The pictures and video clips of the bloody Sunday of Ashura (Dec 27, 2009) have been scattered all over the world, but there are many stories untold and unheard, there are a lot of atrocities that is not covered in the news and there are a lot of people’s experiences that are not shared. This piece is my personal story and experience of the very short period of participating in the demonstration on that bloody Sunday and the feelings and experiences attached to it on that day and a couple of days after. I believe if the world hears more and more of the stories and experiences of the people, the more they might believe in the importance of doing whatever they can to save people from what may come next and from what may make these days even more painful.
This piece was first written in form of an email to my friends and acquaintances, so you might see parts in it that refers to the readers as people who know me.
I was among the people who were on the streets on the bloody Sunday, but I was lucky enough to get just one kick that threw me on the ground, one baton hit on the back of my head, and a few hits on different parts of my body ( I couldn’t count the number as I got one from every one of the guards I passed by when running away). I was lucky enough not to have a broken bone as the digital camera in my pocket got the main force of the hit and was curved and broken by the baton hit that was meant for my hip. And I was lucky enough not to have witnessed many of the disturbing scenes that have caused people to lose their psychological health in different ways. I had my relatively small share on that violent day though in witnessing people being beaten up and not being able to do anything but run for my life, and then having to take my cousin to the hospital as she was hit on the head three times, and was kicked and hit by the guards after she fell down while trying to run away. I had to experience the fear of possibly losing her or having her become brain damaged in my arms on the way to the hospital. I was lucky that she stayed conscious while we were on our way to the hospital, but the nausea she was feeling was very scary. The whole story in the hospital while waiting for the result of the CT scans, and while waiting for 6 to 8 hours to pass to make sure that she would stop having the nausea she was feeling was a whole different process of fear, anxiety and stress, which again probably was nothing compared to the things people experienced on the streets for the rest of that day. At least we were in a hospital where I knew people were trying to take care of her and do whatever they could.
To tell you my little story of that day, we got to the square where we were supposed to start the march toward the next point. We were almost on time. It was 10:15 A.M and people were just gathering. The square was full of guards and they told people to move and not stay in one point. So we started walking. It was four of us, my cousin, me and two other friends. We started walking on the side walk toward the west, and there were more and more people joining. The walking crowd was getting larger as we were moving, and some people started wondering whether we should start chanting slogans. But because of the heavy presence of the guards everywhere and a general sense of insecurity, people thought it’s better not to say anything and just walk. Nobody was chanting and we were just getting bigger and bigger in our numbers as we were walking. We hadn’t even yet raised our hands to show the victory signs. We were just simply walking on the side walk in a fairly large group that was getting bigger and gaining more confidence. Then we noticed that a group of the guards, on motorbikes and on foot, blocked our way at an intersection. Some of us went from the side walk to the street and then I noticed that the passengers on the bikes were coming off with their batons and were getting ready to attack us. It was just within a few seconds that I noticed that our way was blocked from the back and front, and they ran toward us attacking us with their batons and motorbikes.
Within that few seconds of going to the street and looking around to gauge the situation, I lost my cousin. Looking around to find her while trying to plan for the best way to escape, I saw a woman who had fallen(sitting on ground) being surrounded by at least four or five of the savage guards who were hitting her by their batons mercilessly. It was just through the color of her disheveled hair, still so vivid in my mind, that I knew she was not my cousin. And I knew that I had to run, otherwise I would be trapped by a few and would have the same experience that woman was having. People were screaming and pleading for God’s help and one woman started pleading by naming the name of the Imam whose anniversary of martyrdom and mourning was on that day. So people were pleading by naming the religious figure who the state pretends to believe in and respect, and the guards were attacking them mercilessly.
I was kicked first by a guy on a motorbike and fell down but managed to stand up again, then faced a savage guard in front of me who hit me on the back of my head, and then I ran through the rest of them who were scattered on the street and each gave me one baton hit as I was passing them by. It was only after I passed them all and could stop that I started to worry about my cousin again and wondering where she was. I didn’t know where to go and how to find her. Where I was standing, the police was shooting a teargas gun toward the crowd behind on a street, and people were now chanting and running away. I couldn’t really go anywhere; I didn’t want to go much farther from where we were at the beginning and where I had lost her. While still waiting in the middle of the street in a very distressed state of not knowing what to do, I saw a middle aged man with half grey hair and not a very strong built who was being hit by a soldier repeatedly on his legs and hips. He was trying to stand still while being hit, keeping his arms on the sides of his body and tolerating the hits, his body curving sometimes of the strength and probably pain of the hits he was receiving, but then trying to stand up high again, coming forward and repeatedly asking and shouting, “Why are you hitting me?” With each question, the soldier would hit him again and again, and the man would repeatedly shout, “Why are you hitting me?” He still had his arms on his sides, parallel and stuck to his body as if he was trying to make the soldier see that he was not afraid, was not attacking him or even defending himself, and was standing there strongly while demanding him to stop or know why he was doing what he was. Behind the soldier were a group of guards and behind the man, with a little distance, were some people standing on the side walk. The scene of the man being hit while shouting and asking his question took too long and was repeated too many times for some observing people to tolerate anymore. There were people from the side walk running toward that soldier with anger, attacking him and trying to save the man, and the man seeing the crowd running to help, no longer kept his arms down, and raised his arms to get the soldiers neck though he was covered by his special secure head cover. The guards and the people started to have a clash, but I didn’t see much more as my cell phone rang to my surprise(fortunately the cell phones were working that day), and my cousin told me where she was and that she was injured and bleeding from the head. I ran toward her direction and could finally find her, streams of blood dried on her face, sitting on the side of the road leaning on a wall without much stamina, and a few women around her trying to talk to her and help her.
The rest is the story of trying to get a car and take her to a hospital amidst all the danger, the story of the anxiety of taking her to a hospital soon enough, to wish for the hit not to have caused brain damage, to experience the intense fear of the one short time I thought she lost consciousness as she fell asleep and her head dropped from my shoulder, the guilt for having lost her or not having been able to help her, the thoughts about the possibility of loosing her, and … But again all that story is the story of our luck to not be among those who were shot, beaten to some permanent damages or death, run over and killed by the police car, or those who witnessed all these atrocities and were probably traumatized for life, or those who were arrested and put in jails where nobody knows what might have happened or still happen to them. We were among the lucky ones.
The state of fear and insecurity was so bad that many people were not willing to go to hospitals because they were afraid they would be taken away by the police. My cousin, despite being either nauseous or so energyless that she was resting on my shoulder or my legs in the car, would fight the idea of going to any other hospital than where she works even though her hospital was relatively far from where we were. In the hospital, they decided not to keep her at night even though they thought she should have been watched for one night because they thought that the police might come and watch the hospitals, like last time, to take the injured away. The doctor who sutured her head with ten stitches said that she had so many injured and in need of stitches that day who all claimed to have been hit somewhere accidentally, fearing to admit they were among the protesters so that they would not be tracked down and arrested.
For the next two days after this incident, I have been shocked and totally distressed not only by all the news I read and heard about the brutality of the security forces in addition to what I experienced, but by the state of fear and insecurity that the regime has created since then to threaten people. They were threatening to identify, arrest and punish all those who had participated in the protests, and to execute those who have been arrested. They were spreading pictures of the people they had either taken themselves or from different websites on one of their own nasty websites, and then giving a phone number on the state’s TV channels for people to call and report on the ones they knew and could identify. And just one day after the protest when we were thinking we were among the survivors, we received a threatening phone call from a jerk saying that he had seen my cousin’s picture and he was going to report us. It was then when I recognized how intense the insecurity can feel when you think that at any given moment all those savages you just escaped can show up at your door and take you back to the darkness of their own souls. We were again fortunate enough to know that there was no picture of my cousin anywhere and that the threat was an empty one. But the experience of fear and insecurity was real, and I could really understand what those families whose loved ones were arrested or were in danger of being arrested must still feel.
The next phase was then being torn by the question of what should and can be done if they really decide to execute some of those who were arrested. I or somebody I knew closely could easily be among them and I had to think what I would want people to do for me in the same situation. The taste of that fear and insecurity was still all over my heart and mind, and I had to really wonder how much I was able to deal with. How big of a price I was willing to pay. How strong I would be to overcome my fears to again go and do something despite the brutality I experienced and all the threats that were out there. It was the question of who would stop them from those executions if people like me would be chickened out. It could be a serious question of life and death, and I had to face the possibility in a very real sense, as I am sure many others have and still do. The questions are still there, and I am really hoping that people do not have to put their dear lives on the line for the basic human rights they are seeking. And so this is why I am writing this email.
The same way I felt more connected to all of those who have been killed, injured and arrested or in danger of being arrested, I am hoping you can make a stronger connection with them by hearing about the experience of someone you know. All of those who were killed, are mourning the lost ones, are arrested and in jails probably being tortured, and …. are some people’s loved ones, some people’s friends, some people’s colleagues, and they were killed, beaten up and jailed for the same reason I was there: demanding their basic human rights. I do believe that the world is able to do something to stop the possible bloodshed that might happen in the future in Iran. I do hope that the world and people like you would care enough to put pressure on their governments and all who have the power to do something to make the Iranian government follow the international agreements they have signed regarding the rights of their citizens. I do hope that the world and people like you would do something to support us before people like me have to put their lives on the line. I’m sure that in the 21st century, there could be peaceful ways the world can put pressure on a dictatorship government to stop killing their own people.
What is it that you can do? I can just think of some possible ways you might be able to help, but I am sure that awareness of the situation will give you even better ideas, and you may use your creative minds to come up with possibly great ideas. Maybe just thinking about the question of ‘what can we do’ could help you find some great answers. At the same time, here are my suggestions:
The public pressure has always had a great power. Stay aware of the situation in Iran. Don’t forget us until the next time that a large number of us are killed, tortured and arrested to be killed. Demand more news coverage of Iran’s situation by your local and national media so that they know you care and need information (it probably takes an email to request such a thing from them). Send emails, make phone calls to the Iranian embassies in your countries and cities to condemn the brutality and violence toward people, send emails to the embassies of Russia and China who are the two big supporters of the Iranian government demanding that they stop their support. In any organization you work, you can make an official letter signed by people and then sent to these organizations, or you can do it individually. Anything you do, even if it is just reading more about the details of what is happening and who is supporting this illegitimate government and how, is better than doing nothing. I know that I may sound to be asking for too much, but believe me that the situation is scary and the people of Iran, I certainly included, need the support of the world’s peaceful measures to save them from being killed, tortured, raped, & … for their basic rights.
Please do not leave us alone. Even the smallest thing you can do may end up having some big results in the end.