10 Jun 2009 14:28
It was to be one of Mir Hossein Mousavi's final campaign stops, a medium-size stadium in the lower half of Tehran, where one is much more accustomed to seeing events for the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As has become fashionable among Iranian presidential candidates this week, however, he didn't show.
It hardly seemed to matter, though, as it's becoming ever more clear that this campaign is not really about support for Mr. Mousavi; it's about frustration and the desire for change.
The stadium, which looked to be about the size of an average capacity American high school football field, filled up as university students and young professionals got off work after 5 p.m. It was clear that the majority in the crowd was female -- probably somewhere around 70 percent. The Mousavi people know by now that young women with big aspirations are their bread and butter, and so many aspects of the campaign reflect that.
Industrious street vendors sold ice cream, flashing green horns and lukewarm bottled water to some in attendance -- the Iranian entrepreneurial spirit is never far from sight.
The early stages felt more pep rally than campaign stop, and when there was a very short and feeble attempt at doing "The Wave" I wondered if maybe the organizers had lifted much of their game plan from a high school cheer-leading movie like "Bring it On."
The entire infield of the stadium was packed with women, mostly in their twenties, wearing as much green as they could, faces painted the color of algae, waving banners, singing and dancing, yes dancing, to several electronic pop songs about Mr. Mousavi.
Meanwhile male organizers pulled rank with each other over who should be allowed access to the sections nearest the stage. A few scuffles broke out, and cooler heads had to intervene; foreign media was watching. In the bleachers a section of perhaps a thousand men stared on at the sea of femininity.
The stark contrast between the impassioned, yet composed female supporters with the sometimes rowdy, always ogling males, made me wonder how this country has survived so long being run by men. Or perhaps maybe it's not.
After several lackluster speeches and poems by members of the Mousavi team, the real star of the campaign, his wife Zahra Rahnavar, took the podium. It didn't matter that Mousavi wasn't there; no one likes to listen to him speak anyway.
In a several minute tirade against President Ahmadinejad, Rahnavar got the excitement flowing. A bridge near the stadium was completely packed with people hanging on her every word, others watched from nearby rooftops and some lone Ahmadinejad supporters unfurled a large banner down the side of a nearby apartment building.
"Goodbye to the Empire of lies, goodbye to the days of darkness," she proclaimed to chants of "Rahnavar, Rahnavar." "We are because we dream of a free Iran... You came here because you don't want dictatorship... You're here for a new Islamic Revolution. You hate fanaticism... and we're here today to say we don't want to repeat the mistakes of our past."
Middle-aged men, in funny green paper hats, eating their Popsicles watched, miffed at the courage and tenacity of this diminutive force, while the young women of Iran made their voices heard believing, perhaps for the first time, that at least part of their destiny is in their own hands.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau