Protester: Tehran Turning Into 2 Cities Protests in Iran continued Thursday as demonstrators wore black to mourn those killed in clashes throughout the week. An Iranian-American researcher in Tehran, who is a supporter of presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, says protesters are using the language and cultural traditions of the Islamic Republic to argue for their rights.
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Protester: Tehran Turning Into 2 Cities

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Protester: Tehran Turning Into 2 Cities

Protester: Tehran Turning Into 2 Cities

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Witnesses in Tehran today counted the number of demonstrators in the hundreds of thousands. The presidential challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, had called for a day of mourning. And so the color black mingled with green - the signature color of Mousavi supporters. It was the fourth day of organized protests. And we're going to hear now from someone who was there.

SIEGEL: Joining us from Tehran is an Iranian-American researcher and resident of the city. He is a supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi and out of concern for his safety, we're not going to use his name or give you any other details about him. Welcome to the program.

Unidentified Man: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

SIEGEL: You were at today's protest, both as an observer but also as a supporter of Mousavi. What was it like? And how was it different from the previous days of demonstrations this week?

Unidentified Man: It was similar to the previous days in that, the crowd showed up despite not having official approval. The mood was very peaceful and very calm. What's notable about the Mousavi crowds is the efforts at self regulation. There were plenty of signs that said (foreign language spoken), which means quiet in Farsi. Specifically people were asking each other, to not shout slogans, to present a very peaceful face as they go forward asking for their votes to be counted.

SIEGEL: Now talk about this contrast between what you've described as a very quiet march through the Iranian capital and - a very peaceful scene. And then, later on in the day, this week, a rather different tone and acts of violence and crackdowns by the militia and some provocations of the militia.

Unidentified Man: You know, I have described to friends back home that Tehran has become two cities. I think from around four in the afternoon to about dinner time, it is this site where both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi supporters show up and demonstrate peacefully. However, at night, what we're hearing and seeing are cases where the Basiji or the state paramilitary forces are confronting either people who are provoking them or themselves taking things into their own hands, attacking residents, coming in in the middle of night, kicking down doors of innocent people, breaking the windows of cars.

SIEGEL: Can you give us some context for all this, in the life of Tehran - as best you know it? Are nearly all people consumed by these demonstrations and counter-demonstrations or is this a politicized minority that's taking part in them? Does life go on outside the protests…

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: …apart from all this?

Unidentified Man: That it's a politicized minority I think is an inaccurate description. I mean, you here easy conversations in any location about the vote and the ordinary life of Tehran citizens goes on. Until you get to those -about four in the afternoon, five in afternoon when the cell phones are shut down. And through word of mouth primarily, people know where to go. In fact, as I speak to you right now outside my window I hear (foreign language spoken) which is sort of the coda to the day right now.

SIEGEL: Do you get the impression that say Mousavi supporters are going to just keep on doing this day after day after day, for weeks…

Unidentified man: Right.

SIEGEL: …or do you get the sense that they might be tiring of this shortly?

(Soundbite of horn)

Unidentified Man: That's an excellent question. And we ask each other that everyday, you know, the conventional wisdom is that this will all end. And it won't get you any sort of good outcome. But then people show up in great numbers as I'm sure you've seen back in the U.S.

SIEGEL: Sure, yeah.

Unidentified Man: I want to emphasize, this is not about another revolution in Iran. This is about people voting with eyes open. That extra 20 percent that showed over six to eight million didn't just show up for the heck of it. I mean, they knew what they were getting into, they knew who their candidate was and what the situation is in Iran. And having seen those hopes dashed, now they're, I believe, standing up and saying, you know, give us back our vote.

SIEGEL: So first of all you're saying it's wrong to read these protests as demonstrations against the idea of an Islamic republic. That's not what…

Unidentified Man: I…

SIEGEL: …has people out in the streets.

Unidentified Man: At this point, I would say that's a completely accurate assessment. I've been paying very careful attention to the slogans. And it's very interesting after 30 years of Islamic indoctrination or, you know, education about how to be a good Islamic citizen, what we're seeing is that the citizens have learned how to use that framework to petition their government. And so again, as I mention right now, as I'm speaking to you the entire neighborhood is screaming (foreign language spoken).

(Soundbite of demonstrators)

Unidentified Group: (Foreign language spoken).

Unidentified Man: Now they're using the Islamic terminology, the framework of the Islamic republic to get what they feel like are their rights.

SIEGEL: That chant that we're…

Unidentified Man: Yeah.

SIEGEL: …hearing, it may be (foreign language spoken). But it's actually, whatever - it means it takes it to mean is…

(Soundbite of demonstrators)

SIEGEL: They're saying, we want an honest vote count, is what you're telling me.

(Soundbite of demonstrators)

Unidentified Man: Exactly. I mean they're intermingling it with Ya Hussain(ph). Hussain of course being the most important martyr for Shiites. They say Ya Hussain and then the response is Mir Hossein.

SIEGEL: Mir Hossein, meaning- is the name of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

(Soundbite of demonstrators)

Unidentified Man: Right, exactly.

(Soundbite of demonstrators)

SIEGEL: Well, thank you very much for talking with us and describing what you're experiencing and take care.

Unidentified Man: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for letting me share.

SIEGEL: And the young man we were just talking with is an Iranian-American. He's a researcher who lives there. He's a supporter of Mousavi. And we did not use his name out of concern for his safety.

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