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Beheshti's Ghost

by TARA MAHTAFAR in Tehran

28 Jun 2009 22:4219 Comments

As the crackdown intensifies in Iran, the opposition is developing creative ways to fight back using the regime's own logic against it.

Today, June 28, is the death anniversary of the martyr of Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, a prominent Iranian cleric assassinated in a bombing in 1981. His martyrdom is trumpeted annually by the Islamic Republic in a commemoration ceremony open to the public -- and as such, fully licensed.

Since last night, emails began circulating urging protesters to gather at the legal venue for the Beheshti event: Qoba Mosque in north Tehran. The slogan du jour, recommended for placards, was "The Vote is the Measure" -- a famous Khomeini quote referring to the basis from which the Islamic Republic derives legitimacy: the popular vote.

Surely, we reasoned, the Revolutionary Guard would not dare open fire on a mosque.

When we arrived, I had to separate from my three male friends and go alone to the women's section upstairs. The mosque was crowded and hot; a restless buzz filled the air. Young girls in green headscarves and chador-clad women with green wristbands were murmuring Mir Hossein Mousavi's name. He was rumored to be on his way to make a speech here.

The service started at 6 p.m. I perched myself on a ledge on the balcony corner next to the window, overlooking the podium in the men's section below. A muezzin launched into a long prayer, followed with a eulogy in praise of Beheshti. It was getting hotter by the moment as more people pressed in. A woman next to me whispered, "Is Mousavi really coming?" I smiled reassuringly at her, though by now -- an hour had passed -- I began to suspect the shadowy opposition leader was a no-show.

The muezzin droned on. I was getting fed up and ready to leave. Thankfully, just then it came -- a roar of cheering from outside. Standing up on tiptoe, I looked through the arabesque grates by my side: what an overpowering sight! People, hands raised in the 'V' sign, as far as the eye could see in both directions down the street, chanting pro-Mousavi slogans. The chorus spread like lightening, and indoors erupted as well with fervid chanting.

Mousavi was barred from coming, mosque officials told the crowd. Go home, they warned -- the security forces are on their way!

But people, confident in their numbers (upward of four thousand), began instead marching up the street, heading for Shariati Avenue, a main Tehran artery.

For about ten minutes we marched in peace. Late sunlight fell through the leafy canopy of maple trees overhead. There was a sense of happiness in being back out on the street, of seeing mass public solidarity again.

Not unsurprisingly, the peace was short-lived. We heard shots, followed by screams. Initially the crowd tried to stand its ground, linking arms and chanting, "No fear, we're all together!" -- but the Basij guards came down on us fast and hard. More gunshots, and in the space of a few seconds, the crowd began running the other way in panic. Pushed on all sides, I fell, and for the first time, understood what "being trampled underfoot" meant. Someone pulled me back up, and we ducked into the gate of some kind soul who had opened her home as sanctuary.

The sequence is one we are getting used to: Gather, disperse; march, run away; chant, get hurt; hide, tremble with others and share your common rage. The crowd didn't seem tired of the game though. Good thing to know: The game is not over yet.

Photo: Mural of Ayatollah Beheshti, who was the secretary-general of the Islamic Republic Party, and the head of the Islamic Republic's judicial system. He was assassinated along with more than 70 members of the Islamic Republic party on June 28, 1981.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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A rich fusion of news update and musical prose - thank you for providing such a feast. I hope you are not too bruised from the trampling. Hearing about the masses at Qoba Mosque lifted my hopeful spirits for Iran again, as did your final words - the game is not over. ;)

Stay safe.

1in7billion / June 28, 2009 7:05 PM

This is beautiful and touching. Know that many are watching a praying for you and your struggle!

Krystle D / June 28, 2009 7:38 PM

I am so happy to see the solidarity and determination of a people wanting to be free. The world is still watching your brave efforts. Remember Neda, as she is representative of your movement. Good luck to you.

Scott C. / June 28, 2009 8:33 PM

I salute you for your bravery. Despots will die and people power will live.

Jim Paredes / June 28, 2009 8:50 PM

History has shown us your courage will bring you freedom eventually. There are millions of people around the world who love democracy and care about your vote. You are not alone even in the most terrifying moments.

Greta Cosby / June 28, 2009 9:03 PM

Thank you for this description of the day. Gave a much better picture than the pictures I have seen on the web. You and your fellow protestors are brave and I and many others pray for you each day. And share postings and video on our facebook pages!

Meg Soens / June 28, 2009 9:34 PM

I continue to be inspired by the courage of the Iranian people. A government that does not respect its people is nothing.

Heidi / June 28, 2009 10:05 PM

Whenever there is a true battle for freedom some end up giving the ultimate sacrifice. It is painful, but without it there is no freedom. Do not give up or those who died have died in vain. I pray for you all.

Carol Dawn / June 28, 2009 11:44 PM

"The crowd didn't seem tired of the game though. Good thing to know: The game is not over yet."

Yes...this is a good thing to know.

Iranians are a tough (and apparently stubborn) lot. :)))

It's so encouraging to see that they just won't give up. So many people in the world are hanging on the every piece of news coming out of this, because this is changing the face of change across the globe. If the Iranian people can succeed at taking back their government, with mostly computers and cellphones for weapons, we can arm the world. This truly is the revolution of the people! :)

guruvan (Rob Nelson) / June 28, 2009 11:46 PM

Keep up the good work peaceful warriors. Your acts bring shame and humiliation to the cowardly tyrants...that should make you smile and giggle a little in these very tough times.

john r / June 28, 2009 11:54 PM

This report was very touching. I'm constantly at awe at the courage of the Iranian protesters. How many more people have to be killed before the Iranian leaders realize that they have lost their power and that they are no longer acknowledged by either the people of Iran and the international community?

HootOwl / June 29, 2009 1:56 AM

Such a great article. Thank you for this.

Neave / June 29, 2009 3:40 AM

I salute the brave souls fighting for their freedom. Iranians are beautiful people, pity the supreme leadership doesn't know this.

Stay creative and win.

nomoredespots / June 29, 2009 5:04 AM

mayve, the game is just developing? I mean, life is essentially a series of games, and it will be interesting to watch them formulate and create this one which doesn't seem to have any comparison, but it does kinda reek of a 'cat&mouse' if off-course cat&mouse could be played in the dozens at the same time, or something like that, we'd have alot to learn from that.

cyrus / June 29, 2009 6:31 AM

Your courage is admirable. Be not afraid. Move forward to the betterment of Republic of Iran.

Our prayers are with you.

shetty / June 29, 2009 8:09 AM

It's fantastic to see the creativity and persistence of the Iranian people's resistance in finding new ways to express itself against the brutality and violence of the IRI. My thoughts are best expressed by this Thomas Jefferson Quote

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.

The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is

wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts

they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions,

it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...

And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not

warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of

resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as

to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost

in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from

time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

It is its natural manure."

Richard Kadas / June 29, 2009 10:21 AM

To the brave author of this article, know that history is on your side.

Richard Harrington / June 29, 2009 12:33 PM

The protesters should learn to make homemade armor and weaponry to defend themselves.


Ben / June 29, 2009 12:45 PM

No matter what the headlines read, I, and others like me, will keep the bravery of the Iranian people foremost in my thoughts, heart and mind.

I will always remember Neda.

secularcanadian / June 30, 2009 11:54 AM