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Voice of a Silent Protester: 'June 12 Will Always Be Our Day to Remember'

13 Jun 2011 20:30Comments

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Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

Video purportedly from 22 Khordad/June 12. Homepage photo: first line of graffiti reads "22 Khordad Green."

10:30 p.m., 23 Khordad/June 13 Another eyewitness account of yesterday's protests in Tehran:

Today, I got on the Rapid Transit Bus at Vali Asr Square that was headed toward Parkway Crossroads.

5:30-6:00 Traffic was heavier than normal and there were perhaps five times as many people trying to get on the bus as usual. There were a lot of Guards, a heavy police presence as well up to Vali Asr Square, and the closer you got to Vali Asr, the more plainclothesmen appeared.

6:00-6:30 Vali Asr had a surprisingly large number of policemen and there were also a large number of plainclothesmen present there. I saw a few arrests and a few people who had been arrested already and forced into police vans. Some of the interesting things that I saw there and later in other places were that (1) the plainclothesmen's motorcycles had been upgraded, among them many solid racer bikes; 2) the plainclothesmen who had fancy cars had parked them in the middle of the square and were standing next to them; and (3) the Basij had again brought out child recruits. Traffic was still busy, to the point that buses in the special bus lane were moving very slowly. There were a lot of people on the sidewalks and their walking in groups affirmed that they were there for the protest.

6:30-7:00 Up until Fatemi Square, the largest and thickest concentration of security personnel, especially plainclothesmen, were present. It looked like their groups weren't obeying commands; it wasn't even a question of disorder, it was absolutely chaotic, they were going wherever they pleased. Some even abandoned their commanding officers. There were a lot of people too.

7:00-7:30 At Takhte Tavoos, Abbas Abad, and Sayi Park, there were a lot of security forces and people. Vanak Square almost looked like Vali Asr, but there were perhaps fewer security forces. Judging from what I saw from the beginning of my trip to here, I became very hopeful and because I felt this was a victory for the movement. There were definitely more people out than June 12 last year.

7:30-8:00 Even though there were no protests planned beyond Vanak Square, there were still plainclothesmen and police from the precinct, especially at Mirdamad, Niayesh, and Parkway Crossroads. At eight, I saw [name deleted] and after exchanging information, we decided to retrace my trip backwards.

8:10-9:00 From Vanak to Takhte Tavoos, there was still a great mass of people and security forces. I saw a clash between a 14-year-old boy and several policemen from the precinct, prompting people on a bus to start murmuring in objection. In Vali Asr, there was a van with private plates that was parked in front of a police kiosk. They were taking arrested protesters into the van. But I saw a police officer who seemed to object to what was going on and was trying to get the same people toward a police van. We walked some of the path and there was still the same volume [of people and security forces], but it was on the wane.

Compared to the past, I saw fewer plainclothesmen. They either had their vests on, or Guard uniforms, or mostly the green/phosphorous color of the police material, which the poorest-looking ones were outfitted in. They had been placed in pairs or in groups of four to five every 20 meters.

9:00-9:30 I said my goodbyes to [name deleted] and took the bus back home.

10:00-11:00 Later, I drove through the same areas in my car, but saw nobody, no people or Guards, except maybe for a few plainclothesmen and police officers, that is.

8:30 p.m., 23 Khordad/June 13 Tehran Bureau has already published two dispatches from our correspondents in Tehran describing the silent opposition protests that took place there yesterday and the response by state security and paramilitary personnel: "Security Forces, Protesters Employ More Sophisticated Tactics" and "Anniversary Turnout Impaired by Security Forces". As we receive still more eyewitness accounts, they will be published on this page. Here is one:

I started on Vali Asr Avenue from south of Vali Asr Square. That was around 4 p.m. There was hardly any security presence anywhere in that area apart from some courier-motorists who were supposedly just loitering but in fact were Intel Ministry agents masquerading as workers -- this is done to report unusual activities inconspicuously. These [guys] are easy to spot. They have intense looks on their faces and don't talk to anyone around them.

I sat down in a café to wait till six near Danshjoo Park. Sure enough, right after five, large numbers of people started walking up toward Vali Asr Square. Suddenly hundreds of security people appeared from nowhere. I walked up to the square around 5:45 p.m. At the square, it was like an armed camp. There were so many uniformed and plainclothes cops, it was unbelievable. The crowd was swelling and it was clear the security personnel would move against us soon even though no one chanted.

I went around the square three times very slowly. In one corner, a van was full of detained people. A woman in her 20s was being pulled by two undercover agents. They were quite bulky and she was crying inconsolably. We couldn't do anything to help her. We just walked away.

It was way too dangerous at the square so I moved north toward Motahari. The crowd was increasing by the minute. So were the cops. Large bike formations of NAJA [state police] would go by often without doing very much other than showing their presence. Once in a while the Basijis on bikes would appear, with their bikes roaring loudly to terrify people. From Vali Asr to Motahari, I counted seven or eight people getting arrested and pushed into the police cars.

Near Motahari, another major node of people had formed. I smelled tear gas and some people started running as they were being attacked and beaten. I made it to one of the side streets along with a couple dozen others running in an easterly direction. But ahead of us, on the streets connecting Motahari and Beheshti, there were a great number of undercover cops and NAJA and Basijis. I started walking rather than running. It took a while to maneuver my way out of the concentration of forces unmolested. They beat many people and arrested those with telephones.

I hopped in a cab going north toward Vanak Square. There was a terrific traffic jam all around. It took 30 minutes just to cover a kilometer. The driver said for many, many kilometers in every direction, traffic had come to a near halt. That was about 7:30 p.m. This meant it has been a successful day. Everybody now would learn that the Green Movement is alive and well and they can't pretend nothing happened today.

Overall, I saw about 11 people in detention or getting arrested within three hours. That means hundreds in all were arrested. We all knew the risk but couldn't not go out. June 12 is and will always be our day to remember.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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