PART VII: We are not dirt and dust, we are the nation of Iran

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Iranian passport-control officer looked at my passport. ‘Are you a student?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

He looked at the last page of my passport which bore the

stamp showing I had voted two days ago. He smiled. ‘I see you voted.’

‘Yes, I did, in London.’

‘And you know the results?’ he asked sarcastically.

‘Yes,’ I sighed.

‘It’s a big fraud, isn’t it?’

I didn’t answer. I had no idea if this was a genuine question or a test. He stamped my passport.

‘Godspeed, student!’ he said, and handed the passport back.

My parents were waiting for me at the airport. On our way home they filled me in on the news. The country was in turmoil. Despite Mousavi and Karroubi announcing that they wouldn’t accept the results and accusing the administration of rigging the ballot, the Supreme Leader had congratulated Ahmadinejad and asked the other candidates to respect the results. The protesters thought this statement outrageous: Khamenei hadn’t even left open the option of a recount. Several reformists and journalists had already been arrested. Mousavi had asked the people to show their objection to this fraud by shouting ‘Allah-o Akbar’ from the rooftops at 10 every night, following the tradition initiated at the time of the Revolution. The police had begun to arrest anyone who carried a green symbol.

As soon as we got home and had had breakfast, I got into my car and drove to Caravan. I found my colleagues sitting listlessly, staring at one another, doing nothing. As soon as I entered, they seemed to emerge from their stupor and we began discussing the situation. I phoned some of my friends and asked for the latest news. One of them was Emad, an active participant in the protests.

‘Emad, are you crazy? Go home to your pregnant wife! What would your unborn child do if something happened to you?’

‘I can’t, Arash. If I don’t do anything now, the life of my unborn child will be destroyed. She deserves to live in a better country.’

He kept giving me updates about the situation. The government had blocked almost every website and blog. The satellite channels were unusable: the regime was sending out huge jamming waves. The phones were tapped, and the Internet speed slowed down to such an extent that we couldn’t communicate with the outside world. The only way I could contact Maryam was via Skype.

Then, the social media revolution entered its next phase. Footage of the street violence was uploaded onto YouTube and Facebook. And Twitter began to provide immediate updates. Most of us couldn’t even see the videos that were uploaded since YouTube and Facebook were blocked as well.

Another friend, very close to Mousavi—who’d better remain anonymous—told me that Mousavi had paid a visit to the Supreme Leader that afternoon but Khamenei had said that there hadn’t been any cheating in the election. Mousavi had asked how they could know that before a recount. The Ayatollah had said there was no need; he was sure there had been no fraud.

Ahmadinejad celebrated his victory among his supporters in Vali-Asr Square the same day. It was there that he publicly declared that those who protested against the results of the election was ‘insignificant, nothing but dirt and dust’.

That was a mistake.

That night, the police, the plainclothes men and the Basij attacked the dorm of University of Tehran, the same place they had struck exactly 10 years ago in July 1999. Five students, boys and girls, were killed on the spot.

That night, if you went out at 10, the roar of thousands of people shouting ‘Allah-o Akbar’ from their rooftops would have made your heart race.

Or filled it with fear, depending which side you were on.