Reflections on the Day of Commemoration
by HAMID FAROKHNIA in Tehran
20 Feb 2011 22:18
Demonstrations amid heavy security presence on streets of Tehran.
[ on the scene ] The first day of commemoration for those killed this past Monday again saw sizable demonstrations, although the number of protesters on the streets of Tehran was about a third of the figure involved in the 25 Bahman events. The regime's forces were out in full strength, however, numbering in the tens of thousands. Many others were stationed in garrisons and Basij bases on standby in case an emergency situation developed.
The length of Enghelab Avenue was filled with tens of thousands of protesters. Valiasr Square was the site of clashes. So was Haft-e Tir. One person is rumored to have been killed there. Other than central Tehran, heavy security presence -- including special anti-riot NAJA police, Basijis, and vigilantes -- were seen by this reporter in western Tehran (Shahr Ara) and northern Tehran (Tajrish). I was told by several people that Tehran Pars and Imam Hossein Square in the western parts of the city were likewise inundated with various security forces.
Many of the security personnel wore masks to conceal their identities, as was also true on Monday. In last year's protests, only a handful of these men wore masks. Today, most of the Basij and Intelligence Ministry personnel did so. Even some of the regular NAJA cops, whom many people regard as civil servants with batons, were wearing masks. Some Basijis were wearing ski masks that gave them a seriocomic look, especially when they were seen eating snacks with their masks on.
I saw half a dozen young men who were simply walking on the sidewalk being arrested in a space of three minutes at the intersection of Palestine and Enghelab. One security guy in full gear would point to them, utter "this one," and his colleagues would take the hapless protester away. From the looks of it, 500 to 1,000 people must have been arrested today in Tehran.
There are reports of peaceful demonstrations in several other cities around the country, as well. There seems little doubt now that we are witnessing a revival of the democratic movement.
And yet, while events in places like Yemen, Egypt, and even Libya are the subject of great interest and media coverage around the world, the attention being paid to developments in Iran is relatively scant. This is mainly due to the absence of foreign correspondents here and the extreme difficulty of uploading video footage on account of Internet slowdowns. However, if commemoration events like today's become a regular feature, we may see the return of the media spotlight on Iran.
Hamid Farokhnia is a staff writer at Iran Labor Report and covers the capital for Tehran Bureau. He writes under a pen name.
Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau