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Iran Standard Time | Friday Kind of Crimes


07 Jun 2012 15:19Comments
30542915-1584583.jpgMorality plays under Tehran's famous (dying) sycamore trees.

[ vignette ] I like Friday mornings in Tehran. The streets are quiet. The sky, finally free from the weekday pollution, tends toward blue. One can surrender to that peaceful feeling that inspires happy thoughts. Usually, I go for a walk along Vali Asr Street, where the sycamore trees are somehow both friendly and majestic. Others go for a jog or have an early breakfast.

One Friday morning, I am strolling along thus, enjoying the rare serenity, thinking what a wonderful city this can be at times. Suddenly, the loud screech of braking tires interrupts my reverie.

The car is a white Peugeot 206, a small four-door hatchback. A woman is on the ground in front of it. It is hard to see her face. She is wearing pants and a jacket, a yellow shawl wrapped around her head. She jumps to her feet, screaming at the driver. He emerges from the Peugeot, a man of medium height in a black T-shirt and blue jeans, and hits her. She runs, and he chases her around the car. Catching up, he grabs her and tries to push her inside the vehicle. The thought occurs to me that he is kidnapping her. An abduction is happening right in front of me!

Passersby who had been watching the scene motionlessly now move toward the car. The woman is screaming hysterically, "Let me go! You animal! Let me go!!" Another Peugeot 206, this one blue, rolls onto the scene. It stops so as to block the abductor from getting into his car. A muscular man in his late 20s gets out of the blue Peugeot, his biceps rippling beneath his tight T-shirt. He is twice the size of the first driver, whom he grabs and strikes. "You call yourself a man, you asshole," he shouts. It seems a hero has arrived to save the woman in the yellow shawl.

Suddenly the back door of the white Peugeot opens. A young woman leaps out and attempts to flee. She looks to be 25 years old at most. A black robe covers her petite body and over her head is a small black scarf. Her face is as white as the snow on the Alborz Mountains. The first woman runs after her, screaming, "You whore! Stop! Where are you running?! Whore! Bitch!"

This is definitely not an abduction.

Now another car, a full-sized red sedan, stops behind the first Peugeot. A middle-aged woman wearing a blue coat and red scarf climbs out. The girl in the black robe tries to get past this new figure but her pursuer has grabbed her from behind. The middle-aged woman runs after the first driver and slaps him in the face. The muscular man does not separate them. He says something under his breath and hits the man again.

Meanwhile, the first woman has dragged the younger one to the ground and is punching her, slapping her face, kicking her body. The girl's nose begins to bleed. Partly for the benefit of the puzzled bystanders, the first woman yells, "He has a three-year-old kid, you whore! People, this whore is stealing my husband!" The driver of the white Peugeot begins to beg his wife to calm down. "Why do you tell me to shut up? Let them know," she responds. "Let them know you brought a whore to our house. Call the cops! Call the police!" The husband falls down, waving an arm in the air. More spectators arrive from the street and the surrounding buildings. The muscular man is roaring like a prosecutor: "This sorry excuse for a man let in this whore last night. They slept together in the car in the parking lot. My sister found them together this morning and then he ran away, instead of facing it like a man."

The husband is shaking his head. The girl in black is crying. She says something incomprehensible. Blood rushes from her nose down to her small mouth; mascara is smeared around her eyes. She gasps for air. There is something about her, a sense of helplessness perhaps, that stops me from passing judgment. She looks so frail, beaten up and bleeding. Some of the pedestrians walk off, while others find a perch here or there to watch the rest of the show.

An old man stands on the sidewalk, staring at the scene. He lights a cigarette without taking his eyes from the street and grumbles, "What a fool! At least take her somewhere your wife cannot see you two." He spits on the pavement, his gaze still fixed on the five individuals who are now talking in low tones around their three cars. There is something pathetic about the scene, unbearably pathetic. I turn away.

The sycamore trees are still majestic, but now I notice how dull the green of their leaves is. A wind begins to blow, and from the trees I hear a little hum as the leaves rustle and the branches scrape against each other. It is like the voice of a thirsty man with a very dry throat.

For the rest of the morning and afternoon, I do the sort of things one does on a Tehran Friday: socialize with family, meet friends for lunch, attend a movie. In the evening, as I am returning home, I notice a police minivan parked in Vali Asr Square. Five officers, two women and three tall, sturdy men, stand beside it. The men wear dark vests and black berets -- Special Forces. The women are in chadors with rank insignia embroidered on the right shoulder; one, taller, has olive skin, the other a pale face. All five chat freely, cheerfully. Two young women in high heels and short jackets start to cross the square. The shorter female officer nods in their direction, inviting her colleague to go after them. The taller one groans. They both laugh and start to walk toward the two approaching women.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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