Gina*, 28, was born and raised in Tehran. She attends school in New York but returned to Iran to visit for the summer. On Saturday, she bravely gave us an eye-witness account of what has been happening over the past two weeks.
They Are Not Afraid
“Most are waiting for another revolution,” she claims.
Gina is in disbelief over what is going on in Tehran right now. She doesn’t remember the first revolution, but her friends and parents do. They tell her what’s going on now is the same as what went on then.
According to Gina, “People are coming out without fear. They are not afraid of even dying.”
“The situation itself is strange for me,” she notes. “I was here every summer. I have never seen this situation. There are military people and police on the streets. You really don’t know who they are. They are divided into four groups, with different clothes and ideas about how to behave with people. I really don’t know who are with the people and who are against.”
Gina has also seen things that no one should ever have to.
“Yesterday they were carrying around a half of one of the victims,” she said. “They start shooting people again. They don’t let families have funerals for their children and people who are dying, because they think they are calling people to come again in the streets. I’m afraid of walking in the street after 4 or 5 p.m. Tehran wasn’t like this two years ago – it was like a modern city.”
But this is not normal for the Tehran of 2009 either.
“I just can’t believe that this is happening in Tehran,” she said. “This is normal for Iraq and stuff, so far from me as a normal Iranian girl. Now I’m seeing it in front of my eyes and I can’t believe it. Everyone is in shock. It isn’t finishing. I don’t know how its going to end but its not finishing at all.”
Brushed With Death
Gina had permission to take photos for an Iranian newspaper. She had press credentials and a police officer to keep her safe. She was on a rooftop on Saturday June 20th – the bloodiest day so far. And that’s when she was shot at.
“Everybody was more angry in the streets – angrier than usual,” she said. “I was taking a photo and heard two shots. I didn’t know that this was the gun shooting at me. I turned to see the wall behind me and saw some holes and heard somebody breaking the door in the first floor. The officer asked me to sit down because they are shooting us. He said they are not part of us. The officer told me to get out of the building. I just ran away, my home is very close to the square. I heard again another shot, and when I turned, I saw another person who had green and brown military dress and a gun right in front of my face. He asked ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ I said ‘I’m just going home, I’m not doing anything.’ He said, ‘Okay, just go.’ I went home, and I was so afraid. I couldn’t believe this was happening in Tehran – it was always a fun city.”
Nothing Changes Overnight
Gina explained that Iranians do not approve of what Ahmadinejad and the government are doing.
“We are against those crazy things he’s doing,” she said. “We’re peaceful. At least during these protests, everybody saw that the people are not bad. They love peace. But the government is crazy.”
Gina thinks that this “revolution” will take years to finish.
“It started because even inside the government they are against each other,” she said. “We used to think they are together, but they are protesting each other. We are hoping that we can have a peaceful government. I’m not against Islam or anything, just peaceful.”
“Most of the people are seeing that this is something that is going to change in some years, not right now,” she said.
“Everybody is hoping, especially those that saw the original revolution – which didn’t happen in one night, it took almost ten years to have that one. Now with all of these communications technologies, they are hoping to have this in three to four years, but this president is strong enough to change the constitution to have a permanent president.”
Despite her worries, Gina likes the way President Obama is handling the situation so far.
“I love Obama’s speech when he said that he is not waiting for Ahmadi to apologize, that he should be concerned about his own people,” she said of the speech given last week. “Everybody is now seeing that the people are not with the government; they are against it.”
“I like what Obama says, but I dunno,” she said. “ There is one of two things that Islamic Republic is based on – being enemies with US and chador/hijab. These two bases are things that we cannot play with, otherwise the Islamic Republic of Iran would not exist.”
Given that, she thinks that America should not get involved.
“I don’t think the people would like the Americans to interfere,” she said. “Other countries, fine. But everyday in school our whole lives we’re taught to be against the US. So many people are, even if they don’t know why. I really don’t know. I don’t think it’s a good idea, especially now. America does not have enough force to come in militarily, and they aren’t strong enough. They [the Iranian leadership] are crazy enough here to throw that bomb. These people are not afraid to kill themselves.”
Elections Were a “Sham”
“People lose their trust in elections,” she said. “Four million, not forty million will vote next time, unless something really big changes. Even those that were with Ahmadi are protesting. I have a friend who is protesting because he knew that the other candidates had more people and support, that Mousavi would have more votes, but now Ahmadi lied. He says he voted for him, but not for a lying government.”
Gina recognizes that the other candidates were not exactly ideal, either.
“Mousavi and Karroubi are kind of better because Khatami wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t crazy at least,” she said. “He was thinking about the culture, and he knew Iranians. Mousavi and Karroubi are not the best, but they are the only choices. More than 500 tried (to run), but they just allowed these four. They didn’t want us to choose our own president, they just wanted this. Even with those, they don’t want us to have our own idea, even if they just told us we just had those four choices. It wasn’t enough to give four choices, they wanted Ahmadi to be president – that’s all they wanted.”
She believes that the elections were fixed.
“The election was a show,” she explains, “They brought out Mousavi and Karroubi to get a ton of people to vote to uphold the government’s legitimacy. Thirty of those forty million came to say no to the government. Mousavi was the best choice; you were choosing from bad and worse.”
Gina believes that she isn’t the only one who thinks this way.
“I think that everybody thinks the election was just a show,” she said. “They didn’t even count the votes. They ask ten days to recount the votes, but only needed two hours to count them initially. The [Supreme] Leader said congrats to the president before the official result came out. That was really funny, usually they have to wait three days, and no one says anything, and then they officially say he’s the president.”
Keep On Moving
Gina pleads for protesters inside and outside of Iran to keep doing what they are doing.
“Don’t stop protesting,” she asks. “Don’t forget what’s happening here. If we stop protesting, they will say, ‘Oh they killed a hundred people and lets move on.’ We have to continue going with these protests. Continuing to talk bout this in papers and e-mails and recognizing that we’re different from the government.”
She hopes this isn’t a lost cause.
“We started a movement and lost a hundred people, and we hope it keeps going and won’t stop,” she said. “We are always in the street everyday here. This is what you can all do. Don’t stop. It has to go on, otherwise…”
An Uncertain Future
Gina thinks that the days of large gatherings are numbered.
“The last large group was three days ago for the funeral of Neda,” she said. “But they don’t let the people [walk together], even if you walk five or six people together in Engelhabe Square, they make you split up, even if you are going shopping. You cannot really go, cause they will shoot you.”
But this will not stop them from protesting in other ways.
“We are waiting for Mousavi to tell [us] another thing[to do],” she said. “We are doing other protests – hearing every night ‘Allahu Akhbar’ at 10 p.m. They [the police] are breaking those windows, but the people keep doing it.”
Gina feels unsure about the future of Iran.
“I really don’t know [what’s going to happen]; I’m seeing more military than the normal people,” she said. “Maybe in a month, the people will not go out anymore unless something happens. Rasfanjani is trying to do something about the Islamic Leader; he is doing something inside the government. Whatever is happening will happen inside the government, not on the streets. They killed enough.”
*Gina is a name being used to ensure her protection.