Monday, June 22, 2009

There is nothing that I could add

A letter from Tehran in the New Yorker.

On who was marching on June 15:
A little farther on, I found myself once again near Reza and Hengameh. (I've changed their names.) Reza, who has a thick beard, and Hengameh, in a chador, have an old-fashioned "revolutionary" appearance. They do not look like the sort of people who would attend an unsanctioned rally against the regime. But there were plenty of marchers who looked like them—pious, middle-aged Iranians. This is the generation that took part in the 1979 revolution, and then, as in the case of Reza, fought in the long war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and, finally, grew tired of all the lies.

I have known Reza and Hengameh for a decade. I know that they are unfailingly loyal to the memory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, but not to the current generation of leaders, who, with their love of power and their financial corruption, have, they believe, spoiled Iran. In addition, everything I have seen of Reza and Hengameh tells me that they are true democrats—for example, the relaxed way they have brought up their teen-age son, Mohsen. "We never obliged him to say his prayers or observe the Ramadan fast," Reza told me once, "and now he does both, of his own accord."

Iranians can draw on a rich culture of resistance to authority, going back to the country's first experiments with constitutional rule, a hundred years ago, and this, combined with their celebrated verbal dexterity, makes them naturals in the art of political verse. As we passed the Employment Ministry, the marchers improvised a chant: "Ministry of Employment, why so much unemployment?" We passed under a pedestrian bridge, from which dozens of people were watching the marchers. Then came another chant: "You won't win freedom of thought by standing on a bridge!" My favorite slogan was one that referred to Ahmadinejad’s notorious claim, caught on film and subsequently made public, that he had been crowned by a "celestial halo" while addressing the United Nations General Assembly, in 2005: "He saw the celestial halo, but he didn’t see our votes." Standing on a balcony overlooking Azadi Street, a man held a copy of the Koran above the heads of the marchers.

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