Tehran saw something today which was unprecedented and astonishing in the past 30 years. Mousavi had announced yesterday that he’s going to hold a rally today at 4:00PM in which people will start walking towards the Azadi (Freedom) square starting from the Enghelab (Revolution) square. He had submitted an official request to the Interior Ministry requesting them to issue an official approval for the rally. The Interior Ministry quite predictably denied this request, and in their official announcement stated that a number of outlaws had announced that they’re going to have an assembly today but any such assembly is illegal and the attendants will be prosecuted.
Mousavi, Khatami, Karroubi and Rahnavard announced that because they do not have any media which they can use to announce the public that the rally is canceled, they would personally go there to talk to the public. This was a very smart political move in order for them to be able to attend the rally. This was of course, quite compliant with the law, and in fact the Interior Ministry cannot prohibit any assembly, according to the article 27 of the Iranian Constitution:
Article 27 [Freedom of Assembly]
Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.
Today Iranians used this article of their constitution for the first time (as far as I know — all other assemblies used to be approved by the Interior Ministry beforehand, or canceled). And it was the first public demonstration after the 1979 revolution which was not conducted by the government.
I also attended the rally, and it was astonishing. The amount of people attending was unbelievable. There were times that my feet literally didn’t touch the ground, and I was dragged by the population to any side without any control. I am not good at estimating the number of people even inside a room, but I’d boldly say that the number of people attending was in the order of millions. The best feature of the rally was perhaps that it was a silent demonstration, where no slogans were shouted, and nobody even clapped their hands. We just silently walked and made the V sign with our hands (the V sign is an unofficial symbol of Mousavi). Some people, afraid of being identified later, covered their faces with scarfs or masks, but some others, yours truly included, walked without any disguise. The slogans were written on fliers or placards. Some of them were: "Give me back my vote", "We demand re-election with international monitors", "Where is my vote?", "We condemn electoral fraud", "Our silence does not reflect our approval", "Hear the voice of our silence", etc.
I personally didn’t witness any riot police forces. The only police officers I saw were traffic police, and people gladly helped them to route the inevitable heavy traffic surrounding the Azadi avenue. I didn’t also witness any violence at all. But according to the reports, some shots were fired, although I can’t personally confirm it or provide any details.
There were some nice side-stories. The national TV was forced to air the event, calling us Mousavi supporters and not "outlaws"! For those of you who know a thing or two about how things work here, this is a big achievement. Also, hose who know Iranians know that it’s next to impossible to keep a handful of Iranians quiet near each other, so the silent demonstration today was really an achievement on the social level, and I think represented a deep unity and understanding between the attendants. You could see people from all social classes, youngsters and the elderly, women with tight Islamic hijab, young people with "controversial" dressing; really it was like any social stereotype had a representative there, but I must admit that the majority of the people were young.
Another news is that tomorrow the Guardian Council is going to have a meeting with the candidates over the disputes. I have honestly not had much time after I got back home (around 10:00PM) to read the news online, so I’m just quoting the quick news flashes that I read. We also heard from many sources that similar rallies have occurred in many of the other cities of Iran, but I can’t personally confirm this news either.
This is not the end of our organized efforts to make our voices heard. The next event is planned to happen tomorrow at 5:00PM from the Vali-e-asr square to the Jam-e-jam complex which is the headquarters of the national radio and TV. I’m sure more will follow on the upcoming days unless our demands are heard and respected. Until today, I was honestly very desperate that the protests could lead to anything, but now I feel a whole new thing. That I’m a part of something much much bigger than anything I’ve ever took part in, we have a polished method of protesting which could even prevent mass violence which we have seen in the past couple of days here, and which could actually lead to some solid results. The very least result of today’s rally was that we were officially heard, and it feels great to be a part of that.
Also, if you’re interested to know about what happened between my last post and this one, make sure to check out the great chronology that Behdad has prepared, which is available in both English and Persian. Thank you, Behdad! I was actually going to write about those events but because of the disruptions in the Internet service, I couldn’t do that. I also meant to link to Behdad’s first post written about the same time that I wrote my previous one on Saturday but I forgot. He is continuing to provide some great coverage on his blog, make sure to check it out.
Last but not least, thanks much to all of my friends (Mozillaian and non-Mozillaian) who either commented on the previous post or sent me kind emails. I couldn’t reply to each of them individually because of the messy Internet service, but they were all encouraging and heart-warming. I am honored, and my gratitude goes to all of you. I’ll try to post more updates in the upcoming days.