Iran is reigned by upheaval

2009/12/12

Published on German TV news broadcast “Heute” (public channel ZDF) on December 12, 2009
Source (German): http://www.heute.de/ZDFheute/inhalt/16/0,3672,7958224,00.html

The population is abandoning state and Islam

by Carla Romagna

Sign of protest: The color green. Photo: ap


Iran has been inexorably altering in the past six months after the disputed presidential elections. It is simmering beneath the surface. Iranians abandon the state and Islam. The green movement is becoming more and more popular

Tehran, in the winter following the protests. There is something in the air. One can feel it. Already shortly after our arrival in Tehran, we notice: mistrust has seized the country. It has taken hold of the taxi drivers, who would usually ask where you are from, how long you will stay, whether this is the first time you travel to Iran. This time, when asked about the mood in the country, their answer is a wary look and a short “as usual”.

Courageous women wear green headscarves.
No, nothing is “as usual” in Iran after the summer of the protests. On the walls of the buildings on Vali Asr, Tehran’s grand boulevard, the slogans of the opposition were hastily painted over. However, the green movement can not be made invisible. Sometimes it is a green shirt that sticks out from underneath a coat, sometimes green shoestrings or a green pendant dangling from a cellphone. Courageous women even these days wear green headscarves. While only the large turmoils, like that of last Monday, make it into the western media, spontaneous protests are held every week.

On the Tehran University campus: one of the numerous spontaneous demonstrations. “Death to America”, shout a couple of pro-regime protesters. “Death to the dictator, death to Russia”, answer hundreds of voices. This is a frank allusion to the Russian government’s quick recognition of the disputed election results. On the sidelines of the protests: passers-by encouraging the protesters. Then a brawl with the police. The videocamera of one student gets confiscated, the student is being marched off. The police tells everybody to move on at once – including us.

“Don’t trust anybody”
Taking a picture right now would be perilous. Within minutes, large numbers of police forces have appeared. “We have no chance against this regime without weapons”, someone tells us. The first Basij militias approach on their motorcycles. Bearded men with cold eyes. Most of them are illiterate people from poor areas of Iran who were promised to get dates and chelo kabab for free, a student tells us.

The Iranian government blocks deviant websites. Photo: ZDF

On the appearance of the first basij, many passers-by quickly look out for a taxi. We do the same. Inside the taxi, we meet Sheyda*. “Everybody lives in permanent fear”, the 28 year old woman explains. She participated in all demonstrations of the summer. What has changed since then? “For us, not much”, she says. “The only thing is that you should not trust anybody anymore.” The Iranian intelligence has increased the number of spies, the people say. The government has called on the people to “look after one another” more and to report suspicious persons. After the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in October bought 51 percent of the state-owned telecommunication company, people have stopped openly talking on the phone for fear of being eavesdropped.

Muslims convert secretly
After the summer of protests, the christian churches of the country have registered an increase of members, a priest tells us on the quiet, and only after we promised him to not reveal his name – otherwise… he runs his hand over his throat. The fact that three times as many Muslims convert to Christianity since the unrest is known to the security forces as well. Therefore, the orthodox church is under observation. “Not only the converts, but also those who take care of them risk their lives”, he says. Who abandons Islam and accepts Christianity in Iran faces to be sentenced to death

Kamran* has become a Christian two months ago, and since then he has been living in fear for the safety of his live. But he says he made the right decision: “What the government is doing in the name of religion has nothing to do with Islam anymore.” The 32 year old is a taxi driver and hopes that as a Christian he will be given asylum in Norway. “It is impossible to make a living here as a young person”, he says. The income of 400 euros are just about enough to make ends meet.

Iranians invest their money abroad
On the other hand, the transactions of foreign exchange dealers have increased rapidly since the summer of protest. “Many here do not trust the situation anymore; they prefer to invest their money abroad”, one foreign exchange dealer, with best connections to banks in Dubai who does not want to read his name in a report, tells us. Recently the secret service has started to drop in once a week asking who transferred how much money to which destination. “But I always destroy the vouchers immediately”, he says proudly. People are sticking together.

Since June 12, Iran has turned into a different country. The government is losing ground in the population, more and more Iranians turn away from the Muslim faith, the opposition movement is growing steadily. Six months after the disputed presidential election, Iran today is in a state of apathy on the one hand, and moving on to a better future on the other **). The country is more divided than ever.

* Names have been changed by the editors
** translator’s note: the German term “Aufbruch”, which I translated as “moving on to a better future”, is a very common, yet quite general term for a positive mood or situation in expectation of some kind of improvement and/or renewal. After writing and deleting for about one hour, I decided to use the translation above, although I am not quite happy with the specification (“better future”) I had to apply to make the sentence work.

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