A Trip To Iran

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I came back from Iran 2 days ago from a three week trip. I wanted to share with you my observation. (By the way, andrewsullivan.com is blocked in Iran and that's how I figured you are extensively covering the situation.)

We arrived in Iran 5 days after the election. When I had heard the news of the protests before our arrival, I had thought that few young members of my extended family might have joined the protests or might have known the protesters but I was shocked to find out that almost everybody (80%) of my and my husband's family members over the age of 18 who lived in Tehran had joined the first week's protests at some point. Pregnant women, Mother and Father of young kids, 60 and 70 year olds, all had joined in and were saying that if you have joined one protest, you felt that you had to join more. There were young people who told me that their parents didn't know that they had went. There was a 50 year old woman who took his 20 year old son along instead of the other way around. There were young women whose mothers and fathers accompanied them out of worry. I was surprised of this over whelming activism. It especially seemed that women were more excited and determined to join. And these were cautious middle class people who had never joined any protests in the past 30 years and had thought their kids that threatening their life is not worth a protest  which might get crushed anyway and even if it doesn't, the outcome might not be right. These people had only voted in silence previous times but this time the fraud  was so blatant and obvious that people felt compelled to cry out. I think the biggest reason for this outrage was that this had been the absolute last ray of hope for non-violent change. Due to the results of the last revolution which had an unwanted consequence of establishing an authoritarian regime, many people didn't believe in revolutions and violence anymore. They believed in changing the system from within. And Mousavi was the best choice among the mere 4 choices that the system had put forward.

And this is what I saw in the people, It was anger mixed with excitement for the first week after the election. People were really encouraged by the large number of the people and by the fact that Mousavi was not backing down. The feeling in the air was that the calm protests can push the change.   One week after the election though, after hearing Khamenei's speech in the Friday's prayer, people were depressed and in shock that he wasn't going to give an inch and he was going to unleash the killers. He explicitly said that if anybody dies from now on, their blood will be on Mousavi's hand. Still Some of our family members joined the protests on the next day (The day that Neda and many others were shot and killed). As you know that day was brutal. There were many armed forces on the streets forcing people away from the main routes and then trapping them and hitting them with tear gas and batons. The area in the city that had problems was very very wide. but after that day, not many people were joining the protests. It was too dangerous and back to younger men and women who don't have anybody depending on them. The only form of disobedience which was still widely followed was the "allah akbar" and "death to dictator" shouts at night from the roof tops.

Before July 9th that was waning as well. Since policemen were marking the doors of the houses of some of the people who were shouting the chants with large red crosses and scaring them into silence.  People had also received notices from the police that they only had few days to take off their satellites. In Iran everyone had a satellite at their house and was hooked to BBC Persian or  Voice of America to get the news.  People were again scared to talk in the taxi or in the public. A rumour was going around that cellphones can turn into a listening device even if they are turned off. Public figures were continuously trying to scare people into submission by saying that students who attended the rallies will not be able to continue their education in the country and contacting any foreign media is considered treason. The iron-fist was coming down and people know that they are capable of all these but people feel that something has cracked in the system which will probably not come to fruition now but might later.