Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 27th, 2010

Welcome, “walk on my eyes”: Iran

“Walk on my eyes” or (Qadamet ro cheschm) is an expression of politeness in Iran to welcome someone home.  The Swiss journalist Serge Michel and the photographer Paolo Woods have been covering Iran, on and off, since 1998, every time the Iranian government felt the urge to be kept alive in world public eyes.  Serge and Paolo were asked to leave, a few weeks after the latest election in June 2009.  They witnessed the upheavals during and after the Iranian Presidential election.

Serge and Paolo realized that the Iranians are fundamentally a happy people, well comfortable in their environment and their culture.  They had the idea of “Happy Iran” as title.  Serge did some historical search and discovered that the Iranians or Persians (as the Syrians ans Lebanese) were not warriors, but merchants, artisans, traders, mariners, poets, and peasants: They hired war mercenaries during the successive Persian Empires. Warrior empires such as the Moguls, Afghans, Macedonians, Romans, Turks, and central Asian people conquered Iran since antiquity and ended up meshing with the Iranian culture and blend nicely within Iran.

This article is the first installment in reviewing the book and I will focus on the eye-witness accounts of the journalists prior, during, and after the election process.

It would be useful for a gross brush of the conditions In Iran before the June 2009 election.

The opposition candidate, Hussein Moussavi, had for allies the urban upper and middle classes, the bazar merchants, and the urban clerics or mullahs:  The urban mullahs wanted to weaken the Rahbar (Supreme Guide) Kamenei in order to regain lost power and re-dip freely in the treasury.  President Ahmadinejad had for allies the countryside, the poor clerics in the countryside, the bassidjis (Revolution Guards), and the majority of the lower middle class (the patriots aghast with western powers’ pressures) residing in the poorer quarters in urban centers.  It is to be noted that urban centers dwellers are as populous as countryside people in Iran.  The army had no interest supporting the opposition since Iran was embarking on self-sufficiency in manufacturing the military hardware:  The army was in no mood of renegotiating the defense budget.

Teheran June 3, 2009 (A week before election):  I listened to the televised debate Moussavi/Ahmadinejad with friends.  Over 50 million Iranians must have been watching this first in 30 years. Ahmadi exhibited an illegible document proving the wife of Moussavi got her teaching job at the university by fraud; he challenged Moussavi to declare the sources of his campaign funds (Ahmadi could draw from the government treasury).  Moussavi replied: “Your foreign policies are humiliating the dignity of the Iranians.  You are an exhibitionist, superstitious, and extremist President.”

In front of the TV station on Vali-Asr street, hundreds of Ahmadi’s supporters are chanting and beating their chests as during Ashura. They have converged from the poorer southern parts of Teheran.  The richer classes are concentrated in the northern parts.

Shiraz June 5:  Moussavi’s supporters, wearing green attire, are driving in private cars, in a long caravan for miles, waving green posters and honking all the way; a first in Iran in the last 30 years.  I am interviewing a Pasdar (revolutionary guard); as we passed a shop selling western DVD movies the Pasdar said: “As the election is over, these kinds of shops will be closed.”

Teheran, June 8: A night manifestation by Moussavi’s supporters at Palestine Square.  They are chanting “Death to the little dictator”.  They are university students of Amir Abad:  In 1999, the bassidjis killed several students and a week-long of riots ensued.  The march ends at 4 am.

Teheran June 9:  Big gathering of Moussavi’s supporters at the Vali-Asr Square.  Everything is in color green: T-shirts, baseball caps, veils, flags, and ribbons.  Ahmadi had recently distributed potatoes to the needy quarters in Teheran.  The masses of Moussavi are chanting “Potato government.  I don’t want” and “Ahmadi bye-bye.”  It was a march of two hours.

Teheran June 10:  The election campaign is to end at midnight, but Moussavi’s supporters are enjoying a victory carnival.  Sound tracks are blasting and people are dancing in the streets.  A couple of female teenagers are chanting: “A week, two weeks that Ahmadi had not taken a shower.”

Teheran 12:  Election Day.  Moussavi’s supporters are joyous and confident in victory.  Long files on voting booths in the northern parts of Teheran.  In the evening, F calls me crying: “I am in Moussavi headquarter. The bassidjis attacked us with sticks and destroyed our computers.  They arrested the managers.  The police has sealed our center. It is a State coup.”  The bassidjis have clamped down on the Moussavi daily on Zartocht Street.  Columns of military trucks are celebrating.  Moussavi had declared at 11 pm: “The minister of the Interior told me that I won the election”

Teheran June 13:  The forces of order are massively present in front of the ministry of the Interior where the voting polls are counted.  The forces had disbanded a demonstration in the morning and arrested 20 people. A violent combat is taking place on Vanak Square and tear gas are used.  People burn newspaper sheets to counter the effects of tear gas. The night is witnessing pockets of resistance; buses are burned and grandmothers are burning waste bins on the streets.  A friend tells me a joke: “Ahmadi split his hair in two parts:  the right part for male lice and the left for the female counterparts.”

Teheran June 14:  Ahmadi delivers his victory speech at Vali-Asr Square; he lambasted his opponents as detritus and bad losers; hooligans after football games.

Teheran June 15: Maybe two million are marching from Enkilab (Revolution) Square toward Azadi (Liberty) Square.  Balconies are empty: everybody descended to the streets chanting: “Who voted for this monkey?”; “Yo, atomic athlete, you must be tired, Go home.”

Teheran June 16:  A young girl enters the fast food establishment and changes her green veil to a black one.  She told me: “I managed to escape the bassidjis”  After she ate her roasted chicken she paid with a 5,000 toumans  ($4) bill; the bill had a poem scribbled in a green ink: “The detritus is you; the passion is me.  Cruelty is you; impetuouss is me.  Iran is mine.”  Ahmadi’s manifestation took place at 3 pm and the Moussavi demonstration at 5 pm at the Vanak Place.

Teheran June 17:  Moussavi’s manifestation is marching from Haft-e Tir to the university.  The timing of the march is set 30 minutes after the portable phones are disconnected and the gathering place is known by word of mouth.  It seems that the Iranians rekindled old-time communication habits after the government began shutting down phone lines. A banner inscribed a poem by Hamid Mossadegh: “denounce the dishonests. Rekindle oriental solidarity.  If I get up and you get up, everyone will get up.”

Teheran June 18:  Moussavi is acclaimed as a rock star at the Ferdowsi Place.

Teheran June 19, a Friday:  Kamenei deliver a speech at the mosque.  Everyone already know what is the message and that England will be the target.  Ahmadi leaves in a 4*4 and briefly waves: a thunderous acclaim greets him.

For a month, the “green movement” never missed an occasion or an event to gather on mass.  In Iran, every week has major events to celebrate or to remember: religious dates, anniversaries of martyrs, Jerusalem Day… During Ashura, Moussavi’s supporters chanted “Mir-Hossein” instead of “Ya Hussein.”  Every night, chanting emanate from rooftops “Death to the dictator” and “Allah Akbar”.  For the anniversary of the revolution in Feb. 2010, the TV was asked not to show sections of demonstrations against the Shah: they reminded the people of the current furors.

Adonis49 opinion:  Ahmadi won the election.  The small margin was not appreciated by the Rahbar Kamenei.  The crackdown on the Moussavi’s “green movement” at the eve of the result counting and the following weeks was mainly a preemptive show of force meaning: “We have won.  Do not count on us to negotiating sharing power”.  More precisely, the Rahbar Khamenei was sending the strong message: “You, mullahs and Ayatollahs of urban centers in Teheran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Isfahan, you go to hell.  I am the Supreme Guide and I won’t be sharing power.””

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