The Green Army take Vanak

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"Ahmadi, bye-bye, Ahmadi bye-bye", come the chants from the Green Army, shooting out peace signs with their fingers to any fellow green-clad passers-by. They may also use, "death to the dictator", or simply, "don't lie", in reference to the debut occurrence of televised debates; oh how those debates still resonate. And among the seas of green, which at one point managed to connect by hands throughout the capital, you'll see the face of Mir Hossein Mousavi, you'll hear his name and you can feel the wind of change or at least the desperate desire for it.

If you ask me, the change has come already, the TV debates set a precedence, the little moment of blocking Facebook, only to reverse the decision two days later, and the SMS mass-organising efforts stand as evidence. It's quite a different environment this time around, both online and off; street dancing, up-beat music pumped out from cars and houses and the girls and guys side-by-side, chanting together in unison; all officially outlawed. But don't let me paint you a picture of an oppressed struggling youth, circumventing these laws are very much part of daily life. The difference here is in its volume and its confidence; within the last few weeks the behavior has been observed by the authorities and not just tolerated.

It is just the two "reformer" candidates that have made statements to rid the streets of both tolerance or observance, by which they refer to the so called moral police, who indiscriminately pack you in a van for a lecture or maybe worse. It was only Mahdi Karoubi, the former head of the parliament; the other of the "reformer" candidates, that to my knowledge went further; publicly placing additional promises beside his candidacy, proposing at one point to have an income for mothers so they need not feel the pressure to work while fulfilling their desires, should they desire.

I put a call out on Facebook to learn more about the favoured "reformer", Mousavi. I'd asked if anyone had a translated English version of his campaign promises, but only had replies from others – Mousavi supports no less – that were also interested in seeing such a document. After the second call, this time asking for it in any language, I was presented with a link to a 103-page PDF. With my reading speed in Farsi, it'd be the subsequent election by the time I'd be done. But it struck me, among the Green Army that increases in numbers before my eyes, I never hear of campaign promises being used to convince me to "go green".

like the American elections before us, it is all about colour

Going green was smart, and since this development it always amused me that like the American elections before us, it is all about colour. Mousavi is a Sayed, meaning via his male lineage, he's related to the prophet Mohammad. To symbolise this, Sayeds use a certain shade of green, also shown in the national flag. Establishing this within his identity was great strategy, but also total luck, for each candidate was assigned a colour by which the state broadcasting group selected at random. For his main rival – the current President, Mr. Ahmadinejad – to identify with his selected colour, red, would be suicide. True, red is the only other colour on the flag but it is also the colour used to represent the enemy of Shi'a Muslims, Shem; the killer of Imam Hossein. So yellow became Karoubi's colour and the remaining candidate, the former leader of the still powerful militia group; Sepah, got blue. Neither of those colours hold any great association within Iran and even if they would, Mousavi struck out first and to follow would be a loser's game. But the current President's troops found their identity to confront the Green Army with; they wrapped themselves in the national flag. If you pass though Tehran's Valiasr, a corridor through the capital from north to south, you can see them 3-up on motorbikes weaving between the increasing numbers of green-clad cars, relentlessly sounding their horns and caped with the flag flapping in the wind behind them.

"Mr. Mousavi, I like you...", squinted the President, leaning in and preparing for yet another inappropriate statement during the second of the televised debates. To call these hugely popular events a debate would be misrepresentation; they were simply an opportunity to discredit the integrity of the opponents. It was "Dr. Ahmadinejad" that excelled in this practice, going as far defaming the character of his opponent's wife, and not content with that, finding senior players in the government to take down. "Shameless", shrieked the party crowd I sat with, who'd put a hold on boogying to see the leader of their Green Army get a opportunity to shoot down the man who they felt assumed an emperor like position in their republic. Shots were traded and cheers and gasps echoed around the living room, but this terrain is familiar for the President and as much as neither supporter would say the other won the battle, I'd say the President had them dancing. With such overwhelming fanaticism a shift in opinion was hard to find, and of those undecided voters, they were surely not won over by a great display of merits.

There's too much to be said about the debates and there's still so much being said about them. That single debate with Mousavi and the President sparked catchphrases and jokes that I doubt will be forgotten about anytime soon. That debate was to be my first exposure to Mousavi, for which I was hoping he would gain my support, but he failed. I looked to Karoubi to perform well against the President and for 5-minutes he did, but his ranting made the wheezing of this 72-year old man notice more. He hinged his opinions on religion as a good Mullah does but the foaming at the mouth, general bad on-screen behavior and uncontrolled anger made it an easy battle for his opponent. Karoubi failed too. He was so disappointing that a friend who'd been campaigning with the Karoubi Camp, whom I sat and watched with, went green.

As I write, it is the last day before vote day. As is the case, campaigning during this day is forbidden and may result in your right to vote being revoked. I've just revisited the place at which I exited my taxi upon coming home last night, a journey that took three hours due to the volume of supporters on the street, I got out of the taxi to what appeared to be a riot, with police struggling to keep the supporters from blocking traffic; revving their motorbikes before coming at the crowd with swinging batons. The supporters came back at them! Then the supporters came rushing in my direction and away from the police coming back at them. I'd survived a stampede. Today, in the light of day, I'd be forgiven in thinking I made it all up. The streets are clear and clean and pretty much no signs of an imminent election can be seen.

I've seen a face, I've seen the green and I see the desperate connection between

So up until today, I've seen a face, I've seen the green and I see the desperate connection between. I guess that Mir Hossein Mousavi is the most credible of the faces, for many, to bridge between the current reality and the future desires. As a dispassionate observer it's frustrating to see this shown in fanaticism. But the fanaticism is the change and going green, itself, is what's paving the way to the future desires. But on the other hand, the fanaticism surrounding Ahmadinejad's support is very much about his personality, thus we see a personality and it's antitype put before us on our voting slips.

So with a day to go, I'm still unsure of who to vote for and with complete ignorance to my British sensitivities, I'm being asked this with every greeting. The Green Army that surrounds me assures me that there is only one choice and any hint that I'd question that is seen as me playing silly, or even making a mockery of them and the nation. So I ask them why I should vote for Mousavi, and in nearly every case I'm presented with why I should vote against Ahmadinejad. This isn't my question though. On one occasion I was told of Mousavi's previous standing in government and how he help lead the country through it's most difficult times during the Iran, Iraq war. Commendable, but I'm still looking for campaign promises, and never hear them spoken about. As a friend put it to me, his campaign promises are very simple; they are to be the next president and to not be like the last.

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One of the many white canvases put out for marking in Tehran

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A quick response to Al Jazeera regarding the upcoming Iranian presidential elections

I'm not sure I'd be a good person to ask regarding the elections. My information on this is generally funneled through western minds. My only outstanding thought is that the fielded candidates are a very disappointing bunch. My concern, as with most elections around the world, is that people are not so much voting for what they want as oppose to voting for a person who is against what they don't want. Mousavi seems an odd choice for Iranians and yet he seems likely to win - at least if you stand this side of Vanak. Mousavi doesn't appear to be a uniter by nature and displays little leadership qualities - features that Iranians historically seem to need in my mind. Ahmadinejad in my mind shows these to a better degree. The people are united in a shade of green; of change, and the face is Mousavi's. I'm hoping that this will turn out to be a "yes we can" matter, in that people will understand their own role in shaping the future having invested themselves so much. For the first time, I think people are seeing aspects of a democratic nation develop, by this I mean the televised debates and the use of the internet what with the reversal of a decision to block Facebook. These are important steps towards the desires of the people.

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Gathered among friends

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This is a slightly adapted email sent out recently…

So, this weekend; the final of the three-nights-one-location party stint ended on a good note. The first of these nights deserves a write up in itself, having been spent with English Farsi students and being reminded of how much I’ve adapted to this place. It was weird to have my Englishness trumped.

So, as mentioned, the regular and rotating Peace Delegation from America came once again to [my friend’s] house for a soirée of sorts. Before they arrived I joined the group of cosmopolitan Tehran folk amassed and discussing the variety of guests due. Our friend linked to this Delegation informed us that the Delegation’s organisers had exceeded the annual quota of visits and that there was talk about increasing what was seen as a successful program.

[The host] was freaking out [with joy] about having a black woman, a Jewish Rabbi and some dude high-up in some church be guests at his house. Oddly enough, the Rabbi turned out to be a young Jewish author and the Christian dude ended up being a former band manager of various greats (having toured and worked with The Dead, The Who and a few others that escape me now). It was only the black woman who failed to fit the description; she turned out to be a well decorated Native American from a reservation in Arizona.

As we met them at the door they needed each name to be repeated until they comfortably got their tongues around the strange new sounds. “And you are?”, they asked one-by-one, “David”, I responded, reaching out my hand. “David?”, they repeated, “yes David” … “David?”, they asked again, awaiting a reassuring punchline that never came. As the weather was pleasant we guided them through the house to sit out on the balcony whereby they, like many before, commented about the great view [of the Alborz Mountains] – even though little could be seen in the dark condition.

"I think Israel has only 10-years left", I was somehow surprised to hear this and responded jokingly with, "you've been listening to the words of our president too much"

It turned out that the touring Christian (of some peculiar strand) was from the [San Francisco] Bay area like [the host], to which streets and notaries were reeled out one after another; the native Indian answered questions related to her cluster of clothing and I made inquiries with the Jewish east coast gent about his book that was short-listed just that day for a prize. He talked about this book, informing us that it was entitled ‘Children in War’, which was - if I remember rightly - a collection of non-fictional accounts, as the title would suggest. During his explanation he came back on somebody’s comment with, "I think Israel has only 10-years left", I was somehow surprised to hear this and responded jokingly with, "you've been listening to the words of our president too much". I asked him why he thought like that, to which he went into detail as to how there are apparently a large volume of Jews who fit a schizophrenic profile, Jews who simply can't deal with both the Israel issue and their conscience. He then went on to talk about some kind of lobby thing called J Street that is there to confront or compete with K Steet - or was it the other way around? By this I gathered that he meant there was a lobby group(s) that has strong support for the plight of the Palestinians.

Similarly, I was talking of American politics with the Christian dude, but not before I answered his list of questions about Iran. Every other sentence I had to remind him that what he sees before him and over the balcony – if anything at all – is far from the reality of Iran. He mentioned that he was about to begin a PhD in Sexology, to which it took a few minutes for the group to move beyond the resulting jokes. I both volunteered information I'd learned about sex in Islam to which he brought further inquiries. He said that they were heading to the holy city of Qom the following day to which I mentioned that he could be in for a treat and could also stock up on literature for his future studies. I spoke about the sex calendar devised by the mullahs, indicating the best times for a Muslim to have sex within the week/month/year. He perked up on that one. I also mentioned a few of the related Islamic laws and also of one in particular concerning falling through floors during earthquakes and impregnating things below - that and matters concerning anal sex. He'd asked about gay folk in Iran - to which I had to amusingly remind him that we didn't have any here. I followed on this by adding the oddity that is gayness in Iran; that the men pretty much do all but penetrate in display of their affection with other men. I talked of a book I'd read entitled, ‘Sex Morals and Marriage in Islam’ saying that he might be able to get one of the clerics to run around for him to gather this and many more.

With that I felt it best to educate him on how he should behave before the people he was about to meet in Qom; educating him on how better to shake hands and how best to phrase his requests. By coincidence he was already wearing a ring very similar to those worn by mullahs; that, coupled with the beard he’d been especially growing for the visit, assured me he’d do just fine.

He asked for my forgiveness as he became, “a little spiritual”, telling about how deeply moved he was by visiting the tomb

My conversation with the Christian dude pretty much carried on until they left - for which I was a little worried that I consumed all his time when there was so many other interesting people that he could have spoken with. He mentioned at one point about having visited [the Iranian poet] Hafez's tomb, following with complimentary words about the nation and its history. He asked for my forgiveness as he became, “a little spiritual”, telling about how deeply moved he was by visiting the tomb. He welled up in his explanation; nearly enough to drop a tear. Seeing his red bulbing eyes partly avoiding me seemed to trigger me off too, yet for wholly different reasons.

I was engrossed with his perspective on America and its politics; he was deeply critical and deeply angered. He was sickened by paying tax and knowing that the official figures of how much of that got spent on the military is about 35%; we agreed that this is more than likely lower than is the case when noting how these things are publicly presented. He spoke of the big players such as Haliburton, KBR and the Carlyle Group and how the American people are at the whim of these corporations in many respects. Obama he was looking forward to, suggesting that it might be a break from the current elite - I contended that this result would make little difference should it actually transpire.

"I give it a year and the dollar is done", he awkwardly asserted.

On that, we spoke of possibilities that might swing it another way: Iran was his suggestion. I suggested that something would surly be brought out of the bag for the voting occasion to inspire a specific choice, sadly I had to admit that Iran could indeed be that. He was disillusioned with the system and felt maybe it needed taking back, yet had no confidence in this coming about. With that he spoke of his concern for his children, suggesting at one point that he feels bad for bringing them into the world with what he felt was looming: "I give it a year and the dollar is done", he awkwardly asserted. He followed this with talk of fuel prices, limitation on food, decreasing employment figures and a disgusting health care situation.

We brought the conversation back to Iran, whereby he asked about the political situation both now and previously here. It seemed he’d done his research and there was little for me to add. We spoke of the '53 coup, the Shah and the current regime which led to talk of the current developments in the nation with regards to sanctions and how Iran is dealing with business internationally. I brought it back home with the big topic of these days that is inflation. He was worried about the dollar for next year and I was worried about how over 90% of Iranians would be able to afford anything next year if the events of this year repeat themselves. It all seemed rather odd to discuss all this from the balcony of one of the more fancy high rises of Tehran.

Details were exchanged and goodbyes were said before we wished them well for their pending Qom trip. The Christian dude went to shake my hand and frightened me by doing so in the mullah like way - it took a moment to remember where he'd learned it from.

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My special ticket to the said event.

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"Hizbollah, Hizbollah, death to America, death to America, death to Israel!", the attendees repeated again, in response the sporadic outbursts coming from the back. I took a look around to check out if I was in the minority in not repeating these chants; I was. I turned back and glanced across the varied crowd, made up mostly of representatives from many national institutions, and noted with some surprise that many were smirking as they played along. This moment brought memories of the days I mimed out hymns at school assembly not helped by the fact that we were all sat crossed legged on the floor listening as verses from the Quo'ran echoing throughout the room.

"Daveed, what are you doing tomorrow?", my uncle phoned and asked, curious as to how I planned to spend the national holiday marking the end of Ramazan. "Do you want to come and see the Spiritual Leader?", he asked, finally getting round to a long spoken about moment. "Of course!", I responded without hesitation, "but what do I need to wear?", I went on, confused as to whether we are celebrating or not; because at times it's difficult to tell here. "Wear Basiji stuff", he said partly in jest, referring to the type of clothing worn by the moral police, by which he simply means an open-collar white shirt, ill-fitting trousers, sandals and overgrowth in facial hair.

I sat twiddling with my finest tasbi (praying beads that is), besides my uncle whom I kept close for translation purposes as the sporadic chanting continued while we awaited the Spiritual Leader. Gradually the room filled up, for which I took great amusement in watching varying ranks arrive in order of reverse-importance. Army, navy, air force and police personal took seats bringing increasingly decorative uniforms and commanding a larger fuss on entry.

Some socks crossed my face and an apology followed and with little sign of shame, a Basiji looking chap had practically sat on my uncle's lap. "Are you going to stay there?", I ask this man, "If you'll allow me", he responded, "you're sitting on my uncle", I reminded him, "yes, I'm sorry", he politely added. Maybe I was out of line but I thought I'd see it through, "don't apologise to me, it's his legs you are sitting on", I exclaimed, arousing the attention of those around us. He came back at me calmly, "when the leader arrives everyone will rush forward and everyone will be on everybody else's legs". My uncle gave me a blink, that indicated that I should leave it, after which this guy sought new legs to sit on.

Somebody shouted something, a name maybe, to which the entire room raced to their feet. I didn't think, I just joined them to which the next few seconds seemed to arrive in slow motion. "Khaamenei, the leader!", came the chants as scores of men raced in front of me, followed by us being pushed forward as the crowd condensed. I tip-toed to look ahead and saw the Spiritual Leader snap out from behind the curtains, to my utter surprised there followed Ahmadinejad, the president, appearing from his left, and then Rafsanjani, the former president, appearing from his right. I was astonished at this fan of cards that was put before me, a full-house for sure.

With a slight lapse in security, the whole of the regime would surely be gone – I was sitting in a dream American target!

I scanned the room; the head of the parliament, the head of the judiciary, the nuclear negotiator guy, two former presidents, the most senior ranking members of the institutions, and these were just the faces I knew of. With a slight lapse in security, the whole of the regime would surely be gone I thought to myself in horror - conscious that I'm sitting in a dream American target.

The resulting mosh-pit calmed as the stars took their seats on the stage; we joined them, and arranged ourselves on each other's laps as the Basiji guy had previously mentioned. The president took to the microphone first, for which I understood pretty much nothing of what he had said. I got the impression that he was reading poetry but it's always so difficult for me to understand Iranians when they use the formal 'book' language. There then followed the stern tone of the Spiritual Leader, of whom I understood a fair amount more; although I found myself rather distracted by his prosthetic arm, that I'd heard so much about, yet never seen. I was mesmerised by its ability and its strange strained look when in the open position. This appendage turned in time with his other hand as he accentuated his agitation; being very critical of American ambitions and very supported of the Hizbollah cause citing concerns for the Palestinian people, yet mostly he referred to the region developing though indigenous desires.

Although there were roars of supportive cheers, there was no encore as the stage emptied. This moment seemed to have been as snappy as the entrance with large volumes of the attendees rushing off to try and get backstage. I joined them; not entirely with reason but rather with curiosity, yet all I had seemed to do is get in the way of the top brass as they wished each other well on this celebratory day.

I rather enjoyed the fact that I may have been surrounded by some of Iran's most influential names and not have been aware of it. In fact, this became a bit of a game to me; guessing the value of these cards as they shuffled themselves around at the end. Yet in this moment I was reminded; this is the only way in which I am a player among them.

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Scenes from Palastine, edited between scenes of demonstrations in Tehran in support of the Palastinians.

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"Oh my f...", yelped a friend having just switched over from a Manchester United game to an interview with our president by a CBS reporter. The ensuing gasps and the shrieks were more appropriately related to the football and certainly the excited leaping from the chairs and fruitless flicking of Vs. "What the... shut up, just shut... you liar!", came the reactions to what was an all together different match. Such emotive responses surrounded me with every touch of the ball by our president, but I couldn't see the fowl play they repeatedly protested about. Yeah, there were dives and excessive rolls, but it's part of the game, and in this game and that room, it appeared I was rooting for the underdog.

I'm an odd supporter of the home team, going so far as to carrying a photographed keyring of our star player. Yet, how I'm scorned at for this, regardless of how far my tongue is wedged in my cheek. I get a similar responses when pushed to vocalise my thoughts; it's not that I'm fashionably backing the outsider, but more that, at times I hold a view that the games can have as much relevance as an actual football tournament.

"This is a terrible translation", both my friends simultaneously remarked as I strained to keep up with the pace; the only errors I noticed being the additional, "Mr. President", and other courteous terms padding the translated questions for the home team. I was enthralled; lost between needing clarification from my friends and not wanting to interrupt. This match was perversely important however; a long running tournament seems to be reaching its final stages, with a great many heated fans hungry for a slip-up; an excuse to vent anger and transcend the event; offering their own interpretation of a red card, regardless of a referee's decision.

For me, these vigilantes who seemingly shroud themselves in their own comfortable understanding of events, have at best, historical amnesia and certainly a gross immunity to self-awareness. This became prevalent with the media circus surrounding a recent visit by our president to the, "Lion's Den", which could be marked as the away-game to the previous week's interview.

"The Evil Has Landed", we read in the morning papers as the cogs of the corporate media shifted a gear. Various tactics had been considered by the home team; or even stolen, with 11/9 victims once again not left to rest in peace. Predictably, the media performed its tacit role of 'amplifier' well, with the volume turned down for this and also for the main reason of the visit: the fact that our president was a guest to the United Nations. Where the volume was increased however, was with our president also being a guest at Columbia University. Here he was made equally as welcome, being introduced as a, "petty dictator". Such flattery! And I'm serious.

no amount of witty uppercase-play can invite the situation whereby he will hover his finger over a phantom red-button

Such flattery that can only exist with tiring ignorance of our system, and this man's role; this democratically elected man I should add. He is arguably less influential than his international equivalents – simply a face, some stock-words and a nice beard, but one should be careful not to over-estimate him. One should know that he does not preside over the military, unlike the much loved former shah who was not democratically elected, did preside over the military and was not shy in using it against his own people (with a blind eye from the west). So one should be aware that no amount of witty uppercase-play ("AhMADinejad") can invite the situation whereby he will hover his finger over a phantom red-button.

The madness could be attributed to the provocative words on the holocaust; clumsy at best, but broaching this taboo in its current way of, "let's allow more research", invites an interesting response. These little pokes at western hypocrisy seem to be chipping away at the roots of a regional issue and – depending on who does your indoctrination – it resonates in great volume, yet in different ways. I might be so bold at this point and suggest that the surrounding rhetoric is awkwardly refreshing; so rare to hear a representative at such a level to stand up against the status quo and even represent his people. Today, for example, is an international day of recognition for the plight of the Palestinians, with a national televised demonstration running through most cities – yes, it reminds me of when in Britain we had national days of recognition for the struggle against the Apartheid. Remember? I put it to you, this guy is not mad; he is a mirror, one that is highly susceptible to smearing.

I heard that the airport flooded with admirers upon the return of our man, with crowds no doubt thankful for his safe return. I couldn't help but also feel thankful for this, as it was with each day that I gritted my teeth and begged that he not slip-up. But how silly of me; this has been proven to not be necessary; the age-old "wiped-off the map" – dusty rhetoric for the Islamic Republic – had recently gotten a fresh mistranslation and amplified by the corporate cohorts.

It is exactly that which we in-turn fear, the cyclical repetition of, "bringing democracy to the middle east", as this for us is like being wiped-off the map

But when these words are not being hideously mistranslated, they are not all that outrageous; in fact, much the opposite in my mind and no doubt the minds of a great many others in the region. I should add, I'm under no illusion that these words are said with as much sincerity as, "bringing democracy to the middle east", but they resonate with the same effect to a different audience. Yet, it is exactly that which we in-turn fear, the cyclical repetition of, "bringing democracy to the middle east", as this for us is like being wiped-off the map.

The tournament is racing to its final stages, and with this, my greatest fear is of the resulting hooligans; for you [my readers] are the one who allows the transcending of the game. Be cautious, your anger or fear might be measured by your ignorance. So I feel we should be vigilant, so as not be seduced for want of our vigilante behavior, for it does us no credit and we far from benefit. I might then end by provocatively suggesting that, if you want democracy, respect it, and respect ours.

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