The Blog

A Report From Inside as Tehran Twitters

I almost wish that those in Tehran could watch the spectacle of US "media" falling all over themselves trying to report from behind the Chador, while exclaiming the virtues of Twitter.
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Suddenly there is no dearth of Iranian punditry on cable television, with "academics" and "Iran experts" languishing in the dank closets of academia, brought out to air on every US network. Unfortunately none of us can easily watch BBC World or Al-Jazeera here, to even begin to fathom another perspective.

The results within the limited-attention-span-and-mind-numbing-stupidity of cable news have been mostly laughable. It is admirable that pretty-boy "journalists" like Anderson Cooper can at least start to pronounce Azadi Square right, though the shrill reportage of CNN's Pakistan correspondent Reza Sayah who has a distinct American accent remains humorous. Just yesterday he invoked his knowledge of Tehran geography repeatedly with his Vali Asr sounding like "Wall Ass".

Ridiculous debates with neo-con Iran "experts" continue and will probably only rise in crescendo in the next hours and days. I almost wish that those in Tehran could watch the spectacle of US "media" falling all over themselves trying to report from behind the Chador, while exclaiming the virtues of Twitter (though those virtues do need to be acknowledged in this case). If for nothing else, the profound discovery they (the US media) have now made of the net-savvy Iranian citizens (better at beating every firewall known to man than most) is a cause for celebration.

One Iranian friend I managed to get on the phone had an interesting theory about why the Guardian Council would rather hang Ahmadinejad (now conveniently traipsing in Russia) out to dry than see any erosion in their (now uncertain) stranglehold of the country. She also pointed out that it was fascinating to see a loyal servant of the revolution (and certainly not a reformist in his recent past life) Mousavi turn into the "great green hope" for reform. While there is blood on the streets and an amazing energy as well, from my brief conversations with Tehran, there seems to be a surplus of cynicism too, at least from those who are living it, unlike many of us, including me, sitting here and pontificating. (and Iranian punditry, I do not claim-but getting blogs out from people there, is a critical concern for me).

However, what happens today with the Assembly of Experts meeting is going to be fascinating. Maybe the abiding principle of the revolution -- the "Valiyat e Faqih" (the guardianship of the "jurists"/the rule of the clerics) is finally under enough threat to warrant such a meeting.

There are also widespread rumours on the street that Basij-like Arabic speakers are on the street wielding truncheons. If this is true-it is disturbing and alarming because then the regime has flown them in by the planeloads as it had done before, during student unrests in the nineties.

Another friend pointed out that she was not optimistic that this 1388 would bring a revolution -- and her only hope was that all those lovely people in Sabz (green) would be the precursor for a larger movement that will build over the next four Ahmadinejad filled years and finally unseat the Mullahs.

As I promised, here is a blog report filed in the middle of the night by a dear friend in Tehran.

Negin is a blogger and a filmmaker who works part time with state television -- and as you can see she writes with irony and despair. Negin's tongue usually is firmly in her cheek. English is not Negin's first language and I have decided to reproduce this just as she wrote it.

My mobile phone kept on ringing all day long and I missed most of them because of bad connection. When I arrived home I had more than 20 messages on my answering machine. Friends from all over the world are trying to reach us to get the news and be sure of our safety. The connection is cut or that bad that we have to guess our conversations. But among the entire phone calls one was very clear and that was my mother who was asking for some computer assistance; she has recently joined the facebook and cannot stand the fact that her favorite site is filtered.

She seems to be that excited that has stopped complaining my father for following the news day and night. They both are either outside in the middle of the city or have glued to the television to follow their missing news.

Until a few days ago most of the people believed that this is just the voice of suppressed students and youngsters but now we don't believe our eyes. "No fear, no fear...we are together." This is what we all heard today from millions of people from different generation in Tehran.

When our coordinator from State television studio called me this afternoon to confirm the appointments for the next week, he asked me about the background noise. We hardly could hear each other. He has the image of a typical secret agent to me. He never takes part in any discussion at work. "I got stuck in traffic and a big crowd." This is how I replied. "I got stuck in the same thing last night and went back to the state TV and stayed over the night in my office!" I heard something different in his tone of voice. I guess he wanted to share something but hesitated. "God bless you wherever you are." He said this before hanging up.

The number of people participated in the demonstration surprised everyone but what has fascinated me is the variety of people in their outfit and social status.

At the beginning I thought this is going to be the fight between lower class and middle class but what I saw today changed my biased opinion. I saw many old and young women wearing black chador and covered from head to toe shouting and chanting among the demonstrators and joining the young girls in the front line whom were sitting on the ground in the middle of the street to stop Bassij militia walking inside the crowd. I'm happy to say that that image will never wipe away from my mind. Those women with loose colorful scarves had opened their arms ready to be killed in the front line while the others were beaten up at the other side of the street. I didn't need a tear gas; my tears were rolling down already.

People want to be heard and supported by the rest of the world. They were sending messages to the west in front of the western cameras. Appointing to Obama and Sarkozy they were demanding the free west to not to recognize this government. I saw a few women shouting: "Now it's your turn to support the democracy and human rights."

"The fear is gone; nothing seems to be an obstacle anymore, they can filter all the websites and shutdown the internet, sms service or mobile but they cannot shut our mouth." This is what I hear all the time.

Late at night everyone wants to share his/her experience with others. Telephones are none stop ringing. Sara my girl friend called me half an hour ago; she had heard the gun fire near her house and had seen many people in blood. Although she was panicked and need to talk to someone, she hanged up the phone to go to the roof to shout, and within a few minutes I heard my neighbors shouting Allaho Akbar (God is great) from their balconies.

I remember how sometimes irritated I was by hearing the loud prayer call which starts by the same phrase: Allaho Akbar and now this phrase is turned to be the most beautiful one.

After a while I called back my mother to help her out with her computer problem. She didn't answer the phone, perhaps she is on the roof too.

I have just introduced Negin to a major US newspaper who were looking for voices out of Tehran -- and hopefully you will see her blog reports on there soon. (watch this space).