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The revolution will not be televised
Iran is using technology to shut down growing protests against the regime, but anti-government forces are fighting back.
April 18, 2010 3:37 by Iason Athanasiadis
The Islamic Republic’s security officers were very polite as they arrested Nader (not his real name) and pulled him into one of the parked police vans that Tehranis have come to associate with their friends and loved ones disappearing for months, some never returning.
Nader’s crime was possessing a green ribbon, the color of Iran’s opposition movement. Even worse, he had taken to the streets on a day dedicated to celebrating, not criticizing, the Islamic Republic’s 31st anniversary.
Even before his arrest, the swarming masses of officials had rattled him. There were as many as “three times” the security forces present at previous rallies, while loyalists appeared everywhere, not least because many demonstrators frightened of wearing green had disguised themselves as government supporters.
Even when Nader found other opposition supporters, the sheer numbers of police, Basij, or Ansar-e Hezbollah crowding in on every side rendered impossible the act of linking up into a mass large enough to begin chanting.
Even in the run-up to what was billed as a climactic event, Iranian government spokesmen and loyalist mullahs had warned protesters that any action would be punishable by imprisonment until after the Persian New Year (March 21) and possibly also the charge of waging war against Allah (moharebeh), a crime which carries the death sentence.
“There was layer upon layer of their forces between us,” Nader said. “At the same time, it was impossible to understand who was who. The guy next to you wiping the sweat on his brow with a keffiyeh (a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian cause adopted by Iranian religious conservatives), and when you looked at him intently, he’d smile and you’d know he was a Green in disguise.”
Once in jail, Nader was locked up in a prison cell with other protesters. But rather than beating, abusing, or threatening the prisoners, “they treated us very nicely at Evin … they were very respectful.” All prisoners were handed a questionnaire with multiple choice questions asking them who they thought was “responsible for all this chaos.” The options were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was a brave man who circled the last one.
At the same time, his friends were busy clearing out his house of any potentially incriminating material. “The night before the demonstration I saw him and asked him to give me the keys to his house,” said a friend. “After the news, it took us only an hour to clear his place: from books to DVDs to weed, you name it.”