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'Stay Together and Together Stay Strong': 3 Friends Prepare for 25 Bahman

by SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Tehran

14 Feb 2011 05:00Comments

[ dispatch ] In the last two days, so many things have happened that it would require a large team of analysts to evaluate the causes and the effects. The first thing that completely blew my mind was a short news item on the national radio this Saturday that we are close to the "day that the Imam Mahdi [the Messiah] was elected a Shia leader." The announcer was congratulating the people on the "holy" occasion. Well, for many this may just be another radio announcement from a Shia radio station. But this is the first time in my life that I ever heard such a news bulletin. At least I am not alone. Nader, my friend and comrade, called me in the afternoon and jokingly congratulated me on the blessed event. He then asked, "Now what else would this regime use to dilute the importance of the real events to come?" I replied, "That is smart. Make up a nonexistent event, then advertise it through the national media. Wow, this is an interesting way of redirecting the attention of the average Joe." On the other end of the line, Nader laughed and said, "I think Goebbels can learn a thing or two from these guys. Now the next thing you may hear is that the government is doling out gifts for people who get married during the next few days...." I shook my head. "How else to use religion to fool the population? What was that phrase of Lenin's about religion?" I chuckled. We then decided to meet near Mr. Karroubi's residence in the evening and see what was going on.

Nader and I met with Mahtab, our other friend, in the late afternoon but before reaching Mr. Karroubi's house we received a call. "Don't come near here, the house is under attack. They want to arrest Mr. Karroubi. Go and hide wherever you can." Then just silence on the other end of the line. "With all of these arrests and attempted detentions, we have to add fear to the tactics of our nemesis," said Mahtab in an angry mood. "What do we do now?" Nader wondered. I suggested that we sit down in a coffee shop and recap.

As we reached our favorite coffee shop on Bahonar Avenue, we turned off our mobile phones and took the batteries out so as not to be tracked by the authorities. "So much for the international support of human rights. The oil money is so attractive that we have to disconnect from the rest of the world since Nokia Siemens sold mobile tracking and eavesdropping technology to these thugs," Nader shouted as he threw the batteries to the back seat of my car, nearly hitting Mahtab.

We found a quiet corner, sat down, and ordered our coffee. "We have to be smart. Don't we boast about how intelligent Iranians are all the time? Now why are we confused? What do we do next? If they arrest Karroubi tonight, then Mousavi will be next" -- I was babbling on like a chatterbox. "Recap, isn't that what we are supposed to be doing?" Mahtab interjected. A murmur, but commanding. He continued, "For now, the only certain thing is that we will show up on time on Monday, February 14th, at 3 p.m. and will start walking toward Azadi Square. But we have to define what we want to do. I am not very comfortable with demonstrating just for demonstrating. They have the money, the guns, the religion -- the opium -- and what do we do if they start shooting at us? Do we turn the other cheek again?" Nader was anxious. I tried to calm him down: "We will just give them a Valentine's Day gift." Mahtab was not amused: "And then they will announce on TV that a group of Westernized yuppie sissies tried to promote decadent Western culture on the day that Imam Mahdi was chosen to be the 12th Imam of the Shia world." I replied, "I was just joking, but don't you think that we have to define things at least for ourselves? Is this a struggle between Islamic radicalism and secularism or can we even define the struggle other than that of a democratic movement yearning for a free civil society?"

Nader pulled himself together and said, "We got outsmarted today, but this is a single battle in a war. The fact of the matter is that the people in the security apparatus of the regime are as intelligent as the opposition in the movement and that makes this struggle ever more challenging. There is, however, one basic fact that has so far separated these two opposing groups and that is violence. We the Greens, as a whole, have until now committed to 'civil disobedience" and 'nonviolence,' whereas the regime has committed every imaginable deed to stop the movement, ranging from house arrest, prohibiting people to leave the country, branding them persona non grata, imprisonment, torture, rape, assassination, execution, and even gunning people down in bright daylight. There is no limit to what this regime does to stay in power -- neither Islamic teaching in the Qur'an, which clearly describes how to deal with enemies during a war, nor Iranian cultural norms, both of which prescribe a great degree of tolerance for the enemy. And here we are not even talking about an invading army or a religious war with infidels. We are speaking about ordinary Iranians, the majority of whom are Muslims, that want nothing more than to reform the system through a nonviolent movement."

Mahtab continued, "The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is neither Islamic nor Iranian. It is a ruthless, profit-minded dictatorship that relies on oil revenues to control an ailing economy and fund bandit militia forces, both in Iran and elsewhere. Its only rigid and focused goal is survival. All other elements attached to it are propaganda. It uses Islam and superstitions to control, manipulate, and distract the masses, the average religious Joes. It uses money and big projects to dilute international coalitions -- and since money, greed, and profit are the basic values for most of the capitalist world, there is always a company or even a country that falls for this trap. It uses international laws and norms whenever it is profitable for them (i.e., the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty protocol) and finally it uses the lack of transparency to avoid being caught."

"And the Turks are coming here tomorrow to make business with the demagogues," I said in a bitter voice. "So how do you fight a smart, well-financed, indefinable, fluid enemy that uses any means to survive? I think everyone in the opposition has to be thinking about this issue, right?" Mahtab smiled: "The biggest fear that the regime has is the same challenge that we have -- the movement is as intelligent as the regime is...with one exception: The power of the Green Movement is the perseverance, dedication, and persistence of its members. We believe in something righteous." A bit annoyed by the intellectualism of the conversation, I said, "Righteousness does not work by itself. We have to make coalition with similar-minded people, groups, and countries and build power, force. For that, we have to define common goals and interests, a coherent action plan, and attract international support, and not just in the intellectual communities but in the financial world."

As we left the coffee shop, and before we put the batteries back in our mobile phones, Nader said, "For now, the only thing that we can do is to stay together and together stay strong. Don't forget 'Allah-o akbar' at 10:30 at night. See you on Valentine's Day." And with hopeful smiles on our faces we departed.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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