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Visiting Iran: Part 7
Part (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

Iran Tripper
August 31,2004

This evening I went to a sit-in at the University of Tehran. I was let in by the guards at the door, and directed to the right building and I was respectfully treated by the guards. It was dark outside. Every step I was taking I was looking for "Ansar-e-hezbollah" but they were no where to be seen. I entered the Engineering building (Daneshkadeyeh Fanni) and found my way to the auditorium.

I went to the balcony, there was no room downstairs. Sat there and looked around. Girls and boys, students and older supporters of the students were all listening to the speaker at the podium. This was my first experience watching the likes of Mohsen Kadivar and others speaking passionately about shortcomings of the Islamic Republic.

Speakers openly were criticizing the regime, criticizing the leaders including Khamenei, and were generally saying that the government including themselves (parliament deputies) have done a terrible job of governing.

They were blaming the conservatives for ruining Iran, for ruining Islam, and for ruining the Islamic Republic. They were saying that the conservatives intend to remove the word "Republic" from "Islamic republic" and by doing so they will destroy "Islamic" as well. They were saying that if Iranian people knew in 1979 that they were not going to have a democratic Islamic republic they would not have voted for Islamic republic.

Kadivar gave a brave passionate speech. I did not know him before tonight, I had only heard his name. I must say right here that there were at least 10 mullahs in the audience, two of them who spoke tonight were the smartest and bravest amongst all speakers. They spoke eloquently about shortcomings of the regime, and that people are very disappointed at them, and that they will do everything in their power to right the wrongs; and this time, they promised, they will not fear their opponents where they believe are in the process of taking 230 additional seats of the parliament, hence, placing the "last straw that will break the camel's back."

Tonight was an eye opener for me. Guards were on our side, university workers were on our side, the professors and the students were on our side, and the ten mullahs present in the auditorium were on our side. People were clapping their hands, it was a very civilized gathering, everyone was calm and collected.

When pictures were being taken people were posing as to say: yes, it's me who is here, take my god damn picture even if you are a secret police. People all around were talking about a swift change that was upon us: the February elections will decide the fate of the regime once and for all!

Kadivar ended his speech by saying that he had no hope from above, and he said by above I mean Khameneie and the organizations that the conservatives run. The audience laughed because speakers generally don't refer to Khameneie with his name, they refer to him and his gang as "from above people".

Then Kadivar said he does not want anyone's vote and will not vote for anyone. In other words he suggested for the people to not participate in the coming elections. He then left the podium quickly and angrily.

Next speaker warned the conservatives to not label the reformists as anti-revolution, anti religion, etc. He said clearly those who have stolen the revolution from the people are the same people who are afraid of people's choices and their votes.

"Who in the world gave permission to a bunch of clerics who are not elected by people to decide for people who they can elect and who they cannot elect" said this speaker. "Aren't you ashamed of belittling people of Iran this much? Haven't you seen or heard enough? or are you deaf? and if you are deaf as priests in the middle ages were then you are doomed; and we are doomed. God save Iran!" he said.

It was a great evening for me. Newspapers are reporting what's going in the sit-ins (university and parliament), but TV and Radio are silent. A great event is occurring in Iran. Those who are politicoholics are saying that after the 1979 revolution this is the first time that the whole existance of the Islamic republic is under attack by so many used-to-be-friends of the Islamic government.

I participated in the parliament's sit-in today. Invitations were required so Kianoosh Rad, an MP, invited us (three guests). Bahram and I and a third friend from newly founded party of Iran went for the occasion. The parliament is located where Senate used to hold it's sessions in Shah's era. All the buildings surrounding the parliament as far as a block from each side have been purchased by the government and the current residents are generally government related folks. We entered the building, our documents were checked by the guards and were let in.

From the side of the building we were let out to a side street which used to be a normal alley but now is part of a compound that houses the Senate building and the surrounding neighborhood. Soldiers with machine guns were present at every corner inside and outside of the compound. We walked to the Senate building again from its adjacent door. Guards checked our documents again and let us in.

I took one picture hastily where photos are not allowed in these kinds of buildings. Got our paper worked checked by a clerk, showed them our invitation and received three "visitor's cards." Got out of the building and went to the back side of the Senate building. It's a massive building. We then entered the building from the back gate. Our papers and IDs were checked at the door again and we were allowed inside.

We were asked to empty our pockets, I had to give up my watch, my camera and anything but my paper money that was loose in my pockets were placed in a small plastic basket and was taken away by security personnel. I was given a receipt.

I passed through a metal detector while several security people were watching my every step. My visitor's paper was stamped and I was let in. At the end of the hall before I entered the floor there were more security folks. We stopped at their table and received a second stamp.Then further ahead we received a third and at each stop my ID was matched with my invitation papers. At the last stop the security personnel looked at me and asked me to say my name; the name that was on the paperwork and on my ID. I was finally in.

I got into the main hall that the sit-in was taking place. On the left side there were people sitting on carpeted floor; MPs, Ebrahim Yazdi and other more famous politicians were all there. There were supporters, news reporters from Iran and foreign agencies; it was a big crowd. Moosavi Tabrizi who is a cleric was behind the podium and was giving a passionate speech: "who the hell is Guardian council to decide who is qualified and who isn't?"

He was paging through Iran's constitution and naming amendments, laws, trying to prove that guardianship of "Shorayeh Negahban" was against the law. He said: "these clerics in Guardian Council are not elected by the people, and they think Iran is theirs! they know better, that they are out of line and they seem to be having difficulty seeing and hearing what's going in the world around them."

Bahaedin Adab, a sunni, representing Kurdistan, gave a speech claiming he has been disqualified on five counts: "Two of the disqualifying reasons belong to pre-revolution years". Audience laughed, "and three of the reasons belonged to 9 years ago." He continued saying that either he is guilty of those disqualifying reason or he isn't. If he is guilty then Shorayeh Negahban has allowed a "bad seed" to make laws for this nation for 8 years! "why haven't they done their job to purge me when they should have. If they are wrong about me and are accusing me wrongfully of the reasons for my disqualifications then they are committing a sin! according to Quran Tohmat (slander) is among the greatest sins."

Mr. Adab continued saying,

In Iran a string of hair out of Islamic Hejab can cause so much trouble for young girls, yet they are committing a sin and their hair is visible! ladies and gentlemen our highest clerics in this country from the conservative side are accusing me and several thousands of other applicants of sins that is made up by them and their organizations!

They have no shame, they feel so comfortable to defemate, and they think we still live in the beginning of the revolution, that they can scare us and the people, with slanders, that we are pagans, non believers, etc." He went on: "Times have changed. people voted for us, chose us to do a job and we didn't do our jobs. We simply didn't do our jobs!

And now that we are disqualified people still think this is yet another game! and I for one don't blame them. We have failed our people and we do not deserve their support! we are not going to get it. People gave us a chance and we have failed them.

All the speakers spoke with similar tones. News reporters were taking pictures. I spoke to a Japanese TV camera woman. She thought what was happening was very important for the world. Atmosphere was very civilized. Here and there, there were MPs conducting Interviews.

Bahram and I spoke to Mohammad Reza Khatami for 10 minutes. He spoke with a non-Tehrani accent and Bahram expressed his and his political party's support for the sit-in participants.

I spoke with Moosavi Tabrizi who is an important cleric, I told him that I enjoyed his speech. He was hearing that from all who were trying to shake his hand and were vigorously complementing him, etc. I then told him I did not expect for a cleric to be so open and democratic.

I noticed his face changed. He asked politely who I was. Noticing that my comment was a little raw for Iran's atmosphere I went on saying that I have lived in America for 25 years and was new to political scenes like this" that all I had heard about clerics from far away was mainly the hardliners point of view and therefore the reputation for clerics was terrible in America.

He smiled, then said: "Iran is like this." He then twirled his open-hand a few times; noticing that I did not get what he meant, he said: "Iran is very vibrant! things change quickly, then they slow down, change for worse and then get better." I still didn't understand what he meant. I'm guessing he meant Iran is chaotic.

Moosavi Tabrizi during his speech said this about Khamenei: "Khomeini in 1967 believed in Velayateh Faghih but in 1979 he had changed his views and had said that people have the right to vote and elect their leaders. And that this right belongs to people and people only. Government is God's right, and Imam Zaman's right but in his absence the government belongs to the people."

He went on: "Khameneie is responsible for all the shortcomings of the government because he has allowed for organizations under him to bypass the laws and create havoc. Iran is not their house and we are not their guests. What kind of a country is this? if people are not able to obey our hard rules then something is wrong with these rules.

"Where and when has Islam said to press people so hard that instead of religion giving them peace it gives them pain?" He sarcastically continued: "Foreigners are enemies, people inside the country don't understand what's good for them, don't know who to elect, people are poor, have no hope for future, and the only people who know what's what is Guardian Council."

The audience clapped and laughed.

I spoke to Kianoosh Raad and thanked this MP for inviting us. He thanked me for being there and supporting the sit-ins. When asked about my views of events I told him I believe in secularism, and that I was not religious at all.

I spoke to several MPs. I wanted to talk to Mrs. Haghighatjoo but she was busy explaining to a reporter about some misunderstanding. She is very tiny!

At Namaz time (prayer) people lined up for a group prayer. I would estimate there were 25 people praying and about 350 people not praying and just talking and hanging out in the halls.

It's hard to tell what's going to happen. MPs at the sit-ins seemed to be very sincere" I loved the open and brave speeches I heard in the parliament, and at the university of Tehran. Either I'm still being naive or Iran is truly going through a change that is unstoppable. It seems to me no one is afraid anymore. The MPs talked about everyone and criticized everyone including themselves. They talked about the old days. They even talked about Bani-Sadr. It was a memorable afternoon.>>> Part 8
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