Letter from Iran 3: Dynamics of the Movement

iran 4As before, the name and identity of the author have been removed to protect his/her identity.

The third march – at Haft-e Tir square on  17th June. I did not attend but everyone reported massive turnout and a very peaceful, silent demonstration.  Since I have little to report on day three, some other points that appear very important to me to raise:

Away from the large crowds and the relative protection of the capital, smaller towns people in the provinces are much more exposed and vulnerable to violence by the local militias. There is virtually no media coverage of what is happening in Tabriz, Shiraz, Esfahan, Bushehr. Bandar Abbas. To the extent that we have information, it is because volunteers are putting a lot on the line to film and photograph and the very gruesome situation in these cities. It takes a lot of courage for students and demonstrators to go out on the streets of Esfahan when the prosecutor general of that province has declared that all kinds of illegal gatherings are against Islam and the law of the Islamic Republic and can be punishable by death. It takes a lot of courage and guts to protest anywhere in this country where you are not protected by your numbers (let alone the police and the justice system) and where you are vulnerable to attack (like in student dorms).

On a more positive note …the dynamics of this movement are becoming more and more creative. From the moment everybody embraced silence as the best form of criticism, supporters from their cars switched from honking their horns to using their flasher. Last night, as I drove home, I noticed the blinkers in oncoming traffic (coming actually from the direction of Haft-e Tir Square). I didn’t take long to spread the message. Soon, everyone around was switching their flasher on, an act reflective of a truth that has been firmly established now after five consecutive days of protest: silence is speaking very loudly indeed.

Fourth march – today, 18 June. As I am typing, cries of Allah-o Akbar are resonating all throughout my neighborhood, despite the stormy weather (this takes place every night between 9 and 11 in sign of protest). The fourth march started from Toup Khoune Square. Marchers took Ferdowsi Street until Ferdowsi Square where they swerved onto Enghelab Street and dispersed around Tehran University. The word given out was that this event was to be a strictly silent mourning march to commemorate and honor the people who have died in the last couple of days. Everyone was wearing black and black ribbons were being distributed to wear alongside the green ribbon, around the wrist or pinned to the chest, tied to a backpack or worn across the forehead. Little pieces of paper printed with slogans such as “Blood? Why” were passed around for people to wear.

As I mentioned in my previous email, today made it very clear that the dynamics of the movement are constantly evolving. From the first march where the only focus was on Mousavi/ people’s vote to Mousavi, today’s slogans touched on issues of freedom/justice/innocent people dying for a just cause. The posters of Mousavi of day one have given way to posters expressing deeper themes, and the deeper problems that exist in this country. “Democracy does not equal Dead Student”, “Stop Killing Us”, “We are not rioters”, “Silence is not acceptance”, “The key to victory: Calmness, Hope and Patience”.

About the march: it was entirely silent and peaceful. No riot police anywhere. Ferdowsi was entirely closed off but on Enghelab, cars were painfully trying to keep one lane open. The drivers were stuck in pretty bad traffic, but to the marchers waiving their V-signs to them, a great majority of them would smile and respond with the same. A bus driver was filming on Enghelab. When asked how far ahead and how far back the march stretched, he smiled and said: a long way. The crowd was mixed: young people mostly but a considerable number of parents with small children and elderly people, chadori women and even a mollah.

On Enghelab, where the marchers were cut off from the sidewalks by tall metal railing, shopkeepers and passer-bys volunteered to take people’s empty water bottles and refill them with fresh cool water from the watering hoses. At one point, a motorcycle stuck on the sidewalk with an overheated engine started making weird noises. The elderly woman next to me immediately panicked and rushed to her husband saying: it looks like they’re shooting. Later on, a wave of panic went over the crowd and everyone ran for cover while ducking with their hands over their heads. No one knows why, it was over in seconds.

At the end of the march, a very emotional moment. At dusk in front of Tehran University, people lit candles in remembrance of those killed in the violence of the past few days, then dispersed quietly.


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