Anonymous: Tehran Report 2, 14th June 2009

What follows is the second of a series of reports from Tehran, Iran. The author wishes to remain anonymous. First report here.

June 14th 2009 8:45 PM

It‟s still less than ten days before the official beginning of summer. Although the weather may be warm and the blossoms are gone, it is, according to the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun, spring. Tehran Spring.

A period of political liberalization under a Reformist government, backed by popular approval against the Soviet-backed Socialist system in Czechoslovakia in 1968 has come to be known as the Prague Spring. Infamous for the brutality of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks rolling into the city of Prague eight months after President Alexander Dubcek loosened restrictions on speech, the media and travel, millions of demonstrators were crushed within seconds, although they remained peaceful the entire time. Czechoslovakia remained occupied by Soviet military forces until 1990, when the Socialist system collapsed. The Prague Spring may have not been successful from a populist, anti-authoritarian perspective, but it indicated a trend, rising in Europe and the world at the time, that unrest existed on many levels: cultural, economic, social, and, most importantly, ideological. The demonstrations in Prague temporarily shadowed the International Marxist movement, popular amongst intellectuals in Western Europe, as the USSR proved once again that the utopian yearning for revolution had seceded to authority hungry for control. During the early months of the Prague Spring, inspired by the Socialist reformist experiment in Czechoslovakia, students in Paris and other Western European cities set the university ablaze, workers went on strike, and the bureaucracy collapsed. A glimmer of hope, only temporary, until the moment of the Grand Compromise between the „68ers and De Gaulle‟s government occurred one month later, effectively paralyzing Leftism in the West until even today. This paralysis was confirmed by the multilateral Soviet crushing of the reformist movement later that summer.

Foucault‟s take on the Iranian Revolution has always been controversial. His articles in France were read with disdain, as Foucault effectively stepped outside of his typically meticulous mode of analysis to embrace a Hegelian “Spirit” embedded deep within his psyche. He praised the “collective will of the Iranian people” as an undeniable, inspirational force to be reckoned with and to learn from. He was, per chance, nostalgic for “true”, “authentic” revolutionary movement, a nostalgia whose origins lay potentially in the dashed hopes of May 1968. Yet, in an interview between Foucault and journalists Claire Briere and Pierre Blanchet (“Iran: The Spirit of a World Without Spirit”), Foucault exhibits moments in which his analytical clarity shines: “It is true that Iranian society is shot through with contradictions that cannot in any way be denied, but it is certain that the revolutionary event that has been taking place for a year now, and which is at the same time an inner experience, a sort of constantly recommenced liturgy, a community experience, and so on, all that is certainly articulated onto the class struggle: but that doesn‟t find expression in an immediate, transparent way.”

Today, the left-leaning newspaper “Ehtemad-e-Melli” (National Trust) published an empty white page as its front cover. Underneath the newspaper‟s logo and date, it was written that here there should have been an article written by Moussavi and Karroubi together, but unfortunately the newspaper received strict orders from Ahmadinejad that it was not allowed to print this feature.

Voice of America‟s Farsi-language service just showed footage, taken by an Italian visitor to Tehran, of a crowd of demonstrators from yesterday cornering a police officer that had been beating numerous individuals, forcing him to stop and then attacking him, taking his baton and beating him in turn. This lasted for a second. The footage showed the crowd of demonstrators helping the police officer up to his feet. His helmet had been lost in the fight, his body armor was falling off. His face was red and his eyes wide open in shock. He was panting, trying to breathe and re-orient himself. The same crowd that at one point were being beaten by him and then a moment later were beating him were now helping him, holding on to his shoulder, guiding him to an open doorway, embracing him and chanting together, at one another, “Peace” and “Freedom”. The police officer looked grateful, almost as if he had been beaten to his senses. This footage is very important, in my opinion, to show that the use of violence from the side of the regime‟s authority may be matched in self-defense, but it is not the means that the Opposition, or at least a large section of it, is using. And certainly not to the brutal extent that the police, and especially the Basiji, are inflicting violence on the crowds gathered here.

I am trying to restrain myself from valorizing or overdramatizing what is taking place here. Iranians, I myself being one (although I did not grow up here), are prone to exaggeration. For me, there is something in the historical wave of events that manifest themselves, go into hiding, and then reappear: indeed I have been accused of being Hegelian and, actually, I enjoy the accusation. Last week it was the Summer of Love 1969. This week, I dare to say, is Prague Spring Redux: Tehran Spring 2009 (notice that the time travel in my observations so far sticks exclusively to the „60s).

“People are dying and this guy is just walking around with a knife,” moaned an old man on our street. I wonder if someone had been stabbed, we heard some people arguing loudly from the living room and ran to the balcony. Whoever was here had already passed through, the argument was in its aftermath and two men were moving a trash bin that had been tipped over and emptied onto the street back to its place. The old man was trailing behind, wailing about “those” guys (the Basiji) who are circling the city, carrying secret knives that they wield on anyone that sparks their anger in the slightest bit.

About thirty minutes before, after a day of relative calm in our neighborhood, which last night was witness to cars honking and demonstrators clashing with the police until 4 AM, we heard some noise out on our street. We went onto the balcony and heard many people talking, the sound of honking cars had returned. As our balcony has an obstructed view, we decided to go up onto the roof to see what was happening on Valiasr Street. A few friends were
visiting and we had just engaged in a 2-hour conversation about the situation here, what can be done, what should be done, criticism of the Opposition and testimony to all of our individual experiences in the past two days. When we reached the roof we quickly saw what was happening: a trash bin had been set on fire at the entrance to our street, right on Valiasr. A group of young men were taking the responsibility upon themselves to move a second trash bin from across our house further up towards Valiasr, to set that one on fire, too. In a split second we heard the roar of motorcycle engines and a group of people screaming “Go! Go! Run” at the head of the street. The crowd gathered near the burning trash bin quickly dispersed, running in our direction. The men who were moving the trash bin towards Valiasr stopped in their tracks and left the bin standing in the middle of the street. From our vantage point, we saw a group of men on motorcycles zoom by, abruptly turn onto our street and begin their pursuit of the men and women who were running away fast, aggressively announcing (I suppose to the men who had been moving the trash bin), “Don‟t even think about it!” The Basiji, or, level 3 of this terrible real-life video game: unrecognizable amongst the crowd, in everyday clothes, bearing a deep anger that stems from somewhere I do not want to know, believing fervently in this regime, many shell-shocked from their youth in the Iran-Iraq War, many common criminals who have gotten away with petty theft and family stabbings, all well trained to show no fear, to pursue with vengeance and to act with speed and sleuth, disappearing as fast as they appear. If they had orders to do it, they would kill. Instead, they prefer breaking arms, groping women, or stabbing someone in the side with the goal of minimal damage and maximal suffering. First and foremost, their role is to fear and intimidate. As they drove past our house chasing the crowd, they sternly yelled at everyone gathered on the street, spit coming out of their tense mouths, their temples bulging with blood and adrenalin: “GO HOME! GET OUT OF HERE! YOU BETTER GET OUT OF MY WAY OR I WILL KILL YOU!” A few screams from women too distant to see and a few shouts of defiance from men on our street. The Basiji turned around and parked their motorcycles in front of our house. An old woman told them to leave immediately, to which their response was a brutal shove, move out of our way lady and don’t think about saying a word. We quickly ducked our heads so that they wouldn‟t see us watching them. When I looked around me, I noticed many of the neighbors had gathered on their roofs and balconies, similarly crouched away from the Basiji‟s view. The men remounted their motorcycles and drove off. As they drove away, a few of them forcefully kicked the trash bin, still standing in the middle of the road, knocking it onto its side, trash spilling everywhere. A moment later, an older man came out of his car and began cursing the Basiji – “So they come and throw garbage all over our streets, is this enforcing the law?” A few young men came from behind a tree where they were hiding and swept the trash back into the bin, lifting it back up. They then started their self-appointed task of moving the bin towards Valiasr to set it on fire. Apparently the Basiji had not fully disappeared, I believe one was hiding around the corner observing what was happening, as I heard a yell and then, within a flash, a new team of motorcyclists returned. They drove past the men who had been moving the trash bin and who were now running away and one motorcyclist smacked one in the head with his open palm. Once again, they threatened to kill if everyone did not leave immediately and go home. They returned to the bin, got off their motorcycle, and pushed it towards the sewage drain on the side of the street, tipping it over into the dirty water. This time, they stood on our street, marching back and forth, clenching their fists and yelling threats to what appeared to be no one actually on the street – of course, the Basiji knew that people indoors could hear them, and of course they suspected that many of us were hiding on our roofs, peeping over the corner to take brief glances. I looked up again and then, all of a sudden, I heard a whoosh behind me and looked back to see R., who had ran up to the roof and who at this moment, standing far enough away from the edge to avoid being seen, shouted at the top of his lungs, “Death to Dictatorship!” As quickly as R. came, he ran back downstairs. Shit, I thought. I looked at N. and the few friends of ours who were visiting. We were huddled together and all of us hung our heads down, wondering what would happen now – why did R. do that? He may have endangered all of us! But at the same time, yes, of course, more people should have such courage to stand up to these neighborhood bullies, there is no lie, we all hate them, so why do we cower away? The Basiji were now revving their motorcycles, circling in front of our house, energizing. B. ran up with her camera and we quickly told her to be careful, to put the camera down. She crept up to the roof‟s edge and mounted the camera with a mini-tripod onto the side of the building, pressed record and crept away. Amazing: our very own surveillance camera!

R. came back to the roof. I stood up and slowly walked away to the side, where I could look down onto the street without fear of being noticed. And then I saw it: it seemed that this particular Basiji group‟s leader had come to see what had happened. R. walked more towards the edge of the roof and then I noticed that the older bearded Basiji saw him. The man pulled out a walkie-talkie radio from one pocket and moved his jacket to the side to reveal a pistol. He said something into the radio and then took the pistol out and held it up, pointing the gun at R., who immediately ducked down and crawled quickly back to the stairwell. I motioned to everyone else to step back, whispering “he has his gun out!” We all shuffled to the back of the roof. I tiptoed, crouching low, to the front, the man was still there, he still had his gun in his hand. He told the other Basiji to leave. They followed orders tout de suite and quickly remounted their motorcycles and drove away. One of them stayed behind and took out a pen and a notepad and began writing down the different house numbers. I only saw this for a brief second, I don‟t know how many numbers he wrote or if he wrote down ours particularly, I could only overhear his conversation with the Basiji holding the gun: “Number twenty-six”. Not our house. A few minutes later, the one put his notepad up and the other put his gun back underneath his jacket. Then they walked away. A silence overtook our street. We all gathered back again, slowly, on the roof‟s edge and watched for anything else. After ten minutes and not a sign of activity, other than a few people walking to their homes, I decided to go back downstairs.

B. and R. were downstairs and as I took out my computer, R. told me to write this message and to send it to as many people as I can:

They have guns. They pointed it at us. They are not afraid to shoot. They took down house numbers. For now, we are safe. But we can’t be sure. There are four of us here: two filmmakers, an artist and a writer. We are not alone, but there are many of them and they are ready for violence. This is a coup d’etat and, if things get worse, there will be a crackdown. If that is the case, they may come back, and we may be arrested, questioned, put in jail, who knows. Let the world know our situation.

9:21 PM

ALLAHU AKBAR.

ALLAHU AKBAR.

ALLAHU AKBAR.

We are on the roof again. Everyone in this city is on the roof. It is the most apocalyptical moment I have ever experienced in my life. I can‟t see anyone, it is pitch black, except for the distant orange glow of Valiasr‟s lights.

MARG BAR DIKTATOR.

MARG BAR DIKTATOR.

MARG BAR DIKTATOR.

Echoing from everywhere, from every roof, to our right, to our left, front and back, people, voices of men and women, invisible to my eyes but a resounding wave of unbelievable power, are screaming at the top of their lungs: ALLAHU AKBAR. GOD IS GREAT. MARG BAR DIKTATOR: DEATH TO DICTATORSHIP. The city seems as if it were about to explode. The sky is rumbling with the call-and-response, spontaneously orchestrated by the people, growing in number as the minutes pass – more and more people coming outside, joining in, adding their passionate voices into the mix. Clouds are boiling above, it starts to rain, lightning flashes from behind the mountains to the North of the city. There is absolute silence in the city, except for the chanting of thousands gathered on the safety of their roofs. A low bass note of cars driving by on Valiasr Street. Shots are being fired, I don‟t know if the police are shooting, if it‟s a tear gas canister being set off somewhere, or if someone has personally decided to fire a shot to add to the drama of the moment.

Now whistling starts. There are four of us up on the roof: three men and one woman. The three males begin chanting ALLAHU AKBAR – in response, female neighbors, somewhere close enough to hear us, complement our low tenor with their higher pitched response: ALLAHU AKBAR. And all of a sudden, the honking starts again, cars add their melody to this eerie crescendo resounding through Tehran‟s night sky.

I am not a religious person. I never say “God is Great” and I never pray (except sometimes when I am flying and there is turbulence). Why am I joining in, chanting ALLAHU AKBAR as I sit and write, squatting in a corner on the roof where there is a cover from the rain so that my computer doesn‟t get wet? Why does it feel so natural to say just that: ALLAHU AKBAR? If I wanted to, I could have stuck with the more politically charged “Death to Dictatorship”. But there are very clear reasons why I, and I am not alone (of course, this is not to doubt that other people may have stronger religious sentiments than I do), choose to participate in this, with absolute confidence in saying it: ALLAHU AKBAR.

It is an invocation. On the one hand, it is strategic for all of us to use this system‟s own language against it: by saying ALLAHU AKBAR, we show that we are not against the Islamic Republic. We show not only a unity with one another, but also with the same system that has stolen our vote, spat on our integrity, the same system that sends its police and plain-clothes militia men to the streets to beat and stab people in the name of “God”. They may chant ALLAHU AKBAR in their heads as they beat demonstrators, they may believe that their actions are holy and approved by God, they may view us as base, worthless, not-even-humans, yet, we say the same thing to their face, we confront them with the power of an invocation that maybe – speaking for myself – we don‟t believe in, but they do. The trembling of not-our-God, but their-God. If this system, as it legally perceives itself, is sanctioned by the will of some God, if this system‟s leader rules as regent of the Messiah who will return to take his rightful place, then this system must also confront the many-faces of a moody God, expressed by its people who stand now and invoke the same God whose name is uttered by the lips of murderers.

On the other hand, the meaning of this expression is less important than the simplicity it evokes and how it brings a community together, in this case, a community that cannot even see one another, wrapped in the shadow of the night. This same expression was used in the 1979 Revolution – repeating it shows that it can be utilized again, even against the System who came to power through its use. Our parents said ALLAHU AKBAR thirty years ago, investing this system with power through their moment of unity. Once the dust settled, things quickly changed, divisions became clear, such invocations became less and less important, less unifying. Today, for the Children of the Revolution to repeat the words of their parents is, somehow, a confirmation of this nation‟s historical fate and an insistence that history cannot be so easily forgotten.

10:11 PM

I ran out of cigarettes and went outside to buy a few more packs for the house. Assuming that by now the shop on Valiasr Street was closed, I walked up the hill in the other direction to the late night store. When I stepped onto the street, I saw that the trash bin directly in front of our house had been set on fire. The wind was spreading the ashes into the air. I couldn‟t keep my eyes open as I walked past. As I walked up the hill, I saw all our neighbors gathered with their families on the street, chanting ALLAHU AKBAR and throwing firecrackers. There is a construction site a few doors down from us and as I walked by, I saw the Afghani workers gathered outside, their arms closed, observing the well-to-do group of women across from them, chatting amongst themselves. There is a metal trash can next to the construction site. I quickly walked by the workers and the trash can and then, all of a sudden, I yelped out of fear as a figure next to me appeared, almost as if from nowhere, moaning ALLAHU AKBAR. I looked and notice that one of the Afghani workers had been hiding in the trash can, covering it with a piece of cardboard, waiting for someone like me to walk past, only to jump up in surprise, waving his arms in the air and tremulously chanting ALLAHU AKBAR. He laughed at my shock and I began to laugh, too. A few small children screamed in glee, giggling at the man who had been hiding in the trash can.

The entire time on my walk up the hill to the store, I received suspicious glances from the people I walked past. It was most likely due to the fact that I was dressed in all black and that I have a well-trimmed beard. Maybe the black wasn‟t so important, but beards in Iran aren‟t “young and trendy”, they are the sign of Islamic fundamentalism and therefore, I can easily be mistaken for a Basiji and/or Ahmadinejad supporter. To all those disapproving glances, I simply returned a smile and a flash of a victory-sign, immediately easing the tension.

11:27 PM

I received a phone call earlier this afternoon while I was watching the live broadcast of Ahmadinejad‟s acceptance speech/supporter‟s rally at Tehran‟s main square from London-based curator. I turned the television set‟s volume down as the cheering and chanting of the crowd, paired with the invocation of the Prophet Mohammad‟s daughter Fatima Zahra, whose saint day was today, was driving me crazy. I watched in disbelief how what looked to be thousands upon thousands of supporters gathered at Valiasr Square, filling every nook and cranny available, waving Iranian flags and religious banners, cheering as Ahmadinejad took stage, led prayer, and began denouncing the “enemies of the nation”, the foreign “spies” who had infiltrated the country and where trying to interfere with our “democracy”, the “dirty, morally corrupt” demonstrators of the Opposition, declaring that Iranians have rightfully chosen their divinely sanctioned future and that Iran will be strong, cannot be harmed, will never be touched nor even dare to be touched by any of its antagonists under his leadership. It was too much for me to know that most likely, somewhere else in the city, any attempt on demonstrators part to gather was being brutally repressed, while thousands had most likely been shuttled into Tehran from remote villages, paid, housed and fed by Ahmadinejad‟s various charities to come and display their presence, their support. I picked up the phone and the curator asked me what the situation is like here and whether it would be safe for him to continue on his planned trip and come on Thursday. I told him that regarding safety, if his trip were scheduled for today then it probably wouldn‟t be such a good idea, but by Thursday everything should be fine, although I made clear that I can in no way predict where things will go in one hour let alone in so many days. I reminded him that most likely no artists would be interested in meeting to discuss art, that there were many more important issues on the table these days and that trying to find time for appointments, studio and gallery visits would probably be next to impossible. However, I urged him to really consider coming, to not be afraid, and to take the opportunity to see this moment of history and try and engage with it through conversations as much as he can. In his heavy German accent he responded: “Oh no, if it is dangerous today than I cannot come on Thursday, I must postpone my trip, although I do not know when I can make it again.” He handed the phone over to a colleague of his that I had been in touch with. I founded the whole situation so very amusing, especially with the footage of Ahmadinejad‟s rally playing in the background. Once again, self-declared, politically-minded curators shying away from what is truly possible, from what does not exist in representation. I suppose it is exhilarating to think about it, to conduct an interview after the event, but for so many, as soon as it becomes physical, real, as soon as it breaks out onto the streets or confronts them with bodies, then it is too much. Better wait and attempt to frame it in the exhibition context! I hope he comes; there is nothing to be afraid of. Life, although strange and exciting, is somehow carrying on here as normal.

We just heard from Voice of America that the police and military forces have raided Tehran University and that there has been a major clash there. Legally, the government does not have permission to enter university grounds. Not even during the one year of protests and demonstrations during the 1979 Revolution, many of which took place at universities across the country, did the Shah‟s forces attack students on university property itself. “The last time such an offense occurred was 44 years ago”, P. told me. The police have begun shooting now, switching from rubber bullets to real ones. Apparently 11 people were killed yesterday, but it is not clear whether this is true or a rumor, or even if it is true, if they were killed due to gunshot wounds. But tonight, it is confirmed: police are shooting. This means that by tomorrow, there will be a steadily rising death toll to consider.

R. just called the house. B.‟s mouth is wide open. I‟m dying to know what he is saying.

Now B. shares the news with us:

Ayatollah Saanei, a very important, Reformist-leaning cleric, has arrived in Tehran from the city of Qom and is now staying at Khomeini‟s former house, asking upon all the highest members of the Islamic clergy, and especially the Council of Experts, to convene there.

1:53 AM

After R.‟s phone call, we had a late midnight dinner of khoresht-e-karafs (lamb and celery stew with rice). We then slowly moved into the living room for our, what has now become standard, television/internet news briefing, seeing how the days events have been recapped. B. downloaded a selection of articles from major international newspapers and passed her computer around while BBC Farsi‟s “Sedaye Shoma” (Your Voice) program aired, broadcasting sent-in footage from today‟s riots, emails written describing the situation here, and phone calls from viewers from Iran and abroad expressing their opinion about the post-election events. Most of the viewers sympathized with the Opposition movement and the program‟s moderator had to stress that in no way does BBC Farsi take a position either with or against the election results. One Ahmadinejad supporter, however, called in, a man living in London. Unlike the rest of the individuals who wrote emails, telephoned, and sent video clips, all of whom spoke calmly and clearly with well-deliberated language, open to the program moderator‟s questions and Devil‟s advocate-style provocations, this particular man immediately blared off in a violent and aggressive tone. I could barely understand him, he was speaking so furiously and so fast, but from what I pieced together he was (1) denouncing the BBC as a foreign propaganda agent of the CIA and MI6, (2) giving proof to this by providing the example of Zahra Rahnavard‟s phone call yesterday to BBC Farsi, (3) accusing all the demonstrators of being “spoiled rich kids” with no “aim or goal”, and (4) declaring that if things progressed as they were, the entire country would fall apart. The program‟s moderator attempted successively to intervene and re-direct this man‟s focus on an important point: given the lack of media outlets for the Iranian Opposition, what other recourse does someone like Zahra Rahnavard have to express her position than to utilize a service such as BBC Farsi? Since the Iranian government is systematically censoring any form of opposition to the election results, does the freedom to express one‟s opinion in a public context such as the BBC immediately implicate the international media as agents provocateurs? The man didn‟t address these questions, blaring away, repeating how all Opposition supporters are rich and spoiled (notwithstanding the fact that the man was supposedly calling from London, a city not so easy to live in let alone immigrate to from a third world nation when one isn‟t rich or at least a benefactor of opportunity). Thankfully, he was cut off and the program moved on to the next caller.

I started sifting through B.‟s downloaded articles and was quite impressed by the New York Times‟ NewsBlog, the Lede, which has been updated almost half-hourly with a collection of quotes, comments and conversation threads from different newspapers, online news sources such as Facebook and TehranBureau.com and blogs. A few things stuck out, especially amidst all the testimonies from individuals in Iran, news that for me was now all too familiar through my experiences the past two days. One was about the employees from the Interior Ministry who resigned from their jobs in protest of the ministry‟s handling of the votes:

“One employee of the Interior Ministry, which carried out the vote count, said the government had been preparing its fraud for weeks, purging anyone of doubtful loyalty and importing pliable staff members from around the country.

„They didn‟t rig the vote,‟ claimed the man, who showed his ministry identification card but pleaded not to be named. „They didn‟t even look at the vote. They just wrote the name and put in the number in front of it.‟”

(NY Times, “Memo from Tehran – Reverberations as Door Slams on Hope of Change”, Bill Keller, Published June 13, 2009)

The second was from the official Islamic Republic News Agency, a memo announcing that Ahmadinejad has received three congratulations on his election to a second term so far:

“Tehran, June 13 IRNA – Following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‟s landslide victory in the 10th Presidential Elections, Syrian, Egyptian and Palestinian leaders cabled messages of congratulations Saturday on his re-election. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Leader of the Egyptian Ikhwan al-Muslimin Mohammmad Mehdi Akef, Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement in separate messages congratulated President Ahmadinejad on his victory. They wished him success and prosperity.”

The Lede itself cynically comments, how ironic that the three (rather, four) congratulatory remarks come from one dictatorial state (ie. Syria) and three illegal, internationally-recognized terrorist organizations! Not surprising though, given Iran‟s massive financial aid programs under Ahmadinejad in the past four years to the Syrian government, Hizbollah in Lebanon (note the lack of comment so far in the wake of this past week‟s Lebanese elections) and the Palestinian Resistance. What about Hugo Chavez? When is he coming to town?

While I was reading these articles, news footage showed the crowds gathered to demonstrate at Iranian Embassies abroad: Berlin, London, Paris, Toronto, Dubai. Meanwhile, reports were streaming in that the same street battling that was occurring in Tehran was also taking place, with the same severity, in cities around the country: Shiraz, Isfahan (a traditionally conservative city), Mashhad (Iran‟s most important pilgrimage capital, also traditionally conservative, and the second largest city population-wise after Tehran) and Tabriz (Moussavi‟s hometown). In the popular uprisings under Khatami or Rafsanjani (which were significantly different from this time around, consisting mainly of students), never had the violence spread so fast and with such vigor to other major cities. If anything there were small turnouts that quickly dispersed, not to show up again. Once again, another element bearing too much similarity to 1979 – a nationwide series of demonstrations and clashes, a leveling of social and economic contradictions, unification under religious rhetoric and the protest of clerics through self-enclosure at home and the call for an assembly of review. This is becoming all too quickly uncanny.

R. said that he had been out earlier this evening at Chahar-Ra Parkway, a major intersection of Valiasr with the Chamran and Hemmat Highways further up north. There, he saw a major crowd of protestors gathering, this time however completely peacefully. They held their hands up in the air and melodiously chanted “Allahu Akbar”, walking towards the intersection with the police at their side. They started a round of prayers, acting in a cool and collected manner, resisting any display of force and not looking or directing their actions at the police. R. said how beautiful it was, in the eerie glow of the humongous LCD screen hanging from the highway overpass at Chahar-Ra Parkway, flashing advertisements for video cameras, to see a crowd choosing to act in a non-violent, pro-active way, as they had done a few days before during the pre-election celebrations. The police attempted to provoke them, even hitting a few on the sides, but those hit simply got back up and walked away. There was no show of resistance. R. went on to say how at a certain point, even some police officers began chanting “Allahu Akbar”, joining the ranks of the demonstrators. After all, the police are just “doing their job”, and like many of us when we are at work, it doesn‟t mean one believes in everything one “has” to do. This is the key, a sign of weakness in the whole structure of militarized authority: the subjectivities involved in the conflict. If these subjectivities can be activated, directly addressed, then the tides can change, sides are crossed, a wave of contradictions may reveal the formation of unexpected communities. Amongst the crowd gathered, in between their invocations, R. reported that he saw people whispering in each others‟ ears, spreading news, giving advice on how to behave, supporting one another, and, most importantly, telling each other where to be and at what time tomorrow.

Moussavi‟s campaign has called upon all the Opposition supporters to gather tomorrow in Tehran at 4 PM at Enghelab Square (Revolution Square, in the City Center near to the University). From there, the demonstrators are to form a peaceful protest, they are instructed to pray and to maintain calm, even under the face of fire, and to march slowly towards Azadi Square (Freedom Square, the next main square after Enghelab, many kilometers down the road, where the Azadi Tower, a symbol of Tehran, stands). Further plans include marching past Azadi and down south, towards Imam Khomeini‟s sanctuary outside of the city, near the airport. Moussavi‟s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, announced that they will attempt to secure permissions for the demonstration. This is, however, quite implausible, and most likely the demonstration will face serious challenges from not only the police, who may be violent, but the Basiji, who are hands-down deadly and who can speed through the crowd and discreetly wreck havoc, provoking the peace with their anger. If the demonstration turns violent, it is another score for the coup d‟etat, one that they can use to show that all those gathered are simply rabble-rousers, good-for-nothings, spies, etc. It is very important to stay peaceful, to keep focused. Demonstrations are scheduled in other major Iranian cities as well, also at 4 PM, an attempt to nationally unite the Opposition and its supporters in the hope that something can come out of this, that this time it won‟t be ignored.

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