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The Meaning of 'V'

by ALI CHENAR in Tehran

06 Jun 2010 03:358 Comments
6a00d8341c60bf53ef01157188c281970b-500wi.jpgReflections on a moral triumph.

It was the sign of victory!

I am waiting for a taxi in Vali Asr Square, my back toward the cinema on the southwest corner, looking toward Haft-e Tir Square. For me, these streets are alive in a way I find hard to describe. An old Paykan stops and I get in. I am flashing back...

Barely a year ago, history was being made in this square. Ahmadinejad fans stood on its east side and Mousavi supporters gathered on the west. They were discussing, debating, talking. Sometimes you would see a pair of excited individuals waving their arms in the air and bursting into the middle of each others' sentences to prove their points. One evening, a stranger passed me here. He stopped and turned around to smile and say, "Well, we can be democratic!" Yes we could, we were. The maturity, the hope, the will for change astonished every observer.

It silenced those who had always found an excuse for tyranny and absolutism because Iranians were supposedly not "ready" for freedom. History held its breath for a moment and so did the nation.

There is no need to recount what happened next. And there is no need to shed tears. The battle was not lost.

In the days that followed the election, during the marches and demonstrations, Iranians raised their arms to give the "V" sign.

It was widely reported that the demonstrators were displaying the sign of peace. I remember those raised arms, with their green wristbands. No, it was not a peace sign they displayed. It was what the "V" originally signified: Victory.

Iranian people were not marching with their arms lifted to emphasize their belief in nonviolence. They were celebrating their victory, proclaiming a triumph of morality that no one expected. They knew this was a new beginning. The government declared victory in the election, but the people knew that they themselves had won the legitimacy, the righteousness, the faith. They had taken it all back.

There are some words in Persian for which there is no simple equivalent in English. One is hojjat. It means hard, irrefutable evidence that determines the final judgment. To bring out hojjat is the end of the discussion and the climax of righteousness. For example, Shiites believe the third Imam's martyrdom in the battle of Karbala on the Day of Ashura was the final hojjat that proved the illegitimacy of Yazid's rule. There was nothing left for it but to crumble.

The same can be said about the last year's election. In a way it was the irrefutable evidence, the hojjat. Nothing was left to debate. Iran reached the point of no return and marched on. It might have appeared that the government was victorious; in truth, it lost the hearts and minds of the people. The conqueror is the vanquished; the conquered, triumphant.... I am startled back to the reality of Tehran's streets by the cab driver:

"Agha, do you remember what people did last year here?"

"Yes, yes I do!"

"I could not believe my eyes."

"True, many couldn't.... Here is my stop. Thank you."

As I hand a few notes to the driver for the fare, I pause for a moment and ask a question:

"Do you think it is over, sir?"

"Hell no! It is not over. Do not think like that, my lad. It has just begun!"

...well, they say in Tehran you had better believe the cab drivers.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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nice piece, bro'! well-written.

thank you

Ramin / June 6, 2010 4:46 PM

Very well said.

John / June 6, 2010 7:45 PM


Syn / June 6, 2010 9:05 PM

I could not agree more when you said "The government declared victory in the election, but the people knew that they themselves had won the legitimacy, the righteousness, the faith.
That is so right. Struggle will go on and underway to freedom, there shall be blood and tears to shed , without which victory is not attainable.
Mollahs had a historical chance to show that they also can be amenable to reason and receptive to people's legitimate demands but they blew it. Now they have to number the days of demise, ever more rapidly.


PersiaTraveler / June 7, 2010 2:12 AM

Anyone notice the 'V's popping up in this last week's prayers?

Start watching from 1:50.

8 / June 7, 2010 12:37 PM

Interesting and hopeful piece. Touching exchange in the cab. I wish it went on longer, but the cabbie's "It is not over... it has just begun!" lifted my spirit. Then I watched the Youtube piece of Khamanei's sermon that was posted by one of the commentators. It was nice to see the V's a few younger people courageously flashed, but I heard the stern voice of Khamenei, saw all the hard 'establishment' faces, heard that stale, unforgiving dogma... Man! it seems to me that it will be a long battle; a battle of ideologies, a necessary but painfully slow cultural transformation that is happening here. For everyone hopeful for change, there is another that see "hojjat" the opposite way; that wants things to stay the same, their idea of some 'Islamic' order. Let's hope their children feel differently.

Kaveh / June 7, 2010 11:42 PM

Beautiful story! I love it and I want to hear more about the stirrings of the nascent Iranian slow-revolt!

Mike D. / June 8, 2010 6:42 AM

@ 8

More like from 2:00, and yes, I saw 'V' signs.

Kurt / June 17, 2010 3:17 PM