08 July 2004

Fifth Anniversary of 18 Tir 1378 (Persian Calendar)

The fifth anniversary of the 1999 student uprising in Iran falls on 8 July--18 Tir by the Persian calendar. The constitutional monarchy-oriented Iranian Voice describes the events of that day and offers a photo gallery.
Five years ago the Islamic Regime forces attacked the student dorm on July 8 as students held a peaceful gathering protesting the closure of a popular daily paper. Islamic regime reported one person dead and 34 other injured but the press reported that the number of fatalities and injured was much higher. Some 4,000 demonstrators were said to have been arrested.
The left-oriented Iran National Front, supporters of former Prime Minister Mossadegh--elected in April 1951, deposed by coup d'état on 19 August 1953 (28 Mordad)--posted a long write-up on the first anniversary of the uprising.
Today, we observe the first anniversary of the pro-democracy uprising, which was led by the students and widely supported by the Iranian people that was crushed by the dictatorship. On the night of 18 Tir 1378 (July 8, 1999), after the pro-democracy students had returned to their dormitories from their protest sit-in against the closure of a newspaper, in the middle of night, the forces of repression attacked student dormitories, murdered and beat up our young brave students, and imprisoned the pro-democracy nationalist activists. The forces of tyranny attempted to destroy the opponents of dictatorship, whether the student activists, nationalist activists, or the ordinary people on the streets who have had enough with the ruling dictatorship.
And the right-oriented Activist Chat quotes Human Rights Watch.
"The European Union's weak response to continuing human rights violations in Iran is deeply disturbing," said Whitson, "It's time for the European Union to condemn Iran's record of persecution and torture and to set real benchmarks that the government must meet." Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian government to release all political prisoners and effectively prohibit torture immediately.
The Democracy for Iran website based in Germany has a listing of demonstrations around the world on this date. When left, right, and center are agin' ya, ya gotta be screwing up big time.

In the lead-up to this date, Far Outliers has posted a series of excerpts from V.S. Naipaul's account of his travels in Iran in 1979-80 and in 1995: on the hanging judge of the revolution, on revolutionary disillusionment, on punishing the bourgeoisie, on revolutionary fashion, and on the revolutionary blame game after things began to go sour. I have no idea how accurate Naipaul's impressions are, but I suspect they capture a prevailing sense of twin disillusionment with both the Khomeini Revolution and the likely outcomes of either counterrevolution or progressive revolution. On this score, you can count me 'cautiously pessimistic'.

The final installment follows.
They want to control your way of sitting and your way of talking, Mr. Parvez said. And Tehran at night, in some of its main roads, was like an occupied city, or like a city in a state of insurrection, with Revolutionary Guards and, sometimes, the more feared Basiji volunteers at roadblocks. They were not looking--on these almost personal night hunts--for terrorists so much as for women whose hair was not completely covered. And not so much for weapons as for alcohol or compact discs or cassettes (music was suspect, and women singers were banned).

The people of Tehran could spot these roadblocks before the visitor did. One night, when we passed some people who had been picked up, the lady driving us said it was all a matter of knowing how to talk to the Guards. Once, when she was stopped, she had said, as though really wishing to know, "What is wrong with my hijab [headdress], my son?" And the young man, of simple background, not feeling himself rebuffed or challenged by the lady, but thinking he was being treated correccty, had let her go. Such were the ways of obedience and survival that people had learnt here.

But parallel with this was a feeling that this kind of humiliation couldn't go on. Though all the capacity for revolution or even protest had been eradicated after forty years of hope and letdown, and people were now simply weary, after all the bloodletting--first of protesters in the Shah's time, and then of the Shah's people after the revolution, and the communists, together with the terrible slaughter of the war--there was a feeling now, with that weariness, that something had to snap in Iran. And, almost as part of wishing for that breaking point, stories were being told now that Khomeini had really been foisted on the Iranian people by the great powers; and that certain important mullahs were making their approaches to people to ask for their goodwill when things changed, and the Islamic Republic was abandoned.
That was 9 years ago.

SOURCE: Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples (Vintage, 1998), pp. 154-155

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda recorded his experience of the 2003 commemoration in Los Angeles.
My new friend told me that he moved from Tehran to "Irangeles" when he was eight. Since then, he said, he's been organizing demonstrations, calling CNN and other news organizations regularly to devote more time to the mullahs' atrocities, and distributing videos of women stoned to death. He accepted that his 72,000 brothers and sisters in the area couldn't all be there with us, though it troubled him a little to think that the "majority of the silent" would likely be the first to enjoy a free Iran. When I asked him if his group ever approached the antiwar students at nearby UCLA, he only questioned why they didn't speak out when Iraq fought his people. When I asked him if President Bush should intervene, he flatly said "no": Iranians themselves are ready to take back their country....

I left with mixed feelings, but my optimism prevailed. In 1986, at the age of nine, I immigrated from the Philippines as the People Power Revolution brought democracy. Sue me for believing that Iranians can do the same.
Pejman Yousefzadeh (Pejmanesque) has much more.

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