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New Year, New City?

by CORRESPONDENT in Tehran

17 Apr 2011 15:26Comments

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A quiet start.

[ dispatch ] If uncertainty and general turmoil marked the final months of 1389, Tehran has entered into the new year with stunning calmness. The Nowrouz holiday, a time of family gatherings, travel and respite, allayed the city's atmosphere almost beyond recognition. As locals emptied out of the city and headed to the mountains or seaside, they seemed to take with them the remnants of political tension.

When the weather warmed and traces of greenery appeared on the boulevards, tear gas and anti-government slogans became a distant memory, even for those who so vehemently took to the streets weeks earlier. Even Chaharshanbe Souri, the "mischief night" preceding the Eid holiday, was relatively uneventful.

While the modern rites of jumping over street fires and igniting small explosives were still diligently observed, the revelry felt subdued. Despite heightened police presence and prior calls for demonstrations from the Green Movement's leadership abroad, young activists stayed largely silent.

Aside from rumors of isolated skirmishes, the most anarchic night of the year passed without major incidents. As one Green Movement supporter put it, "It feels different this year. I think people are just tired."

Admittedly, the Green Movement had been losing steam since the 25th of Bahman. While initially electrified by the uprisings in the Arab world, the overwhelming police presence gradually succeeded in dispersing Green activists. (Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have also been held incommunicado since the massive turnout on February 14.) By the time Tehranis returned from their vacations on the first days of the new year, public anger seemed to have dissipated completely.

Rows of Basijis lined the main thoroughfares, anticipating protests against the newly implemented cutbacks in government subsidies. The aforementioned Green activist, who makes a point never to miss a demonstration, observed them quizzically: "Why are they here? Should we be doing something?"

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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