Unrests in Tehran – The protests are a cry for help to the US
Published in “Die Welt” on November 4, 2009
By Stephanie Rupp
Opponents to the Iranian regime on the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran demonstrated against president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Security forces violently cracked down on the protesters, whose rally turned into a cry for help to the USA
„Death to Russia“ – „The Russian Embassy is a nest of spies”, called the young people in the streets of Tehran. The opposition in Iran is back, and they fight with an unerring sense of sarcasm. With their chanting they mock the mandatory favorite slogan of the government “Death to America”, however, their mocking chants are also a means for them to position themselves: these youths do not want to live in an autocratic state or in a dictatorship like Russia or China, they want to live in a democracy.
Never before, this sharp wit fitted better than on this Wednesday, the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the US Embassy by supporters of the Islamic Revolution that brought the mullahs to power. Their children are now chanting “Death to the dictatorship” and “Obama, either with them or with us, the people”.
The supporters of Mir Hossein Moussavi, the officially defeated opposition candidate in the presidential elections of June 12, are dressed in dark colors today. Some proudly show off their black adidas jackets, others have covered their mouths with green cloth in order to not easily be identified on the videos of the intelligence. A young woman boldly wears a headscarf made from an US flag.
While pro-regime demonstrators gathered in the morning for the ritual rally in front of the former embassy building, which today is used by the security forces, tens of thousands of anti government protesters march on to a bit more remote squares, like the Haft-e Tir Square. They also gather at the University of Tehran and in the large Vali Asr Street. Trash bins are set on fire in many places in order to remedy the effect of the tear gas. Police helicopters circle above the city, policemen have strict order to not take days off and to immediately stop any protests of the green opposition movement.
Security forces fire into the air
Initially, the police are just nervous and even disperses old men and women who are resting at a bus stop. But the more people show up, the less they can control the crowd. Soon there are tear gas attacks, security forces fire into the air to intimidate the protesters, others target women and particularly brutally beat them, no matter if young or old, with batons. Motorcycles are burning, injured people are hastily lead away from the road.
Some of those attacked by police and Basij militias run for shelter, crying for help. Residents open their garages for them, share water and fruits. Some protesters get arrested and are dragged to police cars with black curtains, eyewitnesses tell us that they are brought to mosques. Right in the beginning, Karroubi is being attacked by a policeman who attempts to fire tear gas directly into his face, but hitting his bodyguard instead.
Mehdi P. (name changed) did not join the crowd at the former US Embassy today. There, as every year, supporters of the regime chant slogans like “Death to USA”, and burn US flags in a symbolic act. The state TV almost exclusively reports on these official protests, and forwards only photos of this part of the events to foreign media. Press TV at least reports on the protests at Haft-e Tir Square, with some innocuous pictures and the information that this “anti government demonstration” was quickly “dispersed” by the police.
Mehdi P. sympathized with the occupiers of the embassy 30 years ago. He was idealistic and wanted to fight for a fair country. For him, the USA was the big Satan then. Today he joins the Green Movement, and says: “In our time, the occupation of the embassy was right. But today the anti-US ideology is not appropriate anymore, we have become prisoners of our own ideas of that time.”
The government uses the ideology for their own advantage
Because the government of today, whose members back then were either insignificant or supporters of the conservative opposition, are using this outdated ideology for their own purposes, and at the same time as a weapon against the idealists of the past, he explains.
Many of those who actively participated at that time have joined the reformist movement of former president Mohammad Khatami already many years ago. “This anniversary has irrevocably lost its glamor”, says a young woman. “We want relations with the USA.”