Khordaad88 has translated numerous eyewitness accounts of today’s demonstrations. We will continue to bring you more in the next few days.
Here is one account:
Before the demonstration, we screamed, we shouted: this is such a stupid idea [gathering at Azadi]. We kept arguing that we could not “capture” Azadi Square, and this will only help the enemy. No one listened.
I let a pedestrian get in my car. She was crying. She said they were all on our side, but we did not dare move. They [government supporters] had come from 6 a.m. There was a boy who had a very religious look to him, with a beard and a keffiyeh. He wiped the sweat on his forehead with his keffiyeh, and asked her: “how do you know they were all on our side?” the girl responded between tears: “because they were not repeating the chants heard over the loudspeakers.” And the boy was calling the system every unprintable name under the sun.
I asked: so why didn’t you shout something else?
She said: because there were scores of security forces scattered between us. And besides, you couldn’t tell if the person standing beside you was a government supporter or not.
I asked the boy: so why have you made yourself look like this?
He said: “they told us to. I read so in balatarin.” [the plan was to "look" like government supporters, get in front, and "capture" Azadi Square]
When my wife heard the word “balatarin” she shook her head and I wish I had a keffiyeh too to wipe off my sweat.
Many are talking of whether today was a “defeat” or a “victory” for the greens. Certainly we have to wait some more and observe more, but given what we know … I do not look at events in such terms. What was there that was supposed to be “won” that is now, “lost”? Yes, given the lack of a huge turnout, there will most likely be even more pressure on opposition groups and human rights activists in the following weeks/months … But given where we stand right now, this moment, what was really lost? The Iranians inside Iran either chose to stay away from the protests, or could not gather in big numbers, or … But this is the end result. So, if you were an average Iranian who supported the opposition, what would be lost for you?
If you are a student, activist, etc, in Iran today, you have yet to know. And that’s it exactly: we don’t know yet, to be speaking so loudly of defeat and loss.
I am personally not disapointed, because after seeing the incredible turnout for Ashura, I was certain the state was busy preparing for 22 Bahman from the day after Ashura … They were incredibly surprised that day and they were not going to let it repeat itself, given that it was such an important day for them. It was important to make the opposition look like small groups of eghteshahgar [attention seekers creating disturbance] and to secure the city full force.
Expecting anything else was pure blissful optimism.
Add to that the grave miscalculation by the greens themselves.
I think here is where the diaspora is actually influencing the state in Iran for the worse.
I was at an Iranian salon a few weeks ago. The 57 year old lady who I’ve known for more than a decade now told me: “I have been wanting to go to Iran for two decades now. I am waiting for after 22 Bahman, since the regime will be toppled that day, and then I’m going.”
I spoke to a traveler agent, a friend of the family, who said that at least a dozen people had called her and told her to make them reservations for Iran – but not to confirm their ticket until 22 Bahman, when they would know that “the regime would be toppled for sure.”
There was a vote on balatarin yesterday where 85% of people (almost 11, 0000 individuals from inside and outside Iran) voted that the greens would “take over” Azadi Square. These thoughts were further amplified by questionable individuals like Mohsen Sazegara who was giving tips on VOA on “what the protesters should do after taking over Azadi”. There were talks about “over 3 million opposition forces” attending the rally. I think this is a perfect example of where the virtual world and the expat community circulates their visions of sugar plum fairies on TV stations … and they have become liability for the movement. When you raise expectation above the real capacity of a movement , that only results in disappointment and despair.
The reality was that after Ashura, today was not going to be an easy day, and, that the greens should have at least made a better plan. Given tight security and the lack of a good plan … this was inevitable.
I think today was more a “reality check” than a “defeat”:
- the state has far more security resources at its disposal than what we’d like to believe
- the state has far more resouces in terms of getting out supporters/call girls/fans/oblivious forced presence/etc than we’d like to think
- we have to think beyond street protests