A late post due to the usual post-protest internet jams.
Wednesday 13 Aban
A strange sentiment crept in me today. A man in his late fifties was beaten by a group of people a meter away from me, and I enjoyed it. While I neither had the urge to join in, nor the time to think about it, the delight I took in seeing this man’s fearful face pushed me to encourage his assailants. I am glad I didn’t. In the mayhem, as he was begging them to stop, and kept yelling “why are you beating me?” I only thought to myself “you must be kidding”. He was a member of the Basij.
I had never seen as much violence perpetrated before me in one day. If another day compares to 13 Aban, it would be the 30th of Khordad, the day after Khamenei gave his gangsters the green light to show no merci to Iranians. 13 Aban was worse, maybe because I stayed on longer, or maybe because it was worse indeed. I had not seen so many security forces concentrated in one area before either. I covered 7-Tir Square, Karim Khan Avenue, Vali-Asr Square and the surrounding area today. Thousands of greens showed, mostly without green signs, and were met with thousands of simians, to whom if one grants the label Homo, their qualifications would not allow them to go any higher than Erectus.
The ape forces had one goal in mind, which was to prevent any crowd from forming. Their strategy: indiscriminate violence. At about 10:30 in the morning, before getting to Vali-Asr Square, we passed by the Beheshti metro station. A group of ten anti-riot IRGC members in camouflage uniforms and wielding batons suddenly rushed the station gate, frightening people who were exiting to flee inside. About seven or eight of the security men ran in while the others shut and held the gates behind them. After that, you could only hear the sounds of screams and thuds. Maybe some greens were among them, maybe not. One was carrying a shopping bag.
Something we have learned in the protests is that when the apes charge, you should avoid running, get on the sidewalk close to shop windows and keep walking, or just stand against the walls. They would normally go past you in pursuit of those who run. Today, the apes would get on the sidewalks on bikes, hold out their batons against the walls and drive on. If they were without bikes, they just ran through and waved their clubs, sticks, or chains. It didn’t matter who or what it hit.
I won’t give a moment-by-moment account of the day. Most of it was an uninterrupted sequence of severe beatings, bruises and blood, from which I remember snapshots. I also remember hearing gunshots on a couple of occasions. Arrests seemed to be indiscriminate as well. We saw Basij members picking on the young randomly, forcing them on their knees, handcuffing and blindfolding them, and then taking them away.
On Vali-Asr Avenue, north of the square, a policeman was shouting insults at an old man for having shown up to the demonstration. A young boy went over to the policeman and handed him a flower, to which his response was to slap the boy and throw him on the sidewalk. The boy picked himself up and left.
In the mayhem, we saw security and Basij forces get beaten up or hit by rocks also. On Karim Khan Avenue close to Vali-Asr Square, an eighteen or nineteen-year-old Basiji, wielding a rubber belt, started chasing a man on the street next to the sidewalk. The man was big and the Basiji was short, chubby, and his beard had barely sprouted. For the first time I saw a technique I’ve read about but difficult to perform, in action. Mid chase, the man suddenly stopped dead, turned around, grabbed the Basiji who was stunned, and slammed him against the side of a car. It took him a few seconds to get up. When he saw a group of people who were now rushing him, he ran, but they got to him and started pummeling him. At this moment, a fifty-something-year-old Basiji with short white hair, the man I mentioned above, appeared from behind a bus and ran toward the scuffle, with the same kind of strap in his hand, attempting to beat and scare the others to get the other Basiji out. Another group of people appeared and charged him. He fell to the ground a meter away from me and started receiving kicks and punches. This is when a group of Basiji apes arrived at the scene, surrounded the two other apes and dragged them away.
Later on, at 7-Tir Square, a Basiji, an older man again, was holding his head and was bleeding profusely. Another was propping him up and helping him cross the square to where their camp was set up.
The demonstration never took the magnitude and concentration of Qods Day. It was never allowed. Everyone was fleeing from the security forces, regrouping in the side streets, or recovering from tear gas and beatings. The largest group of people I saw walking on Karim Khan and chanting anti-government slogans reached two or three hundred people at best. There were pro-government demonstrators who appeared from time to time, with loudspeakers and chanting. The largest of those were a few hundred people. I remember one of their new slogans: “Death to the velvet dictator.” Whatever that means.
Before I go and crash, as I am beat, grimy, and tired, let me tie in 13 Aban with Rafsanjani’s Super Duper Plan. Since its inception and the supposed detente between Rafsanjani and Khamenei, the plan has been viewed by many in Iran as false hope and a ruse by the Supreme Leader to buy time and create diversion at best. 13 Aban was another promise broken, another U-turn, another glimmer of hope faded. We are facing a regime in which reform has no practical representative. Neither the leaders of the green movement, nor Rafsanjani or the Marjas, have managed to get meaningful concessions from the Supreme Leader. What I keep hearing is, “What are they going to say now? More of the same?” 13 Aban has left us no doubt about Khamenei’s desire to utterly crush the opposition. Many in Iran view him as a man who does not negotiate, and the perpetrator of all that has happened since the elections.
Something is abuzz in the air in Tehran tonight. It is angry talk about meeting violence with violence. Patience is running out and I am now hearing about switching to the same language as the opponents. How viable that is, or whether we will go down that road will be determined in the future, but 1979 is before our eyes. Take away hope and it won’t be long before reform will give way to overhaul. So far, some are wondering whether reforms have hit a dead end. “Reconciliation” is a funny word now. Maybe it is just a reaction to a brutal day on the streets, or an existential phase, inevitable after six months of going in circles. But one thing is clear. Early on, the movement’s demand was taking back the votes. Today, it is stomping on the Leader for an “Iranian Republic”. He may succeed in crushing the opposition, but may someone save his soul if he fails.