A View from the Frontline
25 Jun 2009 22:09
Last week, a group of friends and I organized a medical team to help the wounded and injured in the streets. As we sewed up gashes and patched up wounds on the beautiful battered faces of our dear Iranians, we kept asking ourselves, "What have they become? Have they no regard for the life for a fellow human being? For the life of a fellow countryman? For the life of a neighbor? For the life of a cousin? For the life of a brother? For the life of a sister?"
It wasn't long before Basij militiamen took away our identity cards. After reporting us to the university, I was called in by a disciplinary committee and reprimanded. I was told I had put my future career and even my life in jeopardy. I was told to think about the consequences of my actions.
As I left the committee members, the events of the past two weeks fell into place:
The government had a plan. They thought their plan was perfect. They had devised a perfect fraud in which regardless of how people voted, only one name would emerge as the winner: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
It was to be the start of an era of unopposed rule.
By creating the appearance of a free and open atmosphere, by creating hope of change, people would turnout in high numbers. A high turnout at the ballot boxes would give them an aura of legitimacy in the eyes of the world. It would give Ahmadinejad a mandate.
But they made a fatal miscalculation; they underestimated the people.
When the results were announced, nobody in their right mind believed them. Even the most optimistic of Ahmadinejad supporters didn't believe he could win by such a margin.
This prompted widespread unrest. For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic the ruling establishment had to contend with masses in the streets. These masses had not been dragged there by intimidation or by promise of a reward. For the first time the masses were not chanting pro-government slogans.
This was something entirely new; it was a nation rising up in defiance of all the tricks the government has been pulling over the years.
Despite their miscalculation, the supreme leader and the revolutionary guard elites were not ready to make any concessions; they knew too well. Even a single step back would have been a starting point from where things would cascade down to the eventual breakdown of their perfect autocracy.
So they took a firm stand against the very people who had brought them to power 30 years ago. History will be the judge but I believe that this was their second and most fatal miscalculation. You can never put out a fire by beating it, the flames may wane but underneath the ashes will go on burning. Wheels have been set in motion. A vast movement has started to take place. In time, the tide will turn.
In February 1979, during the time of the revolution, the army chiefs decided to prevent bloodshed and a civil war, so they refused to crack down on the demonstrators. They were thanked for this by swift executions that took place as soon as the revolutionaries came to power.
Sepah, or the Revolutionary Guard, is apparently determined not to go down the same path.
The decision of the current government to brutally crack down on the protesters and demonstrators led to the massacre of June 20, 2009, a day that will go down in history as the Black Saturday of the Islamic Republic. Thirty years ago, 17 Shahrivar 1357 [September 8, 1978], the Pahlavi Regime made the same fatal mistake. That Black Friday was the turning point from which the Pahlavi Regime never recovered.
We had hoped for a swift and decisive victory, first in the election and then through our defiance, but our high hopes were crushed with bullets, batons and tear gas. Now the mood is that of defeat, anguish and despair.
Fear has crept in and taken hold. Everybody now speaks in whispers. We are depressed and hopeless. Perhaps the main reason everyone feels so down is that before the election we had such high hopes. We flew too high and then fell down or rather were brought down by Basij and anti-riot police.
This struggle has had its toll on us all. I have never seen so many people grieving. This is a social malaise. At the personal level, each of us still feels robbed of our vote, our freedom, our friends, our brothers and our sisters.
We are disillusioned, battered and betrayed. Many are talking about leaving the country. Many young souls are looking for the first exit. Emigration perhaps. A mass exodus may be under way.
In the past few days, I have been feeling down and depressed. I had a sense that all was lost, and the frequent rains, which are extremely unusual for this time of year, added to the sense of melancholy overcoming me. My uncle, who experienced the revolution, told me however, "Evolution takes time. This was just a start; in time things will change."
I hope so.
Politics and power are dirty things, much more so than depicted by Romain Gary in "L'Homme a la colombe." Even so, the protagonist, also a young soul, emerges victorious. We are sacrificing ourselves to make a statement, which the corrupt politicians ignore and the mass media manipulates. But people, generation after generation, pass this on from heart to heart as a slogan for integrity, bravery and freedom.
Maybe this will be our legacy. Maybe years from now, we will recount the stories of these days to the generation after us as the turning point that made all the difference, if not in our lives, perhaps at least in theirs.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau