the lead story this morning, “Palestinians Try a Less Violent Path to Resistance” is an example of a lie reproduced as news. Putting the latest peaceful Palestinian boycott campaign in faux context, Bronner writes, “The new approach still remains small scale while American-led efforts to revive peace talks are stalled.” He falsely continues to imply throughout the rest of the article that noviolence is “limited” or alien to Palestinian soil:
Nonviolence has never caught on here, and Israel’s military says the new approach is hardly nonviolent. But the current set of campaigns is trying to incorporate peaceful pressure in limited ways.
Except that well, nonviolence–whilst perhaps a novel idea to a reporter whose son serves in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)–is nothing new for the Palestinians. The 1980s intifada was a deeply civil society based rebellion with Palestinian labour unions, businessmen and students involved in mass forms of nonviolent protest. Although initially uncoordinated, an ad hoc leadership committee called the Unfied National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) soon rose up increasing its numbers with workers who joined as the IDF attacked Palestinian businesses. The bourgeoisie and Palestinian businessmen, increasingly burdened by the new taxes Israel was imposing, followed through with commercial strikes and non-payment of taxes. Further, Ariel Sharon’s incendiary move to shift his home to Jerusalem sparked “the shopkeepers war”, a cat and mouse game where the IDF repeatedly forced shopkeepers to open their shops and they in turn repeatedly went on strike. There was stone throwing by youth (if you can call that violent when they’re throwing them at tanks and soldiers) too and murders of alleged collaborators, but the bulk of the population took part in mass civil disobedience and other forms of nonviolent protest. That was the Palestinian intifada in the 1980s, and it attests to the strength and resilience of Palestinian civil society. The effects of that movement dissipated because of the Oslo Accords which circumvented the successes of the intifada rather than build upon them.
Contrast that form of resistance with the occupying army. Raphael Eitan, then Israel’s chief of staff, said “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Menachim Begin, who would later win the Nobel peace prize with Arafat (a venerable tradition which Obama has rightly joined) referred to Palestinians as “beasts walking on two legs”.
And for the love of god, Bronner, get a clue.
2) PAKISTAN. Sabrina Tavernise lends that special Alice-in-a-wonderland feel to her reporting on a potentially historic amendment that is making its way through the Pakistani parliament right now. If passed, it would strip the President of powers that the position has accrued over the years due to revisions to the constitution by unaccountable politicians and dictators. Tavernise is quick to manipulate the story about a significant positive political change in Pakistan into the “chaos theory” narrative the western media has reserved for Pakistan. She writes:
On paper, the changes restore the country’s democracy to its original form — a parliamentary system run by a prime minister — and undo the accumulated powers that the country’s military autocrats had vested in the presidency. (emphasis mine.)
But this is Pakistan — a chaotic, 62-year-old country, where no elected government has ever lasted a full term and the rule of law is often up for grabs — and it is far from certain that in practice the new laws will be respected. (emphasis mine.)
Down the hole, Alice goes. This is Wonderland and things don’t ever change here. Never ever ever. Never ever? Not ever. Get it?
Last year, Tavernise brought us this lovely liner regnant with Orientalism: “On a spring night in Lahore, I came face to face with all that is puzzling about Pakistan.” Wow, where? Was it at the intersection of Ignorance and Hubris? Try and get off that. It’s really overcrowded.
3) WIKILEAKS. Two days ago, Glenn Greenwald caught the NYT in a mistake, and now the paper appears to be at it again trying to damn the investigative website Wikileaks. Greenwald then noted that reporter “Elisabeth Bumiller strongly implies that WikiLeaks failed to release the full video and instead selectively edited it.” The mistake found its way into a Weekly Standard opinion piece which denounced the website for failing to release the full video. Unfortunately, for the Standard, Wikileaks had released the entire video from the start. The NYT corrected its mistake online without ever acknowledging that it had made one. The Standard‘s Bill Roggio also corrected his mistake and acknowledged it explicitly online. All that was two days ago. Now today, NYT‘s article on Wikileaks “Iraq Video Brings Notice to a Web Site“, again implies bad practise by Wikileaks:
The Web site also posted a 17-minute edited version, which proved to be much more widely viewed on YouTube than the full version. Critics contend that the shorter video was misleading because it did not make clear that the attacks took place amid clashes in the neighborhood and that one of the men was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade.
But, Wikileaks posted the entire unedited video and has done so from the start. That’s something that media organizations rarely do, if ever. When’s the last time you saw an unedited video at CNN or unedited notes for an article at NYT? Second, what unnamed critics is the NYT referring to here? The Weekly Standard already corrected its mistake, and anyone else who has criticized the shorter version of the video has only been able to do so precisely because the full-version is also available. It’s just a bizarre paragraph coming as it does on the heels of the earlier Bumiller article. The NYT, btw, is absent from Wikileaks list of its supporters which does include the LA Times, Hearst Corporation, Gannett (publishers of USA Today), the Associated Press, among other journalistic bodies.
4) PAKISTAN. The Lede blog posted live video footage of the bomb blasts at the US Consulate in Peshawar (h/t jdw) and then noted:
Readers who watch the footage from Pakistani television above may notice one sign of how routine bombings have become in the country. At one stage, as images of the latest attack were broadcast, the crawl at the bottom of the screen gave updates on a celebrity drama, the planned marriage of a Pakistani cricket star, Shoaib Malik, to an Indian tennis player, Sania Mirza.
When a commenter called out the blog’s writer, Robert Mackey on his spurious concluson based on news tickers which are equally random everywhere else, he responded saying, “I explained in the post what the point of the the trivial news in the crawl seemed to be to me. I made no statement that this sort of trivia was unique to Pakistan and not found in most if not all other countries.” Even to Mackey his response must sound lame; it’s certainly not an answer.
Here’s a snapshot of CNN vs. al-Jazeera on the day the Wikileaks video was posted. Pots and kettles. Enough said.
What’s going on at the Pearl Continental in Karachi?
150 workers of the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi have occupied the basement of the hotel since last week. The occupation began when four workers, all of them union activists who have worked at the PC for at least 20 years, were fired by the hotel which has a long history of union-busting. Following their dismissal, the four workers immediately occupied the basement of the PC Hotel backed by 150 of their colleagues who feel that these workers have been targeted due for their union activism. They are demanding that the Hashwani group which owns the PC abide by the law, give workers their rights and put an end to its aggressive union-busting practices.
Food has become scarce while they have been on strike and management has refused to allow outside deliveries to be made. The current Human Resources Director at the PC is a retired Major Zia Jan who came to the PC after busting a union at the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC). Major Zia recently told the striking workers that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for fighting the PC. The management also brought someone from the Labor Department who accused the workers of engaging in an illegal dharna and told them they must stop immediately.
The workers are being filmed and monitored by security. They have been threatened with police action. The families of the workers who protested outside the hotel in solidarity have already been baton-charged by the police.
What are the workers demands?
1. Give us our jobs back!
Firing of union activists while negotiations are ongoing is illegal.
2. Recognize our union!
The courts already do. It’s time for the PC to abide by the law.
3. Come to the negotiating table!
The PC refuses to negotiate the charter of demands. The 2002 and 2006 demands are still pending.
What’s the history of the workers struggle at the PC?
The PC workers’ struggle has been going on since 2001. In the wake of the post-9.11 slump in business, owners of the PC Hotel, the Hashwani Group, began aggressively union-busting, slashing workers salaries and provident funds and even firing those who protested. 300 workers were sacked. PC then accused four workers—all union activists—of starting a fire in the hotel and had them locked up for 2 months in a secret prison in Karachi. They were acquitted in court, but the Hashwani Group attempted to fire them anyway on false charges of absenteeism. The workers got a stay order from the court, one of them in 2002 and the other three in 2006. That order was cancelled in Feb 2010. Before a notification of the cancellation had even been issued, the workers were fired.
The PC-Four have a long history trying to get the PC to recognize the workers union so that they can bargain for their rights and fair wages. The workers who clean the rooms, make the meals and run the hotel only get Rs. 7800 per month for nine hour shifts each day–after they’ve been working there for at least 14 years. A one night stay at the PC costs Rs. 20,000. The Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Union is already recognized by the courts, but the PC management refuses to accept the union or come to the negotiating table. The union, which is recognized by the workers of the PC as their bargaining unit, has issued two Charter of Demands, the standard list of workers demands which unions issue every two years to the employer as a starting point for negotiations. Both the 2004 and the 2006 Charter of Demands were never resolved as the PC failed to come to the negotiating table. Instead, the management of the PC constantly harassed the workers trying to terrorize them into rejecting their own union.
Why are the PC management’s actions illegal?
Pakistan’s labor law says that while negotiations about union demands are ongoing, the employer is NOT allowed to transfer or fire workers. All four workers are activists of a legally recognized union, the Pearl Continental Hotel Workers Union. The PC has chosen not to recognize the union and refuses to bargain or come to the negotiating table.
What evidence is there that the PC is violating workers’ rights and union-busting?
PC’s anti-union rampages have even been the subject of an investigation by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO). The investigation concluded that “grave violations of union rights had been committed by the hotel management and local authorities.” ILO requested the government to fully investigate the detention and take other actions. The NGO, PILER, the International Food Union and the Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) have all supported the workers.
The current Human Resources Director at the PC is a retired Major Zia Jan who came to the PC after busting a union at the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC). Major Zia recently told the striking workers that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for fighting the PC.
Who are the PC-Four?
Mohammad Noor, President of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Storekeeper since 1987
He has a family with 4 children to support.
Shah Nawaz, Vice President of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Houseman for 20 + years
He has a family with 5 children to support.
Rao Mohammad Ashfaq, union activist of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Store cleaner for 21 years
He has a family with 4 children to support.
Ubaid ur-Rehman, union activist of the PC Hotel Workers Union
Job at PC: Waiter for 20 years
He has a family with 3 children to support.
Tuesday June 16, people took to the streets for the second consecutive day.
From noon onwards, we must have changed our minds ten times about whether or not to go. The main reason was that Ahmadinejad supporters suddenly planned a demonstration of their own at the very same spot where the Mousavi supporters intended to gather two hours later. The main concern was whether the first group would linger around until the second group came on the scene, and whether that would result in violent confrontation. The second concern was that none of the pro-reform alliance — Mousavi, Karroubi and officials from their circle — can openly throw their support behind any kind of public event. If they do, they can be accused of violating the law, if they don’t, thousands of supporters are left wondering what to do. Thankfully, a great majority of people have understood this and taken upon themselves to be out there; they have understood that peaceful public action doesn’t need to be sanctioned by anyone, it is a right of the people. In this sense, Mousavi’s presence or non-presence in the demonstrations, his approval or non-approval is slowly taking second place to the events and dynamics people are creating on their own.
Mousavi did not appear at yesterday’s march which spanned — with empty patches here and there — Vali-e Asr Square to Park Way. His name was chanted, his posters were carried but the crowd was not left wondering: where is he? And that is because the marches have taken on a life of their own, and the demand for justice is now stronger than its figurehead. Placards yesterday were more diversified and more daring than the day before. One man was going around with a poster carrying pictures of graphic scenes of violence from the previous day (state media report 7 killed, rumors report many many more). Slogans also took on a bit of an edge. As during the first march, people remained silent during the first half. Some people had tied a green ribbon around their mouths while others carried the corresponding poster: “Our silence is green”. A group of chadori women were gathered on the sidewalk holding hand-made placards of bright green background that asked: Did our martyrs die so that more blood could be spilled? Volunteers were handing out posters of Mousavi and green ribbons so that everyone had at least something to show the state helicopter which hovered overhead like the day before.
Once we reached the headquarters of state TV and radio (Sar o Sima — a vast expanse of land between Niyayesh and Park Way), the crowd came to a halt. Both sides of Vali-e Asr and both sidewalks were full of people. The furthest northerly point was Park Way (where police prevented the crowd from moving forward) while southward, people kept moving up in the thousands. At 9pm, when we started heading back south, people were still walking up to hit Park Way and turn back again. Sar o Sima was very under-guarded given the circumstances. Again, riot police was nowhere to be seen, at least in the distance that I covered (Vanak Square to Park Way). Once the crowd stalled for good, people were instructed to sit down. A friend and I spotted young guys taking over what had been the Borj restaurant/disco before the revolution and setting camp. Attracted by the great vantage point the building offered, we made our way up the dilapidated fire staircase and onto the crumbling ruins of the former house of forbidden pleasures. Vali-e Asr is lined with beautiful and very old leafy plane trees, so the visibility up and down wasn’t perfect but my estimate is that close to a million people came out. Less than the day before, but mission accomplished nonetheless.
The crowd never kept its seated position for very long. Karroubi is supposed to have made an appearance somewhere although I did not see him. Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani (Rafsanjani’s daughter who has done a lot for women’s sports in Iran) also made her way through the crowd at the back of a pick-up truck. Blue veil, black chador, all smiles and holding a green ribbon. “Hashemi, Mousavi, hemayat, hemayat” (Hashemi, Mousavi, support, support) hailed her presence while “Hashemi, saket koni, khaeni” (Hashemi, if you’re silent you’re a traitor) reminded her father that he is expected to break his silence and take a stance on the current events. Faezeh’s presence did the trick. Thousands of cameras and cell phones were turned her way. Even from a distance, people were painstakingly stretching their cameras at arm’s length in the hope that the lens would catch what they could not see. People excitedly turned to each other: it’s Faezeh!, the simple use of her first name immediately endearing her as a fellow member of the resistance. On the sidewalks, people were elbowing viciously to get a glimpse of her. A slogan started, bringing tears to many eyes: “Baradar-e shahidam, rai-e to pas migiram” (My martyred brother, I will reclaim your vote — a generic singular referring to all those who died in the shootings and violence of the day before).
We walked on toward Park Way where policemen were turning people around. So we turned around, passed the barbed wire wall onto which people were tacking posters, pictures and messages. We passed the Borj, now deserted. On the street, many were still marching in the dusk toward Park Way, some in line formation carrying large plastic banners inscribed with the well-heard slogans. One group carried flowers, a reminder of the 1979 protests when women marched up to soldiers and stuck flowers in the barrel of their rifles. Some marchers started talking of glitches with riot police stationed below, but these were denied by other marchers (according to friends, violence did erupt badly that night in and around Vanak square — I mention this area because it was on the trajectory of the march, but other areas were probably also the focus of violence. A video is going around on mobile phones showing a 50-something woman who beat a riot police to death with a brick).
We reached the intersection with Mirdamad and having decided that we had once again taken a small step in history, headed for a chelo kabab.