Standing Up to the Mullahs: The Author Is a French-Iranian Journalist Who Was Working in Iran until, One Day, the Authorities Confiscated His Press Pass, Interrogated Him at Secret Police Headquarters, and Threatened to Harm His Family. He Then Fled to France
Arefi, Armin, USA TODAY
"FROM NOW ON, all protesters will be treated as Israeli spies." This was the announcement made by the Revolutionary Guard a month after the Iranian people last took to the streets. In all likelihood, this quiet period can be explained by the revelations of torture cases and repeated prison rapes, as well as by the show trials in which numerous young protesters and key reformist figures have been seen on television making peculiar confessions.
Today marks the occasion of Tehran's traditional Jerusalem Day. Each year, the regime brings together thousands of its supporters, bussed in with the promise of free fruit juice and vast television coverage, and shows the rest of the world, through its pro-Palestine--or, more importantly, anti-Israel--rallies that it has the support of its people. For several weeks, the opposition has been using the Internet to send out a call for its supporters to use this date as an opportunity to take to the street again. Could it be that the Green Movement suddenly has decided to swear allegiance to the regime?
"We have entered a new phase," Arya, who has gained back a few of those pounds he lost in jail, explains in an e-mail, "and we're calling it the 'Great Hijack.' By infiltrating the official procession with our protest, we should be sale from any violent repercussions."
"Death to America." an aging man with a black beard shouts into a microphone.
"Death to Russia." the crowd responds in unison. Surprised and wondering whether he might have misheard, the man tries again.
"Death to Israel."
"Death to Russia," (the Islamic Republic's greatest ally) the crowd continues.
We now are on Karim-Khan Avenue, where tens of thousands of Iranians have convened, forming the largest gathering since June. In the crowd is a newcomer, a 24-year-old smiling from ear to ear and timidly joining in with a few of the slogans. It is Reza, and today he is on foot.
"Mashallah," the taxi driver beams, using a term of appreciation. "This is my people. This atmosphere is just unbelievable." He is right; it feels like an eternity since June's bullets mined down on his fellow men and women.
Behind the official flags of the Islamic Republic, a few families continue to chant their timeless revolutionary slogans, which must take some courage, surrounded as they are by thousands of green protesters. Perhaps the two sides really can live together--happily even--coexisting without hostility. There is at least one man, though, who cannot take it anymore.
"Baba Hadji [a respectful term for a pilgrim who recently has returned from Mecca]," be shouts to the amusement of all, "can't you change the station?" The huge crowd now reaches the KarimKhan Bridge, swallowing up cars and theft ecstatic occupants. In one of these cars are Azadeh and her mother. "I love you all," the younger woman screams from her open window. All of a sudden, a biker stops his motorbike a few feet in front of them, steps down from his vehicle, and abandons it right there in the middle of the street. A chores of car horns responds.
"Baha, are you nuts? Can't you see the line here?" one dumfounded driver cries. "Come back and get your bike."
The biker turns around and shouts back, "Dadash [bro]. Park yours, too, and join the people."
"The people of this country are jav guir [lead by their emotions]," Arya smiles, "for better or for worse."
The police also are present at today's gathering, as are the Basijis [militia], who are tearing round on their motorbikes, flexing their muscles in front of the crowd. Each time they come into view, they are met with boos from all around but, to everyone's surprise, no punishment is dealt out.
"Hoda, Hoda ... get down here right now, and bring your friends," Azadeh cries into her cell phone to her best friend, unable to contain her excitement. …