Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Soft Reform, Non-Violent Change"

I have been interviewing people about their experiences before and after the June 12th elections in Iran. The interviews are long, but I will post some highlights here. This first interview was with a 52-year old teacher who I am calling Shirin. I learned a lot during the interviews. They provide a personal perspective to the events that many of us have been caught up in. So, without further introduction:

Shirin, 52, teacher of 7-12 year olds

The Decision to Vote

Photo from Reuters

Before the campaign really began, I thought that it would be better to boycott than to vote. It was my feeling that we shouldn’t vote. I had a lot of discussions about this with my friends and family and came to the conclusion that it was important to vote and to vote for Mousavi. I want soft reform and changes that are non-violent.

Election Day

Photo by Kamran Jebreili

Everyone at the polling station was so careful about writing clearly. Still, you might not know, but Ahmadinejad’s code was “44” and Mousavi’s order in the list was number 4. The difference between the code and the numbering was not clear. We thought this was done on purpose so that if people wrote in the number 4 instead of Mousavi’s code, which was 77, it could be changed easily to 44. I said to the poll workers, "My son has his Master’s and even he is confused by the difference between the code and the numbering. Why do we have to write the code at all?" The poll worker said, "You’re right, ma’am (khanum). Just write in the name of the candidate you support." Still I put lines on either side of the code so that nothing could be added to it.

At 2:30, the poll workers announced that they were closing the polling station for lunch. The people waiting in line argued with them saying, "You cannot close both doors. If you close both doors then we will think that you are changing our votes." After several minutes of discussion, the poll workers agreed to keep one door open.

I stayed up all night watching the results come in. I could not believe it. Since I do not trust state tv, I watched VOA. It was so strange that they announced the results so quickly. What really surprised me was how few votes Karoubi received. I asked myself, how could Karoubi get so few votes?

When they announced that Ahmadinejad was the winner, I couldn’t stand up. My legs were shaking. I thought, maybe a lot of people made a mistake with the code and that the computer only read the code, not the name. They are supposed to look at both and both need to coordinate. I just didn’t know what to think.

The next day, BBC and VOA were asking the same question: why wasn’t the number of blank or unreadable ballots announced? That put pressure on the government to announce the number of unreadable ballots.

Demonstration, June 15: The Monday after the Elections

Photo from UPI Photos

On Monday, we went out to the demonstration wearing all black. State television reported that the demonstration was cancelled, but we went anyway. Me, my son, my daughter. From Enghelab to Azadi, it was completely packed. I am not just talking about the streets, but there were people on every inch of ground. We were chanting, [Note from me: it rhymes in Persian, sounds way better!] Where are those 63%, Liar?

People were coming from three different directions. The chanting only took place on our way to Azadi. Once we got there, we were completely silent. The Basiji were moving through the crowds. My nephew kicked one to get back at them for beating him the night before.

One woman came up to me and said, "Oh that Karoubi, he is so arrogant. He came in fifth and he dares to show his face in the streets." I said, "Khanum, how could he have come in fifth? There were only four candidates."

I did not go to any of the other demonstrations even though I wanted to. My son said to me, "If you go, I have to come with you. I would be so worried if you went without me." But my son is still studying, and he could lose every chance for a future by going to these demonstrations. Because of that, I had to stay home.

Allah-o Akbar

In our neighborhood, very few people go out at night to say Allah-o Akbar. From 23 apartments in our building, only my son chants. Our neighbor does too. But we live in a neighborhood that is mainly Sepa-Pasdaran. Even though many of them voted for Moussavi – he had three large campaign offices in our neighborhood and a lot of support – they are afraid to chant Allah-o Akbar or to join the demonstration. Many who did, have had their windows broken and their property vandalized. Our neighbors are more nervous than others in Tehran because they are Sepa Pasdaran.

Response to the Recount

I am very disappointed by the decision of the Guardian council to approve the vote. I don't want to go back to work at all, but I have too. I will do everything in my power to make sure that work does not get done.


asit dhal said...

In most democratic countries, an independent organization conducts election.

In India, no once, except the Supreme Court, can issue directive to the Chief Election Commissioner.

Julian said...

I heard that the Iranian regime has announced that the names of Mousavi and Karroubi can no longer be printed in Iranian newspapers.