The Green Apple
by Tehran Bureau staff in New York
26 Sep 2009 19:09
Arts and politics converge in New York.
[ art house ] The Iranian Diaspora -- approximately 3 million worldwide -- turned out in larger numbers than seen since the anti-Shah rallies of the 1970s, to protest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presence at the United Nations.
Thousands of Iranians made the trip to New York, some from across the Atlantic, and others from the four corners of the United States and Canada (including a group of bikers who cycled in from Toronto), to take part in a three-day series of protests, from September 22-24.
Day 1: Human Screen
The events kicked off on Tuesday evening at Manhattan's Dag Hammarskjold Plaza with a performance installation titled 'Iran Alive.' Standing on bleachers, a group dressed in all-white formed a 'human screen' onto which images and audio made by a Tehran-based video artist were projected. One of the performers was Roxanna Saberi, the American-Iranian journalist jailed and freed earlier this year in Iran.
First, the disembodied voices of men, women, and children declaring "Ahmadinejad is not my president" in English and Persian gave way to flickering news reports from correspondents on the ground in Tehran. That was followed by hair-raising scenes of masses in the streets chanting, roaring, lighting fire barricades, running from masked anti-riot guard and Basij motorbikes.
At the stark sound of gunshots, the performers broke up the screen. One girl collapsed and lay motionless. The screen re-banded as the strains of an old revolutionary song, "Winter has Ended," started up, and victorious green-clad marchers -- 'seas of green' -- swept across the human screen, swaying to the music with their arms up in 'V' signs.
Once more, violence broke out, but again song triumphed, this time "My Grade-School Friend," an iconic anthem of protest. Everything came full circle as more voices, sound bytes uploaded onto an open ftp site from real citizens in Iran, reaffirmed that "Ahmadinejad is NOT my president."
The performance met with loud applause from an audience of a few hundred who had gathered to watch, and was recorded and broadcast by the BBC's Persian service.
Day 2: UN Plaza Demonstration
Several thousand demonstrators convened Wednesday outside Iran's mission to the United Nations, then marched to the plaza outside the UN building in midtown Manhattan. The demonstration started at noon and lasted until 6 pm, after Ahmadinejad had made his speech to the General Assembly.
The slogans chanted by protesters in Iran were repeated by their expatriate counterparts, condemning Ahmadinejad and his alleged "coup government," installed after the country's June election, which the Iranian opposition, including all three candidates running against Ahmadinejad said was rigged.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, directed by New York-based activist Hadi Ghaemi, sponsored a number of mobile billboards which circled the blocks around the UN during the three days of diaspora protests.
One billboard featured a blow-up of Ahmadinejad's face as he delivered a fiery speech. The caption read: "Murder, Torture, and Rape: Hold Ahmadinejad Accountable." Another billboard showing a scene from the street protests in Tehran called for "Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Speech For All."
Most of the demonstrators wore the trademark green of the opposition movement led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, and carried green banners, balloons, and effigies of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Other dissident groups present at the demonstration included the Islamic cult-ish group called Mojahedin Khalgh, the Iranian Communist Party, and monarchists who endorse the return of Reza Pahlavi, heir of the deposed Shah. These groups are considered to have virtually no support inside Iran, and its members largely comprise of an older generation of exiles whose political roots predate Iran's 1979 revolution.
Day 3: The Green Mile
On Thursday morning, a mile-long green banner was marched over New York's Brooklyn Bridge by green-clad opposition supporters.
The banner was draped from the Eiffel Tower in Paris on July 25th for the "Global Day of Action," when the Diaspora staged protests in more than 20 cities spanning the globe from Sydney to San Francisco. It measures one mile and is covered in the signatures of Iranian expatriates under the words "Ahmadinejad is not my president."
The Brooklyn Bridge march ended at the foot of the bridge at Manhattan's City Hall.
Billboard photo by Omid Monshi.
Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau