One Protester's View from Iran / What I Saw: 1 Esfand
By a Special Correspondent in Tehran
21 February 2011
I headed out around noon on Sunday to Haft-e Tir Square. Except for a slowly but steadily increasing number of guards and police, I did not see anything. I went to a nearby kebab house instead and chatted up the owners.
I was wearing a green shirt, but a shade that more closely resembled the uniform of the police forces than the opposition. "Boy, people were eying me," I said. "Maybe they think I am a member of the pro-government forces. I hope I don't get beaten up today."
"Today?" asked the younger cook, as he placed a very large skewer on the charcoal. "Is anyone supposed to come out today?"
"Yes," I said after a short pause, pretending not to be that interested. "It's the seventh day of mourning for the people who died last week."
The young man rolled his eyes, the way a dedicated anti-riot guard of the Islamic Republic might. "Only the seditionists will be out," he said. "Who do you think shot those guys last week? They were dedicated Basijis. Do you see anyone from the lower classes of society in these subversive demonstrations? There are neither rich guys, nor poor guys in these riots, only the middle class who think that something that belongs to them is not theirs anymore and they want it back."
The older one interjected, "Yes, this morning I was coming north towards Imam Hossein Square and there were a lot of guards over there. So that's the reason."
As I ventured back out, the city was virtually in a clampdown. I reached the crossing of Valiasr Avenue and Beheshti Boulevard around 3 p.m. There were more than 200 security forces stationed at every corner, some donning the Palestinian-style black and white scarf, or chafieh. In an apparent attempt to create more anxiety, some members of the security forces would walk in between or alongside the pedestrians. But people, especially the younger ones, kept streaming down towards Valiasr Square. Even during the 1979 revolution, when martial law was in effect, I had never seen such a ratio of non-civilians to civilians. This, however, had not prevented many people from coming out and joining other protesters.
The number and intensity of the street clashes, the now routine beatings by the guards, reached their peak around 6:30 in the evening, then fizzled out. By 8:30, all the streets were empty. No signs of the struggle earlier, no sign of the blood spilled, no sign of anything at all.
I drove through the city from Enghelab to Valiasr, then to Vanak, and even as far as Kaj Square in Saadatabad, where there was fierce fighting reported to have taken place. There was no sign of anything at all. For now, at least, it seemed that both sides had worn each other out.