Iran after Egypt – revolutions from home

Feb 13, 2011 by

Iran after Egypt – revolutions from home

Egypt is on the lips of everyone, but this afternoon my mind is in and with Iran.

I live with an Iranian friend whom I’ve just seen in the kitchen. His eyes glowed, he could not keep the smile of excitement, he spoke in the way that made me pause, put down my kettle and listen.

For the Westerners 14th of February is the day of love, for Iranians – the day of hope. 14th of February is in Iran the 25th Bahman, meaning the 25th day of the month. Number 25 has a huge resonance in the Iranian society, because the largest anti-government rally a year and a half ago was held on the 25th day of the month. 3 mln people went out on the streets of Tehran. 15 people were killed by direct shooting. Now, another big demonstration is being organized.

Protests grow gradually. The  11th of February is the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran.  Very few people in Iran attended the celebrations despite the governments’ pledges. “The Government cannot force people to come out on the streets,” says my friend, “And neither can it force them not to go there.”

My friend spent three hours two days ago calling from Skype to random Iranian homes, informing them that the 14th of February is the day of the rally. Every Iranian living abroad has been asked to call 20 to 30 people – this way  more than 2 mln people could be reached.

Access to information in Iran is limited. News are censored and phonecalls monitored. The words ‘dictator’ and ‘freedom’ and, recently, even the word  ‘February’ cannot be retrieved on the screen – you may google ‘February’ and you will get a blank spot between January and March. When my friend told me about this, I remembered the scene in ‘A hundred years of solitude’ by Garcia Marquez, in which a disease of oblivion infects the city of Macondo. People gradually forget the names of objects, then they forget their functions, their colours… Aware of the irreversibility of their condition, they rush to put notes on the objects, for example on the chair saying: ‘a chair – used for sitting- put next to the table-brown’ , to remember. But what happens if the note is blown away by the wind? What happens is February the 14th is wiped off from the screen, and from the political imagination? Will the protest still take place?

People of Iran do remember. They remember those who were killed and tortured in previous demonstrations – among whom a professor of my friend. But there is more than memory there. There is a striving for freedom – a universal desire and value, as the world revolutions in Eastern bloc and now in Egypt have shown us.

Information is crucial – I was surprised to see BBC remain silent on the current events in Iran. My friend told me the Persian BBC used to be more reliable, he does not know why they stopped reporting on ‘uncomfortable information’. CNN did a good job. The main Facebook page for the rally is called “25 Bahman” . In a week 54.000 people joined, despite all the internet blocking and “fear in people’s hearts”, as my friend says.

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  1. Hadi Jorati

    While the bravery of the Iranian youth to take it to the streets risking torture and prosecution is admirable, as is your roommate’s optimism, one should not forget the negative role the US keeps playing in this drama, and how their fluctuating regard for democracy and human rights in Iran, coupled with their unafiling attitude of seeing everything through the Israeli lens, has been the dominat cause of the misery of the Iranian people over the past decades. The answer to the Iranian question lies in Washington, not Tehran.

    • Jolanta

      Dear Heidi,
      I agree with all that you said expect for the last sentence. I believe the answer to Iranian question lies in Tehran, not Washington. Of course, international support of human rights and democratic values is important; nowadays, thanks to the social media, even if the Washington administration is following a rather fluctuating policy (but Hillary’s recent critical comments of the Iranian regime should be appreciated), the people themselves can provide this support – i think this grassroot international factor is important in helping democractic change. BUT the very revolution needs to come from the inside – like it was the case with the Polish Solidarity or recent Egyptian revolution. Anyway, thank you for reading and for your comment!

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