Updates from 8 Mordad (30 July)
30 Jul 2009 16:39
Photo: A young woman refuses to budge, Behesht Zahra cemetery, 30 July 2009.Blog Watch | Notes From the Underground
We headed to Behesht Zahra Cementary in the afternoon to join the 4pm ceremony at their gravesites. Behesht Zahra is about a one hour drive south of Tehran and as we neared the cementery, about five police cars and officers were directing traffic. Waiting to enter the cementery compound in the traffic, one of my companions pulled down the window and half jokingly asked the police officer what was going on. He smiled back and said, "nothing, just go towards row 257." For those not familiar with Behesht Zahra, it's an enormous cementery with wide avenues and squares. Knowing it would take us a while to find our destination, the police officer decided to help by telling us in which row we could find Neda's grave (others in Behesht Zahra would help lost drivers by directing them to Neda. That's all people said: "Neda ounjast" (Neda is there), pointing in the direction of her grave). Throughout the ceremony it was obvious the police force was very sympathetic with the people (as opposed to the anti-riot police and the revolutionary guard factions that were present in large numbers and were standing by the graves of both Neda and Sohrab). Continue reading...
From Tehran Bureau staff:
I went to the Beheshteh Zahra cemetery today. The police did not permit Mousavi or Karoubi near the graves. When the car transporting Mousavi and his wife approached, police did not even allow them out of the car.
But more than 3000 people were out on the streets near Mosalla.
Basij was there too. People flashed V signs with their fingers. Traffic was crazy; people kept honking their horns.
People put trash bins, and one motorcycle, on fire. Police and Basij started to use tear gas. They even used it at the cemetery.
The gathering at the Beheshte Zahra cemetery was supposed to be at 4 pm, but before that could happen, baton-wielding Basij and the special guard were there to break it up.
Police told mourners that if they didn't leave, they would attack. They arrested many people at the cemetery and in the streets around Mosalla.
Some people started attacking police with stones; police then started to attack them.
Two film directors, Jafar Panahi and Mahnaz Mohammadi, were arrested.
I think more than 7000 people were at Beheshte Zahra. They were not all gathered in one spot. They came and went. Beheshte Zahra is huge. Some traveled there by metro. The main slogans were in favor of Mousavi and also "Allah o Akbar."
It was such a hot day, and Beheshte Zahra is so far from Tehran. Yet so many came.
From Tehran Bureau staff in Tehran | 3:30 pm US Eastern
I got home an hour [and a half] ago. I couldn't reach Beheshte Zahra because security forces were turning cars away before the main entrance. Those who had reached Beheshte Zahra got there early. However, after 6 pm, I saw a lot of action in Yousef Abad, Abbas Abad, Vali Asr and Takhte Tavous. The crowds were huge but in groups of several hundred. I saw at least seven separate demonstrations in different sections of Vali Asr, Yousef Abad, Abbas Abad, etc.
Surprisingly there were no Basij or IRGC. The security forces were all riot police and special forces. At 8 pm, on my way home, I sat mostly in traffic.
Here are some of the slogans the demonstrators were chanting:
1) "Rahbare Maa Ghatele, Velayatesh Baatele": "Our Supreme Leader is a Murderer, His Rule is Illegitimate"
2) "Mojtaba Bemiri, Rahbari ro Nabini": "Mojtaba You'll Die Before You Become Supreme Leader"
3)"Marg Bar Russiye": "Death to Russia"
4)"Faaghede Har Fahmo Nejad, Mahmoud-e Ahmadinejad": Mahmoud Ahmadinajd is a Fool and Hobo"
5)"Marg bar Dictator": "Death to Dictator"
6)"Marg Bar Khamenei": "Death to Khamenei"
7)"Zendani Siyasi Azad Baayad Gardad": "All Political Prisoner Should Be Released"
People are still honking their horns right outside my house.
Eyewitness account: Interview by Tara Mahtafar
There was a heavy guard presence at the Interior Ministry. No protesters there, but forces were on standby [amadeh-bash]. There were clashes at Fatemi Square. One man honking in his car was dragged out and ruthlessly beaten. People around him began screaming, "They've split his head open!" He was thrown onto a motorbike and taken away.
Near the Yousef Abad cross, teargas was thrown. I and a dozen others took shelter in a pharmacy, crouching in the dark and peering through the windows where Guards were chasing and beating people on the street outside. We felt enraged but powerless to help them.
Further up, near Jam-e-Jam (IRIB headquarters), candles had been lit and placed on the sidewalk. My friend and I went into a grocery store and bought a couple of candles. As we were lighting them, a group of plainclothes forces began running toward us and we took flight into a nearby alley.
Eyewitness account: Interview by Tara Mahtafar
Graduate student, male, 29
I was at the south entrance of Mosala Grand Mosque at 5:30 pm. Forces stood guard menacingly and ordered passers by to move on, preventing the formation of a crowd. People -- young, old, all stripes -- kept walking. The unspoken consensus seemed to be to circulate in the streets randomly, since the originally-planned location was
I took a taxi up to Vanak Square. I could not believe my eyes: every few hundred meters I saw knots of 500 or so protesters flanking both sidewalks on Valiasr Avenue, screaming at the top of their lungs as cars honked in the background. I kept wondering, "Where are the cops?" There were no forces in sight; people had the streets freely to themselves.
Big throngs stood by on intersections clapping rhythmically and chanting. Wild, shrill whistles also pierced the air. The atmosphere was electric and ecstatic.
Two interesting new slogans I heard today were:
-- Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic! (A spin-off of the 1979 "Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic!")
(Esteqlal, Azadi, Jomhuri Irani!)
-- "Khamenei is a murderer, his leadership is null and void!"
(Khamenei ghatel-e, velayatesh batel-e!)
Around 8 pm, as I was leaving, I saw droves of motorbikes speeding through Vanak firing shots in the air.
Eyewitness account: Interview by Tara Mahtafar
University student, female, 23:
I arrived at Behesht Zahra cemetery at 3:30 pm. A crowd of two or three thousand people had gathered at section 257, where the post-election martyrs are buried. Most were dressed in black and many carried flowers (but no placards) and everyone prayed Quran suras aloud in unison.
At first only ordinary police officers were stationed there; but by 4 pm the Guards poured in and began yelling to disperse the crowd. People refused to budge (and new arrivals were joining in); the baton attacks began. The crowd re-convened and began chanting: "Our Neda is not dead, it's the government that's died!"
We heard from others that Mousavi had indeed arrived but had been turned away by police.
Update | around 9:10 pm Tehran time
Reports coming in [from VOA] that a memorial protest was staged in the northern city of Rasht at City Park (Park-e Shahr), and attacked by forces.
From Tehran Bureau correspondent Tara Mahtafar:
A new chant being heard on the streets in Abbas Abad right now (9:10 pm): "Khamenei haya kon, velayato raha kon!" (Khamenei have some shame, let go of the leadership!")
Vanak Square and Valiasr Square were also the sites of massive numbers of protesters.
Update | around 9 pm Tehran time
Although their effort to disperse protesters was ineffective compared to previous episodes, the Guards and Basij forces were unusually savage today -- I saw many women beaten without reservation and glass shattering on cars with small children inside.
Yet people were more bold than I'd ever seen them. As I write this at 9:00 pm from a location in Abbas Abad district, the shouts of "Death to Khamenei!" and chaotic honks are drifting in loud and clear from the window. It is dark, night has fallen - and protests are still continuing strong. Never have they lasted this late except on the first few days following the election.
It's NUTS! I've never seen it like this before! It's still going on, 9 pm now -- raging! As I said, its more like a riot, totally out of control.
Earlier: This appeared to be the most successful protests since the crackdown began. It was more akin to a riot... The forces were decidedly not in control of the situation. The protests were too widespread and numerous, up and down Valiasr; and east and west, around the Mosala area entire main roads chock full -- even stretching into side streets such as Yousef Abad (central
Guards would storm the crowd but even then the chants would continue amidst the beatings. People held their ground much more boldly than before; they would not be subdued. The guards did not remain in any one spot long, since chaotic protests swarmed in all directions. No sooner would they turn back when the crescendo of "Death to the Dictator!" would peak again and furious honking would resume and Vs would go up triumphantly.
This time, the cars were very actively involved in the protests. Honks blared incessantly in the Thursday rush hour gridlock. Drivers joined in the shouting. The traffic also helped obstruct the flow of pickups carrying Basij troops -- stuck, they gazed out at the sea of cars in dismay. Some would weave in between cars and smash windshields; shattered glass lay on the asphalt at regular intervals.