TitleMy stress for 25 Bahman is a sign of hope

When despair leaves our hearts

11 Feb 2011

■ Ann De Craemer
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February 11, 2011

I have always had a problem with the word ‘stress’. I am a writer so I like words to be picked carefully, and stress is a word that is simply being used too much – just like the very fashionable ‘burn-out’. Some people have stress when they go out to buy bread, have a workout at the gym or enjoy a relaxed evening at home with their lover. They have stress because the bread might be sold out, or because they might not have burnt enough calories on that damn cross-trainer, or because the candles they have romantically put on the floor might fall over and put the house on fire.

But these days, I can truthfully use the word ‘stress’ to describe my state of mind. Let me inhale deeply, then breathe out calmly and tell you why: I am stressed about the 25th of Bahman, the day on which a protest march will be held in Tehran in solidarity with the people of Egypt. Last week, Iran’s opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have asked a permit for the march, perfectly well knowing that the regime would not grant them one – and on Wednesday, it was announced that they wouldn’t. Nevertheless, it is a very smart move. First (something which Karroubi has pointed out in a rare interview), as Khamenei and his allies have called the revolt in Egypt and Arab countries a sign of an ‘Islamic awakening’, denying a permit for a solidarity march would mean that the support for their Arab ‘friends’ is fake. Second, the Green Movement leaders knew that they probably wouldn’t get a permit but now the people of Tehran (and Iran) have a fixed date and time on which they can show both their solidarity with the Egyptian people and their own indignation about their corrupt and incompetent leaders.

When I heard about the upcoming march and noticed now how my friends in Tehran are getting increasingly excited and nervous, my throat started feeling sore. My protesting throat is not a symptom of a winter cold, but simply a sign of stress.

I have stress for several reasons, the first one being that I cannot physically be in Iran on 25 Bahman. I have been denied a visa for Iran since I have critically covered the 2009 presidential elections, so I will have to watch the events behind my computer. This angers and frustrates me, just as it has frustrated me that over the past two years I could net set foot on Iranian soil. When last week I heard a Belgian reporter in Cairo saying that he was sad to have to leave because protesters considered him as their voice and eyes, I perfectly knew what he was talking about, because people in Iran had told me the same. I could be their voice up to June 20th but then had to leave the country. While hiding in a taxi that was taking me from Ferdousi Square to Imam Khomeini Airport, I dried my tears with my scarf – the one and only time that this damn thing on my head had some usefulness. I cried because I could no longer be the voice and eyes of the brave Iranian people. I now feel the same stress, caused by the frustration of having to watch things from a distance.

I have stress because I cannot physically be in Iran on 25 Bahman

Another reason why I have stress for 25 Bahman is probably the reason why many Iranians are nervous these days: what will happen? It has been quite a while since the people of Tehran have taken to the streets to show the regime that they are angry about the state their country is in – because that is of course what 25 Bahman has come to be about. It might have started as a solidarity march, but it is by now much more seen as a new chance for loud protest against the regime. And indeed, what will happen? Will the regime react just as harshly as during the protests of 2009? Ayatollah Khamenei & Co are obviously very afraid since the protests in Egypt and Arab states have erupted. Khamenei himself addressing ‘his’ people during the Friday prayer of February 4th was a mere sign of fear, just as there was a great deal of fear in Ahmadinejad’s boastful announcement this week that Iran will launch ‘many home-built satellites in 2012’ – ‘news’ that is only a way of trying to divert attention from the upcoming street rally. We all know that when the regime is afraid, they resort to scaring tactics and violence. On the other hand, the hardliners know that the international community is watching them more than ever, as Egypt and more and more countries in the Middle East are showing the world that they are sick of their dictators.

Not knowing what will happen is exactly what is causing a big part of my stress. Also, not knowing how the people of Tehran will react on 25 Bahman makes my throat become sore. How energetic is the Green Movement? I believe it is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of people, but it has not taken to the streets for a long time. A friend in Tehran told me how much he hoped that the people would stay on their squares for a couple of days, just like the protesters in Egypt. I could sense his stress and as jokes often discharge tension, I told him that surely they would stay for a long time because Persians always want to perform better than Arabs.

But now to be serious: the situation in Iran is of course different than in Egypt. The struggle of the people for freedom and their use of the powerful social media in doing so is the same, but the people of Iran have to fight an enemy which is much more evil than Mubarak. They have to fight Khamenei, who has a powerful stick to hit ‘his’ people with: Allah. Also, the Egyptian demonstrators are using the word ‘revolution’ to describe their uprising, whereas Iranians are not aiming at a revolution, having witnessed that 1979 has not brought them what they had hoped for.

The rally of 25 Bahman is a serious test for both the Green Movement and the regime. I suspect that these days, Khamenei also feels stressed, but the good news is that his stress is rising purely from fear, whereas mine and that of many Iranians all over the world is also a sign of hope. I have the same kind of stress I had as a student right before an exam: it is stress which first and foremost expresses the hope that your hard work will not have been in vain.

We do not know what will happen on Monday. But we do know that it will be a Green Valentine’s Day, and I do know that as soon as Khamenei will run out of Iran, I will sit upfront in a taxi that is bringing me from Imam Khomeni Airport to Ferdowsi Square. I will bring along my scarf, not to dry my tears but to wave at Mr. Ferdowsi and shout these words from his Shahnameh: ‘And despair filled all hearts, for it was as though mankind must perish to still the appetite of those snakes sprung from Evil.’

And I will keep waving my scarf until Ferdowsi arises from his statue and I will embrace him and tell him that, my beloved poet, things have changed and despair has finally left our hearts.

Tehran Review
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  1. Katy Shaybani says:

    Dear Ann, you made me cry… I so do hoe to meet you and see you waving your scarf with hope in all our hearts… thank you

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    تهران‌ریویو مجله‌ای اینترنتی، چند رسانه‌ای و غیر انتفاعی است. هدف ما به سادگی، افزایش سطح گفتمان عمومی در مورد ایده‌ها، آرمان‌ها و وقایع جهان امروز است. این مشارکت و نوشته‌های شما مخاطبان است که کار چند رسانه‌ای ما را گسترش داده و به آن غنا و طراوت می‌بخشد. رایگان بودن این مجله اینترنتی به ما اجازه می‌دهد تا در گستره بیشتری اهداف خود را پیگیری کرده و تاثیرگذار باشیم. مهم‌تر از همه اینکه سردبیران و دست‌اندرکاران تهران‌ریویو به دور از حب و بغض‌های رایج و با نگاهی بی‌طرفانه سعی دارند به مسایل روز جهان نگاه کرده و بر روی ایده‌های ارزشمند انگشت بگذارند. تهران ریویو برای ادامه فعالیت و نشر مقالات نیازمند یاری و کمک مالی شماست.