Bold step.

 flickr  View my photo journal

In the same way that one might simply say the date, 4th of July - "beest o do e Bahman" (22nd of Bahman or 11th of February in the Christian calendar) is of similar significance to the Iranian folk. This day is more correctly called "Daheye Fajr", which roughly translates as "10-days leading up to", and is the anniversary of the revolution as well as a national holiday. More often than not, national holidays mean busy days at work for me - one of the bad points about working in the service sector.

This prominent day came unannounced to me and it was work as usual as far as I was concerned. The night before I joined my father in Tehran and the following morning we made our way through the city, heading to Karaj (the large neighboring city where we work). We didn't get too far into our journey before the people started moving faster than our car. In the warm sun we sat in traffic with me reading a book relaying the early days of Reza Pahlavi, the first of the Pahlavi dynasty who preceded the Islamic Republic. We were at a wedding in 1935 when my father's mobile rang with tragic news of a senior colleague. The days plans were to take new course, thus granting my wish to photograph where the crowds amassed.

I hopped out of the car that sat static on the motorway and joined the human traffic making their way to Azadi Square for the "Rahpeymayee" (demonstration). On the horizon I saw the Azadi tower, and switched to the right side of the long straight road, following the flow off people heading towards the banners and chants. A lot of traffic was moving both towards and away from the square so I quickened my pace to make sure I didn't miss any of the unknowned events ahead. I weaved in and out of the chudor and Basij bulk who held a creative array of banners whilst chanting with the customary slogans. "Death to America", "death to Israel", "death to Denmark" and then "death to England". I tripped in my step, I have not heard this variation since being here, even though history might make it the more appropriate choice. I then paused to estimate the crowd size, switched off my phone and increased the pace.

The exact crowd figures for this day are debatable as different sources said different figures for different reasons. Reports stated 100,000 both from inside and outside of Iran yet I heard "2,000,000 easily" from friends and family. I agreed with the letter, measuring this by my being among the crowd on the 15th February 2003, in London, regarding a preemptive attack on Iraq. There were apparently 2,000,000 there, making it a historic moments for many reasons. The crowds in Tehran seemed as large, if not more so yet certainly the masses throughout Iran exceeded 2,000,000.

After being distracted by my first touch of the Azadi tower I turned around to see smoke in the distance. It could only mean one thing. I raced over like the paparazi for Diana. With a lift of the camera I shot repeatedly, without the aid of the display, above the circle of chanting men. I was a shameless tourist, excitedly witnessing my first flag burning - Denmark's.

I passed the gates that filtered the women out and eventually stood on one side of a large gap between the people and their president. My side were so abnormally close to one another and for a rare moment we moved in unity, not necessarily by choice though. I shifted with the current of people who listened on as the president gave an impressively long speech that I failed to understand. Once again I was a tourist, guessing the distance between myself and the president and photographing, like a fan at a concert, at what turned out to be a spot in the distance.

As the activities drew to a close we made the usual Iranian, "every man for himself" scrabble back to the filter gates . While mature suited men climbed the fences I looked down to the floor gathering as much anti-western material as my pockets would allow. I waited for the crowds to calm and reflected on the day and even the week's events: it was all rather embarrassing: flag burnings, death chants, burning embassies and changing the names of Danish pastries - this behavior seems as productive as presenting the middle finger to your local MP, and just as juvenile.

As I made my way to the metro I spotted a family walking holding hands. They paused at one of the many circular plastic prints that carpeted the roads. These cleverly interactive prints show images of both the American and Israeli flag with a black foot print over the top. As if to specially complete my collection of tourist memorabilia they took it in turns - beginning with the father - to slowly yet firmly tread where the foot print was. My day was complete.


  • Roses of the Prophet Muhammad!!! Isn't that what they've renamed all Danish pastries too? I remember catching this article a week or so ago somewhere, I smiled to myself and thought that I shall make an extra effort while in Iran this summer to seek out such pastries and proudly ask the shopkeep for a Rose from the Prophet Muhammad whilst attempting to quell my own giggles. The strange thing is that these pastries (much similar to "French fries" renamed "Freedom fries" after 9/11 in America) are made in Iran and are not imported; apparently logic does not generally play a role in these sorts of decisions.
    Anyway, to be honest, I do not understand why there are not more chants of "Death to England," (no offense), if one looks at Iranian history, especially from the 19th century onward, it is Britain that has had a substantial effect on the Iranian economy and although it is arguable whether this influence is direct or indirect, Britain also had great influence in the social sector of Iran. WWII caused first REAL interaction between Iran and the States, there was nothing noteworthy in their relationship beforehand. The coup of 1953 was essentially caused by Britain, although America carried the operation out, it was Britain who have since admitted to falsifying information and telling the Americans that Iran was "turning red" despite the fact that there was no evidence to support this. Britain was bitter about the lack of control over Iranian oil and decided to use America to regain influence. Now, I'm not defending America at all, America did come up with and carry out the operation and this is not to say they did not also have their own reasons for doing so, but it would have never happened had Britain simply allowed the Iranians to have control of their own oil. Throughout history it is Britain the population generally said was controlling the Shah, although anti-American sentiment was around, I do not understand how after the Islamic Revolution so much hatred was reserved for America and Iranians had forgotten the long and destructive control Britain had in Iranian government in the preceding years.
    I ramble :) My point is (and this is highly debatable as it's my own, semi-unfounded observation) that although I believe that America provided the most negative impact on Iranian culture, it is Britain that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when considering the history of the economy and policy structure in Iran.

    By Anonymous Tahereh, at 8:00 PM  

  • Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
    his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
    that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
    ence intent on the development of perceptive
    awareness and the following acts of decision and
    choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
    him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
    making process and include the cognition of self,
    the utility of experience, the development of value-
    measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
    ation of civilization.

    The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
    customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
    his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
    creative process, is a choice-making process. His
    articles, constructs, and commodities, however
    marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
    atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
    highest expression of the creative process.

    Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
    significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
    fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
    forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
    ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
    natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
    bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
    singular and plural brow.

    - from The HUMAN PARADIGM

    By Blogger James Fletcher Baxter, at 7:58 PM  

  • Dear David, I felt ashamed when I saw the news about all that behaviour some mollas and relegoius people did because of the cartoon. Iranians are so relegious in my opinion, they like to have parties too, and regim prevents it, so they utilize they energies like this. I was so fed up by seeing this, I know that you might have felt terible seeing all these right before your eyes.

    this is my email , you asked me to contact with you:


    (the blog from above the wall)

    By Blogger Neda, at 12:37 PM  

  • http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/19/AR2006031901026.html

    Kayhan: "Announce as soon as possible that you won't have any dialogue with the U.S. and avoid entering a destructive trap that has been prepared for Islamic Iran."

    What destructive trap?! I am a born and raised American citizen, I have married an Iranian citizen who is now an American citizen. The only thing Americans are worried about is terrorism. We could care less, and it is not our business, if your government does not have a separation of mosque and state like ours does. We just want peace in the world.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:22 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home