TEHRAN -- Slightly over a month ago, anti-government protesters (the ones not yet in prison, or murdered) went back to the streets of Tehran, in a counter-protest against a government-orchestrated parade. The protesters wore easily identifiable green, so they knew that if Basij militiamen wanted to bust their heads, their colors would mark clearly which heads to bust. And bust they did. Media and cell-phone cameras captured images of young revolutionaries thwacked in the street and bleeding, and stories of the violence ran all over the Web and in print. My colleagues Jeffrey Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan were especially thrilled, and read the day's events as signs of a movement bloodied but unbowed.
The view from Tehran was somewhat different. A few days before the Quds Day protests, this blog went temporarily dark, and its author went into a minor occultation. Soon after arriving as a tourist, I hit the streets of Tehran with the protesters. Overall, I found them definitely bloodied, intermittently unbowed, and all too often insignificant. During the next week I will post impressions of the protests and of the Iran I saw.
Poster for international Quds Day.
There were actually two protests: a spectacle organized annually, on the last Friday of Ramadan, by the Iranian government to stir anti-Israeli fervor ("Quds" is Jerusalem in Arabic), and a counterprotest meant to hijack the event for the faction that favored Mir Hussein Mousavi in the elections last summer. Where these two protests met, in a few spots predetermined by the latter group, promised to be the most violent areas in Tehran.