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'They Kill People’s Children, Then They Pray'

Protesters clash with riot police during a demonstration in Tehran on February 14.

Protesters clash with riot police during a demonstration in Tehran on February 14.

Opposition websites have posted calls for nationwide protests on February 20 to commemorate the two students who were killed in the February 14 protest in Tehran.

The opposition group called the Coordinating Council of the Green Path of Hope said the rallies are also intended to show "decisive support" for the stance taken by opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi.

Meanwhile, here are excerpts from the account of a young woman who says she participated in the February 14 protest in Tehran, which reportedly attracted tens of thousands of people:

We went to the Enghelab square at around 2. I was with two other friends. There were many people. More than we expected. We never thought so many people would come. It was as if with each look at the others, we were becoming more confident. I would see here and there someone I knew and we would say hello by waving to each other. The guards were standing all around the square. The crowd was getting bigger and bigger by the minute. The bus stop was full of people. They were staring at us and looking surprised. The mobile phones were still working. I had not taken my cell phone with me. I had heard from people who had been arrested [in the 2009 postelection unrest] that authorities could determine through their mobile phones where they had been at a certain time and on a certain day and then issued heavy jail sentences for those who had denied that they were at the protests.

It was rumored that because Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul was in Tehran, permission had been issued for the rally. That encouraged us a bit. The Revolutionary Guards were nowhere to be seen and we thought we would move to Azadi Square when the crowd would take shape. I and my two friends were thinking about walking toward Azadi Square when [security forces] attacked us. It was sudden and very quick. The guards would move their batons in the air and attack people while shouting. People were escaping.

I and my two friends jumped into a bookshop. The owner quickly closed the metal storefront gate. There were about 20 of us who found refuge in the bookshop. We were standing there in silence. The sound of the batons that were hitting with force the street’s fences or the bodies of our loved ones struck my nerves, too. We stood there maybe for 10 or 20 minutes until it got a bit quiet. Then the owner opened half of the front gate and let us out. It was the same view: a crowd that was moving and riot police who were standing in the middle of the square.

We started walking when they again attacked us. They were very close and there wasn’t any escape route. A woman who was wearing a chador took me in her arms. She was in her 60s. I put my head on her arms and watched the security guards who were getting close with their batons. The woman told me: "Don’t be afraid, my daughter. We came here to take a walk."

I don’t know why, but I started crying. I was ashamed of myself. I couldn’t stop crying. It had never happened before. When things became calmer, she asked if I wanted to walk with her. I thanked her but told her that I had lost my friends and would go on my own.

I was alone. I didn’t know which way to go. I couldn’t find my friends. I asked a man if I could use his cell phone. He said the mobiles were not working. I just stood there. Several members of the Basij force came and took away a young man. No one said anything or maybe they didn’t notice. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I saw Bahman, a friend of my boyfriend whom I had met a few times. I told him I had lost my friends. He was on his own and told me we could go together.

We crossed the street and walked with a huge crowd toward Azadi Square. We were all silent, but we were many. Bahman quietly said maybe we would be free tonight. He was very happy that so many people had come. He said maybe something will happen today. Walking through the smaller streets was a problem because the security guards and Basij were standing there. We would breathe in relief after we’d pass each street.

I would look behind me every now and then and say quietly that we are many, maybe we will walk to freedom. On the other side about 20 Basij members started chanting slogans. They shouted with force, "All these troops have come here for the love of [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei]." One of us said, sarcastically: "Right, you’re really an army." We told him not to say anything. Finally, they didn’t allow us to move further. They were police forces. They told us we couldn't move further. Bahman said, "Thank you." We thanked them. They just looked at us.

We were walking in another street when they attacked us. We started running. One among us shouted “Allah Akbar." Someone else repeated it. All of a sudden, all of us started shouting – like it was coming out of our hearts – “Allah Akbar." We reached another street. We said we shouldn’t become dispersed, let’s stay together, and we shouted “Death to the dictator!”

Within a few minutes, the fires were lit. I saw myself on the cars that were parked near the trees and with all my force I was ripping the branches from the trees. Bahman was using the branches to make a fire. The guards were standing on the other side; they didn’t dare come close. They were firing tear gas at us. People were lighting cigarettes and blowing the smoke in each other’s face. People were watching us from their houses. We shouted and asked for newspapers, which they dropped, and we made more fires. We were running and shouting: “I will kill those who killed my brother."

We would throw stones and rocks at the [security guards]. The sky was raining stones and smoke; the smoke was from the fire of our rage. ... I saw one of my friends who had been released from prison in the crowd. I kissed him and told him, "You see the Green Movement is still alive. Bravo to you for coming."

We didn’t have any more cigarettes [to fight off the tear gas]. We found a shop. We bought more cigarettes and vinegar. Every time they used tear gas, we would pour the vinegar on people’s clothes. A woman in a chador was quickly gathering stones. Bahman thanked her. She said: "Let’s hope for freedom. We are standing until freedom.” We went in the middle of the street, and I was shouting, “Death to Khamenei!” People were watching us from their cars and they would honk to encourage us.

A motorbike with two people came. Someone said they’re Basijis. We stopped them. People started beating them. It wasn’t like last year’s Ashura demonstration when everyone was saying no to violence. Everyone was beating them and shouting to kill them. I was myself shouting, “Kill the dirt!”

We came under attack again. We went into an ice-cream shop. The owner started telling us stories from last year. We all started recounting our memories from those days. Finally, we ended up talking about poverty, misery, and rising food prices.

The final attack came. People were telling each other, “Don’t be afraid, we’re all together." Bahman and I started running. Basij forces came with their motor bikes and they were beating up people. I fell. Bahman helped me. Then he fell down. They had used so much tear gas and pepper gas that we could barely breath. We managed to go into one of the apartment buildings. We were coughing. There were maybe 100 of us and we didn’t have any place to move. Someone said this young man has been shot. A man who later I found out was the owner of the apartment told us to be quiet. He said [security forces] might come in. He said an ambulance would come to take the young man who was shot and was bleeding. I looked at the boy, whose eyes were closed, and was filled with rage.

I told Bahman that my leg had been injured. He said his, too. He asked if I was wearing warm clothes. I said yes. He said he was wearing a pair of warm pants under his pants in case we spent the night at Azadi Square.

The owner of the house said it was calm outside. “You can go.” ... We thanked the owner and his wife and left. We stopped a car; they took us in. The driver, a woman, who was with her daughter said there had been many arrests. We didn’t have the force to talk. In the middle of Enghelab Square, seven or eight Basiji members were praying. The woman said: “They kill people’s children, then they pray.”

I took a taxi. He asked me whether I had come from the rally. I said yes. He said: “What do you Greens want?” I wanted to shout at him. I said we want to reach freedom, don’t you?” I got out of the taxi.

I went home. I felt calm only after I managed to reach my friends on their mobile phones to make sure they were OK. I watched some of the videos of the protest on Al-Jazeera. I was always feeling happy after the protests. But this time I was so sad I wanted to die. How long will this game continue? Until when are we going to fight those who are armed to the teeth and have no feelings?

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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