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July 30, 2009

Trust: The latest casualty in Iran

A contact in Iran called after attending Friday prayer when Rafsanjani spoke on July 17 . Although he was pleased with Rafsanjani’s comments, he described a Seinfeld-esque scene with larger implications.
He had survived the tear gas used to disperse not only Mousavi supporters like himself, but the devout who pray every Friday. Despite the hundreds of Basijis placed in the square to prevent crowds from gathering- the young, old, religious and political had united peacefully with a heightened sense of camaraderie.
However, all the comfort he felt with his fellow citizens disappeared when the crowd had dispersed and he realized he had lost his cell phone. He told me that while searching for his phone, a Basij approached him and asked what he was doing.

They didn’t believe me that I had lost my phone. So, they searched my pockets and found a green ribbon. ‘He’s one of them!’ they said. Then they took me to the annex. They questioned and threatened to imprison me, but one guard who was really nice, pulled me aside, slapped my face and told me to stop doing these things and leave.

In a final attempt to find his phone, he went to a nearby store and called it.

Someone picked up the phone, I couldn’t believe it! I asked him for my phone back. But then I realized the guy on was really suspicious of me when he asked, ‘How do I know you’re not a Basij?’
So I said, ‘Well, how do I know you’re not a Basij?’
We talked for 10 minutes and we worked out a plan. I went home and called him back in the evening. Then I hired a cab to go to a square, then the guy on the other line called the phone again, which was then with the cab driver and then dropped it off with him. Then the cab driver drove my phone back to my house. Although, it cost me a lot of money, the guy on the other line was really kind, he went through a lot of trouble to give me back my phone.

Since the election results were announced, people have opened their homes to protect protesters running from the Basij. Men and women from all social classes and ages reassure each other by chanting, “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!” But at the same time because of the crack down and security forces dressed in civilian clothing, the government has succeeded in breaking down trust in certain circumstances.
This loss of trust is just another casualty in government’s crackdown on the opposition. While both men in this simple anecdote wanted to do the right thing, a feeling of paranoia and mistrust hindered the process.
But all is not lost- Iranians have long struggled and succeeded at finding creative solutions for the obstacles thrown in their way by the government. Iran boasts a successful film industry despite government censors and although Persian rap is illegal in Iran, it’s thriving underground. So while he lost his cell phone, an ingenious plan and one expensive cab ride later, this young voter prevailed.

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