Gearing up for 13 Aban
by TARA MAHTAFAR
02 Nov 2009 10:52
[ preview ] To the outside world, street protests in Iran appear to have 'died down' since summer ended. Yet the opposition movement, driven underground, has strategically slated mass turnouts for calendar dates such as September's Qods Day, which turned the government's annual tradition of anti-Israel rallies on its head. By targeting dates of historic significance to the regime, opposition supporters aim to 'subvert' ideological symbols touted for 30 years by the Islamic Republic and thereby re-brand that date as an ideology-free 'green' day, the trademark color of the country's burgeoning pro-democracy movement.
Far from being "spontaneous" as some in the Western media described the last instance when, by many estimates, hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the streets, anti-government demonstrations are laboriously planned and promoted a month beforehand, originating online, as ever, and transmitted on the ground by word-of-mouth, leaflets, and other creative ways.
The next major rally date is November 4, known as "13 Aban" on the Iranian calendar, which marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran. The designated route for the march is Talaghani Avenue in downtown Tehran and other streets near the former American embassy complex. Outside of the capital, protesters are set to march from the (public) State University to (private) Azad University campus in their city.
Initiatives to invite the public to attend 13 Aban rallies began well over a month ago. Web-based promotion included bulletins on Reformist news sites and posters circulated in social media, especially Facebook. One poster urges protestors to drive their cars to the demonstration route and block the roads, if they fear coming to the streets on foot. Another poster calls on Iranians to chant Allah-o-Akbar from their rooftops at 10 pm on the night before the rally, almost like a collective war cry, except that the opposition is committed to nonviolent struggle.Aware that Iran's internet penetration rate hovers around 30 percent, efforts to spread the word in the physical world have included the distribution of flyers and writing Green 13 Aban! on billboards, walls, and money bills.
"Money passes from hand to hand," an activist in Tehran involved in promotional efforts told Tehran Bureau. "The message gets out to everyone [that way]."
A post-election phrase popularized by the Facebook page of opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi to counter the state's stranglehold on broadcasting, tight censorship of newspapers, and filtering of websites has been: You are the Media. Iran's youth have taken this call to heart, and Wednesday's turnout will be a measure of their success to mobilize the public for symbolic, date-based street protests in sustained a campaign for change.
Photo: "13 Aban Green," at Tehran University. Poster: 13 Aban, a day of respect for all nations, "Death to No One"