11:45 p.m. A Tehran Bureau special correspondent reports:
We walked down Gharani Avenue from Karim Khan Avenue to reach Ferdowsi Square around 3 p.m. There were only three of us and we made a promise that if others did not show up we would abandon the march altogether. But were we in for a nice surprise. Even before we got to Ferdowsi Square we saw silent groups of people marching randomly with a determination in their eyes.
3:10 pm the guards were everywhere but not like they were in the Ashura demonstrations last year. We reached College Crossway (where Hafez Avenue crosses Enghelab Avenue) and the sidewalks were already filling up with quiet demonstrators without any signs or slogans. By the time we reached Vali Asr Avenue we realized that the tactic of the guards and the militia was to let groups of people go through and then separate them at each crossroad, so we tried to keep together and stay cool.
3:30 pm marked a painful visual landscape for me that I will never forget: the Basijis and the Revolutionary Guards had brought children in the street. They gave them clubs and were directing them for the attack, which happened right at that crossroad. The kids were probably 15 or 16 years old but their eyes were filled with hate. “Good Islamic teaching, right?” I heard an elderly man say in an angry but muffled voice.
I called my family to tell them where I was but the phones went dead around 3:45 and this was when the bikes rolled into the sidewalks and started beating people. I was separated from my friends in Enghelab Square but kept on going. The energy of the people and especially of the women and the elderly was like an electrical charge. I could not feel the beatings anymore and the clubs kept on coming on our heads, shoulders, legs, and knees.
Right at Jamalzadeh crossing, I heard a cheering crowd and realized that a large group of screaming demonstrators pouring south into Azadi Avenue (the continuation of Enghelab Avenue after Enghelab Square toward Azadi Square is called Azadi Avenue). The guards stopped all of the buses in the middle of the boulevard and forced us into the middle of the street. It was déjà vu as we reached Dampezeshki (Animal Husbandry Hospital). This was the same spot I was badly beaten in a June 2009 post-election demonstration. So I kept myself on the extreme right side of the sidewalk. It seems that the Revolutionary Guards were repeating the same tactics again because they rounded up the people in the middle of the street and attacked them the same way they did in 2009. I slipped through the angry-looking guards and plainclothes militia and came across another scene.
When I reached Eskandari Street it looked like a war zone: smoke, dust, teargas, screaming people, flying stones, and regular attacks by the well-equipped motorcycle-riding guards. A petite young girl with a green wristband and a small backpack was walking to my left. Just before we reached Navab Avenue the guards charged from behind, one of their clubs hit my left leg but three of them attacked the girl relentlessly. She screamed and fell to the ground, but the guards kept hitting her. I ran towards them, grabbed the girl’s right hand and released her from the grip of the guards. She was in a daze and crying unstoppably. I pushed her north into Navab Avenue towards Tohid Square away from Azadi Avenue when the guards charged towards us. This time the crowd fought back and stones of all sizes were directed back at them. This gave me a bit of time to ask one of the restaurants to open their doors and let us in. The girl was in shock and pain. I got her some water and asked how she was. Her clothes were dusty, her backpack was torn and her hands were shaking. “Why?” she kept asking.
The battle in front of the restaurant raged on. The crowd had only their fists and stones gathered from the sides of the street, but the guards were shooting people in the head with paint guns, and spraying pepper gas and shooting teargas canisters. Then in a moment that I thought I would never see, two guards ran up, sat on one foot and randomly fired plastic bullets into the crowd. We waited until the demonstrators pushed the guards back before leaving the restaurant.